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Showing posts from April, 2015

Jhamak Kumari Ghimire: Hope for Nepal

Jhamak Kumari Ghimire is a Nepalese writer whose novel Jeevan Kada ki Phool ("Life is a Flower or a Thorn") recently won Nepal's highest literary prize.

Shortly after she was born in 1980, her parents secretly hoped she would die -- a wish that wasn't shameful but merciful and humane -- because they understandably perceived then that their baby daughter was little more than a "vegetable" without probable hope of future independence or any future, for that matter, free of excruciating suffering. Despite her cerebral palsy, Jhamak Kumari Ghimire learned to write when she was young with the only muscles under her complete control -- the three toes of her left foot.

Thinking of Nepal this morning, and searching for inspiration.

Kirby Wilkins' autograph (Vanishing)

Every teacher who's ever taught or is currently teaching creative writing and every aspiring student who's ever written creatively or who is likewise creatively writing in the specific here and the specific now under the tender tutelage of a certified writing instructor, and all this whether said instructor was or is in high school, college, or an MFA writing workshop, should drop what they're doing right now and read "The Assignment" by Kirby Wilkins.  That's my impromptu assignment to anyone who reads this now or at any moment in the future: read "The Assignment"!

Why?  Because it crushes clichés, for one thing, and twists with acerbic wit, for another, the tired-and-untrue notions of what creative writing is--and isn't--and how best not to go about inspiring it in uninspiring stock writing assignments such as:

"... using illustrations and examples as well as vivid description to communicate your feeling for the person, describe a person…

Vance Bourjaily's autograph (The End of My Life)

 Originally published in 1947, TheEnd of My Life was VanceBourjaily's (1922-2010) first novel. His inscription ("for Kay / on a beautiful / October Day.") and autograph below are from 1984, the year Arbor House reissued his largely forgotten debut, a melancholic but moving novel about a sensitive soldier, Skinner Galt, who ultimately discovered, as so many soldiers did, that even though his side won the second world war, "You can only mourn."

more autographs

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins

John Gregory Dunne's autograph (Monster: Living Off the Big Screen)

I first read John Gregory Dunne's shrewd and amusing perspectives on the "Biz" in 1969s The Studio, his second book, but his first excellent exegesis of the film industry and its executors written before he became a player in the business, recounting the remarkable year he spent in 1967 as an astute, everyday observer of Twentieth Century Fox:  On their lot, their sets, in their dressing rooms, board rooms, random offices, during take-fives, lunchtimes, late night overtimes, watching Hollywood hard at work (and, occasionally, harder at play) behind the scenes, interviewing anybody and everybody who'd talk to him, from the headiest of producer honchos to the lowliest gofers on the ladder (and every union scale grip or assistant director's assistant in between), writing it all down all the while, compiling notebook stacks of it, chronicling the comings and goings of those employed by the studio, having been granted an unprecedented all-access pass to it by its usu…

Patricia Grace's autograph (Dogside Story)

Patricia Grace's Dogside Story was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001, which I mention for those, who, like me, may be visually challenged and cannot read the small print on the front cover pictured above.  I found this autographed copy in a thrift store in Southern California more than 5,000 miles removed from where it was originally sold at The Women's Bookshop at 105 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, New Zealand (see sticker in the middle image above).  I'm not sure why, but I have this strange image in my head of Patricia Grace's novel dog paddling for days on end all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

more autographs

A.M. Homes' autograph (Things You Should Know: A Collection of Stories)

I remember reading Salon's 1996 interview with David Foster Wallace about five years after it'd been published — this was just after DFW had been hired by the Claremont Colleges and the L.A. Times had run an interesting piece on his work and arrival to the university, and my interest in this writer that I'd heretofore never heard of, was immediately piqued; and piqued enough, I might add, that I immediately and rather obsessively went online to learn more about him — in which Laura Miller asked DFW who were the contemporary literary writers he read and admired.

A.M. Homes was at the top of his list (and this despite labeling her first novel Jack as being "imperfect" — as if his first novel had been perfect! — zeroing in on a short story of hers called"A Real Doll" that had particularly captivated him with what sounded like a bizarre mix of satire and social commentary on the sorry state of our culture's disconnectedness.

After reading the L.A. Times…

Jim Ladd's autograph (Radio Waves: Life and Revolution on the FM Dial)

Jim Ladd, the "lonesome cowboy" of late night radio in Los Angeles for four decades; the self-described aficionado of "long legged ponies," wrote poignantly in Radio Waves: Life and Revolution on the FM Dial, of the rise and fall of L.A. FM radio, of a radio paradise lost, from FMs inception in the late 1960s to its abrupt demise in 1987, when KMET went off the air forever without a word; without even the courtesy of allowing its DJs to say goodbye to its loyal audience; of two luminous and all too brief decades when radio playlists were still determined by real human beings -- by DJs who knew their sonic shit -- rather than the ratings-obsessed program managers and conglomerate suits more interested in record company kickbacks than promoting new and innovative rock-and-roll.

Ladd, long a proponent of what he coined "freeform radio" -- radio that allowed DJs like Ladd and a handful of others to be creative, thematic and novelistic in the setlist stories …