selected thoughts

Quite a first day. A couple things I’ll be thinking about for awhile:
As always, the Literary Seminar makes me want to quit my job and spend the rest of my life reading. Though that would make it difficult to support my book habit. It also reminds me, in the best of ways, that despite the constant stream of bad news about how hard it is to get published or to sell books, there are still lots of talented writers who are finding ways to write and make their voices heard.
Tananarive Due, who writes supernatural suspense books sometimes categorized as horror, described herself as a “scaredy-cat” and said she found, say, true crime much scarier than tales about blood-transferring immortals or ghosts who start to take over your life.
Aimee Bender has rules for students in her writing classes that include 1) the story can’t end with the ringing of an alarm clock (the “it was all a dream” device, most famously used to explain the reappearance of Bobby on “Dallas”); 2) no “they’re all cows” stories, ie. it’s a perfectly normal conversation or set-up until one of the characters suddenly goes “moo,” which Bender describes as more of a joke than a story 3) no writing about other members of the class.
“Writers and artists tend to be people who are haunted,” Joyce Carol Oates said. Then she read a story about identical twin girls who are murdered. Then she told us that she had considered reading a story about Hemingway’s last hours and days, but “the other story is really depressing.”
Shakespeare knew something about the supernatural, said Roz Brackenbury, poet, novelist and moderator of the panel featuring Siri Hustvedt, Mary Kay Zuravleff, Tananarive Due and Amy Tan. “All the ghosts in Shakespeare are the only ones who really know what’s going on,” Brackenbury said.
Zuravleff pointed out the strangeness we all accept as perfectly ordinary — for example, how many of us really understand how the stock market works? Hustvedt agreed. “Money is the collective fiction that we’ve agreed to believe in,” she said — how strange, when you think of it, that we hand over pieces of paper and receive goods in return. Or type a few characters on a keyboard and “money” is moved around. “Ordinary life,” Hustvedt said, “is really strange.”

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