DISCOURSE as quilting

Welcome to the intersection of P. L. Thomas writing about his writing and other writers' writing to explore discourse as quilting.

Archive for June 2013

remnant 25: “without an ounce of selfishness to it”

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The Waitress

Jenna: Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight and that’s all they do. They don’t pull away. They don’t look at your face. They don’t try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight, without an ounce of selfishness to it.

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Written by plthomasedd

June 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

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remnant 24: “children guessed(but only a few/and down they forgot as up they grew”

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anyone lived in a pretty how town, e. e. cummings

children guessed(but only a few/and down they forgot as up they grew

Uncle Buck:

Eleven, Sandra Cisneros

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman*

* Read my [sort of] review HERE.

Written by plthomasedd

June 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm

remnant 23: “‘I’m sorry I let go of your hand…'”

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I said, “I’m sorry I let go of your hand, Lettie.”

“Oh, hush,” she said. “It’s always too late for sorries, but I appreciate the sentiment. And next time, you’ll keep hold of my hand no matter what she throws at us.” (p. 103)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

—–

grazing (koan)

disembodied

tears remain tears (time travel pt. 2)

i miss you most (possible)

Written by plthomasedd

June 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

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remnant 22: “when adults fight children, adults always win”

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“Eleven,” Sandra Cisneros:

Because she’s older and the teacher, she’s right and I’m not.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman:

She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty….

Ursula Monkton was an adult. It did not matter, at that moment, that she was every monster, every witch, every nightmare made flesh. She was also an adult, and when adults fight children, adults always win. (pp. 86-87)

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June 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm

remnant 21: “I began feeling more and more uncomfortable with the text that they would be using”

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This is the story of one narrator with three eyes: writer, editor, teacher.

No, not three physical eyes, but ways of seeing writing.

It starts (the story, not the chronology of what actually happened) in a bookstore.

I must admit (shame on me) that I order a great deal of books online. I am still a hard-copy sort who loves the cover and texture and weight of books—although I recognize the possible need to shift into the virtual world.

I also must add that my book fetish overrides my concern about BIG online sellers and chain bookstores. Somehow my moral compass is skewed enough to forgive almost anything as long as the sanctity of the book is honored. (I hasten to add, not much here in my soul to respect, by the way; no delusions on my end about that—although I do love children quite deeply and genuinely because I hold out a tiny speck of hope for the future inside a very dark cloud of certainty it’s not going to happen.)

So I am at the chain bookstore to grab a few Haruki Murakami volumes, I hope. I have plowed through in the last year all the English-language novels, but have yet to venture into his short stories and non-fiction. I expected a chain store had at least some of what I don’t yet own, and although I had promised myself not to buy any more books until after I receive the new Neil Gaiman next week, and read that, I was jonesing for some Murakami and I gave in like a heroine addict—or worse, like someone who loves to read.

I pulled two collections of Murakami short stories off the shelf and felt the covers, testing their weight, and felt suddenly happier than normal. The store was well air conditioned and I had spent most of the day doing a somewhat hellish bicycling ride with four friends—75 miles into the North Carolina mountains during a warm almost-summer day in South Carolina.

The bookstore and holding two new books had brought me some calm so I just began to look around, touching and holding books I’d never read, glancing over displays of “Summer Reading” (mostly the sorts of books we cram down children’s throats in school) and noticing that I had read just about all of them.

Then I saw this:

The first thought was how beautiful the cover is, followed quickly by: This is not the cover of the copy I own. I reached for it, touched the cover, tested the weight, and then noticed: “American Gods, author’s preferred text.”

The comic book industry discovered that powerful nerd instinct (something akin to OCD, or simply OCD) that compels some of us to own multiple versions of the same thing. An episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The 21-Second Excitation,” centers on a new cut of Raiders of the Lost Ark containing, yep, 21 more seconds.

I understand this because I was a comic book collector throughout adolescence, I still hoard some comics and many books, and I own the DVD of the multitude of versions of Blade Runner—noting to a friend recently when lending him the set that he should watch only the Final Cut.

Thus, I slipped this version of Gaiman’s novel into my hand with the two Murakamis, but this was more than the careless hoarding of a nerd. This story is about Gaiman’s “A Note on the Text”:

The book you’re holding is slightly different from the version of the book that was previously published….

As they told me about the wonderful treats they had planned for the limited edition—something they planned to be a miracle of the bookmaker’s art—I began to feel more and more uncomfortable with the text that they would be using.

Would they, I inquired rather diffidently, be willing to use my original, untrimmed text?

Now the story loops backward in time.

Maybe a couple of months ago and then a few weeks ago.

I have been teaching writing in a variety of ways (high school students, graduate students, undergraduate students) for almost thirty years now. I have been a writer (or better phrased, I should note the amount of time that has passed since I realized I am a writer) since a spring day in 1980 when I sat in my third-story dorm room writing what I consider “my first poem,” an e.e. cummings homage about throwing a Frisbee. And I have been an editor of columns and books for several years now, close to a decade, I believe.

As a scholar, I often submit work and have essentially the same sorts of responses from the editors in charge of my work, responses that rise above the essential and welcomed editing that all writing needs and deserves.

Often, the editor doesn’t want my work; the editor wants the piece s/he would have written.

Now back to Gaiman’s “author’s preferred text.”

I looked at that marvelous blue cover, and thought, What? Neil Gaiman had a text published that he didn’t quite want?

So buying this edition of American Gods, first, was to appease my own psychoses. Next, it was a political act to honor Gaiman’s “preferred text,” a political act from a not-really-very-important writer (but a damned loyal reader) to a real-honest-to-god writer. A deposit in the intersection of karmas among writers, readers, lovers of art.

But all of this leaves me sad ultimately, sad in a way that will from this moment on inform me as a writer, editor, and teacher.

When I was younger (not much) and couldn’t get anyone to publish my work, I dutifully worked through the nearly-all-red track changes of edited submissions. Like the mother’s boy I am, I wanted so badly to please—and be published.

In the last few months, however, I have the luxury of being well published, and despite my eternal quest to be wanted, to have others say my writing matters, I have twice now pulled scholarly pieces from projects after the editors and I spent a great deal of time revising my initial pieces.

And sitting here with Gaiman’s “preferred text” beside the computer, I am working toward being at peace with this idea:

Once a piece of my writing stops being mine, and starts being yours, I have to say with all due respect that maybe you should just write the piece yourself.

Although I am not completely sure this is true, I used to share with students that Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises to show he could write a better The Great Gatsby. (And he did, I think.) All in all, seems the right thing to do. We are the richer for it, and what a shame if one had simply edited the other into writing only the one book?

And since I have ignored all conventions of chronology here, let me slip again to a recent moment when I had to make that decision.

An editor (a kind and careful soul) had heavily edited a piece, moving large sections of text, and then noting (and this will seem quite trivial) that she had changed my final subhead to “Conclusion.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back—I couldn’t allow a piece published with my name have a subhead I have been urging my students and works under my editorship to avoid. Conclusion?

Is there anything more lifeless than that? Anything that tells the reader that this writer doesn’t really have anything to offer? That this writer is just getting on with it, getting this thing over?

Writing is collaboration, and so is reading.

As writer, editor, and teacher, however, I must respect the piece the writer wants to share, lest we all sit alone talking to ourselves.

The story ends here. I must work on a poem about lavender silk monkeys and continue to avoid working on three chapters due for scholarly books August 1.

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June 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm

remnant 20: “your absence will sadden other afternoons”

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Gifts are often unexpected and climb into your world in ways that can only be reconstructed in reverse.

I found a beautiful site on Twitter, To Light a Fire by Steve McCurry.

The site is composed of photographs and quotes about reading, and as I was looking through it, I was also working on a new poem:

in light of everything (snow blind)

I was drawn to quotes from C.S. Lewis and Jorge Luis Borges, leading me to see if the poem by Borges was in the wonderful dual-language volume I own:

It is a beautiful paperback book, and it does contain “Poem of the Gift.”

Today at work, I planned to pull that book off the shelf and look through it, reading that poem and others, but I kept forgetting. Just as I was about to leave, I came across an excerpt from Neil Gaiman’s new novel online: The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I finished the excerpt and then felt compelled to find my copy of Gaiman’s American Gods, one of my favorite of all books. I could not find it, but my eyes fell upon my two books by Borges, the selected poems and the equally great volume of collected fictions. I pulled down the selected poems and placed it with the Murakami and Fish I am about to finish, just before realizing that American Gods was in my science fiction stack on a cart in front of the shelves.

At home, I opened the Borges, not quite able to recall the title of the poem I was interested in—and then I saw the handwritten Anne Sexton poem I had been trying to find for weeks, maybe months. I knew I had put it somewhere for safe keeping, but I had not been able to find it.

It is a dear object for me, a gift, “Knee Song” in an unforgettable hand…

in your hand copy

Gifts are often unexpected and climb into your world in ways that can only be reconstructed in reverse.

“Parting”

Jorge Luis Borges

Three hundred nights like three hundred walls
must rise between my love and me
and the sea will be a black art between us.

Nothing will be left but memories.
O afternoons earned with suffering,
nights hoping for the sight of you,
fields along my way, firmament
that I am seeing and losing…
Final as marble
your absence will sadden other afternoons.

“Despedida”

Jorge Luis Borges

Entre mi amor y yo han de levantarse
trescientas noches como trescientas paredes
y el mar será una magia entre nosotros.

No habrá recuerdos.
Oh tardes merecidas por la pena,
noches esperanzadas de mirarte,
campos de mi camino, firmamento
que estoy viendo y perdiendo…

Definitiva como un mármol
entristecerá tu ausencia otras tardes.

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June 10, 2013 at 10:39 pm

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remnant 19: “once you’ve got an illusion going”

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Systematic, efficient, sophisticated. No muss, no fuss. Very business like. Just went to prove, once you’ve got an illusion going, it can function on the market like any other product. Advanced capitalism churning out goods for every conceivable niche. Illusion, that was the key word here. Whether prostitution or discrimination or personal attacks or displaced sex drive, give it a pretty name, a pretty package, and you could sell it.

Dance Dance Dance, Haruki Murakami, p.282

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June 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm