Stephen Narain

"Break a vase," Walcott says, "and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. The glue that fits the pieces is the sealing of its original shape. It is such a love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments, the cracked heirlooms whose restoration shows its white scars. This gathering of broken pieces is the care and pain of the Antilles, and if the pieces are disparate, ill-fitting, they contain more pain than their original sculpture, those icons and sacred vessels taken for granted in their ancestral places. Antillean art is this restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent. And this is the exact process of the making of poetry, or what should be called not its ‘making’ but its remaking, the fragmented memory…"



Image: “Seascape with Figures” by Derek Walcott

"By writers even as refreshing as Graham Greene, the Caribbean is looked at with elegiac pathos, a prolonged sadness to which Lévi-Strauss has supplied an epigraph: Tristes Tropiques. Their tristesse derives from an attitude to the Caribbean dusk, to rain, to uncontrollable vegetation,…

A video trailer for A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.  Her work has come to preoccupy me over the past months.  Her practice of Buddhism, her openness in exploring the relationship between ethics and narrative, her wit, her candor make her one of the most delightful surprises in my recent reading life. Here is a smart review of Time Being in the New York Times and an interview with David Palumbo-Liu in the Los Angeles Review of Books, where Ozeki writes:

"I find myself resisting the capitalization of the word [‘Self’], which in itself is significant. The capital S seems to imply a fixed and singular entity, a God-like Self, whereas my sense of self is a more shifting (shifty?) and pluralistic entity, an interdependent collectivity of lowercase gods, demigods, and demons.

A Tale for the Time Being plays very overtly with this notion of self or selves, which in Buddhism is called no-self, or anatman. Buddhism teaches that because everything is impermanent, there is no fixed self that remains unchanged in time. And Buddhism also teaches that there is not an independent self, that can exist separate from others. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this interbeing. So what we experience as the self is more like a collection of fluid, interpenetrating, interdependencies that change and flow through time. The title, time being, refers to just this, and the novel, with its two narrators Ruth and Nao, is a kind of overt performance of these Buddhist propositions of interbeing and time being.”

Ruth Ozeki talks about the relationship between Buddhism and writing, the practice of performed philosophy, and the thing line separating comedy and tragedy.


"Cocoro," by Masaaki Sasamoto

(via actegratuit)

What does “Caribbean” mean? What a vast weight of confusion and possibility and debate those four little syllables have to bear. Is “Caribbean” a geographical region defined by proximity to a body of water, by insularity (in the literal sense), by lines of latitude? Is it a group of nations and proto-nations defined by a common history or culture, or by political links? Is it an aspiration, an attitude, an illusion? Is its meaning determined by presence or absence? Has it an antonym?

1. Trust your reader.  Stop spoon-feeding your reader.  Give your reader credit for being as smart as you at least.

2. Concentrate on sharpening your memory and peeling your sensibility.

3. Cut each page you write by at least one third.

4. Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours.  

5. Work out what it is you want to say, then say it in the most direct and vigorous way you can. 

6. Eat meat.  

7. Drink blood.

8. Give up your social life and don’t think you can have friends.

9. Rise in the quiet hours of the night and prick your fingertips and use the blood for ink.

Of course one must take into account Kafka’s solipsism, which in his diaries makes singular that which in the fiction is more clearly the condition of all our lives. (Kafka wrote not only because it was impossible for him to live but also because it is impossible for all of us to live, though his point was that most of us do not grasp this.) But it is certainly the case that Kafka alone brought us to the very boundary of the novel, rejecting any interest in a writer’s ‘subject’—a place, a culture, a community, a group of people—and replacing it with a dismantling of the very idea of subjects and subjecthood. In this regard both the overtly Freudian and the overtly religious interpretations of Kafka are misguided, insofar as they identify a definitive ‘subject,’ a final point or a ‘bottom line,’ of a prose that has no final destination, only a journey. They miss what David Foster Wallace has described as ‘the central Kafka joke—that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey towards home is in fact our home.’
Zadie Smith, "The Limited Circle is Pure," The New Republic, November 3, 2003

Jhumpa Lahiri, Rome, 2013.  From a profile on writers’ rooms in The New York Times.


Photographs of Writers at Work.

Note how many standing desks! See also a great book on the subject, The Writer’s Desk.

(via teachingliteracy)