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Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Crawford Award. Title short story listed for the 2000 O. Henry award.

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“This is how innovation in art operates: one re-uses formulae confirmed by previous success or throws them off-balance by combining them with other, in priciple incompatible, formulae, by amalgamations, quotations, ornamentations, pastiche. One can go as far as kitsch or the grotesque. One flatters the ‘taste’ of a public that can have no taste, and the eclecticism or a sensibility enfeebled by the multiplication of available forms and objects. In this way one thinks that one is expressing the spirit of the times, whereas one is merely reflecting the spirit of the market.” –Lyotard, “The Sublime and the Avant-Garde”

“Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for as an elderly practitioner once remarked, ‘Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.’ This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what a man is, rather than what he knows, will at last determine his style. If one is to write, one must believe–in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing…It is now necessary to warn the writer that his concern for the reader must be pure: he must sympathize with the reader’s plight (most readers are in trouble about half of the time) but never seek to know his wants. The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Let him start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and he is as good as dead, although he may make a nice living.” –E.B. White, “An Approach to Style”, in…well, you know.

Thu, July 13 2006 » Fiction, Polis

One Response

  1. Fred Ollinger July 15 2006 @ 1:35 pm

    I’m glad you posted this. I’m wresting with this topic quite a bit. There’s nothing more satisfying to write a story for oneself and find that other people “get it” in the same way that you did. That being said, I don’t think this ever happened to me, though people have gotten bits here and there.

    I think there’s a third alternative, which is what I usually do, and that is to write for myself _and_ my friends. Someone famous said this before, I can’t remember who.

    There are a bunch of questions I have for E.B., though such as what if nobody cares to read that stuff you wrote for yourself? What’s the point? Isn’t the point to communicate with other people? You write the words and other people read them.

    Lately, I had been taking what I call the lowering approach to writing. To try to eliminate the self in the writing. It works as well as every other trick, which to say is not very well. Eventually the writing becomes about the trick and not about the writing.

    Then there’s the notion of focusing on the image and not on the words, and the words will come.

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