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Archive for the ‘Major Authors’ Category

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station.  He lives in the ground.  He’s a basement guy.  You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in.  You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.  Do you think this is fair?  I think it’s fair.  He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.  It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.  There’s stuff in there that can change your life.

 

~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

Ensio Ilmonen

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If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.  I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.  I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans.  I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.

 

~ Ray Bradbury, born on this day in 1920

 

“Am Morgen” (“In the Morning”) by A Rötting, 1840

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It was the kind of scene in which Lily had often pictured herself as taking the principal part, and on this occasion the fact that she was once more merely a casual spectator, instead of the mystically veiled figure occupying the centre of attention, strengthened her resolve to assume the latter part before the year was over.  The fact that her immediate anxieties were relieved did not blind her to a possibility of their recurrence; it merely gave her enough buoyancy to rise once more above her doubts and feel a renewed faith in her beauty, her power, and her general fitness to attract a brilliant destiny.  It could not be that one conscious of such aptitudes for mastery and enjoyment was doomed to a perpetuity of failure; and her mistakes looked easily reparable in the light of her restored self-confidence.

 

~ From The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

 

“Edith Wharton” by Edward Harrison May, 1870

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Little poppies, little hell flames,

Do you do no harm?

 

You flicker. I cannot touch you.

I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.

 

And it exhausts me to watch you

Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

 

A mouth just bloodied.

Little bloody skirts!

 

There are fumes that I cannot touch.

Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

 

If I could bleed, or sleep!—

If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

 

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,

Dulling and stilling.

 

But colorless. Colorless.

 

~ Sylvia Plath, from Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1992)

 

“Oriental Poppies” by Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930)

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I looked up from my writing,

   And gave a start to see,

As if rapt in my inditing,

   The moon’s full gaze on me.

 

Her meditative misty head

   Was spectral in its air,

And I involuntarily said,

   ‘What are you doing there?’

 

‘Oh, I’ve been scanning pond and hole

   And waterway hereabout

For the body of one with a sunken soul

   Who has put his life-light out.

 

‘Did you hear his frenzied tattle?

   It was sorrow for his son

Who is slain in brutish battle,

   Though he has injured none.

 

‘And now I am curious to look

   Into the blinkered mind

Of one who wants to write a book

   In a world of such a kind.’

 

Her temper overwrought me,

   And I edged to shun her view,

For I felt assured she thought me

   One who should drown him too.

 

                ~ Thomas Hardy

 

A. L. Leroy, 1827

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In the works of Virginia Woolf, puddles often represent a metaphorical chasm between significance and anonymity, solidity and vagueness, reality and illusion.  Frequently her protagonists, upon confronting a puddle, find themselves unable to cross, thereby remaining – like Woolf – locked in the debilitating delusions of their mind.

On this day in 1941, the tormented Woolf succumbed to her manic depression, filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones, and walked into the River Ouse and drowned.  As a tribute, some of Woolf’s literary puddles are presented here.

 

Some cleavage of the dark there must have been, some channel in the depths of obscurity through which light enough issued […].  The mystic, the visionary, walking the beach on a fine night, stirring a puddle, looking at a stone, asking themselves “What am I,” “What is this?” […]. 

~ To the Lighthouse (1927)

 

“There is the puddle,” said Rhoda, “and I cannot cross it.  I hear the rush of the great grindstone within an inch of my head.  Its wind roars in my face.  All palpable forms of life have failed me.  Unless I can stretch and touch something hard, I shall be blown down the eternal corridors for ever.”

~ The Waves (1931)

 

There was the moment of the puddle in the path; when for no reason I could discover, everything suddenly became unreal; I was suspended; I could not step across the puddle; I tried to touch something . . . the whole world became unreal.

~ “A Sketch of the Past” (1939)

 

I wished to add some remarks to this, on the mystical side of this solitude; how it is not oneself but something in the universe that one’s left with.  It is this that is frightening [and] exciting in the midst of my profound gloom, depression, boredom, whatever it is…. Life is, soberly [and] accurately, the oddest affair; has in it the essence of reality.  I used to feel this as a child – couldn’t step across a puddle once I remember, for thinking, how strange – what am I?

    ~ Diary 3, as quoted in The Flight of the Mind: Virginia Woolf’s Art and Manic-Depressive Illness by Thomas C. Caramagno

 

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There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day.  She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places.  She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in.  And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested. 

There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.

 

~ From The Awakening by Kate Chopin, born on this day in 1850

 

"A Willing Captive" by Frederick Stuart Church, 1888

“A Willing Captive” by Frederick Stuart Church, 1888

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