Previous month:
October 2012
Next month:
December 2012

November 2012

The purpose of art


“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don't see a different purpose for it now.” - Dorethea Tanning (1910-2012)

Tanning, of course, was one of great Surrealist writers and artists of the 20th century -- and, like Zora Neale Hurston, spent formative years in New York City; she also lived in Arizona and France over the course of her long life. The letter below is from Tanning to her friend and fellow-artist Joseph Cornell. More illustrated letters can be seen on the Smithsonian site. (And for those of you in New York, there's a terrific exhibition of Beatrix Potter's illustrated letters at the Morgan Library right now.)

Dorthea Tanning to Joseph Cornell


Years that ask questions...

Zora Neale Hurston

Today, three quotes from the great author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960):

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

So very true. The last few years have been the former for me, but the wheel is slowly turning. And for you?

“Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”

So very beautiful. Like an Edmund Dulac illustration in words.

"I want a busy life, a just mind, and a timely death."

I've certainly got the first at the moment; I'm working on the second. The third is out of my hands so I'll get to work and let the Mystery be....

On partnerships

The Hour of Grace by Edmund Dulac

My husband Howard has joined me in New York (hooray!), but that means the days ahead are very full and posting may become erratic for a little while. (Tilly is home with Howard's mother, having many adventures, the lucky girl.)

Quote of the day:

“A good marriage is where both people feel like they're getting the better end of the deal.” -- Anne Lamott

This applies to good writing partnerships too. And in my current collaboration with my old friend Ellen Kushner (which is the reason I'm in New York this month), I'm definitely getting the better part of the deal. It's been a blast.

Image above: "The Hour of Grace" (an illustration from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam) by Edmund Dulac.

What writing is...

Beauty and the Beast illustration by Mercer Mayer

"We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say -- and to feel -- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought. "  - John Steinbeck

“If we had to say what writing is, we would describe it essentially as an act of courage.”  - Cynthia Ozick

Beauty & the Beast by Eleanor Vere Boyle

Me and me, October 2012

Images above: Beauty and the Beast illustrations by Mercer Mayer and Eleanor Vere Boyle; and a photo of me and my own little beast, taken last month in Devon by Victoria Windling-Gayton. I'm still in New York, where Howard is joining me today. (Don't worry, Tilly, we'll be home soon!)

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today, Maya Beiser, whose gorgeous music Ellen Kushner (my host and writing partner here in NYC) introduced me to some years ago. I've loved it ever since. Raised on a kibbutz in Israel by a French mother and Argentinean father, Beiser studied at the Yale University Music School and now lives in New York.

Above: Beiser's version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," from her album Provenance.

Below: Beiser performs "Mariel," composed by Osvaldo Golijov.

Book characters and imaginary friends

The Mock Turtle, Alice, and the Gryphon by Arthur Rackham

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”  - Ray Bradbury

"It's true that writing is a solitary occupation, but you would be surprised at how much com- panionship a group of imaginary characters can offer once you get to know them." - Anne Tyler

“All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes -- characters even -- caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.”   - Diane Setterfield

Wonderland by Adelaide Claxton

Old books

Art above by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) and Adelaide Claxton (1840-1900).



I posted the picture above on Thanksgiving Day last year, and I'm re-posting it now because it says all I want to say -- although I'm celebrating the holiday in America this time, an ocean away from my sweet pup and and our beloved Devon hills. (If you find the type hard to read, click on the image for a larger version.)

Speaking of pups, for fellow dog lovers I recommend a new article by Virginia Hughes on how a dog sniffs, at the science blog The Last Word on Nothing. "It’s humbling to think of how much of this big wide world my microsmatic self will never get to experience," she says. "The only whiff I get comes from watching my dog’s delight." The last picture below relates to the topic, and is also re-posted from my picture archives.

Tilly on Nattadon Hill

Reading the Wind

Also, please don't miss Annie Lamotts's lovely Thanksgiving essay, in praise of books, writers, and bookish families, in The New York Times.

Chasing wonder

Illustration by Howard Pyle

"At its best, fantasy rewards the reader with a sense of wonder about what lies within the heart of the commonplace world. The greatest tales are told over and over, in many ways, through centuries. Fantasy changes with the changing times, and yet it is still the oldest kind of tale in the world, for it began once upon a time, and we haven't heard the end of it yet."  - Patricia A. McKillip

“Nothing can be more limiting to the imagination than only writing about what you know.”  - John Gardner

Illustration by Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

What we need, what we remember, what we are

Light on the Central Park Reservoir...

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”   - Philip Pullman

...and a Pointillist flotilla of ducks.

"Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit."    - 

Neil Gaiman


The Ugly Duckling by Wm Heath Robinson

Images above: Ducks on the Reservoir in Central Park, Manhattan; and "The Ugly Duckling" by William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)