beating Auden – a writing game

English: Photo of W. H. Auden, 1970, taken by me.
English: Photo of W. H. Auden, 1970. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have this small writing game I play in my head.  Some days I keep score and other days I let W. H. off the hook.   Apparently, W.H. Auden would work at his writing for five hours a day, several cups of tea, an ashtray or three of cigarette butts, and some benzedrine.  At least some kind of pill, my memory may be playing tricks with the exact concoction he used.  Other writers would write 1500 words exactly, Hemingway pencil to paper and stop in the middle of an idea so he could begin again the next morning without hesitation.  Many writers have many rules and rituals, magical potions and incantations,  sharpening ten pencils was one I liked. Shelby Foote wrote seven days a week and every day of the year in a writing room where he slept.  He would not stop, for fear of the energy needed to regain his momentum.  He wrote his three volume history of the American Civil War with a dip pen and a bottle of ink.  You will likely recall him with his insights and syrupy drawl speaking as a talking head on Ken Burns‘ Civil War documentary on PBS. Check out his history of the Civil War, a masterpiece.

I am writing less these days and that is despite having more sophisticated electronic devices on which to scribble. A writer tries to find a way to make the effort of writing seem less difficult than it is. I went back in time and tried pencil, pen, typewriter.  I am considering a digital voice recorder or voice recognition software so I can just talk to write.  More accurately, mutter. I can confess confidently that I am evolving into a true muttery, ill, curmudgeon with all the trims and accessories.  Acidic manners and hair trigger rigged rants available 24 hours per day.  The odd bad joke.  A few million regrets and a surprising amount of wonderment as I read both history and new fiction.  I even bemuse myself with thoughts of more positive political results both nationally and locally.  Still an opti-cynic as someone labelled me thirty years ago, an optimistic cynic.

I get to the end of the day and consider the writing score: yesterday was Auden 5 me 1.  One hour spent writing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t equate my puny efforts with Auden,  He is just my way of keeping score.

The Golden Notebook

Realized a serious gap in my reading. Nothing by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing. So I looked for The Golden Notebook at my local library. No luck. Bought a copy. Just started it. I am inside the introduction written in 1971, (published oriignally in 1962), and finding myself agreeing with everything she says. Pressing onwards.

Tawni O’Dell – Coal Run – great novel

Just finished reading Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell. Treat yourself. Get this book and read it. It made me think about my family, childhood, adulthood and a million memories. Made me think of two old friends both sports stars who hurt their legs before reaching their full potential. It is a novel about families and coal mining country.

It is probably the best novel I have read in the past 7 years. Wish I could have written it.

I will be looking for the rest of her work.

see her website

Pete Dexter’s Deadwood (1986)

treat yourself to a great reading experience and seek out a copy of Deadwood by Pete Dexter, published in 1986. I just finished reading it and I enjoyed every page.

My interest in all things Deadwood began with the HBO series. Dexter had nothing to do with that production. The hero of his novel is Charlie Utter. He has become one of my favourite characters of all time. Having read Dexter’s book I feel like I spent the time in the nineteenth century. I think the only other writer who has taken me back in time to that depth of feeling is Patrick O’Brian in the Aubrey-Maturin series.

If you watched HBO Deadwood you will find it interesting to compare and contrast the characters of Bullock, Hickok, Star, Swearingen, and Calamity Jane. Jack McCall, the cat man, and killer of Hickok receives an interesting “life” in Dexter’s novel.

A must read.

Mary Magdalene – reading

In my recent reading, I have encountered plots that involve directly or indirectly Mary Magdelene. When I was a kid and paying some attention to the question should women be ordained, I always thought the answer should be yes. What came to mind was the simple fact that there were two people standing at the foot of the cross, Mary, the mother of Christ, and Mary Magdalene. All those brave apostles were hiding. Peter denied Christ three times. Quite a rock.

the most recent book to have MM in it, The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra translated by Alberto Manguel…..I have been working my way through Manguel’s work this winter.

A recent item I found about him, referred to his personal library, a collection of 30,000 books. I don’t have his problems, since I read only English. Although I am tempted to consider seriously the study of Spanish to read in the original the wonderful literature in that language

Alberto Manguel – two books you would enjoy

Alberto Manguel was born in Buenos Aires in 1948, was educated there, and was a friend of Jorge Luis Borges late in Borges’s life. He was raised in Israel where his father was the Argentine ambassador. In 1984 he became a Canadian citizen. Manguel is a gifted anthologist, translator, editor, and occasional novelist. He now lives in France

I just finished reading The Library at Night and felt compelled to see if my local small town library had any other books by him. Found A History of Reading on a bottom shelf, unfortunately covered in dust. I am part way through it and plan to keep searching out his books.

I have been remembering my early history of reading and sat down and made a list of libraries I have studied in or at least visited. My current library is about 3000 books. It includes some old leather bound volumes that belonged to my grandfather, Dr. William Gibson, of Kingston. These include poetry by Coleridge, novels by Stevenson. Books that I inherited from my parents include many of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin mysteries. I still have a book I requested as the only gift I wanted for a birthday when I was about 12, A History of Warfare by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. I still have it. One book I still value very much although it is in tatters and is marked up in several colours of ink, is a paperback edition from Faber and Faber of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

If you have an interest in reading, in collecting books, in libraries, in the magic of words then by all means available, go find these two titles and enjoy them.

Procedures Before Writing Non-Fiction, a Poem

Spin around three times in your swivel chair.
Cast over each shoulder the mixture
Of pencil sharpener shavings and eraser fragments.

Look at the empty page.

Close your eyes and say:

E.B. White
E.B. White
E.B. White

– William J. Gibson – copyright 2006

Bush reads Camus

There are news reports that President Bush is reading The Stranger by Albert Camus while on his brief vacation at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. It is a great book and I applaud the President for curling up with such a fine piece of literature while on holiday.

If he has time, which is doubtful, The Fall, is worth reading, very much so, also by Albert C.