Grace Notes

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Rejection, Sanford Meisner on August 24, 2015 at 7:57 am

When we come back from our morning walk, the dog and I, men are settling in at their sidewalk table in front of Le Grandgousier. Since this is Monday, others wait for the first bus out of town. I stand on the terrace overlooking the river, the two bridges and the market square. Complex light, this morning, scattered by banks of cloud into deep purples, oranges, and hot pink.

Why do you write what you write? Why do you write it the way you do? Which is worse: being ignored or being misunderstood? Or being disliked for those very things that matter most to you? Take  your pick or choose: all of the above.

The only editor ever to detail the reasons for rejecting something of mine hadn’t read a single line of the stories. He said so in the first paragraph of his letter, and then pasted in some of the comments from his reader. This was many, many years ago. The stories were in French, elliptical, and required a lot of reader participation. The characters were Russian. As a natural consequence, they had Russian names and patronymics. The reader objected to that. The editor relayed the objection.

What else can you do but read the letter with growing disbelief and thank the gods for the rejection? Do you want to argue with an editor who’ll want Irina Dimitrievna called Betty or Nadine?

Intelligent discourse with an intelligent agent. Same with an intelligent editor. Failing physical access to either, careful attention to the characters (1) and to what you enjoy reading and writing (2).

Yesterday, I read through Jim Harrison’s The Games of Night again. Can any writing be further in style from Nabokov’s Pnin? I happen to appreciate both. Finding an agent or an editor may be a “business transaction”. That’s the surface of the issue, at least, as far as I’m concerned.  You listen to advice or criticism when you and the characters see the value-added benefit – not so much in terms of salability as in terms of valuable reading.

So: grace notes. Those moments when both the writer and the character enjoy something for the enjoyment of it. Because it pleases the eye. Because it soothes the nerves. Because… because.

Back to a pile of junk in an imaginary scrap yard. Two characters devising the intro to a short sketch.


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