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Monday, January 08, 2007

David Mamet, Moleskines and Gatsby

I finished "Writing in Restaurants" by David Mamet. I think that most of the theatrical theorizing was way over my head; I know very little about the stage. The strength of his essays, I believe, was in those essays when he "anecdotized" the subject matter. Some passages did catch my eye, and I ended up underlining several to which I will return. There was one particularly about technique that made sense to me:

"It [writing] is especially stultifying when accompanied, as often happens, by blandishment to the effect that there is no such thing as technique; that there is no need to study; that the only way to learn is through doing; and that, finally, pursuit of good habits of work, that is, technique, and good habits of thought, that is, philosophy, are effete."

I also found Mamet's treatment of Chekov's play "The Cherry Orchard" interesting. It was a lit crit treatment and I found it insightful. All the theorizing about the stage craft now made sense once he applied it to a specific example. He also wrote about the writing life and how it applies to age: "The pressure to continually achieve makes [writing] a young person's game, for it is easily tolerated only by the inspired and naive--by those bursting with the joy of discovery and completely, unselfconsciously generous of that gift." If anything else, it reminded me of those day-long writing marathons at Barnes & Noble bookstores cafe. How little did I think about the process and how easily the words came. But then I got to thinking about it too much and somehow lost the gift. But I still see myself as a contender, and try and write and give it still more thought.

The use of the Moleskine for the composition of this blog entry was a success. It took me nearly 20 minutes to formulate the ideas about Mamet's book and about 5 minutes more for what I am about to write next.

The next book I am reading is "Trimalchio." It is an early version/edition of "The Great Gatsby." There's a million things I could say about "Gatsby," really, but I'll keep it to a minimum since I am going to be writing in length this week as I read the book. This morning I discovered an article by Jonathan Yardley on what makes Gatsby a great novel (just about the greatest novel in the American literature canon). I was enthusiastic about the article until I realized that Mr. Yardley purposely and without discrimination bashed Ernest Hemingway. Now, I am not a lawyer defending Mr. Hemingway, but I think it is easy to bash him practically for all the ills of most Modernist American writers. People blame Hemingway for double-crossing Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, etc. And people who engage in this sort of behavior are concentrating on Hemingway as a social person, not the artist he was. But all the Hemingway bashing aside, the article presents Gatsby as the one marvelous book in American literature; a well-deserved place indeed. More on this as I write about "Trimalchio/Gatsby."

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1 Comments:

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hi JCR,
Thanks for sharing this.
So far, I think yo're adept at writing serious essays.
I haven't lost my gift, thank god. even in the years I wasn't writing, it was still there & then returned to me. I often feel that my muse is so deep within me and cannot place an imagery to it, that it must be my own spirit that spurs me on. :-)

 

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