Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"There is only one school of literature - that of talent."
~Vladimir Nabokov

To take a leaf out of one of the blogs I have recently begun reading (A Light Inside), I would like to begin remarking on the books I'm currently reading. I hope this will help me to become a more disciplined reader, and also, I hope it will interest others in discovering, or re-discovering those books.

Thanks to the abundance of Christmas, I have a fresh supply of books. I am currently re-absorbed in Nabokov's Lolita. It is a book so far from escapist fiction, uncomfortably close to a nightmare but so very rich in thoughts that I am tempted to follow it with Dostoyevsky, merely to continue the immersion in insanity that Lolita begins.

When I need a break from Nabokov, and I want to wake and see and think I turn to The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion. It is a fascinating study of the choice of painters to paint a human and fully exposed Christ, both in infancy and in death, the meaning behind this exposure and the mistake modern critics make in either ignoring this exposure or assuming in it a certain artistic disrespect. The images used are exceptional and the writing is fascinating.

In the evenings, when I would rather leave off both Lolita and artistic criticism, I turn to Rilke. I have a new collection of his God poems and, sitting in my new rocking chair, beside the warm wood-stove, I can think of nothing better than tea and Rilke to pass the night away.

Blessed and good reading to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Even when we don't desire it
God is ripening."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

I like to think of God ripening, like a late season plum or a blackberry, making Himself ideal in taste and texture, perfect for falling into waiting hands and being eaten in the sunlight. I like to think of the little God, ripening in Mary these last few days before His birth, waiting for His human body to grow to perfection. I like to imagine His wise-baby eyes waiting in the darkness for the time when light begins its triumphant return.

Today is the Winter Solstice. Tonight the night will triumph for the last time before the day begins again to ripen and grow. I feel the solstice more this year, without the distraction of electric lights and city nights. We can see the moon rise and set at night, and our lives are slower in this season of anticipation, despite the pressures of readying our home for the birth of Christ, who brings with Him the promise of spring. It is a time of reading, reflection, prayer and preparation.

Blessed Solstice to all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

I like to think of the Creator and His riches - that the One who can see in the meanest soul, a happy image of His own abundant love; can also, in the deepest poverty call forth the riches of beauty. I think of it especially in the Christ Child, who, being both Christ and a little child, can relish life in a way that we His people can only strive to imitate.

I've seen in many striving writers a tendency to discard their own lives. To write as other writers have written instead of writing from life. But if we merely imitate the experiences of other writers, we doom our writing. It is no longer honest, it is no longer ours. This is not to discount myth, or fantasy, which can still be drawn from the richness of our own daily life. It is those who strive to imitate without discovering their own voice, and the experience and wisdom that comes from each individual life who fail to infuse their writing with soul.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
~Albert Camus

On the eve of the Immaculate Conception I can't help but be distracted by Mary's Otherness. To be born sinless in a world where man is united by sin and death, to be always on the outside - looking in on the about-to-be-redeemed. It has the unshakeable feel of Solitude.

For many years, I felt as though Mary was too Other for me. Too much a saint, no sinner at all to attract me with past misdeeds. I had trouble with her western images, sweet-faced and sappy, no hard edges at all. Only the Perpetual Help icon seemed alive to me, and she was frightening because her eyes seemed to see too deeply. It is the Icon Mary I have grown to love now, her deep-seeing eyes that follow me, her wise sorrow that knows too much of the loss of mankind. I surround myself with her: Perpetual Help, Burning Bush, Theotokos. It is her Otherness that draws me now as much as anything, her creative solitude which allowed her to produce Christ, and I rejoice in the images that show her clothed in quiet power.

Tomorrow, on her feast, I would like to make of our little nest a great rejoicing. I would like flowers, baked brie, and bright candles to make the Immaculate laugh and enter more deeply into our blessed home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."
~T.S. Eliot

We went back to my hometown for Thanksgiving. My siblings and I took to discussing writing at our favorite coffee house - not our own writing, but writing in general, and the process of writing well. Our youngest brother is planning his senior thesis and the rest of us gave abundant advice. It's a conversation we repeat yearly, whenever we are all together, with a few variations: writing, advice, encouragement, and enthusiasm, but the conversation is always fresh. There is always some new bit of information to be examined, encouraged, or rejected.

Because I have been especially focused on the question of what does make writing, or a writer Good, I took special interest in a recommendation of my sisters: to put together a Poetics, an examination of my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the things I read, the things I write, and my relationship to writing itself. The exercise is amazing. I've only just begun but I feel in it the ability to grasp my own purpose in writing in a deep and personal way. A way that not only enables growth, but insists on it.

Blessed Advent to all, enjoy the richness of new beginnings.