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The day before Mabon '09

Tomorrow is Mabon, and here I am, not even close to ready for autumn.

Yesterday was better, from a writing standpoint. I did 817 words on a new vignette for Sirenia Digest #46, which I'm calling "Charcloth, Firesteel, and Flint." Hopefully, when I read over the pages later today, I'll still like them.

Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi has written a genuinely beautiful review of The Red Tree, which will appear in the Fall 2009 issue of Dead Reckonings. He's given me permission to include excerpts from it in this entry. Now, however, I'm re-reading his review, and finding it almost as hard to excerpt as the novel itself. I do adore this line (how could I not?):

...but Kiernan’s witchery of words creates a mesmerising effect that we haven’t seen since the days of Lovecraft and Bradbury..

...and this bit near the end....

Those seeking a neat resolution to the overall scenario—either to the supernatural manifestation that is the red tree or to the lives and fates of the protagonists—are likely to be disappointed. As Sarah herself states at the end, “Just when you think it’s one thing, this story, it’ll go and become something else entirely.” The Red Tree is supremely rewarding not merely for its moments of terror, but for its ineffably sensitive display of the complexity of human emotions. It is a kind of “Heart of Darkness” for our time——an exploration of both the sinister darkness of the foreboding rural landscape and of the inscrutable darkness of the human heart. The reader comes away feeling privileged to have read it.

Anyway...yeah. This review, by a critic and scholar I so admire, has sort of helped pull me through the angry darkness of the past few days. But the excerpts do not do the review justice.


Yesterday, a reader asked: "You make me wonder, though, is it more important to be good or be recognized? I know both are best, but the question is for either or."

Which makes it a very hard question, indeed, if I am to choose only the one or the other. But you do have to begin all this by understanding that being a good writer does not even come near to a guarantee that one will also be recognized. Most good writers——most writers period——go unrecognized. Of course, here we would need to define our terms, good and recognized. The first possesses fewer problems than the latter, though the definition would be necessarily subjective, and would change, to a degree, from one reader to the next. But defining recognized, that's a tougher call. Are we talking about the critics and reviewers? Do we mean recognition to be synonymous with fame, and do we expect fame to bring financial stability or fortune? We all ask complex questions, often thinking them to be simple. And, you know what? I am not awake enough for this question. Maybe I'll come back to it...


Spooky's been getting lots of new stuff up at her Dreaming Squid Etsy shop, and you really ought to take a look. I stole one of the figurines for my own. If I had my way, I'd never let her sell any of them. These pieces are one of a kind and very time intensive.


( 10 comments — Have your say! )
Sep. 21st, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Just for fun, in case I haven't run through this most likely apocrypal tale...

It speaks to a slightly different debate, the "known for great talent" versus "paid lots of money" spectrum.

Dumas and Balzac were acquainted but not friends. Separately surrounded by groups of admirers, they noticed each other outside of an opera, came toward each other and embraced and then separated, saying little.

Returning to his admirers, Balzac said, "If I could earn one-tenth of what that man makes, one-tenth, I would be very happy..."

Dumas turned to his group and said, "If I could write one page as well as that man writes, one page..."
Sep. 21st, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)

That's brilliant! Where did you find it?
Sep. 21st, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
One of your favorite venues, a writing workshop! (It was in grad school. Bobbie Louise Hawkins, gifted writer and illustrator and ex-wife of famed Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley, told the anecdote.)

In terms of how talent isn't even comparable, Nabokov and Joyce once shared a cab ride. Neither spoke because they didn't have anything to say to each other.

(That one happened to Trent Reznor and Prince too. Trent thanked Prince in PHM's liner notes. Word got back to Trent that Prince loved PHM. They passed in a hallway at a studio where they both were recording. Neither one said a word because they figured the other should speak first.)
Sep. 21st, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)

One of your favorite venues, a writing workshop!


In terms of how talent isn't even comparable, Nabokov and Joyce once shared a cab ride. Neither spoke because they didn't have anything to say to each other.

How is it I never hear these anecdotes?
Sep. 21st, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
There is a subset of writing workshops where writers who have lived interesting lives tell stories of their adventures and the actual writing process fades into the background. Those are the good kind. (Recently, I went to dinner with a painter who met Francis Bacon. It didn't matter what she said he said, it was that _Francis Bacon_ had said it...)

The good workshops yield lots of literary anecdotes, most of which are probably only half-true. The anecdotes, true or not, speak volumes about the truths of sitting by ourselves, trapped in our heads, scribbling, scribbling, scribbling...
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 22nd, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)

I suspect the details of the answer vary from author to author, but I do hope you pick the theme up, when you feel like it. I'd like to hear your response.

Sep. 22nd, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
I do have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Red Tree. I found it quite chilling, perhaps because the first person narrative added that extra bit of reality to it.

And I must apologize. I think I might be due for new eye glasses. I could have sworn you listed Sept. 27 for the South Street Seaport signing for Lovecraft Unbound.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)

And I must apologize. I think I might be due for new eye glasses. I could have sworn you listed Sept. 27 for the South Street Seaport signing for Lovecraft Unbound.

No problem. I screw stuff up all the time. Just not this time. ;-)
Sep. 22nd, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)
I think you qualify as being a good writer and a recognized writer. What seems to have eluded you so far is fame and popularity. Your inclusion in the forthcoming Library of America American, Fantastic Fiction edited by Peter Straub is awesome. The getting popular aspect is out of your hands to a point. You work hard, go the extra mile, blog, do book trailers and signings, interviews, etc. The response of the marketplace is something uncontrollable and often unpredictable. All you, the artist can do is all you can do. The connection between the author and the reader is a very intimate thing, almost like another religion. I think you write splendidly and I tell my friends and my customers. Be proud of your achievements. You're a full time writer earning a living practicing your craft. How many authors can say that? May your talent flourish and prosper and your readership grow.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
lack of...... a better word.
Happy Mabon
( 10 comments — Have your say! )