Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quotations: Lonesome Gods

From The Lonesome Gods, pages 54-55, by Louis L'Amour. All you need to know is that these are the words of a dying father, who is crossing the desert to take his son Hannes to California:

Long ago, before the Indians who live here now, there were other people. Perhaps they went away, or maybe they died or were driven out by these Indians' ancestors, but they are gone. yet sometimes I am not sure they are gone. I think sometimes their spirits are still around, in the land they loved.

Each people has its gods, or the spirits in which they believe. It may be their god is the same as ours, only clothed in different stories, different ideas, but a god can only be strong, Hannes, if he is worshipped, and the gods of those ancient people are lonesome gods now.

They are out there in the desert and mountains, and perhaps their strength has waned because nobody lights fires on their altars anymore. but they are there, Hannes, and sometimes I think they know me and remember me.

It is a foolish little idea of my own, but in my own way I pay them respect.

Sometimes, when crossing a pass in the mountains, one will see a pile of loose stones, even several piles. Foolish people have dug into them, thinking treasure is buried there. It is a stupid idea, to think a treasure would be marked so obviously.

It is an old custom of these people to pick up a stone and toss it on the pile. Perhaps it is a symbolical lightening of the load they carry, perhaps a small offering to the gods of the trails. I never fail to toss a stone on the pile, Hannes. In my own way, it is a small offering to those lonesome gods. A man told me they do the same thing in Tibet, and some of our ancient people may have come from there, or near there. Regardless of that, I like to think those ancient gods are out there waiting, and that they are, because of my offerings, a little less lonely.

People are still making those little stone piles. I've seen them out west, and in Europe. I want to say there's a book about the folklore of backpackers in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas that gets into this practice a bit. Can't remember the title. The stone piles might also be related to the ancient Greeks placing a Herm (for Hermes) at crossroads.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Something Fell

Anybody out there read Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's comic Fell? Image published it, not quite a decade ago. It got into it because it was cheap, and I'd heard good things about Ellis' writing. Fell is Richard Fell, introduces himself as Rich, who's transferred to a place called Snowtown. He's a detective. Lots of the cases he works on in the 9 issues that were ever published of this comic come from real life cases that Ellis got a hold of in newspapers. In the first issue, Fell meets a barkeep called Mayko, and even though nothing they do constitutes flirting, you get that sort of vibe. Toward the end of the story, she brands his neck with a hot iron, giving him the symbol of Snowtown (you know, so he'll be safe).

I liked the approach to this comic right away. Sixteen pages of story, a few pages of backmatter (here actually titled Back Matter) in which the author goes on about the creative process, includes some fan letters, some pictures and whatnot. It's interesting, even when Ellis has no choice but to include pretty much only letters cause his allergies have transformed him into "Snot Tsunami Man" (issue 3).

Ellis has his critics, of course. Some say he's often just weird for weird's sake, other that he pushes the boundaries of taste for no good reason. Sometimes I see that. In Fell #2, for example, he puts in a coroner who's of course eating a sandwich when Fell enters the morgue. Cliche. But then the coroner drops a tomato onto the corpse, and eats it anyway.

Templesmith's art is heavily stylized, which means it either works for you or doesn't. He got big when he did 30 Days of Night. I like his work here. It's moody. And he draws the single most disturbing image of a nun in a Richard Nixon mask that anyone will ever come across. The nun's a recurring character.

Chris Eliopoulis letters the comic, and it's done in a subtle way that makes you forget there's a letterer. There are lots of signs and the like posted throughout the panels, so the lettering is actually a subtle part of the whole of Snowtown, which I like. 

The mysteries/crimes Fell has to solve are almost perfunctory. They exist just to hang the city and the characters on something, so why not have them be some of the more depraved acts of humanity, like smoke babies (issue 2) or the fact that bodies dumped in water get all horridly gross. Nonetheless, Fell gives us some great panels, such as this one, which begins issue 6:

It's funny how things seem to change over time, but don't. Cause I'm the one that's different. The only difference to these comics is that I left them sitting on my desk once, and I had cats back then. So one of the cats knocked over a cup of water, walked through it and then jumped onto the desk and walked all over the fell comics. So issues 6-9 have these dried cat footprint water damage to them. It's tempting to say that Fell isn't quite as good as I remember it, but that's not true. Ellis and Templesmith cram a lot into 16 pages, even issue 8, in which the 9-panel grid gives way to three panels per page for most of the issue. That issue, which concludes the single collected edition, has a great ending.

Ellis wanted to write fell to have something relatively cheap on the stands, for guys like me who can't justify the price of a monthly comic back then. The average comic was between $2.25 and $3 at that time. We need it even more now, as the average is now tipping towards four bucks.

So I'm rereading Fell in part because I wish there were more comics like it. It goes out of its way to be readable, to tell single-issue stories while developing a community through its back matter (an  idea for a series of blog posts: great single-issue stories of recent comics). It only lasted 9 issues (which I think had more to do with the creators not keeping up with it; it won a couple of Eisners, but Ellis' most recent word on it was in 2011). Because life's about to change in a pretty big way, I'm going to drop all of the comics on my pull list. I might've been inclined to keep one if it worked like Fell worked.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Quotations: White Fang

From page 78 of Jack London's excellent book White Fang:

To man has been given the grief, often, of seeing his gods overthrown and his altars crumbling; but to the wolf and the wild dog that have come in to crouch at man’s feet, this grief has never come. Unlike man, whose gods are of the unseen and the overguessed, vapors and mists of fancy eluding the garmenture of reality, wandering wraiths of desired goodness and power, intangible outcroppings of self into the realm of spirit—unlike man, the wolf and the wild dog that have come into their fire find their gods in the living flesh, solid to the touch, occupying earth-space and requiring time for the accomplishment of their ends and their existence. No effort of will can possibly induce disbelief in such a god. There is no getting away from it. There it stands, on its two hindlegs, club in hand, immensely potential, passionate and wrathful and loving, god and mystery and power all wrapped up and around by flesh that bleeds when it is torn and that is good to eat like any flesh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King

I never heard much about this novel, King's foray into fairly straightforward fantasy. There are some horror elements here, and of course there's his recurring character Flagg.

It's a pretty good story, though at times it's told in too long-winded a manner. There's lots of set-up, though the pay off is worth it. I've never read a fantasy novel that revolved so thoroughly around napkins before.

Perhaps more fascinating is the fact that an audio version of this book was recorded by Bronson Pinchot. Yes, that Bronson Pinchot.

The ending was one of my favorite parts, which sets up another story that, as far as I can tell, King hasn't told yet. Because you learn something of Flagg's fate if you read The Stand or the Dark Tower books, it's hard to imagine the outcome of the characters who set out to confront Flagg at the end of Eyes can turn out good.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sorry to ruin your day...

...but Community has been cancelled.

So one of my favorite moments in all of television happened a few years back on this show. I imagine that the showrunner walked into the writers room and said, "Ok, I want to have these two guys sing that song from An American Tail to an albino rat hiding in an air vent, while this lady does a Jack Nicholson impression, but about browines, and these two are salsa dancing to Irish trad music, while Chevy Chase eats a sandwich," and then the writers had to think of a way to make it all happen at once. This was the result:

Community was not a show for everybody, but it was a show for me. It was full of long speeches about the nature of truth, and the need for acceptance, and even had two whole episodes of clips from other episodes that were never really made. What other show on television ever dared to base one of its most compelling half-hours on a monkey stealing a pen? What other show ever dared to have a whole episode about foosball? Or a character who existed solely to be told to shut up?

And so I'll leave you with this...Abed as Batman on Halloween:

If I stay, there can be no party. I must be out there in the night, staying vigilant. Wherever a party needs to be saved, I’m there. Wherever there are masks, wherever there’s tomfoolery and joy, I’m there. But sometimes I’m not, cause I’m out in the night, staying vigilant. Watching. Lurking. Running. Jumping. Hurtling. Sleeping. No, I can’t sleep. You sleep. I’m awake. I don’t sleep. I don’t blink. Am I bird? No. I’m a bat. I am Batman. Or am I? Yes, I am Batman.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Amazon's Top 100 Lists

I'm not sure why I did this, but I went through a bunch of Amazon's top 100 book lists to see how many of the books on them I had read.

For the top 100 overall, I have only read three: Dr. Seuss's Oh the Places You'll go; Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar; and What to Expect when You're Expecting.

Of the SF and Fantasy list: Martin's Game of Thrones (just the first novel; I know, I know--I do intend to read the rest of them, but they're just so much of a commitment); Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, which I read more than 20 years ago; Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan, and that's it.

Of Children's books: Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games books (3); the Harry Potter books (2); the Eric Carle books (2); Guess How Much I Love You; Chicka Chicka Boom Bom; The Giving Tree; the Hobbit; Oh the places you'll go; and Where the Wild Things Are.

From the Fiction/Literature list: Vonnegut's Jail Bird; Game of Thrones again...and that's it. Why Jailbird, I wonder? It's not Vonnegut's best (that might be Cat's Cradle), so why is it there? I can understand why Sirens is on the SF list, though.

From the Comics list: Saga (3 volumes); Walking Dead (just the first compendium); Batman: Killing Joke; Watchmen; 1602; Dark Knight Returns; Batman: Year One; Winter Soldier; Batman and Son; V for Vendetta; Persepolis; Calvin and Hobbes; Understanding Comics; New Avengers Breakout; Maus; American Born Chinese.

I've read 0 of the mystery/thriller/suspense list.

Only 3 from Travel: Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, and Krakaur's Into the Wild.

So the comics list is the longest one for me. And I don't know what this Attack on Titan series is or why it's all over that list. Seriously, it's fully 10% of the comics list. I've never even heard of it. Star Wars takes up a lot of what's left.

From all this, I start to understand maybe why my own writing never gets published. I don't have a popular taste. I write stories for myself, and they're not what sells. I really expected to have read more of the SF list, but there are all sorts of books I've never heard of on it.

These books reflect what's new rather than what's determined to be of quality. Compared to the 23 of Locus' top 50 books that I've read. I've never been much of a list reader. I know people who have picked lists--say, the AFI top 100 films, or the Modern Library top 100 novels--and worked their way through them. I've been more inclined to try to get through all of a single author's work--Vonnegut, for example.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kate DiCamillo's Flora and Ulysses

I didn't intend to skip posting for a week. It just happened. I wish I could say that I had been doing something of paramount importance, but the truth is that last week just slipped away from me. I spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not I should switch careers, since I got a job offer entirely out of every field for which I have training and the career I have spent more than a decade training for has gone nowhere. In the end, I didn't switch. I stayed in my current position, and we'll just have to see what happens because of that.

I did decide to accept a different, unrelated offer. I will now be some part of the organizing body of the Hoosier Folklore Society. I don't have a title, but I'll be putting together a conference (probably for March of 2015, but nothing's set) and maybe working on the journal Midwestern Folklore, depending on how much help is needed there. So there's that.

Flora and Ulysses

I haven't written much about comics, Superman, or superheroes lately. I'd like to do that more often. I guess the place to start is with the recent book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. All her books are great, but this one is maybe my favorite of the bunch. Its cover tells us that it's "illuminated," and this case that means it includes both illustrations and comics by artist K.G. Campbell. It's an interesting blend of prose and sequential art. The comics occasionally take over the storytelling entirely. 


Anyway, it's about a squirrel that gets sucked into a stupendously powerful vacuum and gets superpowers as a result--powers including super strength, flight, and the ability to write poetry. DiCamillo has an interesting take on comics here, both by the way she includes them as a storytelling device to work directly with the prose and the way her character Flora incorporates what she's learned from comics into her life and the decisions she makes.

Flora and Ulysses is a book about traumatized people. Since that's often the driving force behind the genesis of superheroes, it's appropriate that she brought in her own superhero and chose to include sequential art as part of the way she tells this story.

So...Flora and Ulysses. To read it is to love it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Something useful

From Dune:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Quotations: The Bluest Eye

I've read this one over and over and over. It's from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, her first novel, page 134. It's tough to include, for reasons that will become obvious, but it's one of my favorite passages in all of literature, and I feel I would be remiss if I didn't put it here at some point.

Cholly loved Blue. Long after he was a man, he remembered the good times they had had. How on a July 4 at a church picnic a family was about to break open a watermelon. Several children were standing around watching. Blue was hovering about on the periphery of the circle--a faint smile of anticipation softening his face. The father of the family lifted the melon high over his head--his big arms looked taller than the trees to Cholly, and the melon blotted out the sun. Tall, head forward, eyes fastened on a rock, his arms higher than the pines, his hands holding a melon bigger than the sun, he paused an instant to get his bearing and secure his aim. Watching the figure etched against the bright blue sky, Cholly felt goose pimples popping along his arms and neck. He wondered if God looked like that. No. God was a nice old white man, with long white hair, flowing white beard, and little blue eyes that looked sad when people died and mean when they were bad. It must be the devil who  looks like that--holding the world in his hands, ready to dash it to the ground and spill the red guts so [I have removed a word that means black folks because it's in all our best interest that I not include it] could eat the sweet, warm insides. If the devil did look like that, Cholly preferred him. He never felt anything thinking about God, but just the idea of the devil excited him. And now the strong, black devil was blotting out the sun and getting ready to split open the world.

If you're wondering why I have censored that one word, here's a bit from Louis CK.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Quotations: I'll just let this one speak for itself.

If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Best Stories in the World: "Bartelby," by Herman Melville

I love this story. It's a very simple thing: Bartleby prefers not doing over doing; chaos ensues.

Bartleby is a scrivener--a person who by hand makes copies of important legal documents, long before the digital age. Is this important? I don't know. Bartleby is described in several ways; first, as "pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!" then as possessed of a "cadaverously gentlemanly nonchalance." 

The action begins when Bartleby applies for a job working for the unnamed lawyer who narrates Melville's tale. He is a good scrivener for a successful lawyer, but when the time comes for the lawyer to request certain duties all scriveners perform (such as reading aloud a copy to check for mistakes) Bartleby merely states, "I would prefer not to." This then happens for every request made to Bartleby.

The narrator and his other employees are befuddled. Soon the narrator finds himself using the word prefer a little too frequently.  His frustration with Bartleby grows when he discovers the man pretty much living in the law office. He essentially fires Bartelby, offering compensation, but Bartleby prefers not to leave. Soon Bartleby stops working altogether, though he doesn't leave the office. The narrator can't deal with it anymore, so he up and moves. The new occupants find him complaining that Bartleby is still there. The narrator tries to reason with the man, but nothing works.

Bartleby's taken to prison, where he prefers not to do anything. Soon he is found lying in the yard. But the story doesn't end there. The narrator later hears that Bartleby worked in the dead letter office. He sees some meaning in this.

If you're looking to read more about Bartleby, Dan McCall's The Silence of Bartleby is probably the best place to start. A whole book about Bartleby, in which you'll find that Bartleby is everything and nothing, that every academic theory can be used successfully to illuminate the story, and that none of them encompass the respectable cadaver that is Bartleby the scrivener.

So why is this one of the best stories in the world? I had intended to make a joke about preferring not to tell you, but Bartleby is just so compellingly inscrutable. He reveals nothing. He gives no indication of why he does what he does--or doesn't do, as the case may be. Yet the hints are fascinating. Melville's style isn't always the most accessible, and Bartleby is a long story for so little to happen in it (though still not very long). But it's worth reading. And reading a whole book about just to show how much can be made of so little.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Let it be known that I abhor end notes. Can't stand them. I'm a compulsive reader--I feel compelled to read every word in a book. If I'm going to read any of it, I want to go all the way. So I feel uneasy bypassing a note in a book or article. Scholarship is full of them (the scholar Bruce Lincoln once defined myth as scholarship without footnotes, a thought worth exploring), and the trend is to put notes at the end of a book, requiring readers to flip back and forth between the page they're reading and the notes at the end. This drives me nuts, especially when the notes aren't worth while.

Footnotes, on the other hand, can be invigorating. There are a number of books with good footnotes. Stephen King's Danse Macabre comes to mind.

The humorist Christopher Moore puts footnotes to good ends in his book Fool. He uses this device well throughout the book, to gloss archaic terms and insult the French, but on page 6 he gives us the greatest footnote in the history of footnotery. It exists because of this sentence: "Bubble dropped a gutless trout into a bushel of slippery cofishes." And if we're interested in what he means by that final word, all we have to do is glance down to the bottom of the page, to find, "Cofishes--other fish in a group, coworkers, cohorts, etc. Shut up, it's a word."

If, upon reading the first five pages of Fool, you doubted you were beholding a work of greatness, that footnote would exorcise your doubt.

A book full of notable footnotes is Book: A Novel, by Robert Grudin. I don't know where my college roommate Mike Judd got a copy of this, but he thought it was funny so I read it, too. The story is sort of a mystery set in the world of university politics. At one point, the footnotes actually stage a coup and take over the book proper. It's pretty meta, and I appreciate the figurative notion of scholarly apparatus blotting out the ostensible point of the story even more now that I have experienced graduate school.

Dustin Long used footnotes in his novel Icelander. Here is one of the finest: 37. Hubert Jorgen in conversation: "Forgery, I think, is perhaps the pinnacle of self-expression, paradoxical as it sounds. There's a school of thought that says the more constraints put upon a piece of art--rhyme and meter, say, in the case of poetry, or photo-realism in the case of painting--the more impressive that artwork is if executed successfully. Well, what could be more constraining than forgery? And if you manage yet to express yourself within that rigorous framework, what, then, could be more impressive?"

These are but a few examples of footnotes that are worthwhile, even necessary parts of the books they supplement.

There are, I must say, some cases of acceptable and even magisterial endnotes. The first one that comes to mind is Henry Glassie's The Stars of Ballymenone. After checking a few as I read through the book, I decided to just wait and read them all at once after I finished. It was worth it. Sometimes I flipped back and read the relevant passages in the main text, too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unemployed Philospher's Guild

Just thought this was funny, from the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild:

One of many available.

And yes, I'm aware of what πίθος really means in Greek.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Best Stories in the World: The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

So this guy, Kovalev, wakes up one morning to discover that his nose is missing. He sort of freaks out, because it's his nose and whatnot. He tries to go about finding his nose by going to the police, but on the way he sees his nose. I'll let Nikolai Gogol, by way of translator Andrew R. MacAndrew, describe the vision:

Suddenly he stopped dead near the entrance door of a house. An incredible sequence of events unrolled before his eyes. A carriage stopped at the house entrance. Its door opened. A uniformed gentleman appeared. Stooping, he jumped out of the carriage, ran up the steps and entered the house. A combination of horror and amazement swept over Kovalev when he recognized the stranger as his own nose.

So the nose dresses as some sort of state official and his going about town doing various things. Kovalev confronts the nose, but gets nowhere with that, what with the nose denying that it is his nose. ("Don't you realize that you are my nose?" The nose looked at the major and frowned slightly.) Kovalev then goes to the newspaper to try to put out a notice for help finding the nose, which has eluded him. That
doesn't go well for him, but we are treated to this paragraph:

The reception room in which all these people waited was quite small and the air was getting stuffy. But the smell didn't bother Collegiate Assessor Kovalev because he kept his face covered with a handkerchief and also because his nose happened to be God knew where.

Kovalev then goes to the police, with whom he has even more trouble. Kovalev has lots of anxiety about going through life without a nose. He becomes quite paranoid, assuming that the mother of a young lady Kovalev has been flirting with might have stolen it in the night. He sends her a vague but harshly worded letter, after which she replies in confusion that she would like for him to marry her daughter. Kovalev removes her from his suspect list.

It's not really a mystery. Readers are made aware from the very beginning that Kovalev's nose was in the possession of his barber, who found it in a breakfast roll that very morning, though the barber didn't remember cutting it off. He then threw it over a bridge into a river, though he was accosted by a policeman and accused of suspicious behavior. The point of the story isn't what happened to the nose, it's what happens to Kovalev because of the missing nose. And Kovalev becomes desperate and crazy.

Soon enough the policeman who confronted the barber arrives at Kovalev's house with the nose. Kovalev is grateful, but is now presented with a new problem. Not knowing how the nose was removed, he can't figure out how to get it back on his face. It won't simply stay there when he pushes it into the right place.

Meanwhile, rumors have spread around town, and people tell all sorts of tales about the nose going out for walks and the like. People crowd around places where the nose is said to be strolling, and they generally cause quite a nuisance. Then...

The world is full of absolute nonsense. Sometimes it is really unbelievable. Suddenly, the very nose that used to go around as a state councilor and caused such a stir all over the city turned up, as though nothing had happened, in its proper place, namely between the cheeks of Major Kovalev.

Kovalev is quite happy about this turn of events. He even lets that same barber shave him, though cautioning the barber not to pinch his nose while doing so. And that is the only observable change wrought by this story, which ends with the narrator musing about how strange it all ways, which leads to this conclusion:

But the strangest of all, the most incomprehensible thing, is that there are authors who can choose such subjects to write about. This, I confess, is completely inexplicable, it's, no, I can't understand it at all. In the first place, there is absolutely no advantage in it for out mother country. Secondly...well, what advantage is there in it at all? I simply cannot understand what it is...
 However, when all is said and done, and although, of course, we conceive the possibility, one and the other, and maybe even...Well, but then what exists without inconsistencies? And still, if you give it a thought, there is something to it. Whatever you may say, such things do happen--seldom, but they do.

Now that's how you end a story.

So why is this one of the best stories in the world? Do I even have to answer that question? It's about a nose that dresses up like a state official and tries to take a train to Riga, for reasons never revealed. Isn't that enough?

No? Very well then. I love this story because I love absurdity. And no matter how serious you are of countenance, how grave you are in your daily doings, if you read this story you can't help but picture what a nose dressed up like a state official (a Russian state official, no less) would look like. The nose goes about its business without any comment by all but that police officer, who wouldn't have said a thing if he hadn't had his glasses on at the time. The nose speaks. It denies its identity as a nose. And, knowing apparently that the game is up, it tries to flee. This was written in 1836 or so.

This is the first story I've put into this series that exists in, really, only one form. Aside from translation, there are no particular variants of this story--a literary creation (though it seems to have been adapted for the stage). I've included no pictures this time, because for me much of the magic of the story lies in imagining what the nose would look like as it saunters about town.

Much of what I have used as criteria for greatness has had to do with malleability, with whether or not the core of the story could be held while the surface details can be put to use in new contexts and new tellings. With Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose," I hope that you see the same sort of malleability; the only difference being a malleability of interpretation rather than of retelling. What is the nose? It's a piece of a person, and can stand for any number of neuroses or worries or anxieties. It's phallic, if you want it to be. It's also the only part of a person's face that's visible to the person without a reflective surface. Thus it's as semantically rich as the reader wants it to be. It's something that we lose, some essential part of ourselves that, growing older--perhaps without accomplishing those things that we had hoped for during our youth (there's a lot in the story about Kovalev's worries in what I interpret as this sense)--we didn't even realize had been gone until it's too late. We might find it again, or not. Or finding it, it might not fit quite how we thought it would.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quotations: Still on writing

It’s probably true that the writer’s thoughts and the reader’s thoughts never tally exactly, that the image the writer sees and the image the reader sees are never 100 percent the same. 
We are, after all, not angels but were made a little less than angels, and our language is maddeningly hobbled, a fact to which any port or novelist will attest.  There is no creative writer, I think, who has not suffered that frustrating crash off the walls that stand at the limits of language, who has not cursed the word that just doesn’t exist.  Emotions such as grief and romantic love are particularly hard to deal with, but even such a simple operation as starting up a car with a manual transmission and driving it to the end of the block can present nearly insurmountable problems if you try to write the process down instead of simply doing it.  And if you don’t believe this is so, write down such instructions and try to them on a nondriving friend…but check your auto insurance policy first.
Stephen King, Danse Macabre, 362


In the beginning of something, its ending is foretold.
Steve Martin

One of the most difficult things to teach people outside 
the arts…and in the arts as well…is that the important ingredient in the artist is not talent, technique, genius or luck—the important ingredient is himself.  What you are must color everything you do.  If what you are appeals to your public, you’ll be successful.  If what you are communicates with all publics through all time, you’ll become an immortal.  But, if your personality attracts no one, then despite all crafts and cleverness, you’ll fail.  Perry Lafferty, who directs the Montgomery Show, sums it up bitterly. Perry says: “I’m in the Me business, is all.”
            Actually this isn’t limited to the arts.  It extends all through life, and one of the milestones in the maturation of a man is his discovery that technique with women is a waste of time.  No matter how he dresses, performs, and displays himself, it’s only what he really is that matters. 
            Hamlet, speaking to the player king, suggests that the goal of the actor should be to hold the mirror up to nature.  Actually, no matter what any man does, he holds a mirror up to himself.  He continually reveals himself, especially when he tries hardest to conceal himself.  All literature reveals authors and readers alike…and especially science fiction.
Alfred Bester, “Science Fiction and the Renaissance Man,” Redemolished 32

Most authors spend so much time inside their heads—or as we used to say in West Virginia, “down in the mine”—away from the company or thoughts of others, away from social intercourse, that they have become just a bit deranged.
Lawrence Kasdan, “POV”