Archive for the 'Commonplaces' Category

Commonplaces: Exley on football.

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Why did football bring me so to life? I can’t say precisely. Part of it was my feeling that football was an island of directness in a world of circumspection. In football a man was asked to do a difficult and brutal job, and he either did it or got out. There was nothing rhetorical or vague about it; I chose to believe that it was not unlike the jobs which all men, in some sunnier past, had been called upon to do. It smacked of something old, something traditional, something unclouded by legerdemain and subterfuge. It had that kind of power over me, drawing me back with the force of something known, scarcely remembered, elusive as integrity — perhaps it was no more than the force of a forgotten childhood. Whatever it was, I gave myself up to the Giants utterly. The recompense I gained was the feeling of being alive.

~ ~ ~

I had wanted to make the pilgrimage [to former Giants head coach Steve Owen’s funeral] because it was Owen, as much as any other, who had brought me round to the Giants and made me a fan. Unable to conceive what my life would have been without football to cushion the knocks, I was sure I owed him sorrow. It occurs to me now that my enthusiasms might better have been placed with God or Literature or Humanity; but in the penumbra of such upper-case pieties I have always experienced an excessive timidity rendering me tongue-tied or forcing me to emit the brutal cynicisms with which the illiterate confront things they do not understand.

–Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes

Commonplace: Lessing

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now.
The conditions are always impossible.”

–Doris Lessing

Peter Levi on writing for the screen.

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Most poets of my age, or even ten years above, understand and like the cinema. Rather few understand that television is an art form. They’re terrified by the whole notion of television. Therefore they won’t accept that it can be an art form. And yet if what they want is this great audience, why don’t they go and get it? There it is, waiting for them. They could, I mean, be doing something useful that people actually want them to do. I don’t think that any writer could call himself serious if he’s never considered working in films and television.

Peter Levi in The Paris Review, 1979

Commonplace: Shunryu Suzuki on concentration.

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

“In order not to leave any traces, when you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourselves completely . . . Zen activity is activity which is completely burned out, with nothing remaining but ashes.”

Shunryu Suzuki, Beginner’s Mind (quoted in Katherine Angel, Unmastered)

Commonplace: Sean Penn.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Fulfilling what you start is why you start something.

–Sean Penn

Commonplace: James Lee Burke.

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

My book The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times before it was eventually published by Louisiana State University Press. When you get thoroughly rejected — and I mean thoroughly rejected — you realize you do it for the love of the work. And you stay out of the consequences. I developed one rule for myself: Never leave a manuscript at home more than thirty-six hours. Everything stays under submission. Never accept defeat.

–James Lee Burke in Esquire

Commonplace: Pressfield on the breakthrough moment.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

When we turn pro as artists or entrepreneurs, we do not achieve enlightenment. Nirvana still eludes us. We will not wake up tomorrow morning freed of our fears or our self-doubts or our Resistance. In some ways, these demons will be even worse because now we’re more excruciatingly aware of them.

But in the Breakthrough/Turning Pro moment we have changed everything, because we now see our problem for what it is and we see ourselves for who we are.

–Steven Pressfield, “Inside the All Is Lost Moment”

Commonplace: Lady Gaga.

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.”

–Lady Gaga, quoted in the August 2012 Esquire

~ ~ ~

She’s right. After you’ve gone on that remorseless bender, then you can let your critical-thinking faculties take over and refine the work, polish it, give it more structure (or less). But at first: go crazy. You can’t get an STD from an idea.

Commonplace: Henry James on living in the world of creation.

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

“To live in the world of creation—to get into it and stay in it—to frequent it and haunt it—to think intently and fruitfully—to woo combinations and inspirations into being by a depth and continuity of attention and meditation—this is the only thing—and I neglect it, far and away too much; from indolence, from vagueness, from inattention, and from a strange nervous fear of letting myself go. If I can vanquish that nervousness, the world is mine.”

—Henry James, quoted by Alan Hollinghurst

Commonplace: Ballard.

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

“I know that if I don’t write, say on holiday,
I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy,
as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.”

–J. G. Ballard, The Paris Review Interview