Friday Diary

Here’s an experimental post, stylistically indebted to the inimical Hugh Muir.  Think of it as an anthology of sorts, running commentary on off-beat news and muse related to the Paradoxes.  All being well, this may become a regular feature.

Leave interior decorating to the kids.  The Observer’s graphic story competition announced their 2009 winner this week–Vivian McDermid’s ‘Paint’. I read with some interest, having played a consultative editorial role for another entry.  Thus I viewed the slides with the jadedness of a rejected contestant.  Expect to be disappointed, I told myself.

I wasn’t.  McDermid’s story draws painting and writing together, impossible to separate.  Her story is like her painting, gentle, colorful, soulful.  The story took on a preternatural cast, weirdly intertwined with my own experience–a phenomenon I haven’t encountered since first reading Chaim Potok.  I felt like I read my own life through a diffused lens–the angst of a new parent, the trauma of a child left at daycare, the struggles of a freelance artist.  It is, McDermid powerfully illustrates, the haphazard things, the distractions, that bring creative potency to art.

As I read, my justified jadedness faded to a renewed sense of wonder, the beauty of the ordinary.  That’s a story worth losing to.

Creative writing masterclasses can now happen in four minutes every Wednesday.  Jerry Jenkins writes about writing at his blog, advice from a man who combines the enviable skills of teacher, editor, and bestseller.  This week’s vignette discusses the importance reading has for writing.  ‘Writers must be readers,’ Jenkins says, ‘so read something good while writing your next project.’  The experience of a counter-story, a story and a world other than the one consuming your thoughts, liberates the writer from imaginative isolation.  Jenkins cites one of his own literary mentors, Sol Stein, as an eminently practical read while writing.  Whatever the case, a book subtitled ‘The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them’ is probably worth a second read.

Everyone needs an emerging band to support.  And if their songs consistently play in your head, shattering your complacency and forcing you to reevaluate what you thought you thought, the band is probably Milano.  The Chicago-based group has accelerating in notoriety, nationally and internationally.  They’re unsettling to listen to while writing–in a good way.  The atypical coloring of their music, the unpredictable voice of the drums, and lyrics that amount to a spiritual punch in the gut drive me, at any rate, to confront what I’m really writing about. It’s not easy to be a normal job-seeker and freelancer with Jon Guerra’s lyric throbbing in my ears.   ‘Tell me you don’t want to get a job/ that leaves you depressed/Tell me you don’t want to be a snob/ just to impress.’   What is success, anyway, if not a commitment to discovering wonder, if not downward mobility?

Alternatively, if your emerging band transfixes the music in your soul and renews your hope for meaningful spirituality, then you’re probably listening to my brother or his wife.  (Also Chicago-based, if you’re keen on booking.)

And here’s a shout-out for the Paradoxes’ two faithful commentators.  If you, like me, have been jaded with conventional spirituality, with unenlightened attitudes and parroted theology, and if you want the odd combination of spiritual acuity with literary knowledge, look no further than these.  Chris Russo and Eric Pazdziora (the brother referred to) sidestep what you think you’ll find on theological blogs.  They don’t pretend to have all the right answers, but they may well have all the right questions.  As their felicitous comments here show, they’re not lacking when it comes to love of fantasy literature.

To the rest of my readership–yes, I know you’re out there.  All twelve of you.  Thanks.

Shabbat Shalom.


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