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A decision is a small apocalypse, a change in time and space, and end of at least one world. If it hasn’t been turned into words, does it exist? If the same feeling stays unnamed -- inchoate, a mess of air and guts, but not real air, and not real guts -- does that make it not true?
One of the beauties of this portrait miniature is that despite the satirical critique of both bourgeois Dutch society (or perhaps society in general) and the unrealistic dreams of youth, the cause of Japi’s withdrawal from life remains largely undetermined. One gets the sense that it is an unavoidable natural process, like the rising and setting of the sun or the flowing of rivers to which Japi continually refers.
"It’s important that I never come to a novel trying to avenge anyone. I can’t write it unless I can understand, or at least empathize with, all the characters. I don’t write from life before I can first forgive. I know some writers forgive as a result of the writing, but for me -- if I am writing about you, I have forgiven you."
Bridges make literal our dream of connection. It is no coincidence that a minister of the church officiated as part of the opening ceremonies of both the Brooklyn and the Sydney Harbour bridges, or that the head of the Roman Catholic Church is known as Pontiff -- from the Latin for bridge-maker.
"With such obvious mortality always lurking at your doorstep, who would not wish to make some sense of it, or to at least portray the waste as somehow beautiful and romantic and even noble?"
S. J. Chambers
"I began to think of the essay as being able to do other work. It didn't have to only tell a story. Or the story it told didn't have to be a compressed, intense moment -- it could span several years, or be more about a thematic arc than a narrative one. But it could also be a collage, an idea that just gets hammered and hammered at to see what shapes can be made."
The way I mean to initiate that conversation, every time, is through joy: by having the most fun possible with everything I write, following the tug and rush of pleasure, the turning of the worm of interest, in Walker Percy’s indelible phrase, toward whatever character is most interesting now: right now.
"For me, poetry comes from a place looking to understand that brutality and to find perhaps its opposite -- grace. I think most people don’t like to think they are capable of both, but they are. And I think I write with that in mind -- that at times, we are diminished, and at other times, however unintentionally, we diminish others."
"I just want to write the stories I feel like writing. I’ve been working on a YA novel about a Korean American girl named Mina since I was in grad school. It was my thesis. I still want to tell that story, but it seems that other stories have jumped the line. And maybe some small part of it is fear -- fear of opening myself up in that way, fear of judgment from readers who may not identify with or understand the culture."
"It just feels good to engage in the culture I love, and I know that I’m contributing to it. And yeah, I feel the love coming right back at me, for sure. But I’m not giving to get; I’m getting from giving. It’s not a pyramid scheme; it’s sincere."
"I felt constant pressure to cut. I cut between 50% and 100% of what I write every day. But I never felt pressured to cut the book down to some arbitrary length. What kept me writing? I thought The Instructions
could become a book that readers could fall in love with."