Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: Richard Bausch

Ann Beattie’s favourite short fictions

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 8.23.25 PM

I grew into a writer as an admirer of Ann Beattie’s astringent, generous short fiction. Here’s a recent NY Times interview.

Ann Beattie

In the meantime, here is a list of her most-loved short stories with, indeed, some of my favourites among them:

“What are your all-time favorite short stories?

Among them: “Twilight of the Superheroes” and “Your Duck Is My Duck,” by Deborah Eisenberg; “Way Down Deep in the Jungle,” by Thom Jones; “Oxygen,” by Ron Carlson; “Nettles” and “The Albanian Virgin,” by Alice Munro; “The Fat Girl,” by Andre Dubus; “We Didn’t,” by Stuart Dybek; “Tits-Up in a Ditch,” by Annie Proulx; “Bruns,” by Norman Rush; “Escapes,” by Joy Williams; “Yours,” by Mary Robison; “The Dog of the Marriage,” by Amy Hempel; “The Fireman’s Wife,” by Richard Bausch; “The Womanizer,” by Richard Ford; “Helping,” by Robert Stone; “No Place for You, My Love,” by Eudora Welty; “Are These Actual Miles,” by Raymond Carver; “People Like That Are The Only People Here,” by Lorrie Moore; “Last Night,” by James Salter; “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story,” by Russell Banks; “Hunters in the Snow,” by Tobias Wolff; Rebecca Lee’s collection, “Bobcat.””

Richard Bausch, lit hero, reprising tip #35

JEHParisdancer1

painting: Jane Eaton Hamilton, Paris, 2014

Reprise # 35

“Every sentence contains what seems like a thousand possibilities, including not being used at all. Consider that possibility, too. Sometimes you’re striving for something that has stopped being about the story and has become more about what you can do with an English sentence. Trying to make art with the prose is no excuse to forget the importance of FUNCTION in the making of a good story–you can make a perfectly gorgeous array of consecutive pretty sentences that do not add up to anything like a story. And the story’s the thing. If the line won’t come pretty enough, or striking enough, maybe it shouldn’t be there to begin with. What must be there is everything that moves the story to its completion–all that, just that and no more. And I’m not talking about being spare, but about being economical, even if that economy is utilized in the large scale of a big novel.” -Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch #28

Cristina and Vania Perez urban shoot

photo by: Jane Eaton Hamilton: orchid

“In an experiment in NY in the mid sixties, they asked elementary school children to draw their parents. They were too young to have any attitudes or opinions; they saw things directly, from experience. They came up with the most amazing symbolic drawings: Dad’s big as a barrel, with beer cans on his stomach; Mom’s tiny, standing next to a Matterhorn of laundry. The symbols were vivid and stunningly revealing. This is what Flannery O’Connor was talking about when she said a good story is literal in the same sense that a child’s drawing is literal. From this idea you take the faith that what you are really after in describing experience is to recover the direct gaze of the child, to be an infant with speech. The symbols and even the meaning will take care of themselves, if you can be simply, straightly clear. Forget everything you think you know and just try to be clear, try to render exactly what your direct gaze gives you to say about the instance you’ve created. It will have so much less to do with what you think than it will with what you ARE. And you may not even be particularly aware of it; in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t, even though what it amounts to finally is something that others will call your vision. Trust that. It’s the most beautiful thing about this work.”  Richard Bausch

The wise Richard Bausch

JEHForsythia

On Writing by Richard Bausch

“You are not putting life on the page; you’re making fiction, which has more to do with itself than it will ever really have to do with life. You are working with the illusion of life–the same as a painter is working with the illusion of light, and that life he portrays. Life is messy and often terrifyingly random and nuanced beyond our powers of perception–you are creating life shaped, ordered, governed by the demands of story. So you learn your way through it and cut anything that doesn’t contribute to the story and to the concerns of the story. In doing so, if you are faithful enough, and lucky, too, you suggest the fullness of the very life we lead.”

Richard Bausch Reprise #19

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 6.21.09 PM

Reprise # 19

“You never really learn to write as it is usually conceived; there is no template you are trying to decipher. What you learn, eventually, is how to write this one thing you’re working on. It’s no accident that we feel as if we have to learn everything all over again each time we try to do it. Because that is indeed the situation. You have to learn how to write each one, and each one contains secrets and mysteries that you have to solve, and those secrets and mysteries change as the story changes, and so you have to learn it all over. The thing you can treat like a template is HABIT, the habits of work that you develop, that you can strive consciously to develop. The habit of being shrewd about it all: practicing the habit of working without demanding too much in the way of specific conditions (silence, certain light, certain time of day, certain place), teaching yourself to work in changing conditions and with the noises and distractions of being alive on this very hectic and un-peaceful planet. Just visiting it each day, let it know you’re there. So I am really seldom teaching writing: I’m teaching habits, and revision, and practice, and understanding that confusion is quite normal and even healthy because it leads you into what you don’t know about what you thought you knew.” -Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch #8

JEH2014

Richard Bausch is one of my literary heroes, and he’s told me I can reprint his short advice pieces about writing, which I will do periodically.  The early short fiction books of his that I list below taught me to love the shape and scope of stories; he’s a gorgeous stylist with heartbreaking things to say about our world.  His story ‘The Fireman’s Wife’ dragged me over the coals; I’ve never forgotten it.

Reprise # 8

Work in the perfect confidence that: 1.) it is going to be harder work than you have ever done; 2.) it will not yield its secrets easily; 3.) it will drive you a bit crazy until it surprises you and even then the surprise will have other complications that will drive you a little more nuts; 4.) it will seem to open with perfect simplicity like a flower in sunlight in the first fresh morning of Spring, and then close on you like an iron door manned by six guards of the inquisition—and, 5.) all of this being true, you cannot truly hurt it. You can only make it necessary to do it again, to get into its little dark grottoes and work it, and let the opening and closing and the secrets and the falterings take place knowing that you cannot hurt it. You absolutely cannot ruin it. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You can not permanently harm it. It is not made of glass, but of LANGUAGE, that sweet and glorious possession, that is there like a guiding spirit, wanting to give you everything. Just be worthy of it and try to let go of expecting it to dance on command. It must be courted, cajoled and appreciated even for its inconsistencies. YOU must forgive your own clumsiness and failures of insight in the moment. The thing is tidal. Trust the beauty of it, and don’t over worry it. It WANTS to yield its treasure. You only have to be very, very patient, and quietly stubborn.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: