Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: The Atlantic

“I want my cup of stars.” -Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen and I go back a bit, and I’m finally reading her collection My Body and Other Parties, and, so far, adoring and admiring it, and I’d like to see if she’ll agree to an interview even though this is not a going-concern blog and even though she is much much too busy, but in the meantime, here is a great and sparkly interview with The Atlantic’s Joe Fassler. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson haunts me still, so I understand how she got riveted. Jackson’s idea that she could transcend the many limitations of her lived life by entering other worlds, much as the disabled quite often do, in fact, and the stunning skills with which she brought her points home, still flabbergasts and inspires me. We need her in the world, and now we need Machado, too.

How Surrealism Enriches Storytelling About Women

Writing While Queer: It Matters

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art: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016

Over at The Atlantic, Gabrielle Bellot reminds us, now during the Trump age, of how important it is, it continues to be, to raise our voices as queer writers. “The killing of trans women,” she reminds us, “is in the news so often I’ve come to expect it.” We have always pushed against bullwarks of oppression. Early writers had their texts challenged–publishers wouldn’t publish them, communities banned and burned them, writers went to jail for them. And yet when I was trying to come out in the late seventies and early eighties, these books became lifelines, like rope swings I could jump on into the possibility of a different future. We’re not there in that future yet, as any queer writer will tell you. Not even in Canada. Our books are not published and celebrated in the way that books by other communities are. How we are side-lined has changed and grown more subtle and our rights and visibility has increased, but side-lined we still are.

I published a novel this year that was called a “tour de force” by the Vancouver Sun, yet dismissed by the Globe by centering the sex in it. Do I claim it as great literature? No. No other Cdn sources reviewed it despite it appearing in NY’s Time Out as a best summer book. It can’t actually exist as both a tour de force and not worth reviewing.

The dissonance is wearily familiar to queer writers. I’m exhausted by the rejection, by my traditional lack of access to this country’s power structure. The little sniff, the little nose wrinkle, the burying, is an historically common reaction to queer texts. Not on merit you don’t, straights seem to say. The “we published queer writer X last issue” comments (we’ve used up our quota, sorry). We have come a long way but oh, we have a long long way to go.

Bellot says, “But at its best, and often in times of the deepest challenges and uncertainties, our literature has offered a vision to the world of the possibilities that may exist within each person, of our ability to resist and persist, of our ability to make and remake ourselves, even in the face of unspeakable pain.”

Queer Writers in the Age of Trump

“To Write, Stop Thinking”

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An article on writing by Kathryn Harrison, author of “The Kiss,” at the Atlantic. Here is where we go to succumb.

To Write, Stop Thinking

George Saunders on story

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton uncertain date: 2011?

Here, from The Atlantic, is George Saunders talking about how to write a good story. I love George Saunders’ heart. Sometimes, the Semplica-Girl Diaries, a story of his that IV-dripped into me, swirls in my brain.

After listening to this video, now I will hear this:

“…what you try and do with the person you love. You come back to them again and again and try to intuit their real expansiveness and you try to keep them close to you and give them the benefit of the doubt.” I have never heard this expressed quite this way before and I hope George Saunders wouldn’t mind if I say that this is why women stay with battering spouses.

This, indeed, is why I stayed with her. I continued to try to intuit her real expansiveness. It was this expansiveness under her crabbed expression of rage that bound, fascinated, compelled and tugged me closer.

It’s discontent and generosity that builds story. May I always remember this.

George Saunders

Here’s another interview from Triquarterly:

An Interview with George Saunders

“We just got our submissions for our grad program [at Syracuse] and we got 600 this year for 6 spots. And I read 165 of those. And it’s so interesting. Everybody has a beautiful life. And everybody has an intense childhood. And everybody has, I think, some ability to be moved by literature. But then you see 165 people stepping forward to try to make that magic on their own, and it’s not a given. You can be a really smart, really well read, really well intentioned person, but somehow the thing you’re writing doesn’t come alive. Every year we do this, I’m kind of stunned by how many people are writing and also how well, and also how few of those people really get into the zone of speaking to me or speaking to another human being at the heart level. It’s kind of a mysterious thing. It’s kind of terrifying.”

The Big Boo–Rejection

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Kavita Das wrote an excellent article for The Atlantic about how we romanticize writers’ rejections. Many top-notch writers endure a lot of it before moving on to other things/smaller publishers, and she makes the point that the fault lies not with the work, but with the publishing houses. She lands this at racism’s door, but I’d add homophobia, too. The numbers of times I’ve heard that a work of mine is too “avant garde” or that it would be “better suited to a [journal/publisher] with a more eclectic list” or “we published a lesbian a few months ago” are legion.

We shouldn’t be glad that prejudice spurs fine writers to almost quit or to actually quit, as I did. Rather we should expand ourselves, and trust white readers to read outside their own comfort zones. Rejecting well-written works? A disfavour we do writers/ourselves. Potential is soured. The books that would have been finished with a little encouragement and support die in drafting or stuck in a drawer.

Pubs, if you think writers don’t recognize phobic rejections, you’re quite wrong. We may not call you on it to your faces, but we sure do talk about it, pretty much forever.

And it doesn’t serve you.

Writers Shouldn’t Romanticize Rejection

Lit Rejections

Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen

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‘Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen’ is an article in the New York Times Magazine, by Parul Seghal. She

The New York Times

Here is another interview on The Rumpus (from 2013) by Suzanne Rivecca, called ‘What Men Talk About When They Talk About Mary Gaitskill.’

The Rumpus

The Atlantic

Joy Williams on writing

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Joy Williams speaks so wisely about writing.

The Atlantic

The Thoreau of the Suburbs

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Diana Saverin has written a gorgeous article for The Atlantic about Annie Dillard and ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,’ a book that I count among my most cherished.  Sometimes I think that Dillard has been, unwittingly, slowly teaching me how to see, and how to write, for all these many years.

“In The Writing Life, Dillard describes what she sees as the goal of all literature, nonfiction as well as fiction: “Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts?”” -Diana Saverin

On Annie Dillard

from ‘Tinker Creek:’

“I was walking along Tinker Creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.” -Anne Dillard

I was at Banff with Mavis Gallant…

…and have never forgotten the first time she came to sit at my table.  A friend said, “And who are you?” and she answered, “I’m Mavis Gallant.”  He stared at her, then said, “How lucky for you.”

Indeed.

Mavis Gallant

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