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  44. <title>You Should Read Casey Plett&#8217;s On Community</title>
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  51. <description><![CDATA[I’m lucky enough to be acquainted with writer Casey Plett, from the days when I was covering the literary world and she was a publicist for the indie Canadian press Biblioasis, which happens to be the publisher of her recent long personal essay, On Community. So I was delighted to see her launch the book [&#8230;]]]></description>
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  53. <p>I’m lucky enough to be acquainted with writer Casey Plett, from the days when I was covering the literary world and she was a publicist for the indie Canadian press Biblioasis, which happens to be the publisher of her recent long personal essay, <a href="https://bookshop.org/p/books/on-community/19657441?ean=9781771965774"><em>On Community</em></a>. So I was delighted to see her launch the book a few months ago at McNally Jackson in Manhattan, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what she’s written since then. Some of what she says draws upon her experience growing up in Mennonite communities, some of it draws upon her experience in literary communities, and some of it draws upon her experience living in trans communities.</p>
  54. <p>(One of the first things she makes clear, in fact, is that it’s often not helpful to speak of “community” in a totalizing, comprehensive way, that what outsiders might see as a community can often be a cluster of <em>communities</em>, sometimes overlapping, sometimes at odds with one another.)</p>
  55. <p>In particular, I’ve been thinking about her thoughts on compassion, and the way that grounding her life in a conscious rejection of “insularity, cliquishness [and] suspicion towards outsiders” has improved her life, how it “actually helped me unstick myself from cycles of anger and move on.”</p>
  56. <p>“I looked into the future of this tendency I was developing to be fearful and avoidant of strangers,” she says of one time in her life, “and I saw only resentment and darkness. And the unfair thing about resentment is that it doesn’t matter if its source is honourable or petulant, it makes you twisted just the same.”</p>
  57. <p>I think about the kind of compassion and openness to strangers that Casey’s writing about in spiritual terms, but also in terms of being a writer—partly because the two have become increasingly intertwined in my mind in recent years.</p>
  58. <p>Let me see if I can explain this.I believe that we write because we have something—a story, a message, call it what you will—that we feel driven to share with the world. We work at our craft to improve our ability to do that work of sharing, to be seen and understood. But in order to make ourselves understood by others, it’s vital for us to be capable of understanding others ourselves—to be capable of recognizing that everyone has something to share with the world, even if they aren’t working at it, even if they aren’t even conscious of what it is yet.</p>
  59. <p>Among the Quakers, where I’ve made my spiritual community for the last few years, we say that there is “that of God in everyone.” Which means different things to different Quakers, but I see it as a recognition of a basic equality among all. I almost said <em>sameness</em>, but of course we’re all fabulously different, yet behind all those differences we are all equally beloved and welcomed by God—and it’s our job to do our best to mirror God’s loving welcome in our interactions with others, with compassion and empathy.</p>
  60. <p>From a literary perspective, that means we need compassion and empathy not just in trying to write about others, but in <em>reading their stories</em>. In the final pages of <em>Our Endless and Proper Work</em>, which were written shortly after the Trump-led insurrection against the United States government, I talked about why authoritarians and fascists seek to stamp out other people’s stories, how they strive to make sure that their voices are the only voices that get heard. One of the main reasons is that they know that, in a truly free “marketplace of ideas,” what they have to offer—power for themselves and their accomplices, suffering for everyone else—is simply not that attractive a deal. So they do their best to make sure people don’t hear about the other options available, until they can make sure those options are no longer available.</p>
  61. <p>This brings us back to Casey and the motivations behind her engagement with trans literary communities. “One reason is simply that trans people are a minority under frequent discrimination and attack,” she writes, “and we live more marginalized lives compared with the average population… and I want to do my part against such marginalization.” But the other is deceptively simple: “It’s a world I ended up in and a world I can contribute to… It’s what I ended up knowing how to do.”</p>
  62. <p>The more time you spend actively engaged in a community, interacting with other people and forming relationships with them, the deeper your roots in that community can grow—and the better you can become at doing the work of that community. If that work is protecting marginalized people through political and social action, solidarity with others will help you get better at that. If that work is writing or some other form of creative activity, solidarity with others will help you get better at that, too. Because you will want to do better not just for yourself, but for your community.</p>
  63. <p>“I don’t know how it’ll pan out,” Casey says of her work. “But it’s what I believe in and what I know how to do. I’m sticking with it…. These conclusions make my life better, and they give me stuff I can do, ways to give my time to the world. Maybe you have your own small, manageable things in your life and heart that you know too?”</p>
  64. <p>Whatever those things are, stick with them, and see them through. Nurture them, and share them with the rest of us.</p>
  65. <hr />
  66. <p>That’s as good a place as any, I suppose, to transition to an update on the “<a href="https://ronhogan.substack.com/p/substackers-against-nazis">Substackers Against Nazis</a>” open letter I shared in mid-December. For those who are just tuning in: Substack, the technology platform that hosts this newsletter, also hosts a number of newsletters unabashedly grounded in Nazi ideology, and that pisses off many of us who publish our newsletters through Substack.</p>
  67. <p>So the open letter got published, and its theme was, in essence: “Hey, we notice you’re doing business with Nazis. Are you going to keep doing business with Nazis? Because if you are, maybe some of us don’t want to do business with you.”</p>
  68. <p>To which Substack co-founder <a href="https://substack.com/@hamish/note/c-45811343">Hamish McKenzie replied</a>, in essence, “Look, I don’t <em>like</em> Nazis, but there’s nothing wrong with doing business with them.” Heck, he argued, our commitment to free speech practically <em>requires</em> us to do business with Nazis. I was not surprised by this, because it’s entirely consistent with Hamish and Substack’s response two years ago, when the company was confronted over its financial support of writers spouting transphobic ideologies, and said it didn’t see a problem with them.</p>
  69. <p>Substack didn’t, and doesn’t, really care what any of us write in our newsletters. What matters to them is whether they can make money from it, and the bank takes money that Substack makes doing business with Nazis, and transphobes, just as eagerly as it takes all the other money Substack makes.</p>
  70. <p>My response two years ago was to <a href="https://ronhogan.substack.com/p/im-putting-paid-subscriptions-on">stop charging money for this newsletter</a>, so their cut of nothing would be nothing. Other people chose to stop working with Substack and move their newsletters to other platforms then, and other people have chosen to stop working with Substack in the last month. I encourage everyone who publishes a newsletter on Substack, or is thinking about it, to make the right choice for them, and for their situation. As for me, I’m choosing to stay not just because I’ve cut off any money they might have made from people paying for this newsletter, but because I like the technology, and if I were to leave there is no guarantee that whatever newsletter platform I selected wouldn’t wind up having its own Nazi problem. Anne Helen Petersen, one of Substack’s most prominent success stories on both the financial and cultural levels, sums this up neatly in <a href="https://substack.com/@annehelen/note/c-45993110">explaining her decision to stay</a>:</p>
  71. <blockquote><p>“The Nazis would come there, too, because part of what Nazis want to do is to make life worse for anyone who opposes their ideology. They want to make it harder for you to read the people you want to read and harder for me to write the non-Nazi things I want to write, and they want us to talk about them. Their business model is simple, and a significant part of it is ruining ours.”</p></blockquote>
  72. <p>But there’s more news in this whole situation. Earlier today, another prominent Substack newsletter, Casey Newton’s <em>Platformer</em>, reported that “<a href="https://www.platformer.news/p/substack-says-it-will-remove-nazi">Substack is removing some publications that express support for Nazis.</a>” Substack claims “this did not represent a reversal of its previous stance, but rather the result of reconsidering how it interprets its existing policies.” That reconsideration, Substack continued, “will not include proactively removing content related to neo-Nazis and far-right extremism,” but applies to any newsletters that publish “credible threats of physical harm.”</p>
  73. <p>In other words, it’s still okay to espouse Nazi ideology on Substack, as long as you don’t explicitly call for anyone to be beaten or killed or herded into concentration camps—or, at least, if you don’t do that in front of a large enough audience that people who aren’t Nazis eventually get wind of it.</p>
  74. <p>The organizers of “Substackers Against Nazis” are grabbing onto whatever aspect of this they can claim as a victory, and as someone who signed the open letter, I can’t say that I blame them, but as you might be able to guess I don’t really see this as much of a win. Sure, it’s great that a few virulent Nazis are going to have to go find someplace else to peddle their wares, but Substack’s larger Nazi problem remains—and as Jude Doyle and others have been pointing out, the reason Substack has a Nazi problem in 2024 is because they didn’t face substantial enough setbacks for the transphobia problem they had in 2021.</p>
  75. <p>And the reason for that is because American (and not just American) society didn’t do enough to deal with its transphobia problem, and so now American society has a Nazi problem in 2024. (It wasn’t <em>just</em> the transphobia problem, of course; it was a broader Christian nationalist white supremacist problem. But transphobia is a very effective tip of the fascist spear; once they start getting people to buy into that, they increase their existing efforts into suppressing other marginalized groups.)</p>
  76. <hr />
  77. <p>I could go on in this vein, and I probably will at some point, but for now let’s just circle back to <a href="https://bookshop.org/p/books/on-community/19657441?ean=9781771965774"><em>On Community</em></a>, which you should absolutely buy, and read, and if you’re in a community already, maybe it will help you consciously strengthen your ties to that community, and if you aren’t actively involved in a community, maybe it’ll help you to understand where your community might be, and how you might become involved. Because, at the risk of repeating myself, the solidarity of embracing our neighbors, of loving them as we love ourselves, to coin a phrase, is the way to keep fascism from gaining so strong a grip on our culture that we’d end up having to go to war to rip it out of our civic infrastructure.</p>
  78. <p><i>This post was first published in “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,” a newsletter I’ve been writing since 2018. If you’d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="http://ronhogan.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a>.</i></p>
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  82. <title>Overwhelming Fear with Acceptance</title>
  83. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2021/08/12/overwhelming-fear-with-acceptance/</link>
  84. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  85. <pubDate>Thu, 12 Aug 2021 20:08:00 +0000</pubDate>
  86. <category><![CDATA[newsletter]]></category>
  87. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4595</guid>
  88.  
  89. <description><![CDATA[Recently, someone steered me toward a GQ profile of golf coach George Gankas: Gankas&#8217;s great flaw as a player, in retrospect, was fear. Now he teaches his students to overwhelm fear with acceptance. Stay present, he says. When you&#8217;re out on the golf course, don&#8217;t get too sunk into yourself; look up from the ball, [&#8230;]]]></description>
  90. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>Recently, someone steered me toward <a href="https://www.gq.com/story/george-gankas-golf-guru">a </a><em><a href="https://www.gq.com/story/george-gankas-golf-guru">GQ</a></em><a href="https://www.gq.com/story/george-gankas-golf-guru"> profile of golf coach George Gankas</a>:</p>
  91. <blockquote><p>Gankas&#8217;s great flaw as a player, in retrospect, was fear. Now he teaches his students to overwhelm fear with acceptance. Stay present, he says. When you&#8217;re out on the golf course, don&#8217;t get too sunk into yourself; look up from the ball, at the beauty of the natural world, and get outside your own traitorous body, your own monstrous ego.</p>
  92. <p>“For me, to always look up and out is huge because I can see detail in the trees,” Gankas told me. “It gets me present. It gets me out of my head.” He said that lately his eyesight, which had been excellent, had begun to fail him. “I need to get my eyes fixed so I can get back to that. Because if I&#8217;m in my head, I&#8217;m miserable. I&#8217;m running through thoughts. And a lot of times, that&#8217;s not where I want to be. So I teach my players to stay present. And if I&#8217;m not doing it myself, I&#8217;m not going to teach them to do it.”</p></blockquote>
  93. <p>That sounds familiar to me, even though it’s been about thirty years since I last went out on a golf course (in part because I was never particularly very good at it). I think a lot of us have probably experienced something similar in our writing practices—those days when we spend so much time wrestling with our anxieties and fears that we’re unable to focus clearly on the story.</p>
  94. <p>We find our way out of that dilemma following much the same path Gankas recommends to his students—by setting ourselves aside, and paying attention to the moment in the story that’s before us. (Or it could be a poetic image! I just happen to have a mental bias toward narrative.) Stop worrying about your ability or inability to put that moment into words; just be with it for a while. As you do, you’ll begin to understand what needs to be said in order to describe that moment, and you will write. You may not find the exact right words the first time, but don’t worry. You can figure that out later, if you need to. (If you do get it right the first time, way to go!)</p>
  95. <p>Of course you haven’t really taken your mind out of the picture entirely. You’re still there, picking and choosing your moments, picking and choosing the words to describe those moments. You’re not just channeling raw unfiltered prose from some extra-dimensional literary realm—and if you’re like me, you’re very conscious about all that, pausing, reviewing, and revising as you go along, even in the “first” draft, long before another set of eyes takes it in.</p>
  96. <p>The trick is, though, that I’m not questioning <em>whether</em> I can do it, no matter how long it takes me to figure out <em>how</em> to do it. (Which is not to say I couldn’t still screw it up, all the same! If I do, though, I’ll have to have another go at it. Maybe more.)</p>
  97. <p><a href="https://hippocampusmagazine.com/2021/08/interview-with-ron-hogan-author-of-our-endless-and-proper-work/">I recently spoke with memoirist Lara Lillibridge</a> for a literary magazine called <em>Hippocampus</em>, and one of the things we wound up discussing was the source of this newsletter’s title. It’s the opening to one of my favorite Mekons songs, “Memphis, Egypt,” and the full line goes: “Destroy your safe and happy lives / before it is too late.”</p>
  98. <blockquote><p>It’s been a song that has stuck with me for decades, and it felt really apt to use it to talk about the writing life. I mean, you don’t become a writer because you’re complacent. You become a writer because there are things picking away at you—things you have to get out. And in order to get them out, sometimes you have to blow up your routine and find a new way of doing things.</p></blockquote>
  99. <p>I also want to share <a href="https://lonelyvictories.substack.com/p/writing-is-endless-and-proper-work">an interview I did with Hurley Winkler</a> for her <em>Lonely Victories</em> newsletter back in June! One of my favorite moments in that conversation was about that process of destroying our safe and happy lives and finding that new path. Carving time out of your schedule to focus on your writing is important, but there’s more to a writing practice than just picking up the pen or sitting in front of the keyboard.</p>
  100. <blockquote><p>I believe that, to the extent possible, when life presents us with options, it’s desirable to make choices that nourish our writing practices—not all of which involve the act of writing. That’s important, obviously, but it’s also important to cultivate inspiration and practice empathy and compassion. All three of those will lead to better writing down the line.</p></blockquote>
  101. <p>When you’re able to approach your story with empathy and compassion, when you’re able to take inspiration from the example set by others… these are all good ways of setting yourself aside and accepting the task that awaits you.</p>
  102. <p><i>This post was first published in “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,” a newsletter I’ve been writing since 2018. If you’d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="http://ronhogan.substack.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a>.</i></p>
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  106. <title>I Have a Great Many Thoughts About At Love&#8217;s Command</title>
  107. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2021/08/05/i-have-a-great-many-thoughts-about-at-loves-command/</link>
  108. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  109. <pubDate>Thu, 05 Aug 2021 20:13:00 +0000</pubDate>
  110. <category><![CDATA[newsletter]]></category>
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  112.  
  113. <description><![CDATA[When the Romance Writers of America presented an award for “Best Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” to Karen Witemeyer for her novel At Love’s Command, several of the genre’s fans (including a number of writers) were extremely pissed at this decision, arguing that a former officer in the United States cavalry who had participated [&#8230;]]]></description>
  114. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/atlovescommand.jpeg" width="525"></p>
  115. <p>When the Romance Writers of America presented an award for “Best Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” to Karen Witemeyer for her novel <em>At Love’s Command</em>, several of the genre’s fans (including a number of writers) were extremely pissed at this decision, arguing that a former officer in the United States cavalry who had participated in the massacre at Wounded Knee, even a fictional one, should not be held up as a hero in a historical romance novel.</p>
  116. <p>That sounded reasonable to me on general principle, but as I noted on Twitter, it was entirely possible the hero had engaged in a searing moral self-examination and was committed to a lifetime path of repentance and reparation.  Or Wounded Knee could just be a colorful bit of backstory in an otherwise generic romance. I didn’t know, and I would have to read the book to find out.</p>
  117. <p>Luckily, my public library had the ebook, so I downloaded it and got to reading. (Before that, though, I learned a lot about what was at stake by reading tweets from romance writers like Jackie Barbosa, Eve Pendle, Clyve Rose, and Courtney Milan, among others.)</p>
  118. <p>Meanwhile, the RWA’s president had issued a statement declaring that <em>At Love’s Command</em> met all the requirements of an inspirational romance, particularly a narrative arc of personal redemption by means of a religious awakening, and the judges hadn’t noticed anything wrong with Karen Witemeyer’s depiction of Wounded Knee, so if the judges thought it was the best book in its category, then it <em>was</em> the best book in its category, no matter how many people didn’t like it.</p>
  119. <p>This did precisely nothing to abate the criticism, and the RWA’s board ended up scrambling into an emergency meeting, where they decided that they suddenly had the power to overrule the judges and rescind an award days after it had been issued, so they were going to go ahead and do that.</p>
  120. <p>I was just about done reading the book at this point, and I was convinced that the fans protesting the award were spot on: Witemeyer’s novel does <em>not</em> work as a redemption narrative, not least of all because her hero, Matt Hanger, doesn’t regret the genocidal campaign that led to Wounded Knee. He only regrets that Wounded Knee went badly.  “This was supposed to be a simple weapon confiscation,” he thinks. “An escort to the reservation.” That’s his idea of “bring[ing] justice and order to the frontier.” Wounded Knee was a legitimate conflict, in his mind, until Lakota women and children were killed, because <em>that</em> offended his sense of honor. Witemeyer even has him literally assert “plenty of blame and plenty of sin <em>on both sides</em>” of the conflict between the United States and the Native population (emphasis mine), specifically blaming agitators among the Lakota for the way Wounded Knee got out of hand.</p>
  121. <p>Anyway, after Wounded Knee, Matt and three of his comrades ”[had] all sworn an oath to do everything in their power to preserve life and justice.” They are <em>not</em>, however, atoning for the White supremacy of the Indian Wars. Instead, they’re “fighting the battles ordinary people couldn’t fight for themselves… protecting the innocent and righting wrongs.” Yes, they’re mercenaries, but they charge fair rates, and they always fight for the little guy.</p>
  122. <p>If this sounds like <em>The A-Team </em>to you, it’s not an accident. One of the four ex-soldiers is even Black. (Never mind how Witemeyer makes <em>that </em>work in 1890s Texas; that would be a whole other essay unto itself.)</p>
  123. <p>On her website, Witemeyer discusses how Hanger’s Horsemen, the main characters in <em>At Love’s Command</em> and its sequels, were inspired by <em>The A-Team</em>. (She’s less candid about the setup being a variation on a specific episode.) Ultimately, though, using the A-Team as her inspiration is precisely why the “redemption” narrative fails.</p>
  124. <p>The A-Team, after all, didn’t become the A-Team to atone for anything they did in Vietnam. (If I remember correctly, the show consistently and explicitly avoided criticizing the war.) They became vigilantes for the common man because it was the only job open to four fugitives with their combat skills. So the pretense that four ex-cavalrymen spend their days riding around Texas, defending small ranchers and the like, because they feel guilty about taking part in a genocidal battle, is flimsy as hell.</p>
  125. <p>I want to share something with you that Bethany House, the publisher of <em>At Love’s Command</em>, wrote in defense of the novel before it was rescinded, when it was still just a matter of intense vocal criticism:</p>
  126. <blockquote><p>“In the opening scene of the novel, Witemeyer’s hero, a military officer, is at war with the Lakota, weary of war, but fully participating in the battle at Wounded Knee. The death toll, including noncombatant Lakota women and children, sickens him, and he identifies it as the massacre it is and begs God for forgiveness for what he’s done. The author makes it clear throughout the book that the protagonist deeply regrets his actions and spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the wrong that he did.”</p></blockquote>
  127. <p>The idea that Matt “begs God for forgiveness for what he’s done” takes up literally <em>one</em> sentence in the prologue:  “‘God forgive us,’ he murmured.” That’s the full extent of his “repentance.” He doesn’t absolve himself for (what he thinks he did wrong at) Wounded Knee; he still sees himself “a man who carried demons in his saddlebags.“ But because he’s chosen to, basically, let go and let God, the novel considers him redeemed—and readers are expected to follow suit.</p>
  128. <p>As for the notion that Matt “spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the wrong that he did,” he does <em>nothing</em> in the book to address his sins against the Lakota at Wounded Knee. Instead, he assuages his guilt as a hired gun for White folks in peril.</p>
  129. <p>Here’s where we’re going to get theological for a bit, because this is a cheap form of repentance that’s all too common in inspirational romance, because it’s all too common in modern American Christianity—the idea God gives us infinite resets if we just say we’re sorry. (It’s a lazy interpretation of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins&nbsp;and purify us from all unrighteousness.”)</p>
  130. <p>John the Baptist, though, calls on us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) That means saying you’re sorry isn’t enough—you must change your life, and the way you live your life, to set the balance right. <em>Maybe</em> you could get away with citing James 1:27 and arguing that Matt and his comrades are “looking after orphans and widows in their distress,” but they’re not doing anything to make up for the deadly harm perpetrated on the Lakota. They don’t atone for <em>that</em>.</p>
  131. <p>The need for specificity in atonement is made abundantly clear in Leviticus. If you sin against your neighbor, you must make restitution in full, <em>and then some</em>, to  your victim. (6:1-5) Ezekiel, too, is clear about the requirements for redemption (33:15): You need to restore what you broke, reimburse what you stole, and then “walk in the statutes of life, not doing injustice.”</p>
  132. <p>If <em>At Love’s Command</em> were a novel about a cavalryman so appalled by his conduct at Wounded Knee he dedicated his life to protecting the Lakota and making reparations, it would be a redemption story. But that’s not the book Karen Witemeyer wrote.</p>
  133. <p>Let me be clear: There is no redemption in <em>At Love’s Command</em>, because Witemeyer refuses to confront the reality of why Wounded Knee happened, so Matt and his colleagues aren’t atoning for the real damage they did there. They’re merely play acting at repentance. He’s not a saved man; he’s just a vigilante with a Scripture-inflected sense of honor and a dark past.</p>
  134. <p>That’s a distillation of a few Twitter threads I’ve written about <em>At Love’s Command</em> over the last two days. It’s a story that interests me because it’s not the first time the Romance Writers of America have blundered into <a href="https://ronhogan.substack.com/p/why-the-rwa-controversy-matters">a minefield of their own White privilege</a>, and because I’m a fan of the genre with a particular interest in inclusive stories that share diverse experiences with readers.</p>
  135. <p>I want to shift gears, though, and talk about this story in the context of a theme that I’ve hit upon in this newsletter over and over again: We take up our writing practices because we want to find out what matters most to us, because we have something to share with the world and in order to share it effectively, we need to understand it. It needs to be clear to us before we can make it clear to anyone else.</p>
  136. <p>If we write to share our truth, you might well ask me: Okay, Ron, what if <em>At Love’s Command </em>is Karen Witemeyer’s truth? Shouldn’t we honor that?</p>
  137. <p>That’s a tough one to answer in some ways, especially since—as a matter of strictly technical, literary achievement—<em>At Love’s Command</em> struck me as fairly typical of its subcategory, and if I didn’t have this strong moral objection to its content, I might readily conclude that it was probably as deserving as any of the other finalists for the prize it (temporarily) won.</p>
  138. <p>The thing is, though, that neither “her truth” nor “your truth” nor “my truth” is necessarily <em>the</em> truth. I can recognize Karen Witemeyer as somebody who’s trying to articulate her views on our relationship with God, somebody who’s drawing upon the history of the United States and modern pop culture to make a case for how we should live in relation to God and to one another. At the same time, once she’s made her case, anybody who sees significant flaws in it should be able to discuss those openly, to say <em>this</em> is where she got it wrong, <em>this </em>is what she’s overlooking.</p>
  139. <p>I don’t fully know what’s in Karen Witemeyer’s heart. I don’t think that she’s completely unconcerned about the genocidal brutality at Wounded Knee—at the very least, she seems to think it was awful enough that it would make a decent man who took part in it feel guilty about what he did. That, however, is the problem: The novel shows <em>infinitely</em> more concern with how Matt’s role in Wounded Knee makes him feel than it does with the pain inflicted on the Lakota. They’re whisked off the stage as soon as the battle is over; Matt might think now and then about how awful it was, but we never see how the Lakota struggle in the aftermath of his actions, because Witemeyer makes the authorial choice to never confront that aftermath directly.</p>
  140. <p>As such, the pain of the Lakota—a very real, very visceral historical pain—is effectively reduced to a convenient hook for a story. It’s not just disrespectful, it’s unnecessary. As I learned when I was looking up some of the historical context, Matt and his comrades could just as easily have served in the Johnson County War, a conflict between struggling settlers and wealthy cattle ranchers in Wyoming, just a few years after Wounded Knee. Heck, that setting actually suits her A-Team-inspired “vigilantes for the common man” theme better than Wounded Knee, and would make their willingness to fight for the economically disadvantaged more narratively coherent.</p>
  141. <p>But, I suspect, it might be more “dramatic” for Matt to be haunted by the atrocities of Wounded Knee than disillusioned by the brutal class warfare of Johnson County. The more conspicuous the sin, after all, the more striking the apology. Or it may simply be that Wounded Knee was low-hanging narrative fruit. Again, I can only speculate.</p>
  142. <p>Alongside my speculation, though, I can offer an observation: When you use the pain and trauma of a marginalized community as colorful shading for your protagonist’s past, when you treat other characters as props in his emotional journey, that’s neither empathy nor compassion. Matt’s expressions of guilt and remorse may give him the illusion of emotional complexity, but they do nothing to address the pain they invoke.</p>
  143. <p>As good as <em>At Love’s Command</em> is from a superficial standpoint, I believe it falls short as an emotional and a moral document. It may well be the clearest expression of what weighs most heavily on Karen Witemeyer’s heart that she could create at the time of writing—and, again, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of the fact that she made an effort. In attempting to write about how a man lives with sins that seem unforgiveable, however, I wish that she had been willing or able to give her attention to the Lakota, the victims whose forgiveness Matt needs the most to secure in order to demonstrate… well, not that he’s worthy of God’s forgiveness, because we’re all worthy of God’s forgiveness.</p>
  144. <p>God, I believe, is patient with us, and doesn’t want us to perish (2 Peter 3:9). At the same time, though, God is waiting for <em>us</em> to show that we understand that everyone else is as worthy of God’s love as we are. <em>That’s</em> why Matt needs the Lakota’s forgiveness; <em>that’s </em>why he needs to make amends.</p>
  145. <p>That’s the kind of story I would like to see. An even better story would be one that didn’t just acknowledge the Lakota perspective, but <em>centered</em> it, shunting the repentant White character off to the margins. Maybe somebody is working a story like that. Maybe it’s you. If it is, I hope you keep at it. I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting to read it.</p>
  146. <p><i>This post was first published in “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,” a newsletter I’ve been writing since 2018. If you’d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="http://ronhogan.substack.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a>.</i></p>
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  149. <item>
  150. <title>&#8220;Art Is My Own Best Chance for Redemption&#8221;</title>
  151. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2021/06/10/art-is-my-own-best-chance-for-redemption/</link>
  152. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  153. <pubDate>Thu, 10 Jun 2021 20:44:00 +0000</pubDate>
  154. <category><![CDATA[newsletter]]></category>
  155. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4604</guid>
  156.  
  157. <description><![CDATA[In my thirties, I started listening seriously to modern classical music, to the point that I was able to distinguish between John Adams and John Luther Adams—and it’s the latter composer I’ll be talking about now, as I’ve recently had occasion to read his memoir, Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska. As you might guess, [&#8230;]]]></description>
  158. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/jladams.jpeg"></p>
  159. <p>In my thirties, I started listening seriously to modern classical music, to the point that I was able to distinguish between John Adams and John Luther Adams—and it’s the latter composer I’ll be talking about now, as I’ve recently had occasion to read his memoir, <em><a href="https://bookshop.org/a/23778/9781250800046">Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska</a></em>.</p>
  160. <p>As you might guess, a good portion of the book is about moving to Alaska as a young man, setting himself up in a cabin in the woods, and working on his music in isolation. “I would roll out of bed in the morning, crawl down the ladder from the sleeping loft, and find myself standing in the middle of my work,” he writes. “I loved it. And I couldn’t imagine living any other way.”</p>
  161. <p>Yet he’s the first to admit that this creative and personal freedom came with a cost: “For most of my thirties I really believed that I could have it all and do it all,” he admits several chapters earlier—but, even though he was getting some substantial creative projects done, “I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. My music was suffering. My health was suffering. My relationship was suffering. Inevitably, something had to give.”</p>
  162. <p>“I wouldn’t advise any young artist to do what I did,” he adds…. yet, paradoxically, he also tells us, “As difficult as that period was in some respects, it endures in my memory as a kind of dreamtime. This didn’t come cheaply, for me or for people I love. It nearly cost me the love of my life. But those years in the woods were essential for me, as an artist and as a man… And the visions of music and of the world that emerged in that cabin have sustained me ever since.”</p>
  163. <p>I know I’ve nurtured similar fantasies of being able to largely withdraw from the ordinary world and dedicate myself to my craft; I’m sure many of you have as well. I suppose, in a way, I actually did get to live out that dream for a while, when I turned thirty; I had just left a dotcom job, so I had a small financial cushion that took me from Seattle to New York and made it possible to look for my next job without much immediate pressure, so I spent a lot of time reading novels and interviewing novelists and publishing the interviews here at <em>Beatrice</em>. Mind you, I also spent a lot of time doing much less productive things with my life, and then I got a job which, it turned out, wasn’t a particularly great fit for me, and a few months after that job ended, the pressure got to be a bit more immediate.</p>
  164. <p>After that, I spent years wavering back and forth between freelancing and staff positions, focusing for the most part on situations that spoke to my creative passions in some way. So at least, during those periods when I was doing little of “my own work,” I would be writing about books and about the publishing industry, or trying to market books for one publisher, or acquiring and editing books for another publisher. Sometimes that was satisfying; sometimes it was frustrating. But I had obligations, to myself and my marriage, and though, like Adams, I wasn’t always great at fulfilling those obligations, I tried to find a meaningful balance between my economic reality and my creative vision, rather than simply grab the first flimsy rope that came my way.</p>
  165. <p>I do feel like I’m better positioned now, and I’m profoundly grateful for that. I have a financially, emotionally, and even spiritually rewarding day job, and when I’m not doing that I’m able to approach this newsletter without having been drained of all my creative energy and passion. Instead of scrambling to find time to write, I’m able to imagine a creative future for myself—to approach my writing with intention and thus with confidence. That confidence didn’t come because I scored a book deal, although that’s another development for which I’m grateful, but because I have a pretty good idea what I want to be doing, and I can keep myself moving in the general direction of that goal. (That said, there’s still plenty of room for surprises—and now I’m relaxed enough to take my time with the story facets that catch me off guard, making myself the sort of person who’s able to consider, and contemplate, and learn from those “sudden” developments.)</p>
  166. <p>Towards the end of his memoir, Adams quotes e.e. cummings: “I am a man. I am an artist. I am a failure.” I need to learn more about the “nonlectures” cummings gave at Harvard from which those lines come, but in the meantime, I’ve got Adams’ gloss to turn over in my mind:</p>
  167. <blockquote><p>“In some way, we are all failures. Yet, for me, the object of art and life is not success. It seems to me that the best any of us can do is try to conduct our lives so that, on balance, we give more than we take—from the earth, and from our fellow human beings.”</p></blockquote>
  168. <p>My life has been taking me in the direction of that concept for some time now, well before I picked up <em>Silences So Deep</em>, and I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the implications of choosing to live up to it. I know that I haven’t always lived up to it in my life, especially in those decades before I actually took it seriously. One of the reasons I’m pursuing the path I’ve been pursuing in the three years since I launched this newsletter is that I recognize all the times I’d fallen short in my life up to that point. I found myself in the midst of a <em>metanoia</em>, a Greek word that many English translations of the New Testament render as “repentance,” but which would probably be better described as “a change of heart” or “a new way of thinking.” Metanoia is not a one-and-done deal; rather, it’s a recognition that the way you’ve been living isn’t working out so great, and you need to commit to a better way moving forward.</p>
  169. <p>I still make mistakes, but I get closer to getting things right, too. And, in doing so, I’ve come to take these lines from <em>Silences So Deep</em> to heart:</p>
  170. <blockquote><p>“Art is my own best chance for redemption. I intend to follow it as faithfully as I can until I draw my last breath.”</p></blockquote>
  171. <p>That <em>doesn’t </em>mean abandoning everything else completely, at least not as I’ve come to see it. It <em>does</em> mean seeing everything else in perspective, finding ways to achieve a more comprehensively fulfilling life. I’m still learning what that might look like for me—and it may bear little if any resemblance to the way it will look for you. We all have to find our own way, undertake our own retreats and returns. But we can still learn from each other’s stories… and, perhaps, we may be able to share what we’ve learned with someone else.</p>
  172. <p><font size="2">photo of john luther adams by louisa dedalus, from wikimedia commons</font></p>
  173. <p><i>This post was first published in “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,” a newsletter I’ve been writing since 2018. If you’d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="http://ronhogan.substack.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a>.</i></p>
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  177. <title>Everything You Write Is the Most Important Thing You Write</title>
  178. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2021/05/17/everything-you-write-is-the-most-important-thing-you-write/</link>
  179. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  180. <pubDate>Mon, 17 May 2021 20:53:08 +0000</pubDate>
  181. <category><![CDATA[newsletter]]></category>
  182. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4558</guid>
  183.  
  184. <description><![CDATA[As the publication date for Our Endless and Proper Work draws near, I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote from the actor Mads Mikkelsen: “My approach to what I do in my job—and it might even be the approach to my life—is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether [&#8230;]]]></description>
  185. <content:encoded><![CDATA[
  186. <p>As the publication date for <i>Our Endless and Proper Work</i> draws near, I’ve been thinking a lot about <a href="https://www.vulture.com/article/mads-mikkelsen-in-conversation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this quote from the actor Mads Mikkelsen</a>:</p>
  187.  
  188.  
  189.  
  190. <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>“My approach to what I do in my job—and it might even be the approach to my life—is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film.… I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.”</p></blockquote>
  191.  
  192.  
  193.  
  194. <p>What would it be like, I wonder, to fully live that way? What would it be like, in particular, to write that way? Without looking past the computer screen and the notebook page and setting your gaze on the potential book deal—or, if you’ve already got a book deal, on what reviewers will think of it. Dwelling on what this book, which isn’t even done yet, <i>might</i> do for you <i>in the future</i>, instead of concentrating on <i>what you need to do with it right now</i>.</p>
  195.  
  196.  
  197.  
  198. <p>What do I need to figure out right now, as I’m trying to write these pages? That’s where I have to put my attention. Ideally, I shouldn’t even speculate on what I’ll do with that hard-won knowledge once I’ve acquired it, because that might just increase the difficulty of learning what I need to learn right now. Later, I’ve finally put the story together the way it needs to be put together, I can carry what I’ve learned forward into the unknown. Today, sitting at my keyboard, or with my notebook, this unsolved mystery is the most important project I’ve got going. It won’t be any help to me tomorrow if I can’t move forward with it today.</p>
  199.  
  200.  
  201.  
  202. <p>I can get into that state intermittently, but it’s hard to maintain—and it’s not always the imagined future that distracts me. Sometimes it’s the past, and I don’t mean the useful parts of the past that might actually inform a particular piece of writing. Sometimes it’s the million and one things going on around me in the present. And there’s really nothing else I can do but to push through all that until, if I’m lucky, I can get back to that moment when the only thing in front of me is the question I need to answer today, and the process of answering it.</p>
  203.  
  204.  
  205.  
  206. <p>One thing I’m gradually beginning to understand more clearly is how to look at writing as a <i>process</i> rather than a <i>product</i>. Obviously, if you want to make any kind of living as a writer, even as a side gig, you have to give product some consideration; at the very least, you need to come up with something that can be published and purchased. But that’s just what you need to produce in order to participate in the publishing world, the market-driven world, the economic world. Beyond that, what was the book/story/essay/poem you wrote trying to tell you about yourself? And why did you need to be told that at that moment?</p>
  207.  
  208.  
  209.  
  210. <p>Stop thinking about becoming a famous writer, or a bestselling writer. It will either happen or it won’t, and the outcome depends on so many variables beyond your control that dwelling on it becomes counterproductive. Similarly, stop telling yourself you could <i>never</i> make it as a writer. You actually do have some control over that outcome, and you exert that control every time you engage in catastrophic speculation.</p>
  211.  
  212.  
  213.  
  214. <p>Instead, be ambitious with the blank space right in front of you. How will you fill it?</p>
  215.  
  216.  
  217.  
  218. <hr class="wp-block-separator"/>
  219.  
  220.  
  221.  
  222. <p>It has been, some of you will notice, a while since the last newsletter. So clearly I need to learn more keenly the lesson of concentrating on filling the blank space in front of me… and I’ve been reminded, over the last few weeks, that it’s as important to say no to a lot of work (and to a lot of things that aren’t work) so you have the freedom to say yes to the work that truly matters.</p>
  223.  
  224.  
  225.  
  226. <p>So when Mads Mikkelsen says “everything I do is the most important thing I do,” I don’t believe that he’s saying you have to do whatever comes along and treat it as if it’s the most important thing in the world. You have to look at your options and, whenever possible, pick the work that speaks most clearly to you. As he explains, though, that doesn’t always mean the work that will “advance your career,” because if you’re thinking along those lines, you’ve already got a preconceived notion of what your career will be like, when you need to make room for spontaneous discovery.</p>
  227.  
  228.  
  229.  
  230. <p>Of course, in the broader, market-driven world, the economic world, most of us don’t possess the privilege to operate in spontaneous discovery mode all the time. Sometimes we have to take whatever comes along because we have needs, and to fulfill needs we need money, and to get the money we need to do the work. If we write at all, it’s because we’re carving out pockets of time and space within that economic reality, moments in which we are no longer beholden to anyone else and can follow our creative impulses wherever they may lead.</p>
  231.  
  232.  
  233.  
  234. <p>Why not, given how rare such freedom is, exercise it to the fullest, whenever you can? Seen in that light, everything you write is the most important thing you write because it is in the writing that you are most yourself. You are, in effect, creating yourself, inching toward the best possible version of yourself, along with whatever ends up in the manuscript.</p>
  235.  
  236.  
  237.  
  238. <p>But I’d be the first to admit: As firmly as I believe that, it’s still intimidating as hell.</p>
  239.  
  240.  
  241.  
  242. <p><i>This post was first published in &#8220;Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,&#8221; a newsletter I&#8217;ve been writing since 2018. If you&#8217;d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="ronhogan.substack.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a></i>.</p>
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  245. <item>
  246. <title>You Are Capable of Telling Better Stories</title>
  247. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2021/03/27/you-are-capable-of-telling-better-stories/</link>
  248. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  249. <pubDate>Sat, 27 Mar 2021 22:31:00 +0000</pubDate>
  250. <category><![CDATA[newsletter]]></category>
  251. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4564</guid>
  252.  
  253. <description><![CDATA[I should confess at the onset: I’ve swiped the title of today’s newsletter from GB “Doc” Burford and his excellent essay, “You Are Capable of Writing Better Horror Stories.” And though I’m going to tell you a little bit about it here, I strongly encourage you to go read the whole thing. Burford is a [&#8230;]]]></description>
  254. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>I should confess at the onset: I’ve swiped the title of today’s newsletter from GB “Doc” Burford and his excellent essay, “<a href="https://docseuss.medium.com/you-are-capable-of-writing-better-horror-stories-311ed334080f">You Are Capable of Writing Better Horror Stories</a>.” And though I’m going to tell you a little bit about it here, I strongly encourage you to go read the whole thing.</p>
  255. <p>Burford is a video game consultant and “narrative designer,” and his essay springs out of a sense of frustration that came from playing a number of video games that all felt the same:</p>
  256. <blockquote><p>“So, there’s this protagonist, and he’s just arrived at an isolated location. Maybe there are some people around, but usually not many. It’s far from civilization, desolate, probably dark. He cannot get help… [T]hen lo and behold, some spooky stuff happens, it’s horrifying, and then oh no, suddenly it’s all a metaphor for the guilt he feels over some bad stuff he did or was involved in a long time ago.”</p></blockquote>
  257. <p>I get where he’s coming from, because when I stumbled onto his essay, I had just finished reading my second horror novel in a row that started out with some exquisitely tense variations of Lovecraftian horror spilling over into the real world in all their vivid… well, glory’s not the right word, but you know what I mean. Anyway, they <em>start</em> out that way, but they both build up to what’s basically a climactic action-movie shootout with the Big Boss and his toughest minions, and though much is extracted from our protagonists they somehow squeak through, wounded but perhaps a bit wiser about their ultimate standing in the universe.</p>
  258. <p>I mean, I suppose there’s not much else you can <em>do</em> to end this kind of story, unless you want to end it the way Lovecraft did, with your protagonist’s rational mind overwhelmed by the sheer cosmic terror of the Old Ones. But when everybody’s doing it, as with the amnesiac or cagey protagonist forced to confront their horrific past, it becomes very obvious very quickly.</p>
  259. <p>Burford has much to say that’s specific to the horror genre, but much of it also applies to any mode of storytelling, and this is one quote that stopped me in my tracks:</p>
  260. <blockquote><p>“For me, great fiction is as Tarkovsky says, a way to harrow someone’s soul, preparing them for death. It is a means of granting us emotional experience and hopefully release.”</p></blockquote>
  261. <p>I wish I had a more comprehensive understanding of Tarkovsky, so I could speak that in its context, but for now here’s the original quote, from <em><a href="https://bookshop.org/a/23778/9780292776241">Sculpting in Time</a>:</em></p>
  262. <blockquote><p>“The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death,&nbsp;to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to the good.”</p></blockquote>
  263. <p>It reminded me of a line from Harold Bloom that’s stuck with me since reading it a quarter-century ago: “All that <a href="https://bookshop.org/a/23778/9781573225144">the Western Canon</a> can bring one is the proper use of one’s own solitude, that solitude whose final form is one’s confrontation with one’s own mortality.” Bloom doesn’t even profess to care about becoming “capable of turning to the good” through experiencing great art; for him, that experience only “enables us to learn how to talk to ourselves and how to endure ourselves.”</p>
  264. <p>In my younger days, I might have leaned toward that position, or at least embraced it ironically in a loud and swaggering manner that probably made me insufferable at parties. Now, to the extent that I understand that fragment of Tarkovsky, I think he’s probably on to something.</p>
  265. <p>That’s <em>not</em> to say I believe every novel should be a transcendent experience—more like every novel should try to offer you the opportunity to see something in this world, through emotional engagement, you hadn’t seen before, and once you’ve seen it, you can no longer continuing living quite the way you did.</p>
  266. <p>Or, as I’ve written elsewhere, every novel makes a philosophical argument about the world—it professes to show us a way of living, a way of responding to certain stimuli in the world around us. It can be a negative argument (“all is lost”), or a positive argument (“things work out”), an ostensibly neutral argument (“and so it goes”) or an optimistic argument (“wouldn’t it be great if…?”).</p>
  267. <p>Horror fiction tends to spend a lot of time in “all is lost” territory, although at least half the time things work out by the end. (When they don’t, and so it goes.) Until you get to a hard-won resolution, though, the horror narrative is filled with harrowing uncertainty about whether good will prevail over evil—or whether the human spirit will, for the time at least, prevail over entropy.</p>
  268. <p>But even romance fiction, which is in many ways the opposite of horror in that it’s explicitly, from the beginning, about fulfilling the vision of an enduring and satisfying relationship, tends to work best when the narrative path is full of harrowing uncertainty about whether that relationship will come together. Yes, everything works out, and the romance reader picks up the novel <em>knowing</em> everything will work out, but we still like to be made to worry, just a little bit, about <em>how</em> those lovebirds are going to pull it off, so we can be all the more satisfied when they do have their final clinch.</p>
  269. <p>I posted an abbreviated version of the preceding thoughts on Twitter right after reading Burford’s essay, and then the science fiction author John Barnes shared a story from his career that… I’m still in awe, really. <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnBarnesSF/status/1373500277039321091">Here’s how it starts</a>: “[The] fourth novel I ever finished was <em>WARTIDE</em>, a time-travel men&#8217;s action adventure for which [the] title and cover art had already been done and then the contracted writer had bailed with nothing written.”</p>
  270. <p><img decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/wartide-barnes.png" alt="John Barnes' Wartide cover art" width="500" align="center"></p>
  271. <p>“I wrote <em>Wartide</em> in 8 days,” Barnes continues. “It is my shortest novel, my most violent, unquestionably my worst.” And yet… two years after it had come out, he got a letter from an Air Force sergeant recuperating in a burn unit, who found inspiration in Barnes’  slapped-together stories of a soldier sent back in time to redeem his past lives. That letter blossomed into a correspondence, and Barnes was able to see, over time, how the sergeant was able to transform his own life.</p>
  272. <p>“To this day,” Barnes wrote, “I think that if I had only known the book was going to matter to anybody, broke and desperate though I was, I might have done a second draft. Also that one should always write as if a book might mean something or matter to somebody, because, unlikely as it may seem, it&#8217;s always possible that it will.”</p>
  273. <p>That feels like a good note to end this on, and send you to your own writing.</p>
  274. <p>(Although, if you have an Xbox or Steam, you might want to check out Doc Burford’s new video game, <em>Adios</em>, in which you play a pig farmer who has been disposing of dead bodies for the mob but has decided to stop doing so, and must explain his decision to the professional killer with whom he’s worked most closely over the years. Burford describes the tone of <em>Adios</em> as “melancholy” rather than horror, and when it comes to my computer platform, I believe I will give it a try. Also, remember how I said at the top of the newsletter you should read his whole essay? You really should.)</p>
  275. <p><font size="2"><i>Wartide</i> cover art: <a href="https://www.bestlittlebookhouse.com/tira1wabyjob.html">BestLittleBookHouse.com</a></font></p>
  276. <p><i>This post was first published in &#8220;Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives,&#8221; a newsletter I&#8217;ve been writing since 2018. If you&#8217;d like to subscribe and get every new installment delivered to your email (free!), <a href="ronhogan.substack.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">you can do that here</a>.</i></p>
  277. ]]></content:encoded>
  278. </item>
  279. <item>
  280. <title>Life Stories #107: Chavisa Woods</title>
  281. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2019/08/05/life-stories-107-chavisa-woods/</link>
  282. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  283. <pubDate>Mon, 05 Aug 2019 04:41:18 +0000</pubDate>
  284. <category><![CDATA[life stories]]></category>
  285. <category><![CDATA[100 Times]]></category>
  286. <category><![CDATA[Chavisa Woods]]></category>
  287. <category><![CDATA[feminism]]></category>
  288. <category><![CDATA[interviews]]></category>
  289. <category><![CDATA[memoirs]]></category>
  290. <category><![CDATA[podcasts]]></category>
  291. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4535</guid>
  292.  
  293. <description><![CDATA[Chavisa Woods' 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism is a book that, as our British friends say, does exactly what it says on the tin—chronicling 100 separate incidents of sexist behavior that Woods has faced in her lifetime, a pattern of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse (including sexual assault) that starts when she's five years old and continues to the present day. It's a patten that, I speculated, just about any woman should find instantly recognizable, to which Woods replied: "I keep saying a lot of memoirs are written because the author thinks it's an exceptional story. I actually felt like I needed to write this memoir because my story is not exceptional at all, and I wanted to show how pervasive sexism is in multiple spheres of society... I just wanted to show how pervasive it is everywhere and how it affects us constantly throughout our lives."
  294. ]]></description>
  295. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesChavisaWoods.mp3" target="_blank"><img decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-chavisa-woods.jpg" alt="Life Stories: Chavisa Woods" title="Life Stories: Chavisa Woods" width="532" height="353" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4537" srcset="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-chavisa-woods.jpg 532w, http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-chavisa-woods-300x199.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 532px) 100vw, 532px" /></a></p>
  296. <p>Chavisa Woods&#8217; <a href="http://www.powells.com/partner/29017/biblio/9781609809133" target="_blank"><i>100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism</i></a> is a book that, as our British friends say, does exactly what it says on the tin—chronicling 100 separate incidents of sexist behavior that Woods has faced in her lifetime, a pattern of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse (including sexual assault) that starts when she&#8217;s five years old and continues to the present day. It&#8217;s a patten that, I speculated, just about any woman should find instantly recognizable, to which Woods replied:</p>
  297. <blockquote>
  298. <p>&#8220;I keep saying a lot of memoirs are written because the author thinks it&#8217;s an exceptional story. I actually felt like I needed to write this memoir because my story is not exceptional at all, and I wanted to show how pervasive sexism is in multiple spheres of society&#8230; I just wanted to show how pervasive it is everywhere and how it affects us constantly throughout our lives.&#8221;</p></blockquote>
  299. <p>We cover a lot of territory in this conversation, including how Woods used to adopt a violent response to sexual harassment&#8212;and the mental and emotional toll that response took. Misogyny becomes like a hazing ritual, an ordeal women are supposed to endure for the privilege of being allowed to participate in society at all. As I said, every woman reading <i>100 Times</i> will find it instantly familiar&#8230; but every man who reads it and <i>doesn&#8217;t</i> recognize the world it describes has to come to a hard reckoning with things he may have done and has almost certainly condoned through inattention, inaction, and silence.</p>
  300. <p><font size="1">Listen to <a href="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesChavisaWoods.mp3" target="_blank"><i>Life Stories</i> #107: Chavisa Woods</a> (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or <a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/life-stories/id650168716" target="_blank">subscribe to <i>Life Stories</i> in Apple Podcasts</a>, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (If you&#8217;re already an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)</font></p>
  301. <p><font size="1">photo: Itziar Barrio</font></p>
  302. ]]></content:encoded>
  303. <enclosure url="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesChavisaWoods.mp3" length="26882456" type="audio/mpeg" />
  304.  
  305. <itunes:subtitle>Chavisa Woods is the author of 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism (7 Stories).</itunes:subtitle>
  306. <itunes:summary>Chavisa Woods&#039; 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism is a book that, as our British friends say, does exactly what it says on the tin—chronicling 100 separate incidents of sexist behavior that Woods has faced in her lifetime, a pattern of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse (including sexual assault) that starts when she&#039;s five years old and continues to the present day. It&#039;s a patten that, I speculated, just about any woman should find instantly recognizable, to which Woods replied: &quot;I keep saying a lot of memoirs are written because the author thinks it&#039;s an exceptional story. I actually felt like I needed to write this memoir because my story is not exceptional at all, and I wanted to show how pervasive sexism is in multiple spheres of society... I just wanted to show how pervasive it is everywhere and how it affects us constantly throughout our lives.&quot;&lt;br /&gt;
  307. &lt;br /&gt;
  308. We cover a lot of territory in this conversation, including how Woods used to adopt a violent response to sexual harassment—and the mental and emotional toll that response took. Misogyny becomes like a hazing ritual, an ordeal women are supposed to endure for the privilege of being allowed to participate in society at all. As I said, every woman reading 100 Times will find it instantly familiar... but every man who reads it and doesn&#039;t recognize the world it describes has to come to a hard reckoning with things he may have done and has almost certainly condoned through inattention, inaction, and silence.</itunes:summary>
  309. <itunes:author>Ron Hogan</itunes:author>
  310. <itunes:episodeType>full</itunes:episodeType>
  311. <itunes:explicit>true</itunes:explicit>
  312. <itunes:duration>28:00</itunes:duration>
  313. </item>
  314. <item>
  315. <title>Life Stories #106: Rick Moody</title>
  316. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2019/08/04/life-stories-106-rick-moody/</link>
  317. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  318. <pubDate>Mon, 05 Aug 2019 03:23:45 +0000</pubDate>
  319. <category><![CDATA[life stories]]></category>
  320. <category><![CDATA[marriages]]></category>
  321. <category><![CDATA[memoirs]]></category>
  322. <category><![CDATA[podcasts]]></category>
  323. <category><![CDATA[Rick Moody]]></category>
  324. <category><![CDATA[The Long Accomplishment]]></category>
  325. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4529</guid>
  326.  
  327. <description><![CDATA[<p>In The Long Accomplishment</i>, Rick Moody takes readers through the first year of his second marriage. It was a moment in time where he'd gained significant control over his addictions, and had extricated from a dysfunctional first marriage—a moment when, as I jokingly said during our conversation, "everything should be coming up Rick Moody." But it didn't go that way; instead, we have an account of a couple grappling with the financial and emotional tolls of fertility treatment, along with various other assaults from the outside world... and, as Moody describes it, a shutdown of his creative faculties so all-encompassing that, eventually, the only thing he could see himself writing about was what was happening to the two of them.</p>]]></description>
  328. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesRickMoody.mp3" target="_blank"><img decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-rick-moody.jpg" alt="Life Stories: Rick Moody" title="Life Stories: Rick Moody" width="532" height="353" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4530" srcset="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-rick-moody.jpg 532w, http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/LS-rick-moody-300x199.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 532px) 100vw, 532px" /></a></p>
  329. <p>In <a href="http://www.powells.com/partner/29017/biblio/9781627798440" target="_blank"><i>The Long Accomplishment</i></a>, <a href="http://www.rickmoodybooks.com" target="_blank">Rick Moody</a> takes readers through the first year of his second marriage. It was a moment in time where he&#8217;d gained significant control over his addictions, and had extricated from a dysfunctional first marriage—a moment when, as I jokingly said during our conversation, &#8220;everything should be coming up Rick Moody.&#8221; But it didn&#8217;t go that way; instead, we have an account of a couple grappling with the financial and emotional tolls of fertility treatment, along with various other assaults from the outside world&#8230; and, as Moody describes it, a shutdown of his creative faculties so all-encompassing that, eventually, the only thing he could see himself writing about was what was happening to the two of them.</p>
  330. <p>We talked about how he was able to write about these events, and he made an insightful distinction between <i>craft</i> and <i>candor</i>&#8212;whereas most of his career, including his first memoir, he&#8217;d been focused on craft, this time around he decided to go all in on the opposite direction, to be as upfront as he could about everything:</p>
  331. <blockquote>
  332. <p>&#8220;It would be most honest to say I&#8217;m a somewhat uncomfortable memoirist. <i>The Black Veil</i> was the hardest book I&#8217;ve ever written; it was very, very difficult to write. This one was easier than that one because I had fewer formalist balls in the air, but it wasn&#8217;t easy, either. I sort of had to trick myself into doing it&#8230; I treat it diaristically in the first draft, and then I try to impose sense on it.'&#8221;</p></blockquote>
  333. <p>It wasn&#8217;t, he confides, an easy project&#8212;and we also discuss what it&#8217;s like to write about the life you share with another person, and about facing a situation where being one of the most acclaimed writers of your generation is absolutely no help.</p>
  334. <p><font size="1">Listen to <a href="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesRickMoody.mp3" target="_blank"><i>Life Stories</i> #106: Rick Moody</a> (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or <a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/life-stories/id650168716" target="_blank">subscribe to <i>Life Stories</i> in Apple Podcasts</a>, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (If you&#8217;re already an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)</font></p>
  335. <p><font size="1">photo: Laurel Nakadate</font></p>
  336. ]]></content:encoded>
  337. <enclosure url="http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesRickMoody.mp3" length="22562427" type="audio/mpeg" />
  338.  
  339. <itunes:subtitle>Rick Moody is the author of The Long Accomplishment (Henry Holt).</itunes:subtitle>
  340. <itunes:summary>In The Long Accomplishment, Rick Moody takes readers through the first year of his second marriage. It was a moment in time where he&#039;d gained significant control over his addictions, and had extricated from a dysfunctional first marriage—a moment when, as I jokingly said during our conversation, &quot;everything should be coming up Rick Moody.&quot; But it didn&#039;t go that way; instead, we have an account of a couple grappling with the financial and emotional tolls of fertility treatment, along with various other assaults from the outside world... and, as Moody describes it, a shutdown of his creative faculties so all-encompassing that, eventually, the only thing he could see himself writing about was what was happening to the two of them.&lt;br /&gt;
  341. &lt;br /&gt;
  342. We talked about how he was able to write about these events, and he made an insightful distinction between &lt;i&gt;craft&lt;/i&gt; and &lt;i&gt;candor&lt;/i&gt;&amp;8212;whereas most of his career, including his first memoir, he&#039;d been focused on craft, this time around he decided to go all in on the opposite direction, to be as upfront as he could about everything. It wasn&#039;t, he confides, an easy project—and we also discuss what it&#039;s like to write about the life you share with another person, and about facing a situation where being one of the most acclaimed writers of your generation is absolutely no help.</itunes:summary>
  343. <itunes:author>Ron Hogan</itunes:author>
  344. <itunes:episodeType>full</itunes:episodeType>
  345. <itunes:explicit>false</itunes:explicit>
  346. <itunes:duration>23:30</itunes:duration>
  347. </item>
  348. <item>
  349. <title>Carolyn Burke: Rebecca &#038; Paul &#038; Georgia &#038; Alfred</title>
  350. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2019/03/21/carolyn-burke-guest-author/</link>
  351. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  352. <pubDate>Thu, 21 Mar 2019 05:18:07 +0000</pubDate>
  353. <category><![CDATA[guest authors]]></category>
  354. <category><![CDATA[Alfred Stieglitz]]></category>
  355. <category><![CDATA[Carolyn Burke]]></category>
  356. <category><![CDATA[Georgia O'Keefe]]></category>
  357. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4520</guid>
  358.  
  359. <description><![CDATA[photo: Paul Schraub I first met Carolyn Burke in 1995, when we discussed her biography of the early 20th-century artist Mina Loy. A decade later, Burke and Hazel Rowley shared some of their correspondence about literary biography with me. I&#8217;m delighted to introduce you to her latest book, Foursome, a group history exploring the interlocking [&#8230;]]]></description>
  360. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img loading="lazy" decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/carolyn-burke-2019.jpg" alt="Carolyn Burke" title="Carolyn Burke" width="532" height="353" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4521" srcset="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/carolyn-burke-2019.jpg 532w, http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/carolyn-burke-2019-300x199.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 532px) 100vw, 532px" /><br />
  361. <font size="1">photo: Paul Schraub</font></p>
  362. <p><a href="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/the-beatrice-interview-carolyn-burke-1995/" target="_blank">I first met Carolyn Burke in 1995</a>, when we discussed her biography of the early 20th-century artist Mina Loy. A decade later, <a href="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2006/06/18/burke-rowley-author2author/" target="_blank">Burke and Hazel Rowley</a> shared some of their correspondence about literary biography with me. I&#8217;m delighted to introduce you to her latest book, <a href="http://www.powells.com/partner/29017/biblio/9780307957290" target="_blank"><i>Foursome</i></a>, a group history exploring the interlocking lives of the photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand and the painters Georgia O’Keefe and Rebecca Salsbury James. Over a span of decades, their personal and artistic passions frequently overlapped one another, until each of them owed something of their development to the other three. Sorting that story out wasn&#8217;t easy, but, as Burke writes in this guest essay, it was an opportunity that came along at the perfect moment.</p>
  363. <blockquote>
  364. <p>Writing my way to the end of <i>No Regrets</i>, I seemed to be lingering, in my imagination, at Edith Piaf&#8217;s grave&#8212;where I first felt the sense of communion with the chanteuse that prompted me to write about her. I enjoyed writing that book so much that I could not imagine devoting myself to another birth-to-death biography.</p>
  365. <p>What I did not realize until later was that in bidding adieu to PIaf, I was sensing the need for a break from the linear model of life-writing. In retrospect, it seems that writing lives of Mina Loy, Lee Miller, and Piaf has pointed the way to the idea of a group portrait, the kind of book that emboldened me to embrace the role of story-teller.</p>
  366. <p>When I was wondering what to do next, an artist friend told me about a little-known &#8216;modern woman&#8217; named Rebecca Salsbury James&#8212; &#8220;your kind of subject,&#8221; he said. She was just that, I learned from the scant material I could find about her. Still, Rebecca&#8217;s perspective on her years with the group of creative spirits around the photographer and cultural impresario Alfred Stieglitz&#8212;as the wife of his prot&#233;g&#233;, Paul Strand, as the close friend of Georgia O&#8217;Keeffe (who would marry Stieglitz), and as Stieglitz&#8217;s muse and correspondent&#8212;allowed me to imagine a narrative that interwove the lives of its protagonists, a tapestry, or, as I would come to see later on, the Southwestern embroidery called colcha adapted by Rebecca once she moved to Taos.</p>
  367. </blockquote>
  368. <p><span id="more-4520"></span></p>
  369. <blockquote>
  370. <p>At first I studied biographies whose authors had attempted something similar: James R. Mellow&#8217;s <i>Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein &#038; Company</i>, David Hajdu&#8217;s <i>Positively 4th Street</i>, and Sherill Tippins&#8217; <i>February House</i>, about W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee. But each was unique to its subjects, ungeneralizable.</p>
  371. <p>The idea of <i>Foursome</i> began to take shape as I read through Rebecca&#8217;s letters, in which the person she was becoming under Stieglitz&#8217;s tutelage seeks to understand her role in the shaping of their foursome. Amplified by the correspondence in their respective archives, the narrative would trace their relations over several decades.</p>
  372. <p>At first I hoped to devise a structure that would invite the reader into the unfolding of their lives together, not a retrospective look back from our perspective but a way to let us feel some of what they felt as their lives progressed. I soon gave up the idea of any external structure and let myself be guided by discoveries made in the course of reading their correspondence and pondering their implications for the shape of twentieth-century American art.</p>
  373. <p>Before long my protagonists started telling me how to recount their stories. Still mulling over the idea of a narrative with several threads, I concentrated on the years when relationships among them were at their most intense. After the introduction of its dramatic personae, <i>Foursome</i> relates the entanglements of their lives in the 1920s and 30s, when sexual and professional imbroglios kept bringing them together and tearing them apart. While writing the book, I came to believe that my characters&#8217; search to conciliate the often contradictory pulls of personal and artistic life still speaks to us a century later.</p>
  374. <p>I also came to understand the pleasures of collaboration. <i>Foursome</i> would not have been written without the participation of Lance Sprague, the artist who introduced me to Rebecca. As I grappled with the convergences and divergences of the foursome&#8217;s lives, our ongoing dialogue helped me grasp the affinities in their aesthetic practice and imagine ways for readers to experience them by retelling the story through the choice and arrangement of the illustrations. Over the seven years it took to write the book, Lance gave abundantly of his time, complementary talents, and sense of humor.</p>
  375. <p>I believe that our collaboration would have amused the four could they have watched us reweaving the tapestry of their lives. These days, collaboration is something of a buzz-word and probably not the term that the Stieglitz circle would have used. Just the same, the very process of writing <i>Foursome</i> allowed me to see how group biography may suggest narrative patterns that portray each subject&#8217;s singularity while pointing up the serendipity of their encounters. </p>
  376. </blockquote>
  377. ]]></content:encoded>
  378. </item>
  379. <item>
  380. <title>Chris Power: Discovering the Short Story</title>
  381. <link>http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2019/01/21/chris-power-selling-shorts/</link>
  382. <dc:creator><![CDATA[ronhogan]]></dc:creator>
  383. <pubDate>Mon, 21 Jan 2019 23:20:36 +0000</pubDate>
  384. <category><![CDATA[selling shorts]]></category>
  385. <category><![CDATA[Chris Power]]></category>
  386. <category><![CDATA[mothers]]></category>
  387. <guid isPermaLink="false">http://beatrice.com/wordpress/?p=4511</guid>
  388.  
  389. <description><![CDATA[photo: Claudia Burlotti A flailing standup comedian keeps his career alive by doing Rodney Dangerfield&#8217;s act, but you can just imagine how that makes him feel. A woman recalls growing up in an apartment complex in the 1970s, and the lie she told about one of her neighbors. A seemingly innocuous disagreement between two weekend [&#8230;]]]></description>
  390. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img loading="lazy" decoding="async" src="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/chris-power.jpg" alt="Chris Power" title="Chris Power" width="532" height="353" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4512" srcset="http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/chris-power.jpg 532w, http://beatrice.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/chris-power-300x199.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 532px) 100vw, 532px" /><br />
  391. <font size="1">photo: Claudia Burlotti</font></p>
  392. <p>A flailing standup comedian keeps his career alive by doing Rodney Dangerfield&#8217;s act, but you can just imagine how that makes him feel. A woman recalls growing up in an apartment complex in the 1970s, and the lie she told about one of her neighbors. A seemingly innocuous disagreement between two weekend vacationers over a hiking route turns out to have deep emotional undercurrents. These are some of the worlds of Chris Power&#8217;s debut collection, <a href="http://www.powells.com/partner/29017/biblio/9780374213664" target="_blank"><i>Mothers</i></a>. One of the reasons I was interested in this collection is that, as he explains in the opening to this guest post, Power isn&#8217;t just a creator of short stories, he&#8217;s also a scholar of the genre&#8212;surely, I thought, he&#8217;d have some recommendations for the &#8220;Selling Shorts&#8221; series that would send me off not just in new directions, but new directions I hadn&#8217;t even known were on the map. You know what I mean: There&#8217;s a lot of writers we &#8220;know&#8221; we &#8220;should&#8221; read, and Power certainly mentions some of those, but there&#8217;s also the writers we had no idea we ought to be reading, and Power passes along some intriguing discoveries (for me, at least), too.</p>
  393. <blockquote>
  394. <p>Since 2007 I&#8217;ve written a column called &#8220;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/series/abriefsurveyoftheshortstory" target="_blank">A Brief Survey of the Short Story</a>&#8221; for the <i>Guardian</i>. Each edition aims to provide an overview of the work of a single author whose work has some significance in the development of the short story form. It doesn&#8217;t operate to a strict timetable (it&#8217;s been nearly two years since the last edition, which I guess you could call a hiatus), but I&#8217;ve written 72 of the things so far, and I still have a list as long as your arm of writers I&#8217;d like to include in the future.</p>
  395. </blockquote>
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  398. <p>When I started the column I sketched a list of writers whose work I already knew pretty well: Chekhov, Kafka, Mavis Gallant, Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Denis Johnson. But it wasn&#8217;t long before the column became my way of exploring the work of writers I knew a little, but not at any great depth. People like Clarice Lispector, Isaac Babel, Lydia Davis, JF Powers. And while this was going on, I was also starting to get reader recommendations of writers whom I&#8217;d never read anything by, and in some cases whose names I&#8217;d barely heard. All this led to a lot of discoveries of a kind that I think really helped me in terms of my own writing. </p>
  399. <p>The short story covers a vast territory, from realist to fantastical, and I like to think I&#8217;m open to anything if the writing does its job and lashes my eyes to the page. My first encounter with the work of Dambudzo Marechera did just that. Marechera, who was from Zimbabwe and died of AIDS-related illness in 1987, aged just 35, described his work as a form of &#8220;literary shock treatment,&#8221; and you quickly see why. His chaotic stories, responses in part to the civil war that ravaged Marechera&#8217;s homeland for much of his life, are full of nightmarish transformations and moments of horror. Doris Lessing said reading him was &#8220;like overhearing a scream.&#8221; She&#8217;s right. </p>
  400. <p>Varlam Shalamov describes another broken society in his stories, or perhaps it&#8217;s better to say a society geared towards breaking its citizens. He spent six years in the gold mines of Kolyma&#8212;one of the harshest zones of Stalin&#8217;s Gulag&#8212;and another nine as a paramedic in the penal camps. His stories are unremitting accounts of humans doing whatever they can&#8212;sometimes <i>for</i> each other and sometimes <i>to</i> each other&#8212;in order to stay alive in a supremely hostile environment.</p>
  401. <p>At college I read Jean Rhys&#8217;s novel <i>Wide Sargasso Sea</i>, her incredible, feverish prequel to <i>Jane Eyre</i>, but I didn&#8217;t know her stories. When I began reading them I realized she belongs with the very best British story writers of the last hundred years. The work she produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s, much of which wasn&#8217;t published until decades later, often describes women attempting to navigate transactional sexual relationships, trying&#8212;and most often failing&#8212;to secure a degree of independence for themselves. </p>
  402. <p>Rudyard Kipling can hardly count as obscure, but he wrote so many stories in so many different styles that it&#8217;s possible for some readers to know one Kipling and be completely ignorant about another. Despite the difficulties he presents&#8212;not least his associations with the British Empire and jingoism, neither of which sit well with me&#8212;I hugely admire his ability as a writer. I&#8217;ve read <i>Plain Tales From the Hills</i>, the Indian-set stories that made his name when he was just 23, since I was a teenager, but it was only much more recently that I explored his twentieth-century work. </p>
  403. <p>In this latter half of his career his writing became denser, and the stories became stranger. &#8220;Mrs Bathurst,&#8221; from 1904, remains one of the strangest and most confounding stories that I&#8217;ve ever read. I&#8217;m not going to say more than that, but if you read it and think you&#8217;ve managed to figure out what the hell&#8217;s going on, please get in touch because I would love to know.</p>
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