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Blog Entries tagged 'writing'

A little theory today.

 

"None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art."

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation

And, of course, painting by Mark Rothko.

May 5th, 2009

The End of the University as We Know It

I'm really loving this Op-ed by Mark Taylor in yesterday's Times, here's a section:

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

Consider, for example, a Water program. In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.

A Water program would bring together people in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences with representatives from professional schools like medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, theology and architecture. Through the intersection of multiple perspectives and approaches, new theoretical insights will develop and unexpected practical solutions will emerge.

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April 28th, 2009

Waking up to New York, From New York Magazine

I love these vignettes of well known artists writing about their first experiences in New York.

Waking Up to New York

Mary Boone
Arrived: 1970

I remember that the first exhibition I was part of was by Chuck Close, and that he sat in my office during the opening listening to the World Series. That was at Klaus Kertess’s gallery, the Bykert gallery. Lynda Benglis, who was my teacher at Hunter College, said, “Oh, if you need a job, my boyfriend owns a gallery.” Because I thought I was gonna come here and work at a museum, but I did that, and it really seemed so lifeless.

Klaus closed the gallery after ten years because it was getting to be too successful! He said it was too much of a business. It’s so different now. In the early days I remember Brice Marden had seven one-person shows and never sold a painting. Even when I showed Julian Schnabel, it took me two years to sell the first painting.

Julian was the first artist to leave my gallery, and I was heartbroken. It was like the spring of 1984, and I was sitting in my office, crying. In his explanation at the time—you know, it’s like anything, probably things change with the telling every time. But in those days, what he said was that he wanted to be separated. He said, “How many artists do you have in the Carnegie International?” And it was basically the whole gallery. And he said, “Well, if I go to Pace, I’m the only artist from that gallery in the Carnegie.” He wanted a kind of separateness from me, but also from his generation. He wanted to be seen as an individual. We’re still good friends; I think he’s a fantastic filmmaker. I also have a different perception of this, because I think that life is about shared experiences, and if you have an experience with an artist, you never lose that. It’s like if you’re married and you have a child with somebody, you’re never, ever really separated. And the child is the art. So anyway, I was sitting in my office crying, and Jean-Michel Basquiat comes in. And he was so sweet! He was so upset I was sitting there crying. He put his arms around me and he said, “Mary, don’t worry. I’m gonna be much more famous than Julian.” And then he walked out, and he came back in with a huge watermelon, which he plunked on my desk, and we ate.

Lauren Hutton, actress
Arrived: 1964

I came to New York for two things: to get to Africa and to find LSD. In those days it was legal. You could get it from this Swiss chemical company, and I met six guys who were very willing to give it to me. But I didn’t like any of them enough to take it, so it took me a few months. As for Africa, I was supposed to meet a friend in New York, and we were going to take a tramp steamer to Tangier. It was going to cost $140. Once I got there, my plan was to take a bus for ten cents to the outskirts of town and see elephants and rhinoceroses and giraffes. I was as ignorant as a telephone pole.

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April 23rd, 2009

Michael Pollan on food, the environment and the economy, from the Rumpus

I like this interview with Michael Pollan on the whether the Green Economy can save the planet. 

Rumpus: I don’t want to ask you about an article you haven’t read, but maybe the idea of “economy vs. environment” is provocative enough to address. Owen argues, in so many words, that economy has to be sacrificed to some extent to save the environment. How do you feel about that?

Pollan: Well, I mean, that’s a good question. There is a real effort to align economic growth with becoming green. It’s the Thomas Friedman school of things, this idea that you can unleash these powers that will drive certain change, that you can align economic interests and the environment. It would be wonderful if it’s true. But I think we need to make changes whether it’s true or not. The fact is that there are fundamental tensions between the biological reality of the planet right now and the economic reality. To some extent you can adapt the economy, create a new set of rules and incentives to send it down a better track, but finally people in the first world are going to have to consume a whole lot less. Green stuff or black stuff, whatever it is.

Rumpus: The idea of a “green economy” is really palatable, though.

Pollan: I think it’s very politically comfortable to suggest that you can have a non-zero-sum solution to both the global economic crisis and our environmental problems, but my guess is that the non-zero-sum solution is wishful thinking. We could have a greener economy, even a greener consumer economy by changing the rules—whether it’s by taxing carbon or trading carbon, I’m not sure what—but in the end there’s just a fundamental problem with the sheer amount we’re consuming. Fossil fuel is a very special thing. There is no other fossil fuel out there. Yes, there’s solar energy, but whether it can underwrite the kind of lifestyle we’ve had remains to be seen. So if you’re a politician it’s very useful to say that we can have economic growth and at the same time green the economy, but writers just have to face up to the fact, whether it sells or not, that there are some fundamental tensions between the economic order and the biological order.

Rumpus: I was re-reading some passages from Botany of Desire and a particular sentence grabbed me. You were talking about our Nature Narratives, and you said, “There’s the old heroic story, where Man is at war with Nature; the romantic version, where Man merges spiritually with Nature (usually with some help from the pathetic fallacy); and, more recently, the environmental morality tale, in which Nature pays man back for his transgressions, usually in the coin of disaster.” If someone told you that our current problems—the food crisis, the energy crisis, the health care crisis—somehow epitomized the environmental morality tale, how would you respond?

Pollan: I think that’s the narrative in which a lot of things fit. Look at industrial agriculture. You use too many antibiotics on your cattle to get cheap meat, and suddenly you have antibiotic-resistant staph infections popping up all over the Midwest. But that’s evolution. I mean, you could put a moral spin on it and say, oh, we got what we deserved. But it’s just the feedback loop inherent to evolution. You spray too much pesticide and a resistant bug emerges. Now if you have a moral cast of mind, you’ll say, well, oh, boy, Nature is paying us back, getting even with us for using all that pesticide. The situation certainly conforms to the environmental morality narrative. But that doesn’t make the narrative true.

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April 22nd, 2009

The One Thing

I just read a blog post about the importance of specifity on one's blog. You should focus on the one thing you do, the one message you have, the one idea you want your readers to take away.

Which made me think, and look down at all my blog posts to try to find the one thing, the big idea, the one message. 

What is it, exactly, I'm saying over here? Why do people visit? What are you looking for? How do I provide it? 

And it came down to a basic credo:

Clarity. Courage. Faith. Freedom. 

That's my message, told a million different ways. 

See your truth. Tell your truth. Believe in the power of your truth. And then, fly, fly away.

Be free.

April 13th, 2009

Little Bee: Killing me softly with her song.

“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is no new road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

 - D.H. Lawrence (taken from Chris Cleave's site.)

Trust me. Buy it. 

April 11th, 2009

Write Now.

Hey beauties,

I'm doing manuscript consults for the next two months, and planning the next Maui Memoir Writing Workshop.

Now's the time to get feedback on the manuscript you need to sell, and/or come to Maui to learn the Art of Memoir amidst pineapple fields, avocado trees, and of course, the big, blue ocean. 

Consults are ongoing and the Workshop will be June 14-20

No time to waste. Write now.

Catch a wave.

April 9th, 2009

OBHF #1 Top Shelf Pick in SF Chronicle

One Big Happy Family #1Top Shelf Non-fiction pic in San Fancisco Chronicle. Such a huge blessing. Thanks everyone. For supporting families--and me.

Nonfiction

One Big Happy Family, by Rebecca Walker: A fascinating collection of essays on the varieties of the American family.

Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: A Collection of Kids' Letters to President Obama, edited by Jory John: We can always depend on children to be both funny and truthful. In paperback.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money, by Nick Hornby: The author chronicles his battle between "books bought" versus "books read." Brilliant. In paperback.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson: Johnson illustrates how science, art and beauty can occasionally be the same thing. In paperback.

Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea, by Alice Waters: A chronicle of the transformation of one abandoned plot of land at a Berkeley public school into the Edible Schoolyard - a model for institutions everywhere.

This article appeared on page J - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

April 4th, 2009

Die Mommy Die: Women talking about babies in workplace, from ELLE

Interesting piece about women waxing rhapsodic about motherhood at the office and how it affects non-moms and moms who don't necessarily think motherhood is the beginning and end of the world. My two cents on second page and nice mention of OBHF:

By Nancy Hass

Arranging the interview took months of patient pleading with the CEO’s staff, and now that I’ve been waiting for almost an hour in the chief’s vast beige and teak inner office, one thought keeps running through my head: She better be as brilliant as everyone says.

Ten minutes later, the CEO walks through the door, smoothing her pantsuit and flashing a purposefully desperate smile. “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” she says, plopping down in the sleek armchair next to me as I reach out to shake her hand, “but my nine-year-old had a bad night because of a test today—throwing up and everything—and she just called in to say she thinks she aced it. Everything is so dramatic with that one; all her stress goes right to her stomach.”

I try to cut her off with a tight grin, barely enough to pass as polite. I don’t like where this is going.

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March 25th, 2009

It's a Family Affair: One Big Happy Family in CLUTCH

It's always strange reading what people write about me. To see myself through their eyes. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's enlightening. Sometimes it makes me think about how I said something or what I really want people to understand.

This is an interesting piece by Zettler Clay on One Big Happy Family on Clutch today. I'm pondering how I feel about this profile. I don't think of myself as an "inveterate zealot," but I feel I should at least consider the possibility. 

I also don't think I've spent thirty-nine years seeking my mother's attention, but perhaps that's what it looks like to others. Alas--this profile is thought provoking. Quixotic, natch. 

What do you think? 

An excerpt:

"But who, pray tell, is Rebecca Walker?

She is a woman who has spent a good part of her 39 years on earth seeking her mother’s elusive approval. She’s the Jewish-Nubian who spent considerable parts of her childhood being shuffled from coast-to-coast, enduring ridicule from classmates because of her lineage and looks, while imbibing the rich customs of Jews and African-Americans alike. She is a woman who attended Yale University, graduated cum laude, wrote several treatises, books and articles, all while haunted by the memory of a lost baby and the fear of not being able to have another one.

She is, in essence, a woman of omnivorous tastes; a counterculture spokesperson and literary commuter who is still ultimately seeking her halcyon environment, if not understanding, of how to make the world a better place. A quixotic being, but certainly not apathetic."

My, my.

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Buy the book 

March 23rd, 2009