Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bungungot

During my reading of Trials of the Monkey, by Matthew Chapman (pg. 53), I came across this Filipino word: bungungot. It describes a spiritual homesickness, a sorrow so profound it kills. It occurs among people who believe their land is imbued with spirits, such as those of their ancestors. To be torn from this land is to be torn from your soul. The forced abandonment of ancestral lands imposed by the U.S. on Native Americans, such as the Cherokee, comes to mind. In my second novel, Trout Run, I try to depict the antithesis of bungungot; that is, Eddy’s return to a cursed homeland in a desperate effort to find a new heart and a soul.

Quote of the Day: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”  Elbert Hubbard

Nurse Logs

Nurse logs are a paradox: In death there is life. If you’ve walked through a Northwest forest chances are you’ve seen them, those long-dead firs, cedars, maples that have succumbed to gravity and lie upon the forest floor, decomposed and decomposing, giving rise to a riotous nursery of ferns, mushrooms and saplings. They sometimes make you pause, make you halt to consider for that moment the beauty of mortality.

Quote of the Day: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

The Stranger

One of the many literary influences upon my writing is the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus. I taught it for many years in AP English, and both its style and content have thoroughly imbued my writing bones. First, it has an apt title. The main character, Meursault, usually strikes the reader as a “stranger” in that he doesn’t respond to social cues the way most of us do. For example, he doesn’t feel remorse at the death of his mother, he’s apparently indifferent to marrying his girlfriend Marie, he commits a murder in an almost casual manner and he’s a relatively uninterested participant in his own trial for that murder. Ultimately, society condemns him, but I’m not so sure most readers do. Likewise, in TK Eddy may strike some readers as a stranger: he makes no real attempt to save his marriage, he often lashes out in anger, he’s an atheist and he sometimes hurts those who try to help him. However, I suspect he’s more sympathetic to the reader than Meursault and, therefore, I don’t believe most will condemn him. In Eddy, I tried to create a character who both frustrates the reader and yet makes him/her root for him. Secondly, I really enjoy Camus’ writing style. His sentences are short; his dialogue, spare; his descriptions, brief. He sparely employs the use of figures of speech, adjectives and adverbs. My style tends toward minimalism, as does Camus’ in The Stranger, but I wouldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist. I would, though, describe my style as “spare.” And finally, even though Camus himself rejected the notion he was an existentialist writer, I embrace it–not in the nihilistic sense, but rather the quasi-Romantic sense. More on this later.

Quote of the Day:

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” Anaïs Nin

Food for Thought

Walt Whitman often started his day of composing poems or essays with a breakfast of oysters and meat, while at Franz Kafka’s desk you might see a glass of milk. To keep his weight down Lord Byron sipped vinegar (how Romantic!). Cold toast and stale coffee for John Steinbeck, and home-baked bread for Emily Dickinson. F. Scott Fitzgerald liked his canned meat and apples. More modern writers like Michael Pollen prefer tea out of a glass and roasted almonds, while Truman Capote enjoys coffee at 11 a.m., mint tea at noon, sherry at 2 p.m. and a martini at four.

In Trout Kill Eddy eats very poorly. At one point he wolfs down a steak raw. He often goes without meals. He gorges on rhubarb pie, which he later throws up. He swills booze and beer and smokes marijuana.

I write in our basement next to a sliding patio door that opens to a small rock garden. When I write I always have at my side a cup of coffee or tea. Sometimes I’ll nibble on dried almonds or a cinnamon roll from Grand Central Bakery, a short walk from our home. Usually though, no food; for me it’s a distraction, and there are already plenty enough of those, what with the skittering leaves and cavorting squirrels.

Quote of the day:

The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation. Elias Canetti