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QUINTESSENCE

Deep Writing

All the deep writer can do is honestly chew on something. All she can ask of herself is honest effort and right intention. Deep writing arises from this effort to really wrestle with something, to honorably and truthfully make sense of something, making use of the known and acknowledging, as best as one's defenses permit, all that is not known. If a writer does that, sometimes miracles will happen.
- excerpt from "Deep Writing," Eric Maisel

Occasionally sprinkled in this blog, like cranberries in a salad a bit of tart and unexpected flavor, will be the occasional essay on writing. Many writers have a "writing tips" page on their web sites, but in my experience the material sits, grows stale. But if it lands in the blog from time to time, it may interest both writers and readers in matters of the literary craft.

Eric Maisel's comments on deep writing pivot on the idea that some writing is intended to mean something, not just to entertain. He speaks of Hiroshima, 1964, On the Beach, Crime and Punishment, The Death of the Heart, The Stranger, Giovanni's Room - all books he read in his youth that he felt were written to convey a dream, solve a problem, had a truth to tell, a moral imperative, a holy quest, all mixed up together. Maisel prompted me to think about the books of my life that speak to me: how, as he quotes Freud speaking of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, such writers may achieve a "perfectly motivated" novel, or a brilliant, beautiful, truthful book of nonfiction.

I think much of what is missing in modern literature, and no doubt what has prompted critics to "hang the crepe" on the future of the literary novel, is precisely a lack of genuine meaning and depth of thinking, truthfully, on the part of the writer. One can not easily shoehorn a life's work of art into the flash commercial model of something written for inexpensive entertainment, adaptation to a film, or a book du jour on a topic soon to fade from interest. In a sound bite culture, the book that delves deeply into a topic, that requires the reader follow a complex story, think through meaning, and spend more than a train ride or two reading, well, publishers are convinced that is the book that gets dropped. If publishers can't make money in quantity, the quality is of little value, and we are left with books that evaporate from our minds and hearts like powdered sugar on the tongue.

I've spent time recently thinking about books that have meant something to me in my reading life, and why. I'm sure we would all have differing lists; books we deem important, that speak to our innermost thoughts. Such a list reveals much about our own intellectual and emotional history. So let me say that the most recent good book that I've read (in my humble opinion), was the nonfiction study by Jane Horowitz, Inside of A Dog. Horowitz's research revealed to me why my dog seems to live in a different world than mine, and why the bond I share with my dog means so much to me. Good stuff. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare to be meaningful.
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