Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Notes on Skidmore, Jayne Anne Phillips and lit mags

Jayne Anne Phillips expressed a radical idea during her Q&A: she does almost no revision of her novels. Even the all-worldly Bob Boyers seemed to be shocked by the notion and tried to quiz her further. Surely, even if she doesn't review entire novels, she must be revising individual chapters as they come together? But Phillips stayed strong and refused to give a simple "yes" or "no" answer to anything she was asked.

She said, "Writing is like an old idea about 'method' acting -- you must locate the true emotion within yourself." (Every time I refer to Jim Shepard's "method" of reading I keep thinking of the "method" acting. There seems to be something about the word "method" that also sounds like "magic pill").

"The act of writing a novel reflects one's core relationship to the world." This point phrased even stronger: "Novel is like having a meaning. Writing is like a religious practice, access to the nature of being human." I find these metaphors unintentionally ironic. Somebody practicing a religion is always trying to access something other than human (god always stands outside humanity). And "the nature of being human" -- a Balzac project -- seems as much invented as accessed in the process of writing a novel.

Phillips also claimed to never write diaries or read book reviews. Was this a point of pride for her?

Josephine, a poet I met at Skidmore, kindly named a few lit mags she likes to read. I can never get enough magazine recommendations: it's amazing to me how much quality publication is out there, and how at the same time the entire field exists on the sheer enthusiasm of the participants.

Sycamore Review
Post Road
Ninth Letter
New Letter
Cream City Review
The Southern Review

Knowing what kinds of stories these magazines publish is, of course, also important for when I'm sending my own work out.

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