“There are not many American writers for whom style really is content. We’re too earnest a nation, too attached to making our art about messages or lessons, and usually, easily digestible ones. The American authors who take style as something close to an ethics of writing are quite often the most elegant. Think of W. M. Spackman’s slim comedies of erotic manners, the bespoke mordancy of Frederick Seidel’s verse, or of Raymond Chandler, whose style fought it out with his moralism and beat it two falls out of three. Southern, whose elegant prose exists amid the chaos and rut it’s describing, is such a stylist. Saying the right thing — even if it is the most outrageous or obscene thing — in exactly the right way is the only morality at work in his work.” —Charles Taylor, reviewing a novel by Terry Southern, LARB 1-26-2021
(It wasn’t until I’d gotten home from the library that I realized I’d checked out a Spanish translation of the novel. Because I’m a pathetic monolingual loser, only fluent in one language, I got less out of it than I’d hoped, and it got less out of me. There was the time, monolingual fool that I am, when, after dinner she says she would like me to stay the night. I don’t understand French, so I respond in English: “Well, I have to be getting home.”)
I thought I was being tough when I manifestoed: “I am opposing and flouting centuries of tradition by making this declaration: If there are any websites, magazines or other platforms who wish to publish my writing, simply email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will return to you a selection of work from which you may choose. What I am pretty much going to STOP doing is cold submitting work to random venues—which are diminishing anyway, fallout from the covid quarantines. In other words, contact me if you want some work for your site or magazine and I’ll be happy to respond immediately. Otherwise, reading my work can easily be accessed at www.randystark.com and http://writeuptheroad.com/.”
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han, 2014
And finally, I recommended reading Meg Elison, especially The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, the first of her trilogy, a franchise with female protagonists driving it. Somebody blurbed: “Elison offers a troubling yet hopeful vision of the future.” Uh, excuse me, no, she doesn’t. This is post-apocalyptic despair at its best. I live in the same shithole city she once did, and I drive the same make and model car as she does. This may or may not be a lost planet, I don’t know, but maybe we drank at the same bar, if she drinks.
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino.