Monday, May 19, 2008

some quick Monday morning thoughts

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Mine was awesome but crazy, work events left and right. And now here I am back in the office. But this is what a rowing team coach would call "a good kind of pain."

Just to catch you up on important things that have been happening in my life (I know you're on the edge of your seat here). On Thursday night, I was at a work party with lots of fancy famous people. Everyone was drinking wine and I'm a bit of a lightweight (cough, cough--please, no need for friends to post any personal anecdotes here) so when an olive plate appeared in the middle of the party I thought it would be a good idea to stabilize my stomach with some tasties.

However, since there were all the fancy people and no one else was eating the olives, I became really self-conscious about the whole olive pit scenario. After popping about five olives in my mouth, I realized there was no tasteful and inconspicuous way to get rid of the pits, which I didn't want to spit out and put on the common plate (there were no napkins). So after about five minutes of sucking on them I swallowed them. No biggie.

Unfortunately, I also have a problem with looking at food that's sitting in front of me. In that I eat it. So by the end of the evening I had swallowed not 5 olive pits but probably closer to the tune of 40. It seemed like a fine idea at the time.

On Friday, I wasn't hungry at all. Or on Saturday, or Sunday. No appetite whatsoever. It was weird, because normally I eat everything all the time. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. UNTIL I REMEMBERED THE OLIVES. Once I thought of them, I could feel 40 distinct olive pits of various sizes in my duodenum. Just chillin'.

Clearly I am going to grow an olive tree out of my belly button. Sigh. This will greatly endanger my anonymity, because I'm not sure how many walking olive trees there are on New York editorial staffs.

In other news, yes, I'm still mourning the mouse. ::sob::

In other things that might be of interest:

Marie Mockett posted on writing about love, and she has some interesting thoughts about that. She brought up the Brontes, which regretfully spawned a tirade by YT in her comments section, but she's been very gracious about it. For the writers reading this, do you think you need to have experienced love (or a particular kind of love) in order to write about it? Or do you side with Toni Morrison about the power of imagination?

For fellow Bronte addicts and enthusiasts, Vulpes Libris posted this very interesting article awhile back called "A Monster Is Born." It's about Rochester, Charlotte Bronte's real-life love affairs/interests, and why a female writer might imagine a love-interest "hero" for herself who treats a character just like herself like crap. Oh, literary masochism, how I love thee.

For those Bronte enthusiasts (I know there are at least a few of you who read this blog, since we've posted/commented to this effect before), you should check out the Bronte Blog, which basically collects everything being e-published about the Brontes. I confess I subscribe to it.

Also (semi-related), Maud Newton posted this New Yorker link about why being a writer might kill you. Good to remember at all times. I mean, think of poor Emily Bronte--she died (you might say) of horrible reviews.


ChrisEldin said...

I wonder if you wouldn't do a little experiment for me? Try chewing some bubble gum (not wrigley's or chiclets because they're not sticky enough), then swallow the gum and see if the pits stick to the gum.

Merry Monteleone said...

First, Chris, ha,ha,ha.... you crack me up....

Okay, Moonie, I have to preface this with a, 'hey, you asked for an opinion' because it's likely to get long and windy as you hit on one of my own personal pet peeves - the distinction between an author and their fiction.

I think we all, being that your blog is populated by voracious readers who more than likely spent good smatterings of our high school and college years happily ensconced in literary analysis, waxing philosophical about our own theoretic diatribes on the hidden meanings in well known, or perhaps more engaging 'elite' literature... ya know, before we grew out of our pompous insufferability and saw a bit more of the world... but I'll digress on that point, I was at least as bad as some of the young scholars what occasionally annoy me now..

There are many places for a good fiction writer to learn their skills and to master the emotions of a setting they may not have experienced in life. I think studying an author's real life, especially for the aspiring writer, can be a great way to gain insights into their writing process... I draw the line, though, at their personal lives illuminating their work in some way.

The reason this becomes such a problem for me is because it antagonizes the self censor... there's so much at stake already, in putting your writing out for consumption, in building a thick enough skin to get past the unavoidable critcisms in the work itself, regardless of how good it might be... add to that the knowledge that there might be readers out there picking through the author's personal life for proofs of what they were really capturing through their work... their sexual persuasion, their deep seeded failures, their slightly manic love of purple popcicles... whatever.

Granted, most authors' works will not be held to this type of scrutiny and it is a sort of compliment to the greatness of the work when it is picked apart in this fashion... at the same time, though, if your objective is better understanding of the work, I think you need to remove the author completely, and view it separately, as its own world for its own value.

I did a book club blog, forever ago at a blogging community that's lost in cyberspace now... but the blog was on My Antonia by Willa Cather - lots to discuss there and it was a great series of posts... I ended the series with a post about Cather herself and the biographical implications of her sexual persuasion came up. There are a lot of literary scholars who believe Antonia to be a characterization of a woman Cather was in love with in her formative years, furthering this assumption is the thought that her main character being male is a further buffer, to hide the autobiographical aspects of the novel... it's a thought, a ponderence, certainly worthy of discussion, but ultimately I think it's worthless in understanding the novel itself...

I don't think the author needs to bring specific life experience to the novel. Some do, don't get me wrong, you draw from wherever it is that spurs your own muse and allows you to capture the world you're creating... but I don't think every author needs to do this. I think the work should stand on its own and the only time a supposition about the author's method of creating that world should be held as truth is when the author offers the information themselves... otherwise it's gossip dressed up as literary discussion.

cindy said...



love the moonie update!

i'm sure the mouse is okay, moonie.

Jennifer L. Griffith said...


Yeah, a walking olive tree would surely stand out in a crowd.


Chumplet said...

Perhaps a spoonful of mineral oil will move things along.

This too shall pass.

Chumplet said...

And they had no napkins? What kind of fancy schmancy party was this, anyway?

Ello said...

Oh my god! I'm gonna try this too so that maybe I can stop stuffing my face for a day and lose some weight! HOping it all clears up alright!

jesslovesnyc said...

I can't believe you swallowed olive pits! LoL

Lisa said...

I'm with Ello -- if you don't turn into a tree, I'm huffing olives all weekend!

I don't think a writer needs to experience a particular kind of love or relationship to write it persuasively. I'm with Ms. M -- there's nothing more powerful than the imagination.

JES said...

Merry: "deep seeded failures." Ha ha -- in the context of the olive-pit story, this possibly classifies as a Freudian typo. :)

Like Lisa, I agree with Toni Morrison on the question of writing about love (or any other emotional experience). Just as you don't have to have experienced a particular type of love or joy or terror or disappointment to console or empathize with a friend, you don't need to have experienced those things to write about them... given enough general emotional skills, and enough self-honesty and -awareness to assess your own writing about them.

ChrisEldin said...

I'm glad Chumplet didn't suggest olive oil....

Charles Gramlich said...

40 olive pits? Megads.

A friend of mine named Laura Joh Rowland published THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË. It's getting great reviews.

Sarahlynn said...

According to Tyra Banks, in response to an aspiring model who claimed she couldn't shoot well with a male model because she'd never had a boyfriend, never been in love: I've never been a geisha in real life, but I can still look like one.

Really, I swear I'm a huge fan of Villette. It's just that - perhaps - I've left my lit major pretentiousness a little too far behind?

Eh, I recently published a short story about a promiscuous teenager and - to my embarassment - most of my friends and family seem to think it's autobiographical. It's not. But apparently I wrote convincingly enough that even my husband thought the experiences were based in real life.

Julie Weathers said...

Well, I should have been writing and couldn't resist peeking in. What do I find?

1. I definitely don't belong at fancy parties without napkins and pitted olives.

2. I am joining the others in an olive pit binge. Imagine how rich and famous Moon will be for inventing the olive pit diet that sweeps the nation.

Bold voice of announcer, "If you think diets are the pits, you're right."

Marie said...

Thanks for stopping by, Moonrat, and engaging me in conversation. That was fun. And thanks to everyone else who took a look at my musings. I'm glad so many people are on the "you need imagination" team, because that's who I'm batting for!

writtenwyrdd said...

Like anything else they write about, unless it's a memoir, a writer isn't ever writing just what they know. They are imagining twists on things they know, and, sometimes (frequently?) purely from the imagination. If a person can successfully write about being someone of another gender, they can write about various sorts love without having been there in that precise location. If they can write from their own humanity, they can write anything with enough effort. Results vary as skills and perceptions vary, but the possibility is there for anyone to write about something they've never had.

Sorry you're still mourning the mouse. I just lost my old cat last week. He'd have loved that mouse. ;)

Alice Kildaire said...

maybe it's the mom in me, but I can't help but think 40 olive pits in the belly could be really bad for the digestive system!

Tomillo said...

If your readers haven't experienced what you're writing about, all you have to do is imagine it vividly for them. If, on the other hand, they have, your responsibility as a writer is to do enough research that you can pull some potent triggers that remind them. You don't need to have experienced something first hand to write about it authentically. You can bet Hemingway never spent days on end fighting a fish with his life in the balance.

Bernita said...

You're saying the party was the pits?


omg you are ridiculous