March 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Posted in writing | 20 Comments

I went to one poetry reading and one performance poetry event. I got outrageously drunk before both because the thought of it was terrifying. They were both interesting expeditions into the world of corporeality which greatly deepened my respect for J. D. Salinger. “A Perfect Day For Bananafish” is a short story that captivated me and has stayed with me ever since I read it. More to the point though, he wrote one great book, “Catcher In The Rye” and then became a complete recluse. I wish I was capable of that. I guess we often respect most in others that which we feel we lack in ourselves.


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  1. I have always vacillated between the life of the insular artist who can lock themselves in the studio for days on end and pushing myself out there through travel, residencies, performances, exhibitions etc. I love my time hermitting.. but i live in utter terror of curling up in that comfortable corner for too long.. I always liked the saying “keep moving, keep moving” With every interaction that challenges us I think we “become” that little bit more.. we are what we’re immersed in and all that..
    No matter how we choose to abstract things, that corporeality is.

  2. it’s true, there is a dissolution of space between the focus needed to do the work and the seller perspective needed to get it out there. imo its a byproduct of division between art and life, the nuts and bolts we need an extra backpack to carry, but would carry willingly through thick and thin just the same. i remember going with my teacher one evening to hear a talk by j.d. salinger at our local college when i was a child.
    i remember he was brilliant and friendly. in retrospect, he also had an agent.

  3. This is something we have talked about often and you know that I too find it terrifying to go to these performance type things or to put a public face to my writing. However, I do believe it is important for us as individuals to keep pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. As for writing the one great book, well, you’ve already done that. The recluse thing is one thing I hope you never do.

  4. Yes… Salinger has always been my go-to author… whether I’m in a bind or emotionally blocked or need to jump-start my foggy brain or laugh or cry… he’s there… in every way imaginable… I think many of us wish we could write one magnificent book and then live off the proceeds for the the rest of our natural born lives… on our own terms… without the push and pull from others…

    that, to me, would be a rather lofty life…

  5. Everyone is capable of everything. As your last sentence points out itself, we just feel that we lack something. And in fact, it’s not even really a feeling but a thought lurking around at some level of our subconscious, conceived by our beliefs and our conditioning by the society .

    Salinger was an amazing writer indeed.

  6. poetry readings terrify me too. catcher in the rye is a great, great book. i didn’t realize people aspired to write one great book. i would hope that if that milestone could be accomplished, that they would strive towards a second or third. i don’t feel like i’m even hoping for one good book but i kind of like it that way.

  7. I’m curious about the difference between a poetry reading and a performance poetry event.

    Sometimes it takes courage to retire. I’m all in favour of retirement.

  8. The Catcher in the Rye…

    Now there’s a book encapsulated in time….

  9. paul, sort n sweet… how very very interesting, … that you would vanish in seclusion… having the opportunity… leaving behind something great… a shadow of self unending… now the reading drunk, [is that what you meant??!!]…THAT would be fun to observe, absorb and remember… life is so full of hidden pleasure…

  10. Oh sweet lord in heaven, performing. Such is the next milestone to cross off my list. I’ve read “Newsworthy” so many times in front of my bathroom mirror, pretending the various reflections of me were an audience. My stomach churns at the thought. I don’t want polite applause. I want GODDAMN and earthquakes.

  11. I envy those courageous in ways I wish I were courageous, gifted in ways I wish I were, more talented in ways I am only mildly talented in, more energetic, more full of life, more fun, more charismatic, more of everything that makes me feel lesser than…and then I stop myself and think, enough already, you can destroy yourself doing that. All these people have terrible flaws, do things I would never do, have values I don’t respect, conceit, insensitivity, whatever, for everything I envy, there is something I would never ever exchange for what I value in my familiar little self in my familiar little world, learning who I am for a reason, for reasons I can’t fathom, but am trying to every day.

  12. i actually think i maybe preferred franny and zooey to the catcher, a little. (i was curious that there’s the mythical dead older brother in each. i wondered if salinger had an older brother who died young.)

    i find performing my writing fairly excruciating. public speaking & how revealing reading what one writes to an audience of strangers (or even to those i know!) feels intensely vulnerable and scary to me. for that, though, it’s something i quite want to have another go at.

    as for the respect for salinger’s life/style? i think there’s something brilliantly enigmatic and – to me – some kind of perceived … dignity? about creating a masterpiece then proceeding to become rather untouchable / unknowable. but it’s a prettier ideal than a reality, i reckon. i tend to assume salinger isn’t having a heap of fun these days.

  13. “I guess we often respect most in others that which we feel we lack in ourselves.” Perhaps that’s why I find myself spending a fair amount of time here.

  14. Thanks for all those wonderful comments. I know you’ll understand if I don’t answer them all individually. One of the things I have lacked in the past is focus and I am trying to practice pulling the focus tighter and tighter which will no doubt lead to a kind of excessive simplicity as opposed to the self-indulgent ornateness of my prose. Haha, it wasn’t me this time Bob, I swear,

  15. Ah, but you pull the reins too tight on creativity, you strangle it. You have to balance that meandering among the daffodils and pianos or you will lose your inspiration (unless you can get it from strangling, which I guess is possible). I eschew emoticons, but I’d use a heart one here.

  16. next time try it NOT outrageously drunk and see what happens

    also try to go to readings where there ISN’T an open and see what you learn

  17. oh and as much as i adore catcher and franny and zooey i vote for 9 stories…for esme with love reminds me of you paul somehow

  18. How true, your last sentence. I sometimes become envious of people who have qualities I wish I had.

    i.e., I’m a skilled musician, but I’ve always lacked a “performance personality.” I used to be angry about that when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve found the anger to be a waste of energy.

    So now I’m bringing this full-circle to your topic, discipline: the discipline to nurture in ourselves new directions for growth even when those directions are frightening, when it’s tough to take those first steps. We’re all works in progress, and the joy lies in the journey.

  19. “I have two normal feet and I can’t see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them,” said the young man.

    I have always love Salinger’s way of saying “god-damned.”

  20. […] & Aloo Chana for Nikkie March 5, 2009 I was reading something Paul wrote and it made me go out to the livingroom searching for my […]

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