Of the three lectures I heard today, David Mainelli, Chad Christensen and Luke Hawley, all three were thought provoking. Each writer spoke about different aspects of the world of books, stories, poetry, literature. I’ll start with Mainelli. I came back with a few good ideas. One is to know where you are on the spectrum of maximalism vs. minimalism as a prose writer. Where are you on that continuum? What do you like to read? Are your dreams spare or lush? Do you dream in black and white? I like to think about Hemingway vs. Pynchon. Interestingly, the only female writer on the list of maximalists was Zadie Smith. A huge sprawling novel written by a woman is considered a bit much. A huge novel written by a man is genius.
Chad spoke about outlaws. He spoke of Brautigan, Ginsberg, Bukowksi, Kerouac, Burroughs. They drank, they had sex with people of both genders, they abandoned their lovers, they did drugs on couches and counters, beaches and snow banks. Again, I couldn’t help thinking about how a woman would think about outlaws. My first outlaw who I fell in love with was Judy Grahn who eloped at eighteen with a girl in the 50s, who was kicked out of the Air Force for being a lesbian. Muriel Rukeyser who chose to raise her son alone. Audre Lourde. These are my outlaws. Being a writer at all is an outlaw thing for a woman to do.
For a man, being an outlaw means that you decide not to take care of any women and children, not to make your own money, not to save your own money. Not to take care of anybody. I’m very interested in this desire not to have to take care of anybody. No nurturing necessary.
I am an outlaw. I think being a woman outlaw is a lot more work than being a man outlaw. In fact, I would suggest that being a male outlaw is almost effortless. You just need to stop caring for anyone. Just live for yourself. Write. Drink. Do Drugs and get others to support you. This helps a lot if you are good looking. If you are ugly, this is going to be a lot more difficult. I’m a woman so it doesn’t matter if I’m good looking or not if I’m an outlaw. I do my best. But Chad’s lecture gave me food for thought.
On to Luke’s lecture which is about the Lish/Carver relationship. Lish chopped away, turning Carver’s pieces into masterpieces. Should he have done it? Luke obviously thinks yes. The edits made the stories not just better, but immortal. I think if the reason not to edit is that it might hurt the writer’s feelings, you should go ahead and edit anyway. But I loved thinking about it. Did Lish edit so brutally partly because he was not an important writer himself and this was his stab at immortality? The editing of What We Talk about when we talk about Love may be Lish’s finest work. Lish mostly edited men.
Men help other men. They pass around meat and potatoes.
Women give each other fruit and flowers.