Monday, July 19, 2010

THE END of the Masterpiece Project, #0-90.


I have the worst cold in the world so it's a good time
to wrap up this preposterous project. I've said everything
I had to say worth saying already about masterpieces, if
anything, so the following is pure padding, may or may
not have anything to do with masterpieces, whatever
they are or not, & should not be read under any circumstances:

90. Who gets to decide what a masterpiece is? You.

89. Fog rolling in, iced coffee, the look on the girl's face as Jimi
destroys the guitar at Monterey Pop.

88. "What I would give for a sockful of horse manure right now."

87. With this cold, my brain feels like an empty walnut packed
in pressurized styrofoam.

86. I just read an interview with a fellow named Bradley Sands
that is more entertaining & true than five of the six stories of his
I read afterwards.

87. I once heard an interview with the guy who wrote Bridges
of Madison County & I was prepared to despise him but I liked
him quite a bit, despite my worst intentions.

88. I also saw an interview with David Lynch, the director,
who I am no fan of, and I was also ready to not like him at all,
but he was quite a present & likable fellow, meditates, honest.
Hmmm. I like the human being better than the artist, or the art?

87. Here's a paragraph from this story I'm writing:

He turned out to be a spectacular guest, absolutely no bother.
He kept to himself, ate like a bird, took regular showers, if
brief (to preserve water?), and hardly made a sound day or night.
He read biographies from the library which Lloyd checked out for him,
almost one a day, from General Patton to Mother Teresa to Bob Dylan,
quietly listened to talk radio, went for walks, and wrote in a journal that I
bought when I saw him at the picnic table in the backyard trying
unsuccessfully to hold some loose papers together in the wind.
I tried not to read any of it as I helped him gather the pages,
but I did see the phrase "family of leaves," which I kept thinking
about. I considered it a beautiful phrase, though sad,
not to mention eerie, considering the coincidence of the blowing pages. I
wondered if he had come up with it himself or if he was quoting
somebody. I meant to google the phrase but didn’t, because I wanted him
to have made it up.

86. "Art begins with resistance--at the point where resistance is overcome.
No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."
-Andre Gide

I think the great labor can be spent in the years leading up to the writing of the masterpiece, but the writing of the masterpiece itself can be as effortless as a dream.

85. "The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order."
-Cocteau

84. I badly need to eat something but have zero-minus appetite.

83. I saw an old movie last night called "On Borrowed Time"
in which Death as a gentleman came to get an old man
who didn't want to go. Somehow the old man had gotten the power
to keep anybody who went up in his big apple tree up there in the
tree, so he tricked Death up in the tree to get him an apple before
he took him, and so death was stuck up there. Death was cordial
and patient throughout. At one point the old man asked Death
what he knew about something, and Death said, "I am unknowing."
I recommend the movie, although (SPOILER COMING) I must warn
the squeamish among you--it ends happily.

82. I type with one finger, and a thumb for the spacebar.

81. I told you not to read this.

80. Do you think this whole thing suggests I feel I've written a masterpiece?

79. You know, some things are considered masterpieces at the time, and then later they are not considered masterpieces at all.

78. I don't understand people who are angry that certain things are considered masterpieces, even if it's obvious that those things are not masterpieces. That's why it's always important for me to remember that I get to decide.

77. The more I believe in experts, the less capable I am of discerning a masterpiece.

76. I didn't know who Flannery O'Connor was when I read the story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," and I said, "I don't know who this guy is, but he sure as hell can write."

75. How did my once-favorite NY Housewife become the most obnoxious of all?

74. I read that Shakespeare was a racist and we shouldn't put another dime in his pocket.

73. This can't be all there is, please, although what isn't here must be contained in this, or else it still doesn't make sense.

72. Did I say that I believe that the subject of a book has to be a mystery that is bigger than my brain, my intelligence, my knowledge, and yet that is what every word in the the book is about, what it dwells in? Well, not every word. I hate that when people say every word must serve the theme, or the point, or whatever. But every sentence, or at least every paragraph, that's OK. I've just begun to learn and
see and feel and appreciate the quiet wonder of a paragraph.

71. I have no appetite, no brain. I'm high on emptiness.

70. "The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence." -Cyril Connolly

I think I agree, but since every masterpiece is unlike any other, there is no telling what one is, because there is nothing to compare it to.

69. If you can't find your masterpiece, try to hide from it, and it will have no choice but to come looking for you.

0-68. "The human fool is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."
-Leonardo da Vinci

Oh, wait, that's "foot", not "fool". Sorry, Leo.

I'm free now & I believe my appetite is waking.

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2 comments:

L said...

You set out to accomplish a big task and though you didn't offer the full 100, the ones you did were very helpful.

Personally, #90 was probably the one that helped me the most. I've been overthinking things with my own work and now I see that more clearly. I just need to write what I think of as a 'masterpiece' and let everything else go. Thanks for that.

And in response to #87, I would like to say that 'family of leaves' is very beautiful phrase indeed.

Best of luck with your novel.

Richard Martin.... said...

Thank you, L. Everything I write about writing (and maybe everything I write period) I mean it in some way to inspire the determined writer to not only keep writing but to write his or her way, make his or her discoveries, find his or her voice, make and break his or her rules, and to see writing not (only) as a mad blind chase after bestselling masterpieces, cosmic fame, mountains of money, and the admiring eyes and words of billions of complete strangers, but . . . an utterly spiritual pursuit.