Writer’s Desk: Don’t Work

In his novel Hollywood, a not-so-thinly-veiled account of working on the movie Barfly, Charles Bukowski wrote this:

Writing was never work for me. It had been the same for as long as I could remember: turn on the radio to a classical music station, light a cigarette or cigar, open the bottle. The typer did the rest…

Open the bottle, turn on the radio, have a smoke. Or find your own routine. Do what you need to do to let the words flow.

As they say, if you love your work, you never have to work a day in your life.

Writer’s Desk: Bukowski

bukowski-onwriting1Some authors become victims of their own caricatures, regardless of talent. So Hemingway is made the symbol of virile and manly artistry, Proust a languid dabbler, and so on.

Charles Bukowski was no different; and in some ways it was his fault. He is most remembered today as a kind of artful stewbum, churning out novels and poems even while drinking his way to the bottom of every bottle that came his way. His writing was well marinated in the last-call remnants of his alcoholic escapades.

Nevertheless, the man could knock out a killer line. And he wasn’t some natural, banging away at the keys like he was transmitting a message from the beyond. Like the best writers, Bukowski was fluid but aware. He knew he could write. And he could tell you how.

In the collection On Writing, Bukowski provides a glimpse of the method behind the madness, particularly as it relates to the rules (of grammar and other) that he never found much need for:

I didn’t pay a hell of a lot of attention to grammar, and when I write it is for the love of the word, the color, like tossing paint on a canvas, and using a lot of ear and having read a bit here and there, I generally come out ok, but technically I don’t know what’s happening, nor do I care.

… the very feeling of a good poem carries its own reason for being… Art is its own excuse, and it’s either Art or it’s something else. It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese.

The sanctuary of the rule means nothing to the pure creator …

(h/t: Brain Pickings)

Writer’s Desk: The American Writers Museum

Sometime in about 2017, there is going to be a new museum on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue right around Lake Street: The American Writers Museum.

According to Publishers Weekly, the project—which sounds both awesome and awesomely quixotic—has been in the works since 2010. Since there won’t be much that a museum of this sort can resort to in terms of permanent holdings (Mark Twain’s pipe, perhaps? Rooms full of first editions?), it looks like they will be focusing on attention-grabbing experiential and interactive exhibits.

writersmuseum1That will mean including things like an interactive “word waterfall.” Which only makes sense, as they will need to bring in the punters in between their Magnificent Mile shopping jag and stroll through Millennium Park. But that will also apparently mean the prospect of interesting-sounding exhibits like the one asking”Are you a Bukowski or Vonnegut?

Hopefully they will include writing workshops and other educational functions as part of the museum’s mission.

Now that it’s happening, it’s curious why this kind of museum is only now being created. Earlier this year, Chicago artist Mia Funk raised this point in an interview with the museum’s president Malcolm O’Hagan (who was initially inspired by the Dublin Writers Museum) in Tin House:

It does seem absurd that America has so many museums devoted to fine art–an activity which really doesn’t touch a lot of people’s lives–but in a country composed of so many immigrants and children of immigrants, where stories have played such a part in remembering our pasts and unifying us, that it has taken us so long to honor our writers collectively.

Here’s hoping they do our writers proud.

Perhaps the most important question, though: What are they going to sell in the bookstore?