New York Stuff and Frost

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This picture is on a ranch in the middle of Colorado.  I am moving soon to Iowa for a year.  I tell people and they say back, “When are you moving to Idaho or Ohio.”  Yes, we are vast and we are losing touch with our roots.

Lately, I haven’t been reading books after Miss Packer, but I’m reading the New York Times magazine cover to cover and some 2011 New Yorkers.  Some articles remind me of the reason why I stopped my Creative Nonfiction magazine.  They’re a little too fancy pants.  Sure, I get their allusions to Leopold Bloom, to the Romantic period of art, but does everyone else?  And does it really help to bring these disparate references together?  I cringe, only because I teach a room of students how to write and most of them have not read Hemingway.   I subject my class to hard stuff like Out Out by Robert Frost. Not to overwhelm or to impress, but for them to engage.

There’s a reason it’s hard to read, I say.  It’s not just you.  He wants us to stop, get stopped up, to trip and listen as we read.  He wants us to experience the saw, hard and fast, and the smell of pine, the dispassionate people who go on getting ready for supper as the boy dies.

I guess the challenge is this: How do we make reading ready for the public, moreover, how do we connect people in a visceral way to something they’d never pick up?  Allusions are not the way.  They block and speak in high tones.  We need to whisper, and grab, get down to our roots, then let go.

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8 responses to “New York Stuff and Frost

  1. It’s so interesting that you posted this today, Elizabeth. I was just talking to my daughter about literature and how much I dislike reading a novel that is so concerned with being “literary” that the fancy words and references take me away from the heart of the story. I certainly appreciate good literature, but sometimes I just want to get caught up in the characters and the plot and not have to analyze every phrase for the hidden meaning. For a little while, at least, I just want to jump in and lose myself in the story! Great post.

  2. You know, it’s been brewing. We all like what we like and should be respected and not told what to like. It’s one thing showing someone why you like something, and another thing, totally, when you hold it over there heads as what they should like. 🙂

  3. So true, we all have different buttons that get pushed when we read and there’s no right or wrong, better or worse, there is just who we are and what we respond to, sometimes we have to undo what we learn in order to appreciate fully and feel ok about what we actually respond to. Great post Elisabeth.

  4. Nice reply, Claire. I agree – and I like the concept of “unlearning” to gain perspective.

  5. Great post! I think I was always drawn to African American female writers because, unlike some portentous and pretentious writers from say, the Boston area, these women wrote their truth. There was no fucking around. It’s impossible to read the first page of The Color Purple and not be riveted, just as it’s impossible not to fall in love with Lucille Clifton and her beloved hips.

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