Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Unicorn Writing

"Literature exists to help people know themselves."
~ Steve Almond ~
[See also ~ Magical Thinking
and "To Assume My Humanity"]


"Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it."
~ Simone de Beauvoir ~


Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone's face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive? Did I love?
These are the real questions.

~ Henri Nouwen ~


On a quest for self - knowledge? Do some reading; do some writing! The best approach I know to the "real questions"? Grab some books and some notebooks! The various writers and characters in the following selections question the impact of all kinds of literature on their understanding of peace, joy, healing, anger, resentment, forgiveness, and love:
Two - Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage
by Madeleine L'Engle

"And how could I call myself a writer? . . . Perhaps I am a real writer as long as I go on writing, as long as I go on trying, which I shall always do" (158, 137).

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

"He is not a writer, but he has thoughts about the profession, and he wants to tell her [his daughter Maya] those things" (246).

Homer and Langley
by E. L. Doctorow

". . . Langley used to bring back from the secondhand bookshops slim volumes of poetry and read from them as if they were news. Poems have ideas, he said. The ideas of poems come out of their emotions and their emotions are carried on images. That makes poems far more interesting than your novels, Homer. Which are only stories" (15).

Case Histories
by Kate Atkinson

"She should have studied science, not spent all her time with her head in novels. Novels gave you a completely false idea about life, they told lies and they implied there were endings when in reality there were no endings, everything just went on and on and on" (42).
[See also Annie Barrow ~ The Truth . . . ]

One more directive that I would add to Nouwen's list:

Did I contemplate my mortality today?

I remain perpetually perplexed by the inadequacy with which I see my elders approaching their end - of - life, even though they've had a lifetime of eight decades or more leading up to it. One of the best ways to prepare, it seems to me, is read a book or two, watch some movies. The concept does not require excessive sophistication: you could start with Little Women, Old Yeller, Jesus Christ Superstar. So many characters dying all the time, right?

Reading -- and contemplating what you have read-- will greatly enchance your comprehension of mortality, both your own and that of others. Hemingway and Huxley, each in their own way, point this out:
Death in the Afternoon
by Ernest Hemingway

". . . all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and . . . no true-story teller . . . would keep that from you"(from Chapter 9).

Foreword to the Second Edition of
Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

"And the prevailing philosophy of life would be a kind of Higher Utilitarianism, in which the Greatest Happiness principle would be secondary to the Final End principle -- the first question to be asked and answered in every contingency of life being: 'How will this thought or action contribute to, or interfere with, the achievement, by me and the greatest possible number of other individuals, of our Final End?' "

A few additional thoughts on risk & loss & love:
Two - Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage
by Madeleine L'Engle

"If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure. Marriage is a terrible risk. So is having children. So is giving a performance in the theatre, or the writing of a book. Whenever something is completed successfully, then we must move on, and that is again to risk failure" (173).

"Does a marriage end with the death of one of the partners? In a way, yes. I made my promises to Hugh 'till death do us part,' and that has happened. But the marriage contract is not the love that builds up over many years, and which never ends . . . despite our faults and flaws and failures, what we gave each other was good. I am who I am because of our years together, freed by his acceptance and love for me" (230).

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

"In Amelia's experience, most people's problems would be solved if they would only give more things a chance" (12).

"Friedman [a fictitious author] gets at something specific about what it is to lose someone. How it isn't one thing. he writes about how you lose and lose and lose" (99).

"'Maya, we are what we love. We are that we love. . . . We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read.
We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on," (251).


For more on the Readerly / Writerly Life
see my current posts

From the Desk of Ernest Hemingway:
"But never feel as good as while writing."


From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir:
On the Side of Happiness

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A literary blog of connection & coincidence;
custom & ceremony


From the Desk Of

@ Kitti's Book List

1 comment:


    John Gray: "Back to the future. Aldous Huxley was very much a product of his time: racist, snobbish and superior. But he was also a visionary, a chronicler of our disturbed modernity."

    The Provocations of Lenina in Huxley's Brave New World
    by David Higdon

    Misogyny in Huxley’s Brave New World?
    by Panarkaminski

    A Woman First Wrote the Prescient Ideas Huxley and Orwell Made Famous
    by Ephrat Livni