Fellow Odysseers of the Word and of the Drink, here’s a midweek update from your favorite podcast about creative writing, literature, drinking, and the Life:
Episode 6, in which Jaroslav Kalfar and I discuss Stephen King’s On Writing, will appear this weekend. In this book, Stephen King (no relation to me, as far as I know) gives his readers homework, which Jaroslav and I did like good (if petulant) little boys. Plus Debbie Weaver shares one hell of an essay.
Outside of my narcissistic orbit, Michael Cunningham (of The Hours fame) published a grandiloquent, two-part screed in The New Yorker’s blog on his role as a Pulitzer jurist in this frustrating year without an actual Pulitzer prize winner.
Part 1, a Letter from the Pulitzer Fiction Jury: What Really Happened This Year, offers abundant behind-the-scenes insight into the process of the jury, whose purpose is to select three books out of about three hundred to present to the Pulitzer prize committee as finalists, but doesn’t really explain what really happened, since it is the committee that selects the winner, or the non-winner. Apparently not all of the protocols were followed by the committee; when a committee refuses all three selections, it is supposed to ask for an alternate, which the jury has at the ready. But reading Michael Cunningham’s discussion of his passion for reading, and the transcendence of literature, is breathtaking.
Part 2, How to Define Greatness?, puts this travesty into historical perspective, and meditates upon the cultural meaning of the prize itself.
Michael Cunningham won the Pulitzer himself in 1999 for The Hours.
I adore this man, incidentally. He was especially kind to me when I was an MFA student at NYU. Of course, it helped that I snagged him a glass of wine before the MFA students guzzled all of it down at the reception after his reading.
One of the Pulitzer finalists this year was David Foster Wallace for his posthumous novel, The Pale King. I have to confess that I have not yet read this book. To me, David Foster Wallace simply means too fucking much to come even close to saying goodbye to. To me, DFW is is like what John Lennon was to hippies, what Kurt Cobain was to Generation X. Through his writing, Wallace taught me that I could be smart and silly and grand and emotional and somehow sincere in this unbelievably exhausted, pre-bought-and-sold culture. As Wallace Stevens said of poetry, David Foster Wallace helped me to live. He still does.
I still haven’t read DFW’s Everything and More (his tome on the idea of infinity ), nor his commencement speech (published as This is Water ) or all the stories in Oblivion (2004). I must brace myself for the posthumous release of his essay collection, Both Flesh and Not (which drops on November 27). I need the idea that there is still a new DFW book out there for me to read. That’s not too crazy, is it?
In September, Urban ReThink in downtown Orlando will be having an evening of DFW readings. I will be there, and hopefully I will be quite drunk.
If you get the chance, get a hold of the audio-book of Consider the Lobster. It’s a delicious companion.
That’s all until this weekend, gang.