Enormous Art

Photo credit: Margey Autero, from a photo gallery on Cleveland Heights Patch

It snowed all day in Cleveland. Not blizzardy gross heavy snow, or scary violent winter storm snow, just a steady, patiently relentless stream of soft, quiet snow. The sky is white, the ground is white, the trees are white. Sometimes what was coming down looked liked fluffy chunks of cotton candy, giant conglomerations of snowflakes all stuck together. In summer this would be the kind of all-day light rain that sends me into a kind of ecstatic melancholy, so it only makes sense that I would like it in winter too. And, it is good at this latitude for winter to be winter. (Not that I would want to run in it.)

I finally, finally watched this video of Junot Diaz speaking at Google about his writing (Drown, Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, and This Is How You Lose Her) and the state of literature in general.

My friend Jane, who is not a writer but is an avid reader, sent it to me months ago. It is hard for me to find 42 minutes of uninterrupted time when I am not trying to get my own writing done, but I have kept it tucked away for an evening like this. Z was occupied with her friends upstairs, O not home, David out running, and I am cleaning the kitchen and making meatballs, and geeking out on Junot Diaz.

I love especially what he has to say about the question about Jonathan Franzen's pronouncement about wanting to return to the origins of American literature [starting 22:36]. Diaz's insistence that humans have lived through weirder, harder times than these and have managed to create "enormous art" (I love that phrase) is an argument I have made frequently. His vision of art is not of an elite rarefied practice but as a basic function of humanity. This is a regular theme of his. I heard him speak at the AWP conference a couple years ago about the tyranny of the "culture of respectability," and the importance of art from the margins. It is gratifying that he uses his elite status and mantle of respectability (Pulitzer, MacArthur, etc etc) to make these points repeatedly. Hearing him reminds me of why the business of reading and writing is so important to me and it makes me miss teaching.

Also listened to Joshua Bell on WCPN from a couple weeks ago when he was in town. I love it when he says he still yells at himself to practice.

Reading: Diaz says he reads a book every 2 or 3 days, because that's his job. There have been times when I read that much (in grad school sometimes even more, though I'm not sure that kind of desperate absorption of text is really reading exactly). I can't realistically read that much now, but I do aspire to read more. Still working my way through the Nalo Hopkinson. And the stack of others by my bed is grumbling at me.

Writing: Yes, made some great discoveries about a particularly difficult scene, and also some good revision. A solid 4+ hours. The only thing that made me unhappy was stopping, but then I got to go and cook and listen to Junot Diaz.

Dinner: Homemade meatballs (the scallions are the secret to their fabulosity) and spaghetti for Z and her two bestest friends - friends since infancy - and buttered green beans. David made chocolate chip cookies, per her request, for dessert.

Soundtrack: After Diaz and Bell, I put on a James Brown mix.

And for your song of the day: My first love song. Not coincidentally this scored the romantic montage in Valley Girl.

Random thing: After dinner I went to visit my friend Paula. In the lobby of her building someone had tacked up an announcement of a house sale with a long, strangely specific list of items on offer, including "15 GI Joe and Star Wars action figures in original packaging from the 70s and 80s, plus 8  more from the 90s"  and  "126 drapery pins." I wish I had taken a picture.


  1. I love Junot Diaz. And Modern English. And homemade meatballs. And big lazy snow flakes that poof when you stomp on them.

  2. I am so conditioned by FB that I want to "like" your comment. I also salivate when bells ring.


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