Great stuff in Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, which I just finished reading a couple weeks ago. Some choice passages:
I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.
I won’t use the word “therapy,” it’s too clean, too sterile a word. I only say when death slows others, you must leap to set up your diving board and dive head first into your typewriter.
The therapy comment is perfect. I always find it annoying when artists of any medium say they do what they do as a form of “therapy.” Robin Williams has used the therapy line to describe his comedy. But therapy is too clean a word. Writing is more like the excretion of pain and neuroses (do you like my transgressive approach? In your face, Burroughs! Eat a bowl of dicks, Bukowski! ).
More from Ray:
Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.
After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
Here is a great passage about writing as “revenge” (emphasis mine).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, for instance, to throw down a copy of Harper’s Bazaar you happened to be leafing through at the dentist’s, and leap to your typewriter and ride off with hilarious anger, attacking their silly and sometimes shocking snobbish- ness? Years ago I did just that. I came across an issue where the Bazaar photographers, with their perverted sense of equality, once again utilized natives in a Puerto Rican backstreet as props in front of which their starved-looking mannikins postured for the benefit of yet more emaciated half-women in the best salons in the country. The photographs so enraged me I ran, did not walk, to my machine and wrote “Sun and Shadow,” the story of an old Puerto Rican who ruins the Bazaar photographer’s afternoon by sneaking into each picture and dropping his pants.
I dare say there are a few of you who would like to have done this job. I had the fun of doing it; the cleansing after effects of the hoot, the holler, and the great horselaugh. Probably the editors at theBazaar never heard. But a lot of readers did and cried, “Go it, Bazaar, go it, Bradbury!” I claim no victory. But there was blood on my gloves when I hung them up.
I like this line too:
Tom Wolfe ate the world and vomited lava.
And one of Bradbury’s last memories of his grandfather (emphasis mine again):
You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still made and files with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.
But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the starts, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.
I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.
No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathe out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they? And that one was me.
The wine still waits in the cellars below.
My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.
The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.
Why and How?
Because I say it is so.
Makes me think of my own grandfather. He used to get kind of wistful around the 4th of July every year and would always say something about the summer going by so fast. He was always aware that each summer might be his last.