Content Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Making life add up in art

December 28, 2016 | 17 Comments

Sign me, Bemused

December 3, 2015 | 30 Comments

Way back in graduate school I wrote a paper on the misuse of forte. It means a person’s strong suit when pronounced “fort” but refers to a loud musical passage when pronounced as its spelling indicates, for-tey. Or once it did. The distinction has almost been lost partly because people who knew better began mispronouncing forte to fit in.

Which I think is what interested me, that cognitive dissonance. Everyone wants to belong, to be admired by her or his chosen group. So I was upset when I realized recently that I’d misused the word “bemused” several times in my book, Shepherd: A Memoir. The memorable one to me involves our ewe Big Mama and her sardonic attitude toward me. I said she was bemused by me.

But bemused does not mean “extra amused”; it means bewildered or confused; a secondary meaning is lost in thought. The word is so rampantly misused that its meaning may be changing. And even when used correctly, its meaning often is unclear.

Here’s Mary Karr, describing her father as her storytelling model, in The Art of Memoir: “He had a talent for physical detail and a bemused attention to the human comedy.” Karr is a best-selling memoirist and a respected poet, so we must assume she’s using the word correctly here. Or must we? I think so. Yet Karr intends praise, and it’s more flattering to her father to picture him as amused by the human comedy than confused by it. Maybe he’s just a bit puzzled like everyone else in this comedy of errors we call life.

You can see the lack of clarity flowing from this slippery word.

[Read More]

Hinterlands man

September 18, 2014 | 13 Comments

Michael Perry is what so many people are trying to be. Not a writer, though he’s that—many times over—too. He’s a local. A local boy who went off and came back and made it big by putting down roots and celebrating his people and his place. But he’s not exactly your garden-variety local because he writes. And because his work has high literary merit and aspirations.

Perry self-published four books before he got an agent. Then, writing about his hometown through the lens of his work as a first-responder, he found his deepest material. Swinging for the fence, he produced Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, published first in hardback in 2002.

“You have to write something every day, even if it’s junk, to keep those gears turning,” said Perry, now the author of nine trade books, to a group I’m affiliated with, Hospice of Central Ohio. He was the keynote speaker last Thursday for our annual conference, held in the depressed middling-size Ohio city of Newark.

In Population: 485, here’s how Perry says he tells aspiring writers the secret of his success: “Stubbornness and blind luck, I want to say, but they’re looking for something tangible, so I tell them I discovered the secret years ago while cleaning my father’s calf pens. That is, you just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice.”

[Read More]

Noted: Jonah Lehrer’s downfall

July 31, 2012 | 12 Comments

Yesterday I got around to reading the New York Times Book Review’s full-page massacre of Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, and wished I’d been even more grudging in my own piece touching on the bestseller. Then later in the day the news broke that Lehrer had invented quotes he attributed to Bob Dylan, and I wished I’d mentioned my own reservations about the Dylan material, which appears early in the book. They were these: • Dylan’s use seemed gratuitous in …

[Read More]

Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, Walker Percy, Fannie Flagg

October 12, 2011 | 11 Comments

My southern fiction orgy last summer started with Flannery O’Connor. Since I often dip into her stories, I bought and read the latest bio of her, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch. I hoped to learn how she got so wise, and so dark. Apparently, her mother and their ouchy relationship. And Flannery’s imaginings: she seemingly nudged her own prickly ways a bit to depict sullen grown children like the nasty daughter-with-PhD in “Good Country People”; she …

[Read More]

Charlotte Roche, Mick Jagger, creativity

June 12, 2011 | 5 Comments

Charlotte Roche introduces her interview with Mick Jagger in German, then talks with him in English. Charlotte Roche is the author of Wetlands, a novel, according to The Guardian, that “makes the Vagina Monologues sound tame,” and which has been a big hit in Europe, especially in Germany, where the author lives. I’d heard about it and how disgusting it is, but hadn’t read it until recently, intrigued by a student’s struggle to review it on campus for a literary …

[Read More]