The better the writer, the more of the world she gives you, generally speaking, and I don't mean geographically, of course. A good writer is not so self-absorbed, she sees no one but herself. My friend ZZZ is a fairly mediocre writer because rarely can he bring anyone to life. Each of his political essays or slice of life sketches features himself, front and center, hamming it up, so all you see, pretty much, is ZZZ.
With that in mind, a writer must train herself to observe and hear people as attentively as possible. Everyone's speech is interesting, so get that down. Take Pascal. How would you describe him in, say, three sentences? Quote something he said from last night. It's not easy, see. As you sit in front of someone, compose a description about him/her in your head. Even for a very seasoned writer, this is always a huge challenge.
Sex and death give weight and resonance to any writing. Instead of taking sex and death literally, they should be considered as categories into which nearly everything fits.
Sex includes talking, smiling, looking at someone in the eye, worrying about another's welfare, sharing one's life story, confessing, leaning into someone, walking by someone...
Death includes saying no, withholding any kindness, losing anything, betrayal, feeling cold, being ignored, not being understood, being belittled...
Moment to moment, sex and death surface constantly, and since a good writer is a keen observer, she will notice each moment, and know how to isolate the significant words, gestures and details to remind readers that sex and death are always present.
Sex is but a temporary relief from loneliness. Death is its final confirmation. In the end, all we're writing about is loneliness.
Monday, December 19, 2016
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.