Monday, March 23, 2009

the hard stool

Nearing the end of Tim Hilton's big 2-volume Ruskin biography, which grows more & more melancholy, & that's in addition to the usual deathwatch of the final 50 pages of a life-story. But even as he sinks into madness, isolation, depression, etc., Ruskin still seems able to keep cranking out the prose.*

On the other hand, just read a review of a new George Steiner collection – a mere 28 of the one-hundred thirty-four pieces he published in the New Yorker between 1966 & 1997. And that's in addition to all the other essays, reviews, & books he was pumping out during that period.

And recently, thru the magic of Facebook – which rapidly seems to be supplanting many of the purely social functions of the blogosphere, for better or worse – got back in touch with a woman I knew in high school, who after various adventures has landed happily married in Ohio, dealing rare books & writing fantasy/romance novels. By my count, she's turned out 6 full-length novels over the past 3 or 4 years, each of them clocking in over 100,000 words. She blogs engagingly about her own writing, & details the interplay of plotting, drafting, editing, etc., and comes up with the (for me) eye-popping number of between 7000 & 9000 words produced per diem.

Heaven knows, I don't aspire to be John Ruskin; I'm not sure I'd want to be George Steiner (Guy Davenport: "well, his grad students are awfully erudite, aren't they?"); and (writing) fiction just isn't my bag (cf. Josh Corey's recent posts thereon). But I do wish writing weren't such a painful, slow process. I was enormously thrilled recently when I managed to knock out my last 3 projects in relatively rapid, 1000-2000 words-per-day bursts; but I wish I could sustain that momentum for more than a week or two. "Lying fallow" is one thing; constipation is something else altogether.

*Remind me to start blogging my way thru Ruskin again sometime soon.


plainwater said...

Ouchies on the Davenport quote re Steiner!: I never liked that guy (the second guy). And actually you said something about James Wood on the blog about how he puts you to sleep; I feel the same way about Steiner. He's all over the place in precisely a New Yorker sort of way.

My word verification is regess: is it a sign that I should rethink, or reguess, my thoughts on Steiner? Have I regressed in some way? Is Regis Philbin the way out of all this? Have I written a comment longer than anything on my own blog?

Ed Baker said...

John Ruskin...

and "blogging my way thru Ruskin"

this could take you a

I in mid 60's had an half dozen volumes maybe 10 of some collected/selected works of his...

wish I yet had them... what a "trip" via his "eye" (mind and heart)

Ruskin IS seminal figure re:

(almost) everything post post say 1896

was thinking of (finally) diving into The Complete Works of Ben Franklin for the rest of this year...

but now.... going to library to track down some Ruskin (The Stones of Venice, etc) and

"do some 'studying/reading'"


didn't Ruskin say (asomething like"

"if a book is worth reading, it's worth buying." ?

looking forward to this: your Ruskin notes..

thanks for the "kick"

wow... Ruskin sure knew how to paint clouds

I think his artist/painter student ran off with JR's crazy wife.... etc

Vance Maverick said...

I too would enjoy some Ruskin-blogging. In some ways my encounter with him (at the age of 20 or so) made me a reader, but not much remained with me (passages of Stones of Venice, the autobiography).

Norman Finkelstein said...

People sometimes remark that I'm a prolific writer, but I've never thought of myself as such. Still, I look back at what I've done and wonder how it all came to be. I couldn't possibly tell you how many words per diem I crank out on the average; it seems to come in moments in moments of intensity which somehow have accumulated over the years. But what is one remembered for anyway? Usually a book or two, sometimes as "little" as a single poem.

E. M. Selinger said...

Well, I just checked the calendar, and if I want to head into the breach again for promotion in 2010, that gives me 19 months to get some pieces out and published. And Parnassus doesn't count (not peer reviewed).


I was so proud of having two long essays done this year (Larry J and the Darwish piece). Two a year won't cut it, though, on that schedule. Can I, must I, really churn out more?

undine said...

A burst of 1000-2000 words a day sounds like a lot for academic writing. Maybe 7000-9000 words is possible for fantasy/romance novels, but people like Graham Greene used to write just 500 words a day, no more, and call it good. Poor Flaubert used to do less than that, I think. A lot depends on what you're writing.

Rebeca said...

One of the critics Steiner most reminds me of is Guy Davenport -- their erudition is similar, and there is much overlap in their interests. George Steiner at the New Yorker contains an essay on Davenport where Steiner, after praising numerous sentences, writes, "There would be no harm in simply using the remainder of this review to make a mosaic and montage of quotes."