Archives for posts with tag: Novelists

Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man
by Massimo Soranzio

The pity is,
the public will demand
and find
a moral—
or worse.

On the honour of a gentleman,
I will not serve that
which I no longer believe:
not one single
serious line.

I have recorded,
what a man says, sees, thinks—
studied through a microscope in the morning,
repeated through a telescope in the evening.

I will express myself
as wholly as I can,
using for my defense
silence, exile
and cunning.

Neither more,
nor less alone,
not only separate from all
others, but to have
not even one friend.

No drama
behind the historical raving:
they are all there,
all the great talkers,
for the first hunt of the season.

and all the things they forgot,
bringing on the rain—
and we
wanting to go for a stroll.

SOURCE: “James Joyce — A Portrait of the Man Who is, at Present, One of the More Significant Figures in Literature” by Djuna Barnes, Vanity Fair (April 1922).

IMAGE: Novelist James Joyce (1882-1941), drawing by Djuna Barnes, Vanity Fair (April 1922).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I found this interview to a celebrity from the past, James Joyce, by mere chance. Though not one of my favourite authors, Joyce has played an important role in my life, accompanying and inspiring me on several occasions. His answers in this interview, published around the publication, on his 40th birthday, of his masterpiece Ulysses, were poetic per se, so I just selected and reordered his words to produce this sketchy self-portrait of the writer.

Massimo Soranzio1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio writes on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, about 20 miles from Trieste. He teaches English as a foreign language and English literature in a high school, and has been a journalist, a translator, and a freelance lecturer on Modernist literature and literary translation. He posts some of his found and constraint-based poetry on his blog,

Did you ever purchase a used book and find that it included some underlined passages? This used to annoy me — until today, when I was looking for inspiration and picked up Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I flipped open the book to page 41 and found an underlined passage that read like a poem (maybe I was just in the right mood). Here it is:

An underlined passage from Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Delta, 1963), page 41

The more truth
we have to work with,
the richer we become.

NOTE: If you’ve found a poem in an underlined passage from a book, send it to, along with the publisher, copyright date, and page number, and a one-paragraph bio, and we may feature it on our blog.


“The house became full of love. Aureliano expressed it in poetry that had no beginning and no end. He would write it on the harsh pieces of parchment that Melquiades gave him, on the bathroom walls, on the skin of his arms, and in all of it Remedios would appear transfigured: Remedios in the soporific air of two in the afternoon, Remedios in the soft breath of the roses, Remedios in the water-clock secrets of the moths, Remedios in the steaming morning bread, Remedios everywhere and Remedios forever…”

One Hundred Years of Solitude


Find One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at


…human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at age 87. We are forever grateful for his brilliance, inspiration, and influence. His novels, including his masterwork One Hundred Years of Solitude, are among the greatest works of art of all time. Thank you for your life and work, Señor Garcia Marquez! You will live on!


Black Sparrow Press published Dreams of Bunker Hill in 1982, the year before John Fante passed away at age 74. During Fante’s final years, he suffered the debilitating effects of diabetes — losing both his vision and his legs to the disease. But despite the challenges and disappointments in his life — including frustrating years as a Hollywood screenwriter — Fante never lost that “animal gusto” (to use Raymond Chandler‘s expression) that allowed him to create great works of art.

Case in point is his final novel Dreams of Bunker HIll — a bookend to his masterpiece Ask the Dust — which explores the writing career of his fictional alter ego Arturo Bandini. Dreams of Bunker Hill is fresh, full of life, funny, and feels like the work of a young man — though a blind, septuagenarian Fante dictated the book to his wife Joyce, who transcribed his words into written form.

April 8, 2014 marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of John Fante, author of Ask the Dust, the novel that Charles Bukowski said showed him how to write prose. The Sad Flower in the Sand is a jazzy, moody one-hour documentary from 2001 — directed by Jan Louter — that explores Fante’s life through his words and comments from significant people in his life, including screenwriter Robert Towne, author Stephen Cooper, wife Joyce Fante, and sons Dan Fante and Jim Fante.


“The serious writer has always taken the flaw in human nature for his starting point, usually the flaw in an otherwise admirable character. Drama usually bases itself on the bedrock of original sin, whether the writer thinks in theological terms or not. Then, too, any character in a serious novel is supposed to carry a burden of meaning larger than himself. The novelist doesn’t write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, the total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason, the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama. ” FLANNERY O’CONNOR

SOURCE: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, available at

ImageToday we celebrate the birth of one of the all-time greatest of the great writers — Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. Author of two novels — Wise Blood (1952), which she holds on her lap in the photo above, and The Violent Bear It Away (1960) — and 32 short stories, O’Connor created a lasting body of work in her short life (she died 50 years ago — in 1964 at age 39).

Kurt Vonnegut said of her, “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my [writing] rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.” (For the record, Vonnegut’s first rule of writing is: “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” Read the complete list at this link.)

Here’s a favorite Flannery O’Connor quote: “I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both time and eternity.”


“Fitzgerald was a better just plain writer than all of us put together.”


SOURCE:  The Selected Letters of John O’Hara (1978)


He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it’s a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It’s not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It’s a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.” 

RAYMOND CHANDLER referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1950 letter to a friend

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-88103 DLC.