Great writers have the ability to be absorbed in the details of the world they write about. They present colorful detailed descriptions, portray moods and nuances of human personality, entertain us by bending phrases and words in ways we have never read, inject oddities and crudities into their text to keep us interested, shock us with unexpected twists and turns of narrative, and in general high jack our lives--at least for a few hours--with a delivery system (a book) that we can't escape. In short, great writers cause us to read.
Anne Lamott is working on my brain at the moment. I am absorbed in the life-particulars of some chic from the Bay Area whose autodidactic solypsistic crap is now splattered all over my soul. I am jealous of her success, and I am slightly angered that I can't put her scribblings down--she has captured me--she is taking hours of my life now, and she doesn't even know me. I have read 80 pages of "Traveling Mercies" and have even squirted a few tears when she introduced her Jesus at the end of chapter one. What's next?--who knows?--but with 200 more pages to read, I may have to skip American Idol tonight--do ya think!
OK--so what? The "so what" is--we gotta paint like this babe writes! Paint landscapes that may have your thrown in jail--Levitan did. Paint figures whose humanity in palpable--Velasquez did. Paint the ocean so that one can smell the salt air--Guy Rose did. Paint something-- anything!--except that god forsaken, money making, pot boiling thing you are now working on--you know-- the one you have done a hundred times--the one all of your collectors expect you to paint--the one that brought you money and notoriety!
I facticize about an art show where the artist gives his work away to the onlooker whose heart is right--who wants artwork for the right reasons--the one whose soul will consume the food our paintings serve up. If you or I, dear fellow artist, were to stage a show like that--would anybody come? Would anybody go home with our free gift? Let's find out. You go first, and tell me what happens--I'm going back to my book--Don