Friday, October 26, 2012


I am going to officially pause this blog for an indefinite period.

I have done a couple of posts since this past May, when my wife died.

I've tried to stay connected to some essential part of me that enables me to read and write, to critique, but I think the writing I need to do right now is not for public consumption.

I don't know how else to say it, because it seems as simple as that.

I'll be back here, I believe. Eventually.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mo Yan

Congratulations to Mo Yan for winning the Nobel for literature, 2012.

I saw this writer once at the Toronto Reference Library and mentioned him in a 2009 blog post here about Richard Van Camp, connecting Mo, Richard and William Faulkner.

I saw Richard talk about his writing once, at a First Nations cultural festival at Harbourfront in Toronto, and he spoke about the stress of modernity on Aboriginal communities in the north. His stories attempted to capture that. I told him afterwards that I had seen Mo Yan say something similar about his work. It was about capturing the stress of modernity on rural communities in China. Yan had said he had learned to write about that partly from William Faulkner.

Strange connections? Not at all.

When I saw Yan, he didn't read. He didn't speak English. He was interviewed by translator. He spoke about how the Communist government allowed him to publish his novels while also requiring him to write detective drama for television. His novels sold in the multi-millions, but mostly in pirated copies. He shrugged.

So it goes, as Vonnegut would have said. Did say.

It's a moment I will never forget. Here was a guy writing with a market audience, but without a market payoff. Writing detective dramas for TV, not because his novels didn't sell, but because he was given no alternative. His novels sold, but he didn't reap the profit.

What's to say, except good job Nobel Committee, but don't jinx the guy.

Hemingway kept a couple of novels in draft in a vault in Havana, I once read. Because he didn't want to sell them because they could be sold. He wanted to be sure that they were good. Wanted them to rest and test the tides of time.

Compare and contrast with J.K. Rowling.

I have the above newspaper headline clipped to the wall above my desk.

Every time I read that I shudder.

How much larger could you get?

So, Mo, resist the urge to go for the gold. Resist the urge to be all Nobelesque.

Stay in the groove, man. Just, go.