Quotes from a Master: Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll


“Everything has got a moral if you can only find it.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.”

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
~Alice in Wonderland

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
~Alice in Wonderland

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
~Said by the King to the White Rabbit

From Wikipedia:

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pron.: /ˈtʃɑrlz ˈlʌtwɪdʒ ˈdɒdʒsən/ CHARLZ LUT-wij DOJ-sən;[1][2] 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll (/ˈkærəl/ KARR-əl), was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy, and there are societies in many parts of the world (including the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand) dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works and the investigation of his life.

An Interview with Michael Chabon



Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon

**Interview pulled from failbetter.com**

failbetter.com:  Your new novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, appears to be a far more ambitious project in terms of plot than your previous two novels.  How much research did you have to conduct in order to recreate the life and times of 1930s Brooklyn, never mind Prague?  The portion of the book excerpted in The New Yorker detailed Josef’s initial allegorical attempts at escapism — how much of the subject matter did you already possess a personal or familial knowledge of?

Michael Chabon:  I did a lot of research.  I was lucky enough to be living, in LA and then here in Berkeley, in towns with amazing university libraries, of which I freely availed myself.  I spent a month in New York doing research, both “on location” (visiting neighborhoods and settings) and in the library of the New-York Historical Society.  I buried myself in old issues of the New Yorker, which was a deeply pleasurable activity.  I’ve always been entranced by old typography, old cars and clothes, the language of old advertisements.  I could sit for hours just paging through those big bound editions of the New Yorker.  It was such an amazing gift to me, to have that incredibly detailed weekly snapshot of the city, month after month, year after year, all through the thirties and forties.  The research was actually, I think, a motivation for writing the book in the first place.  I was looking forward to doing it, and it turned out to be one of the most fun aspects of working on the novel.  

I knew very little about escape artistry when I began the book–I had no idea that it would play any part at all in the action, characterization or, God knows, thematics of the book.  It just appeared one day, fairly early on, in Joe Kavalier’s life, and I was obliged to go inform myself.  There’s an awful lot of stuff out there about magic and escape artistry in general and Harry Houdini in particular.  It’s very rich material and very underused in fiction.  I had to struggle with myself not to get carried away, to hold that part of the story in balance with the other parts.

failbetter.com:  You once said, if you’ll allow us to paraphrase — The only books that change my life now, not necessarily for the better, are my own.  In that vein, how did The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay effect your life?  Can you qualify it as a positive experience – or is it simply too soon to tell?  Is such experience solely based upon the writing or somewhat tempered by public reaction?

Michael Chabon:  It really is too soon to say.  Though the writing of it is finished, the process of getting it out there and having people read it is yet to come, and that is undoubtedly a big part of the “life-changing” aspect of a book for me.  But I can say that I have learned a great deal about my writing through the years I spent on the thing.  I discovered strengths I had hoped that I possessed–the ability to pull off multiple points of view, historical settings, the passage of years–but which had never been tested before; I also encountered certain limitations which I will not go into, if you don’t mind.  It was interesting to me to go back, when I had finished, and look at a sort of self-proposal I had typed up, way back before I even began writing, as to what I imagined the book was going to be about.  After four years and four months (and four days), countless revisions, drafts, cuts and drastic alterations, and a lot of wandering around in the dark, it had turned out to be almost exactly what I had once envisioned.  I was really surprised.  And seeing that has, I think, given me more confidence in that quality of “pre-vision.”

failbetter.com:  In your education, as a both a reader and writer, you have cited the influence of such great authors as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and John Cheever, among others.  But The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay seems to draws some of inspiration from… comic books.  So, we dare ask, what was your inspiration for the new book?  What “influences” would you cite?

Michael Chabon:  The same; the usual; it rarely changes.  Perhaps you might add William Boyd, a recent discovery and passion.  But the ghosts of Nabokov and Garcia were hovering over me all the way through this book…  I kept seeing butterflies, VN-shades haunting me, at every crucial moment in the writing of the book.

But as far as the inspiration for this book, it was reading about Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the creators of Superman, and how they sold the rights to the character to DC Comics for $100.00.  That’s not what my book is about, but it was the combination of wild imagination, male partnership, popular art, and commercial failure that resonated, and got me started…

failbetter.com:  The recent film adaptation of Wonder Boys was a critical and box office success.  We understand that your first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, may also be adapted for film in the near future.  At one time, you even had an opportunity to be involved in the writing of the X Men Movie.  How would you characterize your involvement in the movie making business?  Has it been enjoyable to see you work come to the silver screen?  What frustrations, if any, have accompanied the process?

Michael Chabon:  My work in the movie (and television) business has, for the last eight or nine years, been steady, remunerative, and, with one exception, fruitless.  I have written two original screenplays, unproduced, created two hour-long TV dramas, as yet unproduced, developed another idea (a really cool idea) that died before the script stage, and made a doomed pass with my lance at the giant windmill of  X-Men.

The exception, of course, was Wonder Boys, but I had nothing to do with that one, really.  Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

I am a big movie buff, but I do this kind of work mostly because my family’s health insurance comes through the screenwriter’s guild.  I need to make a certain minimum amount of money every year as a screenwriter or our coverage lapses.  There have been moments of great pleasure for me, however, in the course of working in Hollywood.  I have enjoyed conceiving the ideas, writing the first drafts, imagining the ideas up there on the screen or beamed into twenty million living rooms.  And I just love going onto the studio lots, especially Paramount, my first, and still the most romantic to me, rich in associations with Adolph Zukor, the Marx Brothers, Sunset Boulevard…

failbetter.com:  You maintain your own web site, perhaps one of the best author sites on the web, for your fans and general Internet inquisitors (http://home.earthlink.net/~mchabon).  What has this experience been like?  What positive aspects do you think the Internet has added to the literary world?  Do you envision any possible negative implications of the process?

Michael Chabon:  It’s kind of you to say that I maintain it.  I feel like all I do is let it languish.  

I think the main reason I put up a web site (www.michaelchabon.com also works) was because it seemed like a good excuse to play with my computer instead of writing.  I enjoyed learning how to write HTML, and now that it’s there, I like having a place to put things I’ve published that won’t, chances are, be reprinted anywhere else.  When I have something in a newspaper or magazine, I always picture people all over the country throwing it away when they’re done with it, putting it in the recycling.  That kind of piece, the travel things, the little essays, never really lasted, before the web. Now it can. It may not be brilliant stuff, but at least it all has the virtue of being free.

I rely heavily on the Web for research; it saved my life many times while I was working on the new book.

I am sure that people, one day soon, will be able to share novels the way they now share MP3s.  And then I will be one of the people screaming about artists’ rights, thinking back with chagrin on the days when I so cheerfully downloaded “Kung Fu Fighting” without paying Carl Douglas a dime.

failbetter.com:  In the past year, we’ve seen several works by new authors touted by both the critics and the general reading public as the “writers of the future” – i.e. White Teeth or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  It wasn’t that long ago that you debuted with such high critical acclaim.  Fortunately, you avoided the sophomore slump.  Seeing the recent media mania surrounding some of these young authors – do you miss the initial sensation of being “the next big thing?”  What advice could you give to these new writers to avoid the pitfall of being labeled a one hit wonder?

Michael Chabon:  I don’t miss it – the experience of being the NBT – so much as wish that I had, at the time, enjoyed it more.

I have no doubt that Ms. Smith and Mr. Eggers will write even better books as they go along.  And I hope that they have more fun being young geniuses than I did.


From Wikipedia:

Michael Chabon (pron.: /ˈʃeɪbɒn/ SHAY-bon; born May 24, 1963) is an American author and “one of the most celebrated writers of his generation,” according to The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Chabon’s first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), was published when he was 25 and catapulted him to literary celebrity. He followed it with a second novel, Wonder Boys (1995), and two short-story collections. In 2000, Chabon published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a critically acclaimed novel that John Leonard, in a 2007 review of a later novel, called Chabon’s magnum opus.It received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 (see: 2001 in literature).

His novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, an alternate history mystery novel, was published in 2007 to enthusiastic reviews and won the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards; his serialized novel Gentlemen of the Road appeared in book form in the fall of that same year. Chabon’s most recent novel, Telegraph Avenue, published in 2012 and billed as “a twenty-first century Middlemarch“, concerns the tangled lives of two families in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the year 2004.

His work is characterized by complex language, the frequent use of metaphor along with recurring themes, including nostalgia, divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and most notably issues of Jewish identity.He often includes gay, bisexual, and Jewish characters in his work. Since the late 1990s, Chabon has written in an increasingly diverse series of styles for varied outlets; he is a notable defender of the merits of genre fiction and plot-driven fiction, and, along with novels, he has published screenplays, children’s books, comics, and newspaper serials.

Philip Pullman On Creative Inspiriation: Write to Please Yourself

Interviewed by Douglas Eby

Author Philip Pullman notes that he has “published nearly twenty books, mostly of the sort that are read by children.”

But we adults can certainly enjoy the richness of his stories – one of them was made into a favorite movie of mine: The Golden Compass.

In a Q&A interview on his site, he also addresses a number of questions about his life and work as a writer – giving perspectives that can be meaningful to any creative person.

Were you encouraged to be creative?

No, I was ignored. When anyone took any notice it was to point out what a twit I was, and laugh at me.

This was the best possible preparation for the life of a novelist.

If you have grown-ups fussing over you and encouraging you and taking an interest, you begin to think you’re important, and furthermore that you need and deserve their attention.

After a while you become incapable of working without someone else motivating you. You’re much better off supplying your own energy, and writing in spite of the fact that no-one’s interested, and even learning to put up with other people’s contempt and ridicule. What do they know, anyway?

What inspires you?

Three things. (1) Money. I do this for a living. If I don’t write well, I won’t earn enough money to pay the bills.

(2) The desire to make some sort of mark on the world – to make my name known. To leave something behind that will last a little longer than I do.

(3) The sheer pleasure of craftsmanship: the endlessly absorbing delight of making things – in my case, stories – and of gradually learning more about how they work, and how to make them better.

Who do you write for – children or adults?

Myself. No-one else. If the story I write turns out to be the sort of thing that children enjoy reading, then well and good.

But I don’t write for children: I write books that children read. Some clever adults read them too.

How long does it take me to write a book?

It depends on how long the book is. THE FIREWORK-MAKER’S DAUGHTER took me six weeks, THE AMBER SPYGLASS three years.

What advice would I give to anyone who wants to write?

Don’t listen to any advice, that’s what I’d say.

Write only what you want to write. Please yourself. YOU are the genius, they’re not.

Especially don’t listen to people (such as publishers) who think that you need to write what readers say they want.

Readers don’t always know what they want. I don’t know what I want to read until I go into a bookshop and look around at the books other people have written, and the books I enjoy reading most are books I would never in a million years have thought of myself.

So the only thing you need to do is forget about pleasing other people, and aim to please yourself alone.

That way, you’ll have a chance of writing something that other people WILL want to read, because it’ll take them by surprise.

It’s also much more fun writing to please yourself.

Quotes from philip-pullman.com

Philip Pullman books

From Wikipedia: 

Philip Pullman CBE, FRSL (born 19 October 1946) is an English writer from Norwich. He is the author of several best-selling books, most notably the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials and the fictionalised biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. In 2008, The Times named Pullman one of the “50 greatest British writers since 1945”.

The first book of His Dark Materials (Northern Lights) won the 1995 Carnegie Medal in Literature from the Library Association, recognising the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British subject. For the 70th anniversary of the Medal it was named one of the top ten winning works by a panel, composing the ballot for a public election of the all-time favourite. Northern Lights won the public vote from that shortlist and was thus named the all-time “Carnegie of Carnegies” on 21 June 2007. It has been adapted as a film under its U.S. title, The Golden Compass.