Monday, January 29, 2007

Doubt

I was listening to an interview with a famous singer-songwriter many years ago, and this man (maybe David Crosby?) likened songs to treasures in a river running above our heads (maybe it was Tom Waits - sounds like some bizarro thing he might say). He said good songwriters can just reach into the Great River Above and pluck out a song. His closing soundbite was "I'm just glad I'm not downstream from Bob Dylan." (right)

I wish I could remember the guy. As I recall he was accomplished and interesting, which is why it sticks with me. There's always going to be an author I read and say to myself "Thank God I'm not downstream from her."

Right now, and perhaps always, Raymond Carver is my Bob Dylan. When I read his work I feel a pain in my heart, like seeing a man I love kissing another woman. Every sentence, each character - when I read his stories it's like watching my own failings jangled in front of me, mocking me.

Do you know who said this thing? This thing about the river? It's haunting me.

27 Comments:

Anonymous TB said...

I don't know who said it, but I know just exactly what you mean. Michael Cunningham does that to me. I re-read his sentences just to let them sit on my tongue and melt. Then I read them again and swallow them whole in the hope that by ingesting them, I will acquire a miniscule portion of his talent.

1/29/2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if I had known at some point, it would've gotten mixed up when I read Stephen King's latest novel Lisey's Story, in which he describes inspiration as a pool, where we all go down and dip out words.

1/29/2007 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's normal to have that reaction to Carver. There was a controversy some years back regarding to what degree his sparse brilliance was due to his editor; I tried to harp on that to make me feel better, but it didn't work.

1/29/2007 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was Arlo Guthrie.

1/29/2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

Carver. Sigh.

1/29/2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger meno said...

I went through a time when i read all of Carver's works. Sigh. It was brilliant.

Then i read Dashiell Hammett. Pretty damn good, but just not quite as...as..etherial.

1/29/2007 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to do the same thing with paintings that really move me. They can be by complete no-bodies, but when it hits that chord you just FEEL it everywhere in your body. I've been known to stand gazing at just one painting for an hour, letting it wash over me.

1/29/2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Doctormama is right. Google is magic:

Arlo Guthrie recently said, "Songwriting is like fishing in a stream; you put in your line and hope you catch something. And I don't think anyone downstream from Bob Dylan ever caught anything."

1/30/2007 5:57 AM  
Blogger Esereth said...

Cathedral. I read it. But I need someone to explain it to me. There, I've admitted it.

You know, it must be possible to swim upstream throughout your life. Even if you never make it to the head waters.

1/30/2007 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's exactly how I feel about Heather Armstrong. I'm way down stream from her. I hope you find who said it. It's so real.

1/30/2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

Dooce Fan. Seriously girl... THIS is the name you've chosen for yourself?! Have you no other identity besides being a groupie? I'm not trying to be mean. But I think I threw up in my mouth a little just then.

1/30/2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

BTW: If you tell me it's a joke, I will willingly and publicly eat crow.

1/30/2007 2:43 PM  
Anonymous kathie said...

Hey Mignon,
I know exactly what you mean. When the down stream effect happens to me, it inspires me as well as makes me wish I never thought of writing in the first place. Usually,the dread gives way to determination. I'm sure you're someone's bob dylan. You just don't know it.

1/30/2007 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, it's Arlo Guthrie, dooce fan. (I am hoping it's a joke, Tink, but if it is, her website goes really, really, really far with the joke. Kind of like Andy Kaufman. Except not.)

1/30/2007 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Liza said...

Mmm..."Cathedral" makes me feel like an insignificant prion in the writerly ecosystem. Ditto Michael Cunningham, and Sue Monk Kidd, and Amy Hempel and Lorrie Moore and Tim O'Brien before he started pretending he could write about things besides Vietnam. And, well, dozens of others I'm just thinking of at the moment. If I had the time to sufficiently contemplate it, my own mediocrity could very well drive me over the edge (that's really not true, there'd be no driving, I could just walk from here).

And now I simply MUST go and check out this Dooce Fan's site...I love me some Andy Kaufman, and who cares if he WAS really crazy...he was still really funny.

1/30/2007 6:50 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Well, fan o' dooce, thank you for stopping by. Guys, let's cut her some slack - she makes a mean dot-to-dot.

1/30/2007 8:10 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

Mignon,

I recently watched an excerpt from a 60 Minutes with Bob Dylan and it included a segment on inspiration where he said he had NO IDEA where some of his most famous songs came from, that he didn't fully feel the words were really his own, more that he just received them.

I'm inspired by older artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil YOung, Eric Clapton, and Bruce Springsteen who keep on making art and experimenting despite pressure from their fans, the critics, and even themselves to reproduce their past success. I love that they take chances, that they don't quit writing songs just because the last song they wrote isn't as good as the one they're most admired for. They insist on having something to say and in believing that the Almighty Muse that gave them their best work might speak again if they don't stop working.

1/31/2007 4:00 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

Ok, I had to check out the dot-to-dot. I'm. Just. Wow.

1/31/2007 6:01 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

Damn, what I wouldn't give to have a TBStalker, I mean Fan. Oy.

I love you Tink.

1/31/2007 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see the issue with my nickname. What about someone who was BritneyFan or IluvParis07? I just really like Dooce a lot. I'm not the only person out there who reads her website and is a loving fan. There are a lot of us. Go and see her comments that she opens. Anyway, I don't want to fight. I'm glad people like my connect the dots. It took me a while. And thanks Doctormama, I really like what Arlo said.

1/31/2007 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I also have a technology blog because I like that as well. So you can see my whole life isn't run by Heather.

1/31/2007 10:05 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Alrighty then! Let's move on to something a little less, uh...

How about this?

(Sorry. On short notice, I always fall back on Muppets.)

1/31/2007 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are your own river. A strong and powerful one with a rushing current. There is no one before or after YOU.

1/31/2007 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man-o-man...mignon, I know exactly what you're feeling. I feel the same way after reading Lorrie Moore, Haven Kimmel, David Sedaris, and on and on.

I love what OTJ said. It's hard to remember, but we are indeed our own rivers.

1/31/2007 5:02 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

Raymond Carver. His short stories are so wonderfully crafted. Effortless and there's no manipulation. "Where I'm Calling From" is one of the best collection of stories out there.

Dooce is fine, but she lost me when she mentioned Britney and Paris.

1/31/2007 9:33 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Why is my comment not there??? I was here hours ago and now I can't remember what the hell quick and snappy thought I had!

Other than, I do not care for Dooce.

I think it was something about being downstream and not getting shit.

2/02/2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Nobody would give someone shit about being a DaVinciFan or a JayZFan something, but Dooce fan sets off all these alarm bells. Why? Because we all blog, too, and she is Queen Blogger, like her or not.

2/02/2007 6:54 PM  

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