Thursday, January 10, 2013

Art is singing on the railroad tracks

Art is singing on the railroad tracks, even when you hear the train coming. Metaphorically speaking, mind you, I'm not advocating train track art.

I've been listening to Tom Waits a lot lately, saw this photo and said right off, that's what art is. That's the attempt. When it's so important, where you have to do it, you have to create music, painting, writing, whatever, whatever the risk.

The New York Times Magazine ran a feature on George Saunders and his new book of short stories. Reading the article made me ashamed not to have read Saunders. But I'm remedying that. And have since found out he'll be reading at Politics and Prose in D.C., on Jan. 14.

Saunders further sold me with a newly written preface to his first book, "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline." He flashes back to his life as a technical writer and a new father during the time he scratched out the time to write the stories. It's both his commitment to make it happen and his way of talking about the author creating art once they've stopped trying to imitate the writers they are influenced by:

The work he does there is not the work of his masters. It is less. It is more modest; it is messier. It is small and minor.

But at least it’s his.

He sent the trained dog that is his talent off in search of a fat glorious pheasant, and it brought back the lower half of a Barbie doll.

So be it.

So be it. It's like fishing and pulling up a boot. Saunders's story of writing his first book helps keep the (this) writer's dream alive a lit longer. He's singing on the railroad tracks. George Saunders, Tom Waits and the lower halves of Barbie dolls. Amen.

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