Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book-giveaway Winners and Some Thoughts on Art and Artists

We have three winners for this month's Neil Gaiman book-giveaway:  1st, Kim; 2nd, L.T., and third, SuperPi. Congratulations and thanks for following!

Normally I'd let first place get first pick between

The Graveyard Book

Odd and the Frost Giants

 And Coraline

and then the second winner would get to pick between the two remaining books, and third place would get whatever hadn't been picked by #1 and #2. But since I'm behind the ball and haven't bought any of the books yet, I don't care if you all pick the same book.

Winners please email me your choice of the above books and your address at and I'll send it to you this week, while I'm in my off-writing mode for a moment.

Here are a couple of quotes for the last week of March, which happens to be the anniversary of the deaths of Ludwig Van Beethoven and Virginia Woolf, both of whom suffered from bouts of severe depression.

I suppose it's the artist's curse to feel things more, both the beauty and the pain.

Beethoven, speaking of his awkwardness with women:
"In society I am like a fish on the sand, which writhes and wriggles and but cannot get away until some benevolent Galatea casts it back into the sea."

Later he wrote, "I would have committed suicide long ago had I not read somewhere that it is a sin to part from life voluntarily so long as one can still do a good deed. Life is so beautiful, but for me it is forever poisoned." Literally, it was poisoned; in 2005 the U.S. Department of Energy found found enormous amounts of lead in Beethoven's bone fragments. Perhaps that contributed to his depression, but I'm inclined to think it had as much to do with the composer's artistic sensibilities.

Here's Woolf:
"What a born melancholic I am! The only way I keep afloat is by working. Directly [when] I stop working I feel that I am sinking down, down."

And yet, she says, "If we didn't live venturously, plucking the wild goat by the beard and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I've no doubt, but already should be faded, fatalistic, and aged."

I'd rather risk depression.

So we writers, musicians, and artists don't stay in our art-caves, don't keep our work to ourselves, but thrust ourselves and our art, such as it is, out into the world for others to thrash (one critic compared Beethoven's music to "the upsetting of bags of nails--with here and there also a dropped hammer"), with the hope that someone somewhere will also see the beauty, which gave us the urge to create in the first place, and be uplifted by that beauty, if only for a moment.

Beethoven's music does that for me, in spite of the nails.

Hopefully, we also survive.

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

Lately I've been playing with dough. It's become a sort of a compulsion. Maybe because I'm tired of driving all the way to som...