Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fork River Space Project

"I don't believe in someone sitting in the desert, not having read anything, and suddenly writing a beautiful novel. I don't think it happens. I think we're influenced by what we've read, and by the way it synthesizes within you, and becomes your own style." --Beena Kamlani on

On a smaller scale than John's Cornell Writers audio, here at Idyllwild Arts Academy we've had a gang of writers visiting campus and working with the students over the past month, and a ten-minute exchange between the students and two guests is now live at Beena Kamlani, a writer/editor whose short stories have been knockin' em dead over at Virginia Quarterly Review and Ploughshares, talks about how real-life dialogue triggers her writing, and about Tolsoty v. Dostoyevsky as guides. Solon Timothy Woodward, whose first novel Cadillac Orpheus just came out, talks about the importance of "reading, reading, reading" in his development as a writer, especially since he's spent the last twenty years or so of his professional life studying and practicing medicine. Here's the consensus of Beena and Tim and the students of the writers who attend to the richness of the sentence and are still able to carry a story:

Wright Morris
Stanley Elkin
Saul Bellow
James Baldwin

If you listen to the podcast, you'll note that Morris and Elkin come up first, and the others follow.

I hadn't thought of Wright Morris for awhile. I left my copy of The Fork River Space Project behind in New Orleans. I wish hadn't. It's a deeply weird book with gorgeous writing and just enough science fiction to have helped it on its way out of print. Here's a quote from it:

"I have just discovered I can magnify objects by a slight pressure on the lids of my eyes. My head lies on the pillow, a fold of the bedspread touches my nose. The weave is coarse. If I press lightly on the lids of my eyelids the material of the spread looks like a fishnet. If I lid my eyes and turn to face the light, I see a color glowing like heated metal. Across it motes flick, like water insects. The color changes to a smog-filtered sunset. If I give myself over to this impression, I am free-falling in space (that is my sensation), and only by an effort do I recover my bearings. I owe this to Harry Lorbeer. He started me thinking--or should I say seeing? On the mind's eye, or on the balls of the eyes, or wherever it is we see what we imagine, or imagine what we see."


Anonymous said...


That Wright Morris sounds right up my alley, thanks...

ed said...

IN ORBIT is another wild book. I became familiar with him from an old photocopy of the book's opening paragraphs that had been used for millenia at NOCCA as an opening-day example of Good Writing. I don't have it anymore either. This guy need to be back in print!

Nick & Maureen said...

I've been wondering if I should read Fork River Space Project. Can you tell me a bit about its premise? Thanks!