Sometimes cold, sometimes cloudy

“The sentence is the site of your enterprise with words, the locale where language either comes to a head or does not. The sentence is a situation of words in the most literal sense: words must be situated in relation to others to produce an enduring effect on a reader. As you situate the words, you are of course intent on obeying the ordinances of syntax and grammar, unless any willful violation is your purpose—and you are intent as well on achieving in the arrangements of words as much fidelity as is possible to whatever you believe you have wanted to say or describe. A lot of writers—many of them—unfortunately seem to stop there. They seem content if the resultant sentence is free from obvious faults and is faithful to the lineaments of the thought or feeling or whatnot that was awaiting deathless expression. But some other writers seem to know that it takes more than that for a sentence to cohere and flourish as a work of art. They seem to know that the words inside the sentence must behave as if they were destined to belong together—as if their separation from each other would deprive the parent story or novel, as well as the readerly world, of something life-bearing and essential. These writers recognize that there needs to be an intimacy between the words, a togetherness that has nothing to do with grammar or syntax but instead has to do with the very shapes and sounds, the forms and contours, of the gathered words. This intimacy is what we mean when we say of a piece of writing that it has a felicity—a fitness, an aptness, a rightness about the phrasing. The words in the sentence must bear some physical and sonic resemblance to each other—the way people and their dogs are said to come to resemble each other, the way children take after their parents, the way pairs and groups of friends evolve their own manner of dress and gesture and speech. A pausing, enraptured reader should be able to look deeply into the sentence and discern among the words all of the traits and characteristics they share. The impression to be given is that the words in the sentence have lived with each other for quite some time, decisive time, and have deepened and grown and matured in each other’s company—and that they cannot live without each other.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place” (emphasis in original)

Episodically compromised

“Life is plotproof, muddled, desultory, irreducible to chains of cause-and-effect. It’s sweaty and rampantly sad. It’s a motion of moments. There’s no line of any kind other than the one that runs from birth to thwarting to death.” – Gary Lutz, “Windows that Lead to More Windows”

Don’t need that weepy old thing, anyhow

“The body had only so many quarts of water in it in which the heart might as well just go and get itself drowned once and for all.” — Gary Lutz, “Womanesque”

(Hey!  I just found out–one of my short story collections (I don’t know which one, I sent them four) was a finalist in the 2011 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Contest.)

My father shows on my south side

“I have been told that when people say they see my father in me, I am to do one of two things.  The first is just to tell them that it must be only because he’s trying to get their attention because he wants something again.  Otherwise he wouldn’t be showing himself in me of all people.  The other is for when people have already stayed too long.  I’m supposed to say, ‘Where?  Point him out.  Show me where, so I can pull him out all the way.  Maybe I can shit him out.  Think that would work?  Let’s go see.’  I have done both, but sometimes I just picture my body glassed over and my father motioning from within, bobbing up now and then between my bones, no big trouble.” – Gary Lutz, “The Summer I Could Walk Again”

Res publica and busy bodies

“In no time even the least sneaky of things will have already been handled awfully, will have drawn onto themselves a commonwealth of squandered touch: anything eventually sports the lonelihood of people who could no longer keep their hands to themselves.” — Gary Lutz, “The Least Sneaky of Things”

Plugging in

“A story is a serving of palpated verbal material with feelings surging through it, and not just some caboodle of data about fabricated people and their antics.  If a reader is asked again and again to travel the distance between a capital letter and a period, every sentence ought to have been routed through the writer’s nervous system and acquired charged particles of language along the way.  A sentence ought to be offering a vista of the infinite.” – Gary Lutz (from Dylan Nice interview in Wag’s Revue)

Out of plasmids are paragraphs made

“Once the words begin to settle into their circumstance in a sentence and decide to make the most of their predicament, they look around and take notice of their neighbors. They seek out affinities, they adapt to each other, they begin to make adjustments in their appearance to try to blend in with each other better and enhance any resemblance. Pretty soon in the writer’s eyes the words in the sentence are all vibrating and destabilizing themselves: no longer solid and immutable, they start to flutter this way and that in playful receptivity, taking into themselves parts of neighboring words, or shedding parts of themselves into the gutter of the page or screen; and in this process of intimate mutation and transformation, the words swap alphabetary vitals and viscera, tiny bits and dabs of their languagey inner and outer natures; the words intermingle and blend and smear and recompose themselves. They begin to take on a similar typographical physique. The phrasing now feels literally all of a piece. The lonely space of the sentence feels colonized. There’s a sumptuousness, a roundedness, a dimensionality to what has emerged. The sentence feels filled in from end to end; there are no vacant segments along its length, no pockets of unperforming or underperforming verbal matter. The words of the sentence have in fact formed a united community.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place”

Inhabitated is what the man said

“The sentence, with its narrow typographical confines, is a lonely place, the loneliest place for a writer, and the temptation for the writer to get out of one sentence as soon as possible and get going on the next sentence is entirely understandable. In fact, the conditions in just about any sentence soon enough become (shall we admit it?) claustrophobic, inhospitable, even hellish. But too often our habitual and hasty breaking away from one sentence to another results in sentences that remain undeveloped parcels of literary real estate, sentences that do not feel fully inhabitated and settled in by language.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place”