Friday, January 14, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

adding + subtracting + sculpture + writing

(I don't usually like anything to do with adding and subtracting--but for anyone else who is allergic to math/maths, keep reading--happily this post has nothing to do anything of the sort.)

The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer was interviewed by Vanity Fair recently and said something interesting about sculpture and adding and subtracting. In answer to the question: "In cutting away are you creating something. Do you see parallels to this in your fiction writing?"-- Safran Foer says:

"I don't think so. Look at it this way: There are two kinds of sculptures. There's the kind that subtracts: Michelangelo starts with a block of marble and chips away. And then there is the kind that adds, building with clay, piling it on. The way I write novels is to keep piling on and piling on and piling on."

A English professor I was speaking to once said poetry, like Michelangelo's sculpture, is paring away and distilling down, whereas novels are building and enlarging out.

Two quotes from Michelangelo that are true of writing too.

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." 

And my favorite of all:

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

What a great view of the job of the artist: setting angels free.

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