This week's post pretty much writes itself courtesy of the nice Communications Director at Chapman University, Facebook, novelist and short story writer Richard Bausch, Maxine Hong Kingston and the vigorous engagement of the community of sincere and serious OC writers who know what's what. The pithy offering affixed to a brick wall over at the tiny campus in Orange delights Mr. Bib, and seems to have organized all of the above–even Facebook–into yet another conspiracy of good moodiness on a Sunday morning. Using your knowledge in the pursuit of truth begs the question of knowledge and truth, I know, but Mary Platt at Chapman, Bausch's serendipitous Fbook note, the free community creative writing workshop he's teaching, and Kingston's upcoming reading together make this Chapman Appreciation Day at OC Bookly.
Nothing particularly new to recommend this week by way of new books, which is just fine with this reviewer and fan with plenty of catching up to do, rereading and his own fiction to attend to. The mercilessly titillating good sadistic fun of the publishing machine keeps me in a crazed and reckless state of kid-in-a-candy store choices, choices, choices with my local UPS man Greg delivering pretty packages full of books nearly every day to Literary HQ. So, see bottom of this post for "best of" recommendations for the two writers discussed here. For Bausch, you can always look through old New Yorkers and Best American Short Stories. With eleven novels and eight short story collections (who's counting?), he's ubiquitous, and now even more so as he teaches at Chapman. And Maxine Hong Kingston, another lit legend? Take your pick. I am especially taken with her most recent novel (of which I read only the amazing conclusion) or the memoir-in-verse I Love a Broad Margin to My Life.
So, yes, Bausch now teaches at Chapman. More on that in a minute. Kingston reads there
on Monday night, February 18 in the first of a series of free talks and readings as part of the 2013 John Fowles Literary Forum. It's at 7 PM in Memorial Hall. Nearly twenty years ago, Chapman's Dr. Mark Axelrod helped the school to establish the series and the John Fowles Center (JFC) for Creative Writing. Fowles likely needs no introduction, but was apparently a friend of Axelrod's. Unlikelihoods are my favorite hoods, so the fact of the renowned English author of The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Magus attaching his name to a small liberal arts college founded by the Disciples of Christ is just fun to say! And visiting writers have been a who's who, from Salman Rushdie and Luisa Valenzuela to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Willis Barnstone. While we're on the subject, you can plan your Monday night visits February through April to the JFC now, for upcoming readings by Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco, Pakistani Zulfikar A. Ghose, Andrew Lam and American Book Award-winner Karen Tei Yamashita.
Now that I've dropped a bunch of big lit names to get your attention, here's the best part of the morning's dispatch, a story of generous and community-spirited action from a good neighbor. Back in the fall, the university sent out a press release, announcing openings for a free community fiction writing workshop taught by Bausch. He would read all submissions, it said, and select participants who were not (!) in any way affiliated with the upscale private college. Here's the best part, offered by Bausch himself: "We don't put any limitations on applicants, either by age or by background. Who can tell where the next good writer will come from? A selected participant could be a high school student, unemployed, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a custodian or restaurant worker, a retired person, a truck driver. Frankly, the more diversity in the class, the better. We encourage everyone to apply – so dust off that manuscript you've been working on, or write a new one and submit it." Bausch ran similar free creative writing workshops for non-students (also fun to say) at George Mason and the University of Memphis.
So, now, the workshop is, I am told, up and running, with at least one contributor to Santa Monica Review (that I know about) in the group, and no doubt a whole bunch of lucky, happy and grateful others. I wish I'd applied. Who knows, maybe they will put together a little chapbook of their work at the conclusion of their semester with Bausch. The weekly class began last week, which is maybe why Bausch posted this, below, on his Facebook page, by way of sobering up, grounding, his newest students.
Seriously, it's best to realize that it never does get easier, and the writer who thinks it should get easier is involved in a dangerous self-deception. Because as you go on and keep practicing this craft and art, you know more all the time, and are therefore apt to see with greater and great clarity the large number of possibilities that exist in each line or gesture-and so the task just becomes all that much harder. And the heavy doubts never do go away. Better make friends with them now, because they really won't ever, ever go away.
I like the part about "greater and greater clarity." Making friends with doubts? You can't ever have too many friends!
Finally, one more Chapman-y literary calendar note: Its second annual Big Orange Book
Festival arrives October 11-13, later in the year than in 2012, when it was too, too hot in September. I certainly hope they don't invite the odious Mark Levin or some other right-wing talk radio shock-jock propagandist, but that's just me. How about hosting Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, my favorite Lefty alternative media show, and author of The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope? Just sayin', as they say on Fox News!
The Stories of Richard Bausch, Richard Bausch, Harper Perennial, 672 pps., $23.00
The Fifth Book of Peace, Maxine Hong Kingston, Vintage, 416 pps.,$17.95
Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.