Sherman Alexie, on the poem that changed everything:

In 1987, I dropped out of Gonzaga and followed a high school girlfriend to Washington State University (it’s called Wazoo). And by complete chance, I enrolled in a poetry workshop that changed my life. On the first day, the teacher, Alex Kuo, gave me an anthology of contemporary Native poetry called Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back. There were poems by Adrian C. Louis, a Paiute Indian, and one in particular called “Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile.” If I hadn’t found this poem, I don’t think I ever would have found my way as a writer. I would have been a high school English teacher who coached basketball. My life would have taken a completely different path.

This was the first line of the poem:

            Oh, Uncle Adrian, I’m in the reservation of my mind.

I’d thought about medicine. I’d thought about law. I’d thought about business. But that line made me want to drop everything and be a poet. It was that earth-shaking. I was a reservation Indian. I had no options. Being a writer wasn’t anywhere near the menu. So, it wasn’t a lightning bolt—it was an atomic bomb. I read it and thought, “This is what I want to do.”

—via theatlantic

"Voice keeps us in the room." More from Dinah Lenney:

"A few years ago columnist Meghan Daum directed her weekly piece in The Los Angeles Times to wanna-be writers in the genre. In reference to Ishmael Beah and his book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, she wrote, “Attention solipsistic young scribes, all the bad boyfriends, clueless parents and junior years abroad are no match for the child soldier. Better go back to whatever you were doing before you started writing about yourself. Just don’t go to Starbucks, because Beah’s book is being sold there and you’ll just feel worse.” According to Daum, “most almost-too-young-for-memories memoirists, gifted or not, just don’t have the chops to turn their summer camp reminiscences into This Boy’s Life for the new millennium.” Well, yes, content matters, of course it does. Having lived a little can’t hurt, if only from the point of view of perspective gained and insight earned. But voice keeps us in the room; voice is the reason we listen on, look on, and read on. It can hook us and sustain our interest until, in the best of all worlds, as with an actor taking on a role, or a singer a song, the voice and the story are seamlessly integrated, and we can’t have one without other. Long before Boy Soldier Ishmael Beah, long before we began to celebrate pathology, came writers like E.B. White, Russell Baker, Eudora Welty, Annie Dillard, Michael Ondaatje, and Calvin Trillin — all of whom wrote about all manner of subject and theme, from the mundane to the exotic, with voice, with chops. And what are chops? As with the singer and the actor, chops are talent and skill combined, since without one or the other it isn’t possible to achieve that seamless weave, to inhabit the role or the story or the song”

—Dinah Lenny, Be Thou the Voice, in lareviewofbooks

Dinah Lenney on the voice of memoir:

"This notion of overlap — the idea that acting and writing are linked and that the compulsion to do one or other comes from a similar place — isn’t a new one. Joan Didion, who wanted to be an actor first, comes straight out and says that the impulse to write or to act is one and the same. Either way, she concluded, we’re talking about ‘performance.’"

from Be Thou the Voice in @lareviewofbooks

Via @theatlanticcities:

She was never known as a photographer. Instead, she worked most of her adult life as a nanny for well-to-do families in Chicago, and died in poverty in 2009, saved from homelessness only by the support of some of the grown children she had once cared for.

Everyone who met Maier over the years knew that she took her camera (a Rolleiflex) everywhere she went, but few people ever saw the pictures that she made.

-If You Love Street Photography, This New Documentary Is a Must-See

On A&E’s Storage Wars:

"Wars are totalizing phenomena, figuring a whole world divided between friends and enemies, allies and opponents, partners and rivals, your frugal elite and your lazy rascals, never more than two camps, the Greeks and the Trojans, the saved and the damned, whatever. All binary oppositions get pulled into the collective illusion through the operation of total war."

—Peggy Kamuf, “Life in Storage: Of Capitalism and A&E’s ‘Storage Wars’” at lareviewofbooks

"‘Losing a country’, or ‘losing a home’, if I gave the matter much thought when I was young, was an acute world-historical event, forcibly meted out on the victim, lamented and canonised in literature and theory as ‘exile’ or ‘displacement’, and defined with appropriate terminality by Edward Said in his essay, ‘Reflections on Exile’:

Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind for ever.

Said’s emphasis on the self’s ‘true home’ has a slightly theological, or perhaps Platonic, sound. When there is such universal homelessness, of both the forced and the unforced kind, the idea of a ‘true home’ surely suffers an amount of unsympathetic modification. Perhaps Said’s implication is that unwanted homelessness only bears down on those who have a true home and thus always reinforces the purity of the origin, while voluntary homelessness – the softer emigration I am trying to define – means that home can’t have been very ‘true’ after all. I doubt he intended that, but nonetheless, the desert of exile seems to need the oasis of primal belonging, the two held in a biblical clasp.”

—James Wood, “On Not Going Home,” in the londonreviewofbooks

"I felt, despite any warnings I should have heeded, that to be reviewed at last by the most consequential and galvanizing critical voice, the most apparently gifted close reader of our time, would be a sort of graduation day, even if I’d be destined to take some licks. Taking some, I’d join a hallowed list."

—Jonathan Lethem, “My Disappointment Critic,” in the lareviewofbooks

Via @AaronGilbreath: the “the in-between” as explained by @svenbirkerts.

"When I was younger, I might have stayed in my chair, tried anyway, but now I know better. Forcing myself to use words when I’m in this state guarantees not only self-reproach, but a larger questioning of the uses of anything. Far better on such a day to do busy work or read.”

—from his Los Angeles Review of Books essay, “The Pump You Pump the Water From.

Truffaut on Hitchcock:

"I had to live in America for a while to understand why Alfred Hitchcock had been so underestimated there for so long. From morning to night, on American television, there is murder, brutality, suspense, espionage, guns, blood. None of these gross and manipulative productions approaches a fraction of the beauty of a film by the maker of Psycho, but it is the same material, and so I can understand in that violent atmosphere what a breath of fresh air an Italian comedy, a French love story, a Czechoslovak intimist film must be.”

—from “What Do Critics Dream About?” (1975), The Films In My Life.

The most beautiful thing I have seen in a movie theater is to go down to the front, and turn around, and look at all the uplifted faces, the light from the screen reflected upon them.

—Francois Truffaut, via rogerebert.com