Thursday, May 17, 2018

Types of Closure, Part 4: The “Killer” Ending

One of the most dramatic methods of creating closure in a poem is to include a last line that is a dramatic revelation, a surprising or even shocking disclosure or insight that switches the entire mood of the poem. Poets often refer to this type of closure as a “killer ending.” This is the type of writing Emily Dickinson was describing in her famous letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

The killer ending takes the top of your head off because it says something so deep and so true in an artful way. The poet I think of first in the context of the killer ending is Sharon Olds, who has succeeded so many times in writing poems that end with deep revelations, often incredibly honest and personal.

Sharon Olds
In Sharon Olds’s “I Go Back to May 1937,” the speaker of the poem imagines traveling back in time to the period when her parents met and became a couple. Instead of being a happy and nostalgic moment, though, it is almost unbearably painful for the speaker:

I want to go up to them and say Stop,   
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,  
he’s the wrong man…
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die.

That is one of the darkest moments I can imagine. But the poem doesn’t end there. The speaker instead opts not to tell her parents what will happen, she even pushes her mother and father to conceive her, like a child playing with paper dolls. Olds finishes with this stunning line:

Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

When I first typed that line, I accidentally typed it as, “and I will write about it.” But no, that’s not the verb in the poem. The speaker is going to tell the story, like a parent speaking to a child. Telling is a more direct form of communication than writing.

That action of the speaker seems to redeem all the pain of her parents’ lives and of her own life. And all of that happens in the last line. Of course, Sharon Olds is an incredibly skillful poet, and she has been preparing us for this redemptive ending even before the poem’s first line. The poem’s title situates us in the month of May, in the renewing season of springtime. In the very first line of the poem, the speaker positions the parents, “standing at the formal gates of their colleges.” By placing the parents at gates, Olds both evokes the myth of Adam and Eve being expelled from Paradise for their sins, and creates a sense of something beginning, an entrance as well as an exit/exile. She is so brilliant!

In other words, the killer last line may seem totally unexpected the first time we hear it, but a good poet will subliminally create the possibility of that revelation from the very start of the poem. Otherwise a disclosure unrelated to the rest of the poem can seem as if it doesn’t belong. The perfect killer ending is one that the reader could never guess, which seems to come out of nowhere. And yet the killer ending feels moving, authentic, and connected to the rest of the poem in a way that is anything but obvious.


Types of Closure in Poetry, Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Other recent posts about writing topics: 

How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Types of Closure, Part 3: Using Repetition to End a Poem

One tried and true way to create closure in a poem is to use repetition. Repeating a phrase, line, or series of lines establishes that the poem has come full circle and is now ending. Ironically, the fact that some words in the poem are the same indicates to the reader that these words are different from any others, since they announce the ending.

There are different ways that poets use repetition to create closure. One way is to use the rhythms and cadences of the repeated lines as a sort of chorus, the way a song often ends with a repeated refrain. The master of this sort of repetition is the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca
In his classic “Sleepwalking Ballad” [“Romance sonambulo”], Lorca opens with these unforgettable lines:

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.

Green how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea,
and the horse on the mountain.

(translation by William Bryant Logan)

The poem depicts a surrealistic world where strange and mysterious events take place, such as a young gypsy woman with green hair being suspended over water by an “icicle of the moon.” But in some ways, this poem is much like a traditional ballad. Lorca repeats the opening lines in various permutations in the poem, sometimes just duplicating the opening line, sometimes the first two lines. But at the end of the poem, he repeats all four of the opening lines, as if we are hearing the refrain of a ballad, and it’s clear that the repetition signals the end of the poem. By extension, that repetition indicates the fate of the gypsy bandit who is bleeding and pursued, and his doomed lover.

A different way of using repetition is to repeat a phrase at the end in a very different context and with a different emphasis. This sort of repetition establishes closure by contrast—we hear or read the same words as we did earlier in the poem, but now we understand their deeper meaning. It’s the sharper insight that makes for closure in the poem.

Lorca uses repetition in this way in his poem “Your Childhood in Menton.” Here he describes a lover who cannot answer the call of his passion because of social conventions. The poem begins and ends with the same line:

 Sí, tu niñez ya fábula de fuentes.

Yes, your childhood now a fable of fountains.

In the epigraph, Lorca attributes the line to a poem by Jorge Guillén. The first time we hear these words, they sound innocent: they refer to youth and fables and running water. By the end of the poem, the line resonates very differently, since we know that the person addressed in this poem has betrayed his own impulses in favor of norms he absorbed in childhood.

Another example of using repetition in a different context at the end is “Each Bird Walking,” by Tess Gallagher one of my favorite poems. 

Tess Gallagher

Gallagher uses a fascinating series of flashbacks, quickly going backwards and forwards through different layers of time to tell a complex and moving story that the reader has to construct, like a detective solving a mystery.
The poem is about the end of an affair, an affair between the speaker and her lover, who is in a long-term relationship. To end the romance without bitterness, the speaker elicits from her lover the gift of an unforgettable memory. He chooses to tell her how he bathed his own mother by hand at the end of her life, as if he had been her mother instead of her son. Describing this incredibly intimate moment of cleansing, the lover quotes his mother as saying, “That’s good, that’s enough,” when the washing of her body is complete.

That's a banal enough phrase. But it becomes extremely powerful when it’s repeated only 10 lines later. Now the speaker is the one saying the phrase, since she is satisfied that her lover has given her access to a part of his soul that no one else has shared. The second time the poet quotes, “That’s good, that’s enough,” the phrase has a deep resonance, since we know it means not only that the speaker and her lover have exchanged an imprinted moment of intimacy, but that their relationship is now done.

Types of Closure in Poetry, Part 1, Part 2

Other recent posts about writing topics: 

How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Types of Closure in Poetry, Part 2: Ending a Poem with a Resonant Image

For me, one of the most effective ways to achieve closure in a poem is to end with a resonant image.

The temptation when you are ending a poem is to try to tie up every loose end. You want to tell the reader exactly what it is that you’re trying to say, what you’ve been building up to for the entire poem. That strategy is very likely to put the reader off. No one likes being lectured to, least of all fans of poetry. The chances are, if you have written the entire poem with a particular emotion or idea in mind, the reader has gotten the message by the time the poem is almost done.

One way to end a poem that doesn’t hit the reader over the head, but reinforces and/or expands on what the poem has explored, is to finish with an image that lingers in the reader’s thoughts and echoes other elements in the poem. Ending with a particularly vivid and haunting image changes the tone so that the poem has closure at the end.

The best way to explain this is to give an example. The classic instance of this is John Keats’s sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Basically, the speaker of this poem is saying that he’s read a lot about Homer’s Greece, but he never really got it till he read George Chapman’s translation of The OdysseyNow he understands the beauty and majesty of Homer’s poetry and the world he describes.

John Keats
But instead of saying that flat out, in the poem’s sestet, or final six lines, Keats gives us two seemingly unrelated images. The first is an astronomer discovering a new planet when it “swims” into view (you gotta love that verb, “swim”!). The second is the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, leading an exploratory party to a cliff in Panama, where for the first time, Europeans gazed on the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific, from the Americas.

More than any didactic conclusion, these two images give a sense of the incredible wonder that Keats felt when he read Chapman’s translation of Homer. That last image, of the ocean that was undreamed of by Cortés and his men, just rolls on and on in the mind, like a long chord, as vast and inspiring as the Pacific.

What provides the closure here is that we have switched from Homer to another realm, but one that vibrates with Keats’s feelings about discovering Chapman’s version of The Odyssey. The poem has shifted, but is still in the mode of awe, in fact, deeper in that mode because of the resonant image, so much more expansive than someone sitting in a library reading a translation from ancient Greek, but reflecting on how amazing that experience can actually be.

One contemporary poet who has mastered the art of ending on a resonant image is Joseph Millar. Millar has a way of finding a final image that engages the reader, brings together threads in the poem, but opens the door to deeper emotion or contemplation. 

Joseph Millar
In his poem “Labor Day,” for instance, Millar describes all the ways that labor is not being done on that holiday. The speaker is celebrating all those who have earned a day off because of their hard work. Instead of winding up with this theme, though, he ends with a cinematic image that encapsulates and expands the poem’s ideas and emotions:

the tuna boats rest on their tie-up lines
turning a little, this way and that.


This last image is a symbol of Labor Day itself, with the boats docked and not in use (and you know tuna boats see some serious fishing!). But that image also lets in another range of ideas and emotions, because of the restlessness of the boats in the water. This motion might suggest that Labor Day may be a time of repose, but it also highlights unresolved issues about those who work with their hands, and those who manage or profit from their labor.


Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Types of Closure in Poetry, Part 1: Introduction

When I was starting out as a young poet, I kept hearing other writers talk about “closure.” I couldn’t image what this odd word meant. It sounded like getting your hand caught in a door. A poem ends when it ends, right? Why does there even need to be a name or a word for that?

The more I’ve written and the more I’ve read, the more I realize that closure is a crucial part of a poem.

Elizabethan poet Sir Thomas Wyatt was one of the first to use rhymed couplets to close a sonnet

But what is closure? Here’s one possible definition:

Closure is the way that a poem completes itself, or the way a poem fills out its shape. Closure is the way that the poet and reader both understand that the poem is winding down, or reaching back into the world.

There are three main types of closure in poetry, and I’ll discuss each one in this series of blogs. The three main techniques that poets use to end poems:

1) A resonant image
2) Repetition or a rhythmic change
3) The killer last line

Of course, very few endings are purely one or the other type. There are many variations and combinations of these types.

I think all these ways of ending a poem have one thing in common: at the conclusion of a poem, something changes from the way the poem has proceeded prior to the finale. That change can be in the structure of the poem, the mood, the awareness of the speaker and/or reader, the imagery, the subject matter, the sounds of the language, or the point of view. In other words, almost any aspect of the poem or combination of facets can create closure, providing that the poem changes in some significant and palpable way toward the end.


Here are the sections of this blog that deal with the different types of closure:

Resonant image
Repetition or rhythmic change
The killer ending

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Chance Event, and How Art Unites Us Globally

Yesterday during my lunch hour I took a walk around the campus where I work, Notre Dame de Namur University. I had no more in mind than a little fresh air and stretching my legs. At a certain point I came to Cunningham Memorial Chapel, the university’s sacred space. It occurred to me to go in and gaze at the lovely colors of the dalle de verre (slab glass) windows by Gabriel Loire, the internationally renowned artist.

When I entered the chapel, I heard someone playing the Vienna-made Bösendorfer piano by the altar, with its rich and living sound. I sat in a back pew and just opened my ears. There was only one other person in that chapel, which can seat several hundred, and the other person soon finished his prayers, crossed himself, and left.

I studied the pianist and saw that he was a man in his early twenties, wearing a baseball cap and a casual jacket. 



When he stopped playing I went up to the front of the chapel to thank him, and noticed that the music he had been practicing was the Russian composer Rachmaninoff’s piece “Élégie.” I introduced myself to the pianist, who identified himself as Dongyan Yang from Shijiazhuang, China, now studying in Ohio. I asked how he happened to be playing in Belmont, California, and he told me he was visiting his girlfriend, who is a student at Notre Dame de Namur. I asked if he would perform another piece, and he said he’d play Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor, Opus 28.

I sat back down, and to my amazement, Dongyan played this long and extremely challenging work by heart. The piece has so many triumphs and defeats, such deep tranquility and such turbulent storms, that I felt as if I was recapitulating my entire life, and perhaps all the history between Chopin’s span in the first half of the nineteenth century and our own. Dongyan’s interpretation was masterful, gripping. Midway through the piece his girlfriend entered the chapel and sat, as spellbound as I was.

As I absorbed the music (“listen” is too one-dimensional a verb to describe that experience), I thought about all the geographic borders being crossed in that moment—a musician who’d grown up in Hebei Province and now lived in Ohio, a composer who was born in Warsaw and wrote music in France, which was the source of the sculpted glass in that chapel, how my father’s family came to the United States from a part of Poland not that far from Chopin’s birthplace, not to mention the Viennese piano, and all of this intersecting in a town in California. I also thought of the novel Horace I’d translated by George Sand, Chopin’s lover, and how she used to sit under the piano while he composed and rehearsed in the 1840s, perhaps the very notes I was then listening to.

All of that reminded me that the arts are an incredibly unifying force. The enjoyment and appreciation of a Chopin Prelude obliterates political borders and centuries of time. At a moment in history when we’re witnessing the recurrence of nationalism, provincialism, chauvinism, and nostalgia for the strongman, I think with gratitude of that young man from Shijiazhuang in his baseball cap in a chapel in California, playing his heart out for the sheer altitude of music.


Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Movies about Writers—For the Oscars

On first thought it seems that movies about writers are a contradiction in terms. Writing is an introspective art that relies on intangible thoughts and feelings. The process of writing mainly involves sitting still for long periods of time. The most exciting thing that usually happens to a writer is receiving an acceptance by letter or email, not exactly the stuff of high drama. Movies, on the other hand, are all about action and motion. Films look at human behavior entirely from the outside, with the exception of a voiceover narration.

Jessica Brown Findlay in This Beautiful Fantastic

But in fact there have been quite a number of terrific films where the character of a writer plays an important part. I asked friends on Facebook to nominate movies they like about writers, and to my shock, twenty titles appeared within a day, an incredible variety from film noir to fantasy to contemporary realism. Thank you so much to for all the suggestions—I’m sorry I couldn’t include all of them in this blog. Here are the nominees for best films about writers:

The accomplished translator of Persian literature and opera libretto author Niloufar Talebi suggested a movie I’d never heard of, much less seen, This Beautiful Fantastic. When I watched it, I was entranced by the excellent performances of Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott, and Jeremy Irvine. It’s a fairy tale about a very OCD writer in the U.K. who is forced out of her interior world into a reality that can be harsh but is ultimately blessed. Niloufar also picked The Lives of Others, about writers in East Germany during the Cold War era, a deeply felt and brilliant movie.

Russian translator and publisher Jim Kates nominated Julia, which must be Jane Fonda’s best movie, and maybe Vanessa Redgrave’s as well. A story of Lillian Hellman’s childhood friend who ends up in the resistance against fascism right before World War II, Julia is taken from Hellman’s own writing in her wonderful memoir, Pentimento.

Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman in Julia

Documentary filmmaker Andrea Simon, the painter Jessica Dunne, and poet George Higgins all picked a movie I greatly admire, Bright Star, about the romance of poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, an elegant and intelligent period flick.

The writers Ernestine Hayes and Lisa Stice both selected Stranger Than Fiction, a moving comedy where Emma Thompson plays a frazzled novelist who begins to tamper with reality when she steps into her own literary world. Great cast, fun plot!

Poet and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield nominated I Am Not Your Negro, a fascinating documentary that matches images to James Baldwin’s final, unpublished manuscript, a provocative mediation on race, the U.S.A., and the soul of a country.

Poet Vivian Faith Prescott picked The Business of Fancydancing, Sherman Alexie’s powerful film about identity, love, and the literary profession.

Historian Miranda Sachs voted for Shakespeare in Love, a captivating story based on the bard’s writing and bits of fact that the screenwriter extrapolated to create a fine plot with wonderful acting.

Creative nonfiction writer David Stevenson told me about Genius, a strong film on the unlikely subject of a literary editor, Maxwell Perkins. The movie depicts the relationship between Perkins, who edited such authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway at Scribner’s, and the novelist Thomas Wolfe. Excellent performances by Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman.

I have a weakness for film noir, so I have to mention In A Lonely Place, a Nicholas Ray flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a Hollywood writer who has 24 hours to solve a murder and exonerate himself.

Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place
I also love Judy Davis’s intelligent and emotional portrayal of George Sand in Impromptu and her performance in My Brilliant Career, based on the novel by the Australian writer Miles Franklin.

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Translating George Sand

I’ve always admired the French writer and activist George Sand (1804–1876). She was a prolific author and a dedicated advocate for social change who fought for the rights of women and workers. 

George Sand

Currently Sand is far better known in the English-speaking world for her audacious life than for her writing. Sand had many lovers, both men and women, including the composer Frédéric Chopin; bad-boy poet and playwright Alfred de Musset; and Prosper Mérimée, author of Carmen. George Sand was notorious for cross-dressing as a man in order to attend the Paris theaters that were only open to males.

George Sand:  Prolific Author

Sand (whose real name was the Baroness Amantine Lucile Aurore Dudevant) was a workhorse as an author. Also highly social, she entertained guests during the afternoon and evening, then wrote most of the night. There is a story about George Sand, perhaps apocryphal, that she finished writing one novel halfway through the night, and not willing to lose valuable time, she started another one without a pause. Whether this anecdote is true or not, it says a lot about her reputation as a hardworking author.

George Sand painted by her friend Eugène Delacroix

Finding the Right Work to Translate

I was, to be frank, more than a little in love with George Sand. Not owning a time machine, I decided the best way to get close to her was to translate one of her works. But which to pick of her 100 novels, plays, and memoirs? I couldn’t read them all. Most of her plays were untranslated, so I started there. But I soon realized that the theater in nineteenth century Paris was a lot like network television today. It was a popular form of entertainment where the standards were fairly low, and not much revision or planning went into the throwaway scripts.

Many of George Sand’s most renowned novels had already been translated either during the first wave of interest in her work in the nineteenth century, or during the recent feminist revival. The majority of her prose works felt dated to me, sentimental portraits of virtuous peasants. The fact that she was renowned in France as a great stylist, the mentor of Gustave Flaubert, a writer’s writer, was not coming across to me. I started to wonder if there was a translation project involving George Sand that would make sense for me.  

Searching for Clues When Looking for a Work to Translate

I was combing through various biographies of Sand, looking for a glimmer of a translation project I might start. I came across a reference to an obscure novel of hers titled Horace. The biography mentioned that Sand’s publisher had absolutely refused to accept the manuscript when she had presented it to him in the early 1840s, despite the fact that Sand was then a best-selling author. That aroused my curiosity.

I did some more digging and found another interesting clue. The French publisher Éditions de l’Aurore, which was undertaking a major effort to reprint most of Sand’s works, chose Horace as the second book in their series, ahead of almost all of her most famous novels. I immediately ordered the French edition of the book.

When I read George Sand’s Horace, I found it charming, witty, and amazingly farsighted politically. It reflected the real world that Sand lived in, including both the banter in aristocratic Paris boudoirs and arguments in gritty Left Bank student garrets about overthrowing the corrupt monarchy. I knew I had the book I wanted to translate, and even better—it had gone untranslated into English since Sand had essentially self-published the book 150 years before.



Finding a Voice That Sounds Right for a Nineteenth-Century Novel

I immediately went on a sort of literary diet in order to get into my mind the voice of a nineteenth century woman novelist. For two years, while I was creating the first draft of the translation of George Sand’s Horace, I read only novels by English women writers. It was a delicious bubble bath of books, including Persuasion by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, and Mary Barton by Edith Gaskell. Reading all of those books helped me in getting the right diction, tone, and viewpoint for the translation. Somehow, though, none of those novelists quite reminded me of George Sand’s sardonic Paris salon humor. It wasn’t until I read William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair that I found a voice in English that matched Sand’s urbane and urban voice in Horace.

I created a first draft of the translation in a style that was as close as I could get to the diction of a nineteenth century novel. I sent the book to someone I trusted, Tom Christensen, then editor in chief at Mercury House, a fine literary publisher near where I lived in San Francisco. Tom accepted the book, but he asked to meet with me about the translation.

“The translation is fine as far as it goes,” Tom said, “but it’s stilted, it’s stiff. You can’t write this as if you lived in the nineteenth century.” I realized Tom was right. I had fossilized George Sand’s language in diction that wasn’t natural to me, an idiom that didn’t exist any longer.

I completely rewrote the translation, using phrasing that was much closer to contemporary English. When I was reading the nineteenth century novels, I had compiled a list of contractions that were actually in use during that time, such as can’t and don’t. In the new version of the translation, I used those contractions every chance I could, both for the narrator’s voice and for dialogue. Proudly I brought my revision to Tom Christensen.

His reaction wasn’t what I was hoping for. “It sounds too contemporary,” he said. “You need a voice that seems like the nineteenth century, but actually uses some modern phrases. There has to be a balance.”

My third draft was somewhere in the middle—neither purely contemporary nor completely archaic. I only used contractions for the dialogue and very sparingly in the narration. That middle version satisfied Tom.

How the Translation of Horace Was Received


I was fortunate that my translation of George Sand’s Horace was the first to appear in English after the release of the popular movie Impromptu, starring Judy Davis as George Sand. Horace got written up twice in ten days in the New York Times, and the first printing sold out in eight weeks, unusual for a translation of an unknown nineteenth century novel. The English translation of Horace remains in print more than twenty years later.

A Favorite Passage from Horace

Here’s a favorite passage from the novel, where George Sand talks about students and how they become less radical as they grow older and more cautious:

“…we regard as youthful foolishness those courageous theories that we once loved and professed; we blush at the thought of having been a Fourierist, a Saint-Simonian, or a revolutionary of any stripe; we hardly dare recount what audacious motions we put forward or supported in political groups; and finally, we are astonished that we ever hoped for equality with all its consequences, that we loved the people fearlessly, that we voted for the law of brotherhood with no amendments. And after a few years—that is, when we’re well or poorly established—whether we be right smack in the middle, royalist, or republican, of the shade of opinion of the Débats, the Gazette, or the National, we inscribe over our doorway, or on our diploma, or on our license, that we never, in all our life, intended to commit any offense against sacrosanct Property.”

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration