Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rules of the House

1. My old buddy, Digby Wolfe, once married to a circus performer, brought me the wisdom of the Big Tent: No matter how good a juggler you are, the most you can hope to juggle at one time is eleven items. Okay to try to juggle twelve dishes, but the likelihood is that you'll be up to your ass in broken china.

2. The more serious I try to become, the funnier I appear. This is the number one reason why I am not a good academic.

3. The funnier I try to become, the more ridiculous I appear. Understanding this is the number one reason for my success editing academics.

4. In-house, which is to say salaried book editors tend to be young and although preternaturally bright, often have no awareness of political, sports, scientific, literary, or jazz icons oldet than twenty-five.

5. When a student calls me sir or professor, or holds the door open for me, it is a sign I have not properly engaged that student.

6. Most students and many editors think irony has to do with transferring drawings of rock stars to t-shirts by iron.

7. The restrooms in gas stations along Highway 101 are like settings for plays by Harold Pinter or David Mammet.

8. The field in which Dorothy Lange took her famous photo of the Farm Woman is now occupied by a Vons Supermarket.

9. Wisdom is material often painfully true but nevertheless information I am not able to use in a short story. It is the equivalent of unpercolated coffee. I can't put it to dramatic use until it becomes experience.

10. I can't use someone else's experience in a story until I have gotten over being jealous of it.

11. In a story, every character believes he or she is right.

12. The dark, adversarial characters are more interesting than the charactrs we think we like.

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