Tuesday, March 20, 2012

`To Maintain Excess'

In two hours spent in a Mexican restaurant and driving around Houston in the rain, we pretty much covered the conversational waterfront – kids, wives, jobs, Jews, cancer, students, the professoriat, Stanley Elkin, J.V. Cunningham, Irving Howe, David Horowitz, Marilynne Robinson, L.E. Sissman, Toni Morrison’s miserable prose, Las Vegas and the fate of the codex.

I’ve known David Myers electronically for three and a half years, since he launched The Commonplace Blog and, later, Literary Commentary, and overnight became the best writer in the bookish precincts of the blogosphere. Today we met in person for the first time and resumed the conversation. We laughed so loud diners at nearby tables had the nerve to stare at us. When we parted, David quoted Yvor Winters at me -- “Write little; do it well.” I have no argument with that and even remembered another Winters poem, "Much in Little," but I also remembered something David’s former teacher, Stanley Elkin, said in his Paris Review interview. He was remembering what a Random House editor once told him: “Stanley, less is more.” Elkin said:
“I had to fight him tooth and nail in the better restaurants to maintain excess because I don’t believe that less is more. I believe that more is more. I believe that less is less, fat fat, thin thin and enough is enough.”

[David's version.]

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