on my christmas wish list ....

Madness, Rack, and Honey 
by Mary Ruefle

The book is a series of essays on the craft of writing by poet, Mary Ruefle.  Weston Cutter of The Kenyon Review writes:

... here’s the first paragraph of Ruefle’s intro to Madness, Rack, and Honey

 “I never set out to write this book. In 1994 I began to be required to deliver standing lectures to graduate students, and the requirement terrified me. I was told the students preferred informal spontaneous talks, but I am a rotten and unsteady extemporizer. I preferred to write my lectures because I am a writer and writing is my natural act, more natural than speaking.” 

Ahem. Ruefle, in the intro and in all the essays in Madness, Rack, and Honey, confronts this duality, the split pullings of wanting to write, wanting to say things, and finding the act hard at best, seemingly impossible on some days.

~ A Few Excerpts from  Madness, Rack, and Honey ~

~ from the essay Kangaroo Beach:

"Isn't all art irreverent? It is irreverent to create that which doesn't exist; the newly made thing flies in the face of the already created and as such is based on negation (what already exists is simply not enough!), but born also out of the greatest reverence for all that already is. When Borges, visiting the Sahara, picked up a little bit of sand, carried it in his hand and let it fall someplace else, he said, "I am modifying the Sahara," and he wrote that this was one of the most significant memories of his stay. What Borges did is what we do when we write poems after millennia of poem writing. We aren't saving the Sahara, we are modifying it, and you have to be irreverent to think you can modify the Sahara in the first place, and sincere in your attempt to do so." 

~ And ~

~ from the essay On Beginnings:

~ Or ~

~ from the essay Twenty-Two Short Lectures:


Eighty-five percent of all existing species are beetles and various forms of insects.

English is spoken by only 5 percent of the world's population.

One of the greatest stories ever written is the story of a man who wakes to find himself transformed into a giant beetle.

~  I can't wait to sink my teeth into this book!  ~



Dave Renfro said...

I hold the broader view that it is not only our literary pursuits that are useless, but all of our pursuits. Still, this seems like something that even I might enjoy. I'm sure reading this book would be no more or no less pointless than re-reading Molloy by Samuel Beckett which I just did for the eighth time. Have you ever read it? It's about a man who falls in a ditch and stays there.

I hope Santa brings you your book!

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Sounds worth tracking down...

soubriquet said...

This book is now yours. Amazon will deliver it, all being well, on friday!

red dirt girl said...

Hi Dave!

Looks like Santa stopped by my blog early this morning .... and it is MINE!!

I suppose our pursuits can be considered pointless, though that places quite a large existential burden upon us puny humans .... aren't we prone to ask 'Why?' Aren't our pursuits geared toward finding meaning in our lives?

Hmmm..... heavy stuff for an early afternoon musing :)


red dirt girl said...


I shall let you know .... expect future postings :)


red dirt girl said...

Soubriquet !!

You are spoiling me silly .... and I love it (and you). Hurry up and join me, so I can read aloud to you in bed. I need a willing ear and mind to debate :)



goatman said...

I guess that I had always thought that writing was speaking -- but maybe more considered. But why can't speaking be more considered?

Ask and it is given -- boy what a suckup!

red dirt girl said...

Goatman! I'd rap you on the knuckles with my peacock feather if I didn't know how you like to stir the pot. The gifting was an unexpected pleasure!

I find both writing and public speaking to be somewhat painful to do... I prefer writing of course. At least I have a chance to look at my words, erase if needed, start anew. Extemporaneous speaking - heaven help what falls out of my mouth at the wrong time!! I would like to say I consider all my words before speech, but instead, I am quite impulsive which leads, at times, to regrets ...


Lee said...

Dave...I've joined that fellow quite often down there in his ditch!

The book should be good reading, I imagine, red dirt girl.

And never fear, you're not Robinson Crusoe about having "foot-in-mouth disease"...we all suffer from similar...often. Well, speaking for myself, I do...that's why I always like to have clean feet! ;)

red dirt girl said...

Well, being a red dirt mule, I often suffer hoof-in-mouth disease :P


Adullamite said...

Eat the book....

red dirt girl said...

I shall, Adullamite!


J Cosmo Newbery said...

Got excited and ordered my own copy from Amazon - it just turned up. Completely saturated! Poo.

(A little Australia Post sticker said it arrived in Australia wet.)

red dirt girl said...

Oh Cosmo --- that sucks !! I haven't gotten much further than the intro - too busy with work at the moment. But it IS worth the effort. I love it already!

Maybe a spin in the dryer ???



J Cosmo Newbery said...

Well, it is 32+ degC outside at the moment (they are predicting 39) so it (and the other book that came with it) are drying nicely but I have intitated a replacement request from Amazon.

red dirt girl said...

Hahahaaa ... I did momentarily think you might have a very hot dry sun beaming down on your patio to dry out your books. And you are leaving no carbon footprint in the process :-)