Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tim O'Brien on our 26 letters

I had the pee-my-pants pleasure of meeting Tim O'Brien at the Texas Book Festival this past weekend.  I'm here to tell you he's every bit as gracious, humble, and smart as you'd think the author of The Things They Carried would be.  Just before I met him for drinks at a bar along Congress Avenue in Austin, I attended a ceremony at the State Capitol where he received the Texas Writer Award for 2012.  After he'd shaken the presenter's hand and acknowledged the pounding waves of applause in the House Chamber, he sat down for a conversation with novelist Elizabeth McCracken (another of my literary idols I met this weekend).  They talked about magic (little-known fact: O'Brien is a professional-grade magician), how his children have influenced his writing, and then he pulled out this gem of a quote:
“There are twenty-six letters in our alphabet. And there are some punctuation marks, and that’s it. All we’ve got. Nothing else. And out of those 26 letters you can make Ulysses, or The Iliad, in translation – or you can make Hustler magazine or some piece of junk. The same twenty-six letters!  And it’s the responsibility of the writer to pay attention to those letters, putting them in order so that they’re graceful, lucid, clear, all the things that matter to you as a writer. ”

1 comment:

  1. Dammit, I wished I'd gone.. Missed them all. My sister has been involved with organizing it, I always figured I was tooo far down the food chain. my stupid