May 3, 2009

The Journals of Andre Gide
Volume One: 1889-1924

Old Friends and Art – My friend, the writer Kevin Grandfield, introduced me to Gide’s writing back in grad school in the fiction writing program at Columbia College Chicago. Re-reading the dog-eared pages and underlined passages in this well-studied volume brings back a flood of memories, filled with equal amounts of nostalgia and hope. “And at your feet, on the other side of your writing-table, all Paris,” I underlined at a time when I was just beginning to re-navigate my way in and around Chicago, returning as an adult to my childhood roots. “I suffer absurdly from the fact that everybody does not already know what I hope some day to be, what I shall be; that people cannot foretell the work to come just from the look in my eyes.” If that’s not graduate school yearning and ambition, what is? “Giving yourself your word to do something ought to be no less sacred than giving your word to others.” If that’s not sound advice for life, what is? “It’s not enough merely to create the event most likely to reveal character; rather the character itself must necessitate the event. (See Coriolanus, Hamlet.)” If that’s not sound advice for writing, what is? And the journal’s central, lasting piece of advice: “Dare to be yourself. I must underline that in my head, too.”


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