Thursday, August 08, 2013

We have Honorable Obscurity, How 'Bout You! - The Experiental Review of "The Honorable Obscurity Handbook"

The mark of a good book on writing, whether it involves craft, theory, or the writing life, is that it causes me anxiety, and I want to stop reading it. More on that later.

The Honorable Obscurity Handbook's cover says it all: the book is a collection of writing and supporting quotations on the importance of continuing to strive for your art, regardless of recognition. When it says 'ample quotations', it means it in the same way Rubens would paint an 'ample' lady.

I've followed Cunningham's writing for a while now, so many of the essays were familiar, because I had read them on his blog, or in their original publications. But these writings are of a type that are useful to return to. They help fortify the will of self-doubting writers; writers that are beginning to lose their ambition to persevere through the mire of publisher rejections, unresponsive agents; writers who have yelled their work into the wilderness, and never received an answering call that yes, someone has heard your words and enjoyed them - please send more.

The Honorable Obscurity Handbook is Cunningham's fourth book, with (at least) one other book waiting for the diamond band of acceptance for publication. This following quote (which does not appear in the book), was written before the publication of his first book:

"The challenges never let up; after facing one you find another waiting just around the bend -- but this is what I love about it all. Nothing else could possibly challenge me, engage me, force me to confront myself as much as writing. In essence, the whole craft seems to be a game of balances. Maintaining balances."

Though a decade lies between when this quotation was written, and his the publication of his 'Handbook,' Cunningham's course has remained true. With the tailwind of praise, or bushwhacking through modern publishing, he has stayed committed to the the creation of his written art - and in this book has shared the moments on kinship throughout the ages, the communions of reading, that have kept his quest moving forward.

Before I said that good books on writing cause me anxiety, and I want to stop reading them. They cause the anxiety to be creating those 'Honorable' works, to lay down another's book to build up my own. And so fellow writers, 'Obscure' or no, I advise you to pick up your own copy of The Honorable Obscurity Handbook (the book itself is honorably obscure - don't look for it on Amazon; I couldn't even say that I've read it on Goodreads; unless you're in Portland near Powell's, buy it direct from the publisher Atelier 26 Books), and when your nerve is tested, and your vision dims, read a section, read one of the 'ample' quotes, let that anxiety crackle in your body until it must be released through your fingers in whatever your method of writing.

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