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Dalton Trumbo
Screen Writer, Dalton Trumbo at Work in his Office

Dear Residents,

Please share with the CityPlace Residents’ Community some of your ideas and experiences regarding what you do to keep busy writing during these times of enforced isolation. Is it a curse or a charming situation for you—exactly what you wanted—or some combination of both? What ideas can you share about what you’re learning to do on account of the shutdown that’s different. Do you have any particular tips to give to students hoping to make the most of this free time away from ordinary distractions?

I’m sure many of you may be tired of hearing from me, still I’ll start things off, shall I?

Is Isolation a Charm or a Curse, for you?

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells Talking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen And the mailbox is locked

—Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize recipient for Literature, from “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”

Please, not to be mistaken with rubbing it in—while knowing how difficult these times are for so many others—I confess my life hasn’t changed much at all. I buy more from Amazon and I can’t get gluten free oatmeal at Sobey’s across the street. That’s about it. Other than that, I get up before dawn with Kobe and we go for a walk in the park.

Then I feed the Kobemonster, brew up several Barocco espresso lattés for myself, get high and be sure to take CBD and lion’s mane with protein powder, fish oils and multivitamins sooner than later. Similar to the way McLuhan used to read the same passage of the Bible in different languages to start his day off—I like to pick out random poems from my favourite poets to give me some luck. This morning’s pick was taken from the song quoted above, on page 198 of Bob Dylan: The Lyrics 1961-2012.

Every “new” invention retrieves something from the past that’s been overlooked or forgotten. That’s an absolute law of media. In that sense, we as individuals are libraries of sorts.

Picking up the thread from what I said about Marshall McLuhan’s laws of media in mu piece on the surrender of culture last time, the third law involves how all human inventions—including letters, screenplays, novels, front-page headlines, products and services advertising etc.—are created out of archetypal ideas and previous artifacts and bits of stories in our culture. It’s out of the rags and bones of these dialectal antecedents that we re-fashion new tapestries of original composition.

Advice to a Young Poet

So long as there are humans on this planet
and Jupiter’s in heaven there will be disasters

Make sure
you can read about them

—Irving Layton, Canadian poet extraordinaire

There’s little debate on the subject: all writers are great readers also. They must be. Finally finished James Watson’s account of the discovery of the DNA structure this morning. Fabulous read. Watson makes his and Francis Crick’s breakthrough scientific adventure into a detective story that, as Andre Lwoff remarked in Scientific American, leaves you breathless from beginning to end. The writing itself is superb. The content, mind- expanding. And often a bit mind-boggling as well.

First line of chapter 1 is something I’ve often heard my best friends and nemeses say about me: “I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood.” That’s a great opening, right up there with what I’m sure was co-author Curt Gentry’s opening contribution to Vincent Bugliosi’s most famous book, “It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.” That’s too good for Bugliosi to have thought of or written.

All writing and reading (mostly) good writing is practice at writing good writing. Therefore essential. So my advice to young writers and dedicated teachers of good writing is to do lots of both, or all three of the stable foundations: reading, writing, and rhetoric.

Best of luck and good hunting. Please share with friends who are writers.

CPRA President
Peter Chiaramonté, PhD

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