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Deborah Copaken Kogan Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 11.20.12

“When it comes to inspiration, I’m an omnivore, an art whore: I’ll take it wherever I can get it. I come from a previous incarnation as a visual artist, so I see writing not as some sort of alchemy apart but as just another way of telling stories: of finding truths, of cutting through the quotidian, of—to blatantly steal from Joni Mitchell—“touching souls.” Yes, I know she was referring to love, but I’ve always experienced the best art, in whatever medium, as acts of simultaneous aggression and love. (There’s a reason Matthew Barney called his series The Cremaster Cycle, okay?) A random sampling of my most recent couplings: I saw Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities and couldn’t move for ten minutes after the audience filed out; I read Edward St. Aubyn’s The Patrick Melrose Novels and wandered around bereft, as if in mourning, when I was done; I went to a concert by The National and felt what I imagine others feel for Jesus; I randomly came into contact with four of Richard Rogers’ buildings over the course of three days (the Pompidou, the River Café, his house, and Heathrow’s Terminal 5) and felt permanently transformed; I downloaded Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz followed by Lena Dunham’s Girls followed by Tig Notaro’s Tig Notaro Live—legally! I paid for them! People, you must pay for your art or you want have any more of it—and wanted to reach through my iPad to hug them all; I keep Robert Frank’s The Americans easily accessible next to my dining room table, in case I need to commune with him over breakfast. Ditto for Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” or Radiohead’s “Reckoner” or U2’s “One” or Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” as I’m drowning my Cheerios in milk. Works and artists like these set the bar for me. They say to me, 'Here’s what’s possible, lowly cereal muncher. Now sit your ass down and contribute.’”
Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of The Red Book (Hyperion, 2012)

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