Discussion → How much sad is too sad?

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    See ya
    Sep 16, 12:14pm

    My favorite songwriter of all time, Townes Van Zandt, was often put on the spot and asked why "all of his songs were so sad." I've heard some good responses from him in various interviews he gave before his death.

    Several people have asked the same of me and I've yet to find an answer that seems articulate enough to explain. It's like trying to explain why my leg jerks when the doctor checks my reflexes during a routine exam. It just does.

    Tone, theme and style, and very often subject matter, dictate to me as a writer, not the other way around.

    What are your thoughts?


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    Sam Rasnake
    Sep 16, 01:34pm

    When it comes to poetry, Sheldon, I've never felt that I dictate anything. The only control I have is to listen or to not listen. I write it down. And what I'm really talking about is ... that my best work - if there be such a thing - comes that way. I don't really shape or mold it. It comes or it doesn't.

    Van Zandt's If I Needed You - great, great song - came to him in a dream - melody and lyrics. I think he changed one word. So - I agree that tone, theme, style, and subject matter dictate.


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    James Lloyd Davis
    Sep 19, 12:45pm

    I've been thinking about this, thinking about it, thinking.

    Ultimately, I came up blank. It's hard to write about source and cause for the why of tone and content. When asked, I usually say that I am channeling a dead writer named Elliott D'Mauve, but that's only a smart-ass way of hiding my ignorance about such things.

    I'm not indifferent, merely uninformed, so I'll keep thinking about this and come back later.

    Interesting that Sam brought up Van Zandt's dream. I've awakened from dreams like that, written them down as stories, more so since I've been on here at Fn and began writing 'flash.' Posted two of them. The idea for the novel I'm writing now came from a dream.

    Where the rest of it comes from and what sets the tone of it ... have to give it more thought.


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    Ann Bogle
    Sep 19, 01:18pm

    Sadness is good. Humor is good. The combination -- humor embued with sadness -- cannot disappoint. Disappointment is a condition. In her unfinished novel-essay called The Pargiters, in a speech of January 21, 1931, Virginia Woolf writes, "You are bound I am afraid to meet with a great deal of derision and opposition. You will want your strength and courage. And for this reason it is of the highest importance that you should not add to your burdens a very heavy and unnecessary burden, the burden of bitterness. [...] I would ask you to use a novelist's prerogative -- to use your imaginations and to try that as a specific against bitterness." (p. xli) Yesterday while driving I recalled that a man, perhaps a mafia member, told me during my mid-20s that he liked me because I was "bittersweet." Sometimes I feel bitter not bittersweet and must remember to let in my imagination.


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    Kathy Fish
    Sep 19, 01:30pm

    Great Virginia Woolf quote, Ann.


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    See ya
    Sep 30, 08:26am

    Woolf and Van Zandt...perfect folks to talk about with this sort of discussion.

    I've heard interviews with Van Zandt about the writing "If I Needed You" after he woke up from a dream while staying with Guy and Suzanne Clark. Said it just was there in this dream, a dream in which he was a folk singer and this was the song he was singing. Amazing.

    And, James, you're now writing a novel based on a dream. That's big, man. Keep rocking.

    Woolf's comments are, as always, great. Bitterness is the thing that I try to avoid with my sad as shit stories, but I'm afraid it creeps in. Bitterness and sentiment are the enemies of writing about the gritty moments of both our past lives as they filter into our fiction and also the imagined hardships I'm often inclined to include.



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