Poetry by Atri Majumder

Atri MajumderAtri Majumder resides at Kolkata, India. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Calcutta. He has two published anthologies-Shadow of Light (2012) and Visible Infinity (2014).

 

 

Faint Glitter
Whenever you came into the light
You thought you were beautiful;
And the light bonded with the future,
You flickered around it.

The spring revealed the winter,
While you were receding
Back to the shores of desire-
The desire for an unadulterated light.

Tentative
A yawn of the memory,
A rekindled cigarette.

Visible silence
Of the telephone.

An interrupting solitude.

Tidy
The crooked mirror:
Arranging distortion.

A distant present:
Resting cautiously.

An Interview with Artist Wade Ganes

TreeHouse recently spoke with artist Wade Ganes about his artwork, painting style and love of the female form. Wade’s artwork is hosted on the site and also appeared in a previous post as part of the ValleyCrest Art Show we reported on last month. Keep reading after our interview to check out images of Wade’s recent work.

 

TreeHouse: You started painting many years ago, but took quite some time off. What made you start again, and do you think you’ll keep painting now that you’ve gotten back into it?

Wade Ganes: My coworker and good buddy, Travis Gramberg, convinced me to use the small patio in my apartment as a studio in preparation for an art show our company was planning. I did that and started pumping out work to make the show’s deadline. Yes, I definitely intend to continue creating, but likely at a slower pace. I tend to work on more than one piece at a time, because there are a thousand things I want to do, but realistically there is only so much time in a day.

TH: It is one thing to have the talent, but quite another to act on it. What started you creating in the first place? And what made you decide to create for a living?

WG: The youngest I remember drawing was around six or so. My dad and I were drawing trees; he said my trees were better than his and I said his were, which then turned into a “who’s better at drawing trees” type of game between us. I suppose you can say that his continued praise encouraged my creative pursuits as I grew older.

The reason I studied landscape architecture at college was because the courses that I took in that field allowed for hands-on rendering. I took a lot of art classes too – sculpture, art history, painting – but decided to stay with landscape architecture rather than go for an art degree. I knew I’d need a job once I graduated that allowed me to create for a living, and in reality, if I were a wealthy person I’d likely just be creating art. However, the reason I didn’t pursue an art major was because all of the artists I knew were stuck in jobs that paid well, but didn’t let them create art. And I didn’t want that.

TH: Your work is beautifully vibrant. Are the colors chosen to invoke a response from viewers or a result of an impulse within you? What is your connection to colors?

WG: I’d say the latter. I trained in colors through my classes to become a landscape architect. I usually start with complimentary colors and tend to stay towards more pastel shades. I’ve heard the colors I use referred to as feminine, but I think that’s a mistaken view – it’s more sexual in nature than anything else. Especially when I work with oils, I feel like there’s something very sexual in the way the paint glides across the canvas. The motion and movement of that has always reminded me of the curves of a woman.

You can say that at some point during the process I’m thinking of the female body, which of course is feminine, but to me is really more sexual in nature. That said, when I’m picking a color sometimes it simply comes down to what’s left in the box, but if I lean towards softer shades it’s likely because they tend to remind me of the female form.

TH: You’ve worked with oils, charcoal, watercolors, chalk, and even computer graphics. What do you like and dislike about these various materials?

WG: Oil is expensive because I tend to paint with a thick amount of it. Oils though – I love that thickness about them and the way they move with the palette knife (when I work with them I don’t use a brush). I really only use pastels and charcoal when I’m making a mixed media piece. When I work with those mediums it’s usually very quick and I typically finish the piece in one setting, where with paint I tend to ponder and take breaks between strokes.

Computer graphics tend to be a combination of a hand drawn piece that I then render on the computer. Strictly computer graphics though are hard to get a hands-on feel for, which makes it limiting for me. It becomes less of a love affair and more of a chore. Once you have a plan in place – by setting up rules in the computer – it becomes more of a breakdown on time, how many clicks and commands, etc. It starts to feel more like work, but the positive is that the colors and gradations are amazing and easily manipulated.

TH: Do you prefer to create with or without the works of others in close proximity–the way writers also tend to read literature while they compose their own texts?

WG: Not physically, but I constantly use websites for inspiration. So in the digital sense, yes, I do that quite often.

TH: The majority of your work tends towards varying levels of abstraction. Does how abstract you make the work depend on your subject matter?

WG: I paint in non-representational and representational abstract, but I tend to be prouder of my works that are non-representational. I find a certain level of comfort in them.

TH: How personal is your work or is that even a concern for you?

WG: It’s extremely personal – it starts as a line, but as time goes on a story develops. A circle in the center of space slowly transforms into a personal journey of sorts. Some of my works appear more abstract in nature because I’m only comfortable sharing a part of that story with the viewer.

TH: Where does your inspiration from? Moments? Situations? Stories you want to tell?

WG: For me, it takes a long time to put something down. I will stare at a blank canvas forever and the inspiration hits once there’s a mark on the canvas. One mark determines the next, which determines the next, and so forth. Rarely do I know what I’m going to do when I start. The story unfolds after I get started, but there is always a story. Whether or not the viewer gets the full version of it is another matter altogether.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wade Ganes

Wade Ganes

Wade Ganes is a Senior Project Manager at ValleyCrest. He attended North Dakota State University, where he received his Landscape Architecture degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Design with an art minor. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and two children, and spends what little free time he has left rising up the ranks of karate and hitting the golf courses.

Photography by Jason Clemens

Jason Clemens

Jason Clemens

A couple of events in recent history have helped shape my budding hobby of photography. First, three and a half years ago I became a father in my mid-thirties and I feel that it defined my focus and outlook on life. Second, last year a friend suggested that I create an Instagram account and I immediately found a vast world of creative, like-minded people sharing the beauty that they enjoyed every day. I slowly began my first foray into social networking and it proved to be addictive, while also providing a powerful outlet of creative energy that had been building for decades.

In a little over a year my account has grown considerably and I have been able to share some photos from my past, while continuing to explore my surroundings and share pictures from my travels around my home state of Michigan. I have used some editing tools while getting the most from my limited equipment of a point and shoot Olympus and iPhone. I have managed to capture some images that I am proud of while working an awful lot on a career that is not quite as enjoyable as taking and posting pictures all day.

I was thrilled and humbled to learn that an artist’s community sought my contribution to their aesthetic collection, as it allows me to expand my audience further and connect with people with similar passions.

You can follow Jason’s work on Instagram at jackattack31011

Awe, Anxiety, and the Anti-Oprah: An Evening with Jonathan Franzen

By TreeHouse Guest Bloggers Michelle Arch and Ian Prichard

 

Award Winning Novelist, Jonathan Franzen.  Photo Credit: Newport Beach Public Library

Award Winning Novelist, Jonathan Franzen. Photo Credit: Newport Beach Public Library

Jonathan Franzen was at the Newport Beach Public Library on a perfect fall night in late October, and so were Michelle Arch and Ian Prichard.

One of the keenest and most celebrated observers of the American condition of the century thus far, Jonathan Franzen, is known equally well for his fiction (The Corrections, Freedom) as he is for his essays and reportage (How to Be Alone, Farther Away). Whether he’s translating Karl Kraus or detailing the plight of slaughtered songbirds or developing complex, comedic pitfalls for his fictional characters, one of Franzen’s main themes is disintegration: of society, the environment, literary culture. He’s been (not so lightly) chided by hoi polloi and the intellectual elite alike for his attitude, which is often read as snobbery – and which he’s just as often owned and defended: “Difficulty tends to signal excellence; it suggests that the novel’s author has disdained cheap compromise and stayed true to an artistic vision. […] Pleasure that demands hard work, the slow penetration of mystery, the outlasting of lesser readers, is the pleasure most worth having” (“Mr. Difficult”).

Ian had spent the previous couple days at a writer’s conference, learning about SEO and platform-building and audience-generation and how you, too, can be a Published Author! and basically, like, how the timeshare actually pays for itself! after year six. He was actively looking forward to a little literary snobbery. Michelle was submitting her MFA thesis, a 172-page excerpt from the novel she has been writing for the last six years, in four days and should have been home finishing the last chapter and critical statement. But this was Jonathan Franzen – her literary hero and intellectual idol of the same past six years – and he was going to be a twenty-minute drive away.

Neither of us was missing this, and neither was disappointed.

We’ll start where Franzen did, at the title of his lecture: “Storytelling and the Modern World.”

“You know,” he said, “they ask you to submit the titles to these things so long in advance. I thought, Am I not a storyteller? Is this not the modern era?” He shrugged, we laughed. “I can say whatever I want.”

“I was glad it wasn’t an interview,” he went on. “Interviews get annoying after a while. They ask you the same questions, none of which were interesting the first time.” But and therefore, he said, he was going to interview himself. He’d come up with and answered eleven questions no one had ever asked him before, some of which were fairly straightforward (his favorite joke) and others of which were a bit more complex. Like the very first question: “What role have envy and competition played in your life as a writer?”

“No one has ever asked me that before!” he said with glee, and was off. What followed were forty-five minutes of familial quips, societal harangues, collegial (and not-so-) jabs, self-deprecating jokes, and emotional admissions. This is our attempt to capture just a little bit of that.

IP: What most impressed me was Franzen’s honesty. Not just about his disdain for writers he used to envy – though his bits about Updike and Roth being worthy of his moral judgment were pretty good – but about his motives for writing. David Foster Wallace, for instance – Franzen said he started The Corrections the day after he finished reading the manuscript of Infinite Jest, and that he began working in earnest on Freedom as soon as he came back from DFW’s funeral, both as a kind of counterpunch. It was no surprise those two guys felt competitive; it was a surprise to hear Franzen say his dear friend “partly killed himself as a career move.”

MA: It was, but I think that speaks to their relationship. In Farther Away, Franzen recounts one of the final conversations he had with Wallace: “I said that the last time he’d been through near-death experiences, he’d emerged and written, very quickly, a book that was light-years beyond what he’d been doing before his collapse.” Franzen alluded to this paradoxical connection between Wallace’s “depths of infinite sadness” and writing success.

IP: And he suggested that Wallace knew he would be even more successful posthumously. “That’s not why he killed himself,” Franzen explained at his lecture, “but he was smart enough to know what it would do to sales.” Which is brutal, but which was, in his telling of it that night at the library, also funny. One of the things we mention in the intro is laughter. There was a lot of it throughout the event. What’d you make of that? Were you expecting him to be so funny?

MA: No. This is a guy who says things like “It’s hard to consider literature a medicine, in any case, when reading it serves mainly to deepen your depressing estrangement from the mainstream” (“Why Bother?,” How to Be Alone) and “To laugh well at humanity, both your own humanity and that of others, you have to be as distant and unsparing as if you’re writing tragedy” (“Authentic but Horrible,” Farther Away). So, no, I didn’t expect him to be funny. I expected him to be aloof and abstruse, which would have been perfectly fine with me. The humor was a surprise.

But I appreciated most how uncomfortable and somewhat awkward he seemed. When he was asked to describe himself in five words, he could only think of one: anxious. And he said it several times, remember? “I’m anxious. That’s really the only word I can think of to describe myself.”

Not believing him, there was a pause while we all waited for him to rattle off a varied list of four more self-descriptors, which would undoubtedly contain an adjective or two that resonated enough for each of us to nudge our friend or seat neighbor with a wide-eyed nod. Yeah, that’s me, too; I’m just like Jonathan Franzen. But he simply said “Yep, anxious” again. Another long moment passed as he seemed to be thinking hard of other possibilities, and then he gave up. “That’s really all I can come up with,” he said with a shrug.

I’m incredibly self-conscious myself and have been told that my discomfort in my own skin is actually quite observable, so I related to his answer. There’s a reason professional and aspiring writers are holed up in solitude most of the time. We’re a mess, socially. Franzen says he and Wallace agreed that fiction is a way out of loneliness.

IP: You’re right, he did say “anxious” at least three times. But that anxiety didn’t keep him from performing, from cracking jokes and interacting with the audience, even parading around in imitation of the typical TED Talk stage presence. And I think that self-consciousness is a common attribute of scriveners, and I certainly understand the tendency towards solitude, but Franzen’s hardly a shut-in, and I think his presence on the world stage says a lot about what kind of writer he is.

For someone who so consistently and loudly disdains social media (in “Against Heine,” a translation of a Karl Krauss essay, Franzen confesses a sense of “disappointment when a novelist who ought to have known better, Salman Rushdie, succumbs to Twitter”), Franzen is discussed and debated and lionized and demonized all over the place. It’s a delicate balance between touring and appearing and writing and contributing to champion your own work and “fight the good fight” of promoting literature qua literature, and disdaining the overpopularization of writers and their work.

There’s no denying Franzen’s ability – the man can write – but the ability to do so is fairly well distributed across the population, and Franzen’s stuff is hardly breaking new stylistic ground. So why is he such a phenom?

MA: Uh, because Oprah said so?

IP: Well, yes and no. She’s definitely never hurt anyone’s sales.

Part of Franzen’s success, of course, is that he’s a white American male. And an intellectual New Yorker who was born in a small town in the Midwest – dude has coastal and fly-over appeal. On top of which he writes WASP family dramas, and WASPs love reading about themselves, and publishers know they can sell a lot of WASPy books. America may in fact be too diverse for there ever to be a real actual Great American Novel, but the country’s still predominately white, and if Time is going to label anyone the “Great American Novelist,” it’s going to be JFranz. (This is nothing new.)

And yet, Franzen presents as an unknowable, semi-obscure deity dragged kicking into the light. I know referring to someone as a “rock star” is hackneyed, but when your irascibility, elitism, and general middle-finger-to-the-worldness cause a number of people to hate you but many more people to love you, even – especially – if they don’t know your stuff, then perhaps the moniker is fitting. Keith Richards says “fuck you” to everyone, especially the music establishment and excepting a handful of blues players, and everyone loves Keif. He happens to be an incredible guitarist, but how many people who love him really know what that means? How many care? Franzen may not have the sordid drug and womanizing history as Mr. Richards (I’m not trying to say they’re much alike at all), but he did manage to talk down about Oprah’s book choices (“schmaltzy,” wasn’t it?) and be uninvited from her show (what a relief!), but remain on the Book Club list and see sales soar. So yes, the whole Oprah “thing” certainly helped.

So, speaking of “things” in quotation marks, how much of his persona are we supposed to buy, and how much see as performance? Is there a difference?

What do we make of the fact that he criticizes the American mainstream for desiring unliterary texts, yet still makes a killing writing family dramas that he insists are not, well, difficult?

MA: The distinction, of course, is that they’re not difficult to him. And that’s both his point and his dilemma. His literary palette is that of DFW and William Gaddis and Dostoyevsky. In “Mr. Difficult,” Franzen recalls “Mrs. M.,” an angry reader who is outraged by his sophisticated vocabulary and overall level of difficulty in his fiction. Presumably, Mrs. M. represents the “average person” who is just looking for a pleasant reading experience, and the ostensibly elitist Franzen has failed her and the reading public in general with his “fancy words” and highbrow phrases.

Confronted with this reader’s hostility and apparent opinion that it is the consumer (alas, often via Oprah) who decides what constitutes good and appropriate writing, Franzen is conflicted. He presents two very different models of the relationship between fiction and its readers and admits that he subscribes to both: the Status model, which suggests that the best novels disregard the issue of accessibility and “invites a discourse of genius and art-historical importance,” and the opposing Contract model, which is based on the author earning and sustaining the reader’s trust and connecting with the audience. In the Status model, a high level of difficulty suggests excellence. In the Contract model, the author fulfills his or her obligation by entertaining readers; the relationship is founded on providing and receiving pleasure.

IP: Yes, I suppose that distinction depends on what you mean by “entertainment” and “pleasure.” For Franzen, and I think for anyone who actually goes back and reads them of their own volition, the novels of Dickens and Dostoyevsky are incredibly “entertaining” – The Inimitable in particular wrote them expressly for that purpose. And Franzen says in “Mr. Difficult,” “in my bones, I’m a Contract kind of person.” Tastes change with the times, I suppose, and I guess the question is what, exactly, is wrong with reading for entertainment? And, by extension, writing for those who do?

MA: I think it’s a slippery slope. As Franzen describes it in “Difficult,” “Contract is a recipe for pandering, aesthetic compromise, and a babel of competing literary subcommunities.” From my perspective, this is a polite way of indicating that writers who subscribe to the Contract model may need to “dumb down” their work to appeal to the least common denominator of readers in order to sell books. As both a reader and aspiring writer, I’m offended by the notion that authors may need to supplant complicated, unfamiliar text with two-syllable words and well-known phrases to ensure that the majority of the reading public is able to enjoy a “good read.” After all, intellect can be transformed and often is through reading complex and challenging books. I have a multitude of hard books on my bedside table and shelves that I’m still slogging through, and, for me, it’s the hard that makes them great, at least partly.

IP: I have to disagree; I don’t think that hardness is a gateway one has to pass through into greatness. And I think that Fra—wait, did you just quote A League of Their Own in your defense of Franzen’s literary difficulty?

MA: I was wondering if you’d catch that. You’ve got to admit that’s an excellent line from a pretty great Contract movie. I suppose I could have better underscored my Status advocacy with Emerson. “’Tis the good reader,” and all.

IP: I’ll admit that it may be an apt allusion. A League was a compelling story, and a decent script. I’m sure they could have found much better actresses than Madonna and Rosie and Geena Davis, some real Status actresses that might have better brought those characters to life, added some complexity and dimension, some real gravitas – at the very least, some believable tears. But how many people would have seen the movie without those Contract personalities? How many people – how many guys – would recognize a quote from it twenty-some years later?

MA: Yeah, I’m fairly impressed.

IP: My point is that it begs the question, what’s “great”?

In that article we keep referring to, Franzen also says each reader is “ultimately […] alone with his or her conscience.” And I think this is true of writers, also. We make choices about every single line we commit to paper. What we’re going for with those choices, what we hope the book will accomplish, influences each of those choices.

How will this sound to a reader?

To what kind of reader?

How much do I care?

MA: And, one of my favorites, How much of my characterization of real people is going to offend or hurt those people?

But then I guess it all really comes down to your third question. As Anne Lamott quips in Bird by Bird, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” During his lecture and in Farther Away, Franzen addressed the issue of loyalty and how his own family felt about their obvious depictions in The Corrections, particularly his oldest brother: “The question then becomes: Am I willing to risk alienating somebody I love in order to continue becoming the writer I need to be?”

IP: Man. My family hasn’t shown up in my fiction much (yet), so I haven’t had to think about that too much. Thankfully.

Maybe we don’t ask these questions every time we look over each sentence, but they color the attitude we bring to the writing desk. Except for a very few pure-genius types (who no one will probably hear of until they’re dead, and who probably don’t care), we’re all answering that third question, if we’re honest, with something between “a fair amount” and “it’s everything.”

The problem is that second question, and wanting our conception of the perfect target audience to number in the multiple-millions. Franzen seems at times to imply that he wants there to be more people like him, readers who don’t want cheap tricks and actively want to work for their pleasure. And he gets accused of impressing that effort on people. But the Mrs. Ms of the world aside, the line-by-line writing in his books is nothing anyone with an eighth-grade reading level can’t comprehend (okay, maybe he’d need a dictionary every thirty or forty pages, but that’s hardly an insurmountable barrier) and Franzen actually does have multiple-millions of readers.

If I can borrow the movie’s phrase, a lot of people think Franzen thinks of himself as being in a league of his own. I’m not so sure he thinks that – he’s no blue-collar champion of the workingman, but I don’t think he’s as much of an elitist jerk as some folks make him out to be. I am sure, however, that he thinks of himself as belonging to a cadre of people who get pleasure out of a certain kind of book.

MA: I’m certain that you and I wear that cadre’s insignia.

IP: Absolutely. And I don’t know, I think that even if the reading of “literary fiction” and “serious novels” becomes a “cultish” activity vis-à-vis “mainstream” culture (forgive all those “”s – you can tell how fraught I consider labels), there’ll still be a lot of people in that cult.

MA: And apparently they’ll all be recognizable by something more than a metaphorical badge. I’ll never forget the book signing part of the evening. We waited in that line for, what, twenty or thirty minutes? And when we stood in front of Franzen at last (I all starry-eyed and semi-lovestruck, imagining the dinner parties we would throw), he just stared at us.

“You guys wouldn’t be…writers, would you?” he asked finally. It was as if we had spilled writer juice on our shirts or something. I swear I looked at your forehead for a mark or tattoo or scarlet “A” – for anxious.

“Working on it,” I think I stammered self-consciously.

IP: You weren’t the only one stricken – if this were another time and ours another profession, I would have asked for an apprenticeship.

It’s funny what things one remembers – and what counts for encouragement in our rather solitary pursuit. I’m sure it was simple civility, but what made an impression on me was how sincere he sounded when he handed us our books back and said, looking at us over the top of his glasses, “Well, good luck.”

 

 

Michelle Arch, Guest Blogger for TreeHouse

Michelle Arch, Guest Blogger for TreeHouse

Michelle Arch is a guest blogger for TreeHouse. She just completed her Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Chapman University. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and English from California State University, Fullerton. Arch is a member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Modern Language Association, and the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society.

 

Her current projects include a portfolio of short stories, poems, and critical essays, many of which explore themes of identity and self-definition and the study of mimetic imagery, and a novel. Arch has presented her work at the 2010 and 2011 Sigma Tau Delta International Conventions in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, the Sigma Tau Delta 2011 Regional Conference in Orange, California, the 2012 John Fowles Literary Forum, and the 2012 Big Orange Book Festival. Her work is also published regularly on the ACFW website and in the Orange County Register.

 

An excerpt from her novel, Time of Death, won First Prize in the Fiction Writing Contest sponsored by The Editorial Department, Second Prize in the WestBow Press Writing Contest, and Third Prize in the Beverly Bush Smith Aspiring Writer Award competition at the 2012 Orange County Christian Writers Conference in Newport Beach. To visit her website and blog, Archetype, go to http://www.michellearch.wordpress.com/.
 
Ian Prichard, Guest Blogger for TreeHouse

Ian Prichard, Guest Blogger for TreeHouse

Ian Prichard is a guest blogger for TreeHouse who works at a water district by day and writes by night. His nonfiction has appeared both online and in print, and he’s seeking representation for his first novel. Visit At The Wellhead here: http://atthewellhead.com/

Life Is Beautiful, Indeed

By Natasha Ganes

At the end of October, I attended the three-day Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas, NV, and can now say with all certainty that it’s my new favorite music fest. Only to refer to it as a music festival is not entirely accurate, considering it’s so much more than that and what makes it brilliant is not the music at all, but the art and atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, the bands were great (The Roots, Jenny Lewis, Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Fritz & the Tantrums, The Flaming Lips, Broken Bells – you get the idea), but what really makes this festival work is the scene’s overall groovy vibe and street art courtesy of worldwide urban artists.

If Life Is Beautiful stands out from similar events, it’s with good reason: the festival was created as a community program designed to connect those who wish to spread inspiration, raise awareness on social issues, and share the overall contagious hope that life really is beautiful.

Here is a place where the glitter body art is free, the food is so good the specialty trucks have lines a half hour long, babies wearing headphones are strapped to the chests of every fifth guy in the crowd, toddlers in fairy costumes weave in and out of the bathroom line, everyone you bump into is your new smiling friend, you can watch live televised cooking demos given by famous chefs in between bands, the Dos Equis-sponsored masquerade lounge gives away scorpion suckers and bacon/cheddar-flavored dried crickets, people dressed as autumn trees wobble around on stilts, and the sides of almost every building are adorned with colorful, life-sized paintings.

I took some shots of a few of my favorite street art pieces from the festival. For more images from the event and information on how to get into next year’s show, head over to the Life Is Beautiful site and found out what makes this festival worth attending.