Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Zora Neale Hurston on women, men and memory

I’m continuing my quotations from Black American intellectuals today with these opening paragraphs from Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgement.

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Photo of Zora Neale Hurston from Wikipedia


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Readers ask: How’s it feel to kill a character?

I’ve been holding off answering some of the questions I’ve received about The Fugue because the book is really hard to talk about without giving up spoilers. Even skilled interviewers like Amy Danzer of New City (click for interview) and Rick Kogan of WGN (click for interview) had to find clever ways of talking about the book to keep from revealing too much.

At this point, I’ve gathered enough questions that I can start blogging on a more regular basis. I’ve found some to be really the provocative.

So, here’s the first:

How’s it feel to kill a character?

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun sometimes. To blow off steam, sometimes I’ll just write torture scenes in my notebook, most so over-the-top that they become nonsense. “Blood and brains were everywhere. Everywhere. She’d find bits of spongy brain in her pencil case months later.”

Of course, sometimes the death of a character is a really intense moment. Death is a central theme in my books, especially in connection to religion and love. I’ve written death scenes that have left me crying afterwards. There’s one particular bit in The Fugue that I feared writing. It has to do with a hanging. When I did finally complete it, I went for a long walk through Morningside Heights Park at around 2:00 AM.

I think it’s important to explain what assumptions I bring to my writing. I don’t feel very strongly influenced by the Hollywood narrative in which the good guy survives. I assume I’m treating representations of real people, and so death is a certainty for every character I’ve ever written. Sometimes that death happens within the plot, and some deaths are more gruesome than others. In The Fugue, some people burn alive; another one goes to sleep and never wakes up; a third is killed in a bus shelter; one guy gets kicked in the head by a horse.

I’ve never written a character just to kill them off. Unlike a writer like Flannery O’Connor, I don’t feel that death is a punishment or an instrument of God. To me, it’s part of life, like the rain or the sunset. Readers should notice, however, that unlike Tolstoy in Master and Man, I’ve written very few in-the-moment death scenes. There are two important ones in Finding the Moon in Sugar. In The Fugue, a character named Lars is near death, feverish and delusional in one scene, but he comes out of it. A lot of the deaths happen “behind the scenes” and are either discovered or noted by other characters.

Of all the scenes I’ve ever read, I feel that Nabokov must have had more fun than anyone else writing Humbert Humbert’s murder of Clare Quilty. It’s a romp, at once sublime and profane, and even includes a poetry reading. I think the reader enjoys, at least partially, watching Quilty go. I’d be shocked if readers found characters in my books they wanted to see destroyed.

However, I’m working on one now that people will probably want to see tortured. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with him yet. But his fate won’t be easy.

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Dariya Marchenko: Art from Ammunition

Here’s the brilliant Dariya Marchenko making a humanitarian statement on the continued atrocities perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. This Reuters report should leave you provoked and moved. Daria assembles a portrait of Putin from bullet cartridges collected from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, and the art is being presented in conjunction with a novel (which I’d very much like to read).

Please share this report.

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Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters


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Dead Poets Society

Back in March, I wrote this article regarding my love of Dead Poets Society, and I admit what an influence the film and Williams’ interpretation of Keating were on my teen years. They led to me becoming a teacher, and of taking the writing life seriously.

I’ll be publishing an article about Robin Williams in today’s True Community. I’m shocked, reading back, that I wrote the previous article as I did, contemplating the film’s lessons about mortality, in the same year that Williams would end his life. Fans of his work, and those moved as I am by his loss, will appreciate it. Please share.


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Living an examined life

This week’s installment of True Community tells the story of the moment when I faced my mortality. I was sixteen, and it happened while watching Dead Poets Society. The event inspired me to become a teacher (I already knew I wanted to be a writer).

I used to directly teach the concept of the examined life. But various pressures conspired to see me give up the topic. It also got too exhausting because students didn’t respond well to questions like “Who are you?”  and “Where does the world come from?”

These days, I try to teach the lesson through the back door.

Hope you’ll check it out.

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100 words on love

It’s challenging for  writer to be limited to a certain amount of words, and the fewer I get to work with the more difficult the piece of writing seems to be. However, when the Good Men Project announced a new series of pieces, 100 Words on Love, I somehow felt I should participate.

Here is the result, titled The Final Drop. I hope you check it out.