University of Texas at El Paso


Writing out of the Darkness

The recent death of J.D. Salinger predictably renewed speculation about how much the reclusive author had been writing since the late 1960s, whether his death would prompt the discovery of reams of dusty manuscripts stuffed in sagging trunks.  The image tantalizes with its suggestion of the lone artistic madman, bent over a typewriter and churning out words that he believes nobody will ever read.

                In a column musing on Salinger’s passing, author and creative-literacy advocate Dave Eggers advanced his own theory that I happen to agree with:  Without an audience and without the pressure of publishing to help him evolve as an artist, Salinger most likely lost interest in writing. While he continued to “dabble” in writing, Eggers suggests, he did it less and less over the years and probably never finished anything satisfactorily.  Eggers compares the pressure of publishing to the pressure needed to turn carbon into diamonds.

                It’s perhaps telling that the last time Salinger toyed with the idea of publishing, in the late 1990s, the proposed book was a reprint of his last published story, “Hapworth 16, 1924.” Why not pull a manuscript from one of those sagging trunks?

                Publishing, as well as less public pursuits such as workshopping and editing, creates the context and the space necessary to turn writing from idle thought into vibrant dialogue. The reader completes the text in his or her own way, shaping meaning according to individual experiences and prejudices. Any writer who has workshopped or published a piece has been surprised at the way readers see things in his work that he neither consciously intended nor noticed. 

                Even Emily Dickinson, who only published seven poems in her lifetime (apparently because editors “corrected” her idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization), corresponded with others about literature and collected her verse in lovingly constructed and neatly organized manuscript scrapbooks, ensuring a lively posthumous dialogue with thousands of Dickinson readers and scholars. The romantic image of the writer as tortured loner belies the writer’s need to engage and inspire.

                Quicksilver continues its own small and humble part in the publishing dialogue with this third issue, featuring work by Cathy Carr, Melanie Faith, J. David Bell, and others.  This issue marks the departure of one of the founding editors, Nick Ripatrazone, but news of his recent work can still be found by following the link to his blog from the masthead. One of the former poetry editors, Michelle Primeau, has stepped up to assume the duties of co-editor.  Since Nick did so much to make this online magazine tick, this issue has taken a little longer than expected to go live.  But we are pleased with the final product and pleased to continue the dialogue in any way we can. 

D. Brian Anderson