[BERNARDS, NJ; MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2020,
Let me begin by pointing out that this introductory letter is a work in progress & that there are still kinks & calculus I’m tweaking such as trying to trim paragraphs for succinctness, turn them into rhyming free verse, with some sense of the essayistic and fictional added into the mix, and fixing the hierarchy of my literary role model writer mentors (for example, I’ve been so confused as to just where Dostoevsky fits in because on the one hand, Robert Musil’s hybridity– a prose fiction that at times reads more like essay & @ other times reads more like prose poetry– is more blatant & poetic while on the other hand, I believe Dostoevsky’s wideness of richly articulated & applied concepts are virtually second to none– so I mean to say, it seems like, so far as my connections to these men appear, it’s a pure & raw tie. I feel horrible excluding Thomas Mann however, b/c his writing too, is virtually as near to perfection as I think creative writing can get. If I had to identify one factor that seems to separate my view of him from my view of Dostoevsky & Musil, I would argue that Mann reminds me ever so slightly of the Tolstoy style, which I view as absolutely masterful however– ironic this is going to sound, coming from me– a bit too impersonal and dry, though I admit Mann tries to cause clouds to drizzle a feel of the personal into his prose, it doesn’t strike me as quite commensurate ; Mann has many brilliances that other writers can advance on that would come less naturally & be of less interest to me on a more nearly inherent-ish feeling-level.)
As such, you’re bound to see a few more significant changes to THE LITERARY DIARY OF SEAN O’CONNOR’S CONTEMPLATIONS & DAYDREAMS. (I don’t at this particular millisecond have enough money to buy another logo of my liking to correspond w/ my title change, however optimist as I am utterly determined to remain, I imagine a real lot of money coming to me ever soon which may even facilitate the self publication of my first book/volume, should the more corporate publishing industry not beat me to the punch.)]
BERNARDS, NJ; SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH, 2020:
I write to you in the midst of contemplating the irony of supposing that soft determinism/compatibalism offers us the best framing of that balance between Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” daydream of a song, willing to ride that which one Bob Dylan song calls a “Simple Twist of Fate” & John Lennon’s fate to spur us to “Imagine” & exclaim “Gimme Some Truth” I mean to say: on the one hand, you’ll either happen to find this letter or you won’t and it will either resonate with you or it won’t. On the other hand, just like faulty democracy is the best we’ve got, so is capitalism, and so, I have to appeal for the vote of your time & money or lose both in my campaign to be, & deserve to be, one of your poets & stand for my dream & aspiration, or “settle” for some other job I’m just not going to love as much as being your poet!
You know that feeling you get when you find someone attractive &/or brilliant so you don’t want to say anything to spoil your prospective connection? That is how I feel, not really wanting to “win you over” because that would contradict the virtue of good art, and yet, needing, in some respect, to win you over, lest I go poor & broke “muttering small talk at the wall” as Bob Dylan sings in “Visions of Johanna.”
That said, I do want to share with you what I believe to be writing worth reading, “should it please the court.” But…should it not, ethics/morality compel me, at least, to present to you those writings of mine I believe to be my best art work, not loaded with vanity but based, ultimately, on a philosophy, a thought out literary aesthetics, & an articulated point of view, if only “for the record.”
So then, for the record & for context: I call this panoply of writings, some purebred, others cross-genre/hybrids (if not literally & de jure than more figuratively & stylistically & defacto), which I feel so passionate a desire to share with you, a “literary diary” & do so courtesy of inspirational forces evoked within me upon exploring the Great Fyodor Dostoevsky’s A Writer’s Diary. He wrote:
“I shall talk to myself and for my own amusement, in the form of this diary, whatever may come of it. What shall I talk about? About everything that strikes me and sets me to thinking.”
The catalogue raisonne of a writer as “literary diary”
Indeed, the benefit of the diary theme is that its goal, as I conceive of it, is that it presents one’s body of writings as records of one’s polished and sometimes spontaneous & thus not so polished contemplations & daydreams, so to speak.
Moreover, with literary diary as the primary platform for the individual writer, as the “literary journal” traditionally does for a group of writers who resonate with the aesthetics and marketing ideas of the publishers, there is less pressure to stick with one genre, as if writing ever should, and more focus on free creative verbal thought and building verbal monuments to how our minds evolve in FORM (thus my various variations of form– i.e., cross-genre/hybrid style) IN TIME & in pursuit of VIRTUE or self improvement or what it might mean to try & make one’s self a “better person.”
In that light then, considered holistically, as a literary diary permits, is largely experimental & “cross-genre”/”hybrid; “I contain multitudes,” to quote what Walt Whitman wrote & Bob Dylan recently echoed)—and I believe my writing reflects that thought.
An additional remark on form & genre: In terms of the FORM of the works you see here, since none of us can ever prove what might happen tomorrow & beyond & since I view ART as, when at its best, EXPLORATORY in nature, there is indeed, bound to be variation. Forced to make a guess at what my next batch/phase of writings, (like a Picassoian period) will look like, I highly suspect they shall take the “form” of poetry (i.e., VERSE), HOWEVER, stylistically, in order to preserve a sense of artistic holisticism, I imagine these “verse-poems” will be substantively “essayistic” and “fictive”/”fictional”; to LIMIT what I may or may not write, to me, is to limit my imagination, and while I do believe, a la Dostoevsky & Musil & Mann, & Kundera & David Wallace Foster in lacing my imagination with attempts at ETHICS/MORALITY/VIRTUE/SELF IMPROVEMENT, that’s my normative standard… creatively, I believe we must let our imaginations ever-expand in mimicry of how physicists believe the universe itself ever-expands.
My mentors/literary role-models/influences/favorite writers…
I suspect that one of the more effective ways to succinctly suggest the sort of writer I aspire to be is to begin by telling you which writers most impact my efforts. The creative/literary writing “instruction” – to the extent that such a thing can exist– I heed situates within roughly 3 separate categories:
1–The great gang of 5 (each of a different genre, as my writing endeavors almost always lean towards cross-genre/hybrid works) who are either dead or who I’ve lacked the privilege of having for professors: Robert Musil for fiction, Bob Dylan for poetry, Phillip Lopate for creative/literary non-fiction, Susan Sontag for diary writing, & Philip Schultz for cross-genre-hybrid writing.
2- That wide body of writers who make my secondary or extended family of literary mentors who are not quite my great gang of 5, my “primaries” (to borrow from polyamorist phraseology), but who I often obsess over, study & revere; it is not a question of them being more or less talented than my top masters so much I note their points of view are just slightly harder for me too relate to.
Among my extended family of near-godly fiction writing masters: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Milan Kundera, David Foster Wallace, & Lydia Davis.
The creative non-fiction writers: Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Baldwin, Leslie Jamison, Elisa Washuta, E.B White.
The poets: Claude McKay, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Alicia Stallings, Christian Wiman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Sharon Olds, Simon Ortiz, Jack Kerouac, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, Francis Ponge, Claudia Rankine, John Lennon, Denise Levertov.
The diarists: Witold Gombrowicz, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Peyps, Andre Gide, Cesare Pavese.
The other hybrid writer I’m quite influenced by is Gloria Anzaldua.
3—Professors I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of studying under: Dr. Martha Witt, Dr. John Parras, and Dr. Rosa Soto.
Other key people (the non “creative” writing folk) who have nfluenced my thinking, writing, & lifestyle
For further depth on notions of genre & The Novel Essay I owe a great deal to Dr. Stefano Ercolino who literally wrote the book on the concept & who introduced me to Thomas Mann and Robert Musil & deepened my appreciation for Dostoevsky.
As to My greatest inspirations on the subject of self improvement, those who, in my opinion, best fill in the gaps left by the previously cited writers, I credit, first and foremost, Tara Swart, who wrote The Source — a book about some of the science on the human brain. its neuroplasticity & how to optimize it. This book inspired me to keep a diary, practice visualization, & ultimately combine them into a literary project. Additionally, Shakti Gawain’s decades of thought on visualization– most specifically her concept of and thoughts on what she calls “ideal scene” visualization– impact my the more imaginative aspects of my writing.
I’m also inspired by Abraham Maslow, Nathaniel Branden, & Martin Seligman. I also owe quite a debt to one of my greatest professors, Dr. Leonard Winogora who has guided me in my explorations of what we may suppose critical thinking to be and how it may inform the philosophical, psychological, and cultural dimensions of self-improvement & thus what it may mean to thrive and live “the good life..” I’m also influenced significantly by my wife who, most fortunately partners up with me and makes up for so many of my blind spots.
All of this said, I’m confident that many other people will influence me tremendously in the future as well.
A book & blog
There are two different versions of this project—the blog & the book. At the time of this writing I’m undecided as to how the book version will ultimately transpire. To the best of my ability, I will explore & pursue avenues by which it will (“god willing,” as the expression goes) manifest into a multivolume book series one way or another—whether, for example, I self publish & thus can maximize my profits & control the entire sales and marketing campaign, et cetera–a la Whitman & Proust et.al.,–or some person or people within the great publishing industry see(s) the value I earnestly, elaborately & persistently attempts to make of my writing.
Now then, about myself, in a more personal sense. I’m 34 years old, married to my favorite lady & person, Ashley.
Since the end of June, 2019, we’ve lived in Bernards. New Jersey. We love living here, seeing mountains & open space every day, both far enough away from & close enough to Manhattan.
Before moving here, we lived for roughly a decade in East Windsor, New Jersey, which neither of us found to be particularly inspiring.
In October of 2019 we adopted Yago, our nearly five year old dog, from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in nearby Madison.
Although we were told Yago is a lab mix, upon getting him tested, we learned he’s actually, in theory, a Siberian Husky mix.
I hope you enjoy your read!