Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Writer Reading: The Wonders of Artists at Work or, Whose Crazy, Who's Not?

I took this picture of a sign on a limo in Washington D.C. two weeks ago.

We're all a little nuts and some of us a very nuts. Take Marina Abramovic for example. I read an article about her in The New Yorker (March 8, 2010). She's a "performance" artist; that is, she can't draw, she can't sing, she can't dance, she can't act, she can't even juggle. But she can get on a stage, in front of a live audience, and "perform" by doing wonderfully odd and masochistic stunts. Like screaming until she loses her voice, or brushing her hair until her scalp bleeds, or living naked in an see-through box and performing all bodily functions unabashedly (or maybe she is abashed and that's the point), or locking lips with a lover and sharing breaths until they faint. And it all seems to work for her, at least on a financial level; she's rich and famous because of it. I guess her point is that all these things are pretty much representative of what we do to ourselves everyday. It's all about life. Yours, mine, hers, and most of us can't sing, dance, draw, act, or juggle either. She's one of us.

There is much pain involved in Ms. Abramovic's art but the performance art standard for pain was set pretty high back in the 60's when a Buddist monk in Viet Nam set himself ablaze to protest the government's treatment of Buddists. You might remember those pictures. Marina stops short of self-immolation, but if we knew she were going to start a personal blaze, would we buy tickets? Is the audience as guilty as the artist? We are voyeurs watching her and she is a voyeur watching us watching her. How much pleasure are we getting from her pain? How much pleasure is she getting from her pain or ours? Or is Ms. Abramovic simply as crazy as a loon?

Writer's are artists, too, and we must learn to stop just short of self-immolation and step into that burning circle on the very edge of maddness if only for a moment. We, as artists, need to go where other's don't dare to go because it's too close to the truth about our universal and very, very, very scary wackiness. If you don't get close to the fire, you're just an imitator or worse--a fraud, a snake oil salesman.

The point is to go very close and come back and tell about what you saw and heard over there on the other side of maddness; hold it up like a mirror so we see ourselves. When we humans realize the extent and depth of our irrationality, maybe we can begin to improve our behavior. So, what ever her personal agony, hats off to Marina Abramovic. Maybe we should call her the Mirror Lady.

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