12 feb. 2008

I often don't know what I'm going to say before I start a chapter. I have some notions about things, of course, but they are not necessarily the ones that will end up in the final version. So research and writing are not separate activities for me. The organization is up for grabs too. I let the material organize itself. This means that a chapter will sometimes split into two, or that a single section of a chapter will expand at the expense of something else. I'll invariably find a better argument than the one I started with. For example, I first was going to say women in the 50s were not that interested in Lorca. That's kind of a non-starter. Women were interested, but interest in Lorca tended to be marked for gender--the masculine gender. That's a little better. There was a Jewish Lorca, but not one marked for Jewishness per se. Whereas the gay male and African American Lorcas were marked as such.


I was writing about Bob Kaufman yesterday. I knew that Maria Damon, whom I went to graduate school with, wrote a chapter on Kaufman in her book The Dark End of the Street, which I had read several years ago. Then I found a quote from this book that exactly reinforced an argument I had made in another section of the same chapter. It cemented the connection between two parts of my argument, in a way almost too good to be true. That happens a lot when you are on to a really good subject you know a lot about. There is another quote in a biography of Miles Davis that just nails my argument for me. It's better sometimes when someone else makes your case for you. You can say, "hey, it's not just me making this crazy argument..." There's kind of an authority there, even if the other person is just a person pretty much like you, just writing a book about something.

There's never been anything I wrote before that drew on everything I know to such an extent. Usually I have the sense of writing only a fraction of what I know, but in this case being a serious aficionado of Miles Davis (for example) seems wholly relevant to my project. Read the book to find out why!