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September 23, 2004

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» Inspiration in Unlikely Places from L.A. Brain Terrain
Over at The Elegant Variation blog, Mark Sarvas acknowledges the anniverary of the passing of one of his former teachers, LA writer Steven Corbin, who taught writing at UCLA. Like many others, the piece moved me very much. I was especially intrigued be... [Read More]

» Inspiration in Unlikely Places from L.A. Brain Terrain
Over at The Elegant Variation blog, Mark Sarvas acknowledges the anniversary of a former teacher's passing, LA writer Steven Corbin, who taught writing at UCLA. Like many others, the piece moved me very much. I was especially intrigued because you don'... [Read More]

Comments

Dan Wickett

Consider them bought - anybody that could bring somebody to write a post like that nine years after their death sounds like the type of man who should have at least one of his wishes come true, and if it's seeing his books on real shelves and not bundled up somewhere I'm glad to be part of it. Thanks for going into the journals and reminding us to sometimes think about those who have helped us get to where we are.

MG

I was taking some classes at UCLA around that time but hadn't heard of him. This post is a wonderful introduction.

Scott

Very nice piece, Mark. Links are all well and good, but consider this a formal request for more of this type of writing on the blog.

Jimmy Beck

I second that emotion. A moving tribute.

Carl Peel

Nice.

I hope your birthday isn't too harrowing.

Michael

It's moving to see you write with such candor about how Steven's life touched you when he was alive, but also how that life continues to touch you, nine years on.

paul terwelp

I think that was one of your best pieces. I'm hopeful that you will be inspired by some more pleasant occurances than the death of a friend and growing terribly old.

gwenda

Mark, this is beautiful.

DBFEB

I found this looking for more Steven Corbin books. I was given both of his novels three weeks ago and went through both of them. I was hoping that even though he was writing about AIDS/HIV that maybe he wasn't sick himself. You may not have cared for his writing but it was easy reading for me which I loved. So sorry that he died the way he did and that you lost a friend personally.

Beth

Thank you so much for remembering my friend and writing teacher Steven Corbin in this eloquent tribute. He would be so touched and pleased that he mattered so much to so many of us. I was in his writing course at UCLA and a member of a writing group he held at his house; we quickly became friends and I suspect the same was true for him with so many of his student admirers. I lost touch with him when I moved to London and, knowing he was HIV positive, wondered about his fate. I found his obit a couple of years ago but nothing personal until now. I think of him often and miss him. What a loss but thank you again for reminding us of the beauty of this wonderful man.

Alice Corbin Dieudonné

Thank you so much for writing about my first-born nephew. I was looking for his last novel, then decided to type his name on the Google browser and there he was. He was so special to me; we were very close and could talk about anything. Just reading about him here has sparked so many memories. Again, thank you.

squid

i came across your blog while looking for essays on steven's work. unfortunately, the link to the essay you quote from does not work. i wonder if you could give me the bibliographical information?

Toni

Tonight, for no apparent reason, Steve Corbin came to mind. So, I started searching the web for his name. We use to work together at a law firm downtown LA back in the early 1980s. He use to call me "boots" because of a pair of knee-hi boots I use to wear. He was fun, but he was also very determined about a book he was writing. I also remember being invited to his house with several other people to celebrate his published book of poetry. I'm not black nor gay, but I can only imagine. . . Writing was his passion to fulfill his needs.
I would like to say more, but maybe I'll write about my thoughts one day.
I miss your laugh, Steve. It is hard to believe you are gone. The 80s were just yesterday.
Toni 9/4/07

Anita

I too worked with Steve and Toni at that same downtown LA law firm in the '80s. Steve & I spent many lunch hours, dinners with his friend, Hugo, attending plays at the Shubert Theater, talking about life and our experiences as a straight Black woman & Black gay man. I just loved Steve as he was for real. What you saw was "what you got." He was a friend and I still miss him after all these years. I wasn't there when he passed away because it seemed to happen so fast. He is a friend I will never forget.

Tracey

I took one of Steven's writing classes at UCLA and was a part of a writing group at his home after the class ended. He was a wonderful human being and I don't know what made me think of him tonight, but I'm so glad I found your blog. I had no idea he had passed away and this makes me so sad. It's nice to know he touched not only my life, but the lives of many many others.

reece "larry" ewing

Steven was my BFF. I loved him dearly. I miss your conversations and travels deeply. I was with Steven on the day of his passing and it was a profound day that changed my life.

gar

Thank you for posting this.

a lundy

Steven Corbin is actually, probably, perhaps my favorite writer and I live for 'No Easy
Place TO Be'. One year I brought all that were in print, I lend them to friends&I make sure I get them back.
I was overjoyed to locate some personal commentary on him as I, myself prepare applications to MFA programs.
Lastly, I disagree, I think he was an incredible writer&as I said, I live for 'No Easy Place to be' and was incredibly saddened when I learned after reading it when it debuted, that there would not be many more.
It's crazy, I know, but this writer who did not write many books told a story about my hometown and I really do think of him and his work every day.

Linda

I too had Steve come to mind today.. I was dusting my book shelves and came across 2 of Steve's earlier poetry that he had given me.. The Missing Pages and If I Were a Poet, as well as his draft of The Book of Roman. I wondered what he was doing and so googled and came across this memorial to him. I was so saddened to realize he was no longer with us. I met Steve in 1980 but once I left LA in '88 lost touch as lives moving in different directions do. He was a special, creative, vibrant man who always voiced his beliefs. At that time we were a small group of friends in Silver Lake, gay or not, who enjoyed spending time together .. Be it a day at Laguna Beach or having dinner. He is missed.

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."