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On the Making of Orchards

From the essay,“On the Making of Orchards” (Writer’s Notebook II)

Several years ago, I was reading Dante’s Inferno with some friends, and there was one line in particular that struck me. It was the Pinsky translation, Cantos XI, and the line is “God / Has as it were a grandchild in your art.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but in the notes in the back, Pinsky says the structure goes more or less like this: there was God; God had a child and that child was Nature; then Nature had a child and that child was Art, making Art God’s grandchild.

I think that is an extremely beautiful statement; it is so precise and interesting and shapely. The quote links art and nature in this very, well, natural way. If you happen to believe in God, then there’s some supreme head of it all (or if you run it backward it’s a gorgeous definition of God—Art coming from Nature coming from a grand shapely unknown), but if you don’t find that useful, you can move down the line anyway and see that nature operates under certain rules of DNA and biology and that art operates under similar rules but in its human-made metaphorical way. That when making art, what we’re trying to do is create something with this natural, unimposed structure.

Aimee Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, An Invisible Sign of My Own, Willful Creatures, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and The Color Master. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, among others.


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