Sunday, September 27, 2015

Good Writting

The writer is more servant than master of his story.
— John Gardner, who died on this date in 1982

Real men do cry. Public male weeping was ubiquitous across the world for most of recorded history. Where did the tears go?

Good Writing? The Key Is What You Leave Out 

John McPhee: Words are too easy to play on. When I joined The New Yorker, in 1965, I left puns behind. Not that I have never suffered a relapse. In the nineteen-seventies, I turned in a manuscript containing a pun so fetid I can’t remember it. My editor then was Robert Bingham, who said, “We should take that out.” The New Yorker 
Wordsworthian breeze, Tennysonian damp, Dickensian fog: Writing has always been weatherbound. "English literature begins in the cold"...  Imrichian Cold River

What does the amerikan short story do well these days? Where is it failing or lacking? George Saunders and Ben Marcus discuss  »

When the German director Margarethe von Trotta was approached to make a film about philosopher Hannah Arendt’s coverage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, she was less than enthusiastic. “How”, she asked, “can I make a film about a philosopher, someone who sits and thinks?” Putting intellectuals on film, she assumed, would not be easy: sitting around and thinking is pretty much what they do. It is true that there is precious little cinematic excitement in the academic’s day-to-day, typically more a case of Bob Jones and the Board of Studies than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Philosophy in cinema

“It is essential that we be convinced of the goodness of human nature, and we must act as though people are good.” Good HuMan Nature ... Leads to Good Writing

Neither victim or avenger, Primo Leviwas a witness. And though he bristled at the label "Holocaust writer," it's in that role that he matters most 

Obsessions with Doors of Arras MMXII 
A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.
— Roald Dahl, born on this date in 1916

Handwriting, according to some, is an anachronism. Finland has now dropped it from its national curriculum. And so many American states have also removed it as an educational requirement that it now only makes news when state officials opt to keep it.  Does handwriting have a future?

“The 12 books they’ve chosen comprise the most intriguing and wonderfully unexpected list in the prize’s 22-year-history, an enticing mix of established names and emerging talent, and clear affirmation for the work being done by this country’s independent publishers.” The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Writers from Charles University struggling ...

Speaking of foolproof crimes: Hot Lotto rigger sentenced to 10 years (Des Moines Register). The case involved an alleged inside job by an IT professional at the Multi-State Lottery:
The case has enthralled Iowans and gained national attention since late December 2011, when a New York attorney tried to claim — just hours before it would expire — a Hot Lotto ticket worth $14.3 million on behalf of a trust incorporated in Belize. The identity of the original ticket purchaser was a mystery.
Authorities with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation began looking into Tipton after several people identified him as the hooded man in a video showing the ticket being purchased at a Des Moines QuikTrip. At the time, Tipton was the information security director for the Urbandale-based Multi-State Lottery Association that provides games such as Hot Lotto to lotteries nationwide.
[Assistant Attorney General] Sand told jurors at trial that Tipton installed a self-deleting software program, called a rootkit, onto lottery drawing computers to manipulate the outcome of a Dec. 29, 2010, draw. Tipton then filtered the winning ticket he bought through a friend, Robert Clark Rhodes II, from Texas in an attempt to claim the money, Sand said.
There’s a reason lottery workers aren’t allowed to play the lottery. The lawyer and Belize trust didn’t help the whole thing slip by unnoticed.

Barstool Stories 

In the Czech Republic, Hrabal is a mythic figure. The website for his favorite pub, U Zlatého tygra, has six tabs: Home, Beer/Cheese, Menu, Bohumil Hrabal, History, and Contacts. His 1994 meeting with ambassador Madeleine Albright and then presidents Havel and Clinton has been archived as both legend and link. The man and his work are preservations of Czech history, connecting old Prague, the “glory and downfall of the cultural boom of the ’60s” (to quote the Tygra’s website), and the city’s globalization under capitalism. Hrabal has come to represent a kind of nostalgia for a lost Czech time, somewhere back in the post-Soviet ’80s, or the pre-crackdown ’60s, or maybe even the democratic ’20s—anytime but now. In his intro to The Little Town Where Time Stood Still, Joshua Cohen identifies this nostalgia as Bohemian in general and Hrabalian in particular: “To feel born too late for a true life (whatever that is), and to feel that as a failure and that failure as ennobling, are very Czech emotions.” This complex blend of feeling—a yearning for the past that invigorates the presence of the present—courses through Hrabal’s best work, and is on full display in The Little Town Where Time Stood Still and Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult.

Well, in America, we mean. “All told, 10 of his books have been published in the U.S. since the Nobel announcement last October. English translations of six more novels are due later this year and in 2016.” Here’s a Q&A with the 70-year-old French author. Wall Street Journal 

“In its first study on author income since 2009, the Authors Guild delivers some jarring, if unsurprising, data. The survey, which will be released next week, indicates, among other things, that the majority of authors would be living below the Federal Poverty Level if they relied solely on income from their writing.” Publishers Weekly 
Mary McGrory, for much of her career the only female pundit in the room, wasn't shy about giving advice to colleagues: “Subtlety is overrated ..."»

Australia’s top 100 books: Brigid Delaney, Guardian Australia’s features editor, wrote about Australia’s Better Readings’ list of Top 100 Books. From The Guardian Australia’s book blog:
They are not necessarily great books but they are good books, books that people read, enjoy, talk about, lend to others, escape into and re-read over the years.
There is nothing pretentious or highbrow about the Better Reading Top 100 list released on Tuesday. If you are a book snob – or lover of serious, high literature – then look away now. This list will have very little on it that will please you (apart from a couple of Austens, maybe). Where is James Joyce? Or Virginia Woolf? Or even Australia’s most exacting prose stylist, Helen Garner? Where are all the difficult books?
They are good stories, Delaney allows, “cracker yarns,” but being a good reader, she posits, might not be a skill Australians have mastered:
Perhaps instead of “best books”, the list should be re-packaged as “best stories”. There are some cracker yarns here, like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (20), or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (29). It’s not surprising that most of the books on the list have been made into films.
But where is William Faulkner? Or Nabokov’s Lolita? Or Australia’s own Patrick White? The pleasures of cracking a difficult book are deeper and more mysterious than the soporific delights of poolside page-turners such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (34).
One could argue, though, that in a world where reading for pleasure sometimes seems to be a dwindling art, to see as well rounded and diverse a list as this one is a delight.