Saturday, November 06, 2021

The Problem With Writing Workshops (and How To Fix Them)

I always wanted to write a novel that would be like blood on a bandage. It would have a sense of immediacy, a certain clear sense of having a wound underneath.

From the creators of WebUrbanist and 99% Invisible comes a new beautifully designed and illustrated guide to cities. In their New York Times best-selling book, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, Kurt Kohlstedt and Roman Mars zoom in to tell fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and drinking fountains to fire escapes and street signs. In the US, you can click here to order a copy — or check out this page for international options!

Tom Stoppard on 'the strange art form' of theater - CNN Video

This is SO interesting: No one does a funeral scene like the star of Mountain View Cemetery. I drive past that cemetery all the time and it is both beautiful and huge; I’m not at all surprised they film there all the time. But I am surprised by this: “Smack between two plots containing actual human remains is this Altadena cemetery’s most unusual secondary revenue stream: in the words of Mountain View’s office and operations manager, Luis Treto, ‘an empty grave we have that’s protected with steel so actors can get inside.'” [Vulture]

I don’t understand ‘God’ or even ‘Jesus’, but the Holy Spirit [the “shadowy presence”] has stood behind me on many different days, even though for a long time I was too frightened to acknowledge it or ‘call out to it’. It has visited me and comforted me and become part of me. (p. 160/161)

Bennett Daylight concludes her essay by talking about “the metaphor of belief” that underpins this novel:

Religion or belief is the attempt to impose order where there is none – and surely fiction is the same thing. In fact, from where I’m standing it’s exactly the same thing. I don’t believe in a god or gods, but I do believe in the power of fiction, the power of narrative, the power of metaphor to restore order. A great novel unsettles, then settles – it causes disorder, and then order. Order is restored in Cosmo cosmolino; the metaphor that effects this restoration is a metaphor of belief.

Consider Helen Garner’s Cosmo cosmolino 

The Problem With Writing Workshops (and How To Fix Them)

Craft, Matthew Salesses explains, is a series of expectations, and until those expectations are made explicit, they will enforce the status quo by concealing their traits as the marks of quality, of literariness. - The Nation

Steven Pinker’s forays into the humanitiesare like someone with muddy boots entering your house and arrogantly sticking his feet on your  table  

The What List Best Fiction 2021

This year, as the world opened back up, we had less time to sit around savoring books. We raced through stacks even faster than usual and approached our list in a cutthroat manner brandishing a simple question: Would we give this book as a gift? If the answer was “No,” it was tossed into the donation pile for our local library. Books that were fine or pretty good also did not make the cut. However, we tried to pick for every literary palate, not just ours. We gravitate towards weird, dark, and complicated but we also included smarter beach reads, as well as Goldilocks stories (not too heavy or light, just right). At any rate, we constantly update this list throughout the year and welcome your suggestions. And, if you want real-time updates on the books we’re currently reading, please follow us on Insta @thewhathq where we post our favorite things in every category, speaking of which …”

I saw The French Dispatch last night and really liked it. Then I read Cassie da Costa’s review/appreciation of the film and I think I like it even more now.

With all due respect to Ganz and other dissenting critics, who are well within their rights to dislike Dispatch or the general direction Anderson’s work is headed in, there is nothing childish or superficial about the film. The similarly maligned-for-her-tastes Sofia Coppola showed us in Marie Antoinette that teas, cakes, and even childhood (or teenagedom) are not frivolous subjects, not even when rendered with ostentatiously luxurious styling. Such exercises in not plainly depicting a set of ideas but entangling them in a detailed visual makeup are best done in films, and for good reason — a medium as prolonged as it is abridged, it ideally requires audience members’ sustained and close observation.

Sustained and close observation” nails it. I wasn’t bored for a single second during The French Dispatch — more like rapt. I love films that reward paying attention — it’s a form of love, don’t you know.

  1. Gender is complicated and attributed on various bases; for example, in most of Germany “butter” is usually feminine, but not everywhere. Why? — Wolfgang de Melo (Oxford) on how languages gender nouns, and related issues
  2. Should we kill one and redistribute his organs to five others who could be saved with them? No? What if the one is a pig? — a look at the ethics of transplanting pig kidneys, at Vox (with philosophers weighing in)
  3. “There’s a difference between ghost stories that are accurate and ones that are real” — Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin (Sam Houston State Univ.) on how we can “believe some ghost stories without believing in ghosts.”
  4. “Causal reasoning should be understood in ‘functional’ terms — that is in terms of the role that it plays in human life and the human goals and purposes that it serves” — James Woodward (Pittsburgh) discusses “Causation with a Human Face” with others at a Brains symposium
  5. “The misgivings that philosophers had about quantum mechanics, it turned out, weren’t entirely irrelevant after all. If physicists hadn’t been so dismissive of philosophy, they might have seen that sooner” — Sabine Hossenfelder (Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies) on stagnation and progress in physics
  6. “Unravelling his turgid prose turns out to be worth the effort, affording us glimpses of how things ‘hang together’ that others miss” — William deVries (New Hampshire) on the “renaissance in Hegel appreciation” (via Preston Stovall)
  7. Was Descartes “skull-blasted”? — details on the controversy over where Descartes’ skull is, and how many pieces it is in