11/23/2010 2:36:14 PM
B.H. Fairchild is afflicted with logophilia, a love for language. He writes in the literary journal New Letters about his lifelong affinity for the well-turned phrase:
I remember, around the age of four, being delighted with the onomatopoeia the writers of Captain Marvel and Batman would invent for certain sounds: KAPOW, VROOM, or my favorite, POIT!, used (without any auditory connection I can locate) to described something soft (the bad guy’s head) bouncing off something hard (a brick wall).
Later, when I was a teenager, there was the poetry of the oil fields … often disguised as profanity: “Colder than a well digger’s ass,” “Colder than a witch’s tit,” “I whipped the bastard like a rented mule” … . My father, who was embarrassed by poetry and refused to read anything but nonfiction, one time for just a moment became the Prince of Language when Joe Whisnatt, a large man who for unknown reasons rode a very small motorcycle, was pulling out of the driveway. As he drove away, my father said, “You know, Whisnatt on that little bike looks like a monkey fucking a football.”
Fairchild traces his taste for colorful locutions back to Keats and, before him, Shakespeare, admitting that he is a “fool for language” and thus the foolishness
of Catullus, Li Po, Villon, Marlowe, Byron, Christina Rossetti, Yeats, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, Anne Sexton, and a thousand others, drunk on language—but without the drunkenness, that is, the logophilia, just solid citizens who read the newspaper and pay mortgages and vote regularly and live sensible, organized lives.
Source: New Letters, Vol. 76, No. 4
(article not available online)
Image by hslo, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/15/2010 4:25:08 PM
It’s hard to pin down novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Just when you thought you had his meticulous prose and dietary politics figured out, he goes and drops a piece of interdisciplinary fiction on us all. Starting with his favorite book—Polish World War II-era author Bruno Schulz’s collection of short fiction called The Street of Crocodiles—Foer began slicing out sections of text. When all of the scraps of paper were cleared away, Foer had an entirely different story called Tree of Codes.
With the surgery complete Foer’s next hurdle was to find a printer for such an unconventional book. According to Visual Editions, the book’s publisher, Tree of Codes “literally got turned down by every printer we approached–their stock line being ‘the book you want to make just cannot be made.’” Belgian print shop Die Keure didn’t agree, and used a die-cutting method to make the literary sculpture.
Many critics will undoubtedly profess that Foer’s experiment was an overwhelming success, but as Foer told Vanity Fair, there’s more at stake with Tree of Codes’ unusual format than the author’s boredom with the publishing status quo:
I’m not interested in experimentation for its own sake. But I’m interested in works of art that transport a reader. That send you to a different place—pure magic. We’ve gotten used to the notion that art, if it entertains or says something interesting about our time, that’s enough. But there’s something else it can do that nothing else can do. To be genuinely transported, to have your nerves touched, make your hair stand on end, that’s what I think art can do well—or only art can do.
In the following video, Jonathan Safran Foer explains the production process of Tree of Codes.
Images of Tree of Codes courtesy of
11/10/2010 3:32:16 PM
Kerry Clare is about as honest as they come. Refusing to impart a narrative of blissful motherhood and other mommy clichés, Clare tells the story of the birth of her daughter Harriet: of the sobbing marathons and wild thoughts of adoption that pervaded her life after the pregnancy. Clare writes in her essay “Love is a Let-Down” appearing in the latest issue of The New Quarterly:
I’m not even talking about postpartum depression. Though no doubt, PPD is a very real affliction, it’s also a label that undermines the very simple fact that living with a newborn is, as writer Ariel Gore describes it, “like suddenly getting the world’s worst roommate, like having Janis Joplin with a bad hangover and PMS come to stay with you.”
Taking a step back from her personal story, Clare explains to the reader (or maybe to herself) her intentions behind penning this piece about her postpartum experience:
I want to write it down though, how it was, because most people don’t ever talk about this. They don’t talk about it because it passes, and because of what you get to show for it, and because if everybody told the truth, pregnant women would start jumping in front of buses in droves.
Clare includes her most powerful memories as a new mother, including leaving the hospital with her baby, crying, and unable to stop crying for months after; waking up to breastfeed every three hours; and conversations with other new mothers who appear so much happier. She realizes how blessed her life is, and yet cannot escape the overwhelming despair and fear at becoming a mom. Clare concludes:
Love is a let-down, I realized, as the weeks went on, and we started measuring the baby’s life in months. Love, though I couldn’t even feel it, had been there beneath the surface all along, doing its job. Love was me not walking out of the house and never coming back. It was throwing out the bathwater but not the baby. And it was persevering through two hour nursing sessions twelve times a day. It was holding her when she cried, even if I was crying too; it was keeping her clean and warm, having her sleep on my chest and learning ingenious ways to provide her with comfort, desperation being the true mother of invention.
Source: The New Quarterly(print only)
Image by tostadophoto.com, licensed under Creative Commons
11/1/2010 1:15:25 PM
“[T]he electronic highway is for bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists and news….Nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever.”
Few have ever missed the mark quite so badly as Annie Proulx did in 1994 with the quote above. Across the board, from author to publisher to seller we’re seeing the effects of books moving from the page to Proulx’s “twitchy little screens.” But maybe there’s some good to be had for the authors. Maybe the playing field can be leveled and the ideas of the writer can come through these new channels; instead of the writer being sold, the words will once again be the commodity. Or so speculates Robert B. Reich in The American Prospect. As the internet disintermediates books, Reich wonders, will he have the opportunity to put the ideas and proposals he’s spent his adult life marketing out front, rather than schlepping his own personality along with his books? Not so fast, concludes Reich unfortunately. Without the usual intermediaries to market the product, Reich himself will have to do all the work: “Of course, all this will require marketing. After all, I’ll need to attract customers…I’ll be on my own. That means I’ll have to sell myself like mad—not my ideas but me. Get it? Disintermediation isn’t the end of humiliation. It’s just the beginning.”
Source: The American Prospect
Image by bradlindert, licensed under Creative Commons.
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