3/30/2009 2:41:40 PM
Working as a writer in the 21st century is a labor of love, even for those lucky enough to have a steady paycheck. Writing is a tough business and isn’t as romantic as the clove-smoking, pill-popping, whiskey-chasing, “barely functional” lives that authors supposedly once led. Think Hunter S. Thompson, Dylan Thomas, or preeminent “boozy fistfight[er]” John Keats. Is that mystique gone, or are successful writers getting to be both hard-working and boring?
Writing for Poets & Writers (print only), Amy Shearn searches for the "badly behaved writers" in MFA workshops but instead finds a "revenge of the nerds" movement. She writes:
My classmates were more egghead than cokehead. At our parties we played dominoes, complained about the school’s administration, and went home early so we could get up the next day and write. After a while it became clear that the writers who were going to make it—the ones who were getting the grants and publications and cushy fellowships—were those who buckled down and worked hard, the nerds in the wrist braces who filled out paperwork with the diligence of accountants. As for me, I forced myself to stay on a prudent schedule and wrote a few hours every day before heading to my day job. It wasn’t sexy, but it worked. My first novel was published last summer.
In the same article professor, essayist, and novelist Charles Baxter, puts it another way:
When an artist is no longer envied, when hopes are no longer invested in her or him, the aura fades, as does the glamour. Rock stars still have the aura; they are gods, and gods drink and get drugged-up and go wild and have sex with everybody and die young. Writers are no longer gods; everybody knows that.
Source: Poets & Writers
3/30/2009 10:42:08 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is publisher and playwright David LaBounty of Blue Cubicle Press
. We asked him for five links. Here's what happened:
With two kids and one computer, I’m lucky if I’m allowed time to update my own sites. Here is one site I visit every day, and four others I wish I could frequent more often.
The Morning Post: Every morning for almost two years, rain, snow, or moonlight, I donned my paperboy bag and delivered The Washington Post to Suburbia. I hated it: early mornings, loud dogs, scary garden gnomes, newsprint-covered hands, and falling asleep in English class. Sundays, when I could only carry four papers at a time, I would think to myself: “There has got to be a better way to do this.” However, a bond grew between the paper and me. After I finished my route, I would sit at the kitchen table and read the comics (three pages!) while I ate my bowl of cereal. No matter where I’ve lived, I’d try to find a copy to read – it’s as close to a hometown paper as I ever had. Twenty years later, I still start every morning with a bowl of cereal and The Post – online. I feel a little guilty for contributing to print’s demise, but I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to deliver.
Atomic Baltimore: I love every bookstore that carries our journals, but only one has a blog I follow: Atomic Books in Baltimore. If I didn’t think print was dead, I’d start my own bookstore, and I’d model it after Atomic.
Meet Fwis: Will you be able to judge an electronic book by its cover? Thankfully, we have a few months to worry about that. (Album art is already dead – no more hours ‘studying’ Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.) For now, we can judge real book covers courtesy of the gang at Fwis. The discussions are usually as interesting as the covers.
Teen Zine Clubs and More: For the moment, print is still alive – in Montana. Slumgullion is a “publishing collaboration project that strives to create community, empower young voices, and promote literacy and the humanities through the book arts and zines.” They run a Teen Zine Club and a bicycle-powered bookmobile. If they had been around when I lived there, I never would have left.
Get Published: We started The First Line because there were few publications available for new writers. Now, thanks to the interwebs, there is no shortage of magazines willing to read your prose or poetry. (Good or bad? Discuss.) Duotrope is a wonderful, simple site that filters out the noise and allows you to find publications (even print ones) for your masterpieces.
BIO: David LaBounty is an editor by day and a playwright by night. His plays have appeared on stages both large and small, and with his wife, Robin, he runs Blue Cubicle Press, home of the literary magazines The First Line, Workers Write!, and Overtime.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Jen Angel, Will Braun, Regan Hofmann, Josh Breitbart, Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel , Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/27/2009 4:49:03 PM
An activity as solitary as reading a work of fiction may actually help us become better at connecting with others, writes psychologist and novelist Keith Oatley in Greater Good.
Oatley says fiction is about “possible selves in possible worlds,” and can aid interpersonal skills in two ways: by helping readers develop “theory of mind”—imagining what others are thinking and feeling—as well as showing how people interact with one another.
Readers of fiction were found to have higher social ability than those who preferred non-fiction. The reason?
“Fiction is principally about the difficulties of selves navigating the social world. Non-fiction is about, well, whatever it is about: selfish genes, or how to make Mediterranean food, or whether climate changes will harm our planet. So with fiction we tend to become more expert at empathizing and socializing. By contrast, readers of non-fiction are likely to become more expert at genetics, or cookery, or environmental studies, or whatever they spend their time reading and thinking about.”
Source: Greater Good Magazine
3/25/2009 5:08:14 PM
In a delightfully “gigantic, sloppy fan letter,” The Stranger’s books editor Paul Constant recalls his first encounter (and subsequent infatuation) with the novelist James Morrow. His charming opus is a must-read, I’d say, for anyone who’s ever had a love-at-first-chapter, life-changing stumble into an author. As Constant tells it:
When I was 10, I’d read all the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books and everything by Terry Pratchett. A friend recommended Kurt Vonnegut, and I cut a swath through his entire body of work like only an awkward adolescent could. I needed something new, and I browsed the science-fiction section, where I picked up a $4.50 Ace paperback with a hideous, faux-marble cover called Only Begotten Daughter, by James Morrow.
I don't remember what, exactly, drew me to pick it up, but I can tell you why I bought it with my gift certificate. The blurbs sold me—two compared Morrow to Vonnegut—and I liked the premise, cheesily described in the back-cover text:
It could only happen in New Jersey. Call it a miracle. Call it the Second Coming. Call it a mishap at the sperm bank. But somehow, a baby daughter was born to the virgin Murray Katz, and her name is Julie. She can heal the blind, raise the dead, and generate lots of publicity. In fact, the poor girl needs a break, even if it means a vacation in Hell (which is unseasonably warm). So what did you expect? It ain't easy being the Daughter of God...
To someone raised Catholic who never had a devout moment in his short life, this was quite possibly the Most Appealing Book in the World.
Source: The Stranger
3/23/2009 2:31:28 PM
The lurid and hyperbolic headlines of tabloid newspapers expose a seedy underbelly of human crime and voyeurism. For Shannon Stewart, that’s an inspiriation for poetry. “Sensationalistic news, as an often coarse and unrefined commodity, caters to our darkest fears and need,” Stewart told Maisonneuve. Penny Dreadful, Stewart’s new book of poetry, draws off these fears to create often funny poems that play with themes and headlines from tabloids like the Weekly World News. Rather than disengage from the horrific news, Stewart used her poetry to engage with it through humor. "For me," said Stewart, "the tabloid poems worked as a kind of painkiller." You can watch a video of Stewart reading two of her tabloid poems below:
3/23/2009 11:27:55 AM
“In decaying societies, politics become theater,” begins Chris Hedges’ lucid, scathing critique of American culture in the era of corporate bailouts. His Truthdig column, “America is in Need of a Moral Bailout,” argues that our society’s moral collapse is just as horrific as our economic one.
Hedges starts by decrying the hypocrisy of the ruling elite, who feed into the political theater while clinging to their power at all costs.
“The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation,” he writes. “They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled.”
Hedges then traces our “moral nihilism” to the decline of both education and mainstream media: “We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding...Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself.”
He goes on to quote from Theodor Adorno’s essay “Education After Auschwitz”, which states that in order to prevent atrocities like the Holocaust from happening, “education must transform itself into sociology, that is, it must teach about the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms.” But this is not the case in our current system, which increasingly quashes critical discourse and steers students into business careers.
The result is a “timid, cowed and confused population”, which champions “a childish hyper-masculinity” over the complexities of moral choice, as evidenced in everything from the rise of reality television (think Survivor) to our indifference to torture and war.
Image by f-l-e-x, licensed under Creative Commons
3/20/2009 5:23:29 PM
Modern furniture is having an identity crisis. A couch can no longer be content as a simple couch, now it must be able to convert into a bed, or a desk, or a stove (yes, a stove). The houseware-gadgetry isn’t always as functional as it may seem, and much of it never gets past the prototype stage, but Greg Beato writes for the Smart Set that the dual functions imbue our lives with a “luster of utility.”
The motivation behind the overly complicated stuff goes beyond saving money and saving space. Beato writes:
We are on a spiritual quest to attain higher and higher levels of seamless efficiency and fruitless productivity, and our iPhones can’t shoulder the burden of our dreams entirely by themselves, can they? We need furniture that is as promiscuously versatile as Swiss Army knives — chairs that are 300 percent more chair-like than normal chairs, coffee tables that blossom into dining tables, stoves you can sit on without setting your ass on fire.
Source: The Smart Set
3/20/2009 2:54:21 PM
“Ask any Russian about mushrooming and you’ll hear their salivary glands activate, their voices gather breath as they expound on the beauty of the forest and the quiet thrill of the hunt in something akin to beat poetry," Julia Ioffe writes in Russia!'s Fall/Winter 2009 issue.
Ioffe’s essay offers a simple yet elegant snapshot of this enduring Russian custom, which she learned as child growing up outside Moscow. Ioffe narrates both the history of mushrooming and her introduction to its practice, illuminating an aspect of Russian life seldom seen by most Americans. Since “Shrooming” is not available online, here are some excerpts:
“It was a matter of great importance that I learn to forage for my own protein and so, almost as soon as I could walk, I was initiated into the cult of the mushroom.”
“Remarkably, respect for mushrooms in Russia is such that it transcends Russian disrespect for the environment. In a country where oil was left to pool on the ground and the Aral Sea was reduced to a salt plain, mushrooms were lovingly sliced down, not ripped out of the earth, to ensure future crops.”
She then explains the multitude of fungal varieties in loving detail, as “most Russians also moonlight as mycologists”, careful to delineate the edible from the poisonous by color and texture.
“One must know... that rotting birch is prime real estate for colonies of pale opyata (honey fungus) stacked atop one other like favela dwellings, though you should wait for autumn to gather them in earnest”
It all makes for highly engaging reading, emblematic of this unique new independent magazine, which devotes itself solely to Russian-related topics.
3/19/2009 5:53:36 PM
The Winter 2009 issue of Small Farmer’s Journal arrived in our library today. The beautiful, large-format quarterly delivers unswervingly rich content (from incisive essays to equipment reviews), but in this issue one thing stood out: the results of the Young Farmer’s Writing Contest. “We had scads (that means lots) of outstanding entries and our three judges had a great time sorting through them all,” writes SFJ editor and publisher Lynn Miller. “You give this old word-butcher pause to think perhaps the future for the written agrarian word is alive and well.”
SFJ had more submissions than its editors could publish in the Winter 2009 issue, so there will be more young writing in forthcoming editions of the journal. Since it's not available online, here's a sampling of the fun:
“Have ever known anyone who just, well… runs with the wrong pack? My family has one of those, but she’s a sheep named Eloise, Ella for short. She loves our three dogs; literally, she thinks they’re her family. I see you’re a bit confused so I’ll explain…”—“Ella NOT So Enchanted,” by Rachael Stahl, age 11
“In the morning, I go check on our chickens. Sometimes, I scare a bunny off our lawn. I watch it hop into the bushes. When I reach the chicken house, I look to see if they need feed or water. If they need feed, I fill the feeder. When they need water, I take the water can to the hydrant. Then I come back—slosh, slosh, slosh. Now the water is clean and full. When chores are done, back to my house, I go.”—“Feeding the Chickens,” by Hannah Smith, age 8
“I also want to tell you about names. We name every cat. . . . Perhaps the funniest name is Itsy-Bitsy-Bottle of Onion Salts. More unusual names are Chocolate-Chip-Ice-Cream, Pufferbelly, and Scrub-a-Dub-Dub. Names that have been used very excessively are Mittens and Cottontail and such.”—“Cat Tails,” by Peter Strahm, age 13
“I stood at the head of the wagon, heading home, watching the harnessed backs of my horses rise and fall in a gentle trot. Behind me on the wagon rose a sea of waving tails. Before me was enjoyment, trouble, and pain, the life of a farmer. But who wanted to be a lawyer? Or an accountant? Or a politician? Of course this is a matter of opinion, but in my opinion, farming was summer up in one word: good.”—“The Perfect Morning,” by Rita May Kawecki, age 13
Source: Small Farmer's Journal
Image by gregor_y, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/13/2009 2:25:44 PM
“The dollar isn’t the basic economic unit. It’s sunlight. It’s all sunlight: we’re made of sunlight: every dollar paid across for steak and broccoli, and every mile traveled in an SUV, is translatable from calories of incident solar radiation on the planet, origin of wealth, origin of economic goods, stored as petroleum, stored as sugar.”
—Louis B. Jones, “Table Talk,” from the Threepenny Review
“If we can ban visitors as threats to public safety, could we not also ban books as dangers to public sanity? . . . Might we not indeed go further and implement a general prohibition on bloggers writing books?”
—Stephen Howe, “Blog Standard,” from New Humanist (not yet available online)
“Some might wonder why one should bother to save Catholic institutions. Perhaps the time has come to abandon bricks-and-mortar Catholicism and live the faith by blending like yeast into the secular society.”
—Daniel P. Sulmasy, “Then There Was One: The unraveling of Catholic health care,” from America
“Call yourself color-blind if you like, but it’s mighty white of you.”
—Roy Blount, Jr., “Preposterous Lengths,” from Oxford American (not yet available online)
Sources: Threepenny Review, New Humanist, America, Oxford American
Image by pam calvert, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/12/2009 5:39:57 PM
Did you know that the ruby slippers are missing?
Did you know that there are at least four pairs of ruby slippers walking this earth? (Only one set is missing.)
Whether or not you’re a Wizard of Oz fan—and, ahem, whether or not you ever ruined a perfectly good pair of your mother’s pumps with glue, red puff paint, and a motley assortment of sequins and rhinestones—“Who Stole the Ruby Slippers?” is a fascinating, page-turning look at a still-unsolved mystery with a lot of strange players involved. (Munchkins! Museum directors! Small-town cops! Mickey Rooney, sort of!)
Tim Gihring, who wrote the rollicking piece for the March issue of Minnesota Monthly, follows the cult of the ruby slippers into some surprising places, starting with the unlikeliest of all: a jumbled pile of shoes inside a “rotting, rat-infested warehouse” at MGM, where they sat until 1970, some 30 years after the film’s release. He describes an early encounter with the missing slippers, which were stolen from a Grand Rapids, Minnesota, museum in 2005:
I decided they were the kind of shoes no woman would wear who didn’t need them to leave a land of kindly midgets. They were both gaudier and plainer than I expected, rather squat and completely covered in sequins, like Elvis in his later years. Only the marvel of Technicolor made them dazzle. Without the devotion of their fans, they would fetch no more than $20 at a thrift store.
Source: Minnesota Monthly
3/12/2009 5:08:48 PM
"In September 2003, the descendants of John Marshall, the fourth and arguably greatest Chief Justice of the United States, gathered at the Richmond Marriott for a weekend of cocktails and lectures." So begins the most laugh-out-loud funny piece of writing I've stumbled across in a literary journal since... It's damn funny is my point. Peyton Marshall, a descendent of no fewer than three of John Marshall's six children ("Kissing cousins," explains the author's father). I want you to read this, but I don't want to spoil it trying to sell it to you. I'll just say this: the things that shouldn't be funny are: the wax bust of John Marshall, the fawning historians, the flashbacks to the author's short career selling double-wides on the Iowa prarie. And if you don't know A Public Space, the fine people who published this fine piece, you ought to.
Source: A Public Space
3/12/2009 5:06:24 PM
With literary competitions cropping up everywhere, and contests being fueled largely by popularity and PR, Prospect's resident arts and books editor Tom Chatfield takes the trove of literary prizes to task and wonders why we don't just ditch them all—except maybe the Booker. It may be flawed, but not a total failure.
Chatfield concedes that prizes “occupy an increasingly crucial, and volatile, position amid those imperfect processes by which writing is turned into literature,” but he feels that readers are “ill-served by much of the current marketplace of overlapping awards and those ‘prize-winning’ books manufactured to claim them.”
How do we fix the system? Re-evaluate, says Chatfield. It’s time to tone down the media hype, bolster the quality of juries, and “thin” out some of the competitions that aren’t serving writers (or readers) well. Chatfield suggests money could be better spent on award programs that foster authors aiming to get their first books into print.
The final and crucial component? Quality winners. “Without these,” he writes, “and without a public’s faith in these, it descends into a mere opinion poll; and we already have plenty of those.”
Image by hapticflapjack, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/12/2009 10:16:37 AM
When I come across new writers on the internet, I almost instinctively Google their names. If I’m really motivated, I’ll check Facebook to see if they’ve got a photo. Call me superficial, but I like to put a face to the writing.
That face can also distract readers and critics from what’s really important—the writing. On Virginia Quarterly Review's blog, Jacob Silverman explores the “hot-or-not syndrome” that’s infected publishing, pointing to the a heated discussion over novelist Marisha Pessl's come-hither book-jacket photo (seen left). The website Gawker, for example, called her, “book hot,” “TV hot,” “college admissions brochure hot,” and “Eliminated first episode of Top Model Cycle hot.”
Minimal space in that coverage was devoted to Pessl’s abilities as a writer, even though her novel was generally well received. Since “no one publishes a book of literary fiction because of how its author looks in a single photograph,” according to Silverman, most of this superficial coverage amounts to a distraction provided by lazy critics.
Outside the realm of literary fiction, where personalities like Julia Allison can get famous for being good looking and great self promoters, the problem could be a bit more serious.
(Thanks, the Millions.)
Source: Virginia Quarterly Review
3/11/2009 11:42:01 AM
The latest issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (LCRW) fairly buzzes with vibrant, intelligent writing. This literary ‘zine published biannually out of Northampton, Massachusetts has been around for a decade or so and features a lively blend of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics.
Nick Wolven’s story “The Lovesling” follows the path of a “dramatic new tool for mega love increasement” and unfolds with disarming grace and humor, as the titular instrument takes on a surprising life of its own. Kat Meads’ “The Emily(s) Debate the Impact of Reclusivity on Life, Art, Family, Community, and Pets” situates the two great Emilys of literature, Dickinson and Brontë, in an insufferable public dialogue with their fans, calling attention to, among other things, the cult of celebrity around authors. And Kim Parko’s prose poems work like odd little parables. “Shiny Hair”, for example, tells the story of two girls whose existence is defined by their hair: “One was always treated better than the other because of her thick, shiny hair, but that is not to say she was treated well.” It's an introduction that evolves into a unsettling yet totally engrossing poem .
LCRW is only available through direct order, so check out their website, which also contains information on their press, Small Beer Press.
3/11/2009 10:07:53 AM
“We all know that ‘good marriages take work.’ There it is again, work: the cornerstone of our society. Wage labour, relationship labour—are you ever not on the clock?”
—The CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, “Adultery and Other Half Revolutions,” from Briarpatch
“[W]e all have the freedom to choose the identity that most reflects our aspirations. I’ve let go of the tropes of the moment, ways others define my identity—blackness, femaleness, bisexuality, Americanness, able-bodiedness. I work to cultivate an identity that is more nuanced, more intuitive than these blanket terms.”
—Rebecca Walker, interviewed by Joy Gugeler, from Room (not available online)
“The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A–.”
William Deresiewicz, “The Hypothesis,” from Lapham’s Quarterly (not available online)
“Instead of having sand made out of coral and lava rocks and other rocks and shells, now we are having beaches made out of broken-down plastics.”
—Captain Charles Moore, interviewed by Nell Greenberg, from Earth Island Journal
Sources: Briarpatch, Room, Lapham’s Quarterly, Earth Island Journal
Image by Ljubisa Bojic, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/9/2009 11:29:57 AM
Poet Todd Boss is on a roll. His debut book Yellowrocket has garnered the kind of attention most poets only dream about, including rave reviews in the Christian Science Monitor and Charleston Post Courier and praise from writers like Sherman Alexie and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jack Miles. Boss also recently won the Emily Clark Balch Prize in the Virginia Quarterly Review, which named Yellowrocket one of the ten best poetry books of the year. But, just as impressive is his vision for poetry, which extends beyond the printed page to include innovative collaborations with artists from a variety of mediums, including photographers, musicians, and even animators. Through this work Boss is challenging the boundaries of contemporary verse and welcoming a range of voices into his artistic dialogue. It just might be the future of poetry.
Read the Utne Reader profile of the poet: A Generous New Voice in American Poetry.
You can also listen to these sample tracks of poetry by Todd Boss:
How it Must Have Been for Him
The World Does Not Belong to You, Though You Belong to the World,
The Deeper the Dictionary
3/4/2009 6:26:03 PM
“My retirement plan is to be found stiff and cold at my writing desk.”
—Sandra Steingraber, “Sounds Like a Lot to Me,” from Orion
“Avoid internalizing society’s sexism, racism, ageism—pick an ism, any ism. See things from others’ points of view. Watch less TV. Sing and dance more.”
—Paul Krassner (interviewed by David Kupfer), “In the Jester’s Court,” from the Sun
“Why have we allowed carny barkers to run away with the Right?”
—John Derbyshire, “How Radio Wrecks the Right,” from the American Conservative
“…We face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Shit is real.”
—Andre Torres, editor’s note, from Wax Poetics (not available online)
Sources: Orion, The American Conservative, The Sun, Wax Poetics
3/3/2009 11:54:47 AM
For years, studies have shown that people can derive significant health benefits from writing about their thoughts and feelings for 15 minutes each day. In today’s overly scheduled world, researchers from the University of Missouri tried to figure out what’s the minimum time commitment that people need to benefit from writing (pdf). They found that people were healthier after just two minutes of writing for two days, a total of just four minutes.
(Thanks, Very Short List.)
3/3/2009 11:05:03 AM
On a vacation many years ago, I misplaced my copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic novel Of Human Bondage inside an airport. As an airport employee asked my fellow passengers to whom the book belonged, both he and the crowd snickered as he read the title over the loudspeaker. I sheepishly reclaimed my book, embarrassed at the formative role the story had played in my maturation as a reader, all because of an anachronism in the title.
I’m glad I did retrieve the book, especially after reading Lydia Kiesling's recent review on the literary blog The Millions. Kiesling calls the Maugham’s masterpiece, “a healing salve for life's pernicious rash. It is a special shoe for the clubfoot of my mind.” The post is the latest in a series reviewing the books from the Modern Library’s 100 Best novels of the twentieth century.
3/2/2009 4:45:06 PM
“Like Cheez Whiz and the atom bomb, modern think tanks are a distinctly U.S. invention that has spread all over the world.”
—Jeff Gailus, “Mind Games,” from Alberta Views (not available online)
“The country’s run itself down, drinking too many subprime-mortgage martinis and smoking too many credit-default-swap cigarettes; having ignored clear signs its lifestyle was out of control, the nation’s caught a raging, recessionary cold that just might turn into the dangerous flu-monia of economic depression.”
—John Mecklin, “Work Out Plan,” from Miller-McCune
“Every morning, I throw on one of my many pairs of faded jeans, a shirt bearing the image of a radical band or en electric guitar, and a Superman watch with silver bullets on the wristband. . . . The fact that I’m almost three bucks over 30 and a long-married mother of two kids makes my fashion sense all the more creepy.”
—Hope Gatto, “Rocker Mama,” from Mothering (not available online)
“This would have been a big year for Darwin, if he had been fit enough to survive this long.”
—Grant Bartley, “God or Nature?” from Philosophy Now
Sources: Alberta Views, Miller-McCune, Mothering, Philosophy Now
Image by Pixel Drip, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/2/2009 3:40:13 PM
If you’ve ever picked up The Sun, you’ve encountered their exceptional “Readers Write” section. Each issue readers write in on a theme. This time it’s the dinner table. There’s abuse at the table. There’s a roaming table and a death row table. And there are a few examples of the dinner-table-as-palimpsest—like reader L. Zuckerman’s portrait of a table her father made years ago, now marked with “crisscrossing lines from many knives and pizza cutters” and “wax from last year’s Hanukkah candles.”
Typical of The Sun’s most consistently brilliant feature, it’s a heavy read and one you can’t put down. Want more? We’ve leaned on the magazine’s readers a few times, recently for a piece called The Purloined Library and another called Want to see the world? Start by staying home.
Source: The Sun
3/2/2009 11:55:37 AM
In a tongue-in-cheek essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey H. Gray takes aim at present-day poetry commentary, which, in his opinion, tends to inflate an author’s importance. Critics once rationed accolades carefully; as he observes, even well-regarded poets like William Cullen Bryant have been labeled irrelevant and forgettable.
Today’s poets could use some tough love, according to Gray. “[I]n spite of the vast numbers writing," he observes, "we have no minor poets. Everyone today, like those above-average children of Lake Wobegon, is brilliant and sui generis.”
What’s changed in poetry criticism? In part, Gray sees shifting priorities, a move away from the language of a poem. Instead, reviewers focus on the poets themselves, particularly the ways that their voice should be considered unique. And unique becomes equated with important. If “everyone yesterday seemed dispensable,” he writes, “today no one is.”
He also blames the hyperbole on an increased output of work and argues that poets are better supported than they have been historically, and that even subpar poets can find publishing opportunities, grants, and residencies to lengthen their resumés and bolster their reputations.
In short, Gray longs for a critical climate in which all “poetry that is not magnificent” and where “satisfactory” is “good enough.”
Image courtesy of Third Eye, licensed under Creative Commons.
Sources: Chronicle of Higher Education
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