7/26/2010 3:53:08 PM
Are you familiar with Ted Wilson? He’s a retired accountant, a tuba player, a widower, and an artist. What really makes Ted Wilson noteworthy, however, is his delightfully cracked weekly column for The Rumpus: Ted Wilson Reviews the World. The latest entry is a sarcastic, goofball masterpiece, as Wilson opens by writing, “Hello, and welcome to my week-by-week review of everything in the world. Today I am reviewing the name Larry.” From there, the absurdity explodes straight off a cliff and into the smoking wasteland of disgrace that is (apparently) the name Larry. It's a land where “[e]ven people with names like Ralph or Chastity feel an unspoken sadness when meeting someone named Larry.” If there were some sort of election for National Internet Grandpa, I’d vote Ted Wilson.
Source: The Rumpus
7/26/2010 12:14:38 PM
The Chicago Manual of Style is due to appear in its 16th edition later this summer, and a close friend of mine went into what I will affectionately label a tizzy when she got her mitts on a copy, even though she was not so much nervous as incalculably excited about the newly blue-covered grammar and style bible. She even lugged it to a gathering of editor friends—sort of like toting around a small dog in a purse, except a small dog isn’t always that heavy (or useful). Writing at The Front Table, Mary E. Laur, who works on the Manual, talks a bit about the particular devotion readers feel for the venerable University of Chicago guide. She describes debating people who prefer two spaces after a period rather than the standard one space. She talks about the confusion some readers felt over past flexibility on the rules for the use of ellipses. She talks, in other words, about my friend and the people like her who devote their considerable intellect and skill to the English language and all its mysterious intricacies.
(Thanks, The Second Pass.)
Source: The Front Table
7/16/2010 9:07:50 AM
The latest issue of The Iowa Review has a fascinating interview with Michael Silverblatt, host of the nationally syndicated radio program Bookworm. Silverblatt talks about his reading habits and how he’s trained himself to plow through the complete works of the guests on his show. Here’s a great slice:
Sarah Fay: So, have you been teaching yourself to read more deeply over the years?
Michael Silverblatt: I’ve been teaching myself how to have the stamina to sit still. When I’m starting a book, I try not to read in bed. I read a hundred pages at a time and don’t get up. At the end of a hundred pages, I’ll go and have lunch. But I feel that it takes a hundred pages to be gripped by a book, so I try to read them in one sitting.
SF: How did you discover that?
MS: Trial and error. I didn’t know anything about it….I left graduate school before I had to take an oral exam, so I never had to find out if I could do concentrated stints of more-reading-than-is-humanly-possible. It wasn’t until I had the show that I read voluminously, and that was how I trained myself. First, a hundred pages at a time. Then I would see if I could read two hundred pages a t a time. Then I’d see if I could read War and Peace in four or five days, because wouldn’t that give me a really thrilling and unusual aerial view of the whole of the book, a book that many people stretch over an entire summer vacation or two or three months? I thought that would really give me a sense of the shape of the novel. I’m aware that my experience as a reader is not like other people’s. I don’t know how someone carries a book in his or her mind over the period of several weeks to a month. I get too hungry and excited.
The Believer also has what appears to be part of the same interview by Sarah Fay at the University of Iowa if you’re dying for more.
Sources: The Iowa Review(article not available online), The Believer
Image by wrestlingentropy, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/14/2010 11:35:33 AM
That’s right. H.P. Lovecraft, the master of dark fantasy and eloquent advocate of unbridled horror, has descended from the mountain of madness to show off his editing skills and take advantage of a library spilling over with the best of the alternative press. And alas, senior editor Jeff Severns Guntzel and intern Will Wlizlo were devoured this morning by the hideous beast Cthulhu, which has taken up residence in the kitchenette. Hence begins a new era for Utne Reader.
Don’t worry. That was, of course, all fabrication. We've been playing with a new web application designed by Coding Robots called “I Write Like” that allows you to insert your own writing sample and, in a feat of smoke-and-mirrors meta-analysis, learn which famous author most closely shares your word choice and writing style. To test the program, we submitted actual Utne Reader editor in chief David Schimke’s most recent editorial column “We the People” and found that his closest match was H.P. Lovecraft. Who knew? Writing can be painstaking work. We all over-scrutinize our work and labor over short clauses. At least now we have someone to compare ourselves to.
(Thanks, Book Bench!)
Image by California Cthulhu (Will Hart), licensed under Creative Commons.
7/8/2010 2:09:21 PM
In an interview with California magazine, the novelist and Brooklyn native Jonathan Lethem (The Fortress of Solitude, Men and Cartoons) talks about becoming a writer in Berkeley. I loved this little nugget about his time working in bookstores:
Just handling this ocean of different books—new and used, in and out of print, famous and forgotten—it was literature as this giant mosaic of texts and experiments and attitudes. I think it’s just very liberating to break out of a great man’s theory of history.
I guess I’ve always liked working from that sense of—what would you call it?—license that the margins permit. I always just visualize myself writing books that were meant one day to be dusty, forgotten volumes being encountered by intrepid browsers in a used bookstore. It was a much less freighted way to think about trying to enter the conversation than to imagine I had to write The Great Gatsby.
Image by melanieburger, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/1/2010 11:16:27 AM
Write the worst opening sentence you can imagine for a novel. Then submit it to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Then win, if, of course, you have achieved sufficient badness.
Author Molly Ringle did just that, by writing:
“For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.”
Why of course there’s a contest for this. You should peruse the work of those who won in other categories, like Mary Ann R. Unger’s victorious Historical Fiction entry:
“In Southwestern Germany just east of the Luxemburg border and north of France where history pitted various related Hapsburg Royals against each other and the Archbishops of Trier, the Abbots of St. Maximin, various members of the nobility, and mobs of axe-bearing villagers, there stands a ruin whose building stones mostly were carted off to build other buildings.”
Source: Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Image by romling, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/1/2010 10:19:23 AM
Wallace Shawn is perhaps best known for his roles in commercial blockbuster films like The Princess Bride (where he played the conniving Vizzini) or the Toy Story movies (where he’s the voice of Rex the dinosaur). The more refined among you may know him from Woody Allen’s Manhattan or the film My Dinner With Andre.
Shawn is also a playwright and an essayist. His essays—all of them—are collected in a book published last year by Haymarket Books and called, rather succinctly: Essays. The late historian Howard Zinn called the book “deceptively simple, fiercely honest … and provocative.” Shawn is a radical, and his essays are blunt critiques of class and power. I talked to him about his essays and the evolution of his politics.
Wallace Shawn and the Revolution (15:33)
Or download the podcast at iTunes or the UtneCast blog.
Image by Jared Rodriguez.
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