The pendulum has swung, as pendulums are so woefully apt to do. When I was small, and first starting reading about what writers said about writing, they all seemed to say that it was better not to discuss a work in progress. At the time, this seemed a kind of magic trick, a superstition of some kind. But I’d be damned if I didn’t take their word for gospel, even though I didn’t understand it any better than I understood the actual Gospels (I heard “Jesus is everywhere” and imagined a thousand teeny tiny invisible Bethlehem babies lounging around even as I bathed).
Apparently, I was damned. By the time I started writing in earnest, the whole mechanism had to do with not only discussing but sharing your work in progress. In college, this was great, because I wasn’t in any way ready to complete anything to the point that it could be published. So participating in workshops was like army boot camp. I learned lots.
In MFA school, I still learned, especially in literature seminars, but I certainly didn’t complete anything publishable. But this time, I was probably ready to, but was hampered by the workshop process. There were three reasons for this, I think. 1, in no workshop that I took did anyone say that a piece should just be abandoned. All criticism was constructive, which was the point, but in reality some work needs to be torn down so that something better can be built in its place. I’m very impressionable, so after hearing my work discussed for 20 or so minutes, I became convinced it was worth my continued attention even if it really wasn’t. But I ran into trouble with the continued attention because 2, my classmates’ and professor’s opinions about any one piece, even a 3-pager, were so conflicted, and the problems they unearthed so convoluted, that I was totally lost when faced with revision. To make matters worse, 3, my professors and classmates (not to mention lots of other people in my life–they all agreed) also told me what book they thought I should write, and how I should go about it. Almost five years later, I have only just really decided that they were wrong, and that the book they had in mind is not the one I should write, at least not right now. Like I said, I’m very impressionable. I have confidence in my own work, sure, but there is something powerful about everyone you know saying they want to read the same as-yet-unwritten book by you. Powerful and dangerous.
If I don’t tell you about Molly Young writing about Charles Bukowski at the Poetry Foundation, the terrorists win.
You are also not going to believe that such a thing as not knowing about this great writer is something that happened to you in your life. – Giancarlo DiTrapano introduces a story by Harriette Simpson Arnow on the VICE blog. We probably linked this already, but I really like this sentence.
The Examiner has a list of fifty author-on-author put-downs. Here’s Byron on Keats in 1820- “Here are Johnny Keats’s p@# a-bed poetry…There is such a trash of Keats and the like upon my tables, that I am ashamed to look at them.” And Katherine Mansfield on E.M. Forster’s Howards End in 1915- “And I can never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fatal forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella.” Thanks for this one go to Elliott David.
VIA FACEBOOK: Sara Faye Lieber refers us to this helpful guide to the trustworthiness of beards. Alice Townes is interested in this Observer article about Simon Singh, chiropractors, and the net-based popular uprising against Britain’s insane libel laws. Is this because she is a 1L or because she is part-British? The world may never know. Yennie Cheung, proprietor of the Hipster Book Club, has charts and graphs detailing The Music Industry & Online Piracy by the Numbers. Speaking of the Hipster Book Club, did I ever link to their “Reliving Your First Time” feature? Well whether for the first or the second time, here’s that link now.
One of the best parts of experiencing a book for the first time is being thrilled, stunned, even moved to tears by its content. It’s easy to read the book again and try to recapture some of that magic, but nothing quite compares to the first time. With that thought in mind, the HBC asked a few writers what books they would like to read again for the first time.
There are ten contributors including Junot Diaz, Dan Chaon, Steve Almond, Julie Klausner–and yours truly. It was a very cool thing to be part of; hope you’ll give it a look.
Will Manley is a retired librarian. In 1992, while working for the Wilson Library Bulletin, he sent a survey to subscribers about sex. 5,000 librarians responded, but the prudish Library Bulletin wouldn’t publish the results. They’ve finally been released! […] 22% believed that libraries should have condom dispensers in their bathrooms. 20% had “done it” in the library. 91% had read “The Joy of Sex.”
Read the full results here.
And just to end up where we began–with terrorists–at Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin catches up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to talk about the 200th episode of South Park and their ongoing battle with Comedy Central over whether they can depict the Prophet Mohammed on TV. Funny thing, the boys point out that SP actually did depict Mohammad in an episode called “Super Best Friends,” a pre-9/11 episode which has never been censored or pulled from re-runs.
The Rumpus has a conversation with Banksy.
Jezebel has a sympathetic Q&A with a guy with a female-constipation fetish (believe it or not, this is actually SFW).
Julia Cohen posts poems by her 4th and 5th grade students.
Ron Rosenbaum, who you probably know better as Slate‘s resident Nabokov-obsessive, reviews Seth Rogov’s Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet for the Jewish Review of Books. Depending on your personal feelings about Dylan, this piece is either about as much or slightly less fun than it sounds like.(via Arts & Letters Daily.)
And in today’s installment of BANJO FEEVER, we’ve got Frank Warner and Pete Seeger on Pete’s old RAINBOW QUEST TV show, doing Frank Proffitt’s “Tom Dooley.” This was the first bluegrass song I ever got obsessed with. The version that caught my attention was Doc Watson’s, from a live album that I picked up because I wanted to hear a “more authentic” version of “Shady Grove,” than the Jerry Garcia / David Grisman version on their album of the same name, which I was already in love with.