“Somehow those pencils and that jar from my last teenage year takes me back to my most elemental self, the same self who learned to write holding a chubby pencil and then graduated to the traditional yellow Dixon Ticonderoga. I switched to black ones somewhere along the line, probably thinking I was too punk rock for a kid’s pencil, probably imagining black pencils were the sort of thing Gertrude Stein would have approved of and Nelson Algren might have liked.”
“Most serious and productive artists are “haunted” by their material—this is the galvanizing force of their creativity, their motivation. It is not and cannot be a fully conscious or volitional “haunting”—it is something that seems to happen to us, as if from without, no matter what craft is brought to bear upon it, what myriad worksheets and note cards.”
“Contrary to mainstream thought that content is shrinking, the tide is actually moving away from 140 characters and ephemeral photos, and toward long-form specialty content. According to a report from BuzzSumo, long-form articles are shared more than short-form articles — based on the company’s analysis of more than 100 million articles over eight months. The study found that, on average, articles with 3,000 to 10,000 words had 8,500 shares, whereas content with 1,000 words or less averaged 4,500 shares.”
In 2004, he coined the word blurbspeak, defined as “a very special subdialect of English that’s partly hyperbole, but it’s also phrases that sound really good and are very compelling in an advertorial sense, but if you think about them, they’re literally meaningless.” On the other hand, he wrote about two dozen of them over the years, and Lucas Thompson argues that they’re genuinely worthwhile writing.
Anne Enright, who’s up for a second Booker Prize right now and is the first-ever laureate for Irish fiction: “Writers are never telling wonderful stories about Ireland, they’re telling interesting stories about Ireland, and Ireland doesn’t necessarily appreciate that. So for me to be accepted, for a female voice – with all the anxiety there is about the female voice in Ireland – for that somehow to dissolve, and this symbolic thing of the laureateship, is just lovely.”
“From the beginning, we knew that the manuscript was at best ‘recently rediscovered’, not new. It was always presented as a first draft of Mockingbird … And no buyer, even for the smallest and humblest of stores, was unaware of that when they ordered their own supply. The fact is that people wanted to read a new Harper Lee novel no matter what its provenance and no one truly wanted to get in the way of that.”
“If we lament the decline of journalism, it is not because we want to remake magazines in the image of their forebears – pre-digital journalism was famously hostile to women, for one thing – it is because we want to inhabit a world where it is still possible to translate lived experience to the page with integrity. And if we didn’t find these acts of translation worthwhile, why would we bother to write articles – or plays – at all?”
“In February, IS torched more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, which the group seized in June, 2014. … The microfilm department overseeing the digitisation in Baghdad faces significant obstacles, as many books have been ruined by fire or dampness, while others have become hardened and petrified as a result of extreme heat and dampness.”
Says a statement from the independent Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, “It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as ‘Harper Lee’s New Novel’. This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted).” In a Q&A, Brilliant Books owner Peter Makin explains the decision.
“At its core, this enterprise is about using computers to understand how humans use language, including what that language means to people and how it persuades. Just down the road from Stanford is an enormous industry whose profitability depends on understanding this. Academia and Silicon Valley are converging in this territory: technology firms are eager to hire researchers who can help them turn large volumes of human-generated text into money and eager to collaborate with scholars in order to reap the practical benefit of academic knowledge. And an enormous surveillance apparatus, in the United States and abroad, is similarly interested in extracting meaning and predictions from volumes of text.”
“The children around our house have a saying that everything is either true, not true, or one of Mother’s delusions. … The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it, as long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were.”
“There’s my avoidance of readings, my fake enthusiasm as I swindle my own students out of their Friday nights to go to a lecture I won’t attend, my gag-triggering physical loathing of bookstores, my requirement that reading materials appear on my nightstand by benevolent conjury, without any consumer effort from me. There’s my acute failure as an educator to fill any tiny part of the role of writing-community steward that is assumed of me. There’s my own titanic hypocrisy most recently as I think about promoting a new book in the very community I can’t show love for. So here I am. In all my humility.”