Phoebe Maltz Bovy considers the implications of the currently active hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter.
“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.”
It can be argued that we are reading more than ever. We read blogs, captions, tweets. Where information used to be exchanged in telephone conversations, now it is communicated through texting. But despite all this reading, there’s a growing concern among educational experts that literacy is declining. “What we are in danger of losing,” says Joseph Tabbi, “is the leisure and educational infrastructure that—alone among cultural institutions—is capable of training young minds of all economic classes across nations in the direction of the literary arts.”
“The institution, on Euston Road, London, now a victim of its own success with scholars and researchers complaining of students and tourists crowding the reading rooms and cafes, was opened by the Queen in June 1998 – more than 20 years after it was first approved and at £350m over the original budget, to a chorus of contempt.”
“No one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin American visionary, Ukrainian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans … She writes like a medieval saint who time-traveled to a high-rise apartment building in Rio and took up chain-smoking and visiting fortune-tellers.”
“Unlike Joyce’s innovations, Hemingway’s experimental fusion of fiction and nonfiction [in Green Hills of Africa] remained largely at the level of theory – but it has proven to be even more enduringly influential. Hemingway’s stream has become hard to recognize and to distinguish, because it has become the mainstream.”
A millennium after the Greeks created European civilization’s first written culture, the scholar Alcuin and his monks at Charlemagne’s court fused Roman and Celtic scripts to create the alphabet we use today – and established standards and rules such as leaving a space between words and beginning sentences with a capital letter.
“In some ways, reading all this Arabic literature in English has been like listening in on a foreign-language recording when one understands the words’ meanings, but not the allusions, nor the jokes, nor the underlying rhythms. Some of this woodenness can be blamed on inadequate translations. But some of it falls to our historical blind spots.”
“The government plans to begin offering rent and tax breaks to booksellers in exchange for an ‘opportunity’ to provide a selection of titles chosen by the government. Dmitry Livanov, Russia’s Minister of Science and Education said this this new program [will] ‘help promote sales of those books which have historical value’ and ‘can contribute to patriotic education of local population’.”
“If a writer lists two influences and they both happen to be male – well, fair enough. They never both happen to be female, though, and receiving list after list of five, seven, 10 or more male influences is disturbing. It points again to the larger issue in the industry: our habitual, unchecked dismissal of the experiences, viewpoints and brilliant work of women.”
“The poems were found by archivists last June, in boxes kept at the Pablo Neruda foundation in Santiago, Chile. They were published by Neruda’s Spanish publisher, Seix Barral, but have not yet been released in English. … The collection, titled, Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda, will be translated by the poet and novelist Forrest Gander, and will include full color reproductions of the handwritten poems.”
“When I think of Angela’s Ashes, what I remember most is the way Hong Kong sounded and smelled. The air was muggy, winey, and fishy by late afternoon. Salt blew off the sea. My hostel smelled like cigarette smoke and old newspapers, and the curtains were always closed so that the place sat in a simmering, crowded gloom.”
Through painstaking work and a meticulous, almost forensic reconstruction of Mr. Geisel’s creative process, those abandoned pages have yielded an unexpected new Dr. Seuss book, now called “What Pet Should I Get?” When Random House publishes it on Tuesday, with a first printing of one million copies, it will add a surprising coda to Dr. Seuss’ sizable canon.