April 13, 2013
Why does Jhumpa Lahiri look naked—or, at the very least least, topless—in her author photo, the one featured alongside a MUCH smaller picture of her book, The Namesake, in GQ’s list of "The 21 Books From the 21st Century Every Man Should Read."Lahiri is included with other writers such as Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders and Junot Diaz. Any one of them might have a clavicle as pretty as Lahiri’s, but we wouldn’t know. These men are portrayed in black ink drawings, ostensibly fully clothed. Lahiri, the 21st of the 21 authors included on the list, is the only one who appears so… undressed.I’m not sure what to make of this. I’d be a prude if I said the picture of Lahiri was inappropriate. It’s tasteful. She looks stunning. It’s not as if there’s any cleavage, just the aforementioned clavicle and her smooth, glistening skin. So why am I so put off by this? Because I feel like she’s using her “pretty” to gain publicity and attract an audience. Because I think the quality of someone’s writing should have nothing to do with his or her appearance. Because I think Lahiri should pretend her looks are incidental to her success, and this picture suggests otherwise. Because I don’t want to question my own success (miniscule compared to Lahiri’s, but still), and consider the role my appearance has played.

Why does Jhumpa Lahiri look naked—or, at the very least least, topless—in her author photo, the one featured alongside a MUCH smaller picture of her book, The Namesake, in GQ’s list of "The 21 Books From the 21st Century Every Man Should Read."

Lahiri is included with other writers such as Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders and Junot Diaz. Any one of them might have a clavicle as pretty as Lahiri’s, but we wouldn’t know. These men are portrayed in black ink drawings, ostensibly fully clothed. Lahiri, the 21st of the 21 authors included on the list, is the only one who appears so… undressed.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I’d be a prude if I said the picture of Lahiri was inappropriate. It’s tasteful. She looks stunning. It’s not as if there’s any cleavage, just the aforementioned clavicle and her smooth, glistening skin.

So why am I so put off by this? Because I feel like she’s using her “pretty” to gain publicity and attract an audience. Because I think the quality of someone’s writing should have nothing to do with his or her appearance. Because I think Lahiri should pretend her looks are incidental to her success, and this picture suggests otherwise. Because I don’t want to question my own success (miniscule compared to Lahiri’s, but still), and consider the role my appearance has played.

January 3, 2013
Playing Dead

"To die your whole life. Despite the morbidity, I can’t think of a better definition of the writing life. There’s something about writing that demands a leave-taking, an abandonment of the world, paradoxically, in order to see it clearly. This retreat has to be accomplished without severing the vital connection to the world, and to people, that feeds the imagination. It’s a difficult balance. And here is where these ruminations about writing touch on morality. The same constraints to writing well are also constraints to living fully. Not to be a slave to fashion or commerce, not to succumb to arid self-censorship, not to bow to popular opinion—what is all that but a description of the educated, enlightened life?"

(via Jeffrey Eugenides’s Advice to Young Writers: The New Yorker)

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Filed under: writing 
December 16, 2012
Rock Me, Mercy

The heartbreaking loss of lives in Newtown, Conn., moved the Louisiana-born poet Yusef Komunyakaa to put his emotions into words. The global distinguished professor of English at New York University knows too well how it feels to lose a child and poetry’s power to calm and heal. —from NPR.org

Rock Me, Mercy: A Poem Written In Mourning
by Yusef Komunyakaa

The river stones are listening,
Because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods has gone down.

It looks like rain, because it is too warm to snow.

Guardian angels, wherever you’re hiding,
We know you can’t be everywhere at once.

Have you corralled all the pretty, wild horses?
The memory of ants asleep,
And day lilies, roses, holly, and larkspur?

The magpies gaze at us,
Still waiting.

River stones are listening
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please rock me.

December 9, 2012
 Brutal honesty from F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Price of Admission
November 9, 1938 Dear Frances: I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell. This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile. The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see. That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave. In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than, Your old friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
(via Letters of Note: You’ve got to sell your heart)

Brutal honesty from F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Price of Admission

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

(via Letters of Note: You’ve got to sell your heart)

October 21, 2012
Trust me, this is important work

"And if you’re gonna be a writer, you just truly have to be a writer. You have to throw yourself into it and deal with the negative consequences of that. And there are negative consequences. I mean, there are. But, it’s also true that you wouldn’t be interviewing me right now if I had worked at the post office. You wouldn’t. I would be still writing, but I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I’ve gotten, because I wouldn’t have had the time. I just wouldn’t have, I have two little kids. You do have to take those risks that other people are not going to think are reasonable or good risks to take. And the advice that your mom gave you, to say you don’t have to justify your life, it’s all about that. Every artist at some point had to decide that they didn’t have to justify themselves to the people around them. It did feel frivolous to me, to be a writer. But I had to always say, but trust me, this is important work." —Cheryl Strayed on The Millions

October 14, 2012
Twitter fiction: 21 authors try their hand at 140-character novels

August 28, 2012
Books as Cupcakes: I feel like there’s a taste-related pun to be made here, but I’m all punned out from a day at the office.

Books as Cupcakes: I feel like there’s a taste-related pun to be made here, but I’m all punned out from a day at the office.

August 19, 2012
You, You, You

"In another analysis of the Google Books Archive, this time of 766,513 books published from 1960 to 2008, researchers found that ‘first person plural pronouns (e.g., we, us) decreased in use, first person singular pronouns (I, me) increased 42%, and second person pronouns (you, your) quadrupled'—an unbelievable 300% increase in you between 1960 and 2008.

The huge increase in you, she [Professor Jean M. Twenge) says, is even more complicated. ‘It can mean so many different things. My theory all along is that it has to do with self-help books—how to live your best life, which fits the idea of increasing individualism. The author is speaking to the individual reader and giving advice.’ She adds, ‘When people sat down to read a book in previous eras they didn’t have to feel like the author was talking to them, and now more people want that feeling. It’s now very common to have you in the title.’ Maybe the apparent increase in memoirs reflects this hypothesis, too.”—The Atlantic Wire

(Source: theatlanticwire.com)

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Filed under: writing 
June 3, 2012
And one more ode to Cheever. Here’s a still from “The Swimmer,” starring Burt Lancaster and based on one of Cheever’s most well-known stories. I haven’t seen the movie or read the story, not in the traditional sense of reading. But I did listen to an audio version of it from The New Yorker. 

And one more ode to Cheever. Here’s a still from “The Swimmer,” starring Burt Lancaster and based on one of Cheever’s most well-known stories. I haven’t seen the movie or read the story, not in the traditional sense of reading. But I did listen to an audio version of it from The New Yorker

4:46pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZTOt9yMiNwcS
Filed under: writing movies 
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