more awesome web forage
- George Prochnik on the dangers of noise:
Noise wreaks havoc on all different parts of our bodies. The heart rate accelerates. We get vasoconstriction. It’s been shown that the elevated blood pressure from nighttime noise continues all through the day. Even if we’re not fully aroused by noise, sleep is fragmented. Loss of sleep is tied to all kinds of immune and heart problems, and a real laundry list of ailments. The really scary thing is even if we do habituate mentally to noise, that doesn’t change what’s happening to our bodies.
One problem we have in this culture is the idea of noise sensitivity associated with weakness or preciousness or a kind of fuddy-duddy crankiness. There are these pejorative associations. Culturally and for commercial reasons noise is viewed as a part of our pursuit of happiness — our drive to have fun.
- Jeannette Demain on classics that get one star reviews on Amazon, e.g. for “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”:
This book is 3 words over and over again: MY LIFE IS BAD. 500 pages and that’s all it says. It’s exactly the same as any other book about a poor family with an irresponsible father and a child who manages to be alright (Angela’s Ashes, Black Boy, Riding in Cars With Boys) the only difference is – THIS ONE IS FICTION. Don’t waste your time, money, or your sympathy on the most over praised book ever written.
- Edith Grossman on why translation matters
By the same token, it is impossible to conceive of the contemporary novel in English without taking García Márquez into account (not to mention Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar). The influence of García Márquez’s writing—presumably in translation, as Faulkner’s influence in Latin America undoubtedly took place for the most part in Spanish—is evident in a gamut of prominent writers like Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, and Michael Chabon, to name only a few. It is wonderful to contemplate, isn’t it: the freedom García Márquez discovered in Joyce, and the structural and technical lessons he learned from him and from Faulkner, have been passed on to a younger generation of English-language fiction writers through the translated impact of the Colombian’s writing. The innovative process of discovery that has allowed major writers to flex authorial muscles beyond the limitations of a single language and a single literary tradition would not have been possible without access to translated books. Translation is, in fact, a powerful, pervasive force that broadens and deepens a writer’s perception of style, technique, and structure by allowing him or her to enter literary worlds not necessarily found in one national or linguistic tradition. Far beyond essentially pernicious anxieties of influence, writers learn their craft from one another, just as painters and musicians do. The days of direct apprenticeship are over, for the most part, except, of course, in formal, academic settings (creative writing programs, studio courses, or conservatory study, for example), but artists can find mentors in other ways. The more books from more places that are available to fledgling authors, the greater the potential flow of creative influence, the more irresistible the spark that ignites literary imaginations. Translation plays an inimitable, essential part in the expansion of literary horizons through multilingual fertilization. A worldwide community of writers would be inconceivable without it.
- Tom Bissell reviews Jake Silverstein’s book:
If I had to guess, I think he is basically copping to what most magazine writers know is true, which is that some measure of fictionalization is unavoidable in what the trade calls “feature writing.” This is not to say that magazine writers make things up, exactly; but the magazine writer’s contrapuntal arrangement of detail and selective use of quotation is close enough to fiction writing to make the distinction between the two often nebulous. Whether a story is “true” has surprisingly little bearing on with the various decisions a writer must make. Where does one begin? At what point does one introduce narrative complications? And where does one end? A magazine writer takes a “true” story, breaks it down into artificial (if not arbitrary) narrative blocks, and shapes “what happened” into the one thing that real life does not and cannot resemble—a story. Nonfiction writers create stories; they do not find them.
- Margaret Atwood learns to love Twitter
But despite their sometimes strange appearances, I’m well pleased with my followers – I have a number of techno-geeks and bio-geeks, as well as many book fans. They’re a playful but also a helpful group. If you ask them for advice, it’s immediately forthcoming: thanks to them, I learned how to make a Twitpic photo appear as if by magic, and how to shorten a URL using bit.ly or tinyurl. They’ve sent me many interesting items pertaining to artificially-grown pig flesh, unusual slugs, and the like. (They deduce my interests.) Some of them have appeared at tour events bearing small packages of organic shade-grown fair-trade coffee. I’ve even had a special badge made by a follower, just for me: “The ‘call me a visionary, because I do a pretty convincing science dystopia’ badge.” It looks like this: They’re sharp: make a typo and they’re on it like a shot, and they tease without mercy. However, if you set them a verbal challenge, a frisson sweeps through them. They did very well with definitions for “dold socks” – one of my typos – and “Thnax”, another one. And they really shone when, during the Olympics, I said that “Own the podium” was too brash to be Canadian, and suggested “A podium might be nice.” Their own variations poured on to a feed tagged #cpodium: “A podium! For me?” “Rent the podium, see if we like it.” “Mind if I squeeze by you to get onto that podium?” I was so proud of them! It was like having 33,000 precocious grandchildren!
- Edan Lepucki abstains from Twitter and Facebook for three months
I also noticed how I kept a running Twitter feed in my head: Oh, not my crazy neighbors again!, and, Wow, has anyone read so-and-so’s novel? Someone suggested I keep these in a notebook, to be broadcast at a later date. That might have been funny, but wasn’t the point of my detox to wrest myself away from this real-time cataloging of reactions, emotions, and experience?
- Nicholas Lezard doesn’t like literary festivals
But on they march, these bookish ding-dongs. There’s a recent Private Eye cartoon in which two castaways are washed up on a desert island. One of them says: “Obviously, the first thing we have to do is start a literary festival.” I can understand why you might have one, or perhaps two – but as far as I am concerned Hay-on-Wye is my idea of heaven on earth, a paradise of first-rate second-hand bookshops and good pubs set in beautiful countryside, which for 11 days or so each year becomes uninhabitable.
(I also freely admit that part of my dislike of festivals is that I’m no longer invited to them, which may have something to do with what happened at 6am outside the Queen’s Hotel in Cheltenham in 199-. There was an unusually big audience watching me interview Nicholas Blincoe and Alex Garland later, and I bet quite a few of them were wondering how one half of me got to be covered in mud.)
- Geordie Williamson on the blogosphere’s influence on writing
Of course, the overall effect is distracting. Poems demand total attention: blogs are sites where other texts and all manner of media, from sound to image, are only a hyperlink click away. Think of the mental space to be cleared to properly engage with a long poem, or of those endless 19th-century novels that take chapters to gather up their narrative concerns: any literature that demands an extended period of readerly monogamy will soon be betrayed by the internet’s polyamorous nature.
It is the briefer, nimbler, more flirtatious forms that meet with greatest success in an online setting. The personal essay and the feuilleton — gossipy, critical, glancing supplements to the larger narratives of the day — are the older genres that come closest to matching what the internet does best…Whether our political, business and entertainment elites have the same thing to fear from bloggers remains to be seen; but it is obvious that this particular style, entertaining to the point of scurrilousness, has become the default mode for internet writing. Taken with the failure of poetry and fiction to create a vigorous online presence, it suggests the web is reshaping the way we write.