For those of you not plugged in, Alexandra Petri wrote an article recently for the Washington Post entitled “Is Poetry Dead?” I will not link to it here. It has already gotten too much attention and does not deserve another pingback.
First, when I was living abroad I would get rather irate and abrasive whenever I would hear someone speak ill about America. America, my home: I rue every moment my feet touch its soil and hate with every fiber of my being the completely disillusioned values, the daily travesties, and the science experiments big business conducts on it citizens. But no one talks shit about my family but me.
Alexandra Petri isn’t a poet.
Second, whatever. Let her think—let all of them think—that poetry is dead. Ghosts get the better view of the world anyway. read more
So today is Valentine’s Day, and as you all know, we here at WriteByNight love February 14th so much that we take the day off from all obligations, including blogging. And in honor of this wonderful, totally genuine and non-commercial “holiday,” we are reposting this piece from 2012, for which Danielle White scoured her bookshelves to present us the 10 worst lovers in literature.
by Danielle White
Through the ages, literature has brought some amazing characters to life. Characters we have grown up with, fallen in love with, laughed with, admired, and most importantly, remembered just as though they were real people.
But just like real life, literature is full of scummy dudes and scary dudettes intent on torturing the opposite sex. What if you were stuck with one of these legends as a Valentine this year?
Here are the top 10 worst-ever lovers in literature: read more
A couple years back our pal Nico Vreeland wrote a piece about why the jacket copy of books almost always pisses him off. In particular he doesn’t care for book blurbs using the words “’dazzling’ or ‘heartbreaking’ or ‘innovative,’ or any of the other bland superlatives that muddy up dust jackets.” In the comments, Publishing Perspectives‘ editor Ed Nawotka says “So much of this has to do with the erosion of our critical vocabulary. Too often we fall back on ‘dancing adjectives’ to get our point across.”
Blurbs from other writers are often the worst offenders. Remember these hysterical words from Nicole Krauss on David Grossman’s To the End of the Land? “Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same,” Krauss barfed. “To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.” (Full text here, if you can stomach it.)
There have been times when an overly effusive blurb has nearly caused me to skip a book. For example, when Alice Sebold wrote about Yellow Birds, “All of us owe Kevin Powers our heartfelt gratitude.” I sure as *&(^&(*^ don’t need Alice Sebold telling me what I owe, and to whom. Especially when she’s talking about such a subpar novel. read more
By Brent Canle
In the spring of 2014 Graywolf Press will publish James Franco’s first collection of poetry, Directing Herbert White. This isn’t Franco’s first publication: He did a chapbook in 2010 and a collection of short stories the same year. With this I have an inordinate assortment of feeling, as I do anytime someone succeeds where I fail.
The Humility: Good for him. He deserves it. Balancing a career in Hollywood with a literary side. Lord knows he has a handful of degrees in Literature. I’m impressed with his work ethic and determination.
The Hater: Fuck this guy. read more
(Editor’s Note: Here is the final entry in Mike Britt’s three-part series on trying to find a job with an M.F.A. in Writing. Read Parts One and Two. And check back next week, because he might just keep writing this shit for us. DD)
I wanted to write to tell you that we have offered the Web Content Editor position and it was accepted. I was very glad to meet you and would like to keep you on file for other positions as they arise here at M— C—. Best of luck in your job search.
There it is; short, sweet and to the point. I considered drawing this post out with more descriptions of follow-up emails, ass-kissing and then at the end dropping it on you that I hadn’t gotten the job, but I just don’t have it in me anymore. I don’t understand why they didn’t just write, “Dear Michael, Suck it!” It would have communicated the point faster, and I would have been forced to respect the brevity. Instead all this email accomplished was to tell me to fuck off and force me to respond with another simpering, “Oh I also appreciated meeting you, yes, please, oh please think of me in the future for other opportunities that don’t interest me and have nothing to do with my skills or education.”
I’m just happy it’s over. I applied for this job the first week of January and I just got this email last week. That’s a long time to wait and wonder.
I could have used that time to write, but I can’t write. read more
(Editor’s Note: Last week we ran Part I of Mike Britt’s three-post series on trying to land work after earning a creative writing M.F.A. Look for Part III next Wednesday. Unless Britt lands this job … DD)
I had an interview. It was not easy. I found a job for an advertising/marketing copywriter at a local, high-end home décor company that is literally seven minutes down the road. The copywriter job is ideal for my skill set, a half-step up from my last job as a copywriter, and most importantly it includes the word “writer” in the job title itself. After all, isn’t that why I got my M.F.A. in writing?
(Editor’s Note: In February we ran a three-part series from Leah Kaminsky on what to do with Post-MFA life. For the next three Wednesdays, we’ll be offering here a quasi-response from WBN compatriot Mike Britt, who finds himself having a … different experience. DD)
Housing bust. Bailout. American automotive manufacturers. Rising oil prices. Hydro-fracking. European debt crisis. Angela Merkel. Occupy Wall Street. I can’t find a job.
Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney is half-Mexican. Rick Perry isn’t very bright. Rick Santorum thinks homosexuality is tantamount to pedophilia. John Huntsman, who? I can’t find a job.
The Japanese tsunami was unbelievable to watch. It really made me wonder if the Mayans might have known something we don’t. In which case, if this is the last year of the Earth, why am I even trying to find a job? read more
Patina can be beautiful. I love copper roofs that have turned turquoise, and weathered wooden beach chairs (though I’m wary of splinters). But I hate, hate, hate wear and tear in my books.
In my collegiate youth, I didn’t mind highlighting or notes in books, especially in textbooks. (Thanks, previous owner, for doing some of my work for me!) Even in non-textbooks, I found handwritten notes fascinating. It was as if the book had come with an additional story–a story about the previous owner and his or her perspective.
Today, however, I’ve completely reversed my opinion. read more
by Martin Barkley
For five years I’ve been doing research on the history of political and corporate corruption in America for a novel I’m writing. Not just the bare historical facts, but how corruption happens, the nexus of it and the human players, large and small, behind it. It makes for disheartening reading, and sometimes, quite honestly, I get stumped on the big picture. That is, the big human picture. How can people, I ask myself, do such things? That’s the essence of what stumps me. Not too complicated, I know, but it is the kind of question that novelists, at least some them, tend to explore. It’s not an easy question to answer, either, and at times I don’t even want to write a novel that looks closely at what makes human beings commit lasting acts that are hurtful to the public good.
I won’t finger-point—not just yet—by invoking political labels, but whether they’re duped authorities or outright bamboozlers, those making the list historically for “Atrocities Committed” do seem to demonstrate a nexus. Here is my annotated short-list:
Ulysses S. Grant (duped authority), William Tecumseh Sherman (lying genocidist), George Armstrong Custer (lying, duped genocidist), read more
If you want escapism, a step above a beach read, Water for Elephants is a viable choice. I read the book in two days. While I enjoyed immersing myself in Sara Gruen’s rich descriptions of Depression-era circus life and a sweet love story, I found myself annoyed with several things. Narrator Jacob Jankowski loses his parents while he’s a senior vet student at Cornell, quits school during his final exams, and just happens to hop a circus train that needs a vet. Now that’s a strong (if a little too convenient) set-up, but the way Gruen portrays Jacob’s loss lacks depth. Jacob doesn’t grieve much over his parents except immediately after their death, and the whole ordeal seems like a mere plot mechanism by the end of the book. It’s not that Jacob reads like a stock character–despite sometimes acting like a “callow youth”–but that he seems so unshaped by his life before and after the circus. read more
My professional website, Buttontapper.com, contains a contact form that allows potential clients to email me with questions, queries and requests for my rates. Unfortunately, I also get all manner of tire-kickers wasting my time with emails that have clearly not been well thought out before pressing “Send.” For instance, the latest was from a chap looking for a ghostwriter, who sent me an email something like this:
I would like you to read my 7,000-word manuscript, which mainly consists of gobbledygook, stock dialog, flat characters, and an incomprehensible plot line read more
When I was 17, I made a horrifying discovery. I learned something that went against everything I believed as a lifelong reader and bookworm. I discovered that, sometimes, the book isn’t better than the movie.
I know, I know. I was shocked, too.
The first instance of this uncomfortable truth came when I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. My high school self thought it alternated between being tedious and frustratingly complex. Plus, the print versions of Drs. Grant and Sattler were dull and cold compared to Sam Neill and Laura Dern.
Well, that’s got to be an anomaly, I told myself. Maybe Crichton’s style of writing just isn’t for me.
While many of us like to point to the positive inspiration we’ve received from reading great authors whose books we strive to emulate, I think the truth is sometimes a little less glamorous. I certainly aspire to write as eloquently (and outlandishly) as my literary heroes Leonard Cohen, Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson, but I also know that if I am being completely honest, much of my inspiration comes from life’s little irritations.
Take, for example, a recent letter I received from my mother-in-law. read more
This is the gist of an actual note I received from a would-be submitter to my literary magazine, Black Heart, last week:
I don’t like having to use submissions systems. Logging in and having to remember passwords is a waste of time. Why are you making me jump through all these hoops? You are a bad editor, and I hate you. Will you read my work and publish it?
The actual note resembles the ramblings of a doddering old man, someone who has recently learned to work a computer after many years of typing things on a Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter, and who is crotchety about these “newfangled contraptions” we all use to communicate in the 21st century.
While I exaggerate for effect, I feel I must make an important point to would-be authors submitting manuscripts for editorial consideration:
PISSING OFF THE EDITOR WILL NEVER WORK IN YOUR FAVOR read more