Shakespeare turns 100

Well, Shakespeare and Co., which I assume anyone who’s been to Paris has visited. Happy birthday, place-once-filled-with-real-writers-but-now-filled-mostly-with-artistic-tourists!

The first combined English language bookshop and lending library in Paris, it provided unprecedented access to Anglo-American literature for a cash-strapped post-war population who had little money to buy books. It was also the major source of distribution for the avant-garde ‘little magazines’ which would be the first place of publication for some of the most important poets, novelists and critics in the early decades of the 20th Century. These included Harriet Weaver’s Egoist, which had been the first to publish work by Joyce.

Best-of dump post

Basically from now until the distant future of 2020 (I’m telling you, if laser eye surgery companies don’t look into the next year and see a marketing windfall, they’re chumps), there will be these sorts of lists and posts. See my rant of yesterday for my opinions on people’s reactions to them.

Three Lives keeps living

When I lived in NYC and hung around the NYU campus, I spent a lot of time in Three Lives. I’d say I was in every day. I saw tons of famous authors in there, including Michael Cunningham, whose novel, The Hours, was about…. Three lives. My favourite bookseller there was Jessica, who then went on to found Greenlight in Brooklyn. More like Booklyn, amirite? Anyway, here’s an article about the store that I can’t read because I make no money from this site and can’t afford a subscription to the NYT.

Call for more women in charge of publishers in the UK

Not sure what the structure is like over there, but given how the patriarchy tends to download actual work onto women while putting men in charge of delegating said work, I am willing to bet that many of the editors doing the substantive work are women while those in charge are men. If that’s true, then I’m all about this call from the Baroness. (Find it really hard not to giggle at the title “Baroness” now that we have the best sketch comedy in the world in our own backyard.)

”If it’s only ever about the optics it has to fail, it has to be about genuine passion in the DNA of the company,” Rebuck said. “What I’d like to see at some point is a woman running a large group again in the UK – there were a number of us. It’s pretty interesting that we were all replaced by men. And if you look at each decision, they were the right decision, they are fantastic and are doing great things. But the fact of the matter is that unlike the US we have no women running large groups, though we have women running smaller start-ups but no large groups. I think that is a problem. This morning I read that Katie Espiner said [in her Futurebook keynote] ‘Why do we go on about this, it doesn’t really matter.’ Katie – I disagree with you. I think we should celebrate our divisional heads or heads of departments… but until we get more women running larger groups we will not see this sort of wholesale change.

On the importance of keeping a journal

You will thank yourself in the future. My journal is the bags under my eyes. Tells a better story than I ever could.

What does an unfinished journal mean? I’m afraid it means poor discipline, a nonchalance in the face of lost time. But the reality is probably less dramatic. I’m busy: just getting through the day can take so much effort that doing the secretarial work of recording it can feel like a strange, self-imposed burden. Also, the emotions that made me write when I was younger — melancholy, heartsickness, wistfulness — aren’t as acute as they used to be.

And then there’s the fact that social media is already doing some of the administrative work of a journal. Facebook reminds me of my anniversaries and milestones with the dedication of a dog bringing my slippers. It’s almost too easy. My various feeds are always right there waiting for me. Together they promise that my past is a smooth, open road retraceable just by scrolling.

Important Read Alert: Heroines of the black press

A primer on the black women journalists who were bringing it for years when everything was even more stacked against them. (h/t The Millions)

How many black women journalists from the nineteenth century can you name? For many, the list starts and ends with Ida B. Wells, the pioneering newspaperwoman and activist whose anti-lynching crusade galvanized a movement. Wells was celebrated in her own lifetime, and for good reason—she inspired people on both sides of the Atlantic to pay attention to the atrocities inflicted on black Americans. But far from acting alone, she was part of a much larger network of black women journalists who dared to wield their pens in the names of truth and justice. At a time when all women were discouraged from engaging in “unladylike” activities like politics, the women of the black press were boldly writing about racial justice, gender equality, and political reform.

The End-of-year lists are coming

There doesn’t seem to be as much arguing here as there was 8 years ago, so I thought I’d add something that might piss people off a bit. Here we go. The first of the end-of-year/best-of-year lists are starting to drop. What could this old coot possibly think of that?

Unpopular opinion #2958:

Dear Writers,

I don’t believe you need or deserve constant reassurance or trigger warnings about things like other people winning awards or getting chosen for best-of lists. You already know it’s a complex web of personal opinion of jurors/editors, marketing department prowess/budget, and political considerations — so when you don’t appear here, do yourself a favour and don’t whine publicly about it or expect kind-hearted-friends to coddle you by assuring you of your worth. At some point in your apprenticeship as a writer, you should have learned to behave independent of constant approbation.

Yes, you poured your heart and all creative jizz into your book, but so did everyone else–including both those on and absent from the list. When you complain about this stuff, or wait for friends to do it for you, you’re doing nothing but proving you’re not actually suited to being a writer while denigrating and reducing the accomplishment of the work that did make it.

So everyone, go have a privately disappointed cry (reasonable), drink a shot of something sweet to wash out the bitterness (advised), and get on with writing the next one (imperative) instead of waiting for people to give you the it’s-not-your-fault-tweet-trophy (unreasonable). The simple fact is there are many more writers than their are chances for recognition. Yes, it sucks to not be recognized, but writers are no longer individuals, we’re a crowd. If you’re in it for awards and lists, go write either a shitty book designed to take one or a great one so brilliant it can’t be ignored.


Grandpa G

Hmm, I wonder if that will work. Leave your dissenting opinions in the comments. Agreement will also work, but will score you fewer SNAG points.

Q: What are you going to do with all that space you reclaimed from your crap following the advice of Tidy-Up Lady Marie Kondo?

A: Pay Marie Kondo to refill your condo with some personally curated crap. Well-played, Evil Super-Villain Kondo. If there’s one thing Western cultures like more than a touristy, spiritualamized dip into Eastern cultures, it’s getting back to buying useless shit. This woman is a genius.

Also, it’s fun to remember that another side of Ms. Kondo’s teachings is her cultural animism and non-dualism, the idea that we are inextricably connected to objects and spaces, and that those objects may have souls.

She has written of making allies of your belongings; connect to your pens and pencils, she says, and honor your clothes, you need their support. Buy the sustainably harvested beechwood computer brush, $35, and soothe your computer by swooshing its crumby, crusty surfaces. It may forestall a trip to the Genius Bar.

Turning life stories into biopics

The guy behind both Bohemian Rhapsody (about the cult-like leader of millions of fanatics) and The Two Popes (about a strangely-dressed, much-loved pop culture icon deeply immersed in the politics of gay men) talks about what it takes to turn a good life story into a good biopic.

“The heart of most drama is in finding someone who wants something — and the interesting obstacles in the way. That’s true of all the people I’ve dealt with one way or another, whether it’s Freddie Mercury, Winston Churchill, Stephen Hawking or Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. These individuals all found themselves with particular challenges.”