Beattie on NYRB’s publishing program

Fellow geriatriblogger Steven Beattie examines the legacy of the NYRB’s publishing arm dedicated to saving literatures gone-by. When I lived in Manhattan, my neighbour wast Edwin Frank, the editor of this program. Nice guy, and very down to earth. We had a few lunches and he hardly ever talked about publishing. It was delightful.

As a kind of literary counterpart to the Criterion Collection of classic and underappreciated cinema, it is appropriate that NYRB also has a collection of work focused on literature, film, art, music, and dance. Lillian Ross’s classic Picture, often considered one of the best books ever written about the craft and practice of movie making, was brought back into print this year to sit alongside filmmaker Robert Bresson’s musings about movies and creativity, Notes on the Cinematograph. Choreographer Agnes de Mille and jazz great Mezz Mezzrow also have titles back in print thanks to NYRB.

On the difficulty of being a woman writer

Well, speaking as a fella who is of North-West-Belfast stock, I can tell you what your mistake was: speed dating in Belfast. What is that, anyway? Like a bunch of people in wool looking at each other dourly for 10 minutes at a time? But I digress. This article is actually about hurdles women writers face.

…one of the big problems facing women writers is this: men aren’t brought up to be as sapiosexual as women. Ten years ago I went to a speed-dating event in Belfast where I told a succession of potential dates I was a writer and was met with a unanimous sense of disappointment. “I thought you might be a nurse,” one man said, his face falling.

Woe is us

It’s tough to be a writer. You should probably feel sorry for us and smother us in donations of alcohol and hugs. Special hugs. Fine, I’ll just take the beer.

Couple examples:

How does one cope with throwing a book out into the screaming void of disinterest that is contemporary English-speaking society?

The realisation usually comes slowly. First there is the conspicuous absence of reviews, publicity spots and invitations to literary festivals. Then there is the all-too-swift removal of your title from the glamorous New Release section of the bookstore, and its relegation to the densely packed Australian fiction shelves in the bowels of the shop. Lastly and most humiliatingly, you see that the single copy of your book has been turned perpendicular to the wall, now only visible by its spine. At this point you know your novel has lived its short, inglorious life and there will be only a few more spluttering sales before it passes into the annals of the entirely ignored.


How do we survive if art comes from wounds?

Trauma, of course, arrives from many sources: the death of a family member, sexual assault, the psychological and physical abuse wreaked by dysfunctional families, discrimination’s poison, the catastrophe of war or famine, or any crushing event that reorients a child’s understanding of the world. The list of harsh surprises is probably endless. Perhaps that is why Gardner’s description of an art-generating wound resonates with any writer searching for the truths of his or her childhood. Damage survived through one’s art can be a heroic story we tell ourselves, a suspenseful tale of personal struggle and possible transcendence. For me, Gardner’s insight certainly helped shape my understanding of the secret imperative behind my early attempts at writing short stories: they were ripples that arose from but could never undo two defining events of my childhood.

Optimism: it’s now science fiction

Dystopias? Those are so…. yesternow. What about “Solarpunk” and “Hopepunk”? Listen, I grew up with Reagan at the button. I’ve been pretty sure the world is in the shitter since I first shaved the sides of my head and donned some second-hand parade boots. Now you’re telling me there’s hope? Christ, I am old and out of touch.

from LitHub

The narratives we construct, the stories we tell ourselves must acknowledge that, while there’s a scientific consensus that the atmosphere is warming due to our fossil fuel emissions, many aspects and extents of climate change remain uncertain. Writing non-apocalyptic climate change narratives can make room, intellectually and emotionally, for our failures to act sooner. Some things will be lost; much already has been.

I want to say to my students: Even if it is already too late, we have no way yet of knowing it is, because I am afraid they will still give up.

RBC Taylor Prize cancelled

20 years is all it gets. Always sad to see a chance to pay a writer go away, but as much of a bummer as it is, if it’s not the start of a corporate exodus from the literary prize world, we should all be fine. There are lots of friggin awards.

In a statement, Taylor suggested that Canadian non-fiction readership is now thriving. “It became clear last year that we had achieved every goal Charles and I set out,” she says of the prize. “I am confident that the current interest in well-written Canadian non-fiction will continue to sustain and engage its readership.”

RBC Wealth Management, the prize’s sponsor, agreed with Taylor’s sentiment that the prize had fulfilled its purpose. “As the Prize wraps up, we share the Board’s sentiment that the genre is well-established in Canada,” Vijay Parmar, president, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel, said.

I love how nowhere does anyone say something like, “Yeah, RBC just wasn’t seeing the continued ROI, so they decided to fuck off with their billions and billions of profit made on the backs of Canadians and take the money elsewhere–elsewhere probably being 10 second ads on Candy Crush.”

Alan Moore emerges from behind trademark Hair of Stalwart Anarchy (+2) to fight the Tory “parasites”

Legendary illustrator and artist Alan Moore is foregoing his usual anarchism in favour of directing his legions of fans to stand up against right wing parties in the UK by supporting Labour. I largely agree with the man that most politicians are in it for themselves, regardless, but I am the sort of person who tries to change the system from within rather than just taking my ball and heading home. Glad to see another disheveled warrior take to the battlefield.

Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, said that the last time he voted was more than 40 years ago, because he was “convinced that leaders are mostly of benefit to no one save themselves”. But these are unprecedented times, he said, and a victory for the Conservative party in December’s general election would leave Britain without “a culture, a society, or an environment in which we have the luxury of even imagining alternatives”.

CBC Poetry Prize winner

I’m going to word this carefully, without consideration to the worth or skill of any piece shortlisted and with great respect to all involved: I am glad to see this award go to an emerging poet working in the trenches of student-hood– Alycia Pirmohamed. I may have an unpopular opinion on contests like this and who they’re for (IE, not award-winning tenured professors with major salaries).

from linked CBC article

“Here is a poet who ‘pours and pours’ the whole world inside a single sentence. A poet who puts a sentence under a sentence to build a world,” the jury said in a statement. “There is a biographical depth in Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation, Prairie Storm and Tasbih that gives expression to a narrative yearning that is immediately felt — so much so that to read on is to get to the heart of the lyric mode. There is an unwavering confidence here, a quiet playfulness, and an ear for unpredictable images and symbols, all of which suggest to us that this is a poet to watch, from whom we may learn, in their diction, ‘how to symmetry, how to pray.'”

Note: I have no idea what that jury citation actually means, but I’m keen to read the piece!

On capturing the photo of the year

Imagine being the guy who snapped the pic of Donald Trump’s all-caps notes, just shy of being written in crayon and with capital I-s that look like toppled H-s, yesterday. Well, this is him.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

The notes say so much, less about what Trump said or Sondland testified—the ambassador stated explicitly before Congress that Ukraine had been subject to a quid pro quo—than how he views himself in this moment. “THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRES OF THE U.S.” sounds more like a dictum from the great and powerful Oz than from a democratically elected leader. The misspelling of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky’s name betrays a casual disregard for even the most basic facts of the matter. And the giant lettering supports the operating theory that Trump refuses to wear glasses that he sorely needs.

The public would have none of that additional insight without Wilson’s photograph. “I am always trying to take a picture that no one else has,” he said. “As news consumers, we tend to see the same images from press conferences day after day, and sometimes situations arise that allow me to use my expertise to take a picture that is really quite unique and different.”

Monsters of Nature Poetry

Bookninja favourite Simon Armitage, pictured here very much not wanting his photo taken, talks about the return to nature poetry.

“It’s come about because of the obvious environmental concerns, and in recognition of this growing body of work in poetry addressing climate change and the climate crisis, sometimes directly and sometimes more indirectly,” says Armitage. “It needs more awareness around it. I also think that offering a prize might encourage more of this sort of writing.”