Manic Monday

Lots of gross news today, including the loss of Beverly Cleary. Maybe just go back to bed and let’s meet here tomorrow.

Stop trying to turn literature into a self-help offshoot

Laura Miller goes off in Slate about the TED-Talk-mushification of literature, using some dude’s book as a launching point. While reading does (and should) have therapeutic aspects (catharsis, self revelation, etc.) dumbing literature down to match the rest of the pap pop culture serves us is a disservice.

Instead of the rabble of depressives, shirkers, grudge nursers, monomaniacs, and dogs in the manger that we know most great writers to be, Fletcher portrays the authors covered in Wonderworks as a gang of spunky Thomas Edisons, each intent on coding a new storytelling app whose value proposition is to improve our “daily mental health and happiness.” For thousands of years, the world’s great writers have provided “solutions” to problems people didn’t even realize they had, Fletcher declares, using the power of neuroscientific principles that hadn’t been discovered yet.

Is Fletcher dishonest, or merely ignorant? 

Freaky Friday news hubbub

We’re back on track here on The Rock, with only one active case in the province after our flare up of the British variant last month. Now we go down to level 2 tomorrow and we’re emerging back into the light like vole coming out of the earth in Spring. Here’s hoping it sticks this time. Steady as she goes, b’ys.

Thursday news quarry

Can you dig it?

Do bookstores give you anxiety?

I’m going to be honest with you: pretty much everything gives me anxiety these days. Anxiety is all around me and in me. I can feel it like a foreign body under the skin. I wallow in it. I medicate and self-medicate against it. But it envelops me like I’m a litter of unwanted kittens and it’s a burlap sack weighted with stones being tossed off a bridge. I want to not be anxious, and I can even see a life of free of anxiety just over there, but I can’t quite commit to getting there. I live in anxiety the way a prehistoric fish with proto-legs lives in water: I can see the shore, but I’m just not ready to leave the water for very long.

All that said, the last thing that could possibly give me anxiety is a room full of books. But to each their own, I guess.

I’ve reached the point in life where my relationship with bookstores is—how to put this?—well, it’s complicated. I love the idea of bookstores. I smile when I see their bright windows on a block. I talk about a new bookshop like normal people talk about newborns. And after the global pandemic loosens its grip on New York, I know one of the first things I’ll do is visit a bookstore in my neighborhood. In my imagination, this means spending a long lazy afternoon browsing shelves and flipping the pages of dozens of new books. There’s just one problem: I long ago ceased to enjoy bookstores. Even before the pandemic, I couldn’t spend more than a few minutes inside one without wanting to leave; no, without wanting to flee, shoulders hunched, like a child caught trespassing.

Scottish novelist Alan Warner on writing vs. sales

Are we living in a time when experiment just doesn’t pay? Seems like it. You are either a boutique author who sells nothing or a major author who sells out. Looking back on a significant career, Warner confirms this when he drops this tidbit:

“I’ve messed up many things in my life, but I’ve tried to write what I want to write. Publishing has gone a bit like the music industry, in that you either sell 300 copies or 300,000. There’s no middle ground for experimentation.”

Thoughts on this? Can you be uncompromising while still actually selling books? I don’t mean the special cases. I mean, in general.