Here Be Dragons
People in the US are usually surprised when I say that my Thai mother lives in Ireland. “How did that happen? That’s so strange.” Strange, and their little laugh that accompanies the statement, are code for their assumptions about the education and mobility of this foreign woman of color, who in this case is my mom. She most recently worked for Salesforce, a fast growing tech company headquartered in San Francisco. When she moved to Singapore it was to work for Intel, another large tech company. She is ambitious and accomplished. She defies the stereotypes. My dad runs up against a different stereotype. That he, a white American man, lives in Thailand is not unusual. White American Men have more world-conquering powers according to a general, Western, unexamined assumption of normalcy.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago, and given only months to live, Sam Simon is still alive and still racing to spend the fortune he made as co-creator of The Simpsons on causes he loves, whether he is rescuing grizzly bears (and chinchillas and elephants) or funding vegan food banks. Sam Simon and philanthropy previously on Metafilter
I had a stroke at 33—On New Year’s Eve 2007, a clot blocked one half of my brain from the other. My reality would never be the same again. [more inside]
Lydia Davis on Madame Bovary, Nabokov's Marginalia, and Translation: [YouTube] In this video from the Center for the Art of Translation, author and translator Lydia Davis discusses how she used Nabokov's margin notes from his edition of Madame Bovary to aid her own translation. She also discusses in-depth translation choices that she made. A full audio recording of this event can be hard on the Center's website.
There are previouslys enough to fill an FPP but this deserves mention and honour in its own right.
In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.Long live the Ekumen.
We've Lost One Of The Great Fantasy Writers: R.I.P. Graham Joyce
"Graham Joyce was a monumental writer in the fantasy genre. His humane, intense writing was like a masterclass in how to put story first, and he knew how to write people, with all our blind spots and our hopeful mistakes. He died today of lymphatic cancer, and it's a huge loss to fantasy literature."[more inside]
Italo Calvino profiled on the BBC TV show Book Mark in 1985: [SLYT] Rare interview with the great Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels.
You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
It's This or Get a Real Job is the subtitle to Greg Fallis' blog in which the former military medic, private detective, counselor in the Psychiatric/Security unit of a prison for women, professor at The American University in Washington, D.C. and at Fordham University in New York City, writer and photographer, offers his opinions on a variety of topics, such as mistakes, "After the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan (GCB, PC) acknowledged his error and said, “Well, let’s not do that again.” And he never ordered another cavalry charge against a redoubt with a battery of fifty cannons. That wasn’t Lord Raglan’s first mistake; he also had an arm shot to pieces at the Battle of Waterloo. But as his arm was being amputated, Raglan told the surgeon, “My bad, learned my lesson, sorry to be a bother.” And he never had another arm amputated for the rest of his life. Lesson learned."
The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
This is a collection of Francisco "Puree Tomatoes" Taccir's blog posts from Myspace and Friendster from 2005 – 2010. Tomatoes was a writer, artist, and addict who was born on February 26. 1977. He died on October 10, 2010 from a heroin overdose. [more inside]
Alistair Macleod, one of Canada's greatest writers, has passed away. With just one novel, and two collections of short stories to his name, Macleod left an indelible mark on Canadian, and modern, literature. Other writers share their memories at the National Post (skip the first, Joyce Carol Oates' completely bland and characterless effort). At the Globe and Mail, Steven Galloway shares his own stories with Alistair. [more inside]
Author, environmentalist, and activist Farley Mowat, OC, died Tuesday at his home in Port Hope, Ontario, six days short of his 93rd birthday. [more inside]
Today is the 150th birthday of Elizabeth Jane Seaman, née Cochran -- best known by her pen name Nellie Bly. She is perhaps most famous for her re-creation of Jules Verne's epic Around the World in 80 Days, but this real-life Phileas Fogg did it in a record-breaking 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes, and wrote a book about her adventure. She was a pioneering investigative journalist, brave enough to get herself committed to an insane asylum to expose its practices, which resulted in the book Ten Days in a Mad-House. As she wrote, "I was too impatient to work at the usual duties assigned women on newspapers." [more inside]
Bill Simmons, Grantland boss and 30 for 30 executive producer, went from a little known Boston blogger to one of the most successful sports writers in the history of American media. Rolling Stone's Rob Tannenbaum took a deeper look at Simmons.
Colin Wilson has passed away at the age of 82. He rose to fame in the 50s with The Outsider, which made him a figure amongst Britain's Beat movement and Angry Young Men. His writing has spanned the fiction and non-fiction, with an interest in the paranormal and the occult, his thoughts on which he blended with HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to produce The Mind Parasites. A TV series based on his The Space Vampires, also the basis for the movie Lifeforce (previously), is currently planned. Wikipedia page, 2004 Guardian interview, Times Obituary (subs only).
William T. Vollmann: The Self Images of a Cross-Dresser [New York Times] From a profile on William T. Vollmann, in The New York Times. The profile centers around Vollmann’s latest book, The Book of Dolores.
For those of you thinking of taking your first whack (or second, or tenth) at Nanowrimo next month, take some inspiration in the story of John Creasey. [more inside]
"My desire for experience, for openness, for adventure, had been overpowered by a stronger imperative, one I had internalized without realizing it: Don’t get yourself raped." Travel writer Tara Burton writes about her different opportunities and experiences, and the changed values they have brought her.
"They call it '9 to 5.' It's never 9 to 5, there's no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don't take lunch."
Let’s say you’re a writer, working a novel set in Minneapolis. Your protagonist arrives home after a long day of doing whatever it is your protagonist does all day. To this point, you’ve been very specific with local landmarks and a general feeling of the city — your protagonist rides the 21A, eats breakfast at the Grand Cafe, and meets his or her attorney in an office on the 12th floor of the Rand Tower. All good so far. You’ve set the scene very effectively. People are going to say, “This is a great Minneapolis novel" after they read it. However, the time has now come for you to insert a specific street address into the text. You like specifics, and you need a real-sounding mailing address for, say, a situation where the protagonist receives a mysterious letter. How will you accomplish this? Here you have a problem. You only have two options, neither one very good. [more inside]
Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen to Let the World In: Accepting a literary prize in Toronto last month, Alice Munro, the acclaimed short-story writer — “our Chekhov,” as Cynthia Ozick has called her — winner of the Man Booker International Prize and just about every important North American literary award for which she is eligible, told a newspaper interviewer, “I’m probably not going to write anymore.”
On Wednesday, William Van Poyck was executed by the state of Florida for murdering a prison guard during a botched 1987 attempt to free an imprisoned friend. Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row, during which time he wrote to his sister about his life in prison. Since 2005 she has published those letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. 'Poyck used to write about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life – punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.' Excerpts. His final letter.
Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]
The Art Of Making Magazines "By making what they call "not a how-to book, but… a how-to-think-about-it-book," they help us look at something we've probably been taking for granted: What is a magazine?"
In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
Late last month, the writer Jonathan Rendall was found dead at his home in Ipswich. He was 48. He was the greatest gonzo writer you've never heard of. [more inside]
Mister nice guy - As a cartoonist, Tim Kreider seemed to loathe almost everybody. His essays tell a different story.
The author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a popular MetaFilter topic, was born 177 years ago today (November 30th 1835) in Missouri. The printer, riverboat pilot, game designer, journalist, lecturer, technology investor, gold miner, publisher and patent holder wrote short stories, essays, novels and non-fiction under the pen name Mark Twain. This included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (recently adapted into a musical), one of the top five challenged books of the 1990s, published in 1884-85 to a mixed reception and with an ending that still causes debate. [more inside]
Bryce Courtenay, prolific Australian author, dies. "Courtenay, who has been suffering from stomach cancer, died in Canberra late on Thursday with his wife Christine, son Adam, and his family pets, Tim the dog and Cardamon the Burmese cat, by his side. He was 79."
But I couldn't do it. I spent three months and I just couldn't do it. And the reason was because I kept on meeting people who worked in the credit industry and they were really boring. I couldn't make them light up the page. And, as I said in The Psychopath Test, if you want to get away with wielding true malevolent power, be boring. Journalists hate writing about boring people, because we want to look good, you know?A Chat With Writer Jon Ronson [more inside]
... [Thomas] Ligotti's stories tend to have a profound emotional impact. His vision is exceedingly dark, and it is possible for his stories to infect the reader with a mild-to-severe case of depression. It is even possible for them to effect a change in the reader's self-perception and view of the universe. This warning is not meant to be sensationalistic, nor is it meant to turn new readers away. It is simply a statement of fact based upon the experiences of actual readers. Ligotti writes about the darkest of themes with an amazing power, and he means what he says. Often his stories seem to communicate a message below their surface, a sort of subliminal statement that should not rightly be able to traverse the barrier of verbal language. - Matt Cardin (previously) [more inside]
He did not understand that if he waited and listened and observed, another idea of some kind would probably occur to him someday.
Being a content creator is a wonderful job: "It's 2pm. Don't you think it's time you put on some pants?" [more inside]
Davé is a restaurant that caters to writers, actors, film directors, and rock stars. The polaroids of Davé Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
How Philip K Dick transformed Hollywood, who could be Hollywood's next PKD and how PKD could change your life.
Like all shrines, this one is on a hill, and built into solid rock. Richard Olney saw it first in 1961 on an excursion south from his adoptive home in Paris. Olney, whose The French Menu Cookbook was recently judged the best cookbook ever by this magazine, immediately knew he had found his proper place on earth. [more inside]
Danish author Sven Hassel (Wikipedia, official site) has passed away at the age of 95. (Danish - Translation) Hassel fought for the Germans during WWII and became famous after publishing Legion of the Damned, a semi-autobiographical account of the war. He went on to write thirteen more books following the adventures of his convict battalion, incuding Wheels of Terror which in 1987 was made into the movie The Misfit Brigade staring Bruce Davison and David Patrick Kelly (clip). He will be remembered fondly by all who browsed the bookshelves of charity shops as young men.
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish. - Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
"What else could one do to culminate a career than to become a very great international star as the voice of a Muppet?"
You probably didn't know the name or face of New Zealand actor Jonathan Hardy, but you may recognise his voice: he was Dominar Rygel XVI in TV's Farscape. But did you know he was also an Academy Award-nominated scriptwriter? He died at his home in the NSW Southern Highlands on Sunday. [more inside]
The WritersDiet Test, created by Dr. Helen Sword, allows you to enter a writing sample of 100 to 1000 words and have it graded from "lean" to "heart attack" on its level of excess verbiage.
Louis C.K. on eating pressure and providing an alternative to The Man - "I ask him to think about what he really needs; when he tells me, I give him a little more. It buys me goodwill with this person; I feel good about what I'm paying them. I like to give people a little more than they want, and I like to ask people for a little less than they're willing to give." [more inside]
Barry Unsworth, Booker prizewinner, dies at 81. [guardian.co.uk] Writer of historical fiction, who won Britain's highest literary honour in 1992 for Sacred Hunger, has died.