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Dillard's How-To

Do you want to be a writer? "Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon?... Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles. The problem is structural; it is insoluble; it is why no one can ever write this book. Complex stories, essays and poems have this problem, too -- the prohibitive structural defect the writer wishes he had never noticed. He writes it in spite of that." Luminous and wise writing advice from Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, one of the most beautiful books written in the last hundred years (published when Dillard was 29). As a writer myself, I am often asked by younger folk how to become one. Dillard says best what I would tell them.
posted by digaman on Jan 10, 2005 - 67 comments

Only geeks read on Friday nights

Nominations for the best software essays of 2004. There's lots of reading here, pardners, and much of it is great.
posted by bonaldi on Dec 3, 2004 - 3 comments

How it is that we have come to invade Iraq

How it is that we have come to invade iraq Zen teacher Sevan Ross, on the reasons for our invasion of Iraq.
posted by tranceformer on Nov 8, 2004 - 43 comments

What Makes A Writer A Writer?

So You Think You Might Be A Writer? Just because you write? An astute essay by Joseph Epstein poses the uncomfortable question: are you weird enough? There's something very unnatural and unhealthy about writing (as opposed to reading, for instance) - but what is it? [Via Arts and Letters Daily.]
posted by MiguelCardoso on Apr 19, 2004 - 51 comments

Hunting snark

Snark. In the newest issue of Bookforum, critic Sven Birkerts ruminates on what he considers to be the regrettable rise of the snarky book review, taking as his starting example Dale Peck's hatchet job on Rick Moody, written in 2002. "Psychologically [the literary] landscape [is one that is] subtly demoralized by the slash-and-burn of bottom-line economics; the modernist/humanist assumption of art and social criticism marching forward, leading the way, has not recovered from the wholesale flight of academia into theory; the publishing world remains tyrannized in acquisition, marketing, and sales by the mentality of the blockbuster; the confident authority of print journalism has been challenged by the proliferation of online alternatives. [...] All of this leads, and not all that circuitously, to the question of snark, the spirit of negativity, the personal animus pushing ahead of the intellectual or critical agenda. Snark is, I believe, prompted by the terrible vacuum feeling of not mattering, not connecting, not being heard; it is fueled by rage at the same."
posted by Prospero on Apr 4, 2004 - 27 comments

Can't Get No Satisfaction

Can't Get No Satisfaction - This unassuming essay (it's in a state of half-decay with missing figures) is a fascinating (and accessible) overview of phase transitions in NP systems (it explains those terms). In other words: complex physical systems and difficult problems in computing are related. The seminal paper is here, and this is a list of other essays by the same author (links at foot of page).
posted by andrew cooke on Feb 5, 2004 - 4 comments

The "duh" in Fundamentalism:

The "duh" in Fundamentalism: Jaime Wright's "The Philosophy Of The Bomb". Please scroll down to Essays, Rants, Etc...
posted by protocool on May 30, 2002 - 6 comments

How much freedom should we trade for our security?

How much freedom should we trade for our security? That is the title of this years Economist/Shell essay competition. The winner will receive $20,000 as well as inclusion in The Economist: The World in 2003. The closing date is August 15. Anyone feel like entering? If I can learn to write English in time I may submit an essay that takes the form of a discussion between a 68 year old Japanese American ex-internee and a 7 year old Israeli girl.
posted by RobertLoch on Apr 22, 2002 - 14 comments

The Life of an Indian-American Teenage Girl.

The Life of an Indian-American Teenage Girl. A friend sent me this link and I felt quite sad reading it. Agreed, the teen years are cruel to everybody. But, it seems like the unique constraints that are placed on member of a minority community(especially with first-generation parents) can uniquely exacerbate the angst. I was particularly taken by one statement- "Although you have the ideals and values of an American, you look like an Indian". What advice would you give this sixteen-year-old?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy on Dec 20, 2001 - 16 comments

"Every school has its story, every room its ghost."

"Every school has its story, every room its ghost."

Ian Dugay writes about the terrors of elementary school; his experience might be rather particular (if you read it, you'll understand that I don't mean that in a Columbine kind of way), but he can't be the only one with unpleasant memories -- how do you remember grade school?
posted by lia on Jan 21, 2001 - 17 comments

Paul Ford's Ftrain

Paul Ford's Ftrain has a great piece on Micrsoft Word, writing, and the web. His stream-of-consciousness essay has hilarious nuggets like the "computer science axiom 'all software expands until it can send mail.'" There's a couple illustrations worth noting: the first looks like Word with all the tool bar icons enabled, and the other is Word's paperclip assistant interfering with an especially private moment. Great stuff.
posted by mathowie on Feb 8, 2000 - 1 comment

The high school English paper that rocked Naugatuck, Connecticut has now resurfaced on the Web.
posted by jjg on Jan 13, 2000 - 7 comments

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