Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022
He really was the best: P. J. O’Rourke on Israel. I could excerpt any damn paragraph, but here’s just one:
There was no sign of war. Plenty of soldiers were to be seen, carrying their weapons, but this is no shock to the frequent traveler. For all that the world looks askance at America’s lack of gun control, foreigners love to wave guns around. Nothing about the Israeli Defense Forces is as odd as Italian carabinieri brandishing their machine pistols while grimly patrolling that flash-point Venice.
Monday, February 14th, 2022
Oh, the minor yet multitudinous wonders of our age! I just discovered Yarn, where you “search by word or phrase for TV, movie and music clips”. What a fun business to have created!
Wednesday, January 12th, 2022
In the very-nicely-titled online review Crooked Marquee, Jason Bailey does justice to Wes Anderson’s fabulous new The French Dispatch:
Charmingly, this film that loves writers is also one of Anderson’s most lavishly directed – which is, I know, saying something … Anderson’s films have also become a welcome opportunity for serious actors to let their hair down – Tilda Swinton is clearly having a blast.
Yes indeed, The French Dispatch is a box of supercandy for grownups. Modern works seem to take it as part of their mission to be the supreme work; even if doomed to fail, there’s an understanding that a serious attempt elevates everything. (Or, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I don’t design a house without reimagining the social order.”) The French Dispatch is a contender for one thing it is an ode to other mediums: typography, cooking, France, the written word. All that and the title triggers “The French Mistake”…).
And looking around again at reviews, actually again it’s David Brody who treats it most appropriately, so bloody enthusiastic that he retells parts of it, which seems rather a faux pas for his critical stature. Brody reminds us at the end that yes, it is a screenplay that flows with noble emotion, exquisitely portrayed. And in the end he compares Anderson with Hemingway. See, what did I tell you…
Thursday, December 9th, 2021
An interview with Vivian Gornick, distinguished New York essayist.
I spend my life trying to produce sentences, as a pair of academics once put it, as “clear and simple as the truth.” The emotional truth, that is. For me, only the accumulation of lucid sentences will deliver on that. Now every writer—poet, novelist, essayist—is aiming for the same thing, putting emotional truth on the page, only each does it using language differently. In the end, I believe, all are aiming for what I am calling clarity.
New York is still the city of letters, and there are still letters.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2021
Hijinks for the practicing intellectualoid: Mansfield on Machiavelli, acknowledging the Florentin’s modernity paternity.
Monday, July 19th, 2021
Via Hacker News, “The Eleven Laws of Showrunning” by Javier Grillo-Marxuach is so beautifully written and serves as a primer for management of anything
As special and wonderful as creativity and process may be, they are assets that can be channeled, managed, made to work on call, and sent to bed at a decent hour.
Since I’m currently watching Disney Gallery / Star Wars: The Mandalorian, showrunners Jon Favreau and David Filoni appear to exemplify the virtues.
Sunday, July 18th, 2021
This top-draw (The New Republic) essay on James Bond and Ian Fleming is ostensibly disparaging about its subject, but author Scott Bradfield’s sheer depth of knowledge marks him a fan. Another clue: although it’s a book review of The World Is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming by Oliver Buckton, in the entire piece Buckton’s name is mentioned just once! This guy Bradfield’s clearly been chomping at the bit to write something Bondy.
Thursday, July 1st, 2021
What a sinking feeling, reading the announcement that Marginal Revolution is launching on Facebook’s Substack ripoff Bulletin”:https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/06/a-more-than-marginal-boost-for-marginal-revolution.html (I get a blank screen in Firefox, and naturally there’s no RSS feed). It’s interesting that trillion-dollar Facebook feels so threatened by Substack.
Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
English has a specific order for adjectives: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, then purpose. Cool.
Monday, May 17th, 2021
What are we to do with how loathsome we find our public selves? Meghan O’Gieblyn writes:
Like many people who become writers, I believed the page offered a way out, a loophole in the world knot. It was only there, with work and deliberation, that the soul became flesh and I could speak in a voice I recognized as my own.
Monday, May 10th, 2021
Elle Griffin is serializing her novel on Substack and here lists others also publishing fiction on the platform.
Saturday, November 14th, 2020
James Lileks is still at it, marvellously, and my bad to have drifted away. Here he is mulling his thoughts at the supermarket and driving home. Plus a wonderful pic. And a great gif. And a second feature that is more epic than the post itself. What an artisan, what an artist.
Friday, November 13th, 2020
Amusing comments at Marginal Revolution on Matthew Yglesias’s migration to Substack.
Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
Larry McEnerney on 40 years of teaching expository writing at the University of Chicago’s Little Red Schoolhouse.
Sunday, July 12th, 2020
A work-in-progress web rendering of Moby Dick by Jason Pamental, with Rockwell Kent’s woodblock illustrations. Glorious!
Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.
Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life
Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
The Smithsonian Magazine excerpts Paul Hendrickson’s Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright. Among the gems:
- “…[Wright’s] 72-year career as an architect and egotist…”
- “…[Wright buildings] come magically out of the American ground looking for the light…”
- “…[Wright,] the old shaman…”
- “…There are certain moments, standing in [Wright homes], if the light is falling right, when it will begin to seem as if Whitman is singing to Emerson, or vice versa…”
Will the author spoil it for me though? Among the crisps are tonal annoyances such as beginning sentences with “Heck,”…
Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
Some rise, some fall, some climb — Robert Hunter, 78. Mister, your inspiration moved me brightly.
“By far the most important factor in determining whether a boiled egg will peel cleanly or not is the temperature at which it starts cooking.” There’s just too many quotable quotes in this first entry in a new New York Times series on the science of cooking. I think the Grey Lady has finally found a useful niche.
Joseph Epstein has a book to review on the semi-colon; that is, an excuse to treat us to a treatise on punctuation. It is “the art of rhythm, for punctuation’s second function, after its first function of helping to establish clarity, is to set the rhythm of sentences. Rhythm in prose, it turns out, is highly individual, for nearly everyone not only marches but writes to the beat of a different drummer.”
Saturday, August 10th, 2019
The words that don’t quite translate tell you the most about another culture.
Colin Marshall, “Travel is Living: How Airbnb Ingeniously Markets to Korea”
Monday, August 5th, 2019
Monday, July 1st, 2019
Other glories: on Norman Mailer’s Of A Fire on the Moon.
Thursday, June 13th, 2019
Saturday, June 8th, 2019
Sunday, March 17th, 2019
“Mathieu Triay on his Marvin Visions”:fhttps://www.readvisions.com/marvin, a reinterpretation of the 1969 font Marvin by Michael Chave.
Thursday, January 17th, 2019
Jonathan Hoefler explores something that typeface designers have long known but that researchers have only now corroborated: horizontal lines appear thicker than vertical ones.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Chronicling from “below the API line”, as Venkatesh Rao calls it, are Austin Murphy with “I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon” in The Atlantic and Lauren Hough with “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” in The Huffington Post.
The depicted harshness of American work life for so many is terrible not just for those involved but for all. (Also these two share a prodigious unmet need to urinate on the job — is this the top new workplace tribulation?)
Friday, December 14th, 2018
Monday, November 19th, 2018
Thursday, November 15th, 2018
Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
Concentration without effort is the heart of the thing.
America and I, both exceptional, would together elude prediction and defy determinism.
The degree to which you challenge your own beliefs and expose them to destruction is a test of your worth as a novelist.
Thursday, September 20th, 2018
Million Dollar Consulting
This most renowned book by the engaging Alan Weiss has a tone of practical, optimistic advice. Its title however is unfortunate as the first part may come off as cheesy while the second part comes off as only applying to consultants. Its subtitle, “The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice”, is more accurate; I was talking with an old friend who now has his own one-man legal practice and realized that pretty much all the book’s advice applies to him.
Although famous for advocating value billing rather than hourly, perhaps the book’s dominant concept is that you should invest your marketing energy in becoming a thought leader — in speaking and writing.
Weiss is a bit of a minor national treasure (despite hovering sometimes on the edge of bad taste — and I believe he is way sophisticated enough to understand exactly what he’s doing) and despite becoming slightly cranky in his more recent musings (not that I disagree with where he’s coming from, but political musings may be off-putting to others). He is a gifted writer in that having read his book you feel he is your friend looking out for you.
Sunday, June 17th, 2018
As my year of diving languorously into the murky waters of the Wake wore on, I came to feel that it was this failure, this impossibility, this grand futility of the Wake, that constituted its secret theme, its true aboutness.
Saturday, June 16th, 2018
First she called herself a Joycean, then she realized she’s more of a Joyceaholic. A great fun rueful erudite walk around the city that is James Joyce.
This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce. A couple of years ago I decided we were in a co-dependent relationship. Except how could that be true if I was the only dependent one?
Sunday, May 20th, 2018
The Closing of the Hi-Gloss Colonel of American Letters Tom Wolfe’s Eyes. The New York Times obituary by Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes.
Saturday, May 12th, 2018
Make it work, ‘cos you’ve got opposites.
Friday, May 11th, 2018
“The Moment” is an occasional column/blog by novelist Amit Chaudhuri in The Paris Review.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
Joss Whedon on making The Avengers: “There’s very little that I didn’t look at. It’s like, This is a Dr. Strangelove moment. This is The Abyss. This is His Girl Friday. It’s constant. You have to have all that stuff sort of in a blender in your head.”
Thursday, April 26th, 2018
I can’t go for a few moments without sliding back my chair and gazing with massive self-love at my library.
Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library
Living abroad meant a move out of quotation marks.
Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library
Friday, April 20th, 2018
Another nice ongoing Grauniad series, this one where authors and writers describe their typical writing day.
The Paris Review compiles interviews from its archives on writing while under an influence.
Eventually I get down to writing and then the real problems begin.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
In this interview Ursula K. Le Guin provides a rather thorough little course on the craft of fiction, covering present vs past tense, first-person vs omniscient narration, conflict as action.
“Henry James did the limited third person really well, showing us the way to do it. He milked that cow successfully. And it’s a great cow, it still gives lots of milk. But if you read only contemporary stuff, always third-person limited, you don’t realize that point of view in a story is very important and can be very movable. It’s here where I suggest that people read books like Woolf’s To the Lighthouse to see what she does by moving from mind to mind. Or Tolstoy’s War and Peace for goodness’ sake. Wow.”
Sunday, March 25th, 2018
Craig Mod’s interview with Offscreen Magazine. “In my life, America is three locations: New York City, the Bay Area, and Asheville in North Carolina.” This writer/designer, who first impressed me with his review of the Apple Watch, lives in a small coastal town in Japan — some sort of digital-hipster James Bond. Things are very considered.