"Another editor. That thing behind his ear is his pencil. Whenever he finds a bright thing in your manuscript he strikes it out with that. That does him good, and makes him smile and show his teeth, the way he is doing in the picture. This one has just been striking out a smart thing, and now he is sitting there with his thumbs in his vest-holes, gloating. They are full of envy and malice, editors are."
—from “How to Make History Dates Stick,” an essay written by Twain in 1899, not published until after his death in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in December 1914. The essay was about using pictures as memory devices.
"If you’ve tried reading Don DeLillo’s fiction in the past and found it the literary equivalent of being whacked in the head with a sack full of quarters, his new short story collection, The Angel Esmeralda, is an ideal way to give him another chance.”
We have a rich literature. But sometimes it’s a literature too ready to be neutralized, to be incorporated into the ambient noise. This is why we need the writer in opposition, the novelist who writes against power, who writes against the corporation or the state or the whole apparatus of assimilation. We’re all one beat away from becoming elevator music.
Listen to the first 80 seconds of Melissa Block’s piece on last night’s All Things Considered. And then fast forward to the final 67 seconds of the audio. What a powerful message, a powerful couple minutes of radio. To hear the contrast of the fluid voice of the Congresswoman before her brain was penetrated by a bullet in January of this year, and then witness the powerful will of her language several months later rages with hope.
Now, listen to the full ten-minute piece with Block’s interview with Representative Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, which is bookended with Gabby’s voice. The context makes her readings all the more powerful. Non?
Yes, even those of us who work in public radio are not immune to those “driveway moments” in the darkness of the early evening. What a gift.
“Tonight at 6:00 writers and readers from across New York City will gather in Liberty Plaza to reoccupy the space and rebuild the People’s Library. Authors will bring their books, readers will bring their favorite books to donate and together we will rebuild to create the revolution this country needs.”
“Once on the corner I immediately launched into action and again started reading from the OWS POETRY ANTHOLOGY. Someone in the crowd said the cops wouldn’t respond to the poems but I countered, it’s not about the cops, it’s about making the voices of all those that have sent poems to the anthology heard.”—Stephen Boyer, one of the librarians at Zuccotti Park, giving a first-hand account of last night’s events
“I throw my rifle onto the discard pile and run toward the Humvee, and I dive under the vehicle as the fire line continues to send a wall of metal into the air, and I weep, and I hear my screaming friends, those men I love, and I know we’ll soon carry that mad scream home with us, but that no one will listen because they’ll want to hear the crowd-roar of victory.”—from Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
“The job of the regular daily, weekly, or even monthly critic resembles the work of the serious intermittent critic, who writes only when he is asked to or genuinely moved to, in limited ways and for only a limited period of time … What usually happens is that (the staff critic) writes for some time at his highest level: reporting and characterizing accurately … and producing insights, and allusions, which, if they are not downright brilliant, are apposite … What happens after a longer time is that he settles down. The simple truth — this is okay, this is not okay, this is vile, this resembles that, this is good indeed, this is unspeakable — is not a day’s work for a thinking adult. Some critics go shrill. Others go stale. A lot go simultaneously shrill and stale. A few critics, writing quietly and well, bring something extra into their work … Some staff critics quit and choose to work flat out again, on other interests and in intermittent pieces. By far the most common tendency, however, is to stay put and simply to inflate, to pretend that each day’s text is after all a crisis…”
A fascinating piece from Jonathan Lethem & LA Review of Books, but what we appreciate is the thoughtful epigraph by Renata Adler (the New Yorker film critic for four decades). All critics should have this posted at eye line in front of their computers.