Think you don’t have time to look at art? Well, you’re here to read this week’s Top Ten, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say you probably have 60 seconds to spare. 60 seconds you could spend looking at art. It’s a big week for art in Miami, and ArtInfo has put together a 60-second clip of 60 works of art (out of 258 galleries) on display at Art Basel in Miami Beach. Enjoy. (Blouin ArtInfo)
“It wasn’t favorable.” That’s what the woman said when she came out of the “Conference Idol” session at the last writer’s conference I attended. She’d had the first chapter of her manuscript read during this party game type of a writing workshop, or at least a part of it read before the judges shut it down just like a candidate on American Idol who doesn’t make the cut. It’s an interesting sudden-death approach to manuscript submission, with at least the benefit of immediate feedback to offset the public sting. (At least when you receive a rejection from an agent or editor by email, the whole room doesn’t have to know about it.) Enter “Masterpiece, ” a new Italian reality TV show featuring authors who “vie at literary challenges until one contestant wins a major book deal — and a level of publicity that few novelists achieve over a lifetime of quiet toil.” The show has some appeal for the aspiring author looking for a little visibility, but at what cost?
Alessandro Baricco, a prominent Italian novelist who has appeared on more conventional literary TV shows, declined an invitation to participate in “Masterpiece.” “If you have someone capable — young, with talent and desire — and you want to make their life difficult, then make them into a TV star, ” he said in an interview.
“Masterpiece, ” he said, “will give many people an idea of literature. But it’s not the idea shared by most people who actually do it.” (New York Times)
(You might consider other ways to build your author platform that don’t result in being voted off the show. Think about, for instance, a writing workshop with publishing industry expert Jane Friedman on how to powerfully build your author platform. You don’t even have to speak Italian.)
A few years ago, when my “home team” had a much better season than they have the last few years, I sat in a row of cubicles in the office of a global insurance company, pretending along with my colleagues to focus on important casework when, in reality, most of us had the American League playoff game on in a small pop-up at the bottom of our computer screens. Every so often, I heard the adjuster a couple of desks down spit out the name “Jeter, ” as though it were Seinfeld greeting Newman, when the New York Yankees’ shortstop came up to bat. Derek Jeter, long known for his class and professionalism, is hard not to like. But you can’t fault a guy for trying when your team just can’t seem to find a way to stop his drive up the middle and keep him off base. Though Jeter has yet to retire from Major League Baseball, publishers now have new competition and a reason to hiss “Jeter” from their corner offices, as he has announced the launch of Jeter Publishing, an imprint of Simon & Schuster set to publish adult nonfiction as well as books for children and middle grades. (New York Times)
Meanwhile, amongst those who read the tea leaves of the marketplace, there is this faint flicker of something that suggests Amazon, with its reputation for ruthless domination of the publishing industry, might experience at least a slight loss of interest in, um, publishing, and it’s all over a sack of groceries. Okay, it’s more complicated than that, but I think Mike Shatzkin might be on to something:
Jeff Bezos can be impetuous, but he’s not nuts. He is zealous about the things he cares about because he believes they matter: customer happiness being number one on the list. As the book business becomes a smaller and smaller part of the total Amazon picture and the challenges that matter to the business revolve around delivering your fresh produce in 30 minutes, not 90, it is likely that Amazon will have less and less interest in squeezing just a little bit more margin out of the book business. There will be easier places and easier ways to make money.
4 Poetry at Work
Poet Glynn Young, a former speechwriter, has written about how poetry worked its way into his speechwriting: “Reading poetry taught me the power of poetic techniques, like repetition and even rhyme. I wrote speeches that became something more than a presentation. People would hear these speeches and repeat key words and phrases.”
In the wake of the 50th anniversary of his death, attention was given last month to the power of the poetry in the speeches of John F. Kennedy: “Blessed with undeniable charm and movie star good looks, Kennedy also possessed something more — a knack for the use of alliteration, an innate feel for the felicitous turn of phrase.” It’s the kind of power that has us remembering the “ask not” speech and lines such as “No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings” decades later. (Global Post)
Creativity—forget creativity, say just plain living—requires a deep engagement of life at the sensory level. L. L. Barkat argues that because of the limited sensory stimulation of our screen time, we are experiencing something akin to the astronauts who experienced bone loss (yes, osteoporosis) because of the effects of zero gravity while in space. Our souls are affected by this lack of force on our senses:
I think we fear the strength of asymmetry. Maybe this is why we let someone alter physics. And now there is no pushback. We grow lighter.
This is an important read, one that will leave you wanting to go outside, seek out the wind and the pine needles and stucco. (Curator Magazine)
It’s been said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s possible, though, that necessity is actually invention’s great uncle. I’d like to think imagination is the mother. I’d also like to think Ben Franklin would agree with me, on the role of necessity anyway. Richard Holmes, in his book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air, quotes Franklin on the early concept of flight:
Someone asked me—what’s the use of a balloon? I replied—what’s the use of a newborn baby?
Holmes book explores “the history of the human imagination with relation to the emergence of flight, in the romantic ideas that inspired the inventors, in the attitudes of those who lived around them toward ballooning, and, especially, in the expansive writing the balloons inspired.” Truly, the possibility of flight (for the human) does not arise from actual need (we have other means to ambulate). I will credit it, along with Franklin and Holmes, to the imagination. There is, to my mind, only one actual need that can be filled by a hot air balloon. (Salon)
How do you know you’ve written a good poem? I mean, besides the fact that your neighbor says you should produce a chapbook and your mother emailed it to all her cousins. Writer’s Relief has a list of 8 Signs You’ve Written a Good Poem. I appreciated #7 and #8, related to the reader’s reaction on both an intellectual and emotional level. It didn’t escape me that they advise the same as you’ll hear us tell you time and time again: to write good poetry, you must be reading good poetry. (Writer’s Relief)
Now. What if I told you that William Carlos Williams didn’t really eat the delicious plums that were in the icebox, that someone was probably saving for breakfast. What if I told you he made the whole thing up? That he didn’t even like plums? That he only had clementines and bing cherries in his icebox, and he didn’t eat them either? Would you think less of the poem? Would you be irritated at Williams? Really, I have no idea what Williams kept in his icebox. But Kathleen Rooney recently took on the expectation of truthfulness in poems, beginning with the much more serious The Year of What Not, a collection of poems from Brian Russell which are “written from the first-person perspective of a husband, and are addressed to a specific ‘you’ who is the husband’s wife, suffering from a potentially deadly disease, presumably cancer.” Many readers assume Russell is writing from an autobiographical perspective. He is not. And not everyone is comfortable with this. With respect to poems rooted in fiction, Rooney says this:
Perhaps we should consider that the aim of poems that employ fiction may be not only to engage us emotionally—in a manner that various readers will find either moving or fraudulent—but also to ask us to assess our expectations. In the case of Russell, these are lyric poems but with a narrative arc, and though they are rooted in true feeling, the incidents are almost entirely fabricated. But “fiction” is not synonymous with “falsehood.”
On the other hand, reviewer David Ulin argues that “the tension between the confessional voice and our knowledge that what it is describing didn’t really happen, is too substantial, and the poem collapses under its own narrative weight.” The discussion is a fascinating one. After you’ve read it, let us know what you think. (Poetry Foundation)
I’ve been reading my share of John Keats lately. Call it research. Call it bolstering the credibility of my headshot (kneeshot) around the Internet, with the actual reading of his upside-down poems. Call it what you like. I call “Bright Star” a beautiful poem:
—John Keats, Bright Star
Remember that list of eight signs you’ve written a good poem? And the part about the reader’s reaction? Yeah. Well, I love this poem by David Wheeler.
I Have Nothing Memorized
before a meal
—David K. Wheeler, author of Contingency Plans
Would you like to get excellent poems like these delivered to your inbox every weekday morning? Every Day Poems is the most convenient way to read a poem a day (which is not only good for you but will help you become a better writer).
It is possible that, upon hearing of a new massively multiplayer online role-playing game created in her honor, Jane Austen might reply, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good MMORPG, must be intolerably stupid.” Ever, Jane is just such a new game, and while it is still available only as a prototype for Windows, it is perhaps poised (absent competition) to become the World of Warcraft for the literary gaming set (if there is such a thing). According to CNET, “You choose a proper English gentleman or lady as your avatar and move about through a world of high-stakes ball invitations, gossip, and curtsies. It’s all about building up your reputation and status while subtly tearing down others without getting caught. … If endless hours spent gossiping doesn’t lure you in, perhaps the planned mini-games around dinner parties, balls, landscaping, estate management, and embroidery will. Yes, embroidery.” Well, um. Looks like the Kickstarter campaign exceeded its goal, so perhaps there is a market out there for curtsies and balls. (CNET)
If you’re a Jane Austen fan (and in particular a Pride and Prejudice fan) but not so interested in role playing online, you might just love the new 200th anniversary audio recording of Pride and Prejudice by the ever delightful Alison Larkin. And if you happen to be near the Berkshires this weekend, you’ll want to enjoy high tea at The Mount (home of Edith Wharton), where Larkin will present excerpts of the recording and songs from the period. Enjoy a sample. You’ll want to join Larkin and the folks at The Mount for high tea.
This just in. Seriously. Just this second. I peeked in on Twitter between sections, and saw an announcement that Young’s new release, Poetry at Work is now available. Here’s what Dave Malone had to say about this important new title about poetry and work from T. S. Poetry Press:
I love this book in part because of its difficulty—or, rather, ease—in classifying its audience: everyone should read it. Poets, CEOs, HR directors, IT workers, nurses, job applicants, and even non-poets. Glynn Young adds eloquently to the conversation enjoyed by Dana Gioia, David Whyte, and Clare Morgan. His unique vision of poetry in the workplace goes beyond any primer or workbook—this book is elemental.
‘Tis officially the season for best book recaps, every where you look. The New York Times book review is at least making it fun, with a little animation of their 10 best books of the year (doing that thing with book covers that will make some people gasp in horror). I’m sad I can’t embed it here for you. But click through and watch. How many of these have you read? (New York Times Book Review)
10 Sound ‘n Motion
It’s also that time of year when folks just do very fun and festive things, like this reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from Penguin authors including Emma Thompson, Jamie Oliver, Cerys Matthews and Malcolm Gladwell.