Back to posting semi-random paragraphs from stuff I'm reading:
Bob Trevelyan was, I think, the most bookish person that I have ever known. What is in books appeared to him interesting, whereas what is only real life was negligible. Like all the family, he had a minute knowledge of the strategy and tactics concerned in all the great battles of the world, so far as these appear in reputable books of history. But I was staying with him during the crisis of the battle of the Marne, and as it was Sunday we could only get a newspaper by walking two miles. He did not think the battle sufficiently interesting to be worth it,because battles in mere newspapers are vulgar. I once devised test question which I put to many people to discover whether they were pessimists. The question was: "If you had the power to destroy the world, would you do so?" I put the question to him in the presence of his wife and child, and he replied: "What? Destroy my library? Never!" He was always discovering new poets and reading their poems out aloud, but he always began deprecatingly: "This is not one of his best poems." Once when he mentioned a new poet to me, and said he would like to read me some of his things, I said: "Yes, but don't read me a poem which is not one of his best." This stumped him completely, and he put the volume away.
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872-1914.
Buried in this B.J. Novak interview from the Onion's A.V. Club is a terrific little nugget about The Office producer/writer Greg Daniels use of a Venn diagram to define his approach to comedy. A simple approach to define what's import to him:
[Novak]: He drew a Venn diagram, and he said, “This is groundbreaking comedy that I really respect.” And he said, “This is what makes people laugh.” And he said, “I am only interested in the shaded part in the middle where they overlap.” And I thought, “Sign me up!” I thought it was humble and honest, but still with the value of quality. I know it’s a simple thing to say, and anyone can say it, but you could also tell that he meant it, and had proven it as he was saying it.
Reading Walden via the excellent email reading service DailyLit, I googled cronching which yielded 1160 hits, mostly misspellings, nicknames, and discussions of this very neologism, so Thoreau's invention which didn't catch on. Still, is there a more perfect word for the sound of snow packing underfoot by a winter hiker's approach? Thoreau's a wondeful writer.
(One interesting hit came up to the Chicago Manual of Style Online, which uses this sentence from Walden as an example of how to use the term "sic.")
It's comforting to hear about very accomplished writers struggling (and solving) with the same kind of story issues I have. In this post, Nicola Griffith comes up with a solution for the common problem of having a character in her current project spending a lot of time alone, thinking. How to maintain tension, engagement? Here's the snip:
Ever since I started writing Hild I've been searching for a way for her to have alone time that wasn't just wandering about in the woods. (Personally, I love wandering about in the woods, in real life and as a writer, but it is difficult to maintain any kind of narrative tension/reader engagement.) The other day the solution presented itself: Hild climbs trees. (I have Anthony to thank for this: I downloaded a sample chapter of Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places and, bam, there was the solution.) So now I going through the ms. looking for places to feather in her tree climbing habit. Along the way I'm researching a variety of tree species and growing conditions, and the beasties that live amongst them.
...when you need to remind yourself you have a blog. These are the same one's I stuck on my facebook, and are inspiring, and kind of linked in my mind -- despite the now-archaic misuse of the word "man" for "person."
"A man's got to know his limitations." - Harold Francis "Dirty Harry" Callahan
“Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving, -- as men have sat, or said that they have sat.” -- Anthony Trollope on writers.
“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he's carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he's carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you're drunk.” - Jack Handy
I especially like the last clause of the Trollope quote, 'cause it's never a good idea to trust what writers say about writing.
"But in the mid-1950s a large part of [Schulz's] public consisted of good, plain people who felt guilty at being discontented in an epoch of unprecedented prosperity. Peanuts struck a chord with those who had thought they had everything they wanted only to discover that they didn't, and needed an acceptably gentle reminder of this insight."
-- David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts pg 342.
Mad Men begins at the dawn of the sixties but the same dynamic is in play. Today the existential anxiety is coming from the unprecedented level of possibilities the connected world promises to offer (or should that be threatens to offer), as discussed in the first part of WNYC's Radio Lab latest program "Choice" with it description of new college grads frozen into inaction from fear of making decisions -- each decision taken represents an elimination of some tantalizing (and now lost) hypothetical opportunity.