Category Archives: Links

15 links on creativity, writing, art: Recorded poets, audience, storytelling, etc.

1. “75 at 75″: Recordings from the 92nd Street Y’s series of writers reading their work. Here’s an NPR story about this as well.

2. The persistence of a writer’s voice: Tom Stoppard’s quote that “all my people speak the same way, with the same cadences and sentence structures. They speak as I do.”

3. Regarding the audience for one’s art: Frederick Wiseman says, “the only safe assumption I make about an audience is that the people who are going to see the film are as smart or as dumb as I am. I think anything else is condescending.”

4. “The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling” in The Atlantic

5. “Steven Pinker’s Bad Grammar.” Related: “Style Wars

6. How one pastor writes his sermons.

7. How cartoonist Tom Toles finds ideas.

8. “There’s a tiny handful of musical-cultural conversations Americans have decided they want to be a part of, and then there’s everything else.

9. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s nonfiction book.

10. Several links about Sesame Street from the AVClub: “What do you remember learning from Sesame Street?” and “Sesame Street is the perfect TV show” and Adam Savage’s dad’s animation for Sesame Street and The Ladybug Picnic and other counting songs and pop culture allusions in Sesame Street.

11. Jazz non-improvisation: A re-creation of Kind of Blue.

12. “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction

13. “Introducing the Reality Novel”: Writers don’t need to go fictional to discuss their own problems and issues in a permissive society. Related: Tim Parks’ article “Trapped Inside the Novel

14. Story-writing and -sharing site Wattpad.

15. A documentary about a marble quarry.

Serious nonsense rituals

In an article about absurd precision in football measurements, this quote grabbed my attention:

like all rituals that make no sense, we take this one extra seriously

‘Perfection is not beautiful’

While the paragraphs quoted below were making a point about human appearance, I read these and thought that this sentiment also could apply to any and all endeavors where perfection is sought:

The moral couldn’t be more clear: REAL faces are beautiful. We need to work a little harder to see that — privately and publicly, alone and together. We need to turn our gaze away from the shiny reconstructions, and start celebrating what’s real. We need to look in our mirrors and acknowledge what’s there. This is not feminist boosterism. This is not a way of blaming women for their choices. Every woman has a right to her own choices about how to handle the pressures of being a woman at this ruthless time in our history.

But we ALSO need to say this together: Real beauty is unique and flawed. Perfection is not beautiful, and real beauty is never perfect. Look in the mirror and see what’s actually there. Not a comparison to some nonexistent ideal. Look at what’s there. Your flaws make you beautiful. Your dark circles make you beautiful. Once you can see how gorgeous your flaws are… , you will be transformed into something much more magical than a pretty princess, holding her breath forever. You will be FORMIDABLE.

Link: Covers of Paul McCartney songs

Via Slate, here are covers of Paul McCartney songs by many other artists:

Here’s the tracklist, via Stereogum:

01 Billy Joel – “Maybe I’m Amazed”
02 Bob Dylan – “Things We Said Today”
03 Heart – “Band On The Run”
04 Steve Miller – “Junior’s Farm”
05 Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) – “The Long and Winding Road”
06 Harry Connick, Jr. – “My Love”
07 Brian Wilson – “Wanderlust”
08 Corrine Bailey Rae – “Bluebird”
09 Willie Nelson – “Yesterday”
10 Jeff Lynne – “Junk”
11 Barry Gibb – “When I’m 64″
12 Jamie Cullum – “Every Night”
13 KISS – “Venus And Mars / Rock Show”
14 Paul Rodgers – “Let Me Roll It”
15 Roger Daltrey – “Helter Skelter”
16 Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels”
17 The Cure – “Hello Goodbye” (Feat. James McCartney)
18 Billy Joel – “Live And Let Die”
19 Chrissie Hynde – “Let It Be”
20 Robin Zander & Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick – “Jet”
21 Joe Elliott – “Hi Hi Hi”
22 Heart – “Letting Go”
23 Steve Miller – “Hey Jude”
24 Owl City – “Listen To What The Man Said”
25 Perry Farrell – “Got To Get You Into My Life”
26 Dion – “Drive My Car”
27 Allen Toussaint – “Lady Madonna”
28 Dr. John – “Let ’Em In”
29 Smokey Robinson – “So Bad”
30 Airborne Toxic Event – “No More Lonely Nights”
31 Alice Cooper – “Eleanor Rigby”
32 Toots Hibbert with Sly & Robbie – “Come And Get It”
33 B.B. King – “On The Way”
34 Sammy Hagar – “Birthday”

Links: Failure, denial, ghosts

1. “Welcome to the Failure Age” by Adam Davidson at NYTimes.

2. Denialists (those who practice “the willful disregard of factual evidence by ideologically motivated groups or individuals”) use the rhetoric of logic.

3. Research in consciousness: “The Brain Makes Its Own Ghosts

An Ad for Sex: ‘It’s how we get children’

Via The New York Times, here’s an ad from a Danish travel agency promoting vacations for procreation. Good stuff, particularly when one hears Scandinavian sweet nothings.

What length a book?

In this essay, Ben Yagoda complains that some books are too long. Yes, this seems like a pretty arbitrary complaint (not unlike Grampa Simpson’s that there are too many states; please eliminate three).

He writes of one book’s length, “that’s not just excessive but rude, willfully ignoring the fact that the reader has other things to do besides reading this book,” and he also writes of another book “since about the halfway point, I’ve been reading on with the clenched jaw and grim middle-distance stare of someone who’s been dared to complete a long and tedious task and damned well is going to do so.” It seems fine to me if the man wants to dare himself to read a book, but then why complain about the book or the dare? And to say that a certain length of book is “rude”?

I’m not sure what kind of personally optimized experience he wants. (Maybe he doesn’t, either.) I get the sense that Mr. Yagoda is not the kind of person to walk away from a book. It’s a pretty empowering experience, by the way. Why force yourself (or anyone else) to read a book?

But I’m blogging this not just to point out the silliness of another person’s complaints, but to build upon his question of book length. He points out that:

since the market, as it’s been defined for a pretty long time, doesn’t have a place for novellas and 25,000-word nonfiction works, ideas that would work best at such length get artificially bulked up, like an offensive lineman on steroids. E-books are a promising receptacle for shorter texts, but the form has a ways to go before authors and readers alike are comfortable with it.

And that’s probably a valid point about marketability of the length of certain texts. But in the abstract, I would argue that books don’t necessarily need to have “the extraneous” cut out, as Yagoda advises, because what makes something extraneous? Does every book need to be a swift plot-driven fiction or thesis-driven nonfiction?

I would suggest that part of the value of any book is that it’s a chance to listen to the author’s voice, to spend time with the author’s consciousness, and so why not have some discursive, digressive parts? Comedian Bob Odenkirk has written a book that’s

a bunch of pieces that I had sitting on my desk because I was collecting them for a book one day down the road. … I thought that you could make a book where there doesn’t have to be a unified concept outside of cracking it open and reading one piece and getting a laugh. It doesn’t really matter what form it’s in.

Odenkirk, in this interview, also refers to books made of short pieces like Steve Martin’s “Cruel Shoes,” Woody Allen’s “Without Feathers,” and Peter Cook’s “Tragically I Was an Only Twin,” a book he says “has autobiographical sketches in it and other various things — literally transcriptions of comic bits that he improvised on the radio and stuff. I enjoyed picking it up and looking at any page and reading it.”

I’ve also been considering the format I might use to write a book. It would also be something made of distinct smaller pieces, rather than being something of narrative or thematic unity. I too like the idea of opening a book and reading just a section, a few pages. It’s not that I’m too busy to read a whole book; it’s more that a book would have to be pretty compelling, and I just haven’t found a book I’m that interested in committing to.

This will sound arrogant, but so be it: I feel I’m at a stage in my ongoing learning and thinking career where I’m not as likely to find answers from others as I am likely to find answers myself, answers that come out of my own writing. “Answers” might not be the right word. But I feel what I need to do now is spend my mental energy creating rather than reading.

And one of the things I enjoy thinking about is forms of writing — and the long-narrative form, and the extended argument-thesis form don’t feel compelling to me now. It’s easier to reject something than it is to replace it. But I would like to try different kinds of writing, different approaches, and these need to feel like they came out of my own process. Even if there are “answers,” ideas, others have already had that could help me, I feel like I need to find these answers on my own, organically from my process, as it were.