Murder your darlings: Writing rule of style du jour

 

johnson portrait
Murder your darlings

Read your own compositions, and when you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Samuel Johnson, from James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

 

Excellent advice. (I once presented this maxim to a writing class, trying to remember which great man had originally proposed it. In fact, half the great writers in history have said the same thing in one way or another.)

Lose a few chapters, gain Read more

Tattoo me noir too

 

 

tattoo year of glad

In an earlier post, we had a look at Jack Flowers’ tattoos in Theroux’s Saint Jack, set in 1950s Singapore. Now we get a range of early-1990s attitudes to tattoos as described by David Foster Wallace in his novel Infinite Jest, which in parts can safely be described as noir. Very noir, in fact. In this excerpt, we find a broader sample population of tattoo aficionados, a variety of urban flotsam and jetsam conveniently washed up together … Read more

Tattoo me noir

 

 

tattoo bikerNot many years ago — and here we speak only of Western societies — having a tattoo assimilated you to a noirish rabble of able-bodied seamen, Foreign Legionnaires, ex-cons, circus performers, bikers, and boozers with a propensity for finding themselves in the vicinity of waterfront tattoo parlors. tattoo prison

Read on for a look at early-1950s attitudes towards tattoos, and the roles tatts played in Paul Theroux’s Saint Jack, a novel set in 1950s Singapore and first published in … Read more

What I should write (learning to listen to my public)

kicking-dogslarge

Jack Shackaway here. Of Kicking Dogs fame.

It’s true, as Collin says (here and here). Nearly everybody’s a writer these days.  And — given all the media interest in current publishing-industry convulsions — the few who aren’t writers are experts on publishing and books.

I used to tell people I was a novelist. I don’t anymore. That’s as interesting to your average citizen as saying “Every night I go to sleep.” Who isn’t writing a novel?

But if … Read more

Tourists in our own and each others’ realities

titanic distancing ourselves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“[E]ssentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” 

First published in 1973, Susan Sontag’s On Photography speaks to us with even more force today about what cameras and the mass reproduction of images have done to our appreciation of ourselves and our worlds. And she offers this insightful spin on our lemming compulsion to photograph our … Read more

Selling novels: What it takes

I’m probably over-reacting, but it’s already getting harder these days to take pride in thinking of yourself as a writer, since so can anybody with the price of a computer and an Internet connection. You aren’t even permitted to die penniless and hungry in proper romantic style, since everyone will merely ask why you did that. Why didn’t you just take steps to flog your stuff?

Even if you decide you are going to flog your stuff, you aren’t permitted … Read more

Can the novel survive the demise of novelists?

The demise of the novel? This has been predicted again and again over the decades, if not the centuries, yet people keep reading novels. Here’s a recent vote of confidence in their persistence:

“The book-length text is coded in our DNA and will never go away; it is the written version of the oral myths and histories told on consecutive nights around campfires for 80,000 years. In each new generation, roughly the same percentage of people is born with

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Writerly occupational hazards: Plagiarism

Plagiarism has become more tempting and easier, perhaps, in this digital age. The danger of being found out may also be greater.

Here’s a copy of the letter I e-mailed a week ago to The Tribune, New Delhi (I’ve yet to hear from either the newspaper or the writer):

Dear Editors,

I must inform you that more than half of Uma Vasudeva’s review of C.Y. Gopinath’s The Books of Answers (The Tribune, New Delhi, 7 August 2011) 

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Grundnorm of writing style


Dorothy Parker’s opinion of the most widely recognized writing style manual in the English language:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

But those who nevertheless persevere and do become writers should understand this: One cardinal principle underlies all other rules of style, … Read more

Not just another bargirl book

She Kept the Bar Between Them: Stories from Thailand

by Steve Rosse

BangkokBooks (2011)

www.bangkokbooks.com

info@bangkokbooks.com

Long-time Phuket resident (now living back in the States) and frequent contributor to a variety of Thailand publications in years past, Steve Rosse has recently added an e-book collection of new stories to his credits.

These disturbing, often blackly comic tales issue from a darker side of human nature. Some of the stories chronicle encounters with bargirls, and some of these verge on the … Read more