Monday, September 6, 2010

Soup and Salad: Ray Bradbury, Steve Almond, Give Me a Break, The Totally Hip Book Reviewer

On today's menu:

1.  Congratulations to Lisa Peet, winner of last week's Hump Day Giveaway.  Lisa will soon be enjoying a copy of Rosanne Cash's Composed.  Don't forget: there's still time to enter this week's Friday Freebie.  Rick Bass' Nashville Chrome is up for grabs.

2.  Ted Gioia has written an appreciation of Ray Bradbury on the occasion of the master scribe's 90th birthday.
Bradbury never writes down to his reader, and when forced to choose between thrills and chills, on the one hand, and poetic imagery and philosophical musings on the other, he always takes the high road. It is all too telling that the most impassioned chapter in Something Wicked This Way Comes takes place in a library, and focuses on a lengthy digression on human history and the nature of good and evil.  I suspect that, if this book were a first novel arriving in a publishing house today, the editor would have slashed away at this interlude, reducing it from ten pages to two paragraphs.  But the “non-commercial” elements of Bradbury’s work (and there are many of them) represent, to my mind, the most essential part of Bradbury’s greatness: namely, his willingness to break all the rules, and make every story—whether about Mars or witches or just tennis shoes—into a personal statement, something no other author would have written, or could have written.
Gioia reminds me that I need to read more Bradbury.  We all need more Bradbury in our daily lives.  Not by small coincidence, I was at a flea market this weekend and bought a copy of Now and Forever.  Sadly, it appears to be unread.  I hope to amend that soon.

3.  At The Rumpus, Steve Almond beautifully explains how the recent sad events at the Virginia Quarterly Review ripple outward to all of us.  If you don't know what happened at VQR, don't worry, Steve will explain it all to you in "33 loosely jointed parts."  Be sure to take time to read the smart, well-reasoned comments section (my own notwithstanding) for even more elucidation on the writer-editor relationship and the current state of publishing.

4.  At Storytellers Unplugged, author Richard Dansky explains why it's not heresy for writers to "take a break."
Even if writing is your day job, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to take the occasional break.  Steelworkers get days off.  So do sysadmins.  So do short order cooks, pediatric nurses, and blackjack dealers.  Why?  So they can rest, recharge, and come back and do their job well after they’ve had a chance to get away from it for a bit.  There’s nothing about writing that’s so sacred, holy or unique that this notion doesn’t hold true for us scribbly types
That's all fine and dandy, but my problem lately is that I've been breaking more than writing.  Time to get back on the clock!  Just let me finish this cheese danish first, okay?

5.  Meanwhile, in a lonely little workshop in New Haven, "the oldest typewriter repairman" is going about his work cleaning keys and adjusting ribbons.  Money quote in the interview (conducted by someone who seems to have been born in the Age of PC): "I don’t even know what a computer is. I’ve heard about them a lot, but I don’t own one, and I don’t want one to own me. Typewriters you can own. I think a computer owns you."

6.  And, for dessert, I serve you up a slice of Ron Charles, "The Totally Hip Book Reviewer."  Humor has always been a great way to criticize books (see: Mark Twain on James Fenimore Cooper), and although I was initially put off by Charles' frenetic pace of his first Totally Hip Book Review, I really dug his groove with this one on Freedom.  The sepia flashback is snort-milk-through-your-nose funny.

6-1/2.  Okay, here's one more--an after-dinner mint for those of you in need of some grammar/punctuation/sign-police humor.  I snapped this with my camera phone yesterday outside a restaurant in Wallace, Idaho.  Clearly, they have some hard-drinking children there.

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