Best Writing, Economist Business Section, June 2 – 8

Okay, okay, self knows:  Today is July 27, and she still hasn’t caught up with her reading of The Economist.  She is almost two months behind.

But, really, who cares?  Self only reads The Economist to trawl for examples of good writing, not to glean any actual news.  Come on, people!  For news, there’s the web!

The Business section has mention of the following:

“Why American firms cannot do deals without being sued.” — The article begins with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut.  Oh, how very erudite are these Economist business writers!   Here’s the quote:  “Kurt Vonnegut wrote that, “in every big transaction, there is a magic moment during which the man who is due to receive it has not yet done so.  An alert lawyer will make the moment his own, possessing the treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it, passing it on.”  Like so many novelists (quoth The Economist), he was “talking bosh.  No alert lawyer takes only ‘a little.’ ”

“The sound of discord at HP” —  Few people, if any, can sing two songs in different keys at the same time.  Yet the boss of a troubled company often has to belt out an upbeat number about how brilliant the firm is while simultaneously wailing a lament about how hard it will be to knock into shape.  Thorstein Heins (Self’s immediate thought:  What kind of parents name their kid “Thorstein”???), the newish boss of Research in Motion, has been getting plenty of practice:  on May 30th the enfeebled maker of Blackberrys told investors to expect a quarterly loss.  And Meg Whitman has been singing both major and minor since September, when she became Hewlett-Packard’s third chief in less than 14 months.

“What the world’s biggest luxury group will do next” —  France’s tradition of making exquisite luxuries dates back at least to the court of Louis XIV.  The sun king financed ébénistes (cabinet-makers), tapisseurs (upholsterers), menuisiers (carpenters) and other artisans who made beautiful and largely useless things for the court of Versailles.  Bernard Arnault might be his heir.  Mr. Arnault is the chairman, chief executive and controlling shareholder of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world’s largest luxury group.  Over the past quarter-century he has transformed a small, nearly defunct clothing manufacturer into a conglomerate that controls more than 60 luxury brands.

“Western nightclubs eye Asia, and clever technology.” — Few businesses are as local as nightclubs (Well, that is just a fabulous sentence, dear blog readers.  And, since it is so fabulous, self doesn’t think the rest of the article lives up to its promise)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Literary Rejections on Display”

Self recently looked at this site, which she’s known about for — oh, let’s see, maybe two years now.

She is always delighted by the fresh examples of writer-ly humiliation.

So, self thinks back over the past year.  Along with a higher-than-usual number of acceptances and “nice” rejections, there have been some doozies:  from failbetter.com (“We really liked your work.  On second thought, we’ll pass.”), and one in particular, from A Press To Remain Forever Un-named, that went:

Dear Writer:

We are proud to announce the winners of this year’s chapbook contest.  We received close to 100 entries, and named twenty-five semi-finalists.  Unfortunately, your work was not among the semi-finalists . . .

etc etc etc

Then:  Please consider donating to our worthy site.

Notwithstanding the fact that self had already donated, when she paid the contest entry fee.

(Self, why must you always be such a whiner?  Did you or did you not today taste the most fabulous things on skewers at Source, 11 Division Street, San Francisco?  A thing that tasted for all the world like chicken but was actually “soy-based product”?  And didn’t you also, for the first time ever, ingest quinoa, which has a really, delicious, nutty flavor?  And weren’t you in the company of those two fabulous friends, Stella K and Tina B?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday in the Park

Stafford Park, Redwood City, during the free weekly concert (Every Wednesday evening through Aug. 15)

The band yesterday evening was called “Caravan of Allstars,” and they were just fabulous.  Self and The Man had hot dogs, soda, and potato chips.  It was cooler than it’s been lately.  There must have been at least 20 dogs, drooling at all the food and making goo-goo eyes at sympathetic bystanders.  Saw one that looked almost like Gracie:  that is, it had her face.  But its body was very long and low to the ground:  a beagle crossed with a bassett hound?

“Only three more concerts left,” The Man said, in a tone of regret.

Self didn’t think about it until she was getting ready to fall asleep.  She must have been in denial because she didn’t respond, earlier.  But indeed, counting off the weeks in her head, she realized The Man was right.

Summer always ends too soon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More From the Jesuit Baltasar Gracian (1601 – 1658)

Our good friend Baltasar Gracian puts in another appearance on p. 88 of The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene:

He who has slaked his thirst, immediately turns his back on the well, no longer needing it.  When dependence disappears, so does civility and decency, and then respect.  The first lesson which experience should teach you is to keep hope alive but never satisfied, keeping even a royal patron ever in need of you.

Robert Greene’s Interpretation:  You should create a situation in which you can always latch on to another master or patron but your master cannot easily find another servant with your particular talent.  And if, in reality, you are not actually indispensable, you must find a way to make it look as if you are.  Having the appearance of specialized knowledge and skill gives you leeway in your ability to deceive those above you into thinking they cannot do without you.

Self doesn’t know why, she finds the above hilarious.  Absolutely hilarious.  Especially this:  “…  if, in reality, you are not actually indispensable … ”

Stay tuned.

Wednesday Morning: A Fable (While Waiting for the Garbage Collectors)

A frightful epidemic sent to earth by heaven intent to vent its fury on a sinful world, to call it by its rightful name, the pestilence, that Acheron-filling vial of virulence had fallen on every animal.  Not all were dead, but all lay near to dying, and none was any longer trying to find new fuel to feed life’s flickering fires.  No foods excited their desires, no more did wolves and foxes rove in search of harmless, helpless prey, and dove would not consort with dove, for love and joy had flown away.  The Lion assumed the chair to say:  “Dear friends, I doubt not it’s for heaven’s high ends that on us sinners woe must fall.  Let him of us who’s sinned the most fall victim to the avenging heavenly host, and may he win salvation for us all.  For history teaches us that in these crises, we must make sacrifices.  Undeceived and stern-eyed, let’s inspect our conscience.  As I recollect, to put my greedy appetite to sleep, I’ve banqueted on many a sheep who’d injured me in no respect, and even in my time been known to try Shepherd pie.  If need be, then, I’ll die.  Yet I suspect that others also ought to own their sins.  It’s only fair that all should do their best to single out the guiltiest.”

“Sire, you’re too good a king,” the Fox begins.  “Such scruples are too delicate.  My word, to eat sheep, that profane and vulgar herd, that’s sin?  Nay, Sire, enough for such a crew to be devoured by such as you, while of the shepherds we may say that they deserved the worst they got, theirs being the lot that over us beasts plot a flimsy dream-begotten sway.”

Thus spake the Fox, and toady cheers rose high, while none dared cast too cold an eye on Tiger’s, Bear’s, and other eminences’ most unpardonable offenses.  Each, of never mind what currish breed, was really a saint, they all agreed.

Then came the Ass, to say:  “I do recall how once I crossed an abbey-mead where hunger, grass in plenty, and withal, I have no doubt, some imp of greed assailed me and I shaved a tongue’s-breadth wide where frankly I’d no right to any grass.”  All forthwith fell full cry upon the Ass:  a wolf of some book-learning testified that the curst beast must suffer their despite, that gallskinned author of their piteous plight.  They judged him fit for naught but gallows-bait:  how vile, another’s grass to sequestrate!  His death alone could expiate a crime so heinous, as full well he learns.  The court, as you’re of great or poor estate, will paint you either white or black by turns.

—  re-told by Jean De La Fontaine (1621 – 1695)

Self is a little confused as to the moral of this fable, which as you might have guessed is lifted from His Eminence Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power.  She thinks it means that the Ass should not have presumed that his story was as interesting (or as worthy of awe) as the Lion’s?  Well, that’s why the poor creature is an Ass!  One can’t have an Ass presuming to be on the same footing as all the other animals!

Simply put:  “Whether the exact same deeds appear brilliant or dreadful can depend entirely on the reputation of the doer.” (Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power, p. 41)

LITnIMAGE/ Appearing Soon

Self got an e-mail from LITnIMAGE during her first week in Scotland.  They accepted her piece, “Wavering,” her one and only 9/11 piece, for the next issue.

That was probably why the rest of her month in Scotland was so good.  And she was wrong:  it wasn’t good.  It was SPECTACULAR.

Today came a further message from the editor, Roland Goity:  there will be a slight delay in the Summer 2012 issue (Self’s not complaining.  She wants to kiss the feet of this editor.  Honestly.  She can’t imagine what it would feel like to have to put together a magazine, in the summer.  When everyone else is in the Berkshires or in Martha’s Vineyard or backpacking in Canada).

The truth is, she began writing this story a year after 9/11, and could never get beyond two pages.  It always ended up with the same image:  a wife lying sleepless in her bed, and thinking.

She wanted it so much to be long.

The result, the piece she sent to LITnIMAGE, ended up being about four pages, double-spaced.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR 15 July 2012: Of Interest Therein

The front page has a graphic of the Union Jack.  Beneath the graphic, two side-by-side reviews:  one by Liesl Schillinger (one of The NYTBR’s regular contributors) and one by Jonathan Dee.

The book reviewed by Schillinger is published by W. W. Norton.

The book reviewed by Dee is published by Scribner.

Self thinks Norton is bigger than Scribner.  The book published by Norton is Capital, by John Lanchester.

The “Up Front” essay, a regular feature, is about Johnny Depp. Yup, you read right:  it’s about Johnny Depp the actor.  It is illustrated with a very cool drawing of Depp in semi-“Pirates” mode:  wool cap, Widow’s peak, moustache, and teensy goatee.  Depp was in the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary.  Which must mean he is some kind of intellectual.

The “By the Book” interview is with Dave Eggers.  Ah, finally, a bona fide writer gets to dish.  Eggers loves ghost stories.  Eggers is reading a collection edited by Alfred Hitchcock:  Stories Not for the Nervous.  (Looove that title!)  Someone gave Eggers a book, several years ago, and now he is finally able to read it:  the book is Morning in Sierra Mattu:  A Nubian Ode, by Arif Gamal.

Other publishers with books reviewed in this issue of The NYTBR:  Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Yawn, so what else is new), Spiegel & Grau, and Two Dollar Radio.

Two Dollar Radio!

Self’s heart feels like it’s about to explode.

Is that —  no, it can’t be!  But it is!  A small press!  Kudos to publicist at Two-Dollar Radio!  The book reviewed (by Deb Olin Unferth, in a very witty review) is Radio Iris, a novel by Anne-Marie Kinney.

Let’s give a big hand to Miss Kinney, for this is her first novel.

The end paper essay is “co-written,” which self thinks is kind of a cheat.  Self means, why make Depp share print space with another writer?  Couldn’t he have kept the whole space for himself?  This is the man who appeared in the movie adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, after all!

It turns out Brinkley is collaborating with Depp in editing the only unpublished novel by (TA-RA) American folk legend Woody Guthrie.  Who knew, dear blog readers, that Guthrie has the exact same birthday as self?

YES!  Self discovers in paragraph 1 of the essay, “This Land Was His Land,” that Guthrie “would have been 100 years old on July 14.”  For that alone, self promises she will get to House of Earth (what co-writers Brinkley and Depp call “his only fully realized, but yet unpublished, novel”) and might even take a crack at his two “quasi-fictional memoirs,” Bound for Glory and Seeds of Man. (Self wouldn’t hold Guthrie accountable for the two latter books’ trés grandiose titles).  There’s no mention in the essay of who is publishing Guthrie’s novel.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

D. A. Powell’s Poem in PHOEBE 41.1 (The “Guts” Issue)

Actually, he has two.  The first is called “All Aboard,” and the second is called “Six Secrets.”

(Self apologizes in advance to dear blog readers:  both pieces are written with very long lines, so that the poems appear sideways, but she can’t figure out how to use landscape format in this post.)

She’s including a picture she took earlier this year, in March, when she was in the Philippines.

Without further ado, here’s the first verse of the first D. A. Powell poem:

ALL ABOARD

Almost anything that can happen can happen on water.  Think how long Odysseus sailed in order to get home.

Or at least remember the number of times you’re told it. How, naturally, you resist the end. The wind

Sunrise, Bantayan Beach, Dumaguete

(And why should self put the whole poem here?  She wants dear blog readers to order an issue.)

Self would like to thank Powell for something he said to her many years ago, during a conversation he probably doesn’t even remember.  We had visited Claudia McIsaac’s creative writing class in Santa Clara.  Self read “Ghosts,” a piece she’d just finished writing a few days earlier.  Afterwards, self and Powell had lunch in Higuma in Redwood City.  Powell told her, completely unbidden (Come on, it’s not as if self would ever have had the courage to ask:  “So, umm, what did you think of that piece I just read???”)  “I really liked your piece.”

So self sent it out and sent it out and never stopped sending it out and finally, after two years, it got picked up by Hotel Amerika and was listed as TransGenre, her first TransGenre piece.  Ever.  Drew says he’d like to set it to music someday.

Sister, it was about you.  If only you knew, if only you knew.

Probably Twentysomething, Published in Most Recent Indiana Review

Self loves the Indiana Review.

She’s subscribed for years and years, ever since she found a poem by Conchitina Cruz, the one with footnotes longer than the poem itself (BTW, dear blog readers, self is proud to say she edited Ms. Cruz:  she’s one of the contributors to the Filipino women’s anthology published by Calyx in 2003, Going Home to a Landscape)

She sent them “Alex,” her Moby Dick of a story (written at a time when none of self’s stories were over 15 pages), and someone was kind enough to send her a personal note, to let her know it “came close.”

That was yeeears ago.  And still self feels compelled to submit, twice a year.

And sometimes she forgets that she already submitted twice in a submission period, and she’ll send (inadvertently) three stories, and then all three rejections will appear simultaneously in her e-mail.

People!  Self is not over-the-hill!  Not by a long shot!  Just because she hasn’t gotten anything more than 24-hour-turnaround rejections from anderbo.com!  Just because her latest “Bridge the Gap” entry for Camera Obscura failed to, as it were, bridge the gap!  Just because ZYZZYVA no longer publishes people who they’ve published before!

You will not find self supine with despair, oh twentysomething author of Indiana Review story that caused self to laugh aloud (that is, until she read the contributor’s notes)!

Adversity only makes self stand up taller!  Taller!  Taller!

For, as Nietzsche once said or did not say:  “What does not kill me makes me stronger!”

(This was the philosopher, self believes, who once came between a cart horse and a man with a whip.  Didn’t he, however, die soon after that incident?  Actions speak louder than words, dear blog readers.  Now, if only self could find her way back to the main topic of this post, which was — ???)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Dissimulating Monday: # 3 of Robert Greene’s THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

Today’s Wise Man is Baltasar Gracian (1601 – 1658).  His pearls of wisdom occur on p. 19 of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power:

Do not be held a cheat, even though it is impossible to live today without being one.  Let your greatest cunning lie in covering up what looks like cunning.

Dear blog readers, the guy was a Jesuit priest.  Those Jesuits are just so — worldly!  And cunning!

And that’s all for now, folks!  Stay tuned.

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