“Book Greed”: James P. Blaylock in POETS & WRITERS July/August 2019

  • A writer’s library is more than just a collection of books. It is also a piecemeal biography of that writer’s life, and measurably so, as most have writers have spent countless hours reading the books that they now own or have borrowed, hours that add up to years, perhaps decades, given a long enough life.

— James P. Blaylock, My Life in Books

Love this essay, which echoes so many of self’s feelings about her own library. Just recently, self decided to start reading some of her collection. Books she’s picked up from author’s readings, and then stashed away on a shelf, in the fond hope she’d get to them “someday.”

Someday is here!

Two of the books she’s owned for years but never got around to reading:

  • Carlos Bulosan’s story collection, The Laughter of My Father
  • Kelly Link’s short story collection, Get In Trouble (She read a couple of stories, not the whole collection)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Quote For You Today!

  • I don’t think publishers of our kind are in a position to make a success out of a really crappy book. The big guys and gals can do that; they have the marketing and leverage not only to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but also to fill that purse with gold. We can’t.

— Michael Reynolds, Editor-in-Chief, Europa Editions, quoted in Poets & Writers magazine, November/December 2015

Quote of the Day: “Taka ti e pisano”

The quote for today is not from Daoud’s novel. Instead, it’s from an article in the November/December Poets & Writers magazine. That issue focused on translation (Which, since most of the books self reads are translations, like the Daoud, like the Candide she just finished reading), which is a topic that fascinates her.

The quote above is from the Bulgarian, and it means “That’s what is written for you.”

The author of the article, Angela Rodel, asks herself, How did I become a translator of Bulgarian literature?

She begins her piece with a wonderful quote from Mexican writer and translator Reynol Vazquez:

There are many sophisticated ways of starving yourself to death and being a translator from Bulgarian is one of them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: POETS & WRITERS July/Aug 2015

“The most important advice I have for authors looking to self-publish is this: People are incredibly unforgiving of authors, whether it’s a spelling mistake or a missing word. Many readers are likely to mention those mistakes in a review and be very critical. You’ve spent a great deal of time on your writing, so make sure the end result reflects your efforts.”

— Kim Bookless, publishing consultant/book editor


Letter to the Editor of POETS & WRITERS Magazine

The below was written to Poets & Writers in response to Michael Bourne’s article “Why We Write: Failure Is An Option” (September/October 2015). The letter appears in the November/December 2015 issue of P & W.

I so identified with his realization that he had viewed writing as an indulgence, as frivolity, when one could easily make a living with a less subjective vocation. Growing up in the Midwest, in a family of staunchly practical Germans and Scots, some of whom spent lifetimes working in jobs they disliked in order to support their families, I felt a pull to succeed in particular ways. It can be difficult to develop a conception of success that doesn’t involve a certain income, a certain type of house, and, since my family is from the Detroit area, a certain level of car ownership. I enjoy great support and encouragement from my family when it comes to my writing, but that doesn’t stop that internal nagging voice that says I am wasting my time that could be better spent on something “productive.” Reading Bourne’s article was a welcome step back from my doubts as I prepare to query agents with my third manuscript, and brace myself for more rejection.

— EB in Lansing, Michigan


Prompted by Previews of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close”

While self was waiting for “Justified” Season 3, Episode 1 to come on, she caught the preview of a movie called “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close,” which has Tom Hanks playing a father who is caught in his office in one of the towers, on that terrible day.

It so happens that self is on a closet-cleaning binge.  At the back of one of her closet drawers, she found newspapers from that week: The New York Times of Sept. 12, Sept. 13, and Sept. 14. She uncreased the folds, and contemplated.

A month ago, she tried to write a story about 9/11, the same story she’s been trying to write for 10 years. She finally chopped it to four pages and sent it out. She happened to send it to Wigleaf, together with “Stonehenge/Pacifica,” and they chose the latter piece. But self still has hope that the other piece will find a home. It’s called “Wavering,” and it’s about a man whose wife saved his life that day, but not in the way you’d expect.

So, she takes a look at the Poets & Writers magazine, the one with Joan Didion on the cover. P & W calls her “America’s Most Resilient Writer.” Self wonders whether Didion herself would appreciate the appellation. Why “Most Resilient”? Why not just “The Best”? But perhaps it is a tribute, to be a “resilient” writer. Self supposes it must be, for writing is a tough, tough business. For every “Writer Under 40” who gets into The New Yorker, there are thousands, thousands who end up being lawyers, program assistants, nurses, teachers.

Self remarked to the husband, after watching the preview of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” :  “Of all the places in the world that the terrorists could have chosen for their strike, they ended up choosing the one city that probably has more writers per square foot than any other city in the world.”

Is it chance? Fate? Who knows. That one event has spawned circles and concentric circles of angst, despair, neurosis that will last decades. Perhaps, even, centuries.

Self has read some good 9/11 writing (And some really terrible 9/11 writing). Among the good, Claire Messud’s novel, The Emperor’s Children. As well as Will Self’s short essay in his collection, Psychogeography. As well as Colum McCann’s short piece, “Dessert,” in The New Yorker issue that commemmorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  McCann’s essay and the nonfiction book 102 Mintues:  The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers have touched her more than anything.

Here, in Poets & Writers, are some more 9/11 literature, recommended by a Pennsylvania reader who wrote a Letter to the Editor:

  • Rebecca McClanahan’s “And We Shall Be Changed:  New York City, September 2001” (Kenyon Review, Summer/Fall 2003)
  • Donald Morrill’s The Untouched Minutes, a memoir “written almost exclusively in the third person” (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
  • David Foster Wallace’s “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s,” an essay in the Oct. 25, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone
  • Mary Cappello’s “Moscow 9/11” in Raritan, Summer 2002
  • Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon Books, 2004)

Books Self Is Interested in Reading (After Perusing POETS & WRITERS Page One)

Self is currently reading the July/August 2010 issue of Poets & Writers, the one showing some white guy exposing his bare, intricately tattooed chest to the world (See, Adrien Brody, Taylor Lautner et. al., you aren’t the only ones who can do shirtless!  Writers are perfectly up to doing same!)

She likes reading Page One, the list of quotes from newly published books’ first lines.

Here are the first lines that she found most intriguing:

From an Ad in the Nov/Dec 2009 Issue of POETS & WRITERS

Instant Gratification for Authors!

  • Your Books printed in 2 days
  • Exceptional Quality
  • Low prices — Easy ordering
  • Order 100 or more, get 25 free!
  • We even ANSWER our phones

(Casebound and Coil-bound books also available.)


Poets & Writers: A List of (Non-Academic) Writing Centers

From the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Poets & Writers, in an article by Seth Abramson on “The Top MFA Programs”, there is a list of “Writing Classes Outside of Academia.”

Self has heard of most of them, except for the one in Huntington Beach (Tebot Bach). Here’s the list, from p. 88:

Gotham Writers Workshop, New York City
555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1402
New York, NY 10018

Grub Street, Boston
160 Boylston Street, Fourth Floor
Boston, MA 02116

The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
Suite 200, Open Book
1011 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Richard Hugo House, Seattle
1634 Eleventh Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

San Diego Writers, Ink, San Diego
P. O. Box 34374
San Diego, CA 92163

Tebot Bach, Huntington Beach
P. O. Box 7887
Huntington Beach, CA 92615 – 7887

Writers At Work, Los Angeles
4022 Fountain Avenue, Suite 202
Los Angeles, CA 90029 – 2220

The Writer’s Center, Bethesda, MD
4508 Walsh St.
Bethesda, MD 20815
(Self is reading here, Feb. 19 2010! Stay tuned for more details)

On Poets & Writers’ “Six New Novelists” Article

Self has been meaning to post about this article (in the July/August 2009 issue) in Poets & Writers for quite some time. And the time has finally arrived, for self is just back from filling her trunk with plants from the annual fall sale at Wegman’s Nursery, and she’s just trundled all the 1-gallon specimens to different parts of her yard (This year, self decided to get only plants that were native to Australia: self theorizing that, since the plants are used to drought conditions, they therefore will not require much watering??? Check back this time next year, dear blog reader, to see if self’s li’l experiment bears fruit!), and inspiration seems rather in short supply, after all that work!

And then self got home, very hot (for her car air-conditioner gave out a week or so ago), and after tuning in to adored Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” (Does anyone else find this guy hot? OMG, he is sooo) self settled back on the couch and whipped out the Poets & Writers article.

There were many many things that interested self about this article. For one thing, the lead novelist, one Nicola Keegan, is 44 years old (so, Read the rest of this entry »

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