Come diventare scrittori, secondo VS Naipaul

VS Naipaul consiglia agli aspiranti scrittori di seguire questo regime di scrittura: "Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it's training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them". indiauncut.

L'esperto sull'uso della lingua dell'Economist, Robert Lane Greene, ammette che la grammatica è piuttosto fluida. A marzo è uscito il suo ultimo libro, You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity (Delacorte Press). economist.


News From the World

E' il titolo di una raccolta di scritti di Paula Fox recentemente uscita presso Norton. Stranamente è organizzata in ordine cronologico inverso; parte da un articolo recente "Cigarette" e finisce con "Lord Randal", il monologo di una donna afro-americana che ha perso il figlio per un'overdose di droga, scritto nel 1965. News From the World è recensito da David Leavitt, che dice, "What makes News From the World more than the sum of its parts is Fox's voice: astringent (but never cold), unsentimental (but never pitiless), exasperated (but never angry). nytbr.


My New American Life

E' il titolo del nuovo romanzo di Francine Prose, una scrittrice che amo molto e che in Italia è poco conosciuta. Di lei Susan Salter Reynolds dice, "Francine Prose developed an unmistakable voice: sharp, ironic, intelligent, uncompromising. Using this voice the way a miner uses a headlamp, she has crawled her way into the darkest corners of American life - suburbia, academia, post-Columbine public schools, society and culture post-9/11".  My New American Life (Harper) parla di Lula, una giovane albanese che arriva negli Stati Uniti, fa la cameriera e cerca di ottenere la green card. lat.


Maurice Sendak parla di sé

"I'm not feeling great," Maurice Sendak is saying. "I've been rather sick, to tell you the truth. I can make believe I'm well."
You can hear it in his voice. Sendak, 82, on the phone from his Connecticut home at 3:30 p.m. Friday (pretty much when the night owl's workday gets going), sounds gravelly and stuffy.
"I'm old," says the author and illustrator of dozens of children's books, including Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. "It could be anything. Who the hell knows?"

Recentemente un mural dipinto da Sendak nel 1961 sul muro di un appartamento a Manhattan è stato trasportato a Philadelphia (con tutto il muro) ed è stato restaurato. Ora è esposto al Rosenbach Museum and Library dove si trovano le carte dell'illustratore. philly.


Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar

Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work, è un'antologia di racconti sul lavoro a cura di Richard Ford (Harper Perennial), che, a proposito del progetto, dice: "The anthology was my good idea. 826Michigan [scuola di scrittura creativa per ragazzini ] invited me to come visit and to see what they're about. I did; and I was so taken by the variety of good things they do there (teaching children to write, acquainting them with what publication might mean, getting kids to act together in projects, even down to helping children with their homework) that I volunteered to dream up something I could do to help fund their efforts. The anthology was what I came up with". newyorker.


Jennifer Egan ha vinto il Pulitzer Prize per la fiction con il suo A Visit From the Goon Squad. Il New Yorker di questa settimana ne pubblica un pezzo (qui), mentre Edan Lepucki ne fa il profilo su The Millions. "When I asked Egan about the book's genre, she said,  'It's so decentralized that it doesn't quite fit what I think we think of as novels being right now.  And I don't really care about the term. It doesn't fit into a category comfortably…I didn't really worry about an arc, because again, that feels more like traditional fiction.'  She wanted to put together a book whose principal was diversity, as opposed to unity. 'I wanted to see how many tones and moods and technical choices I could get away with.'  (For instance:  though ultimately unsuccessful, she tried to write a chapter in epic poetry.)  Egan's goal, she said, was to make the book 'a big cornucopia of craziness, and yet, have it all fit together into one story. I asked myself: Since the principal was one of surprise and revelation, and intimacy versus distance, my basic question was, Who is the person we see from a distance that we want to have revealed to us?"


Thomas McGuane

Thomas McGuane parla con Deborah Treisman del suo racconto "The Good Samaritan", pubblicato su questo numero del New Yorker (ma leggibile solo agli abbonati alla rivista).
Ecco quel che dice, tra l'altro:
You, like Szabo [il protagonista del racconto], live on a “property” in Montana, where you raise cattle and horses. Is there anything of you and your situation in Szabo?
I’m sure there is. While I’ve ranched for nearly forty years, I have always known that I’m just a writer. I like having a physical and factual basis in a life other than the one found in books; not everything a writer needs can be found on Google or in Lonely Planet.  newyorker.


Come leggere la poesia

Ce lo insegna David Orr, il critico della poesia del NYT, in un libro, Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (Harper). "When a nonspecialist audience is responding well to a poem, its reaction is a kind of tentative pleasure, a puzzled interest that resembles the affection a traveler bears for a destination that both welcomes and confounds him. For such readers, then, it's not necessarily helpful to talk about poetry as if it were a device to be assembled or a religious experience to be undergone. Rather, it would be useful to talk about poetry as if it were, for example, Belgium. ... consider the way you'd be thinking about Belgium if you were planning a trip there. ... The important thing is that you'd know you were going to be confused, or at least occasionally at a loss, and you'd accept that confusion as part of the experience". slate.


Stephen King parla di sé

Sul numero di maggio di Atlantic uscirà un racconto di Stephen King dal titolo "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive", di fatto già disponibile on line.
Stephen King parla con James Parker del suo lavoro e di se stesso, oltre che del racconto:

SK: No. I never write ideas down. Because all you do when you write ideas down is kind of immortalize something that should go away. If they're bad ideas, they go away on their own.
JP: So this awful thing of the writer who goes, "Oh, I had a great idea but I forgot it!" - you don't really subscribe to that.
SK: No. Because that wasn't a great idea. If you can't remember it, it was a terrible idea. 
JP: ... what is your favorite part of the creative process?
SK: It's still when you sit down and you get a really good day, and something happens that you don't expect and you just take off, you just go off on the material - I love that, when that happens.
JP: How often does it happen?
SK: I don't knock myself out as often as I used to. But often enough so that you know it when it happens. In the new book, which is called 11/22/63, I was writing about a high-school variety show and I just went off. Terrific. Lot of fun.
JP: And how does it feel to have an unwritten book inside your brain?
SK: I never started a book that I expected to finish. Because it always feels like a job that's much too big for a little guy like me. 
JP: And how do you keep your energy up?
SK: I don't know. Eat three meals a day and sleep eight hours a night. I read a lot. I'm still in love with what I do, with the idea of making things up, so hours when I write always feel like very blessed hours to me. atlantic.


Eudora Welty al New Yorker

I suppose you'd be more interested in even a slight-o'-hand trick than you'd be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can't have the thing you want most.
I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse's pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works - quick, and away from the point….
How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning - a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end.
Questa è una delle lettere che Eudora Welty scrisse al New Yorker. E' il 1933, Eudora Welty aveva 23 anni, si era laureata da poco, era a New York da sei settimane e aveva disperatamente bisogno di un lavoro. Nonostante l'intellegenza e l'umorismo della lettera, il New Yorker non l'assunse. La lettera è contenuta in un bel volume di prossima uscita, What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a cura di Suzanne Marrs. newyorker.


Le metafore nei discorsi quotidiani

"George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, two of the leading researchers in this field, have pointed out that we often use food metaphors to describe the world of ideas. We devour a book, try to digest raw facts and attempt to regurgitate other people’s ideas, even though they might be half-baked.
When talking about relationships, we often use health metaphors. A friend might be involved in a sick relationship. Another might have a healthy marriage.
When talking about argument, we use war metaphors. When talking about time, we often use money metaphors. But when talking about money, we rely on liquid metaphors. We dip into savings, sponge off friends or skim funds off the top. Even the job title stockbroker derives from the French word brocheur, the tavern worker who tapped the kegs of beer to get the liquidity flowing". E' David Brooks che parla delle metafore dei discorsi quotidiani e cita anche un nuovo libro sull'argomento, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (Harper), di James Geary. nyt.


Gandhi era gay?

Forse. Ma Andrew Roberts, recensendo la nuova biografia su Gandhi di Joseph Lelyvedl, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India (Knopf), dice, "Yet Great Soul also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist - one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive ­intellectual, professing his love for ­mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals. wsj.


Roddy Doyle, David Lodge e Francisco Goldman

Francisco Goldman
Roddy Doyle, Bullfighting (Jonathan Cape). Appena uscita questa nuova raccolta di racconti di uomini e donne di mezz'età. guardian.

David Lodge, A Man of Parts (Harvill Secker). Romanzo sulla vita di H.G. Wells. guardian.

Francisco Goldman, Say Her Name (Grove Press).Romanzo autobiografico in cui Goldman parla del suo breve matrimonio con la scrittrice Aura Estrada, morta in un incidente di bodysurfing. nytbr.


Tina Fey risponde al questionario di Proust

Tina Fey, di cui è appena uscita una divertente autobiografia dal titolo di Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books), risponde (molto seriamente) al questionario di Proust su Vanity Fair

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Catherine the Great’s horse.

Which living person do you most admire?
Cathy Rigby. She was really good in that stage version of Peter Pan. No joke.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Living in New York City.

What do you most value in your friends?
A willingness to come uptown.


Helvetica e NYC

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: the True (Maybe) Story (The MIT Press) è il titolo dell'interessante libro di Paul Shaw che spiega la storia dei caratteri scelti per le scritte del sistema metropolitano di New York (MTA) e perché a un certo punto si sia imposto Helvetica. "There are a few truths New Yorkers hold to be self-evident. 1. You can’t get a taxi in the rain. 2. Anything can be delivered at anytime, to anywhere. 3. The official font of the MTA is Helvetica." helveticasubway.

The Bureau Chiefs, Write More Good: An Absolutely Phony Guide (Three Rivers Press), This book might be the least useful writing aid ever compiled. It encourages clichés; it's full of misleading - and flat-out incorrect - definitions; it's got a little green bubble on the cover that reads: "IF YOU USE THIS, YOU WILL GET FIRED!" But then, of course, that's exactly the point: it's the first print offering from The Bureau Chiefs, the group behind the popular Twitter account @FakeAPStyleBook. newyorker.


Uso e abuso della letteratura

Marjorie Garber, The Use and Abuse of Literature (Pantheon). Un appello alla causa della letteratura in un periodo in cui ne ha veramente bisogno. Seth Lerer parla bene del libro di Garber, prof. di letteratura a Harvard, in una recensione piuttosto stereotipata sul San Francisco Chronicle. Più interessante, se non altro per la perfidia, la recensione totalmente negativa di William Deresiewicz su Slate, il cui tono si vede già dal titolo: The Right Questions To Ask About Literature. Harvard's Marjorie Garber gets them all wrong. L'articolo comincia così: Marjorie Garber's new book brought me back to my days as an English professor; I thought I was reading a freshman essay. My marginal comments might as well have been written in red: "What is the point of this paragraph?" "Where are we in the argument—and what exactly is the argument?" "Sloppy thinking." "You need to unpack this." "Again, is there a point here, or just a mass of notes?" "You have to develop your thesis, not just keep reiterating it." Slate.

The Dulpickles and Nigmenogs

Qualche mese fa la Bodleian Library dell'università di Oxford ha pubblicato il primo dizionario dello slang della lingua inglese, con il titolo di The First English Dictionary of Slang, 1699. Un titolo anacronistico visto che il termine slang è stato introdotto verso la metà del 1700. Nel 1699 si parlava di "cant": the special underworld language of petty thieves, beggars and other dangerous riffraff. Ecco un elenco di epiteti per gli sciocchi: addle-pate, booberkin, burly-sop, clodpate, clunch, cock-robbin, cod’s-head, country-put, dulpickle, jack-adams, jobbernoll, nick-ninny, nigmenog, paper-skul, purple dromedary, sawny, sap-pate, sheep’s-head, simkin, sowse-crown, wise man of Gotham. nyt.


An Insider View of Susan Sontag

Negli anni Settanta la scrittrice Sigrid Nunez lavorò come assistente di Susan Sontag e finì per andare a vivere da lei e dal figlio, di cui divenne anche la ragazza. In Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag (Atlas), Nunez descrive quel periodo e parla di com'era la scrittrice in casa, "And there were times when her obsessive curiosity, which she herself considered her biggest virtue, seemed closer to voyeurism: not a virtue", e "Exemplary was also one of her words, as were grotesque, boring, and besotted". bostonglobe.