By September 26, 2008 2 Comments Read More →

Quickly: A Tenured Writer, a Child Soldier, an Obscene Publisher, a Bad Poet, An Unhappy Critic, Two Depressed Writers, and a Fantasy of NASCAR

Boy, I’ve had a hard time keeping up lately. In the New York Times Magazine (“Those Who Write, Teach“), David Gessner asks, “what, if anything, does it mean for a country to have a tenured literature?

It’s fine for writing teachers to talk in self-help jargon about how their lives require “balance” and “shifting gears” between teaching and writing, but below that civil language lurks the uncomfortable fact that the creation of literature requires a degree of monomania, and that it is, at least in part, an irrational enterprise. It’s hard to throw your whole self into something when that self has another job.

Malcolm Knox writes about fact-checking Cola Bilkuei’s memoir, Cola’s Journey (“The hardest truth of all,” The Sydney Morning Herald):

Weren’t there other African child soldiers-turned-writers, such as Ishmael Beah from Sierra Leone, whose stories had been questioned? Having worked to unveil the sharpest literary liar of them all, Norma Khouri, I shuddered at the embarrassment if Cola, too, were abusing the credulity of those who were helping him.

An Obscene film I want to see (“Publisher Who Fought Puritanism, and Won,” by Charles McGrath, New York Times):

“I had a very good publishing career, but not money-wise,” he once said. “We got rid of the money.”

A poet I’m not all that keen to read (“Academic studies Osama bin Laden the skilled poet,” CBC News):

“They reveal Osama Bin Laden as the performer, the entertainer with an agenda,” Miller said in an interview with the Times of London.

The granddaughter of L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, shares a long-held family secret (“The heartbreaking truth about Anne’s creator,” by Kate Macdonald Butler, Breakdown):

What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.

“Lionel Trilling was not completely happy about being Lionel Trilling.” (“Regrets Only,” by Louis Menand, The New Yorker):

He was depressive, he had writer’s block, and he drank too much. He did not even like his first name. He wished that he had been called John or Jack.

“The people who knew the brilliant writer best” talk about “The last days of David Foster Wallace” (Robert Ito, Salon). Try to read it through the tears in your eyes:

His sister Amy described emotions ranging from disbelief to sadness to acceptance, of a sort. “Inevitably our thought was, if only he could have held on a little bit longer,” says sister Amy. “And then we realized, he did. How many extra weeks had he hung in there when he just couldn’t bear it? So we’re not angry at him. Not at all. We just miss him.”

NASCAR Cancels Remainder Of Season Following David Foster Wallace’s Death.” The Onion‘s tribute is sharp and sweet in its way. (Thanks, Gus.) 

Racing was ready for new ideas, and when a new generation of young drivers like Jeff Gordon arrived on the scene, sporting new sponsorship deals on their fireproof coveralls and dog-eared copies of Broom Of The System under their arms, an intellectual seed crystal was dropped into the supersaturated solution of American motorsports.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

2 Comments on "Quickly: A Tenured Writer, a Child Soldier, an Obscene Publisher, a Bad Poet, An Unhappy Critic, Two Depressed Writers, and a Fantasy of NASCAR"

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  1.' Pete says:

    I was really hoping the title of this blog post would conclude with “…walk into a bar.”

  2.' Keir says:

    I knew I was forgetting something.

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