21 November, 2006

The play's the thing

In later years we would see great actors play Hamlet. We saw Hamlets who stripped and flagellated themselves, Hamlets who groped Horatio, Hamlets who had epileptic fits. Not one of them was a patch on a gangling Australian boy who did nothing but say the words as simply and as thoughtfully as he could.

Germaine Greer over at the Guardian Unlimited Arts Blog on the importance of letting Shakespeare speak for himself. I agree. Why try to interpret perfection?

14 November, 2006

The Novel, 2.0 - What is the role of fiction in the age of the Internet?

Slate got novelists Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart to exchange some mail.

Walter Kirn
My point being this: I'm thrown by this new world, both as a novelist and as a person. These two confusions are one confusion. They come down to the fact that I still think (and can't help but read and write) in linear terms, but I find myself living in infinity loops. Too much happens each day, it happens all at once, and yet, in some ways, nothing happens at all. A day that's spent processing electronic signals like a sort of lonely arctic radar station (my day, your day, a lot of ours) is hard to dramatize.

Gary Shteyngart
We are approaching a time when the Internet and ancillary services will assume the totality of human communications in the developed world. Even such time-honored practices as getting a love interest trashed at a bar and then coaxing him or her across the parking lot to a warm Volvo have been replaced by a barrage of keystrokes, misspelled two-sentence entreaties, and, by the end of the night, a parade of bent, swollen thumbs. Our imaginations are not immune, either. I've had vivid dreams that consist solely of the words, "We are sorry there has been a temporary error accessing your Yahoo account," floating in black, lifeless space before me. I shouldn't even use the personal pronoun "me," because in those dreams I am not a corporeal creature. There is nothing Gary-like about me. There is only the Yahoo! commandment, apologetic yet all-powerful, and the strange background feeling that even my dream-life has somehow been wasted.
That's just disconnected extracts from their exchange. Get thee hence. [Link via our pal Ingrid Srinath of CRY.]

12 November, 2006

Once upon a star..

The results of the TheScian Scifi Short Story contest are now officially out on their blog.

There's some good reading to be had via the page that links to the 9 stories that made it to the top of the list.

Special huzzas to my buddies Rohinton Daruvala, who placed second with To Sleep, Perchance To Dream, and Manisha Lakhe, whose Happy Happy Joy Joy placed sixth.

(Cross-posted—a longer version.)

10 November, 2006

The Buck stops here

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama): “If every American back in 1950 had quit buying novels and invested money in high-yield bonds, today we would be looking at a savings surplus of several trillion dollars, and Social Security would not be in the mess it’s in. Instead, we know what happened—most of the money wound up in the pockets of one unscrupulous novelist, Pearl S. Buck, with the disastrous consequences of which we are too well aware. The fact that that woman never spent a day in jail is a disgrace to the history of our nation. I would ask every American, before you lavish your next paycheck on expensive novels you may not need, consider the other spending choices available. You could expand your cable service, visit a casino, make a political donation, give to a faith-based concern, or put the money in something the brokers call a flort. I think we all know a little bit better how our earnings should be spent than the average novel-writer does.”

Over at the New Yorker, Ian Frazier's hilarious take on the economic consequences of buying books. Don't miss Ben Bernanke's explanation of what a flort is.

And while you're there, you might as well check out Rachel Cohen's piece on Leonard Woolf which reminds us that Woolf's attempt was to come up with a work that

"would have the stature of the books Leonard Woolf’s friends had written. By 1931, Lytton Strachey had published “Eminent Victorians” and “Queen Victoria,” John Maynard Keynes “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” Roger Fry “Vision and Design,” Edward Morgan Forster “Howards End” and (with Leonard Woolf’s years of careful encouragement) “A Passage to India,” and Virginia Woolf, for whom her husband was bulwark and first reader, seven novels, including “To the Lighthouse” and, in 1931, “The Waves,”"

With friends like that, who needs competition.

09 November, 2006

A Poem On An Underground Train

An advertisement for a bookstore on the "F" train:

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur
-- Paul Verlaine, first stanza from "Chanson d'Automne"

04 November, 2006

Take this job and..

Kiran Jonnalagadda on what it's like working in the new economy.
Before you join, demand to be explained the business plan. If it doesn’t make sense, leave. They don’t know what they’re doing.

If the company declares it confidential, leave. They don’t have a plan.

If you tell them it doesn’t make sense and they tell you that you don’t understand and they know what they’re doing, leave. They’re pompous assholes.

If they try to impress you by making you feel small and promising great heights if you associate with them, leave. They’re condescending assholes.

If they tell you that your expected take is more than you deserve, leave. They have no respect for your abilities.

If they offer you stock without giving you decision making responsibility, leave. The stock is worthless and you’ll be signing away the rights to your career.
Read on.