26 February 2009

I’m glad Max Magee at TheMillionsBlog.com distilled this for us last week — because even in its distilled form, it hurts my head.  Read here about the new Amazon Kindle, versus mobile Google Books.  

Will e-books take over the world?  Will the publishing industry go the way of the music industry?  Most writers hope not, and many readers too.  I just, for example, got the estimated page count for Long For This World from my publisher (288), and a little thrill shot through me.  Pages.  I started to imagine and wonder about paper stock, dimensions, font… 

But the good news, of course, is that literature will be more accessible to more people in more formats.  Theoretically.  We’ll see (cautious optimism / managed pessimism, etc.)…




25 February 2009

The recent press on Caroline Kennedy’s awkward bid for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat has me thinking about awkward self-promotion in general.  At a party shortly after CK’s announcement to seek the seat, a guest recalled that, when asked about it, “She folded her arms over her chest…and disappeared into herself—a characteristic gesture.” 

When I encounter other artists who seem perfectly at ease promoting their work — and promoting it aggressively, either in person or via any number of on-line venues — I think wow.  I think how do they do it.  I think, a little, ew.  When I send out an email announcing something — this blog, a reading, a bit of good news — I feel, a little, gross.

I don’t think Caroline Kennedy has low self-esteem — not any lower than your average person anyway.  

Caroline Kennedy’s friends are always saying how normal she is, and it appears that they are right. Normal people do not run for the Senate.

A political consultant who is also a friend of CK’s said, “Most of us have modesty impulses—you don’t want to brag—and you have to learn to defy these basic human impulses and say, ‘I am the greatest, and here is why you need me for this job,’ and do it without any hesitation or any doubt. Which is inhuman.”  Or maybe super-human?  

I think sometimes that, for artists, there are two distinct kinds of ego: the ego to create, and the ego to promote.  If one has the ego to create, but the primary audience is the self, then the ego to promote doesn’t much come into it.

Last week I got my first taste of awkward publicity.  They say no publicity is bad publicity, but… awkward publicity might be the exception to this.  My high school class secretary somehow got hold of a stock bio I use for things like readings or teaching; it includes publishing credits, awards, etc. (I think I’d included him on the e-mail list when I sent an announcement for a reading last summer; attached was a press release, which included my bio).  So that bio got printed, in full, in the alumni class notes.  It read like a commercial.  It read like I’d sent it in to be included in the class notes.  To me, it read like ew.

At some point, self-promotion becomes less about ego and more about survival:  if I do not sell books, I cannot support myself as a writer.  Ms. Kennedy, however, was not in survival mode, because fortunately for her, she had a pretty good fall-back plan: she now gets to go back to being Caroline Kennedy.  

And you know, I begrudge her not; in fact, I’m thinking, if I had had that fall-back plan, I probably would have done the same.  


(quotes source: Larissa McFarquhar’s profile of Caroline Kennedy in The New Yorker)

24 February 2009

So my friend Mimi, Facebook Queen Extraordinaire, has informed me that the default “is” of Facebook status updates has just been eliminated.  Ha ha!  

See my February 20 post for details on the prescient profundity of this change vis-a-vis the tyranny, I mean ascendance, of micro-blogging. An active-verb revolution has begun…

23 February 2009

Today, I learn about permissions.

I’d hoped to use an excerpt from a Louise Gluck poem for the epigraph to Long For This World.  The author (me) is responsible for securing reprint permissions, so after reading over (three times) a document from my publisher which describes how to do this (I’m still not 100% clear on the legalese) I find the Rights & Permissions page at Farrar Straus and Giroux (Gluck’s publisher) and discover this:

We do not allow editing or re-titling of any selection. Your selection must be reproduced verbatim, as a continuous, uninterrupted excerpt, without alteration, deletion, editing, abridgement or condensation

Well, darn.  The entire poem would be too long for an epigraph.

The part of the permissions-explaining document which I understood very clearly was this:

For poets who have been dead more than 70 years, you do not need permissions.

I have no idea who came up with the 70 years rule (or why); but it’s a good thing I had Rilke (1875-1926) in mind as a backup.

20 February 20009

So I’m recovering from yesterday’s post, still considering the apparent fact that not only is the novel dead (passé, at the least), but blogging’s got one foot in the grave as well.  The”now” now, the “it,” is micro-blogging.

I’ve not Twittered, but I’ve observed and tried out the Facebook “status update”:  Sonya is surfing Amazon, one might write on her Facebook homepage, for all her “friends” to see.  Sonya is combing her dog for fleas.  Sonya is off to bed now, good night!  The updates I love-to-hate are the ones which simultaneously thumb their noses and make poetry of Facebook’s default (passive) “is” in the posting box:  Jill is Puerto Rico!  Jane is every day is a winding road!

I have my doubts about a story-in-micro-blog-fragments, a la Goodreads.com; but who knows, the haiku form has flourished and inspired verses of depth and breadth and mystery for centuries.  

But the greater literary potential of the micro-blog, I think, might be found in Virginia Woolf’s notion of “moments of being” (from her book of the same title).  Moments of being are those flashes of insight, of heightened spiritual and sensual awareness, which grace us from time to time in the midst of lives which are comprised mostly of “non-being” — that greater part of life which is “not lived consciously,” but instead embedded in “a kind of nondescript cotton wool.”  Artists may experience moments of being as they work, or as inspiration to work (we writers keep our notebooks on hand for just this purpose).

And now, Facebookers-and-Twitterers-all can take moments out of the day for “being.”  How about suggesting to Facebook to replace the default “is” with a moment-of-being verb like wonders or envisions, sensory verbs like sees, hears, feels, hungers.  In that Facebook world, I might actually read all my news feeds.

19 February 2009

Goodreads.com is having a micro-blogging writing contest:

The novel is passé. The short story is outmoded. Even Lonelygirl15’s videoblog is yesterday’s news. The new medium of creativity is the status update. Aficionados of Twitter and Facebook understand the power of instant communication. We’re taking it one step further: Can you tell your friends a story using only your Goodreads status updates?

I am a little speechless.  More on this as I micro-process it in my micro-mind.

17 February 2009

“It’s not that he’s a Luddite — he buys songs on iTunes and does late-night YouTubing like everyone else — or a misanthrope who believes that art was better in someone else’s day.  ‘I know there’s great stuff out there.  But I don’t want to be influenced by stuff that’s going on around me.  I’m more interested in consuming stuff that’s stood the test of time and the hard work of filtering has already happened…’

“For Mr. Ward… success has been a slow and steady build.  In the decade since he moved to Portland to record his first album, he has supported himself through music —  a reflection of the city’s livability as well as his career as a sideman.”  

Part of my ongoing tracking of other “analogians.”  See what else indie musician M. Ward has to say about the “homemade” in this NY Times article (2/15/09).  Ward’s new album released today.

It’s all happening in Portland these days, isn’t it?  I hope the city is able to keep its DIY soul for years to come. Speaking of which, check out my friend Elizabeth Dye’s blog.  After grad school, where we first met, E. decided she wanted to “teach herself how to sew.”  Now she’s an acclaimed fashion designer and co-owner of The English Dept, a boutique in Portland.