“For the past several years, I’ve taught a class at the University of Pennsylvania called ‘Uncreative Writing.’ In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. “
Entertaining and thought-provoking essay (okay, book excerpt) by self-described “part party host, part traffic cop” writing teacher and poetry editor Kenneth Goldsmith, in celebration of the unoriginal.
“When people say they love writing, they usually mean they love having written.”
Three short pieces on the excruciatingly torturous agony of writing and why everyone should just stop doing it already:
Rick Gekoski on how both writing and reading Jekyll-and-Hyde him into a selfish, self-absorbed git who refuses to do the dishes and falls asleep on the sofa during the day.
New York Times executive editor and apparent bibliophobe Bill Keller on why he tries to talk his staff out of writing books and his guilty longing for the day “the book” finally succumbs to popular prophecy and goes off to that great shelving unit in the sky.
And Al Kennedy, who admits he once cleaned all his grouting with a toothbrush to avoid the brutal and inhuman task of poking a keyboard with his fingers while seated.
While corknuts isn’t in the habit of criticizing the materials we link to here, we can think of at least one reason why these gentlemen should take their own advice and stop writing altogether: they all use some version of the above quote in their piece. Way to stun readers with your breathtakingly original contributions, fellas.
Virginia Heffernan’s New York Times column on bad spelling, typos and the gutting of the editing process.
Barack Obama, the man who brought us the near-perfect prose of Dreams of my Father, signs the US Plain Language Act into law, making it a crime punishable by death* for government workers to write something like this:
“If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.”
When they could just write this:
“If you have any questions, please phone.”†
* Just kidding. Unfortunately.
† This example taken from the British Plain English Campaign website, the equivalent US organization apparently not having much of a sense of humor about the whole government jargon thing.
“Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”—Mark Twain on Jane Austen
For those who like their celebrity gossip to be of the (mostly) posthumous and literary variety, cultural news site flavorwire.com’s Books section is like a 24-hour sushi train of tasty, if not entirely substantial, treats.* Click through the empty hours with posts like “A Brief History of Writers Who Died Untimely Deaths,” “The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History” (which gave us the above gem) and “How to Drink Like Your Favorite Authors.”
* Also, some items might be looking a little wilted after a couple of loops around and there’s quite a lot of you probably don’t want even slightly in the vicinity of your face, let alone anywhere you could actually masticate it.
(Image: completely gratuitous public domain photo of a hairy-chested, Jane-Austen-averse Mark Twain, circa 1880)
““I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs, or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” - Hunter S. Thompson
Entertaining LIFE photo series of Famous Literary Drunks & Addicts.
(Image: By Atoma (Own creation) [CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)
“Writers are the social embarrassment in our culture, generally portrayed on television and in movies as sexually hapless, overweight, balding, constipated bores who can’t even dress themselves properly. Ah, the life of the mind. I can see why writing classes are swelling.”
In her review of a quartet of how-to-write books, Jessa Crispin questions the worth of cookie-cutter writing programs and laments the passing of writers “whose pathways to becoming writers were as distinguishably different from one another as their books are.”
(Image: Think Draw) (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
“In the ideal world, all writers would have a Catholic childhood, or belong to some other religion which does the equivalent for you. Because Catholicism tells you at a very early age the world is not what you see; that beyond everything you see, and the appearance – or the accidents as they’re known – there is another reality, and it is a far more important reality.” - Hilary Mantel
The Guardian newspaper published a decent excerpt - with bonus audio files - of the British Library’s recently released double CD set, The Writing Life, in which writers like Ian McEwan, PD James and Howard Jacobson share their thoughts on what makes a writer, their relationship with their characters and the mechanics of writing.
(Image: By Philippe Kurlapski (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)
A collection of rare, early articles from the one and only Dr. Gonzo, scanned in their original form. (Click images to see them full size).
Entertaining podcast of a talk given by British historian and writer Simon Schama at the London School of Economics where, in a good imitation of your drunk uncle at a somebody’s wedding, he sets the tone for the evening by loudly and repeatedly interrupting the host during his introduction and barely pauses for breath for next hour and a half. Organized to coincide with the publication of his book Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writing on Ice Cream, Obama, Churchill and My Mother.
(Image: Rat at WikiFur [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)