carpentrix:

theparisreview:

“Arguably literature’s basic charge is to describe being in the world—the Grainger catalog reveals just how extensively our writers have failed to document the varieties of work happening now, and the hyper-precise terminology surrounding that work.”

Dan Piepenbring on the wonders of industrial-supply catalogs.

Neat piece on the specificity of words and the specificity of tools, materials, and devices found in this mammoth catalog. This was a highlight, in his discussion of item descriptions:

“If ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ counts as a story, then so, too, must ‘all-wood coffins store flat and assemble without tools. Can be stacked 3-high when assembled to maximize space in mass-casualty emergencies.’ Or: ‘High-visibility warning whips alert other vehicles of your presence.’ Or: ‘Stretch knit material covers head to protect from overspray.’

The Joy of Typing

Good to see this argument for both/and rather than either/or.

The Joy of Typing

M: Roger Angell, A Hall-of-Famer at 93

I don’t go for nostalgia. I try not to. It’s so easy to sentimentalize the good old days, but I don’t ever do that. I’m aware that things have changed, but I try not to go there. It’s very easy, and you get sort of a mental diabetes.

I also liked this:

If you do enough reporting, then you don’t have to gush about the emerald field, the white streak of the ball, and that.

M: Roger Angell, A Hall-of-Famer at 93

Structure

Almost always there is considerable tension between chronology and theme, and chronology traditionally wins. The narrative wants to move from point to point through time, while topics that have arisen now and again across someone’s life cry out to be collected.

Filed under: John McPhee.

Structure

Critical thinking #4: Daniel Mendelsohn

I always tease them at the beginning of the semester about their writing—I say, “Whenever you write me at 11 o’clock on a Thursday night begging me for an extension on the paper, the prose is always so beautiful and the email is so wonderfully structured.” It’s a joke, but it’s also not a joke—in that situation they understand the rhetoric of the form to which they’re committing themselves: They understand who they are as a writer and a beseecher, they understand who I am as the person in charge, they understand what evidence to adduce in their favour—their dog died, their computer broke or whatever. Which is why the email begging for the paper extension is always a well-written piece. But whenever they have to write three paragraphs about women in Genesis or whatever—when they have to make an argument—it’s basically “word salad,” because they’ve never read anything that presents a text, wrestles with it and comes up with some conclusions. For that reason, I think it’s better that they should be reading Pauline Kael reviews in the New Yorker than Derrida.

Filed under: Daniel Mendelsohn.

Critical thinking #4: Daniel Mendelsohn

The Arts – €”Agents of Change and Source of Enchantment | Catholic World Report

Dana Gioia:

Dana’s brother Ted Gioia:

If you asked me to sum up my view of music in one sentence, I could do it: music is a change agent and a source of enchantment. When people start understanding the arts in those terms, you don’t need to sell them on culture. They come out of curiosity, desire, and self-interest. Teachers can help spur this process, but it’s a different kind of teaching than you find in most classrooms

The Arts – €”Agents of Change and Source of Enchantment | Catholic World Report

Cormac McCarthy’s Vocabulary Is Better Than Yours: Blood Meridian {spoilers!}

sprent
anchorite
tailorwise
carbolic
chancel
halms
scantlin(g)
vernier
hasping
jacal
purlieus
bistre
sotol
kerfs
scoria
ratchel
porphyry
mare imbrium
apishamore
marl
ignis fatuus
cibolero
enfilade
acequias
spanceled
azoteas
debouched
topers
chert
eskers
escopeta
shakos
caparisoned
serried
devonian
charivari
catafalque
ciborium
guttapercha
shacto
vedette
suzerain
almagre
roweled
withy
criada
sutlers
billets
spalls
whinstones
scrog
chorines
alameda
vigas
guisado
sclera
baldric
lemniscate
tiswin
demiculverin
revetment
holothurians
morral
alcalde
skelps
baize
cabildo
lazarous
scow
thaumaturge
atavistic
scapular
fard
sprues
alparejas
mansuete
replevined
pampooties
skifts
burins
dosshouse
pitero
matracas
nickered
bagnios
scapegrace
peignoirs

Two New Books About Jorge Luis Borges : The New Yorker

Borges’s fictional universe is relentlessly, oppressively male. He wrote very few female characters, and there is a vision of masculinity—violent, fearless, austere—that exists in his work as a counterpoint to its obsessive bookishness, and neither ideal has much room for the presence of women, writers or otherwise. His abstraction meant, among other things, a removal from the heat and chaos of human relationships. There is very little love in his work, very little emotional intensity; its richness and complexity is that of philosophical problems, of theology and ontology, not of human relationships.

Two New Books About Jorge Luis Borges : The New Yorker

Borges and the Sharknado Problem

Borges:

Some books better left unwritten! Oh, but here again I will recommend Imaginary Magnitude, which I shortlisted last year:

A collection of introductions to fictional books covering, among other things, x-ray pornograms, computer-generated literature, and a biography of a sentient, moody super-computer. If you like the Borges above [Dreamtigers], or Borges in general, or strange science fiction, or strange conceptual writing in general, this is absolutely a book for you.

Borges and the Sharknado Problem

bookforum talks with karl ove knausgaard – bookforum.com / interviews

Good interview. My Struggle sounds so strange. Here’s Knausgaard talking about the magic that happened when he stopped filtering and perfecting his writing, and just started going for sheer volume:

When I was nineteen, I went to a yearlong course in creative writing. There, some simple rules dominated, and the most important one dealt with quality: if a sentence was bad, you removed it. If a scene was bad, you removed it. The critical reading of the texts always resulted in parts being deleted. So that was what I did. My writing became more and more minimalist. In the end, I couldn’t write at all. For seven or eight years, I hardly wrote. But then I had a revelation. What if I did the opposite? What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad, I expanded it, and poured in more and more? After I started to do that, I became free in my writing. Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism. My world isn’t minimalist; my world isn’t perfect, so why on earth should my writing be? I then did the same thing with every other rule. Show, don’t tell? What happens if you do tell, really try to tell EVERYTHING, and don’t give a damn about subtext? Something else happens, something you can’t control. No matter how explicitly you describe a person or a scene, there is always a shadow in the text, a kind of tone or sound, and that tone or sound is the important thing. When I freed myself from these restrictions and started to insist on quantity instead of quality, my texts started to get long. Not necessarily good, but long!

Reminds me of Borges on the baroque style: “The Baroque is that style which deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its possibilities and borders on its own caricature.” In a similar section of the interview I liked, he talks about the balance of family and ambition, and how he started being easier on himself, in a way:

Karen Blixen, the Danish writer, said something like “you can’t go hunting the Grail with a pram.” And she’s right. When I started to write this book, I was deeply frustrated and alienated. We had three kids in four years, and the dominant feeling for both my wife and me was that of living on the edge of chaos. There was a lot of quarreling going on, and at the same time, I was not able to write anything. So at one point I decided to let go of all ambition whatsoever and just write about that: The domestic world, the banality and tristesse of everyday life. I really hated the idea, because I didn’t want trivialities, I wanted the Grail, and when I started to do this, I was ashamed of my writing. The struggle was really to overcome the shame. But taking care of kids and writing do not exclude each other—I would start to write at 4am, then either my wife or I would take them to Kindergarten at 8, and then I would write until 3 pm and spend the rest of the day with them. It’s not Hemingway’s way—as I understand, he wrote from 6 till 12, then started to drink—but it is a way, if not to reach the Grail, then at least to finish some pages every day.

bookforum talks with karl ove knausgaard – bookforum.com / interviews

My Perfect Adventure: Frugal Traveler Columnist Seth Kugel | My Perfect Adventure | OutsideOnline.com

Wow. Seth Kugel is delightfully self-aware.

Q: What motivates you to keep writing?
A: Not to be facile, but if I don’t write, I don’t get to do the things I later write about. An editor once asked me whether I was one of those writers who liked writing or who hated writing. The implication—that there are journalists who struggle with writing and that that’s completely normal—was a huge relief.

Also this:

Q: Name three things you still want to cross off your bucket list.
A: Get married. Have kids. Write a great book. Disappointed?

My Perfect Adventure: Frugal Traveler Columnist Seth Kugel | My Perfect Adventure | OutsideOnline.com

It’s so intimate, and it’s one of your best friends, this stupid script that you end up living with for seventeen drafts or twenty drafts. […] You’re like, ‘You’re still here?? Can you clean up your shit? You leave it everywhere!’

A Wealth of Words by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., City Journal WInter 2013

There’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income. The reason is clear: vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts. If we want to reduce economic inequality in America, a good place to start is the language-arts classroom.

A Wealth of Words by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., City Journal WInter 2013