10 Interesting Facts Behind Popular Posters, from Listverse, is an odd list to post, but while number 2 appeals to idiots, I always liked number 6, which has been around since 1976. Tennis anyone?
A remark Philip Roth made in the Financial Times over the weekend has provoked much comment: “I’ve stopped reading fiction,” the 78-year-old author of “Portnoy’s Complaint” and dozens of other novels said. Roth isn’t alone; over the years, such writers as Cormac McCarthy, Will Self and William Gibson have made similar statements.
Some people don’t like fiction and never have. That’s quite different from having once read fiction avidly and then, in the fullness of time, giving it up…Many former devourers of novels haven’t stopped reading, they’ve just come, like Roth, to prefer nonfiction books on history, science or politics.
The article explains some of the reasons why.
From The Telegraph,
As an actor, Pete Postlethwaite combined an air of extraordinary stillness with a sense of bottled-up rage. He was combustible. Solidly physical and dangerously gentle, he was peerless at playing convicts, coppers, mercenaries and NCOs. By the time of his death early in the New Year, aged 64, he was Hollywood’s favourite sensitive heavy, having appeared in Spielberg blockbusters, sword-and-sorcery romps, thrillers and sci-fi epics by the dozen. He was usually working on three films at the same time and was always jetting off to foreign locations. His success was rewarded with the OBE.
He liked to present himself as that-nice-bloke-you’d-meet-down-the-pub, but was Pete Postlethwaite mad? I ask because in this posthumously published memoir, he is at pains to say that what he did was never faked. To play anger, he had to feel angry. Antony Sher and George Costigan sometimes feared for their lives when on stage with him.
The work begins with the fixed affirmation that philosophy no longer has anything to say and only physics can explain:
1)How we can comprehend the world in which we find ourselves.
2)The nature of reality.
3)If the universe had need of a creator.
4)Why there is something instead of nothing.
5)Why we exist.
6)Why this particular set of laws exists instead of some other.
As you see these are typical philosophical questions, but it must be admitted that the book demonstrates how physics can, in some ways, serve to answer the last four, which appear to be the most philosophical of all.
The problem is that in order to attempt to answer the last four questions, it is necessary to have answered the first two. It is those questions which, in a large way, are what one requires in order to say that something is real and if we know the real world as it is.
Jacobs positions himself as the heir to cultural authorities like Mortimer Adler, Charles van Doren, and Harold Bloom, who have sought to teach regular Americans how to appreciate literature, but he believes that his predecessors present reading as too much of a duty. Reading literature, Jacobs argues, ought to be a profoundly pleasurable activity, one we engage in primarily for the sake of enjoyment, and not out of obligation. We’d be happier, better readers if we stopped obsessing about what we’ve read, how much we’ve read, and what we haven’t read. We should let whim, rather than guilt or shame, propel our reading choices. Though he is a literature professor at Wheaton College, Jacobs acknowledges that universities are largely to blame for encouraging individuals to treat reading as a chore, valuable only insofar as it serves a higher purpose. But, as Jacobs contends in one of the book’s most honest moments, reading is not a virtuous activity, and it does not strengthen or elevate our character. Only by freeing ourselves from this misconception can we rediscover the private, at times anti-social joys of reading. (Emphasis mine.)
Those last two italicized sentences are rather thought-provoking….The comments at the link are also worthwhile.
A New York Times review of Mightier Than the Sword:
No less an authority than Leo Tolstoy included “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” on his short list of “examples of the highest art flowing from love of God and man.” Fifty years later, James Baldwin called the same book a “very bad novel” full of “excessive and spurious emotion.” What goes on here? The question belongs in the present tense because it is by no means settled.
There’s nothing unsettled, however, about “Mightier Than the Sword,” David S. Reynolds’s informative account of the writing, reception and modern reputation of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Reynolds unstintingly celebrates its author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, as a colossal writer who mobilized public opinion against slavery, and proved, against long odds, “a white woman’s capacity to enter into the subjectivity of black people.”
And he lives in Aspen, Colorado—a place where the billionaires have squeezed out the millionaires. From the Aspen Daily News, Aspen meets Joe Henry, neighbor and novelist, by Anthony Travers:
It was Henry’s first foray into public speaking in Aspen. He has lived in Woody Creek for nearly four decades, solitarily writing in a cabin beside the Roaring Fork River. His first novel, “Lime Creek,” was published last week by Random House.
At Monday’s event at the Aspen Institute, which kicked off the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s 35th annual Summer Words Literary Festival, Henry had his friend, the actor Anthony Zerbe, read aloud from the book to 100-some festival attendees.
Henry opened his eyes and answered questions from the audience for about 10 minutes.
“I’d actually like to hear four sentences strung together,” Zerbe prodded the soft-spoken and reclusive writer.
Learning to write by trial and error not only calls for patience on the writer’s part, it also taxes the patience of wives, landlords, and creditors. Whenever someone, especially a young person, tells me of an ambition to become a writer, my heart goes out to him or her immediately—and my spirits sink. There is seldom a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even for those who become established writers eventually—and a lot can happen between now and eventually, like broken marriages, eviction for non-payment of rent, and the like.
Even the mechanics or logistics of writing can be a challenge to figure out. Some of the most productive writers have followed the disciplined practice of sitting down at fixed times each day and turning out the words. Anthony Trollope followed this regimen in the nineteenth century and Paul Johnson with equal (or greater) success in the twentieth century. Alas, however, human beings differ and some of us are never going to be Anthony Trollope or Paul Johnson, in this respect or any other.
Instead of trying to be someone that you are not, be the best at what you are. My own writing practices are the direct opposite of that followed by these prolific and renowned writers. I write only when I have something to say. The big disadvantage of this is that it can mean a lot of down time. There are manuscripts of mine that sat around gathering dust for years without a word being added to them. How then have I managed to write more than 20 books within the Biblical threescore and ten years?
Read the whole thing.
Found here, they are:
Charles Baudelaire, Jean Cocteau, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson
For the record, I don’t do drugs—never have, probably will—on my deathbed, when they slip me the morphine.