Selected Letters of William S. Burroughs

From the Paris Review. Read the five brief letters at the link. One comment begins,

Ah Burroughs you filthy little worm, you! Your letters have arrived in a timely manner–voices from the grave…

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‘Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale’

From the Guardian:

It has been banned in schools, made into a film and an opera, and the title has become a shorthand for repressive regimes against women…Some books haunt the reader. Others haunt the writer. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has done both.


Read the whole thing at the link.

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A Quiz About Clarity

From Daily Writing Tips:

Writers usually don’t mean to be duplicitous when they write one thing when they mean another; it’s just that what they intended to communicate is not what they communicated. The following sentences demonstrate some of the types of misunderstandings that result from careless composition. Try your hand at repairing the damage, and then take a look at my solutions at the bottom of the page:

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“Friedrich Nietzsche is one of those philosophers you just can’t kill”

An essay by Robert Fuford, Carving a Nietzsche:

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of those philosophers you just can’t kill.

He’s been in his grave since 1900, having been silenced by insanity many years before. In 1898, The New York Times ran an article headed, “Interesting Revolutionary Theories from a Writer Now in the Madhouse.” He’s read, as he was then, only by a small minority, many of whom it would be flattering to call eccentric.

Nevertheless, he runs through our social bloodstream. Francis Fukuyama’s remark has the sound of truth: Whether we like it or not, “We continue to live within the intellectual shadow cast by Nietzsche.”

Our political leaders are Nietzschean heroes, fuelled by the will to power. In popular fiction and journalism we eternally reinvent the drama of Nietzschean characters who scorn tradition and prove their bravery by setting their own course, as he urged. Defiant originality is sanctified everywhere from art galleries to the business pages. Steve Jobs was perhaps the world’s most renowned Nietzschean character type.

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How To Become A Writer


In order to be able to call yourself a writer, all you have to do is write. But I have another piece of advice: Don’t go passing out business cards emblazoned with that word just yet.

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Playing with House Money

From Humanities, an essay about Kurt Vonnegut’s early days that begins:

If you want your child to be a writer, go bankrupt.

The evidence confirms it. Failing that, at least suffer a severe financial reversal, obliging your son or daughter to endure the social opprobrium of changed schools and dropped friendships. Let him know the shame of fallen status, that he might grow ever more attuned to the minutest of slights, real or imagined. Careful scrutiny of his fellows will likely become a habit, a good sense of humor his first line of defense. Imagination will be his refuge. If you want your child to be a writer, do all this, and you may yet join an impecunious fraternity of writers’ parents that includes John Shakespeare, John Joyce, John Clemens, John Dickens, John Ernst Steinbeck, and Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. (Apparently, you might also want to consider changing your name to John.) Not convinced? Throw in Jorge Guillermo Borges Haslam, Edward Fitzgerald, and Richard Thomas Hammett, too.

There are great writers whose fathers did not go bust, of course. There are probably also politicians who got enough love as children. Just not many. The late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whose most productive decade has just entered the Library of America pantheon with the publication of Novels & Stories 1963–1973, is no less classic a case than the rest.

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The More Things Change—Literary Futures

A guest post written by Emma Pullman:

The world of publishing is changing. The digital age is forcing publishers ‒ and readers ‒ to alter their horizons. There are new ways to publish, read and write. Just as the music industry has been changed forever by the advent of digital, so has literature. Traditionalists might not like it, but there is no escaping change. Some see digital publishing as a threat to writers, making an already low-paid profession even harder to make a living from. Others recognise that while there may be threats associated with the digital world, there are also many opportunities.

Back in the nineteenth century, literature was largely the preserve of the wealthy. Only those with money, time and connections were able to write and publish novels. Even women were often barred, hence writers like George Eliot publishing under assumed male names. Inevitably, much nineteenth century literature deals with the lives of people like their authors: the middle and upper-classes. Charles Dickens is a notable exception (though not the only one), and he was rewarded by interest in his work from the largely illiterate poor, who would pay a small sum to ‘Dickens clubs’ where his work was read to them. The twentieth century brought wider literacy, cheaper books and more extensive publishing. The advent of the paperback in the 1930s meant that anyone could sit on their cheap sofa reading the latest novel.

As the century progressed, so did interest in literature, and more and more people wanted not only to be readers, but to be writers. Publishers today are inundated with many more manuscripts than they’ll ever get around to reading. Competition for publishing deals is fierce, and many publishers are unwilling to take a risk on an upcoming author with an unusual style, who may or may not sell. This kind of competition created the self-publishing industry: not a bad way for someone who wants to publish a book for their family and friends to read on a very small print run, but often exploitative and expensive, particularly for those with bigger dreams than talent.

So, into the twenty-first century, and the publishing industry is adapting to new forms of publishing and of selling books. Fewer and fewer books are sold in bookshops, with more and more readers choosing to buy their books online (often after using the bookshop as somewhere to browse before taking advantage of cheaper online prices). Many independent bookshops have sadly been unable to survive. The launch of the Amazon Kindle in 2007 offered readers, a way to read digital books without having to squint at a computer screen. Its popularity is unquestionable: US Amazon now sells more Kindle books than it does paperbacks.

So where does all this leave the writer? As in the music industry, the big names are likely to be relatively unaffected by the digital age. For the rest, things are changing, but not necessarily for the worse. Few novelists ever make a full time wage as things stand (the average income of a novelist from their writing is just a few thousand dollars a year), and with digital books more easily shared than physical ones, their incomes are hardly likely to increase. However, digital publishing also creates a huge opportunity for writers. Some publishers are starting to run competitions on their websites for aspiring authors, giving them the chance to be read not just by the public, but by the publishers. Some authors publicise their work by putting extracts online or even publishing a free book: just as musicians have been able to showcase their work via Myspace. As in the music industry too, it may be that there is an increase in interest in live literature, as writers seek non- traditional ways to get themselves noticed. This is a return to the days of Dickens, who toured the world giving very popular readings.

We cannot roll back the digital world: it is here to stay. The truth is, there has never really been a golden age when anyone could write a novel and make a living from it. The industry has always been socially elitist or highly competitive (or both). Digital publishing gives writers who might not ever get past the ‘slush-pile’ the chance to work their own way into readers’ hearts.

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100 Most beautiful words in the English language

Found at Deshoda (hat tip: Fred Lapides):

Ailurophile A cat-lover.

Assemblage A gathering.

Becoming Attractive.

Beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.

Brood To think alone.

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A short video on Film Noir

The Endless Night: A Valentine to Film Noir—a well-done piece on YouTube…song: “Angel” by Massive Attack; and the films:

THE LETTER (1940, William Wyler. Bette Davis)
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941, John Huston. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor)
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943, Alfred Hitchcock. Joseph Cotten)
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944, Billy Wilder. Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray)
MURDER, MY SWEET (1944, Edward Dmytryk. Dick Powell)
SCARLET STREET (1945, Fritz Lang. Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett)
LAURA (1945, Otto Preminger. Gene Tierney)
DETOUR (1945, Edgar G. Ulhmer. Ann Savage)
NOTORIOUS (1946, Alfred Hitchcock. Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman)
GILDA (1946, Charles Vidor. Rita Hayworth)
THE KILLERS (1946, Robert Siodmak. Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster)
THE BIG SLEEP (1946, Howard Hawks. Humphrey Bogart)
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946, Tay Garnett. John Garfield, Lana Turner)
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947, Orson Welles. Rita Hayworth, Welles)
OUT OF THE PAST (1947, Jacques Tourneur. Jane Greer, Robert Mitchum)
BRUTE FORCE (1947, Jules Dassin. Burt Lancaster)
FORCE OF EVIL (1948, Abraham Polonsky. John Garfield, Marie Windsor)
THE SET-UP (1949, Robert Wise. Robert Ryan)
THE THIRD MAN (1949, Carol Reed. Orson Welles)
CRISS CROSS (1949, Siodmak. Burt Lancaster, Yvonne de Carlo)
GUN CRAZY (1950, Joseph H. Lewis. John Dall, Peggy Cummins)
IN A LONELY PLACE (1950, Nicholas Ray. Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame)
THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950, Huston. Sterling Hayden)
NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950, Jules Dassin. Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney)
SUNSET BLVD. (1950, Billy Wilder. Gloria Swanson, William Holden)
ACE IN THE HOLE (1951, Billy Wilder. Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling)
ANGEL FACE (1952, Otto Preminger. Jean Simmons)
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953, Samuel Fuller. Richard Widmark)
THE BIG HEAT (1953, Fritz Lang. Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin)
KISS ME DEADLY (1955, Robert Aldrich. Gaby Rodgers)
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955, Charles Laughton. Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish)
THE KILLING (1956, Stanley Kubrick. Sterling Hayden)
ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958, Louis Malle. Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet)
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958, Orson Welles)
THE NAKED KISS (1964, Samuel Fuller. Constance Towers)

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Elmore Leonard and “Raylan”

From CNN, Elmore Leonard returns with his latest in crime fiction, “Raylan.”

Elmore Leonard is something of a living legend among lovers of crime fiction. A favorite of millions of readers, a hero to scores of writers, he’s been called “America’s greatest crime writer.” The 86-year old author has been writing bestselling books for sixty years, mostly Westerns and crime novels. Many of them have been turned into hit movies, including “3:10 to Yuma,” “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight.”

Now, Leonard returns to one of his favorite characters in his newest book, his 45th novel to be exact, titled simply, “Raylan.” That would be U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. The laid back, Stetson-wearing lawman first appeared in Leonard’s novels, “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap” and again in the 2001 short story, “Fire in the Hole” which became the basis for the hit TV show, “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant as the title character. The actor and the show are winning over fans, critics and Leonard himself. So much so that Leonard has returned to writing about “Raylan.”

The book just hit store shelves the same week the show had its third season premiere. Leonard, gracious and unassuming, shows no signs of slowing down at this point in his career.

The author spoke to CNN from his home in Michigan. The following is an edited transcript.

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