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Archive for the ‘Writers & Writing’ Category

Kerouac Baseball“Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow-Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).

“He collected their stats, analyzed their performance and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.

“All these ‘publications,’ some typed, some handwritten and often pasted into old-fashioned composition notebooks, are now part of the Kerouac archive at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The curator, Isaac Gewirtz, has just written a 100-page book about them, ‘Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats,’ to be published next week by the library and available, at least for now, only in the library gift shop.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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duffy“Few positions in public life, apart, perhaps, from Pope or manager of the England football team, have proved quite so unattainable to women over the years as that of Britain’s Poet Laureate. For centuries, from Ben Jonson onwards, the prestigious honour with its peppercorn salary and liquid remuneration of a ‘butt of sack’ has been a masculine stronghold, handed down from man to man.

“But that dominance could well be set to come to an end this week after it was let slip that the name of Carol Ann Duffy has been put forward for the Queen’s approval to assume the role from the outgoing Laureate Andrew Motion. If all goes as planned, the Glasgow-born poet will become not only the first woman to hold the post but the first openly gay one.” (more @ The Independent)

Update: (5/1/09) After 341 Years, a Woman Is British Poet Laureate

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wordsworth-grave“The 23rd of April is a bad, bad day to be a poet. It’s the cruellest day in the cruellest month, as TS Eliot almost said.

“Lots of people know that today is the day William Shakespeare, the greatest poet in the language, was born in 1564 and that it’s the day he died in 1616. I don’t want to sound like a local radio DJ doing a less than cheery ‘on this day’ feature for dark times, but for poets in particular, and for creative literary people in general, this day really is hard to ignore: William Wordsworth wandered his last lonely walk on this day, as did the great Spanish author CervantesHenry Vaughan, the Welsh metaphysical poet, breathed his last lungful of gorgeous Welsh air on this day. Rupert Brooke died today in 1915, and Harold Arlen – whose songs such as Stormy Weather and Let’s Fall in Love (mind you, he didn’t write the lyrics) approach the status of poetry – passed to the far side of the rainbow on 23 April 1986.” (more @ Guardian UK)

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“Good writers show us new places. Great writers give us new ways of looking at the old one. Just as Ruskin enabled a generation of Europeans to see the landscape that was actually in front of them rather than the conventionalized approximations they carried around in their heads, so is Gaitskill one of those rare artists who can endow us with braver, more vigilant senses. You step out of her books and into a whole new world.”

So says William Deresiewicz in his fine review of Mary Gaitskill‘s novels and early short fiction.

But not so, concludes Deresiewicz, with her new short story collection, Don’t Cry:

“A young writer pours her agonies of soul into work of uncompromising honesty. She stares into an abyss of pain so that we may see the truth. But few have the energy to sustain such effort indefinitely. Eventually, the spirit seeks rest–seeks comfort, seeks consolation, seeks peace. It happened to Wordsworth and Conrad, and now it seems to be happening to Mary Gaitskill. The hunger has gone out of her work. Gaitskill was a great poet of youthful suffering. Whether she can reinvent herself as a chronicler of maturity remains to be seen.”

I am among the many fans of Gaitskill’s fiction disappointed by the largely unfavorable reviews for Don’t Cry. Readers new to Gaitskill’s work — and she deserves a wide audience — are best to begin at the beginning, with her first short story collection, Bad Behavior.

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shakespeare-on-bookBaptized on April 26, 1564, William Shakespeare‘s actual birthday is unknown but is traditionally observed on April 23rd, St. George’s Day. But how likely is it that today is the Bard of Avon’s real birthday?

“There is no evidence, alas, to support the popular belief that William Shakespeare was born — as fifty-two years later he was to die — on 23 April, the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George. As the poet’s posthumous fame grew, securing a unique niche for his country in the cultural history of the world, it was a natural enough temptation for posterity to unite the birthday of England’s national poet with that of its patron saint. But the tradition is based on a false assumption, that Elizabethan baptisms invariably took place three days after the birth.” (more @ English History)

Related

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Whatever the future holds for printed books, this much is certain: there is no shortage of ink being spilled presently by writers offering their visions of the digital future –

In “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” author Steven Johnson points to two key developments, “the breakthrough success of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, and the maturation of the Google Book Search service,” and proposes that “2009 may well prove to be the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

Related: The Social Dilemma of e-Reading

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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