Posts Tagged ‘editing’
August 17, 2012 | by Joshua Cohen and Gemma Sieff
This week, we are joined by our friends the novelist Joshua Cohen and the writer and editor Gemma Sieff, who lent us their wit and wisdom in service of your queries.
I want to be a writer—one of those who can make enough money to write all the time. I should be writing every day, shouldn't I?
Gemma: You don’t have to do a huge amount; just get into a rhythm of sitting down at the desk and getting up again when you have more money.
Joshua: Pay no attention to Gemma. She has it all backward. Just get into a rhythm of earning every day until you have enough to rent a chair and desk for the weekends. Alternately, you can just get a job in publishing, where every intern keeps a Microsoft Word window minimized below the work e-mail and manages a comma deletion or synonym for bored between “refreshments.” Call the .doc “Fall_Schedule.” You might not have an office that locks, but you might produce a roman à clef.
August 1, 2012 | by Julian Tepper
My novel, Balls, is a book in which the protagonist contracts testicular cancer. I'd done an extensive amount of research, but I still wasn’t an expert. I needed one, lest I publish a work that didn’t get it all right. The fear of this had me up at night and fretting during the day.
So I called my uncle, who was a doctor and knew many urologists. He gave me the number of a Dr. William Collier, whom he described as a fine man, with a passion for literature.
“He likes books then?” I asked.
“Well, that’s great.”
Asking anything of a stranger excites the nerves. You’ve got to dial him, introduce yourself, tell him what you’re after, and hope, in the end, that you haven’t offended his ego by requesting that he use his precious time on the likes of you. But knowing Dr. Collier affirmed the written word did take some of the pressure off.
November 11, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
Okay, I have a question about the ideal sort of job for a young writer. If not ideal, then certainly better. I am a gallery manager in Manhattan. It is an exhausting, constantly detail-oriented job that does not pay especially well. Work frustrations and a first novel that is still in progress but progressing despite the less than ideal amount of time I can devote. I am wondering whether I should quit this “career” and become a bartender. I would have more hours to write, and my hands wouldn’t be typing for eleven to twelve hours a day. So what jobs do you recommend?
You mention bartending. I’ve known several writer-bartenders over the years. The job, they tell me, comes with perils of its own. In the good old days, the easiest thing was to get a gig proofreading at night for some giant consultancy or law firm (like the title character of Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica). The pay was good, and when you punched out, you punched out. Those jobs are hard to find now (proofreading’s the first thing to go), but since you’re in New York, it’s worth signing up with a temp agency. I temped once, for a business-to-business advertising firm, and on my very first afternoon found myself writing slogans for a revolutionary new water-efficient toilet. At least, I tried. (It was also my last afternoon.)
I have always thought dog walking would be a good job for a writer, if you’re the sort of person who thinks while you walk. But perhaps one of our readers will have a better suggestion ... or a position to fill?
I’m enjoying The Way of All Flesh. Can you suggest some novels about social climbing by cultural or racial outsiders?
If Ernest Pontifex counts as a cultural outsider—or a social climber—then who among us is safe from either charge? Not Becky Sharpe, in Vanity Fair, or Lucien de Rubempré, in Lost Illusions. And certainly not Georges Duroy, the gutter-bred antihero of Bel Ami, or David Copperfield or Gatsby or Tim Ripley or—to choose a more recent example—slick Nick Guest in The Line of Beauty. But neither, I suppose, is Lucy, the title character of Jamaica Kincaid’s first novel, an Antiguan making her way in New York, or Pronek, the immigrant hero of Aleksandar Hemon’s Nowhere Man, lost in Chicago. After all, if you’re not from around here, there is a fine line between climbing and getting by. (Is Ellison’s Invisible Man a climber?) Leonard Bast tries to better himself, disastrously enough, in Howard’s End, and who can blame him? Creepy Jasper Milvain does a much better job in New Grub Street. The black shipbuilder Bob Jones doesn’t climb, exactly—but he gets promoted, and all hell breaks loose among his white coworkers, whom he secretly loathes—in Chester Himes’s If He Hollers Let Him Go. There is always, of course, Augie March, taking goyish America by storm. And—my own favorite—the reckless, charming Irish hero of Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux, cutting a swathe through Disraeli-era London. Speaking of outsiders who make it. Read More »
March 4, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
Hello! I am a student. During my study time I should put my concentration to to study. But I can’t do it cuz of daydream. What should I do? —Anik Khan
Hello there, my distant twin! Isn’t daydreaming insidious? For you it’s study time. For me it’s worst in the mornings. As you get older, everybody tells you, time speeds up; what they don’t tell you is that the time before you get out of bed speeds up to a whiplash-inducing blur, and that your daydreams grow longer and more consuming, like those giant worms in Dune, devouring minutes and hours like so much sand. Sometimes I try to snap out of it by thinking of Marcus Aurelius. He had the same problem we do, two thousand years ago, and would remind himself that dancers and craftsmen lived for their work and “choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things they care for”; the point being, why should he lie there staring at the ceiling (he was emperor of Rome) ... but for me this doesn’t usually work. Proust, in his big novel, stands up for the habit of daydreaming: Marcel spends all morning, every morning, just lying there, letting his mind wander from the dreams he had the night before. Few of us have this luxury, at school or afterward. Besides, it can be terrible to feel that you are, in the words of that sad song, dreaming your life away. Just this morning on the way to work, I realized I was talking to myself, daydreaming a conversation with someone who wasn’t there.
(I’m telling you, it gets worse.)
A friend of mine advises Zen meditation. Several writers I know use stimulants. The trouble is, these tend, very quickly, to make you pretty crazy. In his recent Paris Review interview, Jonathan Franzen talks about his own struggles with distraction: “Cigarettes had always been the way I snapped myself to attention ... I’d quit because I’d decided that they were getting in the way of feeling.” There are, of course, other things to be said against cigarette smoking, but I like the way Franzen puts it, because he suggests that distraction, or daydreaming, is part of what it means to have emotions. Your daydreaming self is your feeling self, your passive self. The self that things happen to.
Of course you need to make time for your studies. If you catch yourself staring at the wall and dreaming of something you’d like to see happen, or someone you miss, or the way things might turn out, someday, make yourself go back to the book—but my advice is that you not let it worry you too much. Don’t punish yourself. This is one of those cases, I think, in which it is better to negotiate a shaky truce than hope for any kind of lasting victory.
August 12, 2010 | by Hilton Als
This is the second installment of Als’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
I finished watching There Will Be Blood, hours after I'd returned from visiting an actor friend in Brooklyn. She had a terrible accident while filming an episode of SVU (or SUV—I never know what that show's called). An actor shook her too hard, hurting her neck, so, in order to see my friend, I have to go to her. Despite her pain, my friend was herself, which is to say a real raconteur, one of the last of the best. She punctuates her story-telling with peals of laughter, knowing pauses, and concern. Her presence is part of what makes New York itself, a city filled with jumpy and funny and paranoid people—particularly in the summer. Before I left my friend's house we talked about how scary we both find Hemingway's short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”
Then I got on the subway, which is far from my house; I had to walk past the Brooklyn Hospital to get there, perhaps my least favorite walk in the world, since my mother spent a great deal of time in that hospital when I was a kid, thus instituting my continual anxiety about separation, and my need to be alone so it doesn't happen. No one leaves if no one is invited in.
After I got home, I saw gothic everywhere—such was There Will Be Blood's continuing sway over my imagination. Paul Thomas Anderson in no way obscures the gothic tone in Upton Sinclair's book, Oil!—the source material for his movie. Indeed, I started thinking about one of my favorite American authors, Nathaniel Hawthorne, during Blood's end credits. Is Hawthorne not one of the architects of our American interest in a world peopled, say, white-collared, circle girls screaming twice-told tales from a morally divided heart?
Back to the issue of time. One way to measure it's passing is by watching porn. Before you know it, yesterday's semi-twink is today's suited, inscrutable Daddy. While gay porn actors generally make the transition less disfigured by cosmetic surgery than female actors in straight porn, for instance, one sometimes senses what plastic surgery can, at least in part, disguise: exhaustion.
Take Zak Spears for instance. While Spears often took on the “butch,” role in early films—the Spears character has always been critical, hard to read, slow to commit to the action but, once engaged, insatiable—one never got the sense that his interest in his partner was diminished by performing scripted sex. Now, in his latest movie, Unsuited, Spears is in full Daddy mode. But behind the gruff instructions to his young “boy,” during their table top assignation, one senses Spears' boredom with the entire enterprise. Does time erode our ability to find surprise in most situations? As we grow older, do we spend more and more time sitting in craters of boredom?
This is the kind of exegesis—porn as a metaphor about time connection—that one could express without a qualm to the late and lamented editor, Barbara Epstein. As one of the founders of The New York Review of Books, Barbara's profound gift—among many—was for seeing what her writers could not, and not insisting on a change during the editing process that would derail your thought, but enhanced it. She was a real world saint who was familiar enough with this common place that she knew humor was not a character trait, but a saving grace. And among the graces, she was the most graceful. Read More »
June 24, 2010 | by Reagan Arthur
This is the second installment of Arthur’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
6:10 A.M. The New York Times. More about Israel and the Gaza attacks. A surprising waste of space devoted to a co-op spat on the Upper East Side. I love reading about real estate and rich people behaving badly, but this feels small: boring fight and boring story. Bob Herbert on the oil spill. Henin and Ginepri are out of the French Open.
7:00 A.M. Managed to miss the train. On the bus instead, where my usual carsickness subsides enough to let me continue Operation Franzen.
8:15 A.M. E-mail includes news of a rave review by Julie Orringer in the Washington Post of Frederick Reiken’s Day For Night. I already loved Julie Orringer, but now I think she can do no wrong.
8:20 A.M. Great interview on the Huffington Post with Cal Morgan, editor at Harper Perennial and one of my earliest publishing pals when we were both at St. Martin’s Press. Cal is publishing some terrific fiction, in a really interesting way.
8:36 A.M. My morning spin around the blogs. Maud Newton, Betsy Lerner, Elegant Variation, Galley Cat, Sarah Weinman. With BEA last week I’m a little behind on these, and I see that Maud has been, as always, sharp and smart—this time about Garrison Keillor’s recent prediction that publishing is on its deathbed. Betsy Lerner writes about writing, publishing, and being an agent, and it’s beyond me how she manages to post a smart and witty new entry every day, but her blog has become a welcome daily habit.
12:23 P.M. Publishers Weekly, with round-up of last week’s BEA at Javits. Photo of Jon Stewart, who hosted the sold-out author breakfast, and provided the quote of the fair when he followed Condoleeza Rice’s apparently great speech with: “Don’t MAKE me like you.” I perform the editorial review scan: race through the review section for my own books, as well as books I saw, bid on, or passed on. These can bring pain or pleasure but today I’m spared both. Nice review for Don Winslow’s upcoming Savages. He’s the first writer I ever signed up, and a great guy to boot.
1:00 P.M. Glamorous publishing lunch: falafel at my desk. Twitter brings news that the Gores are divorcing: wow. And Twitter sends me to a deeply satisfying, hilarious review of Sex and the City 21 by Lindy West in The Stranger, which I promptly bookmark so I can read her more often.
1:10 P.M. Newsweek Tumblr in response to David Carr’s piece about their sale.
3:10 P.M. Break from work to check the Times online and dammit, Federer’s been knocked out of the French Open by the unpleasant Swede. I must Tweet my dismay.
4:45 P.M. Bookforum. Lovely Michael Greenberg essay about his near-death and his dying mother. Mary Gaitskill’s rigorous and convincing review of Marlene van Neikerk’s Agaat. Mark Stevens on the new Leo Castelli biography. Paul La Farge and Keith Gessen on utopia and dystopia. Reader, I skimmed. James Gibbons on Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death, which my colleague Pat Strachan edited—a “comic tour de force”! Hooray.
6:00 P.M. Franzen on the bus. The manuscript pile is growing. Must. Finish. Galley.
8:30 P.M. Manuscripts.
10:30 P.M. New Yorker. I love the Jeffrey Eugenides story set at Brown, which makes me nostalgic for my early New York City days when I was surrounded by Brown graduates who quickly cured me2 of saying “girl” instead of “woman” and other late-eighties infractions. Joan Acocella on “Cirque du Soleil,” which I just dragged my family3 to last week out on Randall’s Island. I could happily read Joan Acocella all day. The only thing that could make this New Yorker issue any better would be a Nancy Franklin review.
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- I know I should not hate this movie without seeing it, but the two hours I lost to the first one still make me angry, and everything I’ve seen or read about SATC2, including the movie’s own ads and promotional interviews, convinces me I’m on solid ground.
- Either UCLA was not as steeped in semiotics and political correctness, or I was not paying close enough attention. (Both, I think.)
- We gasped, we laughed, and my son asked me what time it was about every nine minutes.