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Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

What We’re Loving: Procrastination, Peacocks, Prince

July 4, 2014 | by

Phil, a leucistic white peafowl from the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. Photo via Twitter.

It turns out that I was right last week (I love it when that happens) about the print version of Nautilus. It’s sharp, well-rounded, and just plain nice to look at. I could recommend any number of articles (such as Slava Gerovitch’s fascinating essay on Russian mathematician Andrei Kolmogorov), but one in particular made an impression: Alisa Opar’s short piece in the Spring 2014 issue on procrastination. I’m writing this, you see, up against the deadline that Dan Piepenbring sets for us each week. I did the same thing last week. Though I spend all week knowing I’ll write a few lines on what I’ve been reading, I wait, without fail, until the very last minute to sit down and write it. That’s because, according to Opar’s article, my future self is a stranger. That future version of me is the one who will have to deal with the consequences of my current procrastination (sucker!). Apparently, making a lengthy timeline that ends with me writing this should help me feel connected to my future self. It’s an interesting idea. I’ll get right on it tomorrow. —Nicole Rudick

Earlier this week, I took a coffee and a book to the Peace Garden at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where I found myself joined by a white-feathered peacock; Phil, a leucistic peafowl, is apparently a regular there. Always followed by his flowing white train, he creates a procession wherever he goes; you couldn’t ask for a more august companion. And with Phil’s distinguished mien in mind, I point to D. H. Lawrence’s short story “Wintry Peacock,” from his 1922 collection England, My England and Other Stories. It tells of secret lovers, purloined correspondence, and a protective peacock named Joey. The narrator finds himself the unwilling mediator of a young English country couple’s marital troubles, a task he meets with equal parts fascination and disgust. As he translates a letter from the husband’s French mistress, he suppresses a gag: “I vaguely realized that I was reading a man’s private correspondence. And yet, how could one consider these trivial, facile French phrases private? Nothing more trite and vulgar in the world than such a love-letter—no newspaper more obvious.” —Chantal McStay

A few weeks ago, I discovered Richard Prince’s Instagram account. Prince, for the uninitiated, is the guy who took images of the Marlboro Man from cigarette ads, blew them up, and called them his own work. Then they sold for a bajillion dollars at auction, and he was celebrated as a deity of conceptual appropriationism. His style of appropriation—photographing and re-photographing—is perfectly suited to Instagram. He takes screenshots of posts by celebrities, prints them out on a large scale, takes photos of them with his iPhone, and then reposts them. “It was like revisiting an older system that I was already familiar with,” he explained in a post on his website, except “the photo paper was an electronic page, the source material was Google, and the re-photography was a screen-save.” In the past year, he’s posted everything from copies of The Catcher in the Rye that credit him as the author to a completely nude ten-year-old Brooke Shields re-photographed from his 1983 work Spiritual America. (That got him temporarily banned from the site.) Prince has made room for his experiments in a medium known for food porn and social one-upsmanship—quite a feat. —Teddy Lasry

The Pitchfork Review, a new quarterly print counterpart to the music criticism site, may not win many converts—it’s very much “on brand,” though Pitchfork’s trademark decimal-point ratings are mercifully absent. Still, even if you’re inclined to write off the site as a hollow tastemaker, give the magazine a look; lavishly designed and thoughtfully composed, it will be of interest to anyone who yearns for the heyday of Spin, Rolling Stone, Downbeat, or The Village Voice. Its latest issue boasts a number of excellent diversions—I was particularly impressed with Gary Giddins’s piece on Stanley Kubrick’s scores, and with Lindsay Zoladz’s “Ghost Riding: The Story of the Performing Hologram,” which examines the burgeoning use of holography and its curious intersection with hip-hop culture. —Dan Piepenbring Read More »

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‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ at Fifty

October 31, 2011 | by

'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster turns fifty.

Even the most confident of writers can be excused for wondering if words, mere black-and-white glyphs, can compete in a world filled with ever more animated, flashing, full-color, special-effects-crammed and interactive visual media. At such times, it’s helpful to remember a passage from Norton Juster’s children’s novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, describing a visit by the hero, Milo, to the archives of the Soundkeeper in the Lands Beyond.

The Soundkeeper boasts that her vaults contain “every sound that’s ever been made in history.” To prove it, she opens a drawer and pulls out “a small brown envelope,” explaining that it contains “the exact tune George Washington whistled when he crossed the Delaware on that icy night in 1777.” Milo, Juster writes, “peered into the envelope and, sure enough, that’s exactly what was in it.” The narrative moves briskly on.

Like much of the best fiction for children, this scene illustrates how writing well consists not only of knowing what to put in, but also of knowing what to leave out. Read More »

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Award-Winning Novels; Fighting Procrastination

November 5, 2010 | by

I was having this argument with my friend recently about award-winning novels. I find them stodgy and inaccessible. She thinks I’m not applying myself to the pages long enough to get it. In defense, I invoked a literary heavyweight—Martin Amis. He was quoted a few weeks ago as saying, “There was a great fashion in the last century, and it’s still with us, of the unenjoyable novel. And these are the novels which win prizes, because the committee thinks, ‘Well it’s not at all enjoyable, and it isn’t funny, therefore it must be very serious.’” She tried to tell me that Amis has sour grapes from his Booker Prize near-miss in the early nineties. We need someone to settle this. —Paul Hawkins

It may have been sour grapes, but don’t you think Amis is right? The worst is when the judges of literary prizes try to legislate from the bench—flexing their “muscle” by giving a prize to some book that nobody’s ever heard of, or passing over a popular favorite because it’s “too obvious” or “doesn’t need it.” As I wrote the other week, when it comes to literary merit (or sex appeal) there is no such thing as too obvious. And most unfun novels are not much good. My heart sinks when I see a list of unknowns as finalists for a prize I care about. It is usually a case of committee work or telling people what they ought to like (and already know they don’t).Then there are wonderful exceptions, like Tinkers, a fine novel rescued from obscurity by the Pulitzer Prize. Or—a very different case—the most recent recipient of the Nobel, Mario Vargas Llosa, a writer who has been accused of many things, but never of being hard to read.

Read More »

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