Mind Nudging; Too Much Revision


Ask The Paris Review

I liked your response on what to give the person who has read everything. But what about the person who, well, fancies herself an “intellectual” (she goes to book parties at least) but doesn’t read a damn thing! What will perk someone’s brain, give them a mind nudge? —R.

It sounds as if you can give her pretty much anything at all! Why don’t you start with your favorite novel? Or maybe that’s too ambitious. Your favorite short story. Your favorite poem? See how she does. You don’t want to blow her circuits. Or—if she’s a chatterbox—why don’t you give her Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy. That’s a book you don’t hear enough about at book parties, in my opinion. Let’s put her talents to use!

How much revision is too much revision? When does a piece get ruined by being rewritten over and over and over? —Worried Reviser

It’s sacrilege, I know, but—since you ask—I think revising is overrated. In the days when everyone had to retype every draft from scratch, naturally, students had to be told not to settle for the fruits of inspiration. But now, thanks to Word, we are all revising all the time. Some of that is necessary. Some of that is stalling. Some of that (in my experience, a lot of that) is dangerous to the work. I would say, if it starts to feel good—if revising is what you rush home to do at the end of the day—you may want to think about moving on.

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