He’s back, by popular demand! Tim Wu’s culture diary was such a hit with our readers that we asked him to answer our advice column this week. —Lorin Stein
A quiet kid in my introductory English class approached me the other day with a batch of his poetry. He wants to be a writer and asked for “an honest appraisal” of his work and chances. Of course, the poems are awful, but I would hate to discourage him. How should I handle this?
Easy question. You cannot lose. Tell him, honestly, that his poems are awful. That scarring pain of first rejection is the greatest gift you could give to an aspiring writer. It being Christmas, consider the agony your very own myrrh and frankincense.
“I read your poems. They are awful.” With these simple words, you have the rare chance to create a lifetime’s worth of writing fuel, a resentment that can be relied on for years. Or, in the words of Notorious B.I.G.: “This is dedicated to all the teachers who said I’d never amount to nothin.’”
My husband wants to go camping. I, to put it mildly, do not. It is cold, it requires physical exertion, and neither of us are so young anymore. Can you recommend a book that will satisfy his Boy Scout fantasies without destroying our marriage?