Thursday, September 25, 2008

Three Good Reads

Brian Doyle, a gifted writer I've been following since we were fellow university editors (he remains one), offers this brilliant take in the tony Kenyon Review on that most mordant of all writerly subjects--rejection letters. Meanwhile, in last weekend's New York Times magazine, writer and faculty member David Gessner explores what's lost and gained from writing "in captivity"--as a member of a university faculty. And David Letterman submits to a rare interview, offering Rolling Stone readers a glimpse into the mind of a man who remains an enigma for many, but a pleasing one nonetheless. You can review earlier TGRs here. Wondering how this feature got started? We explained that in the inaugural voyage, here.

12 Comments:

At 11:24 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

"It’s fine for writing teachers to talk in self-help jargon about how their lives require 'balance' and 'shifting gears' between teaching and writing, but below that civil language lurks the uncomfortable fact that the creation of literature requires a degree of monomania, and that it is, at least in part, an irrational enterprise. It’s hard to throw your whole self into something when that self has another job."

Now there's a great discussion!

Thanks for pointing out the Gessner piece!

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Not surprisingly, you've seized on the real heart of the long article, the passage that most caught my attention as well. I especially loved his use of precisely the right word here: monomania. No other word quite zeroes in on what it really entails as that one does.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

"... Long article ..."

Well, he is an academic ...

Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

I'm just sayin' ...

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, actually he's not an academic. While he works for a university, he'd be classified as a staff member, and reports not to an academic department but to the alumni/development/fundraising arm. While he may perhaps teach a class occasionally for all I know, that's not his primary focus. In other words, like us, he's a full-blown civilian, TJ.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

Oof! Well, then ... Get that man an editor :)

 
At 11:45 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

So you're a fan of shorter and tighter, I see. I'm agnostic on that point, I suppose. Mostly because we've all had the experience of reading 3,000 word magazine pieces that we didn't want to end, and 750-word pieces that seemed flat, lifeless and too long. What matters to me is how good they are, how unpadded they feel, how much value they deliver. And those come in all lengths, I think.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

I agree. If it's long, it better deserve to be long.

That's one of the problems with the daily print-news delivery process that the Internet promises to wipe away — the necessity of pre-assigned story lengths.

How many of us have had to stretch 14-inch stories to fit 20-inch newsholes on deadline? Or the opposite ... squeezing a complex 20-inch story into what was budgeted as a brief.

 
At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Vincent O'Keefe said...

John,

Thanks for pointing out the great reads. As someone who escaped the "captivity" of academia only to experience the even stranger "captivity" of stay-at-home parenting (while still trying to write), I appreciate direct links to good reads!

My favorite highlight from Brian Doyle: "No one ever talks about the paternal aspect of being a writer, the sending of your children off into the world . . ."

And from David Gessner: "A great writer, after all, must travel daily to a mental subcontinent, must rip into the work, experiencing the exertion of it, the anxiety of it and, once in a blue moon, the glory of it."

I agree that writer as "monomaniac" is rich.

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

TJ, you said it. It has to earn its length. That's a fairly simple concept. Vince! How great to see your name in the comments. Long time no chat. And don't feel too bad: we're all captive of some system or environment. It's just a question of pick your poison. As a newly empty-nest parent, I actually now find myself idealizing the years you're now experiencing with your kids, as you no doubt will eventually too. Life, and parenthood, is a long journey, so just try to enjoy the part you find yourself on at the moment.

Please share some of your latest writing, if you care to. I'd love to post it for all to see, if it's available online. Thanks for dropping by to say hello.

 
At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Vincent O'Keefe said...

John,

Thanks for the encouraging words. As for my work, I've had a few Back Page Essays recently in Northern Ohio Live (July, March), but I don't believe they're available online. I've also begun working on a memoir.

Talk to you again soon.

 
At 8:15 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Vince, we'll certainly look forward to reading that memoir when (like the wine commercial says) it's time.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home