Ramblings & ephemera

Talk about Markdown to SLUUG this Wednesday

I’ll be giving a talk to the St. Louis UNIX Users Group next Wednesday night about Markdown, a tool I absolutely love. You’re invited to come. Please do – I think you’ll definitely learn a lot. Date: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 Time: 6:30 – 9 pm Where: 11885 Lackland Rd., St Louis, MO 63146 Map: […]

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

Reading the impenetrable too fast

From Lee Siegel, quoted in Juliet Lapidos’s “Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on ‘great books’ that aren’t all that great” (Slate: 11 August 2011): It was like Herbert Marcuse’s advice to a despairing graduate student who said he had spent days on a sentence in Hegel and still couldn’t understand it: “You’re reading too fast,” […]

Shelby Foote on what comes first: character or plot

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): INTERVIEWER Which comes first, character or plot? FOOTE Character comes first. I separate the mass of novels into good and bad. A good book could be described as one […]

Shelby Foote’s advice to young writers

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): INTERVIEWER What kind of advice would you give young writers? FOOTE To read, and above all to reread. When you read, you get the great pleasure of discovering what […]

Shelby Foote on the poor writing by academic historians

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): Now it sounds as if I’m making an all-out attack against academic historians. I am making some attack on them for their lack of concern about learning how to […]

Richard Ford on how to deal with mythical narratives

From Bonnie Lyons’s interview of Richard Ford in “The Art of Fiction No. 147” (The Paris Review: Fall 1996, No. 140): …when you start manipulating mythical narratives, whether you blunder into them or you do it by calculation, you’d better—to be in control of your book—reckon with their true potency and wide reference. They haven’t […]

Philip Larkin on why you write

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): The short answer is that you write because you have to. If you rationalize it, it seems as if you’ve seen this sight, felt this feeling, had this vision, and have got to find […]

Philip Larkin on modernism

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): It seems to me undeniable that up to this century literature used language in the way we all use it, painting represented what anyone with normal vision sees, and music was an affair of […]

Tom Stoppard on the advantages of being famous

From Shusha Guppy’s interview of Tom Stoppard in “The Art of Theater No. 7” (The Paris Review: Winter 1988, No. 109): INTERVIEWER Now that you are [famous], do you still feel excited by it, or do you think it isn’t that important? STOPPARD Oh, I like it. The advantages are psychological, social, and material. The […]

Ray Bradbury on what you know & how to write

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I learned this early on. Three things are in your head: First, everything you have experienced from the day of your birth until right now. Every single second, every single hour, every single day. […]

Ray Bradbury on science fiction

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as […]

Ray Bradbury on writing in the morning

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I write all the time. I get up every morning not knowing what I’m going to do. I usually have a perception around dawn when I wake up. I have what I call the […]

Ray Bradbury on an encounter that changed his life

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined […]

Ray Bradbury on Edgar Rice Burroughs

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—[Edgar Rice] Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. INTERVIEWER Why do you […]

Richard Wilbur on Edgar Allan Poe

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): INTERVIEWER That was one of your criticisms of Poe’s poetry, wasn’t it, that it wasn’t grounded enough in the concrete. WILBUR Yes. He is hurrying away […]

Richard Wilbur on the advantages of being a poet

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): INTERVIEWER Are there what one could call advantages to being a poet? WILBUR Well, one is allowed enormous license in behavior, one is forgiven everything, one […]

Richard Wilbur on what poetry is

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): I think of poetry in terms of the compressed expression of the whole of one’s experience, all at once; the combining of things; the bringing together […]

Kurt Vonnegut on writing as practical joke

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): If you make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the basic plots available to writers

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): VONNEGUT The others aren’t that much fun to describe: somebody gets into trouble, and then gets out again; somebody loses something and gets it back; somebody is […]