Ramblings & ephemera

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

James Dickey on the personalities of poets

From Franklin Ashley’s interview of James Dickey in “The Art of Poetry No. 20” (The Paris Review: Spring 1976, No. 65): INTERVIEWER: You’ve known a great many poets personally. Do you find some common characteristic—in their madness, their vision, their discipline? DICKEY: I would have to put the answer in the form of a paradox. […]

James Ellroy on how he writes

From Nathaniel Rich’s “Interviews: James Ellroy, The Art of Fiction No. 201” (The Paris Review: Fall 2009): I begin by sitting in the dark. I used to sleep on the living-room couch. There was a while when that was the only place I felt safe. My couch is long because I’m tall, and it needs […]

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010): Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but […]

Errol Morris on film noir

From Errol Morris’s “Film Legend Errol Morris Salutes New Graduates At 2010 Commencement” (Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: 10 May 2010): There are many things I liked about noir. But in particular, there are images of one benighted character after another struggling to make sense of the world – and sometimes failing in the effort. […]

The dangers of loyalty based on personality, not policies

This quotation is directly about politics, but it’s about anyone – or even anything – we emotionally attach ourselves to. From Glenn Greenwald’s “My friend the president” (Salon: 8 December 2009): Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are […]

David Foster Wallace on leadership

From David Foster Wallace’s “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys And The Shrub: Seven Days In The Life Of The Late, Great John McCain” (Rolling Stone: 13 April 2000): The weird thing is that the word “leader” itself is cliché and boring, but when you come across somebody who actually is a real leader, that person isn’t […]

Gottman on relationships

From THE MATHEMATICS OF LOVE: A Talk with John Gottman (Edge: 14 April 2004): So far, his surmise is that “respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them. It may differ from culture to culture how to communicate respect, and how to communicate affection, and how not to do it, […]

Social networking and “friendship”

From danah boyd’s “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites” (First Monday: December 2006) John’s reference to “gateway Friends” concerns a specific technological affordance unique to Friendster. Because the company felt it would make the site more intimate, Friendster limits users from surfing to Profiles beyond four degrees […]

Cheating, security, & theft in virtual worlds and online games

From Federico Biancuzzi’s interview with security researchers Greg Hoglund & Gary McGraw, authors of Exploiting Online Games, in “Real Flaws in Virtual Worlds” (SecurityFocus: 20 December 2007): The more I dug into online game security, the more interesting things became. There are multiple threads intersecting in our book: hackers who cheat in online games and […]

More on Slab City

From Evelyn Nieves’s “Slab City Journal; For Thousands, a Town of Concrete Slabs Is a Winter Retreat” (The New York Times: 18 February 2001): Every winter, when the Winnebagos and pickups shake the desert off Beal Road like a small earthquake, Ben Morofsky gets wistful for the 120-degree days of summer, and the peace of […]

The end of days in Slab City

From Charlie LeDuff’s “Parked in a Desert, Waiting Out the Winter of Life” (The New York Times: 17 December 2004): Directions to purgatory are as follows: from Los Angeles drive east past Palm Springs into the bowels of the Mojave Desert. Turn south at the stench of the Salton Sea. Proceed down Highway 111 to […]

Arnold Rothstein, criminal kingpin

From Daniel A. Nathan’s “The Big Fix” (Legal Affairs: March/April 2004): THE BLACK SOX SCANDAL was the sports crime of the 20th century. In a complicated and poorly conceived and executed conspiracy, several prominent Chicago White Sox ballplayers teamed up with gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. … Of those […]

James Jesse Strang, Mormon King of Michigan

From Geoffrey Gagnon’s “King James I, of Michigan” (Legal Affairs: September/October 2005): One letter that isn’t on display is the one that James Jesse Strang said he received from Smith just before the Mormon leader was murdered in June 1844. In the letter, which now resides in a university library, Smith bequeaths the nascent Mormon […]

The most volatile compound known to man

From The New Yorker‘s “The Disappearing Poet” (4 July 2005): There is no more volatile compound known to man than that of decorum and despair. — Anthony Lane, on Weldon Kees

Weldon Kees, polymath

From The New Yorker‘s “The Disappearing Poet” (4 July 2005): [Weldon] Kees himself was toiling on a script, a spy thriller called “Gadabout” … Kees was introduced as “Mr. Weldon Kees, poet, painter, artist, etcetera, composer, critic, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.”

Laws & enforcement in virtual worlds

From James Grimmelmann’s “Life, Death, and Democracy Online“: … The necessity of a ‘Quit’ option is obvious; no adventure game yet invented can force an unwilling player to continue playing. She can always give the game the three-finger salute, flip the power switch, or throw her computer in the junk heap. … Banishment is the […]