Janet Groth’s The Receptionist: A Reflection

The receptionist receives. Receives what? An education, a memoir. One purpose of a memoir, a narrative of memory, might be to raise eyebrows, for it’s a tool to talk back, to reflect not only on what was taken in but to evaluate and tell on the givers, the repellers, those who dismiss, to give back some sass. One may also be received, received into, into the club; but not in Janet Groth’s case. Miss Groth, to use the New Yorker office convention of the time, was the receptionist on the writer’s floor for a little over two decades, and, never having been promoted or published or even encouraged, finally left, graduating on her own terms, storing the education for a later memoir, much later – 30 years later. Groth’s memoir has already been discussed by those in the know, but here’s a view from a different coast.

Why was Miss Groth never given “a better job” (224) at the magazine? She offers four possibilities: 1, nepotism; 2, lack of Ivy League connections; 3, lack of submissions (only three in twenty-one years, an output Joe Mitchell would however have understood); and 4, she was kept a receptionist because she was a kept receptionist – she was good and that’s where they wanted her. None of these explanations by themselves sound all that convincing, but maybe all taken together they amount to a decision deferred that becomes the dream deferred. And receptionist, in the world of business, is a feminine noun, while what’s needed to push the business forward is a masculine verb.

For a memoir to be successful, the main character must be a dynamic character; she must change from the beginning to the end. Throwing her change into relief are all the static characters she receives over time, characters that don’t change, but that remain their dismissive selves throughout, and the photos of static characters are rarely charming or lovely, and may even offer unflattering profiles.

When I think of memoir, of the self-important profile it proclaims, I also think of P. G. Wodehouse’s “Heavy Weather,” wherein “…the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, brother of the Earl of Emsworth and as sprightly an old gentleman as was ever thrown out of a Victorian music-hall, was engaged in writing the recollections of his colourful career as a man about town in the nineties, the shock to the many now highly respectable members of the governing classes who in their hot youth had shared it was severe. All over the country decorous Dukes and steady Viscounts, who had once sown wild oats in the society of the young Galahad, sat quivering in their slippers at the thought of what long-cuboarded skeletons those Reminiscences might disclose.”

Not to worry in the Wodehouse world, for Galahad has already sent a note to his publisher:  “Dear Sir, Enclosed find cheque for the advance you paid me on those Reminiscences of mine. I have been thinking it over, and have decided not to publish them after all.” But what then develops is indeed a bit of nepotism in the publishing world as the memoir in question becomes a pig to nobble, even as there are real pigs to nobble as the plot unfolds.

We don’t know what Groth has held back, of course, but she wants to persuade us she’s told most of the story. That story is not only about a receptionist, but about an existential (she confides she once wanted to be a female Camus) question: shall we be defined by the roles received from our parents, where we come from, or from our employers, our tribe or our set, or will we, like Huckleberry Finn, “light out for the territory” and define for ourself what it means to be ourself, refusing to receive any other’s limiting or corralled view of us? Yet what of the receptionist who can’t stop receiving? Who will tell her memoir?

The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker,” by Janet Groth. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012. 229 pages.

Related Posts: Women Under the Glass Ceiling: Parity and Power in the Pipeline

The Glass Guitar Ceiling: Rolling Stone’s “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”

 

The Twitterers (after Walter De La Mare’s “The Listeners”)

The Twitterers (after Walter De La Mare’s “The Listeners“)

“Is there anybody following?” twitted the Twitterer,
Twitting on the backlit laptop;
And his cat in the silence watched the empty light of the screen
Of the laptop’s infinite face.
And an ad popped up out of a modal window,
About the Twitterer’s eyes:

He twitted again, blinking his eyes;
“Is there anyone following?” asked the Twitterer.
But no one twitted back inside his white window;
No comment from the rotting laptop
Popped out of the blank light to interface,
Where he sat, eyes pulled to the screen.

But only a virtual host of phantom followers behind the screen,
Dwelling eyes dwelling within the one lonely eye,
Sat following in silence on the blank laptop face
To that twit from the world of men twittering:
Sat following in the light of the laptop,
That glows with unsleep through the window,

Disturbing the web in a twittering window,
By the twittering Twitterer’s twittering screen.
And he saw his strangeness in his laptop,
And their weirdness, through their eyes
Moving in white and blue background twitter,
Even the cat transfixed by the cursor blinking in the face;

He suddenly twittered again, his face
Lifting from the laptop’s window.
To his cat he twittered:
“I stayed as long as reasonable at my screen.”
Never once did the followers bare their eyes,
Every twitter he twitted from his laptop

Fell into the echo deep in the heart of the laptop
To the one man whose twittering face
Saw a blank set of eyes,
And heard the cat scratching at the window,
And felt the whistle filling with white light the blank screen
When the cat twitted off leaving the Twitterer

Sitting at his laptop staring at a blank window,
His face at one with the blank screen,
His eyes ever alert for the next twitter.

Unmoving Literary Works; or, Needs Editing, “Ha Ha Ha”

“Ulysses could have done with a good editor,” Roddy Doyle said, fed up with all the attention Joyce gets to the neglect of other Irish writers. “I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it [Ulysses],” Doyle said. Roddy was just stirring up the stew, tossing in some new ingredients, and no need to cook it so long over an open fire. Let’s eat; I’m hungry. But what of Paul Coelho; what’s his beef with Joyce? “Ulysses is pure style. There is nothing there,” Coelho said. We introduced the topic in Monday’s post: must a work “move” the reader to have literary value?

In his On the Sublime, Longinus says, “The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport. At every time and in every way imposing speech, with the spell it throws over us, prevails over that which aims at persuasion and gratification.”

Ha Ha Ha! Take that, Coelho!

Yet Longinus also says, “In life nothing can be considered great which it is held great to despise.” But does the reader despise Joyce’s Ulysses for its “pure style”? Longinus said “that is really great which bears a repeated examination, and which it is difficult or rather impossible to withstand, and the memory of which is strong and hard to efface.” Is this true of Ulysses? And, if not, would editing help?

Longinus lists “five principal sources of elevated language:…the power of forming great conceptions…vehement and inspired passion…the due formation of figures, first those of thought and secondly those of expression…noble diction…[and] the fifth cause of elevation…is dignified and elevated composition.”

Can we edit one or more of Longinus’s principal sources of elevated language out of Ulysses and still expect something sublime to emerge?

But what of the idea that for a work of literature to be considered “great” it must “move” the reader? I began thinking of literary works that we might consider great yet don’t move the reader. I selected those works whose design seems to match up to Longinus’s ideas of the sublime and elevated language but also at the same time might, using Doyle’s critical voice as expressed in the Guardian article, have “done with a good editor.” Here’s the list, annotated with wry comments using the “must move to be good” literary critical voice:

1. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville: Edit out all that business about whaling, surely included simply to fatten the thing up, so Melville could boast he had written a big book. But the real problem is, can anyone be moved by the killing of a mad sailor by a vengeful whale? What has this to do with the price of a loaf of bread and a bottle of beer at the local grocery?

2. The Trial, by Franz Kafka: Well, it’s a trial reading it. And who was ever moved by a trial, particularly one that had no ending?

3. Three Novels (Malloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable), by Samuel Beckett: Triple play of boredom, the reader thrown out at every base, a runner that never reaches home plate. The work defines constipation, the antithesis of being moved.

4. Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon: Where are those scissors?

Still, there’s something to the topic that invites comment. What is good? Should a work be considered good simply because it achieves its objectives, even if those objectives lack sentiment and fail to move? Or should we keep looking, for those books that are both “pure style” and contain enough sentiment to be considered moving? How about Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury?

Related Post: Coelho & Doyle on Joyce

From Longinus’s On the Sublime, Chapter 1: “As I am writing to you, good friend, who are well versed in literary studies, I feel almost absolved from the necessity of premising at any length that sublimity is a certain distinction and excellence in expression, and that it is from no other source than this that the greatest poets and writers have derived their eminence and gained an immortality of renown. 4. The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport. At every time and in every way imposing speech, with the spell it throws over us, prevails over that which aims at persuasion and gratification. Our persuasions we can usually control, but the influences of the sublime bring power and irresistible might to bear, and reign supreme over every hearer. Similarly, we see skill in invention, and due order and arrangement of matter, emerging as the hard-won result not of one thing nor of two, but of the whole texture of the composition, whereas Sublimity flashing forth at the right moment scatters everything before it like a thunderbolt, and at once displays the power of the orator in all its plenitude.”

Coelho & Doyle on Joyce

Every person alive has a story, but some don’t have voices. But there are many ways to tell a story, and stories can be told without words. Still, for the story to emerge, the storyteller must develop some kind of voice, allowing others access to their text – again, even if the text is without words. But some persons with voices remain unaware of their story, even as their story is read or enjoyed or devoured and repeated by others. Still others may be aware of their stories and have voices but choose not to share. Can all these stories be told, and who will tell these stories, using what voice?

I am moved this morning to tell this story as a consequence of a Twitter “interaction”: “Well, about Coelho, what can we say?” For I had re-tweeted a tweet calling attention to a Guardian Books post quoting the Brazilian writer Paul Coelho: “One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit.” The same article refers to a previous Guardian article, an interview with the Irish writer Roddy Doyle, who said: “You know people are always putting Ulysses in the top 10 books ever written but I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it.”

I think part of Roddy’s point, in the context of the interview, was to bemoan all the attention Joyce has received over the years, possibly to the neglect of other Irish writers just as deserving of readers’ attention. But both Coelho’s and Doyle’s criticism of Ulysses is grounded in their literary values – they think that for a literary work to have value, the reader should be moved, changed, brought to tears or laughter, that we should leave the theatre wanting to change our lives or somebody else’s life. For a story to be good, the Coelho-Doyle argument goes, the voice must be immediately recognizable, accessible, and force feelings to surface in the audience. And since Ulysses, for most readers, probably doesn’t do that, it’s not a good book, and since it’s nevertheless received so much recognition and so many writers have tried to use Joyce’s voice, it’s been harmful because it’s diminished the development of other voices, voices that might have reached readers and transformed their lives.

I’m reminded of the barbershop on Center Street in El Segundo, where I once dropped in to get a haircut. It was a one chair shop, and someone else was in the chair, so I had to wait, and while I waited, I listened in on what amounted to a lesson in art criticism. The barber had hung on the wall a painting of a mountain lake. “And I have a photograph of that very spot,” the barber said. “And if I hang both of them side by side, I defy you to tell me which one is the photograph and which one is the painting.”

Related Posts: Where Winston Churchill meets Roddy Doyle; or, the Library is not a Zoo. The Elite and the Effete: From Access to Egress.

To Whom It May Concern: An Invitation to Silence and Composition

John Cage dedicated his lectures and writing collected in Silence “To Whom It May Concern.” As it turns out, it concerns everyone, though most of us do our utmost to ignore it. Yet Silence is still in print, and the amorphous, variable audience Cage invoked in his dedication continues to grow. But if we can’t ask anything specific about Cage’s intended audience, can we at least ask, what is it that may concern us? When asked what Cage’s Silence is about, I usually say it’s about composition, the way we arrange things.

A recent neighborhood atlas project by students in the CAGE Lab (no relationship to John) contains a noise map of San Francisco neighborhoods. The atlas is a form of composition, an arrangement of nouns and verbs and objects, labeled to “tell different stories.” A map is a composition. Noise is usually heard symmetrically, but some in the audience may hear asymmetrically; concentric noise, proceeding in wave-circles, gets confused, as sound bounces and ricochets (gives and takes), pouring into one ear, squeezing into another. Composition is dynamic; silence is static. Sound is not linear (line-ear).

jOhN cAGE was born in 1912, and there’s much ado about his 100th birthday year at the John Cage site.

Related Post: On the Noise of Argument, where John Cage meets Seneca; or, There is No Silence – Bound to Sound

“Penina’s Letters” at The Boulevard

A short excerpt from Chapter Two, “The Truth of Things,” from Penina’s Letters, a novel in progress, is now up at The Boulevard, a publication of the Hawthorne Fellows at the Attic Institute: A Haven for Writers.

Click here to read “The Truth of Things.”

I’m a Hawthorne Fellow at the Attic Institute for the period April though August, working on a novel, Penina’s Letters. For information on the Hawthorne Fellows, click on the Attic door below. They are accepting applications now for the next Fellows period, Oct. through Feb., 2012-13.

Related Post: “Penina’s Letters”: Hawthorne Fellows at The Attic Institute

Baseball Drought Hits Northwest

A baseball drought has hit the Northwest. We were already baseball-less in Portland, thanks to the absurd soccer league rule prohibiting sharing the field with baseball, as if a professional, major league sport has ever been an unadulterated enterprise. But politics, power, and prestige roam the outfield, and Ichiro, iconic favorite of a generation of Seattle Mariner fans, will soon suit up in pinstripes.

Wait! The Yankees are scheduled to play the Mariners in Seattle tonight! Will Ichiro suit up in a Yankee uniform tonight, the same day the trade was announced? Wow! That’s almost like switching sides in the middle of a game.

It now looks like the 2012 season will fall to the Yankees, as of today playing .600 ball. Still, it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

I attended the Mariners’ opening day game in April of 2004, and I caught a foul ball off the bat of Ichiro. I was sitting on the third base side. Ichiro, a left handed batter, hit a hard line drive that curved over the heads of the section to my right, scattering fans, hit the chairs, bounced around, rolled into the aisle, and bounced a couple of steps down, where I swung out of my seat, into the aisle, and scooped it up.

But now, we are Ichiro-less in Seattle, and the baseball drought in the Northwest shows no signs of abating.

Update, 6:44 pm: Ichiro will suit up as a Yankee and play versus the Mariners tonight. The blog is not Twitter, not a box score. Oh, well, so it goes. Good luck, Ichiro.

Update, 10:14 pm: Ichiro goes 1 for 4 in Yankee grey, in 4 to 1 win, Yanks over M’s, M’s held to 3 hits.

Related Post: Baseball and the Parts of Speech

Stuffed Post

Jacket & Guitar: Not for Sale

Caroline Knapp’s short article with a long title, “Why We Keep Stuff: If You Want to Understand People, Take a Look at What They Hang On To,” is stuffed with stuff. The word stuff appears 28 times in the three page, short essay. The topic turns on a reflection, moving from funny to serious: yes, we keep stuff we no longer need or can no longer use, but to rid ourselves of our old, useless and cumbersome stuff, is “to say goodbye to a person I used to be.” An example used to illustrate stuff she’ll never be able to use again is her metaphorical pair of jeans: “…tiny, cigarette-legged jeans….” A cigarette is stuffed with tobacco, the paper tight and long and slender, skinny. Cigarettes are lethal, as might be the effort required, as one grows older, and fatter, to stuff oneself into one’s youthful jeans. The metaphorical jeans in my closet hang in the form of my Navy flight jacket. No, I wasn’t a pilot: in the early 70s, I traded my Army field jacket for the flight jacket with a ship’s supply sergeant. I wore it for years, and I remember when I stopped wearing it, a few years after I got a desk job. “I grow old … I grow old …,” Prufrock said, “I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” I purchased the guitar in the photo at the top of this paragraph about 40 years ago, for $25. I played it until I first started taking classical lessons, around 1980, but set it aside when I got a new Takamine (C132S, built in 1977 – I bought it used). The much cheaper Orlando, the guitar in the photo, is now a take-to-the-beach guitar, but otherwise does not get played, but it goes with the jacket, which is to say, I’m not ready to get rid of either one. According to Knapp, that should help you understand me.

The Maltese Cat

I’m not sure why we keep stuff we no longer need or can no longer use. In Portland, maybe we’re just not sure what color cart it’s supposed to go into. Knapp’s argument contains a basic assumption of utilitarian value, while shows like “Antiques Roadshow” have us all hoping that our Maltese falcon is the real deal. But much of what we keep would seem to have little to do with commensurate monetary value. What should we keep? Earlier this year, I was reading Thoreau’s “Walden” and Fuller’s “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.” The two transcendentalists, alike in so many ways, had opposing viewpoints when it came to what to keep, Thoreau arguing for simplicity, while Fuller never threw anything away. At the end of John Huston’s film “The Maltese Falcon,” when asked about the falcon, “It’s heavy; what is it?,” detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) says, “Stuff that dreams are made of.” The famous line from the film is not in Dashiell Hammett’s book. The line is adapted from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest“:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay’d: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex’d;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb’d with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I’ll walk,
To still my beating mind (Act IV, Scene 1, lines 146-163).

Books over TV

“Stuff, stuff, I am surrounded by stuff,” Knapp begins her essay “Why We Keep Stuff,” and I think: Books, books, I am surrounded by books. “Stuff I don’t need, stuff I don’t use,” Knapp goes on. Books I don’t need? Books I don’t read? I have let books go, in spite of what the place stuffed with books might look like, but have almost always come to regret their leaving. Still, of all the stuff my place is stuffed with, the books are probably the stuffiest, so why do I keep them, the ones I’ll probably never even pull down off the shelves again, let alone read? Could it be the books are stuffed with secrets?

All this talk about stuff has me hungry. My stuffed thoughts wander down to my stomach. I’m thinking now of stuffed foods: for breakfast, pigs in a blanket; for lunch, a potato stuffed with last night’s leftover chili; for supper, stuffed cabbage rolls rolling in tomato sauce; for dinner, bell peppers stuffed with spanish rice mixed with jalapeno, garlic, and basil; and for snacks, grape leaves stuffed with crushed raspberries and yogurt.

What else do we stuff? Sock drawers, the dishwasher, the washing machine, trash bags and garbage cans, purses and wallets and pockets, makeup kits, the car for the beach trip, the trunk and the glovebox, Christmas stockings. The environment accumulates the stuff of our detritus – the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, for example. But even if left alone, nature accumulates her own stuff.

But only we stuff time. What does time, unstuffed, feel like? “The trick,” Knapp concludes, “is to learn to manage stuff, the same way you learn to manage fears and feelings.” Yes, like time management, yet, “Throw away the lights, the definitions,” Wallace Stevens said, in “The Man With the Blue Guitar.” “And say of what you see in the dark…,” uncluttered with stuff, he might have added.

See Knapp’s The Merry Recluse, Counterpoint, 2004; “Why We Keep Stuff” was originally published in Boston Phoenix, June, 1991.

Related posts: What Should We Keep? The R. Buckminster Fuller Archive; An Economy of One’s Own.

The Phrenological Slope of the Post

Do some blog-brains have a pronounced proclivity propelling profuse postings, and can the inclination be felt in the shape of their skulls? A blogger has fallen from grace with the blogging sea. I’ve been meaning to post on the phenom, and even though it’s old news in today’s Blogger Ocean, where tides rise and fall every few minutes instead of twice a day, here goes.

Phrenology was taken for a serious science in the late 1800s, and occupied thinkers from all occupations. I first learned about phrenology back at CSUDH, reading “Moby Dick” in an American Lit. class taught by Abe Ravitz. The idea behind phrenology was that a person’s predilections, proclivities, and personality could be read by feeling the shapes of the person’s head, its bumps and curves and slopes. The person doing the feeling was the phrenologist. There may be some basis for comparing the phrenology of the 19th Century to the neuroscience of the 21st.

Can a blogger post too much? Frequent blogging appears to be an acceptable practice as long as the blogger does not repeat posts, but there are rules within rules, so it is okay to repeat a post as long as the previous post is properly cited, even if the post is one’s own. A post of one’s own should not (recent criticism makes clear) with a change of venue be presented as a new post. So, what bump within the neuroscience journalist Jonah Lehrer’s head provoked the young but already venerable writer and speaker from doing just that? What pressures build in the brain from the habit of frequent posting?

I’ve been reading Jonah’s blog, The Frontal Cortex, for some time. The first time I mentioned it in the Toads, I hasten to cite, was on November 21, 2009, in a post titled “This Is Your Brain on Books.” Your brain on posts, apparently, looks and feels differently. I still like Jonah’s work, and find much of the recent criticism following his reposting old posts and ideas previously sounded elsewhere to his blog following a change of venue to The New Yorker somewhat opportunistic (taking advantage of the breaking news to call out Jonah on issues having nothing to do with the current topic), exaggerated (sounding like the Queen in “Alice”), and off point.

The electronic world never sleeps. Surely, the brain feels this, and posting can be addictive, and so can the attention a writer might crave. Over at Twitter, we find writers whose followers number in the thousands. One simply can’t “follow back” that many tweeters, certainly not at the frequency many tweeters are known for. This is seen in blogs also. Does the blogger really want to write the blog everyone follows? In blogs begin responsibilities (follow link, and see Delmore Schwartz).

The best critical review of the Jonah Lehrer self-plagiarism issue I found at Slate, in an article by Josh Levin titled “Why Did Jonah Lehrer Plagiarize Himself? Because he stopped being a writer and became an idea man.” Levin says, in the last paragraph of his article: “A blog is merciless, requiring constant bursts of insight.” This is true of the daily blog, the hourly post, or every minute the blogger is awake blog. But Levin is even more brutally honest: “Most of us journalists have one great idea every few months….” But there are so many different kinds of blogs, dedicated to so many pursuits. But maybe all blogs break down to two basic kinds, the serious (series, < Latin, promotions; ex ordine, no break) and the not so serious (enough posting for today; want to do some yard work). And where will the Toads go, adrift on the Blogger Ocean?

Follow-up, Jul 31, 2012: My sister Barb just sent me this from a Guardian blog: “Journalist resigns for fabricating Bob Dylan quotes.” The journalist? Jonah Lehrer.

On hasty writing and reading

I was struck by Louis Menand’s comment in his review of Douglas Brinkley’s biography of Walter Cronkite (New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012), that “…’Cronkite’ (HarperCollins), is long and hastily written… (88).” I wasn’t surprised, though, for US culture is Menand’s turf, and his own output, if the measurement means anything, is dwarfed by Brinkley’s in a ratio of about 4:1. Voluminous output doesn’t prove haste. Some writers are long distance runners. But after two decades of churning out a book a year, one’s writing might start to limp. Journalism with daily deadlines often produces its own unique values.

Occasionally, I read something I think might have been hastily written. Hasty writing might result in a piece that is inaccurate, sloppy, shallow, or simply difficult to read. Hasty sounds short, but hasty writing might be too long or too short. I recently started Sean Wilentz’s “Bob Dylan in America” (DoubleDay, 2010). On page 32, we are told that Bob’s father, Abe, “had a good job working as a senior manager for the Standard Oil Company, and he ran the company union.” But then, in the very next paragraph, we are told that as Bob’s father “…was in the appliance business, his family became the first in town to own a television, in 1952.” What happened to the “good job” with Standard Oil? And how is it that a corporate manager ran the employee union? But I don’t think Wilentz’s book was hastily written, necessarily. The problem is hinted at in his rambling introduction, where he tries to explain the difficulty and danger inherent in writing a history so vast one risks falling into encyclopedic mode.

Janet Groth’s “The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker” (Algonquin, 2012) is a lovely book, and, I suspect, not hastily written, but, again, some writers have a talent for producing smooth running prose that runs for miles and miles without a bump or the need for a rest stop. Janet’s chapter on Joe Mitchell is a comment on haste, for Mitchell seems to have rolled to a complete stop, and for a couple of decades lingered on the side of the road, unwilling to succumb to haste just to get a word out. But enough of that metaphor. The language of “The Receptionist” I suspect is labored over to produce a period sound, a sound that doesn’t always strike my ear as natural, but that language seems appropriate to the era and the subject, and provides a stunning canvas for the memoirist’s vitalic paints.

The blog, as a mode, is a hothouse for hasty writing. I note this particularly in some of the academic blogs I follow, where the language is not so much written but talked into the post, talked in a rambling, lecture-like way, and the posts are almost always too long. These are writers who never had to write for a living, nor consider a general interest audience.

A non-academic and enjoyable blog I’ve been following, titled “The Literary Man” (and associated, obscurely, apparently, since it’s an anonymous blog – and I don’t usually follow the anonymous or pseudonymous, since it’s difficult enough discerning what’s really going on even when one knows the writer – with The New Yorker; and I wonder what Janet would think of the blog’s title, considering her 40 or so male writers on the 18th floor to the 6 or so female), recently posted a kind of poster-post titled “What’s a book hangover?” A book hangover, the post tells us, is the ache produced when looking up to find one has finished reading the book one was so into, suddenly caste adrift back in the real world.

Being “into” a book is a good feeling. Perhaps that’s why I keep so many going at once, in no haste to finish any of them.