October 11th, 2007

"It's a gig."

That's a quote from a response Lucius wrote in the discussion thread to his post below.  It could be the slogan of the freelance writer.  

I occasionally review movies, but most of my freelance reviewing (as with fellow Inferiors Hand and DiFi) is books.  And I also end up reading a lot of books for other purposes:  writing cover copy, interviewing authors for publishers' websites, writing reading group guides.  But the point is, like Lucius, I wind up being exposed to a lot of stuff I would never pick up on my own, for a variety of reasons.  Maybe it's just not my cup of tea.  Or maybe it's something by an author whose previous work I haven't enjoyed or have downright hated.  Doesn't matter.  It's a gig.

But it's impossible to separate the threads of our creative lives completely.  The stuff I read for professional reasons, rather than by choice, nonetheless ends up contributing to my overall idea of what it means to be a writer, including aesthetic and political concerns.  What I've found, somewhat to my surprise, is that exposure to the crap (by my definition) has helped me to be more discerning in my critical judgments and, in a weird way, less arrogant in making them.  Or not less arrogant, because I can still be pretty damn arrogant, but maybe less condescending would be a better way to put it.  I suppose you could argue that the relentless drip-drip-drip of the bad and the mediocre has simply worn away the sharp edges of any critical faculty I may once have possessed, but I don't think that's the case.  I think it's given me a much broader view of the field than I otherwise could have had, and given me a sense of the likes and dislikes of a wider readership.

posted by paulw

It's Lessing

Just saw that Doris Lessing has won the Nobel for Literature.  A not indefensible choice, albeit quite a bit on the late side.  The author turns 88 later this month and although still writing hasn't produced anything of real significance in a long time.  So it's kind of a placeholder award, in my opinion, but not a scandalous one.  

In The Golden Notebook, The Four-Gated City, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, and The Summer Before the Dark, just to name my favorites of her work, Lessing wrote books of real impact and enduring power.  I'm not going to point to her influence as a proto-feminist writer, and her repudiation or anyway qualification of the feminist label, but at least she's one mainstream writer who never disparaged science fiction.  When she tried to do it, in the Canopus books, I think she failed, and failed badly though interestingly.  But many of her works had elements that would be quite at home in the New Wave, which is the time period in which Four-Gated City, Briefing, and Summer were written, along with Memoirs of a Survivor.  

Here's an interesting interview, conducted by Joyce Carol Oates, from 1973, when Lessing was at the height of her powers. 

Cheers, Ms. Lessing!

posted by paulw

Dancer from the dance

Are you right brained or left brained?  The ballerina knows all, tells all!  

I'm apparently right brained, though I can make the dancer switch back and forth with a little effort.  I'll bet you can too.

Don't do it too long, though, or you may wind up feeling a mite dizzy!

posted by paulw