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William Faulkner’s Drinking Was A Matter Of National Security

Times they have a-changed, friends.

In today’s “image means everything” political climate, I can’t imagine the United States sending a drunken author overseas as an official ambassador. In the 1950s, though? No problem.

Over at Slate, Greg Barhisel discusses how, during the Cold War, many American authors traveled around the globe as ambassadors for the United States—meeting with foreign diplomats and dignitaries. Their purpose? To show that “America wasn’t just Mickey Mouse and chewing gum.” Read more

Conversations With Marilynne Robinson

Today’s video comes courtesy of the University of Iowa and the Big Ten Network.

As an aside, who knew the Big Ten network produced high-brow literature pieces like this? I thought it was strictly sports.

As an SEC guy, I’ve got to say—um, where you at SEC? Let’s get some William Faulkner documentaries sandwiched in between college baseball games this spring!

Anyway, Marilynne Robinson is on faculty at the University of Iowa and, five years ago, she was interviewed as part of the “Conversations from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop” series.

She talks about her three famous novels—Housekeeping, Gilead and Home—as well as her writing process. It’s an excellent interview if you have the time. Read more

What’s Your Rules On Spoilers?

Back when the new Great Gatsby movie was coming out, I wrote a post with a story about a friend who complained when I ruined the plot for him.

Basically, as I was talking about the movie, I mentioned that Gatsby died. My friend had never seen the movie, nor read the book, so this was all news to him. He jokingly accused me of “spoiling” the plot.

So in that old post, I asked whether or not there’s a statute of limitations on spoiler alerts. I mean, after a novel’s been out 90 years, can’t we stop dancing around spoilers? Read more

Bookish Pet Peeve #9: Snobby Authors

I would imagine that all of us, whether we’ll admit it or not, have a snobby bone or two in our bodies.

I struggle with book snobbery at times. I’ve written about it in one of my previous pet peeves, and I’ll admit—when it comes to books like Twilight and such—I can be a snob. But I’m not proud of it.

My friend won’t drink beer with any sort of fruit or spice in it other than chocolate or coffee. I don’t get that. On other hand, I won’t drink his go-to beer of choice, PBR. I think it’s disgusting. Snobbery is everywhere and in almost every area of life.

To me, though, the absolute worst snobs are high-brow authors. Many of them are basically your condescending English professor—if he or she had actually written a novel or two and had a large platform/audience that follows them.

Take Joyce Carol Oates, for example. I’ll put her following tweet down as possibly the most condescending, pompous tweet about literature in Twitter’s short history. Read more

Does Fear Hold You Back?

If you think about it, how much of what we do in our daily lives is motivated by fear?

In an interview with Wyatt Mason for The New York Times in October 2014, Robinson talked about how the emotion of fear has infiltrated our culture like never before. Read more

Fun With Word Counts

This blog post is 133 words.

The average article I write for my day job is around 600 words.

The estimated word count on the book I’m pitching to agents is 50,000 words.

All that to say some of the word counts in the following infographic from Electric Literature blow my mind.

Some examples: Read more

“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow.”

So I wasn’t crazy about the opening paragraph in Housekeeping, as I explained recently.

But as I mentioned in that same post, Marilynne Robinson’s writing style is much less choppy, much more poetic, throughout the rest of the book.

Almost all the characters in Housekeeping have a great sense of loneliness and longing. It’s a melancholy novel.

Here’s one of the more beautifully written, poetic passages from the novel: Read more

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