Saturday, August 22, 2009

From the Times, for the poetic, the literary and the journalistic

--An anthology of poems by Wallace Stevens. He had a serious day job.

The poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), a lawyer, wrote out his poems at night, often having composed them on his morning walk to work at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (where he became a vice president)...

Stevens’s poetry oscillates, throughout his life, between verbal ebullience
and New England spareness, between the high rhetoric of England (and of
religion) and the “plain sense of things” that he sometimes felt to be more
American (and more faithful to reality). He would swear off one, then swear off the other, but each was a part of his sensibility

--Some words of support for the newspaper industry. I saw the Daily Show bit referred to here and it made me feel like I kid being teased on the playground.

There’s Alex Jones and there’s Jason Jones. The two unrelated ­Joneses offer competing commentaries on journalism in our times. Amid the hubbub about how we will get the news if newspapers keep drowning in the wrong color of ink, Alex offers a passionate but lucid analysis of where we are and where we might be going. Jason tells jokes on “The Daily Show.”

--Finally, a book on fiction writing by British writer Graham Swift. A good reminder that the author of a bad first novel can eventually write a good one.

Swift expresses surprise at his success, noting that nothing in his family background suggested any great literary feats. Still, he reports that his father, a clerical officer in the National Debt Office, did, when asked to fill out his occupation on a form, write the single expressive word “Drudgery.” Swift explains that he taught himself to write fiction — “Like rough traveling, I think the learning’s best done alone” — and was bad at it for a long time. He spent three years at York University in the early 1970s, “pulling a fast one about my doctoral intentions” that allowed him to subsist on a postgraduate grant, while he wrote his first novel and abandoned it as hopelessly awful.

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