Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: The New Yorker

Ever Heard of Literary Journalism…?

I’ve had many re-blogs here from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog… Literary Journalism

And, I’ve covered the journalism beat:

Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

Today, I’m featuring an article by John McPhee, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, has been a teacher of literary journalism, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I think regular readers here know that I think all writers can pass on valuable information to all other writers, no matter what particular kind of writing they pursue.

Let’s look at a few excerpts from McPhee’s article from The New YorkerOmission ~ Choosing what to leave out (as always, I urge readers to take advantage of perusing the full article…):

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

“Ideally, a piece of writing should grow to whatever length is sustained by its selected material—that much and no more.”

There was much of interest written about his life in journalism before that last excerpt and there is much before this one:

“…inevitably we have come to Ernest Hemingway and the tip of the iceberg—or, how to fashion critical theory from one of the world’s most venerable clichés. ‘If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’”

And, an excerpt that very well may cause many writers to deeply contemplate their writerly ways:

“The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space. Let the reader have the experience. Leave judgment in the eye of the beholder. When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out.”

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Teenagers & Reading ~ Two Views

I have, counting this post, 13 articles here that are tagged Wattpad <— go ahead, take that link and you’ll see this post plus all the others (and, if you take that link at some point in the future {and, I write about Wattpad again} you’ll see all the other ones, too :-)

More on Wattpad in a bit

There are two recent articles that both refer to a third, all about teens and reading:

First the two:

from Slate: The New Yorker Essay About How Kids Don’t Read Takes the “Get Off My Lawn” Genre to Dark New Depths

from The Guardian: Teen readers aren’t in crisis, they’re just making their own rules

Both of those articles are trying to correct the claims in the following article from The New Yorker

Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?

You can decide if you want to read the first two after I’ve shared a few excerpts from the third one:

“It’s very likely that teen-agers, attached to screens of one sort or another, read more words than they ever have in the past. But they often read scraps, excerpts, articles, parts of articles, messages, pieces of information from everywhere and from nowhere. It’s likely that they are reading fewer books.”

Remember, for later, that he said it’s likely they’re reading fewer books

“Yes, millions of kids have read Harry Potter, “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hunger Games,” and other fantasy and dystopian fictions; also vampire romance, graphic novels (some very good), young-adult novels (ditto), and convulsively exciting street lit. Yet what happens as they move toward adolescence? When they become twelve or thirteen, kids often stop reading seriously.”

Notice the broad implication about “serious” reading…

“Much of their social life, for boys as well as girls, is now conducted on smartphones, where teen-agers don’t have to confront one another.”

One more:

“Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”

O.K., I can stop excerpting now; but, if you want to read a person seriously out of touch with the teen world, you can finish that piece

Now, I want to share a link to another article, from the magazine Eater, called Here’s Anthony Bourdain’s Foreword to Marilyn Hagerty’s Book Grand Forks, and, as I share an excerpt, trust me I’ll tie all this together:

“If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling—or even the knife-edged criticism of an AA Gill or a Sam Sifton—you will not find it here.

“The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

“For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000.”

So, what does that excerpt about food snobbery and a more humble and honest food writer have to do with teens and whether they’re reading “seriously”?

First, what is “serious” reading for a teen?

Let me start before that—what is “serious” reading for a six-year-old?

Is it Shakespeare?

And, “should” teens be reading Charlotte Brontë or Ray Bradbury or Allen Ginsberg?

Maybe that writer in The New Yorker wants teens to be reading the equivalent of “rapturous food porn”

Remember that excerpt up there that said: “Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”?

Now, I can close the circle and bring Wattpad back.

There are over 40 million folks using Wattpad to read (for free) !

And, somewhere around 80% of those people are below the age of 18 !!

Plus, about 85% of those teens are reading on their smartphones !!!

And, for me, the real clincher is that most of those roughly 32 million teens are also writing on Wattpad !!!!


Just ran out of !s…

So, my experience of Wattpad includes teens and they read my serious books and they leave me serious comments and they’re doing it on their smartphones

Nuff said…

The defense rests…
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Do You Find Hope In The Books You Read?

So many folks read to escape…

Finding Hope In Books

Image Courtesy of Milan Jurek ~

I don’t blame them…

We live in a world lost in materialism—a world swamped with greed—a world going mad.

Far too many writers try to copy what’s going on instead of engendering what could be.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a bit about this difference in writers’ purposes—What’s The Writer’s Job? ~ Recording Or Creating?

The New Yorker has a recent article about the National Book Awards but especially about Ursula K. Le Guin‘s acceptance of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

For those of you who don’t take link-outs from blogs, I’ll quote some particularly pertinent remarks she made:

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope.

“We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

“Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.”

And, whether you take the link to that article or not but you want to understand more deeply those words of Le Guin, here’s a video of her speech:

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Arts & Letters ~~~ Daily !

Last year I wrote an article featuring a site that’s described as containing “…well-written and well-argued book reviews, essays, and other articles in the realm of ideas.” arts and letters daily

That article had one official Heap of links from the site:

Newspapers, Magazines, Book Reviews, Columnists, Weblogs; and, as they say, much, much more…

The site was created by Denis Dutton:

“Dutton was best known for the web aggregation site Arts & Letters Daily (which is the site I’m writing about in this post…), which he founded in 1998 and which secured him a place among ‘the most influential media personalities in the world’. The site…features links to articles across the web about literature, art, science, and politics, for which Dutton wrote pithy teasers. In recognition of Arts & Letters Daily, Steven Pinker called Dutton a visionary for recognizing that a website ‘could be a forum for cutting-edge ideas, not just a way to sell things or entertain the bored’.”

Dutton died 28 December 2010 but Arts & Letters Daily is very much alive and well…

Today, I’ll feature a few articles that the site recently linked to:

From The Daily Beast: Borges Had A Genius For Literature But Not Love Or Much Else


“He concludes that Borges’s ‘political and social views gained him notoriety and probably cost him a Nobel Prize.’ However, something else may have undermined Borges’s reputation. There has always been a lingering distrust in the critical establishment for writers who become too famous too fast, especially after having published so little.”

From The New Statesman: Weird realism: John Gray on the moral universe of H P Lovecraft


“Lovecraft’s life was spent on the margins of society, eking out a small inheritance and scraping an uncertain living from journalism and amateur publishing. Some of his attitudes may have come from his experience of downward social mobility.”

From Public Books: The Salinger Riddle


“He insisted on spending most of his time writing in a small cabin in the woods, literally detached from his family, often ignoring them. He reserved his loyalty and love for the fictional Glass family. Yet more perverse was his refusal to publish after 1965, dedicating those labors to posterity and locking his manuscripts in a vault.”

From The New Yorker: The Chapter: A History


“The first authors who wrote in chapters were not storytellers. They were compilers of knowledge, either utilitarian or speculative, who used chapters as a way of organizing large miscellanies.”

“Hard as it may be to imagine now, the modern novel, as it emerged in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, often treated the chapter gingerly, as a strange oddity in need of explanation.”

“The unassuming quality of the chapter, its way of not insisting on its importance but marking a transition nonetheless, turns out to be its most useful, if also its most vexing, quality.”

So, whether you need fodder for your blog (like me) or you love long-form reading or you want to experience other forms of writing or you just love to read, check out Arts & Letters Daily :-)
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