Saturday, October 3, 2015

THE PARIS REVIEW's Beneficial Twitter for Writers

In addition to Brian Koppelman's Vine and Jon Winokur's Twitter, writers may find The Paris Review's Twitter very beneficial. Here are some examples:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Smoking May Increase a Writer's Concentration

Paul Bowles, Oscar Wilde and Patricia Highsmith

A number of famous writers smoked while they wrote. For example, Moliere said, “Whoever lives without tobacco doesn’t deserve to live.” And Oscar Wilde related, “A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”

And a study conducted by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the writers may smoke because smoking may have the ability to "boost concentration and imagination". However, the researchers also found that "heavy smoking damages the brain overall". 

To possibly have the best of both worlds, like Mark Twain and Freud, you may want to consider cigars. 

Brad Rodu posted on Tabacco Truth:

...the Kaiser Medical Care Program, one of the nation's largest health care maintenance organizations, provided the answer in 1999 by publishing an excellent study on cigar smoking in the New England Journal of Medicine. They followed 16,228 never smokers and 1,546 cigar smokers - all men - for 25 years, and compared rates of several diseases among them.  Cigar smokers were divided into those smoking less than 5 cigars a day (let's call them moderate), and 5 or more (heavy).

Compared with never smokers, heavy cigar smokers were shown to have increased risks for several smoking related diseases.  They had higher risks for heart disease (Relative Risk, RR = 1.6, 95% confidence interval, CI = 1.2 – 2.0), emphysema (RR = 2.3, CI = 1.4 – 3.7), oral and pharynx cancer (RR = 7.2, CI = 2.4 – 21.2), and lung cancer (RR = 3.2, CI = 1.01 – 10.4).

The good news: Moderate cigar smokers had only a slightly higher risk for heart disease (RR = 1.2, CI = 1.03 – 1.4).  Those smoking fewer than 5 cigars daily had no significantly increased risks for stroke, emphysema, oral/pharynx cancer or lung cancer.

The comparable health risks of smokeless tobacco (ST), cigars and cigarettes are shown below. 

Thus, just like with most things, moderation appears to be the key. It's advisable to smoke less than or equal to five cigars per day and not 22 like Twain

And if you decide to smoke cigars while you write, I would additionally advise you to follow Mr. Bill's advice:

  • Beverages (e.g., espresso) are good accompaniment for a cigar
  • If you find yourself salivating...spit most of it out as opposed to swallowing it
  • Do not smoke a cigar as you would a cigarette. (i.e., Like Clinton, do not inhale.)
  • Take a puff every 30-90 seconds
  • Lastly, and arguable most importantly, never smoke on an empty stomach or you'll end up like the Berlin clerks in Nabokov's "Beneficence":

...Berlin clerks were leaving their his eyes, the turbid nausea that comes when you smoke a bad cigar on an empty stomach...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Are You a Lonely Writer?

Joyce Carol Oates said, "Writing is a solitary occupation, and one of its hazards is loneliness. But an advantage of loneliness is privacy, autonomy and freedom."

Richard Ford said, "Writing is indeed often dark and lonely...."

But Hilma Wolitzer said, "Writing fiction is a solitary occupation but not really a lonely one. The writer's head is mobbed with characters, images and language, making the creative process something like eavesdropping at a party for which you've had the fun of drawing up the guest list. Loneliness usually doesn't set in until the work is finished, and all the partygoers and their imagined universe have disappeared."

And in terms of having friends, Proust scorned friendships and according to Szeftel in Pniniad, other than attending a few soirees with other Cornell professors, Vera was enough of a friend for Nabokov. 

(Quotes source:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What's More Important? Style or a Good Idea

It appears that content or a good idea can be more important than style. For example, would Lolita, despite it being extremely well written, be as well known if it weren't about the sexual seduction of a 12-year-old nubile nymphet? A number of critics and writers believe that Lolita would be on the level of The Enchanter or Laughter in the Dark but not the novel that made Nabokov rich and (in)famous.

The Blare Witch Project (1999) began with a budget of $600,000 and a 35 page outline for a script that was sans dialogue since the dialogue was improvised. The filming lasted only eight days and was done by a "cinematographer" with only two days of training. However, the innovative independent film's content trumped it's amateur techniques and feel and made a whopping $248.6 million at the Box office. 

Then you have examples like San Andreas (2015). The film received a mediocre 3 out of 5 stars from IMDb, 2.5 out of 5 stars from Rotten Tomatoes and 2 out of 5 stars from Metacritic, but the 3D disaster film made $459.8 at the Box office after being filmed on a budget of $110 million.

And I'm not the only writer who can't fully understand why Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is a cult classic. But it may have something to do with the level of emotion that Salinger put into the book while writing it in the trenches during World War II.

Thus it appears that a good idea, which is of course subjective, can be more important than style. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Write for the Glory of the Art, Not "The Bread"?

As a writer you may stress over whether your writing will sell but it's completely out of your control. That is one of the reasons why it's vital to write about topics and themes that interest you as a person\writer and that you want to share for altruistic reasons.

A lot of people may agree that Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris deservedly won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but a lot of people may not be able to fathom how the script for Pixels (2015) was sold. 

Jon Elster shared in Explaining Social Behavior "that in some cases I can get X by doing A, but only if I do A in order to get Y. [e.g.,] If I work hard to explain the neurophysiological basis of emotion and succeed, I may earn a high reputation. If I throw my into work for a political cause, I may discover at the end of the process that I have also acquired a "character."" However, it's important to understand that a "high reputation" and "character" are "states that are essentially by-products". 

Thus, you may want to be more like Lester in The Tenants than Willie. Lester was a published novelist who wrote for the glory of the art and immortality while Willie was an unpublished writer who wrote for "The Bread". 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Be Careful About What You Snack on While Writing!

Brian Boyd wrote in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years that Nabokov compulsively smoked Gauloises while writing but after visiting a physician due to heart palpitations Nabokov was advised to give up smoking. To ward off the nicotine cravings he started "...compulsively devouring molasses candy..." and subsequently gained sixty pounds. 

Nabokov shared in a Playboy interview, "I became as stout as Cortez-- mainly because I quit smoking [while writing] and started to munch molasses candy instead, with the result that my weight went up from my usual 140 to a monumental and cheerful 200." 

According to Secret Lives of GREAT AUTHORS Balzac often wrote for fifteen hours per day while drinking fifty cups of Turkish coffee. Unsurprisingly. it's suspected that the copious amounts of coffee contributed to his early death.

Compared to Balzac, I drink a meager five to seven half cups of coffee per day, often while writing, with one teaspoon of organic cane sugar; however, when I decided a month ago to forgo the sugar I subsequently lost a considerable amount of weight. I went down a shirt size and two belt loops!

Thus, be careful about what you snack on while writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What is Appropriate for Young Adult (YA) Literature?

Emily Witt related in a New York magazine “Intelligencer” article that publishers have started referring to Young Adult (YA) literature as New Adult (NA) literature. Per the American Library Association (ALA), a young adult is someone between the ages of 12 and 18-years-old. But is content that is “appropriate” for 18-year-olds “appropriate” for 12-year-olds?

Let’s look at Lauren Myracle’s ttyl. Here’s Amazon’s plot summary of the YA\NA book:

This funny, smart novel follows the friendship of three 16 year old girls [Angela Silver Madigan, "Maddie" Kinnick , and Zoe Barrettas] they experience some of the typical pitfalls of adolescence: boys, queen-bee types, a flirty teacher, beer, crazy parents, and more. Lauren Myracle has a gift for dialogue and characterization, and the girls emerge as three distinctive and likable personalities through their Internet correspondence. This light, fast-paced read is told Entirely in instant message format, the first book ever for young adults to be written so.

Here are some content that I found surprising and wrote about in this “runaway” best-selling book written for teens:

Margaret, Angela’s high school friend, knows how to squirt. 

Margaret desperately wants to have a relationship with a bohemian Georgia State University (GSU) student, but she didn’t realize that 15-year-old Angela had a crush on the collegian as well.

It excited Angela to fantasize about her classmate's "summer sausage" while she did her homework.

15-year-old Maddie danced topless on a table at a GSU frat party as camera phones snapped away.

And in terms of the teacher/student relationship, Zoe was initially attracted to Mr. H, her English teacher, because, "... he's NICE. cuz he treated me like i was a person instead of a kid. that what was so great - we were just ppl having a discussion." Zoe and her teacher went out several times, but when Mr. H invited Zoe to join him in the hot tube wearing a pair of Speedos, he "paralyzed" her and she ended the relationship.

Apparently, some parents didn’t think that ttyl was “appropriate” for 12-year-olds, because the book is on the American Library Association's list of books parents want banned.

But what is appropriate for YA\NA “literature”?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Are You Pregnant [with Books]?

I'm currently working on a number of writing projects:

  1. The 2nd edition of The Allure of Nymphets which has almost doubled in size 
  2. A short story based on a harrowing month long event that I recently experienced  
  3. small non-fiction volume about an aspect of New York City
  4. An essay on the striking similarities between monks and pimps
  5. And a volume of verse

Thus, like the protagonist in Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, I feel pregnant with books. 

As I say, the day began gloriously. It was only this morning that I became conscious again of this physical Paris of which I have been unaware for weeks. Perhaps it is because the book has begun to grow inside me. I am carrying it around with me everywhere. I walk through the streets big with child and the cops escort me across the street. Women get up to offer me their seats. Nobody pushes me rudely anymore. I am pregnant. I waddle awkwardly, my big stomach pressed against the weight of the world.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Very Inspirational Vine for Writers

Brian William Koppelman,  the co-writer of Ocean's Thirteen and director of Solitary Man, has a very inspirational, set in Manhattan, Vine that he films for (screen) writers. 

In his latest Vine he gives his followers the "secret sauce" to success in Hollywood, "Hey, is there a magic for success in Hollywood? Do want the secret sauce? Unwavering belief. Total commitment. Rigorous work."

If you don't have a Vine account, you may want to get one just to follow Koppelman. (Disclosure: I'm not affiliated with Vine or Koppelman.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

THE TENANTS: An Extremely Good Novel and Film for Writers

If you're a writer and you're having trouble staying motivated, focused and you're being constantly interrupted by selfish people who don't take your writing seriously, then The Tenants is the novel (1971) and film (2005) for you.

If you want examples of two writers who take their writing extremely seriously, then read this book and watch the film. The novel is a page turner and the film, which is a great adaption of the novel, should be a cult classic for writers.

Here's the plot summary from IMDB, trailer and covers: 

In an abandoned tenement, an African-American militant writer and a Jewish novelist develop a friendship while struggling to complete their novels, but inner tension rises between the two.