Sunday, August 19, 2018

View Your Books as Works of Art to Overcome Disappointing Sales

 Jan Hendrik Eversen A still life with books, a clay pipe and a pewter jar, 1965

If you're a writer who is disappointed in your book sales, opine that your books are works of art. Because what (sane) artist would be disappointed to have sold over 500, 100 or even 50 paintings, sculptures or screen prints? 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Racism in the United States: Bad and Better

The July 23, 2018 issue of The New Yorker contains the article "The Big Question: Is the World Getting Better or Worse?". 

This excerpt from the piece describes the mantra "Bad and Better", which may be the best way to view racism in the US:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

BALZAC'S OMELETTE: French Food & Writing

We put Balzac's Omelette in our Amazon Wishlist years ago, but we didn't purchase the petit livre until we found it for $2.00 while recently browsing Strand's used book stalls. 

We find descriptions of food in novels to be highly entertaining. For example, Nabokov's outdoor cafe scene in Transparent Things is especially engaging. 

In the introduction, Muhlstein shared that Balzac opined that "[a]n appetising young peasant girl is a ham [...]. And that a "[...] girl's innocence "is like milk [...]"

Balzac was a financially poor boarding school student. His parent didn't send him "[...] parcels of jam, chocolate, or biscuits [...]" Consequently, "[...] he devoured books of every kind [...]"

As an adult, Balzac "[...] remained convinced that sobriety was necessary to an artist [...]" And he "[...] ate only one piece of fruit as his evening meal at five o'clock and went to bed as early as possible [to rise after midnight to write]." He would "[...] set himself to work for eighteen-hour days"

"He barely ate anything for weeks on end during periods of intensive writing [...]" However, "[o]ccasionally he took a boiled egg at about nine o'clock in the morning or sardines mashed with butter if he was hungry; then a chicken wing or a slice of roast leg of lamb in the evening, and he ended his meal with a cup or two of black coffee without sugar.

But "[o]nce the proofs were passed for press, he sped to a restaurant, downed a hundred oysters as a starter [...] then ordered the rest of the meal: twelve salt meadow lamb cutlets with no sauce, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridge, a Normandy sole [...] [and for dessert] special fruit such as Comice pears, which he ate by the dozen. Once sated, he usually sent the bill to his publishers."

How do you celebrate finishing a book? We recommend a prayer of gratitude.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Consistent Positive Journaling

Shana Lebowitz's Business Insider post "18 habits of highly successful people" lists "They keep a journal" in the number 2 position. 

William Arruda advised in the Forbes post "The One Thing Successful People Do Every Day", "Document your wins. What’s the easiest way to do that? Keep a job journal."

And in The Atlantic article "The Wisdom of Running a 2,189-Mile Marathon", Paul Bisceglio shared:

Thus, it's advised to consistently keep a positive journal.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

How to be a Gritty Writer

If you frequently abandon writing projects, we highly recommend Duckworth's Grit, which she defines as:

Duckworth writes that grit is a better indicator of success than "talent" or IQ scores.

We culled from Grit that the success of one book shouldn't be your top-level goal, because you may not be able to sustain grit if that book isn't "successful". Your top-level goal should be to be a New York Times bestselling author or, even better, something altruistic like exposing the injustices of the African's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade or reversing the North American age-of-consent laws, which you may attempt to accomplish through writing books, blog posts or magazine articles. Therefore, writing may serve better as a low-level or mid-level goal.

Here's an animated summary of the book until you can get a copy:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mango Languages: French Transliterations!

Students of French tend to find it difficult to pronounce the Romance language; however, Mango Languages' English transliterations have made that aspect of learning French a lot easier.

For example: Bonjour. Vous parlez anglais? (Bone-joor. Voo par-lay a(n)gleh?)

Mango Languages, which I highly recommend, isn't free, but it's free if you have a New York Public Library card.

(Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement.)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

J.D. Salinger: Writers vs. Musicians

I recently wrote a post on Nabokov’s views on music and here’s a look at J.D. Salinger’s views on musicians.

Joyce Maynard shared in At Home in the World: A Memoir the following conversation she had with Salinger. (Salinger and Maynard had a 10-month age-gap affair that began when Maynard was 19 and a freshman at Yale.)

Joyce said, “I wish, instead of writing, that I could play an instrument.”

Salinger responded, “Don’t ever suppose it’s some kind of lesser art form […] because nobody’s lined up outside some […] club full of people in turtlenecks waiting to hear you transport them into some other orbit of pure ecstasy.”

Maynard said, referring to a Jazz performance, “They were inventing everything. Right on the spot.”

But Salinger explained that what Joyce assumed was improvisation were “virtuoso effects” from the (jazz) musicians “repertoire”.

Maynard opined that being a musician “looked like so much more fun than” writing to which Salinger exploded:

“Fun! Not much fun in writing […] No notes on a page for us to fall back on. No amazing orgasmic rhythms to make the audience melt. Not one goddamn thing to do with the body, except to try whenever possible to ignore one’s own cursed immobility. God, the unnaturalness of writing. And unlike performing music, it never gets any easier, no matter how much you do it. Every damned time we sit down to work, it’s that same blank page again. A person could have a better time at a Doug McLure retrospective."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Some Foods Are Too Good

Chocolate Ganache Cake and a Rachel Whiteread Untitled (Nets) 2002

There's a principle in Islam that when a man and a woman are (seemingly) alone, there's actually a third party in the room - Satan. This indicates that one should avoid being alone with an attractive woman, because it's extremely difficult to maintain self-control and not commit fornication or adultery. 

Thus, an attractive woman should be viewed like an attractive piece like Rachel Whiteread at the MoMA. Take one admiring look but don't have a desire to take her home. 

I would opine that the same principle applies to certain foods. Some foods are too good and one shouldn't be alone with them, because it would be extremely difficult to maintain self-control and not eat too much. 

For example, purchasing a slice of chocolate ganache cake would be a better idea than taking an entire cake home, because it would be almost impossible not to eat more than three or even four slices. 

Thus, to maintain optimal weight and health, I would advice against purchasing your favorites foods in bulk but limit yourself to a single serving.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Nabokov & Kafka on Music: It's Primitive, Lulling, Dulling, Stupefying, Numbing, & Animallike

Boyd related in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years that after a lecture at Spelman College, an African-American women's college in Atlanta, Georgia, Nabokov was invited to the chapel but, "he protested", because he "hated music and singing." 

In a 1964 Playboy interview, Nabokov shared: "I have no ear for music [...] I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the musicians [...] But I have found a queer substitute for music in chess—more exactly, in the composing of chess problems."

And in a lecture on Kafka's "The Metamorphosis", Nabokov opined that music is primitive and animalistic compared to literature and painting, that music has a "[...] lulling, dulling influence [...]" and that Kafka shared his view that music was "stupefying, numbing, animallike":

Without wishing to antagonize lovers of music, I do wish to point out that taken in a general sense music, as perceived by its consumers, belongs to a more primitive, more animal form in the scale of arts than literature or painting. 

I am taking music as a whole, not in terms of individual creation, imagination, and composition, all of which of course rival the art of literature and painting, but in terms of the impact music has on the average listener. 

A great composer, a great writer, a great painter are brothers. But I think that the impact music in a generalized and primitive form has on the listener is of a more lowly quality than the impact of an average book or an average picture. What I especially have in mind is the soothing, lulling, dulling influence of music on some people such as of the radio or records.

In Kafka's tale it is merely a girl pitifully scraping on a fiddle and this corresponds in the piece to the canned music or plugged-in music of today. 

What Kafka felt about music in general is what I have just described: its stupefying, numbing, animallike quality. 

This attitude must be kept in mind in interpreting an important sentence that has been misunderstood by some translators. Literally, it reads “Was Gregor an animal to be so affected by music?” That is, in his human form he had cared little for it but in this scene, in his beetlehood, he succumbs: “He felt as if the way were opening before him to the unknown nourishment he craved.”