My six-year-old son is obsessed with the Titanic. I thought he was just quirky, but the New Yorker posits this as an archetype of human obsession.
I interview Charles Blackstone, Managing Editor of Bookslut and one of the nicest guys in publishing, at The Nervous Breakdown.
The Huffington Post is generally far too slick for my tastes, and so is this piece on the Ten Awful Truths (and their inverse good points) of Publishing, but you know what, there are still pretty core kernels of truth here worth reading. What do you think?
Too many people who want to “be writers” aren’t really aware of any truths of publishing at all. They think publishing is an ivory tower and that editors are sitting around in fancy offices taking fiendish pleasure in rejecting them and then going out for lunch with Jonathan Franzen at some private club. The number of editors who have that kind of life is so few it barely merits discussion–and any editor who has attained that kind of power probably contributed some pretty phenomenal things to literary culture along the way, and helped a lot of writers make a name, and isn’t exactly an ambulance chasing scumbag anyway, so probably that person is the wrong target. Some agents have fancy offices, but the first agent I ever visited in New York was working out of what looked like a badly furnished apartment with most of the furniture moved out. I had an agent for awhile at Trident Media, and she was a reliable and wise woman, but when I went to visit I felt like I was in a scene from The Devil Wears Prada, with assistants running around slick waiting areas with designer sofas, and when I actually got ushered into her office I felt like I was on the clock, and I knew right then that eventually I would move on, because really that’s not a vibe most writers can relate to, I think. There’s a place for that kind of vibe, but for most of us it’s not here.
Yesterday I turned down a 20K writer-in-residency gig where I would have had to teach one class in the fall and one in the spring, and do a couple of readings. 20K doesn’t sound like much money to everyone, but when you teach adjunct you’d usually have to teach four classes to make that much. It was a good offer. I was happy to get it. I turned it down because I don’t have time. I work too many jobs that don’t pay me anything at all, including this one. What I’m saying here is that I’m incredibly lucky. If you can turn down a paying gig so you can work for free doing something you like more, you’re luckier than almost anyone. I get to work in my pajamas. My daily life isn’t particularly glamorous. When I stop writing this, I’m going to go vacuum crumbs out from under my couch cushions, because Stacy Bierlein is coming over and she’s a very neat girl, so I don’t want her to be afraid to sit on my cheap Ikea sofa. Someday I’ll make it out to New York to visit my current agent, who I love. She may have a fancy office, and she may not, but either way I trust she’ll just take me out and get me drunk, and we’ll laugh a lot. We laugh a lot on the phone. If you’re going to have an agent, which inherently makes a person feel a little bit like a prat anyway, you should have an agent who makes you laugh. If s/he actually sells your damn book, like mine did last summer, that sure as hell helps too.
I link Roxane Gay almost every week. Roxanne doesn’t miss a trick. But she’s different here than usual. She’s more personal and more raw. You don’t have to care about The Hunger Games to read this. Don’t be fooled by the beginning. By the end you won’t be able to breathe.
I started out saying I wouldn’t link things in-house, to other Rumpus essays. But the thing is, The Rumpus is publishing some of the best things out there. That’s why I’m turning down writer-in-residencies to sit here in my pajamas.
It’s interesting the way The Hunger Games is resonating with women who have histories of extreme trauma. Laura Bogart wrote about this too. I’ve read the book now, even though I said I wasn’t going to. I read it so my daughters wouldn’t think I was a snob. But probably I am a snob when it comes to books. And probably they already know that. I enjoyed The Hunger Games more than I thought I would, though; it’s good for what it is. I don’t feel about it the way Roxanne and Laura do, or exactly the way my friend Tod Goldberg, who is smart as hell, does either. But I feel like anything that inspires women like Roxanne and Laura to write pieces like these has more merit than maybe I can see on the pages of the book itself.
Meredith Resnick is still interviewing contributors to Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience about how to get unstuck. Here is Kristin Thiel.
Welcome to Alison Espach and Judy Bolton-Fasman, both of whom are popping their Rumpus cherries today.
Next week I’ll be at the LA Times Festival of Books. I won’t be in my pajamas. I’ll be passing out Rumpus postcards and going to parties. When I come home, there will be extra crumbs to vacuum out from under my couch cushions, but Stacy will be back in California so maybe I just won’t bother.