Writer’s Desk: Go Shopping?


So there are lots of different kinds of writing programs out there. Depending on your location and availability, most are worth applying to because we could all stand to get paid to hang out somewhere and write on our own for a little while.

But how about shopping? As part of its twenty-fifth birthday, that great temple of consumerism, Legos, and fried walleye, the Mall of freaking America, is now sponsoring its very own Writer-in-Residence program.

According to the Mall folks:

The Writer-in-Residence Contest will give a special scribe the chance to spend five days deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere while writing on-the-fly impressions in their own words. The contest winner will stay in an attached hotel for four nights, receive a $400 gift card to buy food and drinks and collect a generous honorarium for the sweat and tears they’ll put into their prose.

“Deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere”? Hotel? Gift card for the food court? “Generous honorarium”? Sounds like a no-brainer. Let’s just say that the impressions garnered from people-watching, whether it be the packs of teenagers roaming the amusement park or the busloads of foreigners wandering dazedly about, are likely worth their weight in gold. Or cheese curds.

Applications are due March 10th.

Reader’s Corner: Vote Now

oscar-waoInstead of just announcing what the new all-city book club selection is going to be, New York took it to the people with OneBookNY. They chose five possible books and are asking people to vote on what they think everyone should read.

The five books are:

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Couple interesting choices here. Coates’s book is nonfiction, departing from the usual novelistic mold, while Beatty’s (amazing) novel is set quite definitively in Los Angeles. Seems like either Diaz or Smith’s (also amazing) novels are the right choice here, but who’s to say?

Voting closes February 28.

Weekend Reading: February 24, 2017


Quote of the Day: Book Burning

fantasticbeasts1When the verbose and gloriously opinionated J.K. Rowling had the temerity a few weeks back to tweet her thoughts on President Tiny Hands’ travel ban, the pushback was about the same as what happens whenever an athlete ventures into the realm of politics.

The conservative troll brigades swarmed and told Rowling the usual things: Stick to writing, woman, and stop saying what you think about anything. (Nevermind that her Harry Potter books are all about tolerance and the acceptance of minorities.)

Things hit a particularly ugly pitch when one twit tweeted that they would “burn your books and movies.”

Rowling’s response was one for the ages:

Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.

Writer’s Desk: Be Ruthless

williamfaulkner1When William Faulkner was interviewed by The Paris Review in 1956, he was asked whether writers need to be “completely ruthless.”

The sage of the South replied in the affirmative, with vigor:

The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.

He may not be right about the literary importance of “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” but the point is, nevertheless, an uncomfortable truth.

Weekend Reading: February 17, 2017

Screening Room: ‘Fifty Shades Darker’

The first great unintentional comedy of the year, Fifty Shades Darker is the second movie installment in E.J. James’s we-should-all-be-embarrassed bestselling trilogy of erotic novels. It opened last week, Lord help us.

My review is at Film Journal International:

In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson)—these people have monikers that sound like superheroes’ secret civilian names—was a mousy, brown-haired wallflower who fell into a BDSM relationship with Grey. A controlling billionaire who flies his own helicopters and has secret lairs and a bodyguard—again, like a superhero, only ultimately far more boring—Christian took the dominant thing too far with Anastasia. She fled from the dark cruelty she saw in him. Now, in the sequel, he’s trying to win her back. But she’s making her way in the world, working at a small publisher and getting the eye from her just-as-chiseled boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), and not willing to put up with Christian’s domineering nonsense.

Until she does…