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3 Things I’m Reading Right Now That Are Worth Sharing

Expanding on yesterday’s “What I’m reading now,” here are three articles that are worth sharing with other writers and editors:

1. Beyond Words: Five Writers Who Practice Other Arts, from Poets & Writers:

I don’t know what it means that I marked up this article as if it were an assignment, underlining phrases that resonated with me and making marginal notes.  I’d planned to send this issue to David down in Patagonia as part of my next special delivery package of reading material, but I might just have to buy another one for him.

The premise of this article is simple enough: writers who also practice some other art–cooking, painting, sewing. But the very self-aware ways in which the five writers describe their creative processes sparked all sorts of new ideas; I found Jesse Ball’s interview particularly fascinating; it helped me to think about visual art in a brand new way, as well as what it “means” to be a writer and what it “means” to publish/distribute your work. Here’s an excerpt:

While you were in college at Vassar you assembled your books and distributed them yourself.
When you write you don’t want to surrender to a publishing company the moment when a book is judged to be a book or not a book. You decide if it’s a book or not a book, no one else does. That’s your prerogative as the writer. If you imagine yourself in a postapocalyptic world where—somehow you managed to survive—you’re in this log cabin and there’s a little printing press there, you’re writing these books. You produce a book. Then it’s a book. You just made a book. That kind of agency you want to have always. Whether you’re in a postapocalyptic cabin or in your life now. You should never surrender that.

In terms of giving the manuscript out as a little book to people, for poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries sometimes their audience was just the few friends they managed to pass the book out to. You’re no less a writer. As soon as someone makes a book and gives it to someone else, that’s the whole thing. There isn’t anything to be added to it.

2. “The case for graphic war images,” The LA Times:

I spend a lot of time thinking about what stories get told, how, and by whom. There are so many many stories in the world, and yet only a tiny percentage of them get told, often ad infinitum by the mainstream media machine, which chews ’em up, spits ’em out, and moves on. I’ve been thinking about this more than usual because of Haiti, because of Chile, and because of someone on Twitter who asked, “When will we start learning and caring about places before disasters?”

One of the answers to this somewhat naive question is “when our media start reporting from there.” Though it’s popular to say that our world is globalized, that it’s shrinking, that we’re all able to know about each other because of the Internet, I think this is both untrue and dangerous because it’s repeated so often that it’s essentially become canonized as fact.

This article from The LA Times looks at the issue of telling “prohibited” stories from a few different angles and it left me thinking about how we as readers/consumers of stories shape the kinds of narratives that are told and “allowed.”

3. “Disposable Army: Civilian Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan,” ProPublica:

Speaking of untold stories, here’s another one. What about the mental health of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? ProPublica is a vital resource for “alternative” news stories, and this article is representative of their astute investigative journalism and their constant effort to look for the untold stories overlooked by mainstream media.


4 responses »

  1. I’m not so sure our world is shrinking or has shrunk. Easy access, facilitated by being ‘wired up’ shrinks the world no more than knowing the map of a place by heart helps you understand a place.

    News will foster a sense of connectivity, but there can be no connection unless the connectivity results in a relationship that fosters a sense of belonging. That can only come from active engagement that helps the other and enriches self by the experience.

    And there’s also the pitfalls of such ‘connectedness’ to consider.

    Am I better off now that I get to hear about ‘this and that’ from ‘here and there’ so quickly or would I rather know less and engage more with the less?

    Can I carve for myself a space to allow emotions to play out without being assailed by the next breaking news?

    Maybe there’s no answer to this or maybe the question itself is redundant.

    • Anil-

      I like this metaphor a lot: “Easy access, facilitated by being ‘wired up’ shrinks the world no more than knowing the map of a place by heart helps you understand a place.” Thanks for writing!

  2. I also enjoyed “Beyond Words.” In the latest P & W I really liked the interview with Danzy Senna by Porochistan Khakpour. I loved the conversational style, how it read as two old friends catching up and sharing about how their writing has come into shape and in turn shaped them. It resonated with me, the camaraderie between the two women and the insights they offered into the life of a writer.

    • Heather-

      I remember reading P&W years ago and I feel like it’s become a totally different magazine. It feels so relevant and dynamic now; whereas, before it felt a bit staid and stodgy. I really like its evolution.


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