Ebooks: Bastard children of the digital age

An Austrian friend of mine who is a decades long resident of Brazil once remarked to me that ebooks are a joke and that he doesn’t know any Europeans or Brazilians who own any or would even want one. Given their popularity in the Anglophone world that’s an interesting perspective.

I’ve written on ebooks here before: see this post for a general consideration, this post in an editing and writing context, and this post on discovery and happy accidents. It’s a topic that’s worth revisiting from time to time, and particularly for writers it’s one that warrants serious deliberation.

Ebooks are hands down the simplest and cheapest way to publish. They are also the only way, really, that facilitates easy later editing and other changes to a book, such as adding on chapters or re-arranging content. (An addendum can of course be added to a print book but the process is much more involved and slower.) Some authors even choose to only offer their works in an ebook format, and some of them are extremely successful in doing so from a monetary point of view. Far less overhead, you see, and generally better royalty margins. These are all good points to keep in mind.

It’s also good to keep in mind that ebooks stink. Yes, you can easily and quickly edit them later after publishing but doesn’t the need to do so hint rather strongly that you published too early? Moreover, unless you’re setting up your own retail space for your books how much overhead do you as the writer really need to worry about? It’s true that better royalties and farther potential reach (delivery being usually free and instant everywhere) are great advantages, I won’t deny that, but I can’t understand the decision not to at least offer a paper version even granting the environmental concerns involved.

Paper books – must we resort to labeling them real books to differentiate? – are objects of deep love for many devoted readers and it’s easy to see why. You engage nearly all your senses when you read one: each book has its own unique feel, the sound of pages flipping strikes a satisfying whisper, and used books especially have a strong musty smell that comes to be associated with the prose on the page. Every book endears itself in its singleness, far more than a digital file could ever hope to. Is it any wonder that books, like anything else, can so easily be devalued when they are reduced to a few bytes of type in a long list of titles? Think here of CDs or mp3s when it comes to music and the analogy is clear to see. That record you have automatically generates a lot more loving care than that slot in your iTune’s playlist.

Ebooks have real advantages that should not be downplayed, there’s no arguing with that. But as a writer ask yourself this: What does it mean to you that the book you poured your heart and soul into will end up being one more easily disposable commodity to someone flicking through files on their Kindle or tablet? Maybe there is more to it than just keeping costs down and royalties up. Maybe even in the twenty-first century there is still such a thing as heart.

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On creativity

Haruki Murakami, famous for his surrealistic novels, has likened the writing process to making music, and is apparently also a great fan of jazz. Picking up on this thread Rowan Hooper reports on recent research into what goes on in a person’s brain when they are being creative. A study done on jazz pianists who were scanned while improvising music to either a photograph of a woman smiling or one of her looking sad revealed that their dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes (the brain region involved in planning and monitoring actions) were deactivated, and the more so when they were creating happy music (in the case of sad music their brains’ reward centers became more active). Emotions therefore help dictate which parts of the brain’s creativity network are turned on or off and to what degree. This seemingly tells us much about creativity: during such episodes our planning and monitoring areas are shut down which allows a freer flow of ideas and the more so when positive emotions are involved. Happy feelings + turning off planning = spontaneity. Simple.

Only I doubt very much that it is that simple. And I doubt that we really understand here just what we are claiming to understand. Let me elaborate on this a moment because I think it’s an often overlooked point, particularly in recent decades (and yes, I’m guilty of this too). Ostensibly we have here a clear cause and effect link wherein the entirety of the process can be reduced to purely material causes. An example often cited in the literature when discussing the idea that all can – or cannot – be reduced to materiality is the simple equation Water = H20 (pardon the lack of subscript on the “2” there). What we call water is molecularly composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen; its qualities cannot, of course, be fully explained by such but that does tell us all that water “is”, so to speak. Fine and well. How can we translate this into something like consciousness though? How many parts of what put together equate completely to that? We have no idea. Michael Gazzaniga, one of the people at the very forefront of cognitive science, has written a very accessible book outlining what the current consensus picture on consciousness is called Who’s In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain. The picture given is that consciousness should not be thought of as a single part or function of the brain but instead as a constellation of consciousnesses. That is, our consciousness is a network of many locally concerned regions of the brain communicating with each other and, somehow, appearing to us – experiencing it from the inside – to be unified. Consciousness is an emergent property.

Does this tell us what consciousness “is”? Not really, but it at least gives us a fuller picture of it. Do the brain scans of our jazz pianists tell us what creativity “is”? Again no, but they do add a piece to the puzzle. Where we err is in thinking that such is the entirety of the puzzle. Thomas Nagel raised this point in his (I believe) much misunderstood Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. If I read Nagel correctly what he wants to say is that although research like the above helps us understand what is going on it is missing at least one important part. The entirety of such processes do not seem to be fully reducible just to the purely material elements involved, and we can see this by the fact that we must resort to such descriptors as “creativity network” (or even “emergent property”) – an empty phrase that leaves everything up in the air. This is not to say that the science is wrong or that science cannot be explanatory; of course it can. Science is and will likely remain a very important tool for advancing human understanding. But the way we do science now may be missing something. What that something is is unfortunately not entirely clear but does call for unfettering our approach somewhat.

Writing may be like composing music, certainly I think that the analogy is apt. Both endeavors may well be assisted by positive emotions; why not? Such is not the whole of it though, and if we are seeking creativity and creative moments then I think it wiser to pay attention to our own experiences to see what works and what doesn’t. There is no easy formula for that.

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Hidden meanings and rereadings

What I find particularly interesting about writing fiction is the option to write in multiple layers, an option that we may employ purposefully for any number of reasons or may even make use of by accident. Let me explain what I mean by that.

On the surface of course is the main storyline, what happens in the piece to whom when and how the characters react to these events and each other. Immediately underneath this is the world they inhabit; in some ways this is a hidden, though default, sublayer because we often don’t consider just how much influence the contextual elements in our lives have on us and hence don’t extend that to the characters in the stories we read (though hopefully we consider this when writing). These influences are deep and profound and go far beyond their most obvious examples of culture and culturally-directed thought. A person (characters’) historical setting, geographic location, climate, socioeconomic standing, early childhood experiences, linguistic input and framework, genetic inheritance, personal goals, the obstacles to achieving those goals (very often the results of random processes), and current mood as connected to the immediate past all have a very large part to play. And that is just to name a few. These are the automatic layers but much more is possible.

We may, for instance, wish to add elements that are not obvious initially, that reward diligence, or that are directed at a particular subgroup of readers – those in the know, so to speak. Nick Cody has written about such here in his “Shall We Assume They’ll Google?” post. (Nick starts with the accusations of plagiarism directed against Bob Dylan and goes from there; it’s a post worth revisiting.) If we are subtle and not heavy-handed in our approach we can communicate with readers in multiple dimensions: telling the overt story to everyone, telling the overt story and a hidden story to those picking up the hints, telling the overt story and a hidden story explained by a further hidden story to those picking up the interpretative hints, etc. The possibilities seem endless.

All of this of course stacks up and could easily make for a very confusing read; as Nick points out in the above post the writer is advised to exercise restraint. If we choose to write this way though we may also choose to do so in a demanding way such that readers can only really “get” our text if they go through it either very carefully or multiple times. (Nick has also posted on rereading, find it here: “Reread it? Why?“.) Depending on the type of reader the latter method may make for a more enjoyable experience as the story can be allowed to unfold itself without the reader being overly bothered about the details. Personally I read slowly and carefully regardless of what I’m reading and will often flip back to re-reference earlier portions and so I probably fall into the former group, though I will on occasion reread an entire book.

How may we write this way by accident? Hermeneutics pops its hand up here; no matter how cautious and clear we may think we’re being there is always the chance that a reader may read into what we have written, and this seems an especially clear danger if we are employing certain symbols to stand in for ideas that we wish to communicate (perhaps only by subtext). In a sense though that makes using symbols all the more enticing. If we are really adventurous we may even wish to mislead our reader by making them think we’re writing in layers by accident and do not mean to suggest the interpretation they have arrived at – perhaps by thinking they’ve seen into our subconscious – but which in fact we invite purely as a red herring to what we really want to say, all of which is buried in the background symbology. No wonder William Burroughs called language a virus.

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What is a blackstar?

Inscrutable. Beautiful meaninglessness. Opaque. Those are some of the words critics use to describe the songs of David Bowie, particularly his grand, 10 minute track off the new album with the same title, Blackstar. The video for the song Blackstar came out about a month ago. I saw it and was spellbound. I watched it again and again. I read about the upcoming album that was due to be released in January on Bowie’s birthday. When that date came, I read some reviews of critics and the next day I read that he’d died.

I don’t think there’s any greater tribute to an artist than paying attention to his latest work. So in that spirit, I’d like to post a few comments about Blackstar and see what we come up with. There’s a lot about the images and lyrics that I don’t understand. Why does the action take place “in the villa of Ormen?” Why is there mention of an execution? Why do “only women kneel and smile?” I don’t have any answers for those questions, and I’m not confident there is any intended meaning for them. But the next few verses, when considered along with the images of the video, suggest an answer to a different question: What is a blackstar?

A good working method is to start with some kind of hypothesis, such as:

A “Blackstar” means a true artist. Why would this work? Well, in the lyrics the singer gives a negative definition of himself:

1. (I’m not a gangstar)
2. (I’m not a filmstar)
3. (I’m not a popstar)
4. (I’m not a marvel star)

This reading seems to correspond neatly with the opening images in the video of the dead astronaut. What does the astronaut represent? One possibility might be a blend of the Starman / Major Tom characters from Bowie’s early career. A closely related figure comes up in the 90’s Bowie: Hallo Spaceboy off of the concept album Outside, 1995.

But here are some interesting things about that image in Blackstar: the duct-tape on the spacesuit, seen in close up, connotes a kind of old, patchwork figure. He’s definitely not state-of-the-art, and that relates back to the Starman / Major Tom figure as being kind of worn, outdated.

The female figure has a tail. Is she one of the “cool cats” from Starman? She is taking the skull of the dead spaceman back to her people who will use it and worship it in a religious-like, ritualistic ceremony.

Now consider another verse:

SOMETHING HAPPENED ON THE DAY HE DIED

SPIRIT ROSE A METRE THEN STEPPED ASIDE

SOMEBODY ELSE TOOK HIS PLACE AND BRAVELY CRIED:

I’M A BLACKSTAR

I hear the voice of Bowie here, the artist behind the sound and vision of his work, saying: Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Starman, Spaceboy, they were created out of nothing, lived for a time, and died. To be an artist means letting the old forms die so that new creations can come into being. But the fans, the cool cats who had their minds blown by the Starman, they want to keep the old forms around, practically worshiping dead matter. In this way, we can see that one thread of the song involves an artist’s self-overcoming: having the courage to let past glories die so that new spirits can be born.

Much of the song remains shrouded in mystery. Was David Bowie harboring secrets? Consider that the last song on the album has the beautifully evocative title “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”

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On quality

The quest for knowledge is an endless one and there are always other avenues to pursue. So it is that I have lately found myself winding down alleyways and side streets, coming upon writers and thinkers that stand far outside the academic world and its frequently prepackaged answers but that still have much to say and pursue their research with the same ardor and precision that we take to be marks of professional researchers. One must always take such people with a grain of salt, but then one must always take anything one comes across with a grain of salt. A truly objective perspective is impossible, hence too a truly objective analysis, and to pretend otherwise is to lock the mind in a closet. We recognize this, do the best we can, and carry on holding things lightly. This is commonly known and I don’t see the need to argue for it.

What is perhaps less commonly known, however, is the degree to which self-publishing has penetrated the world of research. Everything is now done for profit and to professionally present research one must jump through the hoops of journals, which then go on to sell the piece for amounts that can be quite surprising. The author of the article receives nothing more than a slot on their CV for their efforts, but such slots are required and the key to advancement so in a roundabout way – if promoted – they do get some monetary reward. One other reason, the “real” reason I suppose, for this process is to ensure the quality of the research by having it be reviewed by others in the field prior to acceptance or rejection. From submission to publication (if the work gets there) can take anywhere from nearly a year to over two years. Few people see the need to play this game unless they have to, and that of course goes double for those outside of institutional academic strictures. Many of these people choose instead to self-publish in one manner or another, and even those pursuing the traditional journal path will sometimes self-publish as well.

I recently came across two writers who fall into this between-the-cracks area of research, being non-academics (in the professional sense) but researching and writing in the world of nonfiction, thought and speculation, the abstract. Checking for each on amazon I admit that I was a little surprised to see CreateSpace Independent Publishing listed in the book details sections. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there you have it. We still have the hangover that the trad-pubbers have all the best writers and highest quality books. Even writing here numerous times on the very opposite of that the idea lurks somewhere in the recesses of my mind. It’s high time we root out and banish that idea. Quality is a matter of dedicated pursuit and has little to do with paid editors sitting in an office. Such people can of course be a tremendous help but they are simply not necessary. If one is determined enough one can find others of the same or even a higher caliber willing to work with authors on editing and refining their texts. Three such people work as soda jerks here. Ahem. The bottom line is this: a book’s (or article’s, essay’s, what have you) quality has nothing to do with trad-pub or self-pub and has everything to do with the effort and pursuit involved. If curious crack the thing open and see for yourself, that is the only way to find out.

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Are translators writers?

I should note from the outset that I only translate when necessary and don’t consider myself a translator. I find the nuances of language very interesting, particularly when the languages are far apart, but for whatever reason moving a work from one language to another doesn’t interest me as a potential project. That is not to say that I don’t admire those who do.

I have long thought that translators don’t get the credit they deserve. Take a language like Japanese, for instance, which is so high context that very little is verbalized in order to communicate vast amounts of information and feeling. In a culture that strives for uniformity from its frozen north to its tropical south everyone will have nearly the same background concepts and referents in mind and so very little need be said to mean a lot. A comment like “It’s cold today” will refer to the current temperature but will also recall seasonal changes, and with them the associated customs, foods, and behaviors. Characters in a Japanese novel will of course share all of this and the author need not spell any of it out for the reader, making the challenge a translator faces in trying to put all of this into English a daunting one. What to add and what to leave out? Should purely cultural elements be defined in endless footnotes or should she try to cram everything into the dialogue? What about words like amaeru that can’t really be properly translated at all? (Loosely, a pleasant feeling of dependence or the receiving of indulgence.) More to the point, how closely should the translator try to follow just what is written when going from a language where subjects are often dropped, verbs can frequently come last, have numerous declensions, and makes extensive use of the half-said to leave matters intentionally vague? When faced with a task such as this why don’t we consider translators as writers?

The answer to that last question probably comes from the perception that a translator is not a creator. I think this is an inappropriate way of looking at what they do. Emil Cioran, a Romanian famous for his writings in French, once remarked that the second language user is more creative than the native speaker because he is not bound by the same deep, unconscious conventions and is therefore free to invent as he goes along. A translator, even when going from her second or third language into her first, follows a similar pattern in that she is forced to find novel ways of saying in Y what has been written in X. Donald Keene, a scholar and translator of Japanese literature, has said it’s thought a translator should take a famous work and show what he can do with it. As the multiple translations of literary classics show each translator adds something entirely new and entirely their own when they engage in this. Such may not be writing in the sense in which the word is commonly used but it still falls squarely under the rubric of writing unless one adds all sorts of caveats to the term. While we’re at it, why not insist that only handwritten scripts qualify as writing? You see my point, I’m sure.

Credit then where it’s due. We ought to think of translators as writers, and if we wish to be more specific we can subcategorize beyond that in the way we do for writers of fiction versus writers of nonfiction, thrillers versus romance, history versus historical fantasy, etc. We might even wish to put their names right there on the cover next to the original author. Why not?

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Happy holidays

That wraps it up for us for 2015; thanks for a couple of very interesting final posts, Nick.

Warmest wishes to all our readers over the remaining holiday season and all the best for a wonderful 2016. We’ll be back in January with a lot more, and you can expect some exciting developments not too far down the line. Till then!

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A Web of Incidents, part two

Here is a mystery. And with all mysteries, it becomes real only when we stop to wonder about it. A mystery is not a mystery until someone asks a question. The situation: you are walking down the street and you see what appears to be a message embedded in the pavement. What does it say? The message contains four lines:

Toynbee Idea
In Movie 2001
Resurrect Dead
On Planet Jupiter

What does this mean? Who put it there? Why? The birth of a mystery. And this one is pursued by some amateur investigators in the documentary called “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” (2011). If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, I suggest you do it here. This film caught my eye because of my obsession with Kubrick movies, referred to by the second line in the tile. But what about the others? And why would anyone place over a hundred of these tiles on the streets of a dozen or more U.S. cities? “Resurrect Dead” takes you on a trip as answers are sought, leads are followed, and dead ends are confronted. Instead of spoiling the conclusion to their quest, I’ll briefly summarize the various elements tangled up in this web. Lastly, I’ll include a tidbit of my own which connects to this mystery.

*Spoiler Alert* I’ll be talking in detail about elements of the documentary at this point. First, for reasons that are unclear to me, the tiles refer to a “Toynbee Idea.” Does this mean Arnold J. Toynbee, a 20th century British historian? Or maybe it’s a reference to a Ray Bradbury short story called “The Toynbee Convector”? Both are related to the idea of resurrecting the dead and can be read about more here. The Jupiter reference in the last line of the tiles is connected with Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. According to the research summed up in that Wikipedia article, the tiles were first photographed in the 1980’s and appeared in the media for the first time in 1994.

Here’s where things get weirder. American playwright David Mamet wrote a play in the early 80s called “4 A.M.”. In that one-act play, a man calls into a radio talk show saying something about raising the dead on Jupiter, using dead human tissue or “molecules”. Mamet denied that his play has any connection to anything, but the dialogue closely resembles the words of a real caller on the 1980 Larry King radio show. Mamet has said, “the play is an homage to Larry King in the days when I used to listen to him on the radio” (Youtube link).

What’s the connection between the tiles and David Mamet? Most likely, none. One feasible explanation goes like this: the original tiler called up the Larry King radio show in 1980 and talked about these ideas related to using dead molecules from deceased humans to bring them back to life on the planet Jupiter. Mamet writes down some notes about them and falls asleep, with the source of his notes remaining forgotten as he writes his one-act play in 1983. If you’re interested in seeing a short adaptation of his play you can watch it here.

The conclusion to the documentary was not completely satisfying. After all, not all mysteries can be neatly solved. But weeks after watching it something happened that blew my mind. And it was connected to a 1984 movie which I’ve seen over 30 times. That total means I’ve seen it far more than any other movie. “Blood Simple”, by the Coen brothers. I highly doubted there was anything new I could glean from additional viewings. But I showed it in an English Through Film class here this fall, and one scene made my jaw drop. Spoiler Alert for Blood Simple here as I’m giving away important details. Here’s the quote from the radio broadcast in Ray’s car which most viewers probably just tune out because it sounds like religious blather:

“What’s more, in two years time, we will be experiencing what’s known as the Jupiter effect, when all the planets of the known universe will be lined up…”

In the back of Ray’s car is the dead (or so he thinks) Julian Marty character. Soon after, Ray finds that Marty only appeared dead.

Here’s an important point: a crucial scene in Kubrick’s 2001 has all the planets line up perpendicular with the sun along with a spinning black monolith.

What’s going on here? What were the young Coen brothers up to in this Blood Simple scene? Maybe they read the early 1980’s David Mamet play? Maybe they were explicitly referencing Kubrick’s 2001? But in that movie, the “resurrection” theme is not too clear. Granted, the astronaut David Bowman is reborn as the so-called Star Child. But to my mind, the Toynbee Tile message seems to be a missing link that makes this scene from Blood Simple much clearer.

None of that is strange enough for you? Ok, then try this: watch that “Resurrect Dead” trailer one more time and pause at :57. See a name in the pavement? What a coincidence!

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A Web of Incidents, part one

Over the past year, one of my personal obsessions has been the films of Stanley Kubrick. The year before last, I read an article in the New Yorker about a new documentary called “Room 237”, which you can read here. Seeing the title, I was intrigued. Why would anyone make a feature length documentary about “The Shining”? I knew Kubrick had a reputation for being a genius, a perfectionist, and was one of the most widely respected directors in the history of the medium. But I saw “The Shining” a few times over the years and hadn’t been particularly impressed. So why a documentary? What followed was the joy of discovery. Thanks to “Room 237” and even better treatments by video bloggers like Rob Ager posting film analysis on YouTube, the world of Kubrick’s true genius opened up to me. “The Shining”, I learned, had layers of meaning that are not obvious after one viewing. I won’t go into the details here, but through reading blogs and re-watching the films, it is clear that Kubrick crafted his movies in a way that would reward a curious mind.

The willingness to be puzzled, to ask questions, to seek answers, and then to think critically, all of those stages in the pursuit of knowledge can lead to an incredible payoff. That’s true of science and the natural world and the world of art forms akin to 2001. To cite just one example here: Why, in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, does Kubrick show a scene with the computer HAL playing chess with Frank Poole? You can find a summary of that game here. A surface reading might lead us to conclude that the astronaut is bored and passing time on a long voyage by playing a game against the ship’s computer. I watched that scene many times and to my discredit never once did I set up a chessboard to see if HAL was telling the truth. I’d taken for granted that computers are good at chess, and they are programmed to help the crew. End of story. But anyone who analyzes the chess pieces will see that HAL’s “description of the queen move is not technically accurate” (Wikipedia). In other words, HAL is lying. Why? Suffice it to say that questions which come up in 2001 can be considered, answers can be sought, and conclusions arrived at which lead to further, deeper questions. In the end, this voyage of discovery could very well lead one to believe that the movie is not at all about an alien race that is guiding along the human species, although that is what many critics and viewers concluded from the movie’s surface.

So what is the real meaning of Kubrick’s 2001? If I tell you now, it would barely amount to cheap thrills. Better by far to leave you to discover it for yourself. A little bit of work will go a long way, and like I said before, the payoff can be richly rewarding. In my case, I saw Rob Ager’s videos on YouTube and read a fantastic article by Joe Bisdin called 2001: A False-Flag Odyssey. They did the work for me and I had my mind blown following their interpretations. And they deserve a lot of credit. After all, for forty years, no other critics allowed themselves to be puzzled enough to truly engage with Kubrick’s film. Ultimately, the biggest joy goes to those adventurers who discover the new world first. But I’m glad I could tag along for the ride.

Next week, I will post about an odd string of incidents relating to another documentary called “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” (2011). Tangled in the web with the mysterious tiles are: Kubrick’s 2001, ideas of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, a Larry King radio broadcast, a David Mamet play called “4 A.M.”, and a recent contribution of my own not mentioned in the documentary. Stay tuned!

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What does it mean to be a writer?

I am always honored when students seek out my advice on something, especially when it comes to their personal lives. This is mainly because I consider myself not to know anything and to be largely incapable of adequately running my own life. (It is a process after all, this learning to live.) Nevertheless, a student recently came to my office to discuss some ideas she had on potential future careers. She asked me what I wanted to do at her age and without hesitation I said, “Writer.”

Now this is a sticky wicket, as the saying goes. When someone says “I’m a writer”, what does that mean? We immediately get an image of someone in an undershirt hunched over a typewriter (or keyboard I suppose; my generation saw the introduction of the Word Processor which carried me through all the way to university, but alas it was too low-tech for a floppy drive), wild hair shooting off in all directions and a half-smoked cigarette burning away in an ashtray nearby. This person has no need for a structured routine or social mores. As an artist their whims take them where they go and the voice of their muse is never silent for long. Reality of course belies this but that such people do (or did anyway) actually exist feeds the stereotype. And we can’t help but to compare ourselves.

I read a piece in the newspaper this weekend about Yukio Mishima, a man who by the age of 45 had written twenty-five novels and eighty plays. Twenty-five and eighty! I have little desire to write a play but the sheer volume of this man’s productivity is astonishing. He was a writer. He was also seemingly one of the worst sorts of human being: a military-fetishist, nationalist, narcissistic philandering quasi-fascist whose public seppuku suicide in 1970 was a paean to the imagined glories of a martial past. I have my problems with modernity too but invoking the “samurai spirit” to glorify the Japan of the 1930s doesn’t strike me as a good idea. Yet there are all those books he left behind.

As we have often pointed out, being a writer in our times means juggling a number of positions, the primary ones being the necessary day job and that inner drive to string words together on a page. Almost every single one of us can’t combine the two, and even if we can we now also have to be a marketer, salesperson, socially accessible talking head, etc. etc. I’m already tired. Matching the pace at which past full-time writers were able to work seems an impossibility. So what does it mean to be a writer?

I suppose the answer to that question could arguably vary, and perhaps widely, but my own view is that at core there has to be that drive, that passion to sit down and pirouette those fingers across those keys come what may. We scribble in notebooks, live our books in our heads as we ride trains, sit in meetings, shift through paperwork and attend to daily chores. This is what it is to be a writer, fiction or nonfiction it does not matter; this need to put your thoughts and feelings, outlooks and perspectives on all that it is to be a living human being into this form in this way in this medium. Literary Expression. If that’s in your DNA then you’re a writer, and all the rest can neither detract from nor add to that.

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