What inspired Samuel Clemens to change his name to Mark Twain? Was it a Mississippi riverboat captain? Did he earn it by “drinking at a one-bit saloon in Virginia City, Nevada?” Or, as rare book dealer Kevin Mac Donnell now alleges in the new issue of Mark Twain Journal, did the author find his pseudonym in a popular humor journal?
Don’t like the idea of reading e-books to your kids? Turns out you’re not alone — a new study reported in the Christian Science Monitor says (pdf) that seventy percent of parents who own iPads prefer to use print books when reading to their children. If you read these articles, you might have seen this coming.
If you’re struggling with your writing, turn to biographies of famous authors. This is Tom Perrotta’s cure for writer’s block. “It’s inspiring to read about a flawed human being who struggled with his or her demons and afflictions, experienced paralyzing episodes of failure or self-doubt, but somehow managed to do the work anyway, and produce something that enriched the world. That’s my version of self-help,” he said in a New York Times “By the Book” interview.
Possibly inspired by YiR alum Elizabeth McCracken, who tweeted out tips for applying to MFA programs last week, Zak Smith (the man who painted every single page of Gravity’s Rainbow) tweeted a series of tips for aspiring art critics. Among other advice, he dictates to his tweeps: “If Andy Warhol could have made it, do not write about it.”
“The book documents its time, a time when homosexuality was illegal, and still described in medical books as a mental illness. It is one of the best firsthand accounts of what it was like to be gay in the mid-20th century — ostracized — separate from the mainstream world. It reveals, through its characters, how young men couldn’t admit, even to themselves, that they were what society deemed perverted.” On the novel City of Night by John Rechy.
“Since I often biked to my therapist’s, he took note of my helmet and asked how my new exercise regimen was going. It’s going great! I said. I love it! I wish I’d known earlier that I ought to bike. Now I hated going underground. It was like the death instinct to go underground, into the subway. I never realized I hated it so utterly until I didn’t have to do it anymore.” On riding a bike in New York.
It’s come to this. Since it first emerged, the @horse_ebooks Twitter feed has been alternately obsessed over and totally ignored for its ersatz Dadaism. Now a group of intrepid fans have begun writing fan fiction dedicated to its enigmatic writing prompts.
An early example of the literary take-down. Willa Cather on Mark Twain: “He is not a reader nor a thinker nor a man who loves art of any kind.”