Don’t blame Amazon or Goodreads for authors writing rave reviews of their own work. Writers have been self-promoting since the 1700s, when it was called “puffery.” As Nicholas Mason writes for Symposium Magazine, “Nearly every British writer of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries either participated in or benefitted from ginned-up book reviews.” The list of puffed up authors includes Mary Wollstonecraft, Walter Scott, and Mary Shelley.
Is writing an inherently performative medium? Scott McClanahan thinks so. “I think my favorite writers are hams,” he said in an interview for The Rumpus. He also discussed staying at hotels with pimps during his book tour, indie presses, his book Crapalachia (which our own Nick Moran recommends), and his aversion to tote bags.
God’s terse first line in the Book of Genesis — “Let there be light” — was ready-made for the Twitter generation. If only the rest was as crisp, the British novelist Jeanette Winterson recalled thinking, as she began to reckon with that first book for a new theatrical project on the King James Bible. And then it hit her: Maybe God’s wisdom would crackle for a modern audience as Twitter posts of 140 words or less.
It’s notoriously difficult to figure out how to make a living as a freelance writer. The process forces the writer to learn the finer points of negotiation. At the Ploughshares blog, Steph Auteri writes about the “abstract mathematics” of her freelance career, presenting a list of everything she considers before taking on an assignment. Pair with: our own Nick Ripatrazone on teaching the business of creative writing.
The New York Times is reporting that the poet John Ashbery has died. A major figure in American letters, Ashbery won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in a single year for his book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. The full Times obituary has more.