On March 28, 2019, Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli attempted to interview David Shields at a NORMS Restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. Later he attempted to interview Shields by a hedge and at a bookshop. Later he attempted to interview Shields and Bret Easton Ellis at the latter’s nearby apartment. Luckily, Borgli’s cameras were rolling, and The Millions is proud to present its readers with what is likely the most awkward author interview in the history of American letters.
Every week, The New York Times Book Review asks two of its 12 “Bookend” columnists to respond to “questions about the world of books.” Here are some prompts that for whatever reason didn’t make the cut.
Do you prefer your column to appear on the right or left side of the page?
Is it ever okay to burn a book?
Do you support the amendment legalizing marriage between works of commercial and literary fiction?
When we read fiction, how relevant is the author’s SAT score?
What book would you recommend to someone having difficulty thinking up a literary prompt?
Is it ethical to dog-ear pages?
In the Book of Job, God asks: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Well, where were you? Gird up your loins and answer the guy.
What is the Great American Twitter Novel?
What will the rise of e-books mean to traditional publishers? What about to those who like to sniff book-binding glue?
How do you think the pathetic fallacy will adapt to climate change?
Can the state of contemporary literature be used to forecast stock prices?
When the “Bookender” crew gets together to drink, who never buys a round?
On a related note, what book — hardcover or paperback — would you use to bludgeon a fellow columnist?
Do you find it disrespectful to read canonical masterpieces in the bathroom?
This question comes from Samuel Beckett’s Molloy: “Does it really matter which hand is used to absterge the podex?”
When your piece appears, how often do you ever read the facing column on the same topic? Be honest.
Do you see the New York Giants’s season as more of a Greek tragedy or a comic picaresque? I’ll take my answer off the air.
Which of these statements do you find most true?: 1) Poetry makes nothing happen; 2) Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world; or 3) Poetry helps me get laid.
What is the relationship between font and content?
I know I screwed up — and I swear I’ll never see that divorcée from BookExpo America again — but do you think my darling wife Marcy can find it in her heart to take me back? I’m begging you, please save my marriage by both saying yes.
So…The Goldfinch? Discuss.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
SEATTLE – Amazon announced today that it has acquired the English language and plans to fully privatize the world’s predominant mode of written communication. As of 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time April 1, anyone writing in Amazon’s proprietary language, now known as English™, will be obligated to pay a “licensing fee” to the Seattle-based online retailer.
The purchase of English™ for an undisclosed sum in cash and stock completes Amazon’s meteoric rise from an online bookseller to a global behemoth dominant in the spheres of online retailing, cloud computing, and digital publishing. It remains unclear who sold English™, though credible reports suggest that Apple and Google had earlier offered to buy the language, only to be outbid by Amazon at the eleventh hour.
“We are pleased to add English™ to our growing family of products,” said an exultant Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “We just bought GoodReads last week, and we already own Audible.com along with numerous digital publishing platforms, so buying the language outright was an obvious next step. This way, we will be able to put the Amazon stamp on the creative process itself, rather than merely on the finished product.”
Plans are also in the works to acquire German, Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese, Bezos said, as well as several nonstandard forms of English™, including African-American Vernacular English, popular among the highly desirable 18-25 upscale suburban demographic. Bezos denied claims that Amazon has offered to buy the Arabic numeral system, though he said the company could not rule out the possibility of such a purchase “if the price was right.”
Responding to concerns that Amazon’s purchase of English™ could have a chilling effect on literature and indeed on free speech in the English™-speaking world, Bezos said writers and publishers have nothing to worry about. “Frankly, that’s just scare talk,” he said. “We’re not saying people can’t use the language. We’re simply saying that if you plan to write it down, you’ll have to pay us a fee.”
Oral speech will remain free, Bezos said, so long as it isn’t written down or recorded by an electronic device. Every English™-speaking person will be allowed a “fair-use” quota of 500 words per day, which he or she can use to send emails to friends, make grocery lists, comment on Facebook posts, or write self-flagellating journal entries. For those who exceed their daily quota, Amazon will offer a variety of licensing options ranging from a simple per-word fee to so-called Unlimited Scribbling™ plans for novelists, bloggers, and others who can’t stop writing even if no one is reading their work.
Under the new licensing agreement, however, any profit from an individual’s words will belong exclusively to Amazon, and in the event that any written document longer than 500 words finds interested readers, Amazon will lay claim to all earnings the document brings in. If a writer shows signs of building a steady readership, Amazon may increase a writer’s daily quota of free words in order to, as Bezos explained, foster “cultural production” and thus boost shareholder value.
He said there is no truth to
This article has been terminated as its author, Michael Bourne, has reached his daily quota of 500 words in English™. If you wish to reach him, he is at home teaching himself to write in Tagalog.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
It’s over. We both know it.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been fun. We got together in the summer of 2012. You were a short story, a few thousand glorious words, but I wanted you to be more. Every fiction writer thinks they need to be in a long-term relationship.
I hated when people wanted to call you manuscript. You were better than that. You were always a novel. At least in my mind. You started as a single-worded file name, Harvest. I already had high hopes for you. I must have just watched Days of Heaven and listened to Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for the thousandth time. I finished your first draft a few days after Thanksgiving that year.
I should have listened to you more. You were happier as a story. I tried to make this more than it was. I even realized the truth when people asked my favorite question, “what is your novel about?” Halfway during my description of you, I would revise you. I sped up your first chapters. I used the word “revenge” several times when describing your plot. If I noticed their eyes drifting away, I said you were “intense.”
You knew better. When it was late at night and you beamed at me from the MacBook, you reminded me that we struggled. I know that relationships are tough, but we can admit now that this was ridiculous. We broke up for weeks and months, and then we got back together. It was a cycle. During the semester, I didn’t call or text or even pull you up in Finder, but as soon as school was out, there I was, with coffee and compliments. I copied and pasted you into a new document, and re-named you (you changed me, too, it’s OK).
I began to get superstitious about naming you novel.doc, so I named you variations of “new:” newnovel.doc, NEWnovel.doc, new_literary_despair.doc. I gave you new fonts. I printed you out (sorry about shrinking your margins) and brought you to the library. I used a pencil to edit you, and then when everyone else was asleep, I typed the updates. I believed in us.
I wanted the world to know about our love, so I queried agents. They were enthusiastic at first, but you sat in their mailboxes for month. They said nice things about you, about us, but it was always no. I could tell from the cadence of their sentences and how they broke their response into two paragraphs, starting with the praise but ending with the reality.
You got frustrated. You told me that only an idiot makes an Excel document to collect agent rejections. You said that I was trying to turn you into a thriller when you were really a literary novel. You wanted character; I knew agents wanted plot. We fought.
The last agent to say no wanted to change your soul, and I refused. I closed the email, brought you onto the desktop one last time, but didn’t tell you the truth. So here I am.
I’m sorry. I won’t forget or delete you.
But I’ve got to move on.
P.S. Stop telling everyone that I listen to “A House is Not a Home” on repeat.
P.P.S. I’m in love with essays now.
Image Credit: YouTube.