Monthly Archives: April 2013

Episode 13: Wild Card

For lucky number 13, the guys have a wild card episode. With no prepared topic, they dive into the world of LSD, where a writer’s material comes from, and what they like and dislike about the Academy. They also discuss their friend and colleague Mehdi Okasi’s story “Give Hostages to Fortune.”


Reading Discussed

Episode 12: Details

The guys dive into the murky world of details in Episode 12. What’s a significant detail? Are sensory details necessary? How do you create strangeness? They also confront different experiences with reading Laura van den Berg’s “Where We Must Be” and discuss their own reading and writing.

Reading Discussed

Weekly Links Roundup

Do writers really retire? I’m skeptical of public announcements. I quit blogging last year, yet here I am. That’s it, I’m retiring again.

The message of literary magazine covers: “Don’t read me.” Daniel Wallace suggests maybe they’re not aiming to be read, but rather aiming for prestige. Becky Tuch weighs in and says, hey, there’s a lot of great stuff out there if you dig for it. The question is: Should literary magazines market themselves, and if so, how much?

David Foster Wallace on ambition, illustrated.

Daily routines of famous writers.

Interview with John Le Carre in the NY Times.

The knot between authors and readers

The NY Times has reported that David Mamet will be self-publishing his next play, with facilitation from his agent. This is a big deal because it’s one of the first times a big-name literary author is bypassing the traditional publishing model.

I’ve previously referenced the squirrelly ethical dilemma faced by agents who want to facilitate their clients in self-publishing. It seems the agent has a strong motivation to choose the easiest, most profitable route — which is a challenge as well for home sellers dealing with a real estate agents.

But another reason the David Mamet news is interesting is because it raises an entirely different question: Is he really self-publishing?  Continue reading

Episode 11: Publishing

Episode 11 brings talk of publishing — how the WITTScasters do it, and much more importantly, why. Brian and Ben also have hard decisions to make in their own writing and Jon has some ‘splaining to do about some recent blog rants before they all talk about “Old Ironhead,” an excerpt from Mark Powell’s novel-in-progress.


Reading Discussed

Shakespeare’s Comedy: “Twelfth Night”

My undergraduate English department offered two Shakespeare courses: the comedies in the fall and the tragedies in the spring. On day one of the tragedies course I took, the professor said, perhaps quoting someone, “For those who think, life is a comedy, and for those who feel, life is a tragedy. You all must be the feelers.”

I do love a good tragedy, with its requisite pity and terror. The other day, however, I read “Twelfth Night” for the first time. Being somewhat unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s comedies, I now understand my old professor’s comment, because “Twelfth Night” — lighthearted, zany, and filled with irony upon irony — is for thinkers. Here’s why:

Continue reading

Weekly Links Roundup

Sam Lipsyte interviews himself.

More about the future of publishing.

Our Purdue friend and colleague James Tadd Adcox has a new project, a downloadable correspondence between him and Robert Kloss.

James Salter profiled in the New Yorker (gated, but worth scaring up a copy). Also, a companion podcast.

Barry Hannah’s lost novel.

A case against creative writing programs. I have mixed feelings about this one. The best writing is born from experience, but that’s not to say it’s not worth honing your chops until you live into your material. Also, do classical musicians or visual artists hem and haw this much about whether their art can or should be taught? What makes creative writers (and creative writing instructors) think they’re so special? Why are they so insecure?

High and Low Audiences

For reasons I won’t get into here, I’m writing an article about Shakespeare for my local newspaper. I interviewed a professor who has a course through the Great Courses on understanding Shakespeare, and he said that one of the great things about Shakespeare is that he was writing for everyone, from the groundlings who paid a penny to get in and are just there for the bawdy jokes and the most sophisticated viewers who want to grapple with the philosophical questions.

I thought that was just terrific, and the missing piece of our recent genre/literary discussion. That’s what you want to do, right? To write a book that appeals on a visceral, entertaining level but that also holds up to careful study? Here’s a great story:  Continue reading

Even more on digital stuff: Is a “revolution” a good thing?

My wife suggested I sounded a bit angry in this rant about digital self-publishing. My bad. As the guys know, I have a cranky old man persona that likes to come out, and it’s a fine line between humorous satire and just plain mean.

But I have thought deeply about our era’s rapid technological changes, what might be called a “revolution,” and like any sensible person, I have quite a few mixed feelings about it all. Perhaps my skepticism of change is ingrained in my southern bones. As Tracy Thompson tells the NY Times:

I think Southerners place so much store by history and tradition because we all have this constant, nagging sense that everything familiar to us is about to disappear. And it probably is.

But I think it also has to do with this problematic term “revolution.” Continue reading

Episode 10: Art vs. Entertainment

In an artful and entertaining episode, the boys dissect the line between high art and lowbrow, art and entertainment, and they consider whether they are snobs (yes) and whether that matters (doubtful). They also discuss Jamie Quatro’s “The Anointing.”


Reading Discussed