What is "Doom Eager"?

Lorrie Moore, from "Better and Sicker"
"Martha Graham speaks of the Icelandic term "doom eager" to denote that ordeal of isolation, restlessness, caughtness and artistic experiences when he or she is sick with an idea. When a writer is doom eager, the writing won't be sludge on the page; it will give readers -- and the writer, of course, is the very first reader -- an experience they've never had before, or perhaps a little and at last the words for an experience they have."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

David Mamet on the purpose of literature

In his essay "The Humble Genre Novel, Sometimes Full of Genius," David Mamet writes about the "purpose of literature":
The purpose of literature is to Delight. To create or endorse the Scholastic is a craven desire. It may yield a low-level self-satisfaction, but how can this compare with our joy at great, generous writing? With our joy of discovery of worth in the simple and straightforward? Is this Jingoism? The use of the term's a wish to side with the powerful, the Curator, the Editor: The schoolmaster's bad enough in the schoolroom; I prefer to keep him out of my bookshelf.

I think the question as to what is the purpose of literature is complex and not fully contained in the function "to Delight," but I get Mamet's drift. Readers don't want to be directed or schooled or preached to. They want to encounter, explore, discover for themselves. The delight is in exploration and discovery.

A number of novels pop to mind when I consider the delight of well-crafted literature (of course, my idea of "delight" may seem a bit twisted, as evidenced by my list--the line between delight and disturb may be thin for me). Here's my short list:

Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
Ellen Foster (Kaye Gibbons)
Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Getting Right With God (Lionel Newton)
The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursala K. Le Quin)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquirel)
Microserfs (Douglas Copeland)

Something akin to "delight" overcame me when I read these novels: I was transported to a unknown place, met a new sort of person, bumped up against a fresh idea; I encountered something for the first time. And I was delighted. I suppose I "learned" something, but it wasn't the author "teaching"; it was the experience serving as instructor.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Should authors sign up for a StumbleUpon account?

See video here.
StumbleUpon CEO Garrett Camp talks to mediabistro.com's Media Beat about the "discovery engine" StumbleUpon. Calling the site not a "social network" but a "discovery engine" where account holders discover fun things they like and give those things a "thumbs up," Camp shares that its 15 million users "refer almost as much traffic as Facebook." So, should authors sign up for a StumbleUpon account? With only so much time to market themselves and so many ways to do so, how do writers decide where to direct their efforts? Is StumbleUpon the new place to discover content and get your writing noticed?

Read about it on GalleyCat
StumbleUpon Topped Facebook in Website Referrals Last Month - GalleyCat

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

John Green on book editors

Author John Green spills the beans about working with a book editor. Green feels they may be more important than writers. There is a case to be made for that sentiment.

Marc Jaffe on editors: "A competent editor is a publisher in microcosm, able to initiate and follow a project all the way through."

If you work with an amazing book editor, don't take the relationship for granted or complain about the costs/turn-around time/critique notes. Be happy the editor devotes himself or herself to your work. There should be a National Editor Appreciation Week . . . or at least a day.