Archive for July, 2009


They won’t even become clichés

July 22, 2009

New York Times blogger Ben Schott recently asked readers to send in “new similes fit for the times in which we live”. He got over 200 suggestions.

On Monday he announced the winners, such as they are. Writers beware; not only has someone beat you to it, but it probably went stale as soon as they did.

As tight-lipped as a Supreme Court nominee.
As copious as a Bailout dollar.
As positive as an M.L.B. star player’s doping test.
Sly like a Fox news broadcast.
As broke as California.
As worthless as a Madoff letterhead.
As visible as Sanford on the Appalachian Trail.
As mercurial as a moose-shooting Alaska former-you-know-what.
Drinks like an S.U.V.
Like being between a Barack and a hard place.
As fleeting as a Tweet.

It kind of reminds me of an award given out … is it yearly? … for the worst opening line in a novel. I like the Fox News one, though, if only because I can’t figure out what it’s supposed to mean.

Still, it’s a fun list … I think. (Are all similes so agonizing? Or just the ones we put thought into?)



Fiction, Fact, and Faked Memoirs

July 3, 2009

Periodic SCWC staffer and prolific features contributor to the San Diego Reader, Thomas Larson (The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reader and Writing Personal Narrative), addresses the state of faked memoirs (post-James Frey) and its impact on writers, readers and the publishing world as a whole in this essay for the New English Review:

Fiction, Fact, and Faked Memoirs
by Thomas Larson

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story is the claim every storyteller is admonished to believe. What our ten-thousand-year-old tale-telling tradition (most of it oral) instructs us to do is to be good dramatists and let the story have its sway. This law of the tale, and our drama-loving DNA, is why the Bible has survived so long: its well-told stories were the means by which its morally sound messages were delivered and, tellers and scribes hoped, stuck. When disputes about a story’s authenticity arose, the Bible authors were less keen to preserve history or embrace veracity than to make the drama central, via legend, fantasy, parable, and the fictionalized life, based on Egyptian mythology, reified as well as purified, of Jesus Christ. The Bible is a work of narrative literature and a work of fiction. But, the problem is, its fiction has almost always been thought of as fact.

Against the tradition of fictionalizing fact is a counter-tradition: those who disbelieve the Bible’s authenticity, those who question the moral claims of mythic and fictional literature, those who find truth only in existential doubt. Dethroning literature of its moral supremacy—that Bible stories and other mythic dramas, whether in epic poem or realistic novel, illustrate what’s true—is giving way to a more adaptive literature, one where claims of mythic and dramatic truth are questioned, attacked, dismantled. Its form today is the memoir, which in storming the Babel of literature has knocked the good-story notion on its head. Trumpets raised, the memoir heralds that the truth should get in the way of a good story. That truth can only be deceived by drama and, thus, become its victim. We need look no further for evidence that the memoir is dethroning fiction’s reign than to look at the surprising celebrity accrued by the faked memoir.

>>Read entire article



Bookstores as reality check

July 3, 2009

From Ode, “The Online Community for Intelligent Optimists,” is this fascinating little piece posted by Keri Douglas

Cairo bookstore promotes diversity through literature

Often when I travel, I look for a good local bookstore. I am curious to know what people are reading and what is the role of the bookstore in the community. Plus, I have found that books can be treasures that transport you back in history or possibly forward in time to events yet to take place.

In Cairo, I discovered Diwan Bookstore in Zamalek. It is a special bookstore featuring books in Arabic, English, French and German. When I entered, they had on display front and center their recommended books, among them:

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama in Arabic
The Map of Love: A Novel by Ahdaf Soueif
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman
The Naqib’s Daughter by Samia Seregeldin
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

A bookstore is always a healthy reality check on society. Here the recommended reading list includes two books by a U.S. President (note one is in Arabic); a frequently banned or censored book in the US; a well-know Egyptian woman author; a book challenging the notion of who owns the antiquities; and, an Italian murder mystery set in the year 1327. The notion to include all of these books in one section is brilliant, in my opinion.

My personal favorites from this visit include:

The Son of a Duck Is a Floater: An Illustrated Book of Arab Proverbs by Primrose Arnander and Ashkhain Skipwith
The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, and Poetry, New Edition edited by William Kelly Simpson

Cairo is healthy, diverse, opinionated and educated.

Go visit Diwan Bookstore, enjoy their excellent selection of books and discover a new world of thinking over a cup of tea in their cafe.

Diwan Bookstore is on Facebook. Join them and read their latest news and special events.