Showing posts from May, 2010

The Writer’s Little Helper

Do you think writing is a matter of inspiration and intuition, that talent is what singlehandedly produces classics, that it is up to creative geniuses to forge fiction’s universes, and that a great work’s words are addressed to those readers smart and patient enough to grasp the true meaning that hasn’t been polluted by commercial concerns? If your answer is yes, then be aware that the author of the book I’m briefly describing here would emphatically say no. The book is The Writer’s Little Helper , by James V. Smith, Jr. (Writer’s Digest, 2006, 246 pp.). This book stands out from the formidable number of writing how-to books by analyzing “the technical aspects of writing fiction from the point of view of giving readers what they want in a best-seller” (2). That’s how the author puts it, at least. The book is certainly out to help writers produce commercial fiction, and more specifically bestsellers. Smith doesn’t want to help you become a writer’s writer, or a lit theory professor’s

John le Carré, The Little Drummer Girl

In keeping with this year’s interest in bestsellers, here is a brief comment on a novel from bestselling author John le Carré: The Little Drummer Girl (New York: Scribner [1983, 2004], 473 pp). Let’s start with the plot: Israeli intelligence officers enlist Charlie, a young, emotionally fragile British actress with radical political views, for a mission to bring down a known Palestinian terrorist (Khalil). She is persuaded to help mainly because she falls in love with one of the Israelis (Gadi Becker, known to Charlie as Joseph). The mission consists of an elaborate hoax to fake a secret love affair between Charlie and the terrorist’s younger brother (Salim, who goes by the alias Michel) in order to get Charlie into the organization and then wind her way up to the older brother. (I can’t say if the hoax works without giving away the ending.) I started with the plot to make this point: the novel is just too long for the slenderness of the plotline. We get such a dizzying density of de

Vheissu: An Autoblography

A hundred posts. This is post number 100, in fact. Is 100 a lot? (At the very least, that’s quite a few hours spent blogging.) Is 100 too little? (A post every five and a half days, more or less, over the past 18 months.) Too many or too few, it’s still a good chance to stop and think back about Vheissu. Hence the title of this post: the autobiography of a blog. It’ll be brief. Bear with me. I was far from an expert on blogs (I still don’t consider myself one) when I started blogging back in December 2008. I had roamed around some blogs, and sprinkled some comments here and there (taking them much too seriously, I now realize). I saw the forms some blogs on literature (in Spanish) were taking, and was both enticed and deeply disappointed. I also saw what kinds of hokum often became instantly popular with bloggers (many of those blogs read like prolix, intimate letters that went public by mistake), and felt both puzzled and determined not to repeat the pattern. At the same time, I felt

iPads, Doctorow, Journals

I know it’s aged in the last few weeks (three generations or more in magazine shelf life), but the article by Ken Auletta called “ Publish or Perish ” (TNY, April 26, 2010) is certainly worth reading. The future of books appears even gloomier than I had thought, with many people just giving up on the printed tomes we’ve grown so accustomed to over the last hundreds of years. Add to that an economic crisis and a culture of downward pricing (or free access) associated with the Internet, and we are left with legions of authors orphaned by traditional publishing houses (or simply routed away from them), who turn to self-publishing and direct marketing of their books through retailers like Amazon. The article is filled with interesting facts about the book industry, which I always find elusive and intriguing. For instance, I didn’t know that Amazon is constantly selling books at a loss, and has done so especially in its e-books for the Kindle. I was surprised to find out that the major boo