Tag Archives: Writers

What is Literature

What is literature? — It Is the personal preference of a writer (or a reader) for the works of certain writers: his idea of what should be described for a larger circle of readers as worthwhile reading. Ford Madox Ford says so in almost as many words:

“Let us then sum up literature as that which men [and women, presumably] read, and continue to read for pleasure or to obtain that imaginative culture which is necessary for civilisations. Its general characteristic is that it is the product of a poetic, an imaginative, or even merely a quaintly observant, mind. Since the days of Confucius, or the earliest Egyptian writers a thousand years before his time, there have been written in stone, on papyrus, wax, vellum, or merely paper, an immense body of matter — innumerable thousands of tons of it. This matter is divisible into that which is readable and that which is unreadable except by specialists in one or another department of human knowledge. The immediate test for one’s self as to what is literature and what is not literature — the ‘biblia a-biblia,’ as the Greeks used to call this last — is simply whether one does or does not find a book readable. But if a book has found readers for 2000 or 500, or merely 80 or 2O years, you would be rash, even though you could not read it yourself, to declare that it was not literature — not, that is to say, a work of art. . . . But for the judging of contemporary literature the only test is one’s personal taste. If you much like a new book, you must call it literature, even though you find no other soul to agree with you, and if you dislike a book, you must declare that it is not literature, though a million voices should shout to you that you are wrong. The ultimate decision will be made by Time.”

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The Price of Literary Glamour and Glitz

Glamour and glitz of literary festivals comes with a price, “And the most expensive item on the bill is the transformation of writers into performers, authors into salesmen. […] For them it is promote or perish. Writers these days have to have their own websites, be active on Facebook, send off tweets every few hours and generally be as visible as possible. Lest the reader forgets him and goes off with whoever is grabbing their attention at that moment.

However

, “The best expression of a writer’s thoughts has to be in his writings, not in his spoken words. That is why he or she has chosen the lonely, uncertain life of a writer.”

We readers too can be like them, by opting to walk the solitary path of reading. If we are content to judge authors by their works and not their personalities, if we are ready to put substance over style, then Lit Fests would lose their relevance. Honestly, how can something as intimate as a novel be turned into a successful live event?

From: firstpost.com/living/literary-festivals-are-anti-reading-why-lit-fests-are-for-performers-not-writers-2542596.html

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Who, if not Writers?

“Literature, whether prose or poetry, as a record, or history, not only of individual’s lives but also of collective’s lives ~ indeed of society’s life. For what purpose would Literature serve if not as a mirror of our reality both at the individual and collective levels? So, while it is soul-satisfying to write and read about the twinkling of stars as well as gushing and gurgling streams by verdant hills, for me it is more imperative that we also write about peace, harmony, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity amongst the human race. Indeed, it is very imperative […] that we write about freedom ~ freedom to think, to feel, to ideate, to write and to read and these freedoms can become a reality only when we create and nurture the atmosphere and environment for them to germinate. So then, we must write about poverty, hunger, mal-nutrition, diseases, injustice, corruption and all the other ills that beset our society and […] sink us in the quick sands of mediocrity.”

“If writers do not double up as activists too, who will change our society and state? Who will create the need and the urge in our people to destroy the status quo and usher in change that would bring out the best in our culture and traditions, and indeed in us? This requires that writers and poets climb down from Ivory Towers and see and feel the real world we live in. This requires that we do not romanticize ourselves, our cultures, our traditions, our society and our state. This further requires that we do not look at Literature as a means to gain popularity, to make a name and to make money, and I know it is hard to ward off the temptations social media offers in today’s technologically-dominated world. But at the same time, it is now imperative that we use social media to disseminate our message. And perhaps less of the messenger?”

FROM: morungexpress.com/creating-change/

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Writers Help Us Grow as People

Literature mirrors “the challenges of societal integrity, cultural sovereignty and the dilemma of self-awareness and self-confidence in us as a people.”

[…] “not only should we read books written by our writers for our people, we should see them while they are alive, touch them and feel them, connect with their humanity from which spring their acute sense of self-awareness, purpose and the dilemmas of reality, which writers are so endowed with.” […]

“Our writers should regularly be invited into our schools, talk to students, share their works and thoughts with them and let our youth grow up knowing their writers who so much influence their thoughts”.

From: graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/53006-writers-must-interact-with-students-prez-mahama.html

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Role of Life’s Experiences in the Creative Process

“Spontaneity, freshness, courage and a thousand other advantages inherent to youth [are] conducive” to creativity. However, “maturity and experience — the world accumulated and assimilated in the author’s mind — allow him to convey human problems from a truly universal perspective. The writer in his adulthood, freed from the inseparable emotional interference of youth, with its naive drive to over-analyze experiences, desires, and frustrations, finds himself in the optimal position to blend personal elements with those of others’, be they taken from reality, or existing literature, absorbing them into his own 
writing, and widening his understanding of the creative act of penetrating the complexity of human mystery — the only and true object of the artistry of the novel.”

Vicente Lenero, The Code (my rush translation).

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Are Today’s Writers Irrelevant?

Writers “can make an impact on the social and political life of the nation by using their reputations as thinkers and writers.” But, “When I look at the contemporary scene, it seems to me that writers make no impact at all.”

“Writing, I am afraid, has become a self-promoting activity. To see writers hankering for rewards is to lose faith in their ability to play any role beyond a selfish one. […]”

“…the mystique surrounding the writer has all but disappeared. Writers are now seen at so close at hand that there is no longer any awe surrounding them. By making the writer a celebrity, the media has weakened the writer’s role and taken away to some extent, her freedom. To want to be known and to be known -both these erode the writer’s freedom.”

“Fame brings its own pressures and Virginia Woolf ‘s words say it beautifully: “Now I think Shakespeare was very happy in this that there was no impediment of fame, but his genius flowed out of him.”

From: m.timesofindia.com/life-style/books/features/I-am-frustrated-by-the-impotence-of-writers/articleshow/49308748.cms

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Writers Can Make a Better World

“Literature is constructive as well as reflective, and there is certain power in this.

Novels rising from moments of conflict and hardship sharpen focus on the inequalities and struggles of those times.

… such narratives raise awareness of key social issues and potentially move the culture toward empathy, understanding, change – or else underscore unfortunate cultural resistance, the failure of those things to eventuate.

…writers and artists who direct their work toward the prevailing issues of the time can […] alter the real world, for the better.”

From: theconversation.com/writing-for-good-in-the-contemporary-novel-of-purpose-48104

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Real Writers Follow Their Rhythm

Writers… “we’re storytellers, craftsman. We do care deeply about language. We want our words to dance to a particular rhythm… One of the tools we use is repetition. Unfortunately, it’s the tool most despised by bad editors…  English teachers, those non-writers responsible for teaching us how to write. It begins when they circle a word that appears a few times in a single paragraph and ask for an alternative…

English teachers who don’t practice the craft of writing — and that’s the vast majority — can’t ruin real writers. They can just give them bad grades. Real writers know that writing has to be heard, not just read.  They find a beat, a rhythm, and they follow it. They can’t help it.

But the rest of the class walks away with the false knowledge that good writing is something you can diagram; that it’s meant to be seen and not heard; that rhythm is a tool for poetry, not prose.”

From: washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/04/how-corporate-america-killed-my-writing/

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Revolution Will Not Come From Materialistic Writers

“Though the mouth has hardly ever ceased to be “muzzled by the food it eats to live,” nature has always had this quaint way of producing those daring ones determined to go against the grain.”

“No doubt one has to have the conviction of steel to take such a stand, and this decision will not appeal to a highly materialist writer. The very rich who write for kicks are not too fussy about integrity or conviction, though they can be if they so desire.”

“There are stories galore about writers with a passion for truth but who under pressure were forced to compromise.”

“well-to-do folks with their full quota of daily calories, can write well but have nothing to say, as against poor folks who do the hard work and get the least calories, and have much to say but can’t write. Lao Tzu said: “Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know”.

“writers and artists of integrity are most often found outside looking in armed with their criticism … for that’s where the revolution happens.”

From: stabroeknews.com/2015/opinion/letters/08/01/writing-always-has-a-reason/

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Writers or Performers?

“In my first 15 or 20 years of authorship, I was almost never asked to give a speech or an interview. The written work was supposed to speak for itself, and to sell itself, sometimes even without the author’s photograph on the back flap.” –John Updike, The End of Authorship

A publishing contract is now more than an invitation to write. It is also a request for performance. The author becomes, as John Updike puts it in The End of Authorship, a “walking, talking advertisement for the book”. The very year the American novelist gave this speech in Washington, a publisher told me in passing: “Of course, we’ll fly you to the festivals, get you reading at shops and libraries.” Of course. One does not simply have talent, which Flannery O’Connor insisted was vital for a literary vocation. Now one is a talent: an artful player, with all the ambiguity of each word.

My point is not that there is anything necessarily vicious or vulgar about performance, or that we have lost a literary golden age: from enlightened literacy to primitive orality. The Romans regularly held public performances, in which poets tested their verse in a public laboratory. (Or lavatory. “You read to me as I shit,” complained first-century poet Martial in his Epigrams.) Pliny the Younger lamented that his listeners did not obey audience etiquette: “two or three clever persons … listened to it like deaf mutes.” Greek philosophy itself began with public performance; with the need to grab interest along with intellect. Put simply, we are not the first era to ask writers to tap-dance, and this request does not automatically corrupt literature.”

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