Mike Ponder: “I’d say I am a businessman. A businessman who was lucky enough to have the talent to paint.” Ah, but what is talent when your true calling is generating money? It’s true that poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance man and it would be naive in the extreme to suggest that artists give up their day jobs and shirk their breadwinning duties. But does the true artist spend nearly moment possible producing art first and foremost, no matter what the circumstances? More advice from Ponder: “At the end of the day, if you are going to be successful as an artist you have to be successful as a businessman.” If this is true, then why doesn’t Thomas Pynchon taking meetings?
It seems that scrotum-shock isn’t confined to the States. The Hamas Education Ministry is removing Palestinian folk tales from school libraries because of “sexual innuendo.” Of course, an offhand reference to genitals is far less suggestive than a Mae West line and certainly less pernicious than a schoolyard taunt. But what’s even crazier is that Hamas has not only removed the book in question, but destroyed 1,500 copies.
Nilanjana S Roy: “They have the air of seasoned explorers, emerging from the rain forest of literature with advice about how to avoid media pythons, the malarial interview (where you speak in a kind of delirium that lasts until you see what you’ve said the next morning in the paper) and other hazards of the festival life. The festival enthusiasts are the ones who’re comfortable leading the life of rockstars on a long world tour, sans the groupies and the psychedelic drugs.” I can report with some authority that authors are not immune to groupies and psychedelic drugs. And I’m certain that Alice Denham can agree.
Joshua Ferris observes that, of Granta’s recently announced Best Young American Novelists, 15 of 21 had MFAs. Maybe this was one of the reasons I wasn’t nearly as excited about Granta’s list as I wanted to be. In the end, isn’t good writing not about workshops, but about sitting on your ass and trying to write the best damn story you can? Personally, I find greater value showing my work to people I trust instead of sitting in front of a bunch of emaciated students who are more driven by uninformed envy than collective no-bullshit encouragement. An open environment in which you can count upon people to tell you the truth is far better than a stuffed classroom in which the same textbook tropes are encouraged. I feel the sorriest for bleary-eyed editors looking for something different.