August 29th, 2006

Reading aloud

It really helps me to read what I've written aloud. Even when my kid was so little that kid sat on the floor and colored without really paying any attention, it helped to read passages out loud. I've heard that even reading aloud to your cat or dog helps. I do know that the last thing I do before moving on from a chapter is to read it out loud. Sometimes I've even imagined having a listener. In a weird way, it helps me to hear the parts that aren't working if I imagine someone else's ears hearing it.

One trick I've only heard about but never tried is to have someone else read the passage to you. Since they aren't familiar with it, they may stumble and show you where something needs to be fixed. Has anyone tried this?

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Cutting off his head with a surgical knife - or eviscerating an author in a review

Let's just say that Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times does not like Jonathan Frazen's new book, The Discomfort Zone. She says this memoir "succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed." That "there is something oddly preening about his self-inventory of sins, as though he actually reveled in being so disagreeable." And he comes across "as a kind of mean-spirited Lucy on steroids," with "a marriage [that] sounds like another hellish exercise in self-absorption."

The review ends on this high note: "Just why anyone would be interested in pages and pages about this unhappy relationship or the self-important and self-promoting contents of Mr. Franzen’s mind remains something of a mystery. In fact, by the end of this solipsistic book, the reader has begun to feel every bit as suffocated and claustrophobic as Mr. Franzen and his estranged wife apparently did in their doomed marriage."

Whew! Why don't you share your true feelings?

This is why Annie Lamott wrote in Salon a few years back, "I was in New York for four or five days, and waited to see if I would get reviewed by the Times. This is my ninth book and I have never gotten a daily review in the Times -- not that I am bitter. Nope, nope, nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that I secretly believe that if Michiko Kakutani likes your work, it means you are a real writer, and you will be happy and and wealthy and stable forever. The one little problem with Michiko, though, is that if she doesn't like your book, she will kill you -- cut your head off with a surgical knife, and play hacky-sack with it until she grows bored. Then, maybe in the last paragraph, she'll pour acid on it."

I think some acid just got poured.

Do you think he is curled in a ball someplace, rocking back and forth? Or do you think someone who writes a memoir revealing bad things about himself deserves this?

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