Are you helping?
10 things worth sharing: my interview with Tim Kreider, the case for writing longhand, deep listening, and more...
Tuesday I shared how one of my talks comes together. Several people told me it was their favorite thing I’d written in a while, and I even got a few speaking offers!
Here are 10 things I thought were sharing this week:
“Are you really helping here? That’s what you ought to be doing if you’re a writer. Or any kind of artist. Helping. Some. And it doesn’t mean cheerful or Pollyanna-ish. Francis Bacon, the painter, was helping. William S. Burroughs helps. We all help in different ways.” Watch my chat with the brilliant Tim Kreider.
Last weekend I did something I’ve never done before, believe it or not: I read a novel in the bathtub. Highly recommended! (The practice, and the novel: Station Eleven.) I’m still plowing through William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, but I also started a review copy of Maud Newton’s long-awaited first book, Ancestor Trouble, and it’s really good.
Deep listening: I asked writer and filmmaker Kevin Smokler (of Vinyl Nation) to write about his project of “listening through” a favorite musician’s discography. (I’m going to do this with Cocteau Twins soon.) It’s always worthwhile to “study something you love in depth.”
Sam Anderson and A.O. Scott make a case for writing longhand. (Last year I had a chat with Sam about writing and drawing.) Clive Thompson gave one of my favorite talks on the subject of when you should write by hand and when you should type. And because people ask me all the time: here’s how to improve your handwriting.
A school board in Tennessee has banned Art Spielman’s Maus, one of the greatest comic books ever written. When asked for comment, Spiegelman dropped this bookmark and took a hit off his vape pen. Legend! I’ve been lucky enough to draw him twice here in Austin — once with R. Crumb and Francois Mouly and once for an excellent solo lecture at Bookpeople.
Cookbooks: My wife Meghan has been cooking totally delicious meals from The Weekday Vegetarians. Best veggie stuff I’ve tasted since Isa Does It.
If your kids play Among Us and you’re wondering, here’s what ’sus’ means.
Ear candy: it’s funny, whenever I think I’m bored of guitar music, I just put on Deerhoof or Deerhunter. (This week I listened to the latter’s Microcastle over and over.)
RIP Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. I think often of bell hooks’ story about when she met him for the first time and all she could blurt out was, “I’m so angry!” And he looked at her and said it was okay, “Hold on to your anger and use it as compost for your your garden.”
It’s been two years since we lost Jason Polan. I’m planning on taking some time this week end to grab a Strathmore pad and a Uni-ball bold, take a walk, and draw what I see. Maybe you’ll do the same?
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Take it easy and give yourself a break this weekend!
See you next week.
PS. I am so excited that this is coming out in hardcover:
I also like the “Listening through” idea! I’ve started with Fleetwood Mac—I’m that old—and am really digging the earlier bluesy stuff.
Two thoughts on the Kevin Smokler "Listening Through" piece (I wish I was more disciplined on artist run throughs—I often lose steam or forget about it at some point)
1) Kind of surprised that vinyl is his format of choice since that can be tricky, time consuming, and potentially expensive! (That said, having a physical copy that you invested in, staring you in the face would help with the completion aspect :)
To me, this is where streaming shines even in the light of the recent "CDs are back" articles and Neil Young/Spotify situation.
2) I like that he discusses the order and approach to this and how it's not one-size-fits-all. Chronological does makes sense and does give you the arc and trends of the artist(s) but there is the potential for getting bogged down in larger artist catalogs.
For example, someone who is really taken with The Beatles in Get Back might want to bail when they hit the Beatles For Sale LP! On the flip side (sorry), it's really instructive when you realize that For Sale and Get Back were only recorded just over 4 years apart!
I liked how the AV Club (when they cared more about music) would do artist primers and lay out 101, intermediate work, and advanced studies.
I'm also reminded of Douglas Wolk's recent book, All of the Marvels, where he discusses what he learned after reading practically every Marvel Comics published since 1961, over 27,000 issues. He *specifically* recommends not reading them sequentially since it's really easy to get bored slogging through early or uninspired work. An example might be that a 12 year old who is really into the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie could have a hard time getting through the '60s soap opera of the character just to get to Miles Morales in 2011.