More on placeism

Looks like I might finally get to inbox zero, as 43 folders calls it. (I shouldn’t tempt fate, though).

My fellow-placeist, Dave Lull, sends me lots of links, so what I’m going to do is to provide the "placeist" ones here, in this one post, so anyone else sympathetic to the concept (actual or virtual placeists are both fine)  can take a look for themselves.

(Did you just come in to the story here? Placeism is an old-fashioned concept which is being revitalised by the power of the Internet, essentially. Some of my earlier ramblings on the topic are listed in my sample posts in the left sidebar or "about" page.)

First up, "a sense of place" is a link to a book review in The Weekly Standard by Patrick J Walsh on "thinking globally, while living in the South". The book is a collection of essays by Marion Montgomery ( a he) — 26 of them — advocating regionalism "rooted in time and place". The review is pretty good, I thought, explaining the difference between this conviction-placeism and the "provincialism" of other Southern writers like Faulkner and Capote. "Provincial writing is all too common today, and is truly cold-blooded, lacking any moral sense or sensibility, and uninspired by any transcendent reality. It is a literature that, in America today, finds an all-too-receptive audience."

Next of Dave’s links is to a posting on PrairieMary about non-monetary compensations — the mini-economy of local trade (cigarettes for fresh produce), or sex and secrets (which of course also apply on the wider stage). "But what I wanted to get at in this little piece is some kind of understanding of prestige, status — the sort of thing that used to be called honor, dedication, or even sometimes professionalism. At one time doctors had it. Today in Great Falls the doctors are in a big food fight over who can own a hospital and whether they have to take in emergency patients who can’t pay. This was once unthinkable." Teachers and religious leaders have changed similarly. The only answer to these general trends, in PrarieMary’s thinking, is in taking pleasure in small achievements. Don’t give in to pressure to measure your achievments by others’ expectations (particularly those of your parents), seems to be the message; invest in simple understanding, not in prestige.

Another link from Dave is to an article on the BBC news site by Dan Gillmor, who seems to have "got it" that the internet in general, and blogging in particular, is the new market. "The more serious cyber-journalistic competition appears to be for niche topics, where bloggers and other people using democratized publishing tools can win audiences by going narrow and deep, instead of the wide and shallow coverage that prevails in much of the mass media." (Virtual placeism is what he’s talking about.) Gillmor argues that the threat to serious journalism is not from the bloggers (a correct view, in my opinion and in that of lots of sensible people — the two media are complementary and overlapping) but from businesses using technology’s power — advertising, marketing and the like., Craigslist and EBay come in for some flak. I think that Gillmor’s piece is thoughtful and well-argued, unlike much on the BBC site which I find rather trivial, not that I read the output that often. Gillmor is drawing attention to a problem that needs addressing (all this net neutrality stuff is an example of the forces of evil at large).  But just how it should be addressed escapes him (and me) — other than getting talking about it , and bringing some of that famed bloggers’ analytical skill to bear.

OK so if you have got this far I will just finish up by providing one last link, turn your blog page into a pdf file. Bit of light relief. I haven’t tried it yet, hope it works.

Thanks very much again, Dave, for all the links and food for thought.

Suffering for your art

Calling all moany writers (and there are a lot of them about — or at least, there are a lot of them who create blogs on which to moan). The eagle-eyed and legendary Dave Lull has sent me a link to a characteristically witty article by Garrison Keillor: "Writers, quit whining". Dave sent me this link a while ago, and several people have since picked up on it and posted links to it on their blogs. However, I did enjoy reading it so thought I would draw attention to it now, with apologies to anyone who has already read the article. (I often read posts a week, two weeks, a month or more after reading an almost identical post elsewhere, but we bloggers are strong on analysis, right?).

To return to GK’s article, he compares writing with the sheer monotony of other jobs, teaching for example: "Try teaching eighth-grade English, five classes a day, 35 kids in a class, from September to June, and then tell us about suffering." He goes on to say that the writers who complain most are the drunks, and the people who win awards for writing "stuff that’s painful to read", and that the truth is that writing is no more difficult than anything else — like building a house, or doing any other mundane activity becuase you have to earn a crust; year in, year out.

People have good lives: they grow up, have a few laughs, get married (or otherwise settle down), have children, sample a few of the pleasures of life when you can — eventually, the children grow up, you pay off the mortgage, and you have time — people treat you with respect and listen to what you say just because you are old. "Illness is, of course, to be avoided, and also megamalls and meetings involving vice presidents. But writing is not painful, no more so than a round of golf. Nobody was harmed in the course of writing this column. That is all I have to say at this time. Thank you."

What I have noted about writing is that lots of people want to do it. Almost everyone I have ever interviewed for a job in my industry (publishing), and I have interviewed very, very, very many, wants to be a writer. Few get to make a living at it. The rest have to compromise in taking a non-writing job and write in their "spare" time (or not at all). Or they remain unemployed, either writing or not, and either getting paid for it or (usually) not. I’ve seen some people make it, spectacularly in some cases, and others not. Some are happy in whatever alternative falls their way, some aren’t.

What’s my point here? I think I am saying that you just have to do what you can do. When you get to a certain age you have to decide stuff, like whether to have children or somewhere decent to live. Sometimes life throws nasty things at you and you have to cope. The purity of youthful ambition gets diluted. Keillor is saying, don’t moan on about it. Live your life, get what you can out of it (and there is a lot). If you are lucky enough to live beyond the mortgage/child years, you acquire freedom (time and money) and experience, so plenty to write about (if you still have the energy), if that’s your inclination. Oh yes, and in the meantime, get a blog — but try not to moan too much about the writing process on it 😉

Travel planning

Luckily for me, being a stay-at-home type, I don’t have to do much business travel. But next time I do, I’ll try a site called tripadvisor. You key in your destination, dates and so on, and you get lists of hotels, things to do, reviews and photos — from users. Many travel sites suffer from delays in being updated, but tripadvisor is using social networking — wikis — to keep up to date. Do I sound like an ad? I hope not. But tripadvisor does seem to be doing pretty well. Apparently it is now the second most popular travel guide site in the world (up from eighth last year), its strength lying partly in being a portal to other travel sites rather than having to generate all of its own content.

Behind the scenes, there has been a bit of a battle going on, with hoteliers posting glowing recommendations and travellers posting horror stories, pictures of mouldy rooms, etc. But, to quote from EPS, a publishing alerting service to which I subscribe, "TripAdvisor earlier this month [April] initiated a beta launch of TripAdvisor Inside — essentially a complete Wikipedia for travel.  London and Los Angeles are the initial travel destinations covered, and the feature is planned to be rolled out to all 23,000 destinations covered by the end of this quarter.  A look at the Los Angeles site shows typically detailed, Wikipedia-style entries on architecture, culture, history, neighborhoods, recommended reading, things-to-do categories, and so on.  If TripAdvisor successfully leverages its user base of 18 million monthly users as real-time guidebook authors,
as certainly appears likely, it will surely live up to its goal of being the ultimate travel resource – and set a significant benchmark in the commercialization of Web 2.0 business models."

Well, I don’t know — next time I have to undertake some business travel to LA, I’ll let you know how it goes. But don’t hold your breath.

Fairy tales and realities

Some more catching up — on reality and fantasy, in various guises.

Over at, Debra Hamel has reviewed Plague Maker by Tim Downs. From the review, the book looks to be a well-written and suspenseful mix of bioterrorism (specifically, germ warfare experiments) with anguished characters facing tragic personal issues — looks worth a read (when the paperback is released on UK Amazon, that is, which probably won’t be until September). In the meantime, Debra’s review is tagged on Connotea Detective, along with a recent batch of reviews from Armchair Interviews, and many other crime fiction news items.

Books, Words, and Writing (the commafull blog) has two postings about fairy tale sites. The first posting, "great resource for fairy tales" has been checked out by Jenny, who said it is a good booklist but does not have many interactive features (as, sadly (?), she’s come to expect from websites — well they can’t all be like Flickr!). The second posting, "more about fairy tales", links to what looks more up Jenny’s street, a fairy-tale generator. She is very keen to try this out, and I’ve sent the link to her, but she’s been too busy with the usual rounds of school, parties, drama club and so on to try it yet. But from the sample that Amy posted on B,B,W, it looks pretty cool. Spooky, even.

Lars over at Brandywine books has been depressed recently. I probably didn’t help by going on at him about his titling of his posts (not) — to read any of them via rss you had to get to the post via one of Phil’s (Brandywine’s other blogger, who always titles his posts). Not that I don’t like to read Phil’s posts, but when time is short one just wants to read particular articles at each alloted slot. Phil and Lars have sorted it out now by prefacing each post with the appropriate initials. And Lars has cheered up, thanks in part to a nice plumber and a compliment about his book. Glad things are looking up, Lars. Now, guys, get back to Tolkien! (C. S. Lewis also acceptable — in fact there is an interesting controversial post on Brandywine about Kathryn Lindskoog and Lewis, which has garnered (at time of writing) 11 comments related to Lars’ question about the possibility of plagiarism.)

Mark Haddon has a new book coming out. From Maud Newton: "Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, has a new novel, A Spot of Bother, coming out in September. According to Publishers Lunch, the book is "a humorous and disturbing portrait of a dignified 57-year-old man trying to go insane politely, as his daughter decides to marry her inappropriate boyfriend, his wife has an affair with his ex-colleague, and he discovers a sinister rash on his hip." "

I very much enjoyed the "curious incident", I loved the way that the reader was drawn in to the narrator’s perception of the world, and the gradual realisation of the alternative reality he lives in as a result of literally believing everything people tell him. And it has Bob May’s chaos theory in it! What is more, the novel has this rare, J K Rowling-like ability for me to enjoy it as much as my children (simultaneously). A rare event indeed. So I am half-looking forward to, half-dreading, Haddon’s next book — it can’t be as good, can it?

Paperback writer has an amusing post asking what if rejection letters were written by writers instead of editors? "James R. Winter : What is it? Oh, yeah. Manuscript. Rejected. Why? It was okay until I grok’d it around page 100, when I realized where the book was going. Nowhere." See the link for Austen, Tolkien, Stephen King-style rejections and more, and the comments for about 50 others (Chaucer, Shakespeare, Poe….) — clearly an idea that resonates with a lot of bloggers! For me what was as interesting as the humour is that I had heard of (and even read) most of the selected writers. Rather different from the content of all those awards and "best writing" lists.

"Is it so bad to be who you are?", asks Ka. Her blog, incidentally, is called So What? Its subtitle: "when you don’t know what you’re talking about, say it louder". I found the blog via a link at Books, Inq., and it seems pretty cool. The post to which I’ve linked is about people in online communities who make up things about themselves — Ka muses on the reasons people have for these creations. Michael Allen (GOB), Frank Wilson and Inner Minx have recently written about The Wandering Scribe, a blog by someone who says she is living alone in a car on the edge of the woods, jobless and unable to find a way out. Nobody seems very sure if Scribe is real or fictional, least of all me. (But she does have a separate blog for PayPal donations.)

That’s all for now, have to go and person the taxi (my usual weekend job).