SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Wednesday, April 04, 2018


Matt Haig ‏ Verified account @matthaig1 Mar 29 More
Be nice if one day people realised writing fiction
was as hard as other art forms.
No celebrity says, hey, I'll write
a piano quartet for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
or I'll join Cirque du Soleil.
Always 'I'll write a novel'. *  **


* Tweet of the day.
** Little pleasures of the obscure mid-list writer.
*** “Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.” 
― Flannery O'Connor. Or some Carroll: "Callooh! Callay!" / He chortled in his joy. Or maybe more O'Connor: “There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”


  1. Nicely put, Marly, nicely put. Add to which: or I'll transplant someone's heart terribly artistically, rebuild the Parthenon, form a government based on free love. Hey - perhaps they do say some of these things.

    And what happens to these novels? At which page does reality set in like a cold bath in the Arctic? When do they start to curse Browning's oh so seductive: First fine careless rapture, having discovered instead: 5% inspiration, 95% perspiration?

    The best guideline ever:

    Easy writing, hard reading.

    1. Right!

      Tweet credit to Matt Haig--don't know who he is! Those are good additions!

      The passages I've read are terribly alliterative, so Penn must have been on the proverbial roll...

    2. Looked up Matt Haig. His twitter self-description:

      Matt HaigVerified account
      'Writes excellent stories' Neil Gaiman
      'Precious snowflake' Piers Morgan
      'Ignore Piers Morgan' my mum

  2. Rhino Records one brought out an anthology of popular songs recorded by actors. Apparently most of it did not rise to the level of Robert Mitchum singing "Thunder Road", and I think William Shatner contributed quite a few tracks. So the temptation extends a bit beyond prose fiction. (See

    Part of the problem is that much of the reading public can't tell bad writing from good. An awful lot of people will tell you that they have read some book, and apparently be correct in the sense that they've run their eyes across the page; yet if you mention absurdities, solecisms, etc. in that book, they will look at you blankly. I think in particular of a novel that stayed well up the NY Times bestseller list for a couple of years, and whose author, as Twain said of Cooper, "saw nearly all things as in a glass eye, darkly." (She may have been the first writer since Tennyson to think that train wheels run in the grooves of tracks. I could go on, and on, but why?)

    In any case, when the blurb from Sarah Silverman is several times as long as the one from Salman Rushdie, won't the prudent reader pause?

    1. When I wrote a novel set during the Civil War, I was terrified of making some bizarre mistake and was relieved when the book passed muster with historians. In part, my apprehension was because a well-known Southern woman I knew had written a novel in which the hero and heroine travel all around the South at a point in the war when the tracks had been ripped up!

      Yes, i agree that many can't tell good prose from bad. And I think that will only get worse with current public school emphases.

    2. I think that I've heard one of the Shatner songs... So many wondrous ways for a famous person to think well of himself--or herself--and step into new limelight without sufficient skills or talents. Some people need to hide their lesser lights under a bushel basket!

  3. Yes, but people and libraries will buy the book, and reviewers will have to read it! That is sad proof that P. T. Barnum was right.

  4. I was going to rant about the countless hours and millions of dollars in media attention this novel has gotten—on NPR, CBS News, late-night comedy shows, etc.—when plenty of sharp, talented writers go unnoticed...but then I read some of the reviews and found myself pitying Penn, and deeply embarrassed for him.

    I also doubt that enough people like Penn enough that this book could have earned money for the publisher even if it had been good.

    1. We who are writers cannot help but imagine how we would feel in such a plight...

    2. But the book is at 1600 on Amazon, which isn't so bad! Just peeked.

  5. I should add that yesterday in Book Monster, a used bookstore in Santa Monica, I saw what is apparently a novel by Tom Hanks.

    1. Sigh. Probably shelved next to Madonna's picture books for children! Somebody mentioned to me that Ethan Hawke's novels are a cut above the usual celebrity books, but I have never taken a look.

  6. Coming soon.....serious authors as action movie stars, NBA players, and Grammy award winning hip hop stars....
    Oops....never mind.....

    1. You know, serious authors don't try to do those things... Interesting, no?


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.