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Russians are the world's toughest writers

Russians: the world's hardest writers | Books | guardian.co.uk
Many years ago a friend made one of the most perceptive comments I have ever heard about Russian writers. "Yeah," he said, "they're profound and all that. But they're also incredibly hard. I mean, there's Pushkin: died in a duel. Lermontov: died in a duel. Tolstoy: fought in the Caucasus. Dostoevsky: sentenced to death, exiled to a Siberian prison camp. Solzhenitsyn: fought in the second world war, sent to the Gulag, survived cancer, defied the USSR …" "Don't forget Griboyedov," I added. "Torn to pieces by angry Persians after he tried to save an Armenian eunuch. And Varlam Shalamov: Seventeen years in the Gulag." "Yeah – and what have English authors done? Dickens? Who did he fight?" I still think this assessment stands. And recently I discovered possibly the hardest Russian of them all: Avvakum the Archpriest, author of both the first classic autobiography in Russian literature and the first eyewitness account of Siberia and its peoples.

February 15, 2010

Utah considering saving millions by eliminating 12th grade

Utah Mulls Eliminating 12th Grade to Save Money I have a feeling--call it a hunch--that if they did this they wouldn't perform any study to figure out how to cram that lost year of education into 10th and 11th grade, they'd just cut those classes and never look back.
Utah is considering battling its $700 million budget gap, and wiping out senioritis in the bargain, by eliminating the entire last year of high school. GOP state Sen. Chris Buttars' proposal to eliminate 12th grade altogether could save the state up to $60 million. The plan is supported by those who argue students goof off their last year, and that it's not needed for college. But the proposal is facing stiff opposition from parents, teachers and students. "My parents are against it," one Utah 12th grade class president told the Los Angeles Times. "All the teachers at the school are against it. I'm against it. If you're the type of kid who will slack off, you'd find a way to do that in sophomore or junior year."

February 13, 2010

Writer = Prole

Washington Diarist: The New Proles | The New Republic
Many young writers and journalists I meet are close to penniless. They have almost not a hope of supporting themselves in the pursuit of their calling. A garret is no longer affordable. Jobs are disappearing. Internships are unpaid or barely paid, which has the consequence of corrupting a meritocratic system with the inequities of social class, as the fortunately born become the fortunately hired. And when they publish what they write--well, now we leave the honorable tradition of the struggling young writer for the unprecedented enchantments of the digital revolution.... I wonder if people outside the besieged walls of the profession understand how little is earned with contributions to websites. The sums are scandalous. And sometimes there are no sums at all. Sometimes contributions to websites are produced for free. Writers are the only people I know who are expected to work for next to nothing or nothing. Without them, as I say, the intelligent regions of the Internet would not exist; but even as their skills are increasingly in demand, they are treated increasingly as worthless. ... I refer you to a report by James Rainey in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago about the reality of the contemporary freelancer: “what’s sailing away, a decade into the 21st century, is the common perception that writing is a profession--or at least a skilled craft that should come not only with psychic rewards but with something resembling a living wage.” ... Efficiency of expression is in some realms a virtue and in some realms a vice. Brevity is certainly not the soul of news, if by news you mean more than information. “The point” is not always easy. There is not always a “takeaway.” Anyway, this is already an abbreviating age. The forces of concision and distillation are winning. After the death of waiting, I do not see the wisdom of preaching impatience. A culture cannot thrive upon a fear of discourse.