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Letter to Oprah: My Holocaust Memoir

Shouts & Murmurs: My Holocaust Memoir: Humor: The New Yorker

Dear Ms. Winfrey:

I am a great admirer of your show, and, while I do not watch every day, when I do watch I am always touched in or near my heart. Recently, I was watching “Best Life Week,” in which your guests discussed the challenges that they have overcome, and it occurred to me that the events of my early life, which are the subject of an upcoming book I have just completed, might be perfect for a future episode. I do not expect you to read the entire book, but I wanted to take a moment to review some of the highlights—though “highlights” is a crass, commercial word for such a wrenching memoir.

. . .

These are the rough outlines of my story, but there are plenty of other details that are sure to entrance and bewitch the average reader—the time I played second base for the Yankees, the time aliens landed in front of the Panzerspähwagen and tried to abduct (and presumably probe) Bradshaw—not to mention film and television executives looking for heartwarming stories of human will and undying love. I know that your lawyers are paid to be suspicious, and I understand. But I can assure you that Terry Bradshaw is a Gypsy. I look forward to your thoughts on “Back-Door Man,” and what is sure to be a fruitful creative partnership.

January 13, 2009

Publishing Advice from Jim Munroe, a Guy Who Knows a Thing or Two

No Media Kings � 10 Ways to Get Your Writing...

Continue reading "Publishing Advice from Jim Munroe, a Guy Who Knows a Thing or Two" »

January 04, 2009

English Language to Have One Million Words

ABC News: English Language to Have One Million Words by April
...from The Economist comes a reminder of a notable date of an altogether higher order. Is your stylus poised? It's April 29, 2009 -- plus or minus a few days. That is when the English language is expected to acquire its millionth word. This prediction comes from Global Language Monitor, an organization in Austin, Texas, which uses proprietary software to track and analyze trends in language. "Global English" is its particular focus. A million words doesn't really seem excessive, given 1.35 billion speakers of English on the planet. That works out to only one word for every 1,350 speakers. But the decision about just what is "a word" is not always absolutely clear cut. And just how do you count? Is dogs a separate word from dog? The Economist exudes skepticism but can't resist at least a brief celebration of the richness of English vocabulary, from the Scottish Highlands to Australia to India.

December 26, 2008

David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

David Foster Wallace - Commencement Speech at Kenyon College

Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning. . . .

December 21, 2008

10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing

10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing -- Whatever

1. The Bad News: Right Now, Your Writing Sucks.

It’s nothing personal. When I was a teenager, my writing sucked, too. If you don’t believe me, check these out: A short story I wrote in high school, and (God help us all) the lyrics to a prog-rock concept album I wrote in my first year of college. Yeah, they suck pretty bad. But at the time, I thought they were pretty good. More to the point, at the time they were also the best I could do. No doubt you are also pounding out stories and songs to the best of your ability… and chances are pretty good that your best, objectively speaking, isn’t all that good.

There are reasons for this.