Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

23

Second, and perhaps most important, to be an NYC writer means to submit to an unconscious yet powerful pressure toward readability. Such pressure has always existed, of course, but in recent years it has achieved a fearsome intensity. On the one hand, a weakened market for literary fiction makes publishing houses less likely than ever to devote resources to work that doesn’t, like a pop song, “hook” the reader right away. On the other, the MFA-driven shift in the academic canon has altered the approach of writers outside the university as well as those within. Throughout the latter half of the last century, many of our most talented novelists—Nabokov, Gaddis, Bellow, Pynchon, DeLillo, Wallace—carved out for themselves a cultural position that depended precisely on a combination of public and academic acclaim. Such writers were readable enough to become famous yet large and knotty enough to require professional explanation—thus securing an afterlife, and an aftermarket, for their lives’ work. Syntactic intricacy, narrative ambiguity, formal innovation, and even length were aids to canonization, feeding the university’s need for books against which students and professors could test and prove their interpretive skills. Canonization, in turn, contributed to public renown. Thus the ambitious novelist, writing with one eye on the academy and the other on New York, could hope to secure a durable readership without succumbing (at least not fully) to the logic of the blockbuster. It was a strategy shaped by, and suited to, the era of the English department, which valued scholarly interpretation over writerly imitation, the long novel over the short story. (And when it came to white males imagining themselves into the canon, it helped that the canon was still composed mostly of white males.)

—p.23 MFA vs NYC (9) by Chad Harbach 2 years, 1 month ago

Second, and perhaps most important, to be an NYC writer means to submit to an unconscious yet powerful pressure toward readability. Such pressure has always existed, of course, but in recent years it has achieved a fearsome intensity. On the one hand, a weakened market for literary fiction makes publishing houses less likely than ever to devote resources to work that doesn’t, like a pop song, “hook” the reader right away. On the other, the MFA-driven shift in the academic canon has altered the approach of writers outside the university as well as those within. Throughout the latter half of the last century, many of our most talented novelists—Nabokov, Gaddis, Bellow, Pynchon, DeLillo, Wallace—carved out for themselves a cultural position that depended precisely on a combination of public and academic acclaim. Such writers were readable enough to become famous yet large and knotty enough to require professional explanation—thus securing an afterlife, and an aftermarket, for their lives’ work. Syntactic intricacy, narrative ambiguity, formal innovation, and even length were aids to canonization, feeding the university’s need for books against which students and professors could test and prove their interpretive skills. Canonization, in turn, contributed to public renown. Thus the ambitious novelist, writing with one eye on the academy and the other on New York, could hope to secure a durable readership without succumbing (at least not fully) to the logic of the blockbuster. It was a strategy shaped by, and suited to, the era of the English department, which valued scholarly interpretation over writerly imitation, the long novel over the short story. (And when it came to white males imagining themselves into the canon, it helped that the canon was still composed mostly of white males.)

—p.23 MFA vs NYC (9) by Chad Harbach 2 years, 1 month ago
35

It’s important, I think, to see the whole MFA thing as a pretty freaky but short-term immersion. You are not going to be doing this workshop crap forever. You are doing it to get a little baptism by fire, purge yourself of certain habits (of sloth, of under-revision, of the sin of thinking you’ve made a thing clear when you haven’t) and then you are going to run away from the whole approach like your pants are on fire, and not look back, but return to that sacred land where your writing is private and you don’t have to defend or explain it one bit. If you need that immersion and think it would help, go for it. If not, not. And don’t apply just because you think it’s the thing to do or is a “good career move” or everyone else in your school is doing it. Apply when you really feel you need … something: shelter or focus or good readers or just some time out of the capitalist shitstorm.

—p.35 A Mini-Manifesto (31) by George Saunders 2 years, 1 month ago

It’s important, I think, to see the whole MFA thing as a pretty freaky but short-term immersion. You are not going to be doing this workshop crap forever. You are doing it to get a little baptism by fire, purge yourself of certain habits (of sloth, of under-revision, of the sin of thinking you’ve made a thing clear when you haven’t) and then you are going to run away from the whole approach like your pants are on fire, and not look back, but return to that sacred land where your writing is private and you don’t have to defend or explain it one bit. If you need that immersion and think it would help, go for it. If not, not. And don’t apply just because you think it’s the thing to do or is a “good career move” or everyone else in your school is doing it. Apply when you really feel you need … something: shelter or focus or good readers or just some time out of the capitalist shitstorm.

—p.35 A Mini-Manifesto (31) by George Saunders 2 years, 1 month ago
41

I remember the two postcollege years I spent in New York as one long day in a windowless room. I shared an office with four other people and a printer that emitted heat like a radiator. I decorated the space above my desk with little quotes and scraps from glossy magazines, reminders of the life I wasn’t living. Each day when I arrived at work, I’d place the novel I was currently reading at the corner of my desk—it was my beacon of light, my reward. Books were how I measured my days and how I endured them.

—p.41 Basket Weaving 101 (41) missing author 2 years, 1 month ago

I remember the two postcollege years I spent in New York as one long day in a windowless room. I shared an office with four other people and a printer that emitted heat like a radiator. I decorated the space above my desk with little quotes and scraps from glossy magazines, reminders of the life I wasn’t living. Each day when I arrived at work, I’d place the novel I was currently reading at the corner of my desk—it was my beacon of light, my reward. Books were how I measured my days and how I endured them.

—p.41 Basket Weaving 101 (41) missing author 2 years, 1 month ago
57

People at Iowa love to love Prairie Lights, the local independent bookstore. In Prairie Lights I found myself overwhelmed by the literature of the senses and the literature of the quirky sensing voice. I wanted heavy books from a bunch of different disciplines; on hermeneutics, on monetary policy, on string theory, on psychoanalysis, on the Gospels, on the strange war between analytic and continental philosophers, on sexual pathology. I was twenty-three. I knew I wanted to write a novel of ideas, a novel of systems, but one also with characters, and also heart—a novel comprising everything, not just how icicles broken from church eaves on winter afternoons taste of asphalt (but that, too). James Wood did not yet loom over everything, but I wanted to make James Wood barf. At Prairie Lights, I would have felt much better buying the work of Nathan Englander (alum) if it had been next to that of Friedrich Engels. I felt there how I feel in bars that serve only wine and beer.

—p.57 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago

People at Iowa love to love Prairie Lights, the local independent bookstore. In Prairie Lights I found myself overwhelmed by the literature of the senses and the literature of the quirky sensing voice. I wanted heavy books from a bunch of different disciplines; on hermeneutics, on monetary policy, on string theory, on psychoanalysis, on the Gospels, on the strange war between analytic and continental philosophers, on sexual pathology. I was twenty-three. I knew I wanted to write a novel of ideas, a novel of systems, but one also with characters, and also heart—a novel comprising everything, not just how icicles broken from church eaves on winter afternoons taste of asphalt (but that, too). James Wood did not yet loom over everything, but I wanted to make James Wood barf. At Prairie Lights, I would have felt much better buying the work of Nathan Englander (alum) if it had been next to that of Friedrich Engels. I felt there how I feel in bars that serve only wine and beer.

—p.57 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago
63

When I was at Iowa, Frank Conroy, Engle’s longest-running successor, did not name the acceptable categories. Instead, he shot down projects by shooting down their influences. He loathed Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, Barthelme. He had a thing against J. D. Salinger that was hard to explain. To go anywhere near Melville or Nabokov was to ingest the fatal microbes of the obnoxious. Of David Foster Wallace he growled, with a wave of his hand, “He has his thing that he does.”

Conroy hated what he called “cute stuff,” unless it worked, but it tended never to work. Trying to get cute stuff to work before a sneering audience is like trying to get an erection to work before a sneering audience. Conroy’s arsenal of pejoratives was his one indulgence in lavish style. “Cockamamie,” he’d snarl. “Poppycock.” Or “bunk,” “bunkum,” “balderdash.” He could deliver these quaint execrations in tones that made H. L. Mencken sound like Regis Philbin.

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—p.63 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago

When I was at Iowa, Frank Conroy, Engle’s longest-running successor, did not name the acceptable categories. Instead, he shot down projects by shooting down their influences. He loathed Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, Barthelme. He had a thing against J. D. Salinger that was hard to explain. To go anywhere near Melville or Nabokov was to ingest the fatal microbes of the obnoxious. Of David Foster Wallace he growled, with a wave of his hand, “He has his thing that he does.”

Conroy hated what he called “cute stuff,” unless it worked, but it tended never to work. Trying to get cute stuff to work before a sneering audience is like trying to get an erection to work before a sneering audience. Conroy’s arsenal of pejoratives was his one indulgence in lavish style. “Cockamamie,” he’d snarl. “Poppycock.” Or “bunk,” “bunkum,” “balderdash.” He could deliver these quaint execrations in tones that made H. L. Mencken sound like Regis Philbin.

You must be logged in to see this comment.

—p.63 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago
70

The thing to lament is not only that we have a bunch of novels about harpoons and dinghies (or suburbs or bad marriages or road trips or offices in New York). The thing to lament is also the dead end of isolation that comes from describing the dead end of isolation—and from using vibrant literary communities to foster this phenomenon. In our workshops, we simply accept it as true that larger structures of common interest have been destroyed by the atomizing forces of economy and ideology, and what’s left to do is be faithful to the needs of the sentence.

To have read enough to feel the oceanic movement of events and ideas in history; to have experienced enough to escape the confines of a personal provincialism; to have distanced yourself enough from your hang-ups and pettiness to create words reflecting the emotional complexity of minds beyond your own; to have worked with language long enough to be able to wield it beautifully; and to have genius enough to find dramatic situations that embody all that you have lived and read, is rare. It’s not something that every student of creative writing—in the hundreds of programs up and running these days—is going to pull off. Maybe one person a decade will pull it off. Maybe one person every half century will really pull it off.

aaaahhhh

—p.70 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago

The thing to lament is not only that we have a bunch of novels about harpoons and dinghies (or suburbs or bad marriages or road trips or offices in New York). The thing to lament is also the dead end of isolation that comes from describing the dead end of isolation—and from using vibrant literary communities to foster this phenomenon. In our workshops, we simply accept it as true that larger structures of common interest have been destroyed by the atomizing forces of economy and ideology, and what’s left to do is be faithful to the needs of the sentence.

To have read enough to feel the oceanic movement of events and ideas in history; to have experienced enough to escape the confines of a personal provincialism; to have distanced yourself enough from your hang-ups and pettiness to create words reflecting the emotional complexity of minds beyond your own; to have worked with language long enough to be able to wield it beautifully; and to have genius enough to find dramatic situations that embody all that you have lived and read, is rare. It’s not something that every student of creative writing—in the hundreds of programs up and running these days—is going to pull off. Maybe one person a decade will pull it off. Maybe one person every half century will really pull it off.

aaaahhhh

—p.70 The Pyramid Scheme (51) by Eric Bennett 2 years, 1 month ago
96

My first workshop with her was a revelation. I’d put up my application story—most of us did at some point—with the idea that it was the best I had. She saw straight through it, the way it was a mix of the autobiographical (I really had been in a coven in high school, with my high school boyfriend) and the fantastical (I did not ever help the police find lost children with clairvoyant dreams). I had tried, crudely, to make something out of a Dungeons & Dragons group I’d been in back in high school, but I hadn’t done the work of inventing a narrator who was whole and independent of me. Deborah drew lines around what was invented, and what was not, with a delicate pencil, and patiently explained to me how what we invent, we control, and how what we don’t, we don’t—and that it shows. That what we borrow from life tends to be the most problematic, and that the problem stems from the way we’ve already invented so much of what we think we know about ourselves, without admitting it.

not totally sure what i should take away from this tbh

—p.96 My Parade (83) by Alexander Chee 2 years, 1 month ago

My first workshop with her was a revelation. I’d put up my application story—most of us did at some point—with the idea that it was the best I had. She saw straight through it, the way it was a mix of the autobiographical (I really had been in a coven in high school, with my high school boyfriend) and the fantastical (I did not ever help the police find lost children with clairvoyant dreams). I had tried, crudely, to make something out of a Dungeons & Dragons group I’d been in back in high school, but I hadn’t done the work of inventing a narrator who was whole and independent of me. Deborah drew lines around what was invented, and what was not, with a delicate pencil, and patiently explained to me how what we invent, we control, and how what we don’t, we don’t—and that it shows. That what we borrow from life tends to be the most problematic, and that the problem stems from the way we’ve already invented so much of what we think we know about ourselves, without admitting it.

not totally sure what i should take away from this tbh

—p.96 My Parade (83) by Alexander Chee 2 years, 1 month ago
97

[...] workshops: you meet people there you’d never meet otherwise, much less show your work to, and you listen to them talk about your story or your novel. These are not your ideal readers—they are the readers you happen to have. Listening to their critiques forces you past the limits of your imagination and also your sympathies, and in doing so takes you past the limits of what you can reach for in your work on your own. A fiction writer’s work is limited by his sense of reality, and workshop after workshop blows that open by injecting the fact of other people’s realities.

—p.97 My Parade (83) by Alexander Chee 2 years, 1 month ago

[...] workshops: you meet people there you’d never meet otherwise, much less show your work to, and you listen to them talk about your story or your novel. These are not your ideal readers—they are the readers you happen to have. Listening to their critiques forces you past the limits of your imagination and also your sympathies, and in doing so takes you past the limits of what you can reach for in your work on your own. A fiction writer’s work is limited by his sense of reality, and workshop after workshop blows that open by injecting the fact of other people’s realities.

—p.97 My Parade (83) by Alexander Chee 2 years, 1 month ago
193

We moved to my next profound question: What do you know that no one else knows? My premise was that good writing depends on a kind of specialized knowledge—whether of some process, or some relationship, or some situation or event. If people would just tell us what actually happened! We would know so much; we would learn so much. Of Kafka’s commitment to telling the whole truth about himself and his life, Elias Canetti wrote: “A human being who offers himself to knowledge so completely is, under any circumstances, an incomparable stroke of luck.” We do not have to be Kafka—but we can at least tell one truth, or two, about our lives. As the editor of a literary magazine, I had read so many “stories”—fiction or nonfiction, it didn’t matter. They were made-up, and the more made-up they were, the more conventional. Where truth was left out or kept general, cliché filled the void. The mistake made over and over was to search for the “universal,” when (this is itself a cliché, maybe, but still) it was the specific stuff that readers wanted to know. But of course it’s not so easy to figure out what the specific stuff is. One’s life contains so many things; how are you to know which of these things is distinctive?

—p.193 Money (2014) (187) by Keith Gessen 2 years, 1 month ago

We moved to my next profound question: What do you know that no one else knows? My premise was that good writing depends on a kind of specialized knowledge—whether of some process, or some relationship, or some situation or event. If people would just tell us what actually happened! We would know so much; we would learn so much. Of Kafka’s commitment to telling the whole truth about himself and his life, Elias Canetti wrote: “A human being who offers himself to knowledge so completely is, under any circumstances, an incomparable stroke of luck.” We do not have to be Kafka—but we can at least tell one truth, or two, about our lives. As the editor of a literary magazine, I had read so many “stories”—fiction or nonfiction, it didn’t matter. They were made-up, and the more made-up they were, the more conventional. Where truth was left out or kept general, cliché filled the void. The mistake made over and over was to search for the “universal,” when (this is itself a cliché, maybe, but still) it was the specific stuff that readers wanted to know. But of course it’s not so easy to figure out what the specific stuff is. One’s life contains so many things; how are you to know which of these things is distinctive?

—p.193 Money (2014) (187) by Keith Gessen 2 years, 1 month ago
224

These women were a far cry from my overweight Latino undergrads in Target jeans. Their sandals looked new and expensive. One was probably a lawyer, another the head of an NGO, another a shrink. These women had money and time to explore their creative sides. I was worrying about my sixty-five bucks. The sweat trickled down my temples, collected between my breasts. I could feel my hair frizzing.

“What’s your discipline?” one of them asked.

“I’m a fiction instructor. I’m Diana,” I said, then added, “Wagman.”

“Oh right,” another responded. “You’re the screenwriter.”

It was the first time the screenwriter was said to me in that disparaging tone, but it would not be the last.

Fucking MFA programs. The students were arrogant because they had been accepted by this fancy program. They were also desperate to believe they had done the right thing—that being there would help them, change them, save them in some way. That very first evening, in the introductory meeting, I could smell it: the students’ raw desire, overpowering my own.

—p.224 Application (223) by Diana Wagman 2 years, 1 month ago

These women were a far cry from my overweight Latino undergrads in Target jeans. Their sandals looked new and expensive. One was probably a lawyer, another the head of an NGO, another a shrink. These women had money and time to explore their creative sides. I was worrying about my sixty-five bucks. The sweat trickled down my temples, collected between my breasts. I could feel my hair frizzing.

“What’s your discipline?” one of them asked.

“I’m a fiction instructor. I’m Diana,” I said, then added, “Wagman.”

“Oh right,” another responded. “You’re the screenwriter.”

It was the first time the screenwriter was said to me in that disparaging tone, but it would not be the last.

Fucking MFA programs. The students were arrogant because they had been accepted by this fancy program. They were also desperate to believe they had done the right thing—that being there would help them, change them, save them in some way. That very first evening, in the introductory meeting, I could smell it: the students’ raw desire, overpowering my own.

—p.224 Application (223) by Diana Wagman 2 years, 1 month ago