Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Having fried myself at the beach over the weekend (and I thought I was being so good about sunscreen too) I've spent all my non-working hours this week lying in bed trying not to move too much. So I've mostly been doing a lot of puttering around on the internet at night reading things.

Like Laura Miller's article on the growth of self-publishing and the fun of slush piles, which brought back cringe-worthy memories of reading for a literary agency:
People who have never had the job of reading through the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts sent to anyone even remotely connected with publishing typically have no inkling of two awful facts: 1) just how much slush is out there, and 2) how really, really, really, really terrible the vast majority of it is. Civilians who kvetch about the bad writing of Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer or any other hugely popular but critically disdained novelist can talk as much trash as they want about the supposedly low standards of traditional publishing. They haven't seen the vast majority of what didn't get published -- and believe me, if you have, it's enough to make your blood run cold, thinking about that stuff being introduced into the general population.

Everybody acknowledges that there have to be a few gems out in the slush pile -- one manuscript in 10,000, say -- buried under all the dreck. The problem lies in finding it. A diamond encased in a mountain of solid granite may be truly valuable, but at a certain point the cost of extracting it exceeds the value of the jewel.
I can't say reading through all those submissions is something I miss.

And today I also read the latest installment in Tobi Tobias's series of ballet diaries (all of which have been such a treat). In this case she's writing primarily about the retirement of two dancers--Philip Neal and Albert Evans--I have seen perform but not often enough to have formed any particularly strong impressions of them. Still, the best dance writing, much like great writing about the visual arts, seems to me to be an act of transformation--turning something that is visual into words on a page while still capturing something of its essence. Reading Tobias's post about the qualities of these particular dancers recalled to me the times I have seen them more clearly than would otherwise have been possible. Then again, perhaps that's a trick of the memory.

The most fun reading I've been doing, however, is ESPN's Off the Ball blog. Since I don't get to watch most of the games--although it appears that a large number of people at work are streaming the games at their desks so maybe I really can watch and just hadn't realized it until now--this is proving a nice supplement to live updates.

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