Posts Tagged ‘Viktor Shklovsky’


Friday, April 6th, 2012

It’s hard for me to convey how seriously my world was shaken by these lines from last Sunday’s NYTBR “In the List” roundup:

There was a time, three or four years ago, when it seemed every novelist had a blog, and why not? Blogging gave writers another way to reach readers, to promote their work or air their grievances or test their ideas in mini-essays that played to their strengths. But technology evolves, and despite some notable holdouts (Elif Batuman is one) Twitter has killed the blogging star. Now writers connect with their publics in 140 characters or fewer.

I had NO IDEA until I read it in the Times that writers had stopped keeping blogs!! Three or four years ago—that’s just when I started blogging! And now I’m one of the last ones left?? How did this happen?? When??

I became obsessed by the phrase “notable holdout.” “Notable holdout,” I kept thinking to myself. “Notable holdout.” Sometimes it sounded good; other times, not so good. I went through a long period of fruitless thinking. I looked up “holdout” in multiple dictionaries.  I wondered whether I would be worse at Twitter than Anne Lamott and, if so, how much worse. I took a break to check my email, and found 14 new spam comments posted to my notable-holdout blog by the latest Captcha resistant spambots, who have moved into the future and left me in the past. And, finally, I remembered Viktor Shklovsky’s immortal Third Factory:

It’s wrong to say: “The whole squad is out of step except for one ensign.” I want to speak with my time, to understand its voice. Right now, for example, it’s hard for me to write, because the normal length for an article will soon be reached.

But chance is crucial to art. The dimensions of a book have always been dictated to an author.

OK human history – I can take a hint. You can find me on Twitter @BananaKarenina, unburdening my heart according to the dimensions dictated by my time.

Once I had gotten started on the important life decisions, I also decided to shut down my Facebook “Author” page, although I’m leaving up my “personal” Facebook page. I will be tweeting (on Twitter) the newsy stuff I used to put on the Author page; Twitter is set to post automatically/ publicly to my “personal” FB page, so please feel free to subscribe. Those who use Facebook but not Twitter can see my Twitter posts on my Facebook page. To those notable holdouts who use neither Twitter nor Facebook, I hang my head and can only say, in the words of my late grandmother, “Hem bravo, hem pardon” (bravo, sorry).

I’m leaving up this site, but only for what I hope will be the very rare occasions when I have grievances that take more than 140 characters to air. I’m sorry to say that I will NO LONGER CHECK COMMENTS REGULARLY, because I swear every day I get +100 comments from some crooked robot trying to sell me used term papers. But you can tell me what you think via Twitter/ Facebook, or through my people.

See you IN THE FUTURE!!!

I will not tell you how long it took me to make that hat.
(I am too cheap for Photoshop.)


Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Proliferating readers! It was a joy and an honor to meet so many of you last week in New York and Boston. Over 100 people turned up at McNally Jackson where I had a long conversation with my first editor, Keith Gessen, during which my oldest childhood friend, the prominent novelist Dara Horn, was so carried away by the emotion of the moment that she threw a small plastic dinosaur at my head.

Wednesday’s reading at Brookline Booksmith was also attended by numerous valued readers of My Life and Thoughts, including my aunt Deniz and her oldest childhood friend, who doesn’t believe in pasteurization, and who had commemorated the occasion by baking a wonderful chocolate cake made with nonpasteurized buttermilk.  We were joined for cake by super-guest-blogger Peli Grietzer, who attended the Manhattan event and the Brookline event, and asked questions on subjects ranging from Shklovsky’s Third Factory to a paragraph from my dissertation which it turned out I had sent him in like 2007, so you just tell me if he deserved some cake.

Untitled picture


We’re number 19!

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Loyal readers!  I’m completely thrilled to relate that, thanks to your support, The Possessed made it to #19 on the New York Times best sellers list for paperback nonfiction, right below No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels!  I’m so happy and honored to learn that the American people are only slightly less interested in my harrowing undercover journey to the inner circles of graduate school as they are in the significantly more harrowing journey of Agent Dobyns!  Thanks to all of you, including my new friend T. Mercer!

52_52_Hells-Angel-Standing-POPUP 481px-Dostoevsky_1872
Hells Angel
photograph by Paul Ryan
Fedor Dostoevsky
painting by Vasily Perov


Book news

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Dear readers!  It took some time, but I finally outsmarted those turkeys and am back at my desk, just in time for the impending release of The Possessed, which you can preorder right now from Amazon for the low, low price of $10.12.  Those with concerns about my interns’ nutritional intake are particularly encouraged you to order from one of the links on this page: that way, thanks to the Amazon Associates program, we get 4% extra per copy.

That means for every copy you buy, we get $0.40: the cost of approximately 1.78 fl. oz. Ensure High Protein Complete Balanced Nutrition Drink!


The problem of the time of writing

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Dear readers!  I’ve been really delinquent with My Life and Thoughts.  You must all have thought I was either dead, or not thinking anything. In fact, I’m writing a book!  The working title is The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them and it’s coming out as an FSG “paperback original,” so my thrifty readers don’t have to wait for the hardcovers to get remaindered!  And, I mean, which among us is in this game for the money, right?

When I mentioned the subject of advances to my fellow blogger Grisha Freidin, he kindly shared with me the following anecdote, from the forthcoming Norton Critical Edition of Isaac Babel’s Selected Writings (ed. Gregory Freidin):