Archive for the ‘On Writing’ Category

The craft of writing


A country of typewriters

The New York Times recently reported that Cormac McCarthy, author of such novels as No Country For Old Men, would be auctioning the typewriter on which he wrote his 2005 bestseller. He's replacing it not with a computer, but a newer typewriter.

It's no surprise that there are authors who prefer typewriters, just as there are videophiles who insist on vinyl or retrocomputer enthusiasts who use computers with 16K of memory. But what is surprising is that such antiquated production methods are still in use in modern industries.

My father was once in a similar situation when he remained committed to running his home business using the same spreadsheet software for two decades. The files were kept in a format inaccessible to his lawyers, brokers, and accountants, so information exchange was never as easy as emailing an attachment; more often, he had to print the files himself, and sometimes then bring them to a printshop to be concatenated into a single larger document. He was tolerated as a client because he'd been with these firms since before Microsoft Office was standardized. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when his computer finally gave out, forcing his upgrade to a modern platform.

I suspect the same is true of Mr. McCarthy, who has been a published author since 1965; his track record has earned him a leeway that would not be afforded to fledging writers. The likelihood of one of his novels being a success is worth the added cost of hiring a transcriptionist to convert his work to digital format.

Still, the cost of such unwavering technological devotion must at some point be question — as the New York Post did earlier this year when it reported that the New York City police department had spent a million dollars on new typewriters. Much of the police department's work has been computerized, but, as evidenced by these bills, a few artifacts remain. Wouldn't this money be better spent on bringing our civil servants into the 20th century? Typewriters may be fine for the entertainment industry, but the time and cost of accommodating diehards like Mr. McCarthy is not a luxury our government may always have.

From the typewriter to the bookstore

Writing a novel is a lofty ambition that involves years of hard work. But that's just the beginning of the long process that gets your story into the hands of readers. Courtesy Macmillan Publishers comes the rest of the tale in this behind-the-scenes look at modern-day book editing and production:

The Bible according to Lolcats

It amazes me that everyday users of the Internet have still not caught on to the phenomenon of lolcats. Though having only emerged this past January, they have since spread across the Internet, most popularly found on the site I Can Has Cheezburger? and even being featured in the July 2007 issue of Time magazine. As succinctly stated in Wikipedia, "Lolcats are images combining photographs of a cat with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption." Lolcat captions generally employ phonetic spellings and poor grammar, suggesting the low mental capacity of the featured felines (and perhaps of today's cell phone text messagers).

Though I'm personally a fan of these images, I do think they've gone a bit far, as it's apparently not enough for cats to be cute and funny; they need to be spiritual, too. A full-scale effort is underway to translate to this pidgin English that most popular of texts: the Holy Bible. Observe the Annunciation as the Angel Gabriel proclaims Mary to be the mother of God:

Ceiling Cat sended Gabriel, a hovr d00d, to Nazareth (dat is a citi in Galilee) to a virgn naemd Mary. She wuz engajded to a d00d naemd Joseph. Gabriel wuz liek "O hai Mary, u iz realli nice. Ceiling Cat iz wif u." Mary wuz kiend of worrid about dat. But teh hovr d00d wuz all "Doant be afraid. Ceiling Cat iz happi wif u. U iz gonna hav a kittn. Naem him Jesus. He wil be graet. He wil be teh kittn of Ceiling Cat an his daddi will give him David's chaer. He wil r00l Jacob's house forevr."

… If that just doesn't leave you speechless, I don't know what will. I'm by no means religiously opposed to this project, but it does beg the questions: Why? Who has the time to adapt this material? And can I have some of that time? Certainly my day doesn't have enough hours for my own writing…

(Hat tip to Angela Gunn)