The Steal – Wanting What Others Have

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… Charles Caleb Colton

But how do you distinguish between covetness and flattery?  When does someone wanting to be like you turn the corner into obsession?  David Coleman in his review of Rachel Shteir’s new book, The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, offers some insight not only into why others try to get what you have, but why they want it at all.

Although shoplifting is the theme of the book, Coleman’s interview with the author offers some perspective on her underlying motivation to write about “…{having} been wronged or deprived in life…”

“…I always covet everything…I want to be reimagined, reborn, re-something…”

Are you the one who covets?  Or are you the one who is being annoyingly flattered?  Might be worth reading the book.

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Launch Date

At 4 a.m. Eastern time in the United States, a wedding is scheduled to be launched in London.

At 4 p.m. Eastern time in the United States, a spaceship is scheduled to be launched in Florida.

The wedding schedule was perfect; the spaceship is delayed.

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The Books We Never Can Read

We read at the whim of the writers who imagine a story and then live through it – mentally in most cases – to tell the tale.  Whether fiction, memoir, or factual, the story lives in the mind of the author until it is finished.  But, when “The Hand of Dread,” as noted in the Dan Kois New York Times essay Burn Before Reading, grabs the author, the book may be dead – midsentence – never to be seen (unless an enterprising geek finds and posts it on the internet – as was the case with Stephanie Meyer’s 12 chapters of “Midnight Sun”).

Kois lists books that were abandoned by famous authors: Truman Capote, Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, John Updike, Evelyn Waugh.

Why would a novel be ‘”wrecked”? Authors, always sensitive creatures, might abandon a book in a fit of despair.

Others stop writing, just because ” the novel isn’t working.”  Whatever the reasons, all the authors went on to produce published work:  Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, The Adventures of Augie March…

But we will never read Michael Chabon’s Fountain City.

Read the Article:  Burn Before Reading

Sometimes It Helps To Be Rejected by Oprah

Remember the author who turned down Oprah for pick of the week?  According to Lev Grossman’s article in the August 23rd edition of Time magazine  – Jonathan Franzen, the Wide Shot – this may not be the real story.  But no one really cares if Oprah felt disrespected or if Franzen seemed above the masses.  Franzen’s Pulitzer finalist – Corrections – survived the public relations faux pas – no matter how depressing the story was.

Grossman humanizes Franzen as a bird watcher and focused writer with another great novel coming this month – Freedom… this one just as hard to take and again revolving around a family’s emotions.  According to Grossman,  its theme may be more important today than ever…

There is something beyond freedom that people need: work, love, belief in something, commitment to something.  Freedom is not enough.  It’s necessary but not sufficient.  It’s what you do with freedom – what you give it up for – that matters.,8599,2010000,00.html

But Franzen’s 2005 remarks at Swarthmore  on receiving an honorary degree provide better insight into what drives this intense author…

“…you may be wrong about …almost everything…but you might as well get used to the kind of person you are…, because that person isn’t going anywhere.”

As a bonus, the Time article offers 5 books Franzen says have influenced him – impressive picks.  More fuel for my library reservations – have you read these yet?

  • The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

“I’m 18 with 22 Years of Experience”

If 50 is the new 30, and 60 is the new 40, how old are those thirty-somethings – in their teens?      Sam Tanenhaus makes a case for the older writer – defined as over 40 – while confirming that most of the great writers were under 30 when they wrote their first work of fiction.    In his New York Times essay How Old Can a ‘Young Writer’ Be? Tanenhaus lists authors from Hemingway to Mailer, who were all mid-twenties when they hit success.

Where is the Grandma Moses of fiction? Are there any fiction writers over 60?

Frank McCourt was 66 when Angela’s Ashes was published.

Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows at 51,

Mary Wesley

and Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn – a WWII  Cornwall drama, later made into a TV mini-series, did not start writing until she was 71.

Does age really matter? Maybe.   Tanenhaus says that every major fiction writer “begins with a storehouse of material and memories that often attenuate over time.” Ah, the need to write before you forget what you are going to write.

If you are already having senior moments, you may be thinking your career as a future novelist is in jeopardy, but Helen Hooven Santmyer, who wrote And Ladies of the Club when she was 87, advises…

“…it never really goes, does it? It is all in our minds.”