11/17/09 - 1:57pm
by Chas Danner

Naming Books

Couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the new HuffPo list of “writer’s writers” in (negative) response to Sarah Palin and her ghost writer’s new page roguer. Not because of the writers included or not included (a “writer’s writers” list that omits John McPhee??) – but because of the titles… Book titles, art titles, even song titles are always a fascinating glimpse into how an artist (or an artist’s agent) brands their work, or in a way, themselves. I just keep thinking of all the various people referring to the fictional masterpiece Arsonist’s Daughter in Wonderboys like it was some treasured member of their extended family. With that in mind, a bad poem made from book titles:

Our Story Begins
a distant episode
This Boys Life
Everything That Rises Must Converge
Dance of the Happy Shades
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
A Good Man is Hard to Find
The Tunnel
My Sister’s Hand in Mine
a bad man
George Mills
In Persuasion Nation
Two Serious Ladies
Loving, Living, Party Going

A Sheltering Sky
Geronimo Rex
Civilwarland in Bad Decline
Omensetter’s Luck

My favorite titles:
Civilwarland in Bad Decline (that’s wholly original)
Everything That Rises Must Converge (could be a book about garden gnomes and it would still sound worth reading with a title like that)

Least favorite:
a distant episode

07/5/09 - 11:24pm
by Chas Danner

Attention Must Be Paid

Roger’s Cohen’s A Journalist’s ‘Actual Responsibility’ is probably the best and most personal editorial he will write in his career. It is also a piece every writer needs to read, especially if they believe in journalism or seek to wrangle non-fiction to effect the ideas and lives of others. Writers like me.

Maybe I’m biased because I believed what he says before he said it, or because I care so deeply about the Iran story, but while we all complain about Old Vs New Media, or worry about WaPo’s salons, or consider what some idiot like Glenn Beck thinks about *anything*…  Here is Roger Cohen, old school, wielding the full potential of his ability as a journalist and writer to say as forcefully as he can: “bear witness.”

Watch for the use of this sentence: You cannot carve in rotten wood. which is one of many that as a reader stopped me cold – its perfect clarity and placement humming like a solemn bell. I already liked Cohen, I already thought what he was doing in the way he has covered Iran was downright heroic, as far as a writer can be heroic, but this is beyond all that. I won’t quote anymore, as it just needs to be read as it is – but I can give no better endorsement than to say that this piece is exactly why I want to be a writer.

**The original post was based on the fact that this column was not appearing in Sunday’s US New York Times, I see now that it in fact is appearing, only on Monday not Sunday, thus the edit**