Not in the book: One sentence at a time (August 15)
A kind correspondent sent me this in response to this post:
"Years ago, on the phone with Bill Buford, then fiction editor of The New Yorker, enduring a series of painful edits, feeling a little insecure, I went fishing for a compliment: “But what do you like about the story?” I whined. There was a long pause at the other end. And Bill said this: “Well, I read a line. And I like it . . . enough to read the next.”
And that was it: his entire short story aesthetic and presumably that of the magazine. And it’s perfect. A story is a linear-temporal phenomenon. It proceeds, and charms us (or doesn’t), a line at a time. We have to keep being pulled into a story in order for it to do anything to us.
I’ve taken a lot of comfort in this idea over the years. I don’t need a big theory about fiction to write it. I don’t have to worry about anything but: Would a reasonable person, reading line four, get enough of a jolt to go on to line five?"
It's from A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. It's a lovely thought. Just go one sentence at a time. And arguably (with my relentlessly PowerPoint centric hat on) a good way to think about presentations. Just deliver a slide that makes you want to stay for the next one.
(Also BTW, I'm enjoying the cadence and chorus of blogging like this. I write a bunch of posts when I have a moment to do so, I queue them up to post once a day and then, mostly I forget about them happening. So, then, when someone pulls one from the muddy stream and says 'that was interesting' or 'that made me think of this' it's a real treat.)
Good streams: Things magazine (August 14)
Things is a classic. It started as a magazine and then, 20 years ago, became a weblog of snappy descriptions and curated links. It's sometimes opaque, always interesting, bundles of aesthetic, links and ideas. And guitar pedals.
Notes from the deli: standards (August 13)
I've started getting up early, walking through the park and heading to an old, traditional deli for coffee, first thing, most mornings.
I like the things you hear. Like today, a lawyer sitting dictating what seemed like extremely confidential legal thoughts, outloud, into his laptop (WHO DOES THAT?). And then he got a Skype call from his family and I heard the words: "If you bring a babyccino into this house I will throw it”
Powered entirely by bicycles (August 12)
I can't remember where I heard about Houses Slide but I'm fascinated by it.
It's a work of contemporary music/art by Laura Bowler which "describes one woman's intimate psychological journey to figure out her response to the climate crisis, from an initial depressing realisation of the gravity of the issue, through to her refusal to be overwhelmed and decision to take positive action."
And "With a text created by Cordelia Lynn using submissions from members of the public, this concert presentation conceived and directed by Katie Mitchell is an industry-first, being powered entirely by bicycles."
That's the bit that really struck me.
'A concert presentation powered entirely by bicycles.'
On the stage apparently. And at the back. Obviously, it's slightly gimmicky and perhaps obvious, the first thing you'd think of. But there's something powerful and clear about it.
Increasingly, we need to think about power and work and energy and seeing it embodied in some cyclists is useful. It takes a bunch of people, cycling for quite a while, to provide sound and light for a concert. (A review and pictures) We need to understand the scale of that kind of thing.
Listening (August 11)
The most important organisational skill is listening (and personal one, probably but I feel less qualified to airily pronounce on that). I'm not very good at it. My colleagues will tell you that. But I have tried, recently, to get better and I think it's do-able. This article is full of golden tips for just that.
"Just a few weeks later, my daughter was telling me about a problem she had. I was five minutes into a prescriptive list of what she should and shouldn’t do, embellished with my own stories to reinforce the points, when I caught her face. She was keen to listen, but I could tell I wasn’t giving her what she needed. I remembered another child psychotherapist telling me that children wanted fewer solutions, and more empathy. Recognising and naming a child’s feelings (in fact, anyone’s) was crucial. “That sounds like a really hard day,” I said, inwardly thinking how insubstantial it sounded, “and I can see how sad it’s made you.” “It was!” she said, beaming. “And I was.” And off she went. Could it really be that simple? Not always, but as a strategy it’s more powerful than you think."
On the road again (August 10)
It's been a long time but it seems like I'm going to be speaking at a thing. Lots of interesting speakers. Donation to a good cause.
And I'm going to be doing a presentation about doing good presentations - which seems like a fool's errand. Crumbs.
Good streams: Amazon chronicles (August 9)
Amazon Chronicles is a great one, reporting on a single company at the level of commerce and culture and beyond both. It's inventive and interesting and revealing. It sounds silly in a way, but just have countries should have ambassadors to Facebook a media vehicle focused on Amazon makes absolute sense.