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Gone with the Whiskey.

“The memo..[is] candid in its assessment of the writers’ strengths and weakness. Of William Faulkner, who had written a few screenplays in the early 1930s, the anonymous memo author notes that he was now living in Mississippi but ‘can fly anywhere in his own plane.’ On the downside, Faulkner was ‘not very reliable in his plane nor his habits.'”

But has he taken a stab at the rasslin’ form? Rebecca Onion of Slate birddogs this memo to David O. Selznick on possible Gone with the Wind screenwriters. The quip above reminded me of Mencken’s review of Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, from the dissertation: As good as Babbitexcept the last 30,000 words, which you wrote in a state of liquor.”

Craft of Cthulhu.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Via Liam at sententiae et clamores, Douglas Wynne ranks H.P. Lovecraft’s top ten opening lines. “He may have meandered a bit after getting your attention (and I’d argue that’s part of his charm), but in his pulp fiction heart Lovecraft understood the importance of grabbing you right away to earn your patience, and his stories consistently showcase his mastery of the intriguing opening.”

The painting above, by the way, was Jon Foster‘s contribution to a 2010 exhibit of Lovecraftian-themed art. His gallery is definitely worth a look-thru.

The Last Days of Orwell.

[B]eset by poor health in various manifestations, he had to finish off the novel’s manuscript, which he had then tentatively titled The Last Man in Europe, before his conditions finished him off. ‘I am not pleased with the book but I am not absolutely dissatisfied,’ he wrote his agent of the rough draft. ‘I think it is a good idea but the execution would have been better if I had not written it under the influence of TB.'”

In The Guardian, Robert McCrum tells of a desperately sick George Orwell’s race against time to finish 1984. “In late October 1947, oppressed with ‘wretched health’, Orwell recognised that his novel was still ‘a most dreadful mess and about two-thirds of it will have to be retyped entirely’.” Orwell died in January 1950. (As seen as OpenCulture, who also point the way to these jpgs of Orwell’s original manuscript.)

From Old Ones to New Deal.

“The sketch on the right side of this page of notes, with its annotations (“body dark grey”; “all appendages not in use customarily folded down to body”; “leathery or rubbery”) represents Lovecraft working out the specifics of an Elder Thing’s anatomy. As Lovecraft’s narrator was a scientist, the description of the Things in the novella is dense and layered; here we can see the beginnings of that detail.”

Speaking of taking notes: In her house at S’late, Rebecca Onion points the way to H.P. Lovecraft’s handwritten notes for At the Mountains of Madness. “The writer, who had fallen on hard times, used a deconstructed envelope in an attempt to save paper.”

Also, I forget if I’ve blogged this before, but I found this interesting read while looking to briefly shoehorn Lovecraft into the dissertation: Lovecraft’s final years as a New Dealer:

As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

Breaking Very Very Bad.

“In The Sparrow we follow two stories: The global miscommunications that arise when one culture attempts to convert another, and one man’s crippling loss of faith. On February 1st, Russell herself announced that The Sparrow might finally be flying from page to screen.” In intriguing TV news, AMC options Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow for a possible television series. (My thoughts on the book are here, and its sequel here.) Now, who to play Father Sandoz…Ciaran Hinds?

Where the Magic Happens.

“As I move through the book it becomes more demanding…Toward the end of a book, the state of composition feels like a complex, chemically altered state that will go away if I don’t continue to give it what it needs. What it needs is simply to write all the time. Downtime other than simply sleeping becomes problematic. I’m always glad to see the back of that.” Via Brain Pickings, daily routines of famous writers.

Well, Mars is the Red Planet…

“Informant stated that the general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would seriously believe [sic] could not be won since their morale had been seriously destroyed.”

They’re coming to get you, Bradbury…Apparently, the author of The Martian Chronicles was on the FBI’s Communist watchlist in the 50’s and 60’s for penning potentially subversive “science fiction” stories. “Using a Freedom of Information Act Request, the Huffington Post received a copy of Bradbury’s file, and it turns out the FBI checked Bradbury’s passport records and staked out his house.

Yossarian Begins.


He told one British journalist that ‘conversations with two friends…influenced me. Each of them had been wounded in the war, one of them very seriously The first one told some very funny stories about his war experiences, but the second one was unable to understand how any humour could be associated with the horror of war. They didn’t know each other and I tried to explain the first one’s point of view to the second. He recognized that traditionally there had been lots of graveyard humour, but he could not reconcile it with what he had seen of war. It was after that discussion that the opening of Catch-22 and many incidents in it came to me.‘”

By way of Ed Champion at Reluctant Habits, Joseph Heller biographer Tracy Daugherty recounts the origins of Catch-22 in Vanity Fair. “I’ve got the perfect number. Twenty-two, it’s funnier than eighteen.

Still a Hoopy Frood.


I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

In remembrance of Douglas Adams, ten years after his untimely passing: His 1999 essay, “How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet” (although I think he too would have despised the term “webinar.”) If only he lived to see the actual, honest-to-goodness Hitchhiker’s Guides! (Pic via here, which also tells the story of Adams’ lost Doctor Who episodes.)

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