September 2009

When Writers Speak

Arthur Krystal:

Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me.

Sep. 26, 2009 writing

Small Chair

McSweeney’s made an iPhone app:

It’s true. We hereby announce the debut of the Small Chair, a weekly sampler from all branches of the McSweeney’s family. One week you might receive a story from the upcoming Quarterly, the next week an interview from the Believer, the next a short film from a future Wholphin. Occasionally, it might be a song, an art portfolio, who knows. Early contributors will include Spike Jonze, Wells Tower, Chris Ware, and Jonathan Ames. This material will not be available online and is pretty sure to be good stuff.

The app will also deliver the daily humor from our Internet Tendency, specially formatted for the iPhone, along with news, updates, and announcements.

Sounds great, and makes wonderful use of in-app purchasing. Publishers, take note.

Sep. 22, 2009 mcsweeneys publishing

A Life Well Wasted

An internet radio show about videogames and the people who love them.

Sep. 17, 2009 games podcasts videogames

Books, Retitled

I don’t think they know it, but Scott Simpson and Jason Kottke are reviving a practice made famous more than 80 years ago by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.

From The Believer, September 2008:

Stodgy-sounding socialist treatises were repackaged as self-help titles; books with vague-sounding subject matter were renamed with provocative teasers like “The Truth About…” or “A Little Secret That…” When Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy was advertised as How to Argue Logically, sales jumped from a few thousand to thirty thousand per year; when Whistler’s Ten O’Clock was renamed What Art Should Mean to You, sales quadrupled. Haldeman-Julius had learned this technique from his days as a newspaper headline writer, and he made no apologies about his retitling strategy. “An important secret of successful titling is to be imperative,” he wrote, “to insist in the very name of the book that the reader have it. Now Life Among the Ants was much improved in its distribution by extending it thus: Facts You Should Know About Ant Life…. The public today wants facts and it likes being told that it is getting facts.”

As Haldeman-Julius readily found out, the public also liked titillation. Guy de Maupassant’s The Tallow Ball sold three times better when entitled A French Prostitute’s Sacrifice, and sales of Gautier’s Fleece of Gold jumped from six thousand to fifty thousand when it was retitled The Quest for a Blonde Mistress. “What could Fleece of Gold mean to anyone who had never heard of Gautier or his story before?” Haldeman-Julius wrote. “Little, if anything…. The Quest for a Blonde Mistress [is] exactly the sort of story it is.” In this way, a book about Abelard and Heloise was sold as The Love Affair of a Priest and a Nun.

Haldeman-Julius published the Little Blue Books, as chronicled wonderfully in the aforelinked Believer article.

Sep. 17, 2009 books publishing

John Moe on Infinite Jest


Sep. 14, 2009 books perspective

xkcd: Locke and Demosthenes

Loved this one. Also: The xkcd book will go on sale tomorrow.

Sep. 14, 2009 humor

Paul Irish: Bulletproof @font-face Syntax

Very nifty.

Sep. 12, 2009 css typography webdev

The Quiet Bubble Pledge Drive

Support a great writer, and Walter will send you something neat in return.

Sep. 10, 2009 blogging emigos

Blogs and Baked Goods

John August on self-hosted blogs.

Sep. 9, 2009 blogging webdev

Shoeless Joe

An essay I wrote for Eric Nusbaum’s Pitchers and Poets.

Sep. 9, 2009 baseball books sports

Passion, and the People Who Read It

Ryan Gonzalez:

I felt a little disheartened that only a fraction of the people who visited actually took the time to look around and size the place up. They didn’t even give my content the chance to impress them. It made me think about why I write, and who actually cares about what I produce—the kind of readers that I want for the content that I love to make.

Sep. 9, 2009 blogging passion writing


Jack Shedd on HTML5.

Sep. 4, 2009 html5 webdev

John Siracusa on Snow Leopard

The definitive review.

Sep. 1, 2009 apple macosx snowleopard