"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig
I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.
I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.
One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]
Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968. Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at age 88. William Morrow/HarperCollins
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Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication.
Writer and director William Peter Blatty, creator of The Exorcist, has died at age 89. Batty is best known for writing the story of poor, possessed Regan and her demonic resident Captain Howdy. He won an academy award for writing the screenplay for The Exorcist film in 1973.
Here is Blatty on The Tonight Show, January 17, 1974, talking about the surprisingly polarizing response to his classic novel of occult horror:
Tweet from William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist:
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In a 1958 interview, author, philosopher, and futurist Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, The Doors of Perception) shares his grim predictions that are unfortunately quite relevant today. From Blank on Blank:
"This is Aldous Huxley, a man haunted by a vision of hell on earth. Mr. Huxley wrote a Brave New World, a novel that predicted that some day the entire world would live under a frightful dictatorship. Today Mr. Huxley says that his fictional world of horror is probably just around the corner for all of us." - Mike Wallace
In this remarkable interview, Huxley foretells a future when telegenic presidential hopefuls use television to rise to power, technology takes over, drugs grab hold, and frightful dictatorships rule us all.
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Shortly after George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, he received a letter from his onetime high school French teacher, Aldous Huxley, who had published Brave New Work 17 years earlier. Here are Huxley's comments, via Letters of Note
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21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals --- the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution --- the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology --- are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.
Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prolific author, and an outspoken activist for peace and human rights. He died Saturday, at 87 years old.
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"Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time," according to Alvin Toffler, who died on June 27 at the age of 87. Toffler wrote a massively best selling book of the same called Future Shock, which made him a celebrity.
I saw Alvin Toffler at a Chin Chin Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood 20 years ago. I stared at him, slack jawed, until he finally said, "Yes, it's me!" He seemed friendly, so I approached him and we talked for about 20 minutes. I was impressed with his energy level. I told him I was an editor at Wired magazine, and mentioned that we had just backed out of an IPO. "Sometimes, retreat is the smart thing to do," he said.
Some Toffler quotes:
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"You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment."
"It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution."
"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."
"Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it."
"Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible."
"Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt.
Anne Rice, of The Vampire Chronicles
fame, posted on Facebook her concern that novelists "are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness." Read the rest
Authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will start getting paid based on the number of book pages that are read, as opposed to how many books are borrowed through two different Kindle services.
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In the latest episode of the RiYL podcast, Brian Heater interviews the host of the long-running true-story live performance and podcast, The Moth.
Crime novelist Elmore Leonard, a master of modern noir, died today. He was 87. From his 2001 essay, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,"that appeared in the New York Times:
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
Elmore Leonard's author page on Amazon
6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''
This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
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Dust, the final installment of author and indie publishing star Hugh Howey's AMAZING "Silo" series, is out today! Hugh is an American author best known for this popular series which began with "Wool," independently published through Amazon.com's Kindle Direct Publishing system. That book became a sudden success in the Fall of 2011, and Hugh explains what happened next: Read the rest
One of my favorite authors, Iain Banks, announced that he has less than a year to live "It looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last." Read More
. Read the rest
Two weeks after historical fiction writer Anne Clinard Barnhill
's debut novel was released
, she was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer. She writes about how the diagnosis changed her, and about what the experience has taught her about writing and living:
Since then, I've done a six-week book tour across North Carolina, had a radical hysterectomy, gone on a blog tour and started chemo. Not exactly what I'd expected in what was supposed to be 'my' year.
At first, I didn't want to tell anyone about the disease, but that quickly became unfeasible; people were contacting me to do readings and I had to explain why I couldn't; my editor had been patiently awaiting my revisions to the second novel and I didn't want him to think I was dawdling; and, I figured it was something my agent should know. So, I went public.
As I deal with the gritty life of coping with cancer, I've noticed some similarities between the writing life and living with cancer.
Read the rest here: BOOK PREGNANT: What Cancer Has Taught Me About Writing And Living.
(thanks, Lydia Netzer)
An inspirational needlepoint for those with cancer
On Cost and Cancer in America
When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade: via lemonade stand ...
My Dinner with Marijuana: chemo, cannabis, and haute cuisine ...
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From Saddam's novels to Gadaffi's rambling political treatise, authoritarian tyrants can't resist the cachet of authorhood
. Among the few to attain a degree of competence were Stalin and Khomeini--poets both. [Foreign Policy] Read the rest
Last month, I reviewed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, science journalist Rebecca Skloot's new book about the development of the first immortal cell culture line—and the family caught between pride in the role their mother played in this breakthrough, and anger over the way the medical community had treated her and them.
A lot of you commented on the review and had some really interesting thoughts about the book. If you've still got questions about HeLa, the Lacks family or the medical ethics/legal status of tissue samples, now would be a good time to pull them out. Skloot is taking reader questions—you can email them to her, or leave them in the comments on her blog—and the answers will become the FAQ page of her book's Web site.
I love the interactive approach to this and am looking forward to reading the FAQ that comes out of it! Read the rest