George Orwell on writing, from Politics and the English Language. Good rules to write by for everyone, including Waubonsee students:
Raymond Carver signing books, New York City, 1988
Does an author have the right to prevent people from copying their book(s) for free? Should authors have this right? Does it matter?
The concept of the GAN (Great American Novel) seems to have been born in the late 1860s. In an 1868 TheNation essay, Civil War veteran John William DeForest—himself an aspiring GAN-ist—described the GAN as “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence,” a work that painted “the American soul.”
You’re a 16-year-old Muslim kid in America. Say your name is Mohammad Abdullah. Your schoolmates are convinced that you’re a terrorist. They keep typing in Google queries likes “is Mohammad Abdullah a terrorist?” and “Mohammad Abdullah al Qaeda.” Google’s search engine learns. All of a sudden, auto-complete starts suggesting terms like “Al Qaeda” as the next term in relation to your name. You know that colleges are looking up your name and you’re afraid of the impression that they might get based on that auto-complete. You are already getting hostile comments in your hometown, a decidedly anti-Muslim environment. You know that you have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but Google gives the impression that you do. And people are drawing that conclusion. You write to Google but nothing comes of it. What do you do?
This is guilt through algorithmic association…
There’s a long tradition of writers writing about their libraries. Some of the first modern essays—by Michel de Montaigne and Sir Francis Bacon—are on that very subject. Among more recent publications, you might enjoy Anne Fadiman’s collection Ex Libris or Larry McMurtry’s Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. The trouble with people writing about their libraries is, well, every writer has one. It’s like writing about your left hand. Or your M.F.A. program. But McMurtry is a special case. If he had never written Lonesome Dove or The Last Picture Show, he would be famous—at least among collectors—as one of the country’s most respected dealers in used and rare books. When he writes about his library, he always has something interesting to say.