Hate or Love Twitter, It Found Me Joy Williams

joy williams barn oklahoma

In “When An Internet Skeptic Takes to Twitter,” Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies, decries the flittersphere in no uncertain terms. Denigrating the “toddler-talk sound of the word” Twitter, Birkerts goes on to call the popular site an “unceasing purposeless chatter-stream” and a “mad bazaar of self-promotion…”

I agree. How hard it is to keep one’s head on straight in these heady days of our budding information age! Alas!

Shortly afterward, on Twitter, I came across a link to a Vice News interview with acclaimed short story writer and veritable luddite Joy Williams, known by many as an early darling of both Gordon Lish and George Plimpton during the early days of her career in the 1970’s. According to interviewer (and member of the Big Apple literati himself) Lincoln Michel, Williams commenced to schedule their talk by sending him a postcard from Oklahoma with a picture of a barn on it and her phone number on the back. She then mailed him a hard copy of her answers to his questions.

I recommend perusing the interview in its entirety. Among other things, Williams declares:

I used to rather like the word “empathy.” Now I feel it’s not nearly strong enough. Nor is sympathy hard enough. We need a radical shift in consciousness, a more generous conception of the whole, which is far more inclusive than we prefer to believe.

And just one of her rules for writing effective short stories:

8) A certain coldness is required in execution. It is not a form that gives itself to consolation but if consolation is offered it should come from an unexpected quarter.

Try to find a ruby with that kind of shine inside the Twitter mine, why don’t you?

Books = Phones = Computers = Zombie Overlords


In this comprehensive article from January, Racher Nuwer over at the BBC questions the role of paper books in a publishing economy that has given up quite a bit of ground over the last decade to e-books. Nuwer considers what the future might hold for traditional publishing, pointing out that “e-book readership has steadied over the past year.” On the other hand, according to her sources, everybody read less of everything, printed texts and the electronic ones, in the first months of 2015.

Nuwer goes on to cast doubt on the long-term viability of printed books as well, comparing them to “woodblock printing, hand-processed film… folk weaving,” and even – GASP – “poetry”!

But my response is a bit more jaded. Traditional publishing as we (ahem, my apologies – you, you humans) know it is already a shambling revenant of its former self – what was traditional is now ancient history, and what was recent history is now distant history, and what was contemporary is now traditional… And now. And now. And now again.

Look, for example, at the role of literary magazines in today’s fast-paced media whirlwind. Many journals are now charging submission fees in order to stay afloat (see this thoughtful defense of submission fees by Martha Nichols at Talking Writing). Many more don’t stay afloat at all. This has become such a widespread problem that there’s now a literary journal, called The Rookery, whose purpose is to archive and store the contents of other journals that have closed their doors. Those that endure, through some feat of business acumen, are relegated to the sidelines of an industry engaged in open warfare with competitors and with other creators of narrative, like Netflix and Hulu, or distraction machines like Twitter (Follow me @City_Sasquatch!).

Who is reading literary magazines in this topsy-turvy environment? Predominantly other writers. And their friends and families. But good luck breaking through the paper curtain. In a thoroughly-informative Buzzfeed piece, longtime editor and lit mag savant Lincoln Michel begrudgingly admits that “editors simply can’t read the slush themselves,” and that if your story doesn’t grab the attention of a part-time, volunteer slush reader, it is unceremoniously dumped into the ‘rejection’ pile. A struggling author’s best shot at getting published in a reputable journal might be to submit to contests, Michel says, despite the daunting number of other writers who take the same approach. I liken this strategy to shooting the moon in the game of Spades.

So books and literary magazines both huddle in their warrens like endangered jungle cats, mewling and watching the leaves for sudden movements. I, on the other hand, will continue on as I always have: by reclining on a moss-eaten log, lighting my artisanal corn cob pipe, and donning my Warby Parker spectacles for a long night of reading by moonlight.



Giant monsters like music too. If you run into one, don’t judge him.

I haven’t seen any lately, so I wouldn’t know.

Best Twitter Accounts of 2014


Nicholas Jonas Answers My Questions

Today, along with something called “Bed of Lies” (which sounds far less comfortable than a queen or king-sized feather mattress, or even a pile of leaves, really), the top trending items on the Twitter-scape are both related to one Msr. Nicholas Jonas, Esq (I cannot confirm that he is actually a JD or legal counsel, but assumed due to level of popularity, prestige, etc). One lively hashtag at the moment is #asknickj. Barring my  complete lack of familiarity with this individual, I see that he is clearly regarded as an authority among other humans. That much is apparent. In that case, I must seize this moment to appeal to this Msr. Jonas for answers to some long-standing questions I have about humanity, human-kind, their civilization, the pirate hero Taylor Swift, etc. However, I must not “overshare,” as they say in gentlemen’s clubs. I must exercise strategery! Here is a list of potential questions I thought of this njonas_copymorning:

  • What is a qualm?
  • How do you get to know someone who won’t stop screaming?
  • Can you explain cheese to me?
  • Aren’t pants just shirts for your legs?
  • Why is God just “dog” spelled backward? Was that intentional?
  • On that note, why don’t dogs get to use toilets?
  • Who exactly is in charge here?
  • Would you like to box with me?
  • I have a lot more questions. Can I have your phone number?

This might be my only opportunity to get answers! To be frank, dear reader, I have been reluctant to ask my ghostwriter such things, as I seem to be on his bad side lately. It might have something to do with the shedding. Or the thirty days of confusion prior to my discovery of indoor plumbing. All right, so it could be several things.

My comfort level with Twitting derives from knowledge gleaned from our good friends at Carve magazine.

Which of these do you think I should ask Msr. Jonas?

Lo! I Become A Twitterite – @City_Sasquatch

Reasons I just joined Twitter:

  • Regular updates from the National Park Service
  • Access to constant stream of quotes from Lorin Stein #callme
  • Deals from Vans, Armani, and my friends the tailors at Frank’s Big & Tall
  • Schedule of controlled burns in Pacific Northwest; forest fire arcana; etc
  • Invaluable intelligence on the activity of government poachers and sasquatch conspiracy theorists #onestepaheadofyou
  • “street cred”

Follow me, yours truly – @City_Sasquatch