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The Practice of Writing
Demystifying/mystifying the vocation of writing
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The Practice of Writing has a Facebook Page & a Twitter account.

The Practice of Writing has a Facebook Page & a Twitter account. | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

What an exciting moment. I bet you cannot contain your excitement. But please try to take care with your excitement as we've recently had the carpets cleaned and wouldn't want any spillages.

 

Like the page below if you'd prefer to access the links shared on this page on Facebook or Twitter. There is nothing else I can tell you.

 

https://www.facebook.com/ThePracticeOfWriting

https://www.twitter.com/writerpraxis

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Paula Silva's comment, March 4, 2:21 PM
Will you check this scoop? Thank you so much. http://sco.lt/5okJ17 It's for my research project.
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The case against the global novel — FT.com

The case against the global novel — FT.com | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

In recent months, Ahdaf Soueif and Alaa al-Aswany, among other Egyptian authors, have been found on the barricades of Cairo. Such a close and perilous involvement of writers in national upheavals may surprise many contemporary readers in the west, who are accustomed to think of novelists as diffident explorers of the inner life – people very rarely persuaded to engage with public events. Literature today seems to emerge from an apolitical and borderless cosmopolis. Even the mildly adversarial idea of the “postcolonial” that emerged in the 1980s, when authors from Britain’s former colonial possessions appeared to be “writing back” to the imperial centre, has been blunted. The announcement this month that the Man Booker, a literary prize made distinctive by its Indian, South African, Irish, Scottish and Australian winners, will henceforth be open to American novels is one more sign of the steady erasure of national and historical specificity.


Tim Parks, among others, has deplored the dominance of the “global novel” as practised by Haruki Murakami, Umberto Eco, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie. Marked by an internationally identifiable and translatable literariness, not to mention cuddly-bear politics, such fictions threaten to render obsolete, according to Parks, “the kind of work that revels in the subtle nuances of its own language and literary culture”. More recently, the English critic Philip Hensher has complained that “a superficial multicultural aspect” of this year’s Man Booker shortlist conceals “a specifically North American taste”.

 
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The Art of Fiction No. 177, Jonathan Lethem | Paris Review

The Art of Fiction No. 177, Jonathan Lethem | Paris Review | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Every human life includes moments of rage at unrecognition. We’re all injustice collectors. But that’s not the truth of any situation. I don’t mean to pretend that those bad feelings don’t exist. I know them intimately; they’re daily friends. But once you give them their name and shape, they’re like a set of really lousy cats living in your house. You kick them out of the way to get to where you’re going. In truth, it’s only dazzling when, say, Colson Whitehead puts out John Henry Days and there are sequences where I just don’t know how he did it. God what a great feeling! To have him over there in Fort Greene, living a few blocks away, as opposed to Christina Stead, dead and in Australia. Holy shit, right over there in Fort Greene and I don’t know how he did it. What a fantastic sensation. Would I want to be the only writer? No. Would I want to be the best? Well, that’s a lie, there’s no best. So there’s nothing to want.

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Barking From the Margins: On écriture féminine | The White Review

Barking From the Margins: On écriture féminine | The White Review | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

May 20, 2011. I’m at an academic conference in Paris. A graduate student gives a paper on a novel about partition by the Pakistani writer Bapsi Sidhwa, making what seems to me to be an innocuous yet perceptive argument on the vexing ways in which gender and colonialism intersect in the novel. During the discussion period, the student is dressed down by the two (female) faculty members chairing the panel. ‘Do you really think Sidhwa has anything to say about partition that’s different from Salman Rushdie just because she’s a woman?’ The student is silent. ‘Don’t work only on women’s writing,’ one professor, a placid blond with an immobile page boy haircut counsels her. ‘That goes for all of you,’ she says. ‘It’s been done, and by people much older than you. It’s over. Find something else to work on.’

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Fiona Sze-Lorrain | Modern Poetry in Translation Magazine

"I think I was working with an absolute determination to match the breath and the forward momentum of each line, each word and I was seeking every word in English that could for some reason allow the reader to breathe at the same time with the image."

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The Poet, His Cut-Off Head in His Hand, Went Singing Songs and Ghazals: Literature in Iran | Words Without Borders

The Poet, His Cut-Off Head in His Hand, Went Singing Songs and Ghazals: Literature in Iran | Words Without Borders | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

The effects of censorship on contemporary Iranian literature are widespread:

 

Because of censorship, which at times functions shrewdly and at times foolishly, Iranian writers are persistently at a loss about what is permitted and what is not.

 

The regime has to some extent succeeded in forcing writers to self-censor, especially those who have bravely stayed in Iran and are successful.

 

The desire to evade censorship has to a certain extent fostered artificially complex and contorted writing.

 

As a result of the closed society, which limits social experience, some young writers, consciously or unconsciously, are drawn to writing the narrative of their own soul and spirit instead of writing the stories of others. They write of their own perplexities and confusions.

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A Visit with Joyce Carol Oates | New Yorker

"I can basically write all day long with interruptions. It's not really that I sit down to write as if it were some extraordinary act, you know. It's basically what I do."

nima seifi's insight:

Nice how she mentions Twitter as a part of her writing practice.

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Deadlines | Megan O'Rourke

Deadlines | Megan O'Rourke | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

The process of diminishment is at once a galvanizing subject for the writer and a terrifying one: Will it silence me before I get to describe it? You cannot describe what can’t ultimately be endured. And as fascinating as these documentary works are, they are necessarily limited. The writers can’t write the final chapter of the work they’re making, because the final chapter is death; in this sense, they remain strangely fictive. The reader fills in the blanks. In fact, the eighth chapter of “Mortality” consists of Hitchens’s jotted notes — the most affecting possible conclusion, more emphatically conveying the reality of wasting away than any elegantly wrought essay might. This failure is necessary to their power, even if the reader craves, sometimes, the shaped piece, the finished object. As Anatole Broyard wrote, “Stories are antibodies against illness and pain.”

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Czesław Miłosz: Intelligence and Ecstasy | The New York Review of Books

Czesław Miłosz: Intelligence and Ecstasy | The New York Review of Books | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Miłosz defected from Poland to the West in 1951, living in France at first and moving in 1960 to the United States. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In a 2004 essay, Adam Zagajewski praised the bravery and scope of his work: “Lesser talents develop a snail-like tendency to take refuge in a hut, a shell, to escape contrary winds, contrary ideas, to create miniatures. As both a poet and a thinker, though, Miłosz courageously takes the field to test himself against his foes, as if he’d told himself, I’ll survive this age only by absorbing it.”

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Who Are You Calling Opaque? | Slate

Who Are You Calling Opaque? | Slate | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

You say such gestures “don’t slake a reader’s thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we hold in common.” But that is exactly what they do. The most personal poetry proves that we share a susceptibility to its music. Our “great human truth” may be that we are all suggestible to one mind’s small flare of illumination, that the world populated by such vivid, numinous voices is the “world we hold in common.”

nima seifi's insight:

A response to an essay in Harpers attacking contemporary American poetry.

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Love the eater: Lionel Shriver | LRB | Deborah Friedell

Lionel Shriver rarely lingers over physical descriptions, with one great exception: she’s highly conscious of how much her characters weigh. Her most famous novel, We Need to Talk about Kevin, is arranged as a series of letters written by the narrator to her husband, who ‘weighed in at a pretty standard 165, 170’. Previous novels are populated by a ‘210-pound bass player’ and a man who ‘loses a hundred pounds in six months’. Others ‘added five pounds’, ‘weighs little over a hundred pounds’, ‘dumped his full 160 pounds’, is ‘238 pounds by the age of 15’. A woman ‘might have looked presentable if she had lost 20 pounds’, another is ‘at most 108 pounds’. Adjectives – ‘svelte’, ‘corpulent’, ‘broad-framed’, ‘wiry’ – must seem imprecise to Shriver. And if readers find it difficult to translate numbers into mental pictures, that’s not her concern.

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HP Lovecraft: the writer out of time | The Guardian

HP Lovecraft: the writer out of time | The Guardian | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

In Against the World, Against Life, his biography of the writer, the French novelist Michel Houellebecq ascribes Lovecraft's racism to his relatively wealthy New England upbringing suddenly bumping up against two years of rougher living in multicultural New York. But fellow writer Nicole Cushing refuses to accept the oft-trotted out excuse that Lovecraft, born in 1890, was merely "a man of his time". She says Lovecraft seems "obsessed with the theme of white supremacy, taking opportunities to shoehorn it into stories even when it's totally unnecessary".

 

So why do we continue to fete Lovecraft instead of burying him quietly away? US author Elizabeth Bear, accepting that Lovecraft's views are "revolting", posits this answer: "Because authors are read, beloved, and remembered, not for what they do wrong, but for what they do right, and what Lovecraft does right is so incredibly effective. He's a master of mood, of sweeping blasted vistas of despair and the bone-soaking cold of space. He has at his command a worldview that the average human being, drunk on our own species-wide egocentrism, finds compelling for its sheer contrariness."

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Why Sylvia Plath Still Haunts Us | The Atlantic

Why Sylvia Plath Still Haunts Us | The Atlantic | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

“This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary / The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.” That’s the Plath-world, freakishly bleak, exerting its tractor-beam fascination on American culture. Fifty years after she killed herself, we find her vital, nasty, invincible, red-and-white poetry sitting in a region of cultural near-­exhaustion. Her short life has been trampled and retrampled under the biographer’s hoof, her opus viewed and skewed through every conceivable lens of interpretation. A Massachusetts girlhood; a precocious literary ascent interrupted by an early nervous breakdown; a decampment to England; marriage to—and separation from—the poet Ted Hughes; suicide. In her lifetime, she published just one book of poetry (The Colossus and Other Poems), one novel (The Bell Jar), and a few stories in magazines. Upon her death, the bulk of her work—including the completed manuscript of Ariel—was still unknown to readers.

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Intimations of Mortality — The Chronicle of Higher Education

Intimations of Mortality — The Chronicle of Higher Education | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

So much since childhood prevented me from thinking that I was invulnerable or that I could be reckless with impunity. As an overprotected boy, I learned after each minor illness to value convalescence as a sensuous return to life, when the simplest sensations—the taste of water, scents in the air—revealed themselves as rediscovered pleasures. When our teachers at the lycée asked us to compose various "dialogues of the dead"—such as imaginary conversations between Pascal and Montaigne or Racine and Voltaire—these remained tedious and abstract school exercises, leaving me unconcerned. Far more troubling was the occasional dialogue I carried on with myself during my adolescent years. Why me? My unreality was early impressed on me when I discovered that I had come very close to nonbeing, had my mother not decided to undergo a delicate operation enabling her to conceive. That too worked both ways, intensifying my delight in being alive. Why me? was turned into, Why not me? And that reminded me once again of my vulnerability. Every wound could be mortal.

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The Ideal English Major | The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Ideal English Major | The Chronicle of Higher Education | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Real reading is reincarnation. There is no other way to put it. It is being born again into a higher form of consciousness than we ourselves possess. When we walk the streets of Manhattan with Walt Whitman or contemplate our hopes for eternity with Emily Dickinson, we are reborn into more ample and generous minds. "Life piled on life / Were all too little," says Tennyson's "Ulysses," and he is right. Given the ragged magnificence of the world, who would wish to live only once? The English major lives many times through the astounding transportive magic of words and the welcoming power of his receptive imagination. The economics major? In all probability he lives but once. If the English major has enough energy and openness of heart, he lives not once but hundreds of times. Not all books are worth being reincarnated into, to be sure—but those that are win Keats's sweet phrase: "a joy forever."

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A Lecture on Johnson and Boswell by Jorge Luis Borges | The New York Review of Books

A Lecture on Johnson and Boswell by Jorge Luis Borges | The New York Review of Books | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Boswell conceived of the idea of an extensive biography, one that included his conversations with Johnson, whom he saw several times a week, sometimes more.The Life of Samuel Johnson, by Boswell, has often been compared to Conversations of Goethe, by Eckermann, a book that in my opinion is in no way comparable, even though it was praised by Nietzsche as the best book ever written in German. Because Eckermann was a man of limited intelligence who greatly revered Goethe, who spoke with him ex cathedra. Eckermann very rarely dared to contradict Goethe. Then he’d go home and write it all down. The book has something of catechism about it. In other words: Eckermann asks, Goethe answers, the first writes down what Goethe has said…. Eckermann almost doesn’t exist except as a kind of machine that records Goethe’s words. We know nothing about Eckermann, nothing about his character—he undoubtedly had one, but this cannot be deduced from the book, cannot be inferred from it.

 

On the other hand, what Boswell planned, or in any case what he carried out, was completely different: to make Johnson’s biography a drama, with several characters. There is [Sir Joshua] Reynolds, there is [Oliver] Goldsmith, sometimes the members of the circle, or how would we call it, the salon, of which Johnson was the leader. And they appear and behave like the characters in a play. Indeed, each has his own personality—above all, Dr. Johnson, who is presented sometimes as ridiculous but always as lovable. This is what happens with Cervantes’s character, Don Quixote, especially in the second part, when the author has learned to know his character and has forgotten his initial goal of parodying novels of chivalry. This is true, because the more writers develop their characters, the better they get to know them. So, that’s how we have a character who is sometimes ridiculous, but who can be serious and have profound thoughts, and above all is one of the most beloved characters in all of history. And we can say “of history” because Don Quixote is more real to us than Cervantes himself, as Unamuno and others have maintained. …. And at the end, Don Quixote is a slightly ridiculous character, but he is also a gentleman worthy of our respect, and sometimes our pity, but he is always lovable. And this is the same sensation we get from the image of Dr. Johnson, given to us by Boswell, with his grotesque appearance, his long arms, his slovenly appearance. But he is lovable.

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The Varieties of Blackness | An intervew with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Boston Review

The Varieties of Blackness | An intervew with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Boston Review | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

AB: You mentioned that you and Binyavanga Wainaina are very different kinds of writers. I wonder if you could talk about your own style, in what ways you see yourselves as different?

 

CA: I don’t know. I’m a bit wary of talking about my voice, because I’m not even sure what 'voice' means. I’m not very interested in self-psychoanalysis. I can look at fiction with creative eyes or critical eyes, and I try very much to not look at it with critical eyes, particularly my own fiction; I suppose what I can say is that I write what I like to read.

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Penny for Your Thoughts | Guy Walters | Literary Review

Penny for Your Thoughts | Guy Walters | Literary Review | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Over the past five years, every writer I know has been told by their agent to 'monetise the activity around their writing'. Give talks. Go to conventions. Judge prizes. Write reviews. Write articles. Go on telly. Go on radio. Go on Twitter. Build your brand.

 

The problem with all these activities is that nobody actually wants to pay you to do them. Instead, you are given vague assertions that it will be good for sales, good for your profile, and if you do all these things, then my son, there will be jam for tea.

 

Well, I'm now 41, have written 10 books over 12 years, and for me it's tea time. The kettle has come to the boil, the Crown Derby is laid out, the bread is sliced and I need the jam right now. In short, I want to be paid for what I do.

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And Martians Shall Save the University | New Republic

And Martians Shall Save the University | New Republic | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Consider how carefully Isaac Asimov must have read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to fabricate the galactic civilization in his Foundationseries, or how much history and sociology (along with math) went into his made-up discipline,“psychohistory,” which predicted the future by statistically analyzing the behavior of large populations. (Psychologist Martin Seligman has said that Asimov’s psychohistory inspired him to come up with a new method of forecasting elections.) Constructing a viable fictional world, human or alien, takes more tools than they give you in games like Settlers of Catan. It requires a working knowledge of—to give the short list—cartography, geography, cultural anthropology, linguistics, law, history, religion, and, of course, mythology. Political and moral philosophy come into play, too, because many of the great works of science fiction explore and amplify the social and moral consequences of technological innovation.

nima seifi's insight:

How dismal that we have to resort to screaming "look, look, we're a bit sciency!" to justify what we do. 

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Marco Bertolini's curator insight, July 19, 2013 11:48 AM

Il faut une somme impressionnante - j'allais écrire "astronomique" - pour écrire une oeuvre de fiction tel le cycle "Fondation" d'Isaac Asimov.

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The short happy life of Robert Louis Stevenson | The New Criterion

The short happy life of Robert Louis Stevenson | The New Criterion | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Stevenson loved life, and with an intensity perhaps granted only to those who are denied full participation in it. He took life not as a struggle but as an adventure. Although he might from time to time com plain of one or another of his many maladies “unhorsing” him, he always rode on, view ing himself, in Walt Whitman’s phrase, one of “freedom’s athletes.” A literary man to the tips of his long and emaciated fingers, he nonetheless despised all that he thought deadening in literary culture. He disliked realism of the kind made famous by Zola for its heavy emphasis on technique, and of it wrote: “Those who like death have their innings today with art that is like mahogany and horsehair furniture, solid, true, serious and dead as Caesar.” A good part of his enthusiasm for Whitman was owing to the fact that the American poet struck “the brave, vivacious note,” building courage in his readers and defeating indifference. Again and again the appetite for life, with its small but regular pleasures, comes through in Stevenson. Let theologians and philosophers argue whether life gives preparation for death or death gives meaning to life, as far as Stevenson was concerned, “a good meal and a bottle of wine is an answer to most stan dard works upon the question.”

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The heroic absurdity of Dan Brown | Clive James

The heroic absurdity of Dan Brown | Clive James | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Dan Brown has no ear for prose at all, a handicap which paradoxically gives pathos, and even tenderness, to his attempts at evoking Sienna’s charm. He has no trouble evoking her brains. She has an IQ of 208 and at the age of four she was reading in three languages. You can picture the author at his desk, meticulously revising his original sentence in which, at the age of three, she was reading in four languages. Best to keep it credible. But how to register her beauty as an adult? Here goes: “Tall and lissom, Dr Brooks moved with the assertive gait of an athlete.”

nima seifi's insight:

Clive James has done it again.

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Losing longhand breaks link to the past | National Post

Losing longhand breaks link to the past | National Post | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Tapping into your intuition is a critical part of writing, or indeed of thinking. Finding just the right word for a given thought is rarely a matter of rational choice: rather, it seems almost to suggest itself, its own peculiar welter of connotations and associations emerging as a match to those surrounding the thought to be expressed. Often you cannot immediately say why it is the right word. It just is.

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Albert O. Hirschman and the Power of Failure | Malcolm Gladwell

Albert O. Hirschman and the Power of Failure | Malcolm Gladwell | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Hirschman published his first important book, “The Strategy of Economic Development,” in 1958. He had returned from Colombia by then and was at Yale, and the book was an attempt to make sense of his experience of watching a country try to lift itself out of poverty. At the time, he was reading deeply in the literature of psychology and psychoanalysis, and he became fascinated with the functional uses of negative emotions: frustration, aggression, and, in particular, anxiety. Obstacles led to frustration, and frustration to anxiety. No one wanted to be anxious. But wasn’t anxiety the most powerful motivator—the emotion capable of driving even the most reluctant party toward some kind of solution?

 

nima seifi's insight:

Posting this because writing is arguably a "functional use of negative emotion". Perhaps it is precisely the anxiety associated with writing that compels people to do it.

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Anna Livia Cardin Gomart's curator insight, June 20, 2013 5:46 AM

"Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened."

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The Dreams of Italo Calvino | Jonathan Galassi | The New York Review of Books

The Dreams of Italo Calvino | Jonathan Galassi | The New York Review of Books | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

Postwar Italian fiction offered an embarrassment of riches as substantial as that of any other European country, starting with Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s magisterial, posthumously published The Leopard (1958)—though it might arguably be considered the last great novel of the old school. Before the war, Elio Vittorini and Cesare Pavese had been greatly influenced by Hemingway and American realism; they were followed by a generation that included Giorgio Bassani, Alberto Moravia and his wife Elsa Morante, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Natalia Ginzburg, Leonardo Sciascia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Primo Levi, to name only the most prominent—most of whom make appearances in this consistently absorbing and suggestive selection of Calvino’s letters, chosen by Michael Wood from the several thousand pages of his literary correspondence published in Italy.

 

These writers portrayed a still near-feudal society emerging into industrialization; their various achievements were inflected by cold war politics in an American client state with an independent, competent, and popular Communist Party in active opposition to the ruling Christian Democratic coalition, where left- and right-wing values competed day in and day out on every front. In his own way, Calvino exemplified these tensions in Italian cultural life, even perhaps in his nonideological response to them.

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What am I to make of this, John? | TLS | Terry Eagleton

What am I to make of this, John? | TLS | Terry Eagleton | The Practice of Writing | Scoop.it

It is a Romantic delusion to suppose that writers are likely to have something of interest to say about race relations, nuclear weapons or economic crisis simply by virtue of being writers. There is no reason to assume that a pair of distinguished novelists such as Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee should be any wiser about the state of the world than a physicist or a brain surgeon, as this exchange of letters between them depressingly confirms. In fact, there is no reason why authors should have anything particularly striking to say about writing, let alone about Kashmir or the Continuity IRA. Their comments on their own work can be even more obtuse than those of their critics. If T. S. Eliot really did believe that The Waste Land was merely a piece of rhythmical grumbling, as he once claimed, he should never have been awarded the Order of Merit.

nima seifi's insight:

...to round off the Eagleton theme. 

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