Author Archives: Mitch Ratcliffe
For months, I’ve been thinking about what blogging has done to my writing. It worked great as a format when I was writing columns, but as a workshop for essays, stories and other types of written work, blogging is the wrong tool because it does not allow for the word to be pondered in isolation through a series of rewrites. Blogging is for short bursts of expression but not crafted prose that requires weeks and months of private contemplation to produce the effects at which it aims. Blogging broke my discipline as a writer, in some ways. That’s not to say that I will never blog again, but that I know it isn’t a good idea to stretch one’s writerly muscles in public first, before the requisite work is done in private.
Dear Amazon, I am a heavy annotator of books and have found that in many cases I cannot view all the highlights I make in books purchased in Kindle format. For example, in Sam Harris’ short Free Will, I am able to view only 78 of the 108 passages I highlighted. It happens with many other books, as well, because some publishers don’t want to allow more than an undisclosed portion of the book to be highlighted.
I did pay for the book and, except for republishing it, I should be able to do what I want with it. In a way, the Kindle book is less useful than a paper book, because I cannot view all my annotations in any one physical place, as I can within the pages of a paper book.
Please fix this. Use your influence with publishers to make the experience they deliver through your e-reader and Kindle books the best in publishing.
Walter Benjamin, in an essay called “Unpacking My Library,” writes that “Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.”
I spend a lot of time reading old books, and a few new ones. It seems to me that more books are like snack food than great meals, and it has always been so. But we live at a time when many great meals from the past are available to anyone who cares to read carefully and think. This, I think, bodes well for the future, when some of the great readers will get sick of the junk they are offered and reinvent the book, the magazine, fiction and non-fiction alike.
Call me an optimist, at last.
There’s a great quote by Ernie Pyle in the new Columbia Journalism Review, from his time as a managing editor at The Washington Daily News, that every writer, let alone every journalist, should read each morning:
“You can hardly walk down the street, or chat with a bunch of friends, without running into the germ of something that may turn up an interesting story if you’re on the lookout for it. News doesn’t have to be important, but it has to be interesting. You can’t find interesting things if you’re not interested.”
Words to live by.
That said, the Iowa Caucuses results to the moment suggests that 50% of the Republican electorate are casting their votes for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, two thoroughly un-electable candidates. This is not going to be a good year for Republican presidential aspiration. The ideological splits between Romney and these two are greater than those between Barak Obama’s centrist approach to the presidency and any Republican that could possibly be elected this year.
Iowa’s only marginally useful in predicting the ultimate nominee, as the Republican winner in the state caucus has gone on to win the nomination only five of the last eight times and fares about the same on the Democratic side, as well. Mike Huckabee won in 2008 and couldn’t surface a campaign this time around. But seriously, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum? Neither has a committed constituency that can pull more than 20 percent in a national election.
And some of those constituents could be committed for what they believe to be the state of the world. The debates between President Obama and either Paul or Santorum would be like shooting fish in a barrel for the President.
At a time when the nation needs a consensus, a serious collaboration that reaches across political boundaries, the Republicans are fielding symbolic protest candidates that represent fractions — and small ones — of their base. So, tonight’s winner is Barak Obama.