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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Going around the room: at the desk

Posted by Miriam Jones on 04/26/05 at 07:42 AM

It’s been a little while, but I still feel we’re not best friends yet, so if you could just answer the following questions:

1. Do you compose on the computer? Why or why not?

2. Does carbon paper make you nostalgic?

3. Do you have a stationery and/or a pen fetish?

4. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book that you ever read?

5. What embarrassing book from the distant past brings back a flood of recognition?

6. Are you a scholar, or a critic? Or neither?

7. When did you decide to become a scholar/critic/neither? Did you decide?

8. Has blog writing affected the way you write in other venues? The way you read?

9. Do you still read blogs or other webpages even if the design/print is unappealing or difficult to read?

10. Have you ever bought a book because of the cover/design? Which book(s)?

11. Do you think these questions are irrelevant?

Update: Scott McLemee answers question #11 with an emphatic NO.


Comments

6. Are you a scholar, or a critic? Or neither?

I’m a philosopher in training.  I work mainly in philosophy of literature & theory of criticism.

By Steve on 04/26/05 at 09:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Yes, because I dislike writing by hand for extended periods (and besides, I’d like to be able to read what I’ve written...).

2. Haven’t seen it since elementary school or thereabouts, so I never had time to form a relationship with it.  So to speak.

3. Nope.

4. Shogun, at age 10.

5. Well, I remember being a huge fan of Lad: A Dog...

6. Scholar. 

7. I don’t think it was a conscious decision. 

8. Not that I know of. 

9. No.

10. No. 

11. No.

By Miriam Elizabeth Burstein on 04/26/05 at 11:22 AM | Permanent link to this comment

1. I compose on legal pads, do all edits on printed pages. Sometimes, if I’m stuck on a chapter (or, shorter, an article), I will delete it entirely and re-write from scratch, returning to the legal pad. It seems all-too-easy to get stuck in the sentence as it stands, losing the freedom to rethink the subject as it is.

2. Does carbon paper make me nostalgic? No.

3. Fetish might be too strong a word, but I love a good pen. I was thrilled that Barnes and Noble shipped a Mont Blanc fountain pen as part of their Discover Great New Writers recognition (even though I already owned two others). I also have an untoward fondness for hardcover blue composition books and Moleskine diaries.

4. First grown-up book? A loaded question, but I think it was The World According to Garp, which, when I read it in the fifth grade (1978-9), seemed like an entre into the strangeness of my own life and the promise of even more to come.

5. Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, which I read aloud in its entirety to my Marine Corps Mechanic’s school classmates during class breaks. As an 18-year-old suffering through the swelter of spring at Camp Lejeune, NC, it seemed so advanced... Laughable, but I still have fond memories of the rebellion it instilled in us at the time (e.g., growing our hair to the absolute maximum length allowed under regulations instead of wearing the traditional jarhead “high and tight").

6. A scholar, to the extent that every writer needs to be; a critic… not sure why, but I write 20 or so reviews a year.

7. I didn’t decide, but fell into it as a way to keep myself from going crazy while waiting for my first book to come out.

8. I don’t blog--I tried to start one and quickly realized it would end my writing career just as it was getting started. Hell, just the time I spend on other people’s blogs seems like it’ll be the death of me.

9. No.

10. A better question: Have I ever not purchased a book because cover/design was too ugly? Yes.

11. Irrelevant? I think the mechanics of 1) and 3) are interesting, and often wonder whether I should break out the old Selectric I have in my library closet--something about the rhythm of the keys matching the rhythm of thought, especially when you’re on a roll: that background hum and the physical clash of keys combined with the shaking of the machine as you’re clipping along at 100 wpm is hard to match with a keyboard.

By on 04/26/05 at 11:27 AM | Permanent link to this comment

<ol>
<li>Yes, most of the time. Quicker.
<li>No.
<li>No.
<li>Either David Copperfield or Firestarter.
<li>I don’t know.
<li>The distinction’s not tenable.
<li>Definitely after the first time SciAm had a Mandelbrot set on the cover.
<li>I hope the hell not.
<li>If it’s really interesting and hard to read, I CTRL-A. Design?
<li>Being and Time, absolutely.
<li>Maybe.
</ol>
<li>

By Jonathan on 04/26/05 at 11:27 AM | Permanent link to this comment

1. I compose by hand, not on a computer, and I ask students to do the same. Students reply, “But it’s so much easier to work on a computer!” Precisely. Student writing improves when composition slows down.

4. Ball Four, by Jim Bouton.

5. The Catcher in the Rye.

6. Neither.

7. I went to grad school in English not to get a job or pursue a career, but to continue reading. Becoming a college teacher followed as a natural consequence.

By on 04/26/05 at 11:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Miriam, this isn’t relevant to your quiz. I just want to say that I’m taking it all back about ‘no emoticons for Valve authors’. What a fool I was.

By John Holbo on 04/26/05 at 11:46 AM | Permanent link to this comment

1. No. I compose in my head, and only rearrange on the computer. I’d like to know the beginning and the ending before I even start.

2. Carbon paper? That’s geology, isn’t it?

3. No.

4. Jan Wolkers’ novel Turkish Delight, only because of the sex scenes. It took decades before I saw it had a decent story as well.

5. A textbook I wrote for the money.

6. I am a scholar.
7. And am only good for abstract reasoning.

8. Weblog writing has affected the range of topics I write about professionally, because I discovered my log doubly served as a kind of notebook of ideas.

9. If weblogs have an unreadable design, I just need to type in the letter p in my browser Opera to see the page in black and white; as it would look when it was printed.

10. I have bought several shilling shockers because of the scarcely clad womenon the cover. But, come to think of it, several books from the canon had such covers as well when they were printed as cheap paperbacks.

11. No, otherwise I wouldn’t have answered them.

By ijsbrand on 04/26/05 at 12:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John, I look forward to your first emoticon post.

By Miriam Jones on 04/26/05 at 12:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Depends on what I’m doing. I do a lot of editing and re-drafting in my work, and I find the computer much easier for this.

2. Slightly, as I was the only kid in my school to type my homework (on an old-fashioned typewriter), ‘cos my handwriting was so bad. Not as nostalgic as this guy, though…

3. Absolutely - I sought out an proper letter-press printer for our wedding invites. And I cherish my Waterman.

4. Yup: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Oxford University Press edition, old-spelling. I was about six. The only six-year-old who knew what ‘viz’ really meant.

5. Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar when very small; Goethe’s Young Werther when an angst-ridden teen.

6. Scholar - I look at watermarks…

7. I don’t think I am a scholar yet as I feel that’s something only others can judge. I’ve tried to be scholarly in everything I do since at least being an undergraduate, although I didn’t realise how important it was until grad school.

8. Yes. For one thing, I have less time to read and write…

9. ‘Form effects meaning’ (D.F. McKenzie). So, no.

10. Probably. (After all, if it’s good enough for Pepys - see Jan 18th 1665.) Anyway, the design/layout of a book is always an important factor in any book I decide to buy.

11. Absolutely not, although I question why you’re asking…

By drgaffel on 04/26/05 at 01:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dr. Gaffel: love the links. As to my motives in asking: oh, I don’t know, something about the love of reading, books as material objects, writing as a process, the relationship of form and content: various topics that have come up on this blog since its inception. And some things I’ve been thinking about about my own writing process. For example, unlike most of the other respondents, I think that blogging has indeed affected my other writing: I think I have become more concise, and more aware of the audience.

By Miriam Jones on 04/26/05 at 01:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Addendum: and if you don’t agree with the above, remember, it’s all relative.

By Miriam Jones on 04/26/05 at 01:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Always on the computer—my handwriting is terrible.

4. Saturday Evening Post, age 7.

6. Scholar.

7. I’ve always been an anti-criticism bigot.

9. Yes. I have a very poor graphic sense anyway.

By John Emerson on 04/26/05 at 01:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1.  Yes, because Endnote, JSTOR, Project Muse, the Oxford English Dictionary, etc. are all online, so I can find old references, new references, and correct spellings in a blink with a CTRL-T (in Firefox).  I do, however, edit by hand.

2.  What’s carbon paper?

3.  Pen fetish: I edit with a Green Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball, Extra Fine. 

4.  The Grapes of Wrath

5.  Where the Red Fern Grows

6.  Scholar - I consult archives.

7.  Graduation conspired against me.  I could continue the scholarly life and attend graduate school or become a real estate appraiser. 

8.  No.  I post to my blog (and comment here) when I’m overwhelmed by my dissertation, so I deliberately write in a different voice.  The idea is that writing intelligently, even about matters unrelated to my dissertation, will prevent me from watering the plants, chasing the cats, watching a DVD or whatever else I might do that would remove me from my desk and decrease the odds that I’ll dissertate more. 

9.  If the design/print is unappealing, I’ll still read it.  If it’s difficult, I won’t.  (On that note: if anyone finds my blog difficult to read, please inform me.  I like the contrast, but I think others may not.)

10.  The first half of my reading life was spent buying Vintage imprints because of the covers.  So I read Jeannette Winterson, Julian Barnes, Kobe Abe, Paul Bowles, Truman Capote, etc.

11.  No.  Yes?  No.

By A. Cephalous on 04/26/05 at 02:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

. Do you compose on the computer? Why or why not?  I usually compose on paper, and then edit and add at the computer.

2. Does carbon paper make you nostalgic?  No.

3. Do you have a stationary and/or a pen fetish?  Absolutely.  I love Staples...I zero in on the pen rack at Wal Mart, even though I own oodles.  I am always looking at innovations in paper and pen and such.  I am sick.

4. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book that you ever read?  No, probably Tuchman’s The Guns of August or something like that.  I was a history nut as a kid.

8. Has blog writing affected the way you write in other venues? The way you read?  I explore ideas on my blog, and I tend to read superficially more often.  I do read more quickly now, and that is good.

9. Do you still read blogs or other webpages even if the design/print is unappealing or difficult to read?  Generally not.

10. Have you ever bought a book because of the cover/design? Which book(s)?  Yes, of course.  I can’t remember, but who hasn’t done this one?

11. Do you think these questions are irrelevant?  No, but I wonder why these, and not others.  Ah, one must choose, you say, dear surveyor.

By A. G. on 04/26/05 at 04:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1.  I compose in extreme Romantic agony and it hardly matters where.  I hardly know where.

4.  My first grown-up book bought with my own money was Brideshead Revisited.

6.  I’m a Choler.

10.  See ijsbrand’s answer to this question.

11.  No, and thank-you for asking.

By laura on 04/26/05 at 07:32 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I love these questions.

1. I write with pen and paper (legal pads or quad; soft pencils or fountain pens), computer (PC at work; Mac at home), and typewriter (Olivetti or Olympia).

2. Carbon paper makes me nostalgic.  So does the remembered smell of mimeograph fluid.  So do hard white eraser wheel-cum-brushes for correcting typescript.  So does correcting tape.

3. I have an enormous stationery/pen/typewriter fetish, since curbed somewhat.

4. Does _Tom Sawyer_ count?  (Age seven or eight) Books on the movies and English history at around the same age.  Eight?

5. Embarrassment?  Floods of recognition?  Carrying around a copy of “Mother” by Gorky in 7th grade to look smarter.

6. Librarian.

7. I invoke the Willie Suttion defense: because that’s where the books were.

By apsiegel on 04/26/05 at 08:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

In the interest of full disclosure, I will answer my own questions:

1. Do you compose on the computer? Why or why not?
Yes, I do now, though it was a slow slide. I find it more freeing, though writing by hand sometimes seems better for following an argument. I edit with pencil, on print-outs.

2. Does carbon paper make you nostalgic?
Yes. Not that I’d want to go back. But carbon paper, piles of index cards, my old typewriter still in the closet: all markers of an era.

3. Do you have a stationary and/or a pen fetish?
Oh, yes.

4. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book that you ever read?
Some gothic thriller by Victoria Holt. My mother read them. I remember how surprised I was that adult books were readable by kids; don’t know what I imagined.

5. What embarrassing book from the distant past brings back a flood of recognition?
My dad’s crumbly paperback Conan books.

6. Are you a scholar, or a critic? Or neither?
A scholar.

7. When did you decide to become a scholar/critic/neither? Did you decide?
Didn’t really decide; slid into it. I don’t know if that’s even possible any more. The people coming up behind me in grad school all seemed so professionalized, and I began to worry about those things too. But quite late in my grad. school career.

8. Has blog writing affected the way you write in other venues? The way you read?
Yes, as I said above, I think it has affected the way I write. And read. I was never able to skim. I still have trouble skimming books, but if blogs are ice, I am Katarina Witt.

9. Do you still read blogs or other webpages even if the design/print is unappealing or difficult to read?
No. Life’s too short.

10. Have you ever bought a book because of the cover/design? Which book(s)?
Yes, sometimes. The last one was Thomas Wharton’s beautifully produced The Logogryph: a bibliography of imaginary books. It’s a thing of beauty. And as soon as I finish marking exams, I will read it.

11. Do you think these questions are irrelevant?
Yes.

Ha ha! Only kidding.

No.

By Miriam Jones on 04/26/05 at 09:24 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Most of the time.  It’s easier to edit and visualize on the page.

2.  No.

3.  No.

4.  Either The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle or Call of the Wild by Jack London, if either of those qualify as “grown up.”

5.  Thus Spake Zarathustra

6.  Neither.

7.  Spring 1997.  Yes.

8.  Yes.  Yes.

9.  No. 

10. Photography collections. 

11.  Irrelevant to WHAT?  Every question is relevant to something and irrelevant to something else.

By on 04/27/05 at 12:08 AM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Yes, if it’s spadework or inpromptu; not if it’s serious stuff. That’s a job for pen and ink. I can think aloud on-screen, but not think in the way my proper writing demands.

2. No. It reminds me of US immigration forms. Ugh

3. Oh lordy yes. 60-odd pens, and notebooks of all varieties. (One Mont Blanc of sentimental value; but like most modern Mont Blancs, it is not a ‘good pen’.)

4. No. Probably something odd, since as a voracious young reader, I was fed on boxes of random books from estate sales.

5. The Bridges of Madison County. Don’t ask.

6. ‘Some have at first for Wits, then Poets pass’d; / Turn’d Critics next, and prov’d plain Fools at last.’

7. I really do not know.

8. The web in general has had an effect, from its earliest days onwards.

9. Yes.

10. Far too many to count.

11. It depends whether you think these answers are irrelevant, doesn’t it?

By on 04/27/05 at 05:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

3.STATIONARY??

I think you mean stationary. And yes, I have a fetish: for spelling…

1.I compose poems and fiction longhand, academic pieces on computer (so much easier thanks to EndNote to put in the right references!)

7.I am a scholar to an extent (PhD candidate) and a critic.

8.Blogging has changed the way I read things online, in that I am always wondering ‘is this worth linking to or discussing?’. I also find the tenor of my writing online adjusting depending on what I have been reading on other sites.

By Katrina Gulliver on 04/27/05 at 11:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"3.STATIONARY??

I think you mean stationary. And yes, I have a fetish: for spelling… “

Katrina, meet your own petard. Petard, Katrina.

By anon on 04/27/05 at 12:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

yes walked smack into that one, didn’t I?

stationery.

By Katrina Gulliver on 04/27/05 at 12:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Goodness! Are my ears read. And all those other commentators, no doubt to embarrassed two call it too my attention.

I curse whole-word spelling, I curse phonics, and I curse my spellchecker, to the bottom of the see.

By Miriam Jones on 04/27/05 at 06:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

1. Yes. Ease of revision and reuse.

2. No.

3. No. Though I do pay attention to the (mostly cheap) pens I use.

4. No.

5. ?

6. More scholar than critic. But I don’t think I’m all that much of a scholar, not really. I do scholarship, but that’s really in support of, well, thinking.

7. Sometime between 16 and 20 years of age.

8. Not that I can tell. But I write differently for blogs. Well, this is the only blog I write for, but I’ve been online for over a decade and I don’t mean just email. 

9. I suppose if the substance interests me.

10. Probably, but don’t recall.

11. yes/no/maybe

By Bill Benzon on 08/19/06 at 06:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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