Bucks County Writers Workshop

Bucks County Writers Workshop

The Bucks County Writers Workshop
Article Archives #3 2003-04

  • THE MYSTERY OF THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT. New analysis of a famously cryptic medieval document suggests that it contains nothing but gibberish. By Gordon Rugg in Scientific American.

  • SURVEY FINDS FEWER NOSES STUCK IN BOOKS. There's been a precipitous downward trend in book consumption by Americans, and a particular decline in reading fiction, poetry, and drama. By Bruce Weber in The New York Times.

    RAY BRADBURY. At the age of 84, Bradbury has published a new story collection, The Cat's Pajamas. The legendary novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet was born in Waukegan, Illinois. Ray drew for me the dragon on the left in 1993 and on it writes, "Don, Let's do it again! Ray." I met Bradbury twice for astonishingly revealing interviews about sex and writing, and BOTH can be heard at Wired for Books. These are must-hear, trust me! (Note in the first interview hear gregarius Ray's imitation of film director John Huston, director of Moby Dick, staring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, for which Ray wrote the screen play) Ray Bradbury is an American classic.

  • RICHARD RUSSO, HAPPILY AT HOME IN WINESBURG EAST. Novelist focuses on life in small-town America. By Bruce Weber in The New York Times.

  • THE AMBROSE BIERCE SITE. Bierce's birthday has come and gone -- but not the mystery over his disappearance in Mexico in 1914. I've posted a new theory about Bierce's death and where he might be buried. It's all hypothetical, but worth thinking about. A retired priest is so certain where Bierce is buried that the former cleric has posted a tombstone on the site.

  • IS DALE PECK GETTING SOME OF HIS OWN? Would-be novelist Dale Peck has savaged some of the great modern writers, but has he gone too far in his latest book, Hatchet Jobs? By Daniel Mendelsohn in The New York Review of Books.

  • NATIONAL REVIEW FOUNDER TO LEAVE STAGE. Conservative pundit and novelist William F. Buckley bows out. By David D. Kirkpatrick in The New York Times.

  • TRAVELING WITH TWAIN IN AN AGE OF SIMULATIONS. Rereading and reliving The Innocents Abroad. By Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom in Common-Place.

  • WRITERS BLOCK. Coleridge was tormented by it, Valery took 20 years off, Rimbaud just gave up. What happens to writers when words won't come? By Joan Acocella in The New Yorker.

  • BAD COMMA. A best-selling book on writing rules is riddled with punctuation errors. Louis Menand in The New Yorker thinks the book may be a hoax.

  • DISSENT GREETS ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER CENTENNIAL. Not everyone celebrates the Yiddish author, winner of the Nobel Prize. By Alana Newhouse in The New York Times.

  • NOW CHRONICLING SCIENCE FICTION. A museum of science-fiction opens in Seattle. By Kenneth Chang in The New York Times.

  • AA's BIG BOOK ON THE AUCTION BLOCK. Scholars concerned about the upcoming sale of the book that launched Alcoholics Anonymous. By Felicia R. Lee in The New York Times.


    Photo: Garrison Keillor & Don Swaim 6/12/04

    Keillor, novelist and former New Yorker staff writer, is host of PRI's "A Prairie Home Companion."

    From Garrison Keillor's radio monologue on 6/12/04: Nowadays we're cold-stone sober, cold-stone sober. Lord help us. And the terrible things righteous people can do. God knows, God knows, friends. People without a shred of self doubt. A person without any doubts is a monster. I'm horrified. I'm horrified at the thought that the torture of prisoners is American policy. Just terribly horrified. Say I'm wrong. I hope to be wrong. But I would hate to see enlisted men and women being made scapegoats in order to protect policy-makers. America doesn't stand for torture. It's not who we are. America is a refuge for people who suffer from torture and oppression. If we practice it ourselves what plan does God have for us? You think about all these things, looking down at the graduates of Lake Wobegon High School. Wishing the best for them, how can you not be romantic for them? How could you not? How could you not want to give them the good, sweet country that was given to us? We have a long way to go. -- Hear Don Swaim's interviews with Keillor at Wired for Books.

  • FOR BUDDING AUTHORS, A RAPID-FIRE PUBLISHER. A New Jersey bookstore will print your manuscript into a perfect-bound paperback in as little as 17 minutes! By Eric A. Taub in The New York Times.

  • WILLIAM MANCHESTER, DEAD AT 82. Some of you may be interested in hearing Don Swaim's 30-minute interview with historian and biographer Manchester, recorded in 1980. In it, Manchester talks about his World War II combat experience. Go to Wired for Books.

  • NEW YORKER FICTION, BY THE NUMBERS. A Princeton student has done a statistical analysis on just what The New Yorker, the nation's most prestigious literary magazine, publishes in terms of short fiction. By David Carr in The New York Times.

  • MALCOLM BOSSE REVISITED. Some may recall the novels of the late Malcolm Bosse -- twenty-two of them -- including his best-known, The Warlord. Recently, I spotted an early novel of Malcolm's at a used bookstore in Lambertville, NJ, which inspired me to post a short appreciation. Malcolm's last wife writes to Wired for Books: "Hi, I am Malcolm Bosse's widow (third wife) and just wanted to thank Don Swaim for the nice write up that I recently found on the web about their adventures together. Please pass along my thanks and best wishes to Don, on Malcolm's behalf. Lori Mack Bosse"

  • BOOKSTORE OWNER'S LABOR OF LOVE IS RECIPROCATED. Beverley Potter's The Title Page bookstore in Rosemont, PA (near Bryn Mawr, Delaware County), is a haven for those seeking rare and used books. by Wendy Walker in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • THE I's HAVE IT. At 72, John Updike Still Hasn't Run Out Of Things to Write About. By Linton Weeks in The Washington Post. Hear Don Swaim's own interview with Updike at Wired for Books.

  • PUTTING REGION IN YOUR FICTION. Advice from Seattle about distilling the essence of region in a novel. (Apply the tips to your own part of the country.) By Ryan Boudinot at thestranger.com.

  • TWO BOYHOOD FRIENDS INVENT BEST SELLER FROM RENAISSANCE TALE. A book printed in Venice in 1499 is so irreducible no one knows completely what it's about or even who wrote it. But two young pals have published a novel that "solves" the puzzle. By Dinitia Smith in The New York Times.

  • BUSH SUPPORTERS DISRUPT COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS BY E.L. DOCTOROW. Celebrated author of Ragtime booed for criticizing Bush. One Bush backer said, "In Florida we would have taken him (Doctorow) out ..." By Bart Jones in New York Newsday. Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Doctorow at Wired for Books.

  • JOURNALISTIC COURAGE. George W. Bush calls Seymour Hersh a liar (look who's talkin'), but the muckraking reporter continues to score scoops and embarrass the politicians with stories such as the atrocities committed by Bush's military at Abu Ghraib. By David Carr in The New York Times.

  • DARK DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS AS ANNE RICE GOES SUBURBAN. Rice has moved to the suburbs and put her Garden District home, a near-sacred site to her fans, on the market for $3.75 million. By Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times. Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Anne Rice at Wired for Books.

  • DIVORCE THAT BOOK!. Why subject yourself to an irksome book when so many sublime ones are available? By Laura Miller in The New York Times.

  • SEARCHING FOR EARLY AMERICAN EROTICA. So you thought our long ago ancestors weren't sexy in words or art? Think again. By Karen A. Sherry in Common-Place. Note: This article is based on Sherry's research at Delaware's Winterhur Museum, Garden, and Library. Warning: this site contains sexually explicit images.

  • SIGNATURE COLLECTION. OK, you wrote a book, but how many times can you stand to write your name? By Lawrence Block in The Village Voice. Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Lawrence Block in RealAudio at Wired for Books.

  • BUTTERFLIES & OTHER BITS OF NABOKOV'S LIFE DISPERSED. The memorabilia collection of the author of Lolita is being sold by his son, Dimitri. By Lila Azam Zanganeh in The New York Times. Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Dimitri Nabokov at Wired for Books.

  • PHILADELPHIA STORIES. Fiction, poetry,essays by Delaware Valley area writers. Distributed free at area bookstores and cafes. An online version to start in September. Note the guidlines relative to formatting and proofing. Same as ours!.

  • WILLIAM FAULKNER ON HORSEBACK. The great author had some eccentric habits -- and never read his mail except to see if it had a check inside. By Javier Marias in The Threepenny Review.

  • PATRICIA HIGHSMITH IS HOT. Once belittled as a "dime-store Dostoyevsky," she's now being canonized as a major American artist. By Leonard Cassuto in The Chronicle Review. And listen to Don Swaim's interview with Highsmith at Wired for Books

  • NEW LOLITA SCANDAL. Did Nabokov lift the plot of his classic novel from a 1916 German story? By Ron Rosenbaum in The New York Observer.

  • HOW DOES WOODWARD DO IT?. Research is almost as important for a fiction writer as for a non-fiction writer, such as the Washington Post's Bob Woodward. How does he get the access -- and can we learn from his success? By Danna Harman in The Christian Science Monitor. Yet Woodward's techniques are criticized in this article by Harry Levins in THE KANSAS CITY STAR.

  • NO HOLLYWOOD ENDING FOR F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. A newly sold cache of Fitzgerald manuscripts sheds new light on Scott's last days in Hollywood as the ill-fated genius failed to beat the studio system. By Charles McGrath in The New York Times.

  • WRITERS: NEUROTIC OR SIMPLY CRAZY?. Can wanting to write be traced to brain abnormality? By Joseph Epstein in Commentary.

  • AMAZON'S ON-LINE BOOK REVIEWS. ARE THEY, REALLY?. Still More about Amazon's on-line reviews. By James Marcus in the Washington Post.

  • THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY. Spy novelist John Le Carrre taken to task for "a lack of depth." By James Wood in The New Republic.

  • COLORFUL NEWS WRITING? TRY 1923. Fiction writers can learn from some of the great newspaper writing of the past. By Peter Roy Clark at The Poynter Institute.

  • MINNESOTA ZEN MASTER. Profile of Garrison Keillor, who believes one can still have friends who are Republicans. By Nicholas Wroe in The Guardian (UK). Hear Don Swaim's own interview with Keillor at Wired for Books.

  • BCWW SUMMER WRITING PROJECT. Here are the details -- as a pdf file -- of the workshop's annual project. Based on a charming O. Henry story. For registered workshop members only. To read the story go to The Marry Month of May

  • JACK KEROUAC SLEPT HERE. Orlando, Florida's, first and only literary landmark is now attracting writers-in-residence. By Abby Goodnough in The New York Times.

  • SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. How Google has changed our world. By Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post.

  • POOR WRITING SKILLS CATCH UP WITH A PHILADELPHIA LAWYER. A federal judge reduces a lawyer's request for fees because his filings were infested with typographical errors. By Adam Liptak in The New York Times.

  • MORE COMPANIES THAN EVER ARE WILLING TO GET YOUR BOOK OUT. Borders is the latest traditional bookseller or publisher to branch into self-publishing using print-on-demand or P.O.D. technology. By Gayle Feldman in The New York Times.

  • CRIMINAL EDITING OF THE ENEMY. Treasury Department may charge as criminals American publishers who edit books from nations deemed enemies by Bush Administration. By Adam Liptak in The New York Times.

  • THE ACCIDENTAL LITERARY STAR. Reclusive author Anne Tyler refuses interviews -- but answers a few questions by email. By Mel Gussow in The New York Times.

  • AMAZON GLITCH UNMASKS WAR OF REVIEWERS. A glimpse at who REALLY writes those anonymous book reviews on Amazon.com. By Amy Harmon in The New York Times.

  • PURGING THE COLON FROM BOOK TITLES. Rare is the academic title that's not lashed to its subtitle by a colon. By Jennifer Jacobson in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • SMILEY'S (ANTI-AMERICAN) PEOPLE. John Le Carre's new novel, Absolute Friends, reflects a little discussed secret: the British hate Americans. The Brits ridicule American accents, culture, intellect, and Evelyn Waugh once called us cowards. By Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The New York Times. PS. Paul Theroux's book, The Kingdom By the Sea, holds a mirror up to the Brits' own failings, showing them to be petty, racist, anti-Semitic, and delusional about their own place in the world, which is why so many of them flee their damp, gloomy homeland.
    Theroux: "Once, from behind a closed door, I heard an Englishwoman exclaim with real pleasure, 'They are funny, the Yanks!' And I crept away and laughed to think that an English person was saying such a thing. And I thought: They wallpaper their ceilings! They put little knitted bobble-hats on their soft-boiled eggs to keep them warm! They don't give you bags in supermarkets! They say sorry when you step on their toes! Their government makes them get a hundred-dollar license every year for watching television! They issue drivers' licenses that are valid for thirty or forty years -- mine expires in the year 2011! They charge you for matches when you buy cigarettes! They drive on the left! They spy for the Russians! They say 'nigger' and 'Jewboy' without flenching! They call their houses Holmleigh and Sparrow View! They sunbathe in their underwear! They don't say 'You're welcome'! They still have milk bottles and milkmen, and junk-dealers with horse-drawn wagons! They love candy and Lucozade and leftovers called bubble-and-squeak! They live in Barking and Dorking and Shellow Bowells! They have amazing names, like Mr. Eatwell and Lady Inkpen and Major Twaddle and Miss Tosh! And they think we're funny?"

  • ZERO TOLERANCE APPROACH TO PUNCTUATION. An unexpected best-seller in the U.K. by nitpicking, fussbudget author Lynne Truss will be published in America in April. It's aimed at people who "don't know their apostrophe from their elbow." By Sarah Lyall in The New York Times.

  • THE END MATTER. I wanted to share this brilliant review of the 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, published in The New Yorker last October. However, there seemed to be no way to get it online, so I scanned it (for our use only). This is of particular interest to those of us who care about editing our copy. While the article focuses on academic writing, it's also applicable to what we do, and points out the various inconsistencies in the editing process. Additionally, it blasts cheesy Microsoft Word -- which I used to spellcheck this piece, and just when I got to the last paragraph Word crashed for no apparent reasion, making me start over from scratch. By Louis Menand in The New Yorker.

  • BUZZWORDS. The words coined in 2003 from A-Z (there are some in this list I overlooked). By Tom Kuntz in The New York Times.

  • ANGER MANAGEMENT. How the politicians are using each other's vitrol to win votes. By linguist Geoffrey Nunberg in The New York Times.

  • HATCHET MAN. Critic and apprentice novelist Dale Peck is the scourge of literary America. Should anyone care what this guy thinks about anything? By Kate Kellaway in The Observer. (UK)

  • BLOOM HOWLS, KING SHINES. Eccentric literary critic Harold Bloom roasts Stephen King for winning a major National Book Foundation Award. Coming to King's defense is Chris Satullo in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • AN UMPTEENTH TRANSLATION OF 'DON QUIXOTE. Is a new translation of "the sloppiest masterpiece" necessary? Yes, says Ian Garrick Mason in Canada's National Post.

  • SCHOLARS OF TWANG TRACK THE Y'ALLS IN TEXAS. By Ralph Blumenthal in The New York Times.

  • JOHN UPDIKE, ANTI-SEMITE?. Don't be ridiculous. By Timothy Noah in Slate.

  • TALL TALES ON THE HIGH SEAS. Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester are celebrated for their British naval adventures -- but, astonishingly, both men lied about their own lives. By Jeet Heer in The National Post.

  • CONSERVATIVE CONNECTIONS PUT NOVELIST ON BEST-SELLER LIST. The literary critics think Joel Rosenberg's novels are junk, but his contacts in the world of right-wing punditry have made his books best-sellers.By David Rosenbaum in The New York Times.

  • GARRISON KEILLOR REMEMBERS GEORGE PLIMPTON. Well worth reading. And scroll below to go to Don's interview with Plimpton.

  • EXONERATING DORIS GOODWIN. Revisiting the Goodwin plagiarism case. By Timothy Noah in Slate.

  • ANNUAL READING ASSIGNMENTS ARE OUT. The 2003 editions of two books, both required reading for aspiring writers, are out: The Best American Short Stories 2003 (edited by Walter Mosley) and the O. Henry Prize Stories of 2003 (edited by Laura Furman) have been released in paperback. To avoid writing in a void and in ignorance, it behooves us to know what's being written today and who's writing it. Plus, in both books, there's an extended reference to the magazines publishing today's stories. Buy Here.

  • ULTRALINGUA. Warning! Here's a 250,000 word dictionary and 80,000 word thesaurus which you install on your computer. In an earlier posting I declared it superior to the second-rate dictionary Microsoft includes with Word. Now I'm not so sure. In fact, Ultralingua, while splashier, is inferior to the now defunct American Heritage dictionary/thesaurus I used on my computer several years ago! It has fewer words and will not prompt for substitutes if your spelling is slightly off). Ultralingua's cost is $29.95 for both Macs and PCs, and it can be downloaded for for free for thirty days -- but I'm not sure, ultimately, it's worth the money. It might be better than running to the shelf to get a paperback dictionary, but the more I use Ultralingua the less I like it. Hope I didn't steer anyone wrong.

    THE YELLOW BUS. Chapter TWENTY, the thrilling conclusion of a running novella, written in parts by the multifarious members of the BCWW, has been posted.

  • READERVILLE. A website for and about writers, which has attracted 10,000 registered users. By Clea Simon in The New York Times. Or go directly to Readerville.

  • TWO PROMINENT LITERARY FIGURES ARE GONE. Eliza Kazan, film and stage director and novelist. George Plimpton, writer, actor, and editor of The Paris Review. Hear Don Swaim's Wired for Books interviews with Kazan and Plimton. Go to Kazan and Plimpton.

  • STEPHEN KING TO RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS LITERARY AWARD. But critic Harold Bloom calls it idiocy. By David D. Kirkpatrick in The New York Times.

  • PATRICIA HIGHSMITH'S WELL OF LONELINESS. A troubled writer, posthumous celebrity. By Elise Harris in The New York Times Book Review.

  • BIG-SHOT AUTHORS WHO DISOWN THEIR EARLY WORK. Even some of us in the BCWW wish our early work had been better before it was published. By Laura Miller in The New York Times Book Review.

  • REDEEMING JOHN O'HARA. Geoffrey Wolff's unconventional biography of an abrasive litertary genius. By Charles McGrath in The New York Times.

  • "ROMANCE NOVELS," SHE SAID ADORINGLY. Who sells more paperback fiction than any other author in America? The answer may surprise you. By Lola Ogunnaike in The New York Times.

  • A FEW WORDS ON SEX. Fiction writers have yet to find a language to describe its complexity. By Dean Kuipers in The Los Angeles Times.

  • TEXTBOOK WRITING 101. Maybe you'll be offered a chance to write a textbook some day. Here's an hilarious account of the pitfalls by M. Garrett Bauman in The Chronicle Review.

  • A CONSPIRACY SO VAST. Ann Coulter, in her book Treason, attempts to make a hero out of Joseph R. McCarthy while branding the Democrats as the party of treason, all of which is somewhat amusing to Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal.

  • HARRY CRUSHES THE HULK. The news about kids in the digital age isn't all bad. By Frank Rich in The New York Times.

  • NOVELIST SLOAN WILSON IS DEAD. Wilson wrote the best-selling novel The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, filmed with Gregory Peck in the starring role. Largely forgotten in recent years, there may be a rebirth of interest in Wilson's work. Read the obituary in the Guardian. And to listen to Don Swaim's interview with Wilson go to WIRED FOR BOOKS.

  • YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK? Here are all the reasons to get OUT of writing and find something easier to do. Writing's too hard, too solitary, it's unlikely you'll ever be published, and even in the unlikely event you are you won't make any money. My advice? Abandon the art before it's too late! Carpentry, gardening, and watercoloring are vastly easier than writing and you'll have more to show for it. (Don)

  • MOURNING THE DEATH OF AMERICAN RADIO. For many writers of a certain age, radio was the fire that led to creative expression. While television changed that, so has sinister corporate ownership -- and it will only get worse. By Brent Staples in The New York Times.

  • A POET RAGING AGAINST PRETENSION. In Lambertville, NJ, Gerald Stern is passionate, outrageous, political, and revolutionary. By Chris Hedges in The New York Times.

  • POSTSCRIPT TO THE LIFE OF A WRITER. Lloyd Brown wrote for most of his 89 years, but the one more novel he felt he had in him was not to be. By Clyde Haberman in The New York Times.

  • THE NEW SCHOLARSHIP OF COMICS. Comics aren't just the funnies -- and never have been. By Paul Buhle in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • THE TRUTH ABOUT PLAGIARISM. Plagiarism might have a social value, according to Richard A. Posner in Newsday.

  • BOOK-SCANNING ROBOT. Incredibily, a robot is now digitizing the texts of millions of books, which will make them available to all on the Internet. By John Markoff in The New York Times.

  • POLYSYNDETON. It's the repitition of conjunctions as a literary device, used predominately by conservative writers to gush patriotic. This article by linguist Geoff Nunberg was broadcast on NPR's "Fresh Air," and I thought it would be helpful to understand the technique.

  • BRAGGING RIGHTS. How presidential candidates try to impress reporters with their reading lists. By Brent Kendall in The Washington Monthly.

  • DUMB BOOKS. It's hard to get a book published -- and yet so many published books are, well, pointless. By Sienna Powers in January Magazine. PS. This site is loaded with book reviews and author interviews.

  • HITLER'S FORGOTTEN LIBRARY. The Nazi dictator burned books but he also collected them. By Timothy W. Ryback in The Atlantic.

  • AS A NOVEL RISES QUICKLY.... A novel by a writer without a successful track record tops the list -- and the book industry takes note. By Bill Goldstein in The New York Times.

  • MURDER, THEY WROTE, AND WROTE. In the realm of high-profile mystery writing, an amazing convergence happens to be under way. By Janet Maslin in The New York Times.

  • LIBRARIANS USE SHREDDERS TO FIGHT NEW BUSH POWERS. Some libraries are acting to protect patrons from unprecedented government snooping. By Dean E. Murphy in The New York Times.

  • TWO IDENTITIES, ONE COMPULSION. Jonathan Kellerman tells how he turned a career in psychology into a career as a novelist -- in The New York Times.

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