Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite Andrew Sullivan blog posts in which he discusses Sarah Bakewell’s brilliant book, How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, about Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, author of Essais (“Attempts”), published in 1580.
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Reflections In A Mirror
[Sullivan then quotes from Bakewell’s article that appeared in The Paris Review.]
Montaigne raised questions rather than giving answers. He wrote about whatever caught his eye: war, psychology, animals, sex, magic, diplomacy, vanity, glory, violence, hermaphroditism, self-doubt.
Most of all, he wrote about himself, and was amazed at the variety he found within…
“In taking up his pen,” wrote the great essayist William Hazlitt of Montaigne, “he did not set up for a philosopher, wit, orator, or moralist, but he became all these by merely daring to tell us whatever passed through his mind.” He wrote about things as they are, not things as they should be—and this included himself. He communicated his being on the page, as it changed from moment to moment; we can all recognize parts of ourselves in the portrait.
In America, Ralph Waldo Emerson felt this shock of familiarity the first time he picked up Montaigne in his father’s library. “It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke my thought and experience,” he wrote. “No book before or since was ever so much to me as that.” From Renaissance winegrower to nineteenth-century transcendentalist seems a big leap, yet Emerson could hardly tell where he ended and Montaigne began.
These days, the Montaignean willingness to follow thoughts where they lead, and to look for communication and reflections between people, emerges in Anglophone writers from Joan Didion to Jonathan Franzen, from Annie Dillard to David Sedaris. And it flourishes most of all online, where writers reflect on their experience with more brio and experimentalism than ever before.
Bloggers might be surprised to hear that they are keeping alive a tradition created more than four centuries ago.
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Andrew Sullivan is a British-born journalist, blogger and political commentator who now lives in the United States. A self-described libertarian and “true conservative,” he is also gay, HIV-positive and a prominent same-sex marriage activist. He has written for or edited The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine and TIME. Sullivan currently writes for The Atlantic Monthly. His personal blog The Daily Dish, published via The Atlantic Monthly‘s website, is one of the most trafficked and linked political blogs on the web.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by John McPhee for the Wall Street Journal. To read the complete article and check out a wealth of resources, please click here.
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You’re wading around in your notes, getting nowhere. You don’t see a structure for the piece you’re trying to write. You don’t know what to do. So you stop everything and hunt through your mind for a good beginning, a good way to scissor in. Then do it; write it; get a lead on paper.
If the whole piece of writing is not a long one, you may plunge right on and out the other side and have a finished draft before you know it. But if the piece is to have some combination of substance, complexity and structural juxtaposition, you might begin with that workable lead and then be able to sit back and think about where you are going and how you plan to get there.
Writing a successful lead, in other words, can illuminate the problem for you and cause you to see the piece whole, to see it conceptually, in various parts, to which you then assign your materials. You find your lead, you build your structure, you are now free to write.
What is a lead? For one thing, it is the hardest part of a story to write. Here is an egregiously bad one from an article on chronic sleeplessness: “Insomnia is the triumph of mind over mattress.” Why is that bad? It’s not bad at all if you want to be a slapstick comedian.
But if you are serious about the subject, you are indicating at the outset that you don’t have confidence in your material, so you are trying to make up for it by waxing cute.
I have often heard writers say that if you have written your lead, you have in a sense written half of your story. Finding a good lead can require that much time, through trial and error. You can start almost anywhere. Several possibilities will occur to you. Which one are you going to choose? It is easier to say what not to choose. A lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring: After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole, blinking.
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John McPhee, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes for The New Yorker, teaches at Princeton University, and has penned 28 books. His most recent is Silk Parachute, published earlier this year.
Here is an introduction and link to an article written by Geoffrey James for for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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A good advertisement needs to be entertaining, so that people will watch it. One of the most powerful ways to make an ad entertaining is to make it funny.
That’s especially true when the economy is bad. When people are hurting, they want escape, and there are few emotions that provide a better escape than laughter.
With that in mind, here are the ten funniest TV ads of 2010, based largely upon how many people have viewed them. If you haven’t seen them, you’re in a good chuckle…and some of them are definitely ROLF fodder.
Please click here to see the first.
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Geoffrey James has sold and written hundreds of features, articles and columns for national publications including Wired, Men’s Health, Business 2.0, SellingPower, Brand World, Computer Gaming World, CIO, The New York Times and (of course) BNET. He is the author of seven books, including Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite (translated into seven languages and selected by four book clubs), and The Tao of Programming (widely quoted on the Web as a “canonical book of computer humor”.) He was also co-host of Funny Business, a program on New England’s largest all-talk radio station.
“Old People Make Better Entrepreneurs,” & The Power Of The “First Dropper” – Two Provocative Online Reads
I’m in the midst of a busy teaching schedule – teaching a “Wintermester Class” in the Dallas County Community College System. So, my blogging time is a little restricted. But, here are a couple of great reads as you think about business ideas/challenges/success.
#1: The “first dropper” has great, and growing, influence. Maybe replacing the “early adopter,” the “first dropper” may be the new, real trend setter. So, identify and pay attention to the “first dropper.” Read about this at Details.com: Introducing The First Dropper: Say So Long To The Early Adopter. Today, The Most Influential Guy In The Room Is The Tastemaker Who Senses When A Trend’s 15 Minutes Are Up by David Amsden.
#2: We need more old entrepreneurs. Older entrepreneurs are actually more successful than young entrepreneurs. Read about this at Slate.com: Grown-Up Startups: Why old people make better entrepreneurs than young ones by Annie Lowrey.