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Comment from the book world in December 2017

December 2017

T S Eliot on the publishing of poetry

18 December 2017

'I look at a good many poetry scripts every week. Of the great majority, I may say that there is no part of my work which costs me less time and trouble. That is one thing about verse: you can judge from a very small quantity whether the author has any possibilities or not; you can often say, ‘The man who can write as bad a line as that simply hasn't got it in him.' The rarest experience is to come across a new poet who strikes you as so good that you don't need anybody's judgment but your own.

There remain a small number of scripts by new authors about which you cannot make up your mind at once. I usually keep such scripts for a long time, to take them up again at intervals, to read them in a different mood, at a different time of day. When one is tired, and has been looking at a number of bad scripts, it is very easy to deceive oneself into thinking that a collection of poems is better than it is, merely because it is better than the others.'

T S Eliot's address to the Society of Young Publishers, on The Publishing of Poetry, reprinted in The Bookseller 6 December 1952,  is part of a great online treasure trove of the poet's writing

'Too close to wherever your secret heart is buried'

11 December 2017

'The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.'

Stephen King

'Most books don't last'

4 December 2017

‘My students at Columbia I teach to read. If you can be a good reader and can think that reading and literature are great pursuits, you can perhaps teach yourself to write. For every ‘lesson' one would try to propound there'd be a wonderful story or novel that violated any rule. But that's about all. I use myself as something like a specimen to them...

I'm not that much interested in what happens to my books after I pass along. I say, with Shakespeare, that: ‘Present mirth is present laughter.' Carver was a great writer, and nobody much talks about him, at least not in my hearing. Not that he won't persist; I think he will...
Most books don't last in the public consciousness beyond the author's lifetime. If mine don't, I still take immense pleasure from the use they were put to in my lifetime - by readers...

Writers are all supposed to be dedicated to their work's permanence. Me, not so much. If my work lasts as an element in the reading public's experience, I suppose I'd be happy - if I weren't dead. But frankly I can't give it much thought at all. It's one less thing to worry about, really.'

Richard Ford, author of The Sportswriter and Let Me Be Frank with You, talking about writing in the Guardian