Friday High Five: New Sedaris, ghostwriting and introverts
We share five of our favourite links to news, reviews or articles that we’ve discovered over the past week.
Naomi Wolf versus Katy Perry
File this under ‘strange but (maybe) true’. Feminist writer Naomi Wolf has called for a boycott of Katy Perry’s music, reports The Vine. But it’s not the singer’s whipped-cream breast cannons, skimpy clothes worn on Sesame Street or the lesbianism-as-turn-on-for-men of I Kissed A Girl that are bothering her. Wolf believes that Perry has accepted money from the US Marines in exchange for inserting propaganda into her latest video clip.
Sounds like a cuckoo claim at first, but watch the video clip, in which an uncharacteristically covered-up Perry breaks up with her boyfriend, chops off her hair and joins the marines as revenge, before you make up your mind. Take a good look at all the marching and dancing under a fluttering American flag. ‘It is a total piece of propaganda for the Marines,’ Wolf wrote on her Facebook page. ‘I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making it…it is truly shameful. I would suggest a boycott of this singer whom I really liked – if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am.’
New Sedaris online at the New Yorker
Who doesn’t love David Sedaris? There’s a new essay available online, about Sedaris’s medical adventures in France.
I was lying in bed and found a lump on my right side, just below my rib cage. It was like a devilled egg tucked beneath my skin. Cancer, I thought. A phone call and twenty minutes later, I was stretched out on the examining table with my shirt raised.
‘Oh, that’s nothing,’ the doctor said. ‘A little fatty tumor. Dogs get them all the time.’
I thought of other things dogs have that I don’t want: Dewclaws, for example. Hookworms. ‘Can I have it removed?’
‘I guess you could, but why would you want to?’
He made me feel vain and frivolous for even thinking about it. ‘You’re right,’ I told him. ‘I’ll just pull my bathing suit up a little higher.’
Who you gonna call? Ghostwriters!
Ghostwriting is - by its very nature - a mysterious trade. There’s a terrific article on The Rumpus this week by ghostwriter Sari Botton, explaining just how she goes about her work. There are some fascinating insights into the relationship between subject and hired writer, and how disagreements can arise over just who actually wrote the words.
Sari Botton writes:
‘Ghostwriter’ is a problematic word. It gives people the idea that we have some kind of other worldly power; that we’re able to hover over clients somewhere in the ether and read their minds, then write their books using only our own words. But it’s nothing like that, at least not for me. That’s where misunderstandings arise.
In her denial [of having a ghostwriter for her celebrity cookbook], Paltrow tweeted, ‘I wrote every word myself.’ The thing is, even if she did write every single word that made it into the book, it doesn’t mean she didn’t have the help of a ghostwriter or co-author whatever you want to call us.
Salman Rushdie defends free speech
Salman Rushdie was forced to withdraw from the Jaipur Literary Festival earlier this year, after receiving death threats. This week, he spoke about freedom of speech to a Delhi conference. He replaced cricketer and politician Imran Khan as lead speaker, after Khan pulled out in protest at Rushdie’s inclusion, citing the ‘immeasurable hurt’ The Satanic Verses had caused to Muslims. '
[It’s] a book which I would be willing to place a substantial bet that Imran Khan has not read … Back in the day when he was a playboy in London, the most common nickname for him in the London circles was ‘Im the dim’. The force of intellect which earned him that nickname is now placed at the service of his people, and its enemy, it seems, is my book. If Imran really wants to argue about the literary merits of The Satanic Verses, I am happy to meet him in a debate on that subject anywhere and any time.
Quiet: breaking the rules
We looked at the ingredients of a good review in Dailies this week. What we didn’t say is that a really good writer can break all the rules (or: a lot of them) and produce excellent work nonetheless. If you’re tempted to try this, just make sure you’re feeling confident. Jon Ronson’s* review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts manages to be both entertaining and informative, despite using the dreaded ‘I’ word several times. It’s made the rounds of the internet this week, and with good reason.
Here’s how it begins:
When you’re at a party, do you suddenly feel the desperate urge to escape somewhere quiet such as a toilet cubicle and just sit there? Until I read Quiet, I thought it was just me. I’d see other partygoers grow increasingly effervescent as the night wore on and wonder why I felt so compelled to go home. I put it down to perhaps there not being enough iron in my diet. But it’s not just me. It’s a trait shared by introverts the world over. We feel this way because our brains are sensitive to overstimulation. I am genuinely astonished by this news. In fact, I read much of Susan Cain’s book shaking my head in wonder and thinking: ‘So that’s why I’m like that! It’s because I’m an introvert! Now it’s fine for me to turn down party invitations. I never have to go to another party again!’
*Yes, we are aware we used Jon Ronson in last week’s Friday High Five. Pure coincidence. Promise the next one will be Jon-Ronson-free.