from the world's big
Gay Talese On Writers Block
Gay Talese is an American journalist and a nonfiction writer. He wrote for The New York Times in the 1960s after working for its copy and obituary sections. In the 1950s, he was one of the first writers to add minute details, use literary flairs, and begin articles in medias res.
His groundbreaking article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" was named the "best story Esquire ever published," and he was credited by Tom Wolfe with the creation of an inventive form of nonfiction writing called "The New Journalism."
He has written many non-fiction books, beginning with 1964’s The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. His 2006 autobiography A Writer’s Life focuses on his trials and failures as a writer, such as having a profile piece rejected by The New Yorker, which ironically reviewed the book positively and said it had a “distinctly moving” quality.
Gay Talese was named the winner of a George Polk Award for career achievement. The awards, presented by Long Island University, are considered among the top prizes in U.S. journalism. His latest book is High Notes: Selected Writings of Gay Talese.
Question: Have you ever experienced writers block?
Gay Talese: Probably I have writer’s block as a natural condition. I mean when I was a journalist working on a daily newspaper, my only job was The New York Times and it was only between 1956 and 1965, a nine-year period, and I’d have about four hours to write something. And I’d go out and get an assignment in the morning and at one o’clock I’d go back to the office and by seven o’clock it was supposed to be into the desk, into the editor. And I’d be laboring over it and laboring on it. It would be two or three hours sitting there in the city room sweating it through. There were other colleagues of mine who would just sit there as if they’re playing a piano in a fraternity house. It was all coming easily and it was just fun. They were having fun. I never had any fun. I didn’t think writing was fun for me. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now. But I had always a feeling that I can do a better sentence. I can tell it better. If I only had another 20 minutes, another 50 minutes, another 3 hours, another 20 hours, another 20 years, I can do it better. And sometimes you become with that mentality, you create these blocks. I mean it isn’t blocks so much as you want to rise above the ordinary, the mediocre, the easy to do, the functionary. You want to rise, you want to do something. You want to do something more worthy of the more discerning reader. And that takes time. It takes time, as my father always said, to make a good suit. Well, it takes time to write a good paragraph. To write a good book takes a lot of time. So you might say writer’s block, but I thought writer’s block, I mean that’s the phrase, but I thought sometimes writers write too much. I mean sometimes writers should say, “This is beneath my level just so I can get it published and maybe some readers will read it.” But sometimes writers write too much and they write secondary- they let it go there and it goes out there and Barnes & Noble’s shelves are filled with this stuff. They’re a famous writer, you can write two bad books and you get a good book and a bad book. I’m not saying you always know what a good book is. I mean you think you’ve written a good book and then maybe you’re coming to believe because reviewers have penetrated your sense of self it’s not a good book. I mean I think of the writers who are great fiction writers. Let’s just take people in my lifetime. I think William Styron wrote very, very, very, very few books that were not on a high level, whether they were long or short, whether they were Sophie’s Choice or Confessions of Nat Turner or a book about his own depression, it’s a fine book. You know, some of the writers that are more prolific who are contemporaries, I don’t have to name them, you can probably imagine who I’m speaking, wrote too many books. Yes, they have established with this book and this book and this book their reputation, but there are a lot of books that had they not been done nor do I believe they had to be done in order to produce the good books; they could have put it aside. It’s tragic when you think that sometimes writers who die, their grandchildren or somebody related will come out of the drawer and find this unpublished book manuscript by some writer. It might be Hemingway or it might be any distinguished name, John Steinbeck for example, and they get published, they didn’t want them published because they had the maybe good judgment to know this was not on the level of which I am capable. But sometimes editors don’t care and books are published. But, you know, you’re hearing me talk in ways that probably doesn’t embrace others in the way of attitude, but it’s just the way I feel.
Question How do you decide which stories are worth it?
Gay Talese: This is a very, very, very difficult question because it’s how I’ve felt through everything I’ve done. I first started when I was 24 years old writing about the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which started to go up. It’s been Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York City. And they started to build that in 1959 and didn’t finish till 1965, ’64. And I started watching that going up, that bridge going up over this period when I wasn’t working full-time for The Times. On my days off or after hours, I’d go to Staten Island or Brooklyn and watch the construction workers. And I thought I really could spend 20 years writing this book ‘cause the book about a bridge is a book about a monument that is not timeless but can live for centuries, like the Brooklyn Bridge is more than a century old. And we do not know who the great builders of that bridge are except we know the designer, the Roebling brothers. But all the hundreds of people that put the stones together, put the wire, put the cables together, there’s no record of those people. So I wanted to do that in the Verrazano Bridge because I was there and I got to know the construction crews. But I could have spent a lot more time. And after the book was published, I was very saddened. I said, “You know, I blew it because now the book is out, the story is over, the bridge is built. I should have taken maybe 10 years.” And then the next book I did which is about The New York Times, I did take a long time. But sometimes in the books that I mentioned, The New York Times book and all the others that followed that in the middle of them I thought, “I’m taking too much time and I’m never gonna live long enough.” And sometimes you think you’re gonna die before the book is done and then you feel that you have to move faster and then there’s another side of you that said, “No, no, don’t do that. You’re gonna regret it,” as I regretted not spending more time on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I wish I had- I was too young or too impatient. I don’t know what it was. But that book, it’s a nice little book, but it could have been more. I didn’t quite have the imagination or the willpower when I was young to do that. I haven’t made the same mistake since then. But at times since then, I have felt the opposite. I mean spending 10 years for a book is a long time and during that time, you’re doing nothing else. If you’re, you know, teaching college, if you’re lucky enough to get a teaching position, many writers do that, they think it’s a wonderful thing, but I don’t want to be on the faculty, not that I’ve had many opportunities, but there have been a couple of offers, but I felt I can’t commit to next year because next year, I’m gonna be on the road researching. I want to do here, I want to go here. I didn’t want to be tied down. I wanted to have what I mentioned before, the option of being free and going on the road and discovering things by chance. And I didn’t want to have to know that I had to teach three classes next year from September, you know, through June or whenever. Look, it is a very satisfying profession to be in something called book writing, very satisfying, but it has its downside and the downside has to do with your relationship to yourself when you’re alone. It’s a solitary profession. I mean maybe it’s fun to write a Broadway musical and to be Rogers and Hammerstein back in the 1940s doing South Pacific or to be a film writer working with a director or to be in a cast, you know, of a whole chorus, but when you’re a writer, you’re a solitary scrivener and only your own discipline will get it done. And you have to put in your own hours. No one’s saying you have to be there at nine o’clock or eight o’clock in the morning. No one says you have to put in five hours or three hours or twenty hours. No one says that. You have to be on your own good behavior, if that’s the word. And it’s really very demanding if you have any sense of dalliance or you drink a little too much or you’re on some drugs which you think are gonna be energy-producing when the reverse is true. You’re out of it. You’re out of it. And there are people who set great examples. Of my age group, I’d say Philip Roth is the one writer that I think of as a fiction writer who his whole life he’s done good work and he continues to do good work. And it’s not sloppy books that he produces. They may be not as- you know, shorter this time and longer the next time in terms of fiction, but he’s a great historian. If you read Philip Roth from the 1960s as I have to his most recent book published in 2008, you get a sense of this country as well if not better than a historian. It’s fiction, but he is also so in touch with the reality of what it is he’s writing about, no less than Faulkner writing about the south in the 1930s and ‘40s or Hemmingway writing about World War I. And you really get a sense of history in these great works. And Tolstoy in the period of Napoleon’s invasion in the early 1800s Russia, this is great stuff.
Writing has never been fun, but with enough time its pretty good.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.