Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Keith Gessen on Celebrity Month

Question: What is the role of celebrity in New York literary life?

Keith Gessen: I think, you know, writers are not- we’re just not set up- we’re just not made for this thing. We don’t- we’re just not attractive enough. We don’t lead the sort of lives that are conducive to celebrity. I mean, it’s just a- I think it’s a charade. I don’t think you can really have a literary celebrity. It’s a joke. It’s an oxymoron. So, you know, but I think it’s a problem because, ultimately, because books are hard to read. You know, books- even my book- which is really easy to read- you still have to sit down for a few hours and kind of read it. You know, maybe five hours, right? I mean, really, it’s a short book. Whereas, you know, these other, you know, if you’re- if there’s some sort of movie star who’s getting criticized a lot, it’s so easy to watch a movie, even if you’re tired of Tom Cruise, or whatever, who’s by the way, a very good actor. You know, Mission Impossible- it just doesn’t take that much time and effort. So, it’s- I think it creates a real- anything that stands between the text and the reader is problematic. So, you know, I don’t know what can be- I mean, you know, ideally, probably, writers would just refuse to appear ever, you know, like right now, I would not be appearing. At the same time, you know, you have this- well, at the same time, one has the idea that there are now these kind of direct accesses to readers. Or you can speak to them without the filter of, for example, even a Q&A interviewer who’s going to edit your stuff. So, yes, celebrity- I don’t think it’s good for writing.

Question: Can a young writer mature in this environment?

Keith Gessen: I think so. I think- I mean, I think, first of all, we have a- we in New York have a very exaggerated notion of something like, Gawker. Right? I mean, I don’t think- there’s just not that many people outside of New York reading this stuff. I think there’s people outside New York reading the New York Times, but not Gawker, so you know, the number of people who’ve seen some of the stuff you’re referring to is actually not very large. And also, they just- you know, after a while, they leave you alone, you know, after a while, it goes away. So your book comes out. They come after you for a while, and then they go away. But also, you know, this is just- writers have always gotten reviews, you know, and often really nasty reviews. And Philip Roth- I feel like this has fed the flame of his writing talent for decades- anger at reviewers. You know, he once wrote The Anatomy Lesson, which is a whole- you know, it’s a whole novella, in which he takes revenge on his reviewers, including Irving Howe and Norman Podhoretz- very funny, very funny book. So, you know, writers have always had to deal with writing these things that they felt very strongly about, where they put their heart out on a platter, and people spit on it, you know? And- some people- and others didn’t- and that’s just- that’s always been the case and I think now it’s a bit more the case. I don’t think it’s a real problem in terms of writers surviving this.

Recorded: 3/18/08

 

Writers, Gessen says, are just not cut out for it.

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • 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.
Keep reading Show less

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

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.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

    Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

    Credit: Neom
    Technology & Innovation
    • 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.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

    Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

    Videos
    • 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.

    Quantcast