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Scott Lax Blog

F. Scott and The New Yorker

F. Scott Lax reads The New Yorker in his own special way
Our son, Finn Scott Lax, was sitting on my lap this afternoon. He was... a little bit fussy. He wanted... something. We weren't sure what. So I had this great idea. "I'll take this little yellow plastic donut," I said, "and act like it's something he maybe shouldn't have. Then he'll want it."

How proud I was of my idea. Surely, no parent had ever been so brilliant!

I placed the yellow plastic donut on the table, near where I was holding Finn on my lap, but far enough away to make him want it. Or so I thought.

Indeed he reached. His baby hand moved toward the yellow plastic donut. Then, in a blur, shot past it, and lit upon my new issue of The New Yorker. The New Yorker... my escape, my luxury, my pristine homage to the fading world of print and Old Journalism.

Above you will see what Finn (F. Scott) was able to do to The New Yorker in a matter of of seconds.

The New Yorker, meet the 21st Century F. Scott. At least he's enthusiastic.  Read More 

David Denby's Good Example

A good example of what I wrote in my previous posting is in David Denby's review of "Fair Game," the feature film about Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the Bush Administration, which stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

Here's an excerpt from Denby's review: "Watching this movie, we think, Did it really happen? Yes, it did: the United States went to war without a good reason. Wilson and Plame, husband and wife, are minor players in his disaster, and the movie doesn't make them out to be anything more, but it's faithful to what they endured at the hands of an irrational and dishonest White House."

That's not exactly a politically objective piece. But it's moral, because Denby is showing us what he believes, and using it as context for part of his review. It's a review, not reportage, so he has a right and maybe even a responsibility to do that.

Many of us writers have stayed silent too long, worrying about offending readers, clients or whomever. Meanwhile, the lunatic fringe of the right wing are amassing power. Liberal and progressive writers: I hope you join me in speaking out. If you have political beliefs, but are hiding them behind your food or reality show recap blogs, or whatever your literary form is, you're ceding the political landscape to those who couldn't care less what anyone thinks. It's time for liberal and progressive writers to grow a pair or two and speak out. Don't let the wing-nuts take over our country. The "founding fathers" those wing-nuts are fond of misquoting, or quoting out of context, were intellectuals. It's okay to be an intellectual. It's okay to be liberal in your thinking. And it's good to be a real American. Let them know that we're real Americans, too. Read More 

"Discovering" Janet Frame

I've just "discovered" Janet Frame (1924-2004). I recommend her short story in the April 5 New Yorker, "Gavin Highly." Magical,charming, heart-breaking; I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.  Read More 

Reading to Become Better Writers

You've heard it before, I know: but for writers, reading is so important. It exercises your literary brain cells. It gives you ideas. It expands your world far beyond your house and garden, place of work, and the places you go, from the grocery store to the park. I'm reading - with great fascination - Ian Frazier's New Yorker account of traveling through Siberia. I'm seeing Siberia through his eyes, and learning a lot about a mysterious part of the world, one that covers more land than the U.S. and Europe combined.

For writers: I suggest you try to sink your mind into substantial works, be they fiction, nonfiction, long essays, features, short stories or novels. Think about how the author has worked to put so many facts and impressions and narrative story lines together. Read actively (not stressfully); ask yourself how he or she was able to weave together such a magnificent story - or, if you don't like what you read, why that doesn't work for you, and what it lacks. That alone can help you get into the rhythm of writing longer pieces, and doing so with the same kind of satisfaction you get (I hope) from reading such pieces.  Read More