Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Writers

I wrote a few weeks ago about the importance of writing badly. Lo and behold, shortly thereafter I happen to see this clip on Twitter. And it’s pure gold.

“Most people who want to be writers, it never occurs to them the only way you actually do it is by writing. All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories for you, and they won’t. It’s only you. So you have to write, you have to finish things, you have to get them made, you have to start new things, and that’s really the secret. You put one word after another, like putting bricks onto a wall, and sooner or later you look and you’ve managed to build the palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria… out of matchsticks.”

Flotsam & Jetsam (11/19)

Ayn Rand Didn’t Understand Capitalism – Or altruism. Or Christianity. Or reality. If you think she did, you need to read this article by Joe Carter.

If You Shop on Thanksgiving… – Another great piece by Matt Walsh: “Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured its soul, but we barely noticed. It’s hard to hear anything when you’re wrestling 4,000 other people for buy one get one free cargo shorts at Old Navy.”

Getting Our Attention – “Maybe the hilariously un-planned things, the things that should by logic have never happened at all… Maybe those are God’s way of snapping in our face, waking us up.”

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men and the Women Who Live with Them – This is just absolutely beautiful.

Noah (Official Trailer #1) – Our first look at Darren Aronofsky’s latest project. Frankly, I’m not sure what to think yet. Part of me is pleasantly surprised; the rest of me is trying to remember the last time Hollywood and the Bible actually got along. And I’m drawing a blank.

Not Just About Getting the Door Open – Because it’s not a question of pragmatics.

Thus Spake Obama – Only Steyn could write such a funny piece about a not-so-funny business: “The most telling line, the one that encapsulates the gulf between the boundless fantasies of the faculty-lounge utopian and the messiness of reality, was this: ‘What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.’ Gee, thanks for sharing, genius. Maybe you should have thought of that before you governmentalized one-sixth of the economy.”

“Christian literature comes from Christian novelists & dramatists – not from the bench of bishops… trying to write plays.” – C.S. Lewis

All Sorts of Trouble

That is most interesting, because I generally find that staying true to my heart is a really, really, really bad idea. Gets me into all sorts of trouble. And of course, there’s that pesky little verse in Jeremiah 17: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

But then, I guess “your best life now” doesn’t really allow for that sort of thing.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t follow my heart to the grocery store, much less down the path of life. So what say we stick with the Psalmist?

Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psa. 119:98-105)

Pardon me. That’s Scripture, Mr. Osteen. It momentarily escaped me that you seldom have use for that.

Book Review: Killing Pablo

PabloescobookWarring cartels, corrupt politicians, violent fugitives, and rugged commandos. Chases, shootouts, bombings, intrigue, and intrigue within intrigue. Lots of killing, lots of dying – all of it set in an exotic foreign locale. This isn’t something out of a Tom Clancy novel. It’s history.

And it happened when some very dangerous people decided that Killing Pablo was the only option they had left.

This is the inside story of the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar: wayward son, devoted husband, loving father, and head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. The kind of guy who could be unflinchingly polite in one breath, then use his next to order someone hung upside down and burned.

“He wasn’t an entrepreneur,” Mark Bowden observes, “and he wasn’t even an especially talented businessman. He was just ruthless.” His criminal empire would hold the nation of Columbia hostage until U.S. operatives joined the local police on a sixteen month track-and-kill mission that would finally bring him down.

I’d call it a testament to Bowden’s prowess as a writer and a journalist that there were moments during my reading of this book when I had to remind myself that it was not a piece of fiction, but a record of fact. Scenes and conversations are reconstructed here with scrupulous accuracy and attention to detail: the very technique which made Black Hawk Down so fabulously compelling. With access to the soldiers, field agents, and government officials involved in the pursuit – not to mention top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar’s intercepted phone conversations – Bowden resurrects the past, dusts it off, and dandies it up. His book supplies a rush that puts most of modern thrillerdom to cringing, cone-wearing shame.

Can you hear the whimpering?

That, my friends, is how narrative journalism is done.

And Mr. Bowden? I think you’re some kind of wizard. You’ve got to be. More power to you.

Postscript: As you may have gathered, this is a book about a very bad man who lived a very bad life and did some very bad things. There’s language, drug content, and other adult material. And lots of people die. Don’t hand it to your five-year-old. Or your fifteen-year-old, for that matter.

On the Bookshelf XXIV

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Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
The story of Pablo Escobar, head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel – and the sixteen-month manhunt that brought him down. If you’ve read any of Bowden’s other work (especially Black Hawk Down), you’ll know what I mean when I say this book is insane. No, really. It’s like a Tom Clancy novel… except that everything in it actually happened.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I was skimming through a collection of quotes from this book when I finally decided just to read it again. Funny how that works, isn’t it? And I’m rediscovering just how quotable Adams’s writing is. For instance: “If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”
Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson
“Most of our families are starving for fathers, even if Dad is around, and there’s a huge cost to our children and our society because of it.” Two chapters down and I am thoroughly impressed. But then, when it comes to Wilson, I usually am. $6.40 for a paperback copy is a steal.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour by Acker & Blacker
I’ve been a devoted follower of the podcast for over a year now. It is, for dead certain, the most hilarious thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. The graphic novel hasn’t charmed me quite as thoroughly yet. Sure, the artwork is lovely, and the writing is superb – but without the actors to give it voice, it simply isn’t the same. Maybe I’ll warm up to it in time. For now, it’s just okay.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?