Archive for publishing

Friendships, my own + Ginsberg & Kerouac’s

I received a note from a dear old family friend the other day.

I wouldn’t have noted it, but one of the sites I peruse (“LitHub”) had a piece that last Monday was the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s death. Which means he’s been gone longer than he was here.  Apparently, the town of Lowell had a small ceremony. I saw a photo of the grave where some folks had thoughtfully left a couple of bottles of booze. (Or thoughtlessly?  He died of alcoholism.)  I suppose they should also have a left a copy of [the conservative magazine] National Review.  

I am reminded, once again, of the beautiful song “Box of Rain,” by Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter (RIP):  “Such a long, long time to be gone; but a short time to be there.”

I replied:

I believe he and [National Review publisher] William Buckley were friends, actually. (One thing about both of them – they had gifts for friendship, Buckley getting an extra bonus point for being friends with his antagonists, too, for the most part.)

My feelings toward Kerouac have gone up and down over the years. He is unique in the Robert Basil pantheon in that respect, where once you’re in, you’re in for good (Barthes, Henry James, Flannery O’Connor, William Carlos Williams …). I once made a disparaging remark about Kerouac’s poetry to a close friend of mine (a Garcia-Lorca scholar and a poet himself), and he gently chided me, taking me through some of Kerouac’s poems phrase by phrase, waking me back up. Kerouac’s prose, it must be said, relies on some vocabulary crutches in ways his poetry doesn’t – but so many of his books are nonetheless absolutely splendid. (I taught Dharma Bums while I was at Stanford.) 

And finally, he really really inspired me as a writer. The first Kerouac book I owned was a copy of The Dharma Bums that [my brother] Chris gave me – I must have been 19 or 20. I read about half of it sitting in the back of a pick-up truck zooming down route 17 to Manhattan, surrounded by fall foliage. One of my happiest memories.

To celebrate my graduation from university – this was a solitary activity, because literally *nobody* other than my girlfriend believed I had somehow graduated from college, having dropped out so often and, when actually enrolled, having spent almost as much time hitching around the country as attending classes – I read “On the Road” for the fourth or fifth time, cover to cover, back to front (how I read novels), drinking Miller Beer “ponies” and lying in bed, finishing at dawn. Another one of my happiest memories.

I want to share with you a quite moving piece from the New Yorker: “Allen Ginsberg: The Day After Kerouac Died.” It annotates some journal entries and a poem from “The Fall of America.” (My friend and teacher Robert Creeley makes a few appearances.)

The New Yorker / Allen Ginsberg piece brought some tears.

Memory Gardens

Covered with yellow leaves

     in morning rain …

He threw up his hands

& wrote the universe don’t exist

      & died to prove it. …

 

… Jack thru whose eyes I

    saw

    smog glory light

    gold over Manhattan’s spires

will never see these

    chimneys smoking

anymore over statues of Mary

            in the graveyard …

 

Well, while I’m here I’ll

      do the work –

and what’s the work?

      To ease the pain of living.

Everything else, drunken

      dumbshow.

Shakespeare’s Sister retires

Feminist Melissa McEwan’s blog Shakesville [originally called “Shakespeare’s Sister”] has been around for almost as long as this site, though she has always been much more prolific. Her blog also created its own intelligent, progressive community of readers and commenters. I’m sad McEwan has called it quits.

After nearly 15 years, exactly one-third of my life, I am moving on from Shakesville. …

I love this community. I love writing for you. I love the research and the silly photoshops and crafting nerdy political jokes. I love talking about our individual lived experiences and learning from you. I love helping people find and access resources, or figure out a tough problem, in private communications. I love seeing pictures of your faces, your kids, your pets. I love making you laugh, and I love how often you make me laugh.

I don’t love the nature of the content about which I’ve been writing, especially these last couple of years. But even that would be tolerable, if it weren’t for everything else that I am obliged to navigate as part of being a fat feminist woman writing in public. I don’t need to recount it. You’ve seen enough to know that it is a steep cost, and it turns out that even I have limits. I have reached them.

The truth is that I reached them a long time ago, and I stayed far longer than I should have, and now I’m paying the price with both my psychological and physical health.

So I’m going to go take care of myself. I don’t know what’s next after that. I’m frankly pretty scared, because I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s a huge part of who I am. It is very difficult to let go.

Godspeed, Melissa. And thank you for your work.

h/t Clarissa

A Bargain!

EngineeringCommunicationIngreBasil

I didn’t know until last week that there was an Indian edition.

It was a fun project written with a dear friend.

Saving your name

The “Naked Security” blogs published by Sophos remind me how vigilant online publishers – and all organizations, really – have to be to protect their content, their data, even their names. Indeed, the word “vigilance” needs to at the top of our whiteboard every day – and never erased.

When I moved to Vancouver in 1996, I saw that almost no small-cap companies in the exploration and mining business had online presences. This was a good business opportunity. I knew my way around the Internet – coming from Stanford, you had to be – but hadn’t created websites myself. I found a couple of partners who did, and we found a bunch of clients right away.

The first order of business was registering URLs for each client. This typically involved registering four or five: client.com, client.net, clientresources.com, clientresources.net, and clientinvesting.com, for instance. We wanted to make sure that we covered the bases, so to speak. We would use the main URL and make sure that the others “pointed to” the main one.

For a couple of years, on the Internet there was the equivalent of the 19th-century American land rush. Promoters, IT whizzes, managers, communications pros, publishers, inventors, entrepreneurs – everybody, it seemed to me – were staking out their claims to URLs, in essence buying names and making them their own. Whether or not these names were used for actual websites, for some it was just as important that their competitors *didn’t* have these names.

I have a spreadsheet to make sure that I never forget to re-register the “stable” of URLs I own or manage (a few dozen). Two times I missed a deadline; I lost one URL (this still bugs me, as you can imagine) and *miracle of miracles* I got the other one back.

Forgetfuless is one way to lose control of your URL. Having it stolen is another. The other day Sophos blogger John E Dunn published an article called “US gov issues emergency directive after wave of domain hijacking attacks.”

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued an emergency directive tightening DNS security after a recent wave of domain hijacking attacks targeting government websites. …

Domain hijacking has been a persistent issue in the commercial world for years, a prime example of which would be the attack that disrupted parts of Craigslist in November 2014.

In that incident, as in every successful every domain hijacking attack, the attackers took over the account used to manage the domains at the registrar, in this case, Network Solutions.

The objective is to change the records so that instead of pointing to the IP address of the correct website it sends visitors to one controlled by the attackers.

This change could have been made using impersonation to persuade the registrar to change the domain settings or by stealing the admin credentials used to manage these remotely. …

Dunn recommends that you verify your company’s IP addresses and “change passwords on all accounts used to manage domain records.” Read his entire post for a longer list of important safeguard measures.

Reposted from nocontest.ca

Edna Gertrude Beasley

This post from five years ago has been a regular favourite on basil.CA in terms of “hits.” That means that my readers and I are in tune with the universe, perhaps.

GertrudeBeasley

“It is perfectly clear to me that life is not worth living, but it is also equally clear that life is worth talking about.” – EGB

I learned of the delightfully named Edna Gertrude Beasley while reading A Second Mencken Chrestomathy. Mencken reviews Beasley’s memoir, “My First Thirty Years,” in a chapter called “A Texas Schoolma’am,” written in 1926:

This book, I suspect, comes out with a Paris imprint because no American publisher would risk printing it. I offer the very first paragraph as a specimen of its manner:

‘Thirty years ago I lay in the womb of a woman, conceived in an act of rape, being carried through the pre-natal period by an unwilling and rebellious mother, finally bursting forth only to be tormented in a family whose members I despised or pitied, and brought into association with people whom I should never have chosen. Sometimes I wish that, as I lay in the womb, a pink soft embryo, I had somehow thought, breathed or moved and wrought destruction to the woman who bore me, and her eight miserable children who preceded me, and the four round-faced mediocrities who came after me, and her husband, a monstrously cruel, Christ-like and handsome man with an animal’s appetite for begetting children.’

This is freely speaking, surely, but only a Comstock, reading it, would mistake it for an attempt at pornography. There is, in fact, not the slightest sign of conscious naughtiness in the book; it is the profoundly serious and even indignant story of a none too intelligent woman lifted out of the lowest levels of the Caucasian race by her own desperate efforts, and now moved to ease her fatigue by telling how she did it. …

La Beasley, it appears, came into the world on the Texas steppes, the ninth child of migratory and low-down parents. Her father was an unsuccessful farmer who practiced blacksmithing on the side. During her first half dozen years the family moved three or four times. Always prosperity was beckoning in the next township, the next county. Children were born at every stop, and as the household increased it gradually disintegrated. Finally, the mother heaved the father out, took her brood to Abilene, and there set up a boarding-house. The sons quickly drifted away; one of the daughters became a lady of joy; the others struggled pathetically with piddling jobs. Gertrude was the flower of the flock. She worked her way through a preposterous ‘Christian College,’ got a third-rate teacher’s certificate, and took a rural school. The county parents liked her; she kept their barbarous progeny in order, often by beating them. After a while she took other examinations, and was transferred to better schools. In the end, she went to Chicago, and there tackled pedagogy on a still higher level. For all I know, she may be teaching in that great city yet.

The tone of Mencken’s review is thoroughly, unusually admiring. He respects her unblurred, dyspeptic view: “The author has emancipated herself from her native wallow, but she does not view it with superior sniffs. Instead, she frankly takes us back to it, and tells us all she knows about its fauna, simply and honestly. There is frequent indignation in her chronicle, but never any derision. Her story interests her immensely, and she is obviously convinced that it should be interesting to others. I think she is right.”

One wishes, at any rate, that Mencken’s guess regarding Beasley’s then-current whereabouts had been the case. She did not end up teaching in Chicago.

In fact, as Mary Ellen Specht puts it in her excellent piece “The Disappearance of Gertrude Beasley, “‘My First Thirty Years’ ends with Beasley sailing off to Japan, where she writes for ‘National Geographic’ and travels to places like China and Russia before publishing her autobiography and disappearing for good,” it seemed, at the age of 35.

In 2008 the mystery of Beasley’s disappearance was solved. Specht writes:

Edna Gertrude Beasley … was institutionalized 10 days after her ship landed in New York. She lived out her last 27 years in gulag conditions, until her death from pancreatic cancer in 1955. She was 63.

The [author’s] grandniece and Beasley “friends” and family have since located her grave, marked only by a number, and erected a headstone there. While Beasley’s body may be at peace, her story isn’t. New York State will not release details of her commitment hearing, even to family.  The question remains: How did she end up there? The family has found a dictation from one of Gertrude’s brothers claiming she was committed by William Randolph Hearst, for whom she briefly worked as a journalist, though the brother claimed “she was no more crazy than you or I.” My mother found no mention of Beasley in the Hearst papers at the University of California at Berkeley.

Maybe she *was* crazy. The letter she sent to the U.S. State Department from the ship is full of grandiose suspicions regarding “a conspiracy against myself.” Beasley also claims to be “completing a work which I believe to be one of the most significant of its sort ever written.” She accuses British police and “certain people in Texas” of trying to stop her. She implies that once she disembarks from the steamer, her life will be in peril. She was never heard from again. My mother says, “Is it paranoia if they’re really out to get you?”

Gertrude Beasley wrote about the hardships of her first 30 years, but we can’t begin to imagine what her last 30 must have been like.

In 2011 Beasley’s memoir was re-issued as a paperback; you can download it onto your Kindle, too. (Amazon has a sizeable selection of the text available as a “preview.” Google Books has these excerpts.) The writing is utterly vivid and distilled. No noun seems not needed in this ardent narration of an American hell. The courage and the craft that our author had … inspires. She reminds me of very few writers of my generation – perhaps only Lydia Lunch and Robin Plan, who were not, thank god, thrown into the “gulag” midway through the journey of their lives.

Review

The New York Review of Books has always been very generous in providing current and past articles online. In celebration of the publication’s 50th anniversary its editors are “digging into the magazine’s archives and featuring one article from each year of publication.” They start with 1972 – 1974:

  • Robert Wall’s “Special Agent for the FBI” will remind us that the current United States President’s complaints against that agency are righteous as well as self-serving. (Hard sentence to write.)
  • Peter Singer’s essay on “Animal Liberation” helped launched a movement that truly enlightened “Western Culture.” (Hard to swallow how mundane it was for us to gratuitously, lazily cause pain to animals.)
  • And Gore Vidal reviews Robert Caro’s annihilation of Robert Moses, who wanted to run a highway through Manhattan’s Washington Square Park (“The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York“). (A titan acclaiming a colossus gutting a Goliath.)

I happily spend days reading the NY Review, which lost its fabled editor and co-founder, Robert Silvers, last year but which has remained “irreplaceable” (a cliché, I realize, but it is completely the case).

Safekeeping

In this amusing piece on book “acknowledgments,” New York Times writer Jennifer Senior includes this bit of real wisdom:

Family members often make the best editors, because they can speak most bluntly to authors, and they have the next-highest stakes. Guess who has to live with you if your book gets savaged?

An editor needs to protect his or her author from ignominy.