Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jul 00 09:39
Since I tend to write the same kinda stuff, I have to agree, but I'm also aware of a problem with subjective writing, a need to subvert the notion of the work's objective authority without undermining the credibility of the author's vision. How d'you deal with that?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 5 Jul 00 10:16
i dont know that i did. i think yiou just have to trust that somehow you establish for yr readers that in some way you are a reliable narrator, trustwoerthy while you tell yr tale. about a month ago, on the same day i got two different reviews: the one in the seattle weekly said i had a great style but was half-wrong about various things; the one in the sf chron said i was basically right about most things but was like the obnoxious person at the party who you just wish would shut up. this 2nd reviewer was a business editor, if that helps frame the story... so my takeaway from all this is that you just have to try to write the truth as you see/know it, assume you'll be misconstrued but some people will get what you are trying to do --- and that;'s all you can do. i wasnt under the effect of any hallucinogenic drugs while writing tdb and i didnt knowongly write any falsehoods of ommission or comission, but aside from that....
Michael W. Martin (michael-martin) Wed 5 Jul 00 10:17
>so to sum up, there are obviously truths i think can be better evoked >with the gonzo and the suggestive than what appears in the new york >times. This is true as long as there is a rigorous framework of facts and verified sources to keep the subjectivity in check. Witness the recent "biography" of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris, wherein the author invented characters and events to "make his point." Then there are the shocking distortions of history in movies like "Gladiator" and "The Patriot," to name some recent examples. All the postmodernism in academia over the last few decades seems to have dulled people's realizations that some things are true and some things are not. While of course there is an inherent amount of subjectivity in all non-fiction, this does not give writers carte-blanche to present whatever they want as truth. Such attitudes are open to abuse by lazy (or crazy) writers who simply don't want to do the donkeywork of research and verification. I don't implicate Paulina in this, having not read her book, but the general "Gonzo" genre of writing is often guilty.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 5 Jul 00 10:33
i agree with the above. and i did a ton of donkey-work, lemme tell you. simply tdb cant meet the test of journalism for much of what i have to say there is based on anecdote, experience, analyusis --- as well as reporting...
Owen Thomas (dither) Wed 5 Jul 00 11:25
Perhaps we should make a distinction between say, not meeting the Wall Street Journal's three-sources standard on every assertion, and making stuff up. Gonzo doesn't mean fictionalized, or doesn't have to mean it, anyway.
Michael W. Martin (michael-martin) Wed 5 Jul 00 11:30
That is fine, just as long as it is indicated somewhere in/on the book so I don't expect to be reading a quaterly earnings report and wind up with somebody's diary. Also (again, not implicating Paulina per se but "gonzo stuff" in general), while some Gonzo writing is brilliant, much of it tends towards the self-indulgent. I don't need to read somebody's "critical perspective" on something if it is just going to be a catalogue of banal personal experiences or opinions. Give me the facts, sez I, and I will come up with my own opinions.
better run thru the jungle (sd) Wed 5 Jul 00 19:32
Interesting that you should mention Michael Shaara Pulitzer winner along with a discussion of Gonzo journalism. I find your "Cyberselfish" to be more along the lines of "The Killer Angels" than "Hell's Angels". I believe that you have done a good job of using facts to support your observations. Many folks who write about cyberculture fail to provide enough support for their rants. Do you mind if I ask how you organized your notes before you began the actual writing of the book?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 5 Jul 00 21:13
the comment about quarterly reports vs diaries made me laugh! and i must confess, in spite of literary fashion to the contrary, i am generally NOT a fan of memoir. i think fiction forces a kind of determination of what to leave out that memoir doesnt i.e. being stuck inside the prisonhouse of self, you can get lost wrt what might matter to an outside reader vs what might matter to a friend/lover/therapist who is the natural audience for memoirish stuff. as for how i organized my notes, it was a process more of following my snout than anything else. remember, i had been thinking about these issues for yrs, 1st wrote the book proposal in 94, actually began work in 96. BUT i had meanwhile been storing up experiences, creating files, etc etc. so the 1st 6 months i floundered about, tried to find out what else had been written on these topics (not much, as it turned out. it's a lonely thing, being a World Expert on a cultural phenom that's little known or understood. at least back as it was then...), etc etc, tried to think about narrative structures. then i took a trip to dc, and had all kinds of great input from all kinds of people there. then about a month later, i read yet another personal ad in the santa cruz 'good times', and suddenly the structure fell into place as i was driving back from making a bank deposit. as with many writers, if i can find a way in, the rest falls in place. i -knew- i needed to do a chapter on bionomics (both in the specific sense of the book and the thinktank, and in the general sense of pseudo-biological thinking); on the crypto wars and the cpunk stance; on wired both as cultural artifact and as propaganda organ; on the thorny issue of philanthropy in high-tech; on 'how did this happen'. and i realized as i continued to do my research that if i did a decent enough job on all these topics --- i basically had a book. each chapter went through multiple drafts --- overall i would say the published book is about draft 13. so there was organic infilling (one of my shortcomings as a writer --- again stemming from my crabbed little poetess brain --- is that my writing can tend to be too highly-coded. a lot of the editorial process consisted of 'unpack this sentence! give an example here! can you make this concrete?'). there was also a constant tension between writing a book which explains stuff to people's moms (meaning, the intelligent npr audience who is not terribly tech-savvy) and writing a book which my techy friends and enemies wouldnt find simplistic/with nothing to offer. dont know if that answers the question of how i organized my notes; but generally i have found that when i finally feel i know enough about something, i can begin to write about it. professional journalists often have the ability to write around holes in a story; i have never been able to do that. dick shaffer of 'computer letter'/technologic partners (i wrote some stuff for them yrs ago) once called me a demon-reporter; and it's true, i practically always talk to 10 people where most folks will have talked to one. but i know i am not alone among writers wrt to relying on that 'aha' moment of -knowing- that you have enough/have gotten to enough of the right people... and thanx for the comparison to 'killer angels'. very kind words...and yes, i do like to think that i have done my homework...
better run thru the jungle (sd) Thu 6 Jul 00 07:56
Thank you. Yes that is exactly what I was wondering about. Your 'unpack this sentence' note is wonderful. It made me think of your mind as a sort of PKZip utility with a built-in thesis, antithesis, synthesis module. It also reminded me of Tracy Kidder's "Soul of a New Machine" when the programmers would begin to have too much information to deal with in their brains and would go to their supervisor to 'core dump'.
gazorninblat (dwaite) Thu 6 Jul 00 08:22
I used to 'core dump' all the time..... Still do...
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Thu 6 Jul 00 15:59
Me, too. They think it's writing. Paulina, what is the source from which review copies flow? wg
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 6 Jul 00 16:31
wendy, in the uk my editor is firstname.lastname@example.org in the u.s. it's email@example.com too early for the german edition [g]
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 6 Jul 00 16:52
i meant, andrew is mu uk editor, and he can handle review requests for anywhere in the commonwealth kara is the -publicist- who handles u.s. and canadian review copy requests. etc
Owen Thomas (dither) Thu 6 Jul 00 17:05
Paulina, where do you find TDB's message really resonates? I know you have held great hopes for Kids These Days -- but aren't most colleges equally hotbeds of libertarianism, at least in the comp sci labs?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 6 Jul 00 17:38
it's kinda strange. the people who really seem to resonate with tdb are age 30+, and generally much more the current events/culture/what does it all mean folks, with some excpetions made for women in their 20s yes there ARE some interesting moves afoot with Young People Today frinstance with the campaigns against sweatshop-produced goods on college campuses --- but most kids havent heard any other version of reality than the one i am railing against. they are amused and startled by what i have to say --- but they aint ever heard anything like it. and yes, comp sci depts are famously hotbeds of libertarianism, enuf so that one academic i talked to as a source for tdb commented to me that -he- wondered if this was one of the factors responsible for there being fewer women cpu science grads now than 10 yrs ago. that -generally-, with some excpetions, women are put off by the default libertarian culture of computer science...
Martin Minow (minow) Fri 7 Jul 00 07:27
FYI - Paulina will be interviewed on KQED's Forum call-in program at 11 AM (Pacific) today (Friday, 7/7). KQED is now broadcasting online at <http://www.kqed.org>.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 7 Jul 00 08:06
wow, iu hoguth i was supposed to get there at 9:45 for a 10 am interviuew?
The pictures are better on radio (minow) Fri 7 Jul 00 08:52
The makeup requirements are minimal.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 7 Jul 00 09:28
Looked at the sched...looks like you hoguth wrong!
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 7 Jul 00 09:36
Or the sched has a typo.
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Fri 7 Jul 00 10:41
A good journalistic, non-ideological, nuanced, well-written account of the (relatively small) number of Silicon Valley technolibertarian geeks -- their stories, their thoughts, their deeds, their impact -- would make for a darned good book. Anybody know of one?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 7 Jul 00 12:10
are you looking for a response? i presume not
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Fri 7 Jul 00 12:39
I just think a good, compelling book could be made out of hanging out with these people, letting them tell their own stories, letting them reveal themselves. As opposed to, say, using them as agenda-fodder for a bloodless, zero-sum polemical treatise.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 7 Jul 00 12:42
Hasn't Po Bronson done that in The Naked book? wg
Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 7 Jul 00 13:01
po's book was on business culture per se, not too much on anything else. i am not exactly sure what a 'bloodless zero-sum polemical treatise' is.
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