H/T Jane Bodie (playwright extraordinaire in her own right – one of my mentor thank yous) draws my attention to this brilliant Lorrie Moore essay collection (amazon link here). Read it along side Zadie Smith and Susan Sontag. This is from the Kate Kellaway Guardian review:
“Working backwards, I have drawn up six rules that Moore would seem to be following, based on this book:
1. A review is a minor entertainment, a performance. Be courteous but not to the point where reviews are enforcedly joke-free zones. On Edna St Vincent Millay: “Millay was considered successfully detoxed when the nurses got her breakfast down to tea, toast and claret.” Yet remember: a joke should not distort the subject.
2. Be truthful and never gratuitously unkind.
3. Embed criticism within praise to reduce its sting. (Moore specialises in the critical sandwich: sharp filling, tasty bread on either side.) “It is one of [Joan] Silber’s limitations turned brazen, wise refusal that she has not bothered to create different voices for her characters. Everyone speaks in the same lively, funny, intelligent voice: the voice of the book.”
4. Keep ego in its place, but feel free to use the first person. Moore maintains: “There is nothing more autobiographical than a book review.” (An exaggeration, surely?) She writes about artists’ paradoxical mix of “weirdly paired egotism and humility”.
6. Consult your moral compass. Moore is an undoctrinaire feminist with a keen, flexible, unheated take on women. Her piece on Updike identifies an under-evolved knowledge of women by men in his fiction, a “wise unknowingness”.
And this also from Moore's intro:
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude or investor Ray Dalio on Principles.
Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.
More thoughts: My Financial Times opinion article on the importance of long-term questions to management teams and Environment, Social and Governance capital.