Tag Archive | "Reading"

Time and Time Again


From Dubai Corespondent James O’Hearn…

You know, I find it really hard to explain to my wife exactly why I not only need time to write, but that our separate understandings of what “time” means, are very different. To her forty five minutes means I’ve been writing for long enough. “Isn’t that enough time?” To me, forty five minutes means I’ve just gotten started. “Enough? Are you crazy?”

It’s an endless argument that circles about ad infinitum, always leaving me angry, yet hopelessly unable to articulate how I view things. If I say “I need a few hours, uninterrupted,” it translates as “Go away, I don’t want to be with you.” The invariable result of these exchanges is hurt feelings on one side, guilt on the other, with anger, and frustration for both.

It is not that either side is right or wrong, but that the two sides are mutually incomprehensible to each other. What is needed, I think, is an advocate who can articulate the differences in a way that is easily understood, and reasonable.

Today, as luck would have it, I came across “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule,” by Paul Graham.

The crux of his argument is that there are two types of people when it comes to time – Manager types and Maker types.

Manager types break down the day into discrete blocks or sets of activities, and are always used to both multi-tasking, and fitting additional stuff in. They are kind of like my wife, who, when faced with a moment of respite, will decide that a certain cupboard needs reorganizing, or the laundry that was going to be done tomorrow could just as well be done right now, while she is cooking dinner, and chatting with a friend on the phone.

Maker types don’t break down the day into discrete blocks of time, because that often impedes their ability to get a workflow going, to go about the business of making. Interruptions break the concentration, stop a making in it’s tracks, and every time this reoccurs, the maker is starting at the beginning again. Makers avoid interruptions, and try to suspend their awareness of time. This is kind of like me, who will sit down, start tapping out an idea, exploring it, organizing it, adding to it, revising it, and polishing it. Time will flow without my knowledge until the task is done.

The problem comes when the Manager and the Maker conflict. I’ll be in a flow, getting something straight in my head, and all of a sudden a holler from out of the room will break my concentration. My wonderful, lovely wife will inform me that I have to come, now, this instant, and see to the children. Why? Because she can;t do everything, you see, and she is already cooking, doing the laundry and currently talking to her friend! At first I would point out that if perhaps she did one thing at a time, then she wouldn’t need to me to run out and deal with something that swift motherly hand and a corrective word could take care of.

The response, after omitting the unprintable string of words that immediately follow, usually relates to a strongly worded question as to why can’t I just “help out?”

And it’s true. Why can’t I just help out? Why can’t I just pause my brain, and hop back into it without a hitch? By not helping out, I’d only be proving what a cad I am. But on the other hand…

And that’s just the problem. For this, can there even be an “other hand?”


Posted in Home Page, The O'Hearn FactorComments (2)

Edit This


Fro Dubai Corespondent James O’Hearn…

Back when I studied creative writing at York University, one of my profs, Richard Teleky, told us that he felt Nino Ricci was a good writer, but not necessarily a great writer*. The reason why he felt this was that Ricci’s debut novel, “Lives of the Saints” was by far and away better then the next two books in the trilogy, mostly because the first book was the beneficiary of a great deal of sublime editing. Ricci had written the novel while earning an MFA at Concordia, and as happens to any MFA student, their major work in a program is never only a singular effort – each student is surrounded by a number of like-minded, intelligent and perceptive writers and editors who all pitch in with helpful suggestions and critiques.the National Post declared, [I]”has edited more Giller Prize winners than anyone.”[/I]Raymond Carver reputation as a master stylist is about as deserved as Bernie Madoff’s reputation as a master investor. As time has told, it was all, in the end, a lie.

The point of my old professor’s illustration was to drive home the point that it was not a great writer who made a work great, but a great editor, and that without the second part of the equation, even the most talented writer would quickly slip into mediocrity. A case in point being J.K. Rowling (bear with me, here), whose first three Harry Potter novels, all heavily edited, polished and slimmed down volumes, were far better then the latter four. When it came time for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” Rowling’s sales and recognition were already a world-wide phenomenon, and she was able to resist much of the editorial control she had put up with in the beginning. When it came time for the seventh book, you have to wonder if the editors were even allowed in the same room as the manuscript.

As far as Rowling was concerned, that didn’t really matter much. She was a popular writer, the bucks were rolling in, and literary merit, “good writing” and “bad writing” all became moot points. If her name was on the front, people bought it, just as the buy Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Stephen King, Danielle Stelle, et al.

But, if you are the sort of writer whose popularity is derived from the literary merit of your work, as opposed to a character, genre, or place, that sort of slide into mediocrity often quickly translates into a one-way ticket back into obscurity. This is why literary writers often take so very long to complete a novel, and why the editing process is often so drawn out. Great literary writers almost always have a great, and usually a specific editor to work with. In Canada, that meant someone like Ellen Seligman, who, as

As Patrick Lane put it “Hands-on doesn’t even begin to describe what Ellen does. Ellen inhabited my manuscript. That’s the only way I can describe it. She entered into the novel in a way that just stunned me. I was not prepared for the way she climbed inside the novel.” As Lane described it, he worked with Ellen for three hours every day when editing his first novel, and at times up to nine hours at a stretch.

When you look at a list of who Seligman has edited, it’s a veritable who’s who of CanLit – Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Mistry, David Bergen, Leonard Cohen, Elizabeth Hay, Jane Urquhart, Michael Ondaatje, and Anne Michaels.

All of which begs the question – if each of these writers is considered to be a “great writer,” yet the common element between them all is the same, doesn’t that beg the question as to who, truly, brings that touch of greatness to their works? Is it the editor? According to Seligman “[e]ditors, certainly in Canada, we don’t change things. Our job is to make recommendations.” So, in other words, no. It’s not the editor, it is the author. Case closed, end of discussion, next subject please.

Still, you would have to wonder whether such a statement was true, or editorial boilerplate, a way of obfuscating the process the way a magician does their tricks. Ask any editor, and they would probably say the same thing. Admitting to being a co-author of a work, for editors, would be a breach of ethics on par with a psychologist passing around a highlight reel of their sessions with clients. So the question as to how complicit an editor is in the creation of a work is one that will go unanswered. If the author is successful, they’re not going to blab, and even if the author bombed and decided to blab, who would listen? Who would care? Sour grapes from a failed writer are about the last item on anyone’s to-do list.

One way for the truth to surface, however, is if the story is told from beyond the grave. This, as it turns out, recently happened in regards to Raymond Carver. As the Times of London has shown,

Which brings me back to my old prof, Richard Teleky, and the sermon he told his class of half asleep poseurs, most of whom, like myself, allowed words like “craft,” “editor,” and “editing” to splash off of them and dissipate into the air, deflected by the impenetrable shields named “the muse,” “my art,” and “talent.” Maybe trying the be the best writer the world has seen is not the best use of my time. Perhaps I should start looking for a good editor instead.


Posted in Home Page, The O'Hearn FactorComments (1)

Old-Fashioned Escapism



From Lara Matossian-Roberts…

The last couple of posts for Relativity Online I wrote about spas and nail salons.  In this post and the next, I want to cast light on other things in this city and country that are readily available – if you are interested to step away from the affordable luxury and indulge in a little bit of good old, simple, unadulterated fun.

In this age of technology, one gets the sense that the young generation really does the bulk of their reading online.  It seems, however, that the book still has its supporters.  A colleague of mine had mentioned a huge sale on books in one of the leading bookstores here and I decided to go along for a look-see.  I was told to get there early as it was a popular sale and judging by its performance last year, it was going to be bigger and better this year.  I did get there early – too early for the morning of the first day on a weekend – but, obviously, not early enough.  For, a queue of about 150 people had already formed outside the doors of the bookstore and a staff member came to inform us that the batch that had gone in earlier were slowly starting to leave and that the next batch would be in soon.

I don’t usually stand in queues to buy things or get into places – not my thing, really – unless it’s for the cashier, so this one was a first for me.  I was actually pleasantly surprised to see families with their children making a day of it while they waited.  They were all there to buy books.  The sun, shining mildly felt pleasant.  There was a gentle breeze.  The children were playing on the sidewalk and discussing with their parents what books they hoped they could pick up.  Adults were there with their friends, having a chat and talking about books and authors, amongst other things.

As we waited the queue grew longer: there were people of all nationalities and all walks of life.  It was so heartwarming to see.  I, personally, have always enjoyed burying my face in a book for endless hours and it made me happy to see that, apparently, this particular pastime was well alive and kicking.

In a city where we have good weather, realistically, for about six months from November to April – April being on the hotter side – a good portion of the denizens of this city opt for spending more time at malls as a pastime.  However, with a book of your choice, you can beat the heat, stay at home and let the book take you where you want to go.


Posted in Home PageComments (0)


Picturing RELATIVITY- see all photos


  • CANADA: AN EXPAT HEAVEN With our ever shrinking global village, migratory work patterns are becoming more and more a part of people’s lives. Work in one country, summer in another, then try yet another. Thinking about it? Canada, Australia and Thailand are the best places to do
  • NO KIDDING, CONDOLEEZA! In a video at the recently opened George W. Bush Library, Condoleeza Rice confirms Bush was both aware and condoned torture. Guess there’s no need to lie your asses off anymore, is there Dipshit?
  • NO MATTER WHAT, IT'S WORTH IT With its Tex-Mex menu, Taco Bell is one of the most popular fat-food chains in America. No matter what happens after you eat it..
  • TURKISH AUTISTIC ATHIESTS “Autistic children do not know believing in God because they do not have a section of faith in their brains,” claims a renowned Turkish Sociologist. Gotta love nut-jobs, like this asshole! They’re so entertaining!



Does the fact that Barack Obama is black and the son of an African Muslim contribute to the radical nature of those who oppose his policies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...