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Ai Weiwei's Christmas door gods

Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

This is not a good time to be a writer. The Arts Council England has just discovered that writers of literary fiction cannot earn a living wage. Some in England now call for an infusion of funds to support this dying art or, at the very least, a reallocation of existing funds. But Britain is cash-strapped and Brexit-obsessed. Supporting literary fiction is the last thing the Brits need to worry about.

Besides, according to author Will Self, literary fiction writers don't need any help. They're already feeding at the creative writing workshop trough, that industry in which authors are paid to teach, talk or write about writing. Self decries this trend. He believes literary fiction will soon be produced and read only by conservatoire writers.

So apparently it's also a bad time to be a teacher of creative writing, which is doubly bad news for me. Except that I don't buy it. No one ever turned to literary fiction as a way to put two kids through college. Most of us write because we cannot imagine a life without it.

Teaching, on the other hand, is a whole other ball of wax. Of course, I'd like to earn some money again. But I wonder, can I pull it off? Here's me being Hamlet in this week's blog post: To Teach or Not to Teach.

In a nice little bit of synchronicity, I just finished Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. She argues that closely reading the classics will deepen our reading pleasure and, for those who are interested, reveal the craft behind the art. It's a great book for readers, writers and teachers alike. Here's my book review: Close Reading.

p.s. These hysterical Christmas door gods were designed by Ai Weiwei in 2012 as a free screensaver for The Guardian. I found them courtesy of the China Channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you're still hunting for presents, check out their weird and wonderful suggestions.

p.p.s. My tip of the season is The Things They Carry by Tim O'Brien. Here's my book review of that stunner: Vietnam.

Merry Christmas!

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