All the News That’s Fit to Squint At

I have an ongoing battle with myself (damn, every time I get on top, I’m on the bottom too) about reading and listening to the daily news. It can be such a litany of woe and strife: so many deaths, so many injustices that I become inured to the actual screaming pain of it and instead numbly click on to the next article. The drive to drink more news swill is partially due to me wanting to be a journalist for so many years, and for thinking that if I stay current with global currents, I’ll know what’s happening.

But often, what’s happening is just as real under the radar, on the other side of the insistent NOW. Life works its odd ways in the road-not-taken nooks and crannies of not-news and not-hot-news. So, while I continue to battle with whether I’ll lap up the blood-soaked headlines of today, I also subscribe to a number of email newsletters, some of them writing-related, some not, that take a different perspective on what’s interesting and important. (Note: do not point out that reading yet more digests of information doesn’t really address the prescription that it might be time to wean oneself off the news entirely. Bah! Resolutions are for New Year’s.)

So, some offbeat compendiums of not-quite-news:

Next Draft
A daily digest of the provocative, the crazed and the head-scratching (and sometimes it does include top-of-the-news stories, though often from a different angle). The guy behind this, Dave Pell, usually has some wry or deadpan take on the articles he lists, before you click through to the madness.

Brain Pickings
Often centering around writers and literature, this is a weekly digest of the old, the new and the odd. Let them explain: “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.”

Work in Progress
A weekly (though not always) newsletter from the Farrar, Strauss Giroux publishing company, it will often have oddments from the byways of literature and literary types, sometimes with snippets from interviews of famed authors long dead, or snipings from unruly authors quite alive. Some promo of their own publications here, but not obnoxious.

Shelf Awareness
And if you want to find out which of your favorite bookstores are closing this week, this newsletter’s for you. Well, that’s not all they do—from their About: Shelf Awareness publishes two newsletters, one for general readers and one for people in the book business.
Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers, our new newsletter, appears Tuesdays and Fridays and helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by our industry experts. We also have news about books and authors, author interviews and more.
Shelf Awareness: Daily Enlightenment for the Book Trade, which we’ve been publishing since June 2005, provides booksellers and librarians the information they need to sell and lend books. It appears every business day and is read by people throughout the book industry.

Writing on the Ether
And if you need to read about which publishing industry maven is trashing Amazon today (but it’s funny, really), you can do no better than to go to Jane Friedman’s fine blog and read the Thursday edition of Writing on the Ether. There’s more than just Amazon trashing going on, with all the publishing industry in a constant froth about pretty much everything. Porter Anderson surveys and curates sharp commentary from every whichaway.

Extry, Extry, Man and Dog Both Bite Reporter

And a bit of my own news: Men With Pens put up a post of mine about “Why I Write.” Go there and tell me why you write as well. Or why not.

And I was a finalist in the Gotham Writer’s Workshop 50-word monologue contest, which solicited 50-word monologues on growing up in the suburban 60s. Guilty. I won two tickets to a Broadway revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” which I would dearly love to attend, but it being on the Right Coast, I can’t. I’ll be finding some backbiting, caustic, alcoholic NY friends of mine to give them to instead.


6 thoughts on “All the News That’s Fit to Squint At

  1. Heh. The drive to drink (more news swill) had me by the throat, but then I spat, though ’twas only yesterday, so it may return tomorrow, or the day before that. One tough monkey it is, or was, if it doesn’t come back.

  2. I should have known that you dreamed of becoming a journalist, Tom. There’s something very Lois Lane about you. I too subscribe to Brain Pickings and Shelf Awareness, but will try, at your suggestion, to digest YET ANOTHER digest of information (in the form of Next Draft).

  3. Jeff, monkey swill is the worst; you will have to go through the new airport scanners 100 times, and then repeat “No news is good news” over and over in candlelight every night for a week. May you be saved.

  4. Annie, thanks, I have modeled my whole career after Lois, particularly the pencil skirts. (Pen skirts leak.) Happy to ruin all of your ambitions with another way to stare, semi-conscious, into screens all day.

  5. Congrats on the monologue writing contest.

    Back when I studied drama and theatre, the monologue was always my favourite form of scene to do because then I knew someone else couldn’t screw it up, haha!

    Keeping track of the news is one of my obsessions (because I want to know what I need to know) but I get fed up of all the flotsam that obscures the truth. That’s why I never became a journalist myself because I felt like it had turned from a noble profession to one that was corrupt and manipulative. I tend to jump around my news outlets and attempt to read between the lines.


  6. Thanks Jai! I took an acting class a long while back that worked on monologues, and it was fun, but the work never left the class. I am trying to break my obsession with the news because sometimes it just leaves me feeling bruised, because there’s such a focus on negative events.

    I agree very much that you have to read between the lines—the questionable premise of objectivity that was attached to yesterday’s news isn’t even voiced in a whisper by any apologists for today’s news.

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