Tag Archives: letters of note

Sunday Scraps 84

1. GENDER: Watch this Time interview with Casey Legler, a woman who works as a male model, and try not to drool.

2. BOOKS: A new anthology, My Ideal Bookshelf, creates colorful portraits of authors’ and celebrities’ book collections, includes David Sedaris and James Franco.

3. SUFFRAGE: Great collection from Sociological Images of vintage anti-suffrage ads.

4. WRITING: Chicago author Megan Stielstra on the stresses of new motherhood and the surprising support from a stranger.

5. ASTRONAUTS: Super sweet letters from astronaut Jerry Linenger to his 1-year-old son while he spent three months at a space station.

6. CHILDHOOD: What does a child’s bedroom look like? Depends on where they live, and damn, the range is pretty intense. Mother Jones has some examples. 

Related Post: Sunday 83: Stewart, language in the NYT, Mormons on the campaign trail

Related Post: Sunday 82: Kevin Durant, Maddow nails it, NYMag cover photos


Filed under Books, Chicago, Gender, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 79

1. BINDERS: Amanda Hess for Slate makes a similar argument to mine earlier this week, and I’m into it. Binders full of women leads to cabinets full of women. Not an ideal process, not an ideal phrase, but not the wrong idea either.

2. OBAMA: Love this piece by Ta-Nahesi Coates for The Atlantic on the particular burden of carrying his “people.” Cool comparison with a 1936 boxing match in which Joe Lewis was knocked out by Max Shmeling.

3. HARPER: From Letters of Note, an excellent, excellent letter from the reclusive Harper Lee to Oprah Winfrey when O picked Mockingbird for the book club.

4. CLINTONS: How’d the Clinton/Obama relationship evolve from primary bashing to cooperation to Clinton’s epic convention speech? NYMag investigates.

5. SPAIN: What do you do if the country you call home can’t support your kids’ ambitions? Carlos Duarte writes for the Huffington Post about watching his daughter leave Spain in search of more than it can offer her.

6. MARKS: The joy of punctuation. Little-known, lesser-used punctuation marks that never quite hit the mainstream.

Related Post: Sunday 78: Inigo Montoya, Rebel Wilson, Roxane Gay, the truth of the VDay kiss.

Related Post: Sunday 77: Replacement refs, Urban Cusp, Jennifer Weiner


Filed under Books, Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 71

1. GLOBAL SEXUALITY: New York Times report on the global domination of Cosmo and how cover to cover, mag to mag, the content shifts to accommodate cultural norms from Kazakhstan to Singapore.

2. HELEN: More Cosmo: Letters of Note has a spectacular letter from legendary Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown to the editor of Turkish Cosmo berating her for the offshoot’s content.

3. OLYMPICS: What happens to the Olympic facilities after the Games have come and gone? Sociological Images has a gallery.

4. FOOTBALL: When NFL players commit suicide, Ann McKee is the doctor they send their brains too. Grantland profiles McKee as she investigates what football does to the brain while also trying to save the sport she loves.

5. ADVICE: Four advice columnists, including Dear Sugar and Dear Prudence, gather for a roundtable to discuss advice-doling strategies and the most common dilemmas (#1 = How do I get over an ex?).

6. AMERICA: America Ferrera, who I’ve missed dearly since saying goodbye to Ugly Betty, is back with a web series called Christine. Worth a look.

Related Post: Sunday 70 – Louie CK, boys in dresses, US ladies at the Olympics, teen books

Related Post: Sunday 69 – Divers, books and bikinis, gun violence, big grocery stores


Filed under Gender, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex, Sports

Writing Rules from C.S. Lewis

I visited my brother in Ann Arbor over the weekend. He’s in college, so we did lots of college stuff, like play beer pong (he is stellar, I am awful), eat gross cafeteria food (creamy chicken enchiladas?) and use folded cereal boxes to take brownies out of the oven (oven mitts, what?)

C.S. Lewis

We also reviewed his application to one of Michigan’s competitive undergrad programs. It is always infinitely easier to edit someone else’s essays than to write your own and I quickly filled his pages with red ink. Not literal red ink, mind you, as this is not the 1950s.

Unfortunately for my brother, I didn’t read this fantastic writing advice until after he had submitted his application. It’s a letter from C.S. Lewis to a young reader, and comes to us via the lovely blog Letters of Note:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keepthem.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

I am guilty of breaking so many of these rules. In fact, pretty sure I committed at least three fouls in the first few paragraphs of this post. If you did a word cloud of this blog, I think that the three most commonly (read: overly) used words would be “infinitely,” “basically,” and “awkward.”

Related Post: The first letter I loved from Letters of Note.

Related Post: Best/worst letters of the day.

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Filed under Art, Books, Family

Sunday Scraps 15 (Special Hamptons Edition)

Note: Nothing is really special about this Sunday Scraps edition except that I’m writing it from the Hamptons… because I’m cool like that. More accurately, because I have cool friends who are willing to share.

1. COMICS: Artist Megan Rosalarian Gedris is examining gender in comic books with a neat little illustrator trick. She’s keeping the ridiculous costumes, but replacing the bodies of the sexed-up female superheroes with male counterparts just to see what happens.

2. LANGUAGE/BASEBALL: Letters of Note has this excellent memo from 1898 instructing players on inappropriate language. On the no-no list “you prick eating bastard.”

3. BOOKS: The Guardian has a list of the hundred best non-fiction books. I have read a mere five. Pathetic.

4. SEX: My adoration for Ariel Levy knows few bounds. I very much enjoyed her essay in Guernica about her two first times. It’s a meditation on the meaning of virginity and intimacy in this day and age.

5. BODY WORDS: Great post by Virginia at Never Say Diet about the word “fat” and its many connotations. When did an adjective that describes a figure become such a derogatory term for all things horrible?

6. GAY: From the NYT, fascinating account of an “ex-gay” who went from editing a gay magazine in San Francisco to Bible school in Wyoming.

Related Post: So few posts since last Sunday (secretaries, Biggest Loser, Detroit demolition etc), but such is life! Vacation trumps blogging!


Filed under Art, Body Image, Books, Gender, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

Letter from Billy

Letters of Note is a super cool blog that publishes a huge range of correspondence from famous people and not-so-famous people from years past and present day. This 2010 example, between a judge and an attorney regarding the attorney’s grandson’s impending bris, is brilliant.

Check out this exchange between a comedian posing as a 10-year-old and Hustler founder Larry Flynt:

Pretty cute. Although I’m not sure why Flynt suggested Sears when you’ve got Guess, Victoria’s Secret or Calvin Klein on billboards 30 feet high. If you were a 1o-year-old looking for naked ladies (or a comedian pretending to be a 10-year-old), which do you choose?


Eva Mendes for Calvin Klein

Adriana Lima for VS

Point is, little Billy and all his naked lady-seeking peers don’t have to look far.


Related Post: The Atlantic‘s take on porn and Hello Kitty phones.

Related Post: Sexed-up advertising for sneakers.


Filed under Advertising, Media, Sex