Friday, May 01, 2009

Blogger of the Week:
Mark Garvey, Text Arts...

As an English Major, I have a special place in my heart for William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style. (I have a copy--the one illustrated by Maira Kalman--on my nightstand and often peruse it pre-slumber.) Author Mark Garvey is also a fan of the well-regarded classic guide to usage and offers the ultimate tribute to Elements in his upcoming title Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (pubbing in October).

Mark recently began his blog Text Arts, devoted to other beloved books, where he shares excerpts, info and insights on an interesting mix of literature--recent posts discussed work by David Foster Wallace, Marcus Aurelius and Jack Handey.

You began Text Arts in February. What motivated you to start blogging? What did you hope to accomplish?

I started the blog after finishing my latest book, Stylized, which is a history of and an homage to Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. After working on that book, I was in the mood to write about more of my favorite books and writers, and the Text Arts blog seemed the perfect venue for sharing my enthusiasm for the kinds of writing I enjoy. And I thought it might have the added benefit of helping fans of Strunk and White find out about my book.

Your posts feature commentary on and excerpts from a variety of books. How do you decide what to feature? What can readers expect from a Text Arts post?

The books and excerpts I feature in my Text Arts posts are drawn from my favorite writers, it's as simple as that. My tastes, like anyone else's, are my own, but my hope is that readers coming to the site will be excited by some of the excerpts and be intrigued enough to go seek out the books and, I hope, enjoy them. I try to feature interesting and entertaining excerpts that are indicative of the works as a whole. I'm not terribly up-to-the-minute in my reading, but I've been at it a long time, and I have collected a long list of favorites. Many are old books, but their age or their currency doesn't really matter so much to me. I just love to read and talk about good writing--no matter what era it's from.

Tell us more about your upcoming book Stylized. What prompted you to work on this project?

I've had a soft spot in my heart for The Elements of Style since high school. It has always seemed to me that Elements draws together, in concentrated form, the most fundamental and helpful attitudes about writing, and it is one of the books that made me want to be a writer (and editor) in the first place. A few years ago, I noticed that 2009 would mark the book's 50th anniversary, and the time seemed right for a book that considered the history and influence of Strunk and White's little book. I was lucky enough to work with the cooperation and generous help of both the Strunk and White families, and I had the pleasure of interviewing many of my favorite writers for the project.

Stylized includes more biographical detail about William Strunk than has ever been published before, including some wonderful photographs. I was also able to include some of the correspondence between E. B. White and his editors at Macmillan (the original publishers of The Elements of Style), as well as a number of notes from White to readers of Elements. E. B. White may have been the best letter writer of the twentieth century, and I'm thrilled to be able to reproduce some of his letters and notes in my book. In all, I'm excited and honored to able to pay homage in this way to a book that's been such a big influence in my life.

Can you offer some advice to writers new to the blogosphere?

I'm a newbie in the blogging world myself, so consider the source. But I have learned a few things so far:
  1. Set up a schedule that you can live with. Don't promise your readers new daily posts if you don't have the time, energy, and ideas to deliver on that promise.
  2. Find an easy way to keep track of ideas for blog posts--they'll hit you when you least expect it. For this purpose, and for my other writing projects, I carry a small digital voice recorder; it's about the size of a disposable lighter. Have idea > click button > record idea. It's even easier than carrying a notebook and pen.
  3. Build up a "bank" of ideas--at least titles--so you've got some choices when it comes time to write and post.
  4. Keep the posts professional, sharp, and well-edited. Before you make them public, ask a trusted friend to look them over for clarity and correctness. (
  5. Enjoy yourself. If you're having fun, chances are your readers will, too.
Tell us about your most recent post.

Visitors to Text Arts this week will find a somewhat atypical post--longer than usual, and more polemical. I'm usually not quite so worked up. I wrote it in response to some articles and blogs I've read in recent weeks that were using the occasion of the 50th anniversary of The Elements of Style to take potshots at the little book. That kind of foolishness doesn't sit well with me, so I used my platform to do a little venting. It's all in good fun, though. Mostly. And I think blogs can benefit from a little dustup now and again.

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