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text 2013-11-05 01:28
Are You a Success? By Whose Standards?
Jim Henson: The Biography - Brian Jay Jones
Ape: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book - Guy Kawasaki,Shawn Welch
Hungering and Thirsting for Justice - Lacey Louwagie
Queer Dimensions - John R. Williams,Joel Best,Erastes,C.S. Fuqua,Jacques L. Condor,Fiona Glass,Trent Roman,Angelia Sparrow,Naomi Brooks,Mallory Path,Logan Zachary,James E.M. Rasmussen,Michael Itig,R.J. Bradshaw,R.J. Astruc,Lacey Louwagie,David Edison,Inga Gorslar
Just Like a Girl: a Manifesta! - Michelle Sewell

I’m still a little bleary-eyed and disjointed from odd train schedules and driving throughout the night — I just got back from the annual Call To Action conference, where I came up with ideas for at least two blog posts for Young Adult Catholics, so overall, I think it was a fruitful trip.

Between audiobooks on the drive and traditional books on the train (not to mention a 7-hour wait at the station), I also finished three books–one of my favorite parts about traveling–including APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, which I’ll review here by next week.


On the drive home this morning, I was listening to the new biography on Jim Henson. I’m always a bit nervous when I pick up biographies of creative geniuses, afraid that I’ll feel woefully inadequate by the time I’m done. I thought that would be the case with this one; Jim was already well on his way to the legacy that would become The Muppets by the time that he was in college. But as I follow the story more deeply, I realize that success to the rest of the world and success to Jim weren’t necessarily the same thing. Jim’s characters are recognized and beloved around the world, yet he spent years trying to break beyond being “a puppet guy”–even before he worked on Sesame Street, launched The Muppet Show, or created any of his feature-length films. He wanted to expand into doing “arty” films, including experimental videography, live action, and ambiguous messaging. He only attained moderate success in that arena, with many of the projects he wrote and devoted himself to during this time failing to find an audience. Those that did find an audience met with mixed reviews, and have faded into obscurity today.


It reminded me of the article I found most intriguing in Write Good or Die, “Success” by Kristine Kathryn Rush. In it, she talked about how many writers who are outwardly successful didn’t consider themselves successes because they hadn’t achieved what they really wanted to do.I can relate to this. I used to think being published in something besides a student journal would designate me “successful.” When I hit that milestone at age 21, I wanted to have something published in a book, then write for a wider audience, then publish fiction. Around this time last year, I even ended up with my name on the cover of a book (although I didn’t write it), and I felt as though I were a “real” writer for about a week.


There are other external measures of success, too. While I’ve never made a ton of money, I’ve been privileged to find work I enjoy ever since college, not to mention work that is in my field. My current combination of working part-time as an employee for a news organization and freelancing to round out my time and my income is my “sweet spot” as far as work-life balance is concerned. By my own standards, I consider myself pretty lucky. I know others who are as smart, talented, and educated as I am who have not been so lucky in their work lives, and I remind myself often that I’ve got nothing to complaint about.


Except. I don’t really consider myself a success. My dream of publishing a novel, which I’ve cherished since I was about 10, is still out of reach. And it’s hard to feel successful after spending over half my life writing books and still feeling like I don’t have the right answer to the question, “Have you been published?” or “What have you written?” I feel that the answer to what I’ve published and what I’ve written are not really the same, although there’s the tiniest bit of overlap.


I believe that writing is its own reward; in fact, it’s so rewarding that I have a lot of trouble getting myself to devote as much time to submitting my work as I devote to writing it. The E in APE totally freaks me out. But I know that if I go through life without publishing a novel, I will feel like I’ve failed at my own measure of success, regardless of what else I might accomplish. And if I do publish one? I have a feeling I’ll be plagued by wishes that more people had read it, that it got better reviews, that it sold more copies.


This all might seem like a rather discouraging thread, but its effect on me is the opposite. It helps me keep things in perspective. Even Jim Henson received three years’ worth of rejections on a project he loved that never did get produced. I hope that at the end of his too-short life, he was able to appreciate everything he had done, and not dwell too much on what he hadn’t. I hope I’ll be able to as well.


Because ultimately, the next dream will always be out of reach. That’s the definition of dreaming. And maybe that’s why so many people who were “success stories” by the world’s standards felt like they fell short of their own. And maybe that’s not as depressing as it seems.

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review 2012-11-22 00:00
The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe
The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe - Barbara Vanderlinden

Almost 20 years after its humble beginnings, Manifesta has definitely become one of the most important contemporary art biennials in Europe, and a famous one around the world. Its nomadic nature and the fact that it is so deeply concerned about the geopolitical situation in Europe set it apart from other, older and more established biennials, like Documenta and the Venice Biennial, to name only a couple. However, it is still a difficult project to understand, its process and so-called goals are fluid and constantly debated, and every edition has its own vicissitudes and subjectivities. This is why I picked up this book, and why it was so interesting to read.


The book itself is a bit like Manifesta: a complicated, at times confusing and apparently self-contradicting, open process. The essays vary wildly in their quality and style, but they all maintain a critical stance towards Manifesta and the so-called art world. Frankly, after a while all the negative criticism begins to feel a bit forced and superfluous, but I admit my point of view might be biased. I am, after all, reading this seven years after the book came out, a time when the biggest challenges that Europe is facing aren't exactly about bridging the gap between East and West (there is one essay that speaks about the North-South divide, but that's about it). Perhaps even more important, this book came out when the Manifesta Foundation was preparing its Nicosia edition, which ended up never happening for several reasons. Had this most interesting landmark in the history of Manifesta happened before this book was published, it would certainly have changed it a lot.


Still, this is an indispensable read if you want to learn more about Manifesta and contemporary art in Europe, specially concerning the period after 1989.

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review 2012-08-18 00:00
Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future - Jennifer Baumgardner,Amy Richards Well written and well thought book about feminism and what extactly feminisn is. The authors take a good look at the various issues surronding the term. This edition inculdes updates from when the book was published in 2000. In some cases, the only complaint I have about the book is that in some cases the authors are somewhat hesitent in using the term femninist to describe some women Most intersting fact, however, is that Wolf and Pagilia, actually agree on something.
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