Sunday, January 14, 2018

Thread count

I got an e-mail from a friend telling me about an emerging literary dust-up.  Seems a writer just published a short story in The New Yorker that some people are calling out as being a ripoff of a story by Mavis Gallant.  The writer Francine Prose is probably the most vocal of those in the hue-and-cry camp.

Prose writes, "I find it painful that Mavis Gallant is now so unread that one can claim to have written what's essentially her story and publish it in The New Yorker (where in fact her story first appeared) and it’s okay...It's just wrong."

Prose then goes on to enumerate on her facebook page, with examples, the ways in which the writer, Sadia Shepard, "borrowed" from the Gallant story.

But what really is the most important aspect of this story is the enormous, multi-headed thread Prose has going for her on her page about this.  I did a rough measurement, and it's at least fifteen feet long.  I'm sure I missed some of it, too, passing by a few "more replies" without clicking on them.

I'm so jealous.  I would do anything to have a thread like that.  A thread that went on and on, with all sorts of angry rebuttals and hearty affirmations and sidetrackings and bitter renunciations.  The importance of this person and what they have to say cannot be denied with a thread like that.

Where is my long thread?  Where are my bitter renunciations?

I have none.  Not one soilitary bitter renunciation.  Not to mention my threads in general are threadbare.  They can hardly be called threads.  Maybe threadettes would be more accurate.  Or quasi-threads.  

I want a bigger thread.  I know.  I know.  I can hear you: "Well, say something interesting or provocative.  Then your thread will improve."

That's why I'm seeking your help.  Can anyone provide me with something I can post on facebook that will get me into the big leagues of threads?  I don't mean anything sensational just for the purpose of being sensational.  Sure, I could post something like that.  But that would be cheating.

Is it too much to ask that before I die that I get just one awe-inspiring, jealousy-provoking thread that goes on and on and on as far as the eye can see?

I don't think so.


  1. I can’t believe that your post has not generated the thread you long for; that after 19 days I am the first person responding to it. Here all of us writers are, sitting at our desks alone, wiping crumbs off the keyboard, desirous of being noticed, desperately hoping that what we have spilled out onto a page will cause some lonely accountant vacationing in Miami to smile and underline a phrase, and we can’t spend the five minutes it takes to support one of our own in need. Shameful! Please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of the greater body of writers who have so callously read this and moved on to their daily shopping list without so much as a sympathetic word to start a thread (or add to it).

    1. Barbara, I have a thread at last! Thank you for providing at least the beginning of one. There is good in the world! How in heaven's name did you find this blog? What sort of writer are you? And can I provide a thread for you? All best, Richard

    2. Oh bummer, well I dutifully answered all your questions above in a very clever manner and then before hitting "publish" I got distracted by your link to "View my complete profile." I thought that might be interesting. So I have just done that and now find that the response I had so carefully crafted is gone. So I'll be brief this time around ... I write mostly narrative non-fiction focused on my life's work of architectural design for sustainability (though a few travel stories also). I've recently published a book on sensory design (Creating Sensory Spaces: The Architecture of the Invisible, Routledge, 2017). The introduction to each chapter draws heavily on creative non-fiction stories to immerse the reader in the sensory spaces I describe. I came upon your writings and your blog while researching a companion article about the crucial role of story-telling in the design process. I'm not a blogger in general (the post to your blog may have been the first ever for me), so no need to start any threads for me. All the best, Barbara

  2. Hi Barbara, I looked at your website, and I am really taken by the idea of sensory design. What a great idea. I love that photo of the pool at night with the steam rising. I grew up in southeastern Virginia, and everything about it was sensory, since we lived near the ocean and the smell of flowers was always about. Plus, no air conditioning, just windows open. I miss that. I'm intrigued by "the crucial role story-telling has in the design process." I'm not sure what that means but intuitively it sounds right. Thanks for replying even after the web erased your writing. That is so annoying. All best, Richard