Sunday, February 15, 2009

50BC09 #3: Wheat That Springeth Green

Wheat That Springeth Green Wheat That Springeth Green by J. F. Powers

1988, Washington Square Press, 335 pages
rating: 3 of 5 stars
I wanted to feel less ambivalent about this book. It is indeed humorous, but sometimes the characters are caricatures, so much so that the humor becomes less witty. Joe's early days in seminary are a study in the comedy of youthful bravado, poking fun at the earnestness of a sometimes misplaced faith.

While the comedy does at times seem forced, Powers' satirical observations are unmistakable and unapologetic. Ironies come out of hiding, like the dustbunnies underneath Joe's Barcalounger.

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50BC09 #2: How To Write A Lot

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silvia

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paul Silvia's book is a humorous bit of sound advice on how to produce plentiful bits of academic writing. His basic premise centers around the creation of a writing schedule that is immutable and permanent. Whether you spend four weekly hours or ten, Silvia contends that the consistency will produce results far faster than if you should wait for inspiration to strike.

It wasn't without some guilty recognition that I read Chapter 2, "Specious Barriers to Writing a Lot". However, Silvia keeps the tone pragmatic, rather than condemnatory, and suggests various methods of tracking one's progress and "carrot-on-a-stick" rewards.

While I am sure Silvia's methods will work (I've had success thus far), I do wonder about academics who have children. The needs of children do not often fall into a schedule, and I can see that parents might find maintaining a strict writing schedule more difficult. I do know a few colleagues who would find Silvia's approach an oversimplification of what it takes to write.

I recommend this book because it is a quick read and contains some valuable and consolidated insights into writing productively. I think he is overly negative about the act of writing (some of us DO enjoy writing), but addresses it as a necessary evil for those who may not be so inclined. While it is geared toward post-graduates and faculty, it certainly would help anyone engaged in writing a dissertation, particularly in the humanities or social sciences.