East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



In the end it was a matter of money: I had this Amazon gift card, and I was going through one of my periodic book hauls. There was a book I had been curious about for years, and there it was – the paperback edition, priced 5 bucks, exactly half the price of the Kindle edition.
So I ordered it, and today the postman dropped it – and boy does it look ugly.

The book in question is Monkeys with Typewriters, the “reading and writing” handbook by Scarlett Thomas. I like the works of Thomas a lot, and as I said I wanted to read her writing handbook forever. I sort of collect writing handbooks, and this one looked like a good addition to my collection. Also, a few friends highly recommended it.

I hate the cover. I am sorry, because I realize it’s the work of someone that put skill and effort in it, and I get the whole ironic/postmodern idea. It’s just that I don’t like it.

The book I got is a 500+ pages brick, and a little worse for wear – it was sold for cheap because, I think, it was the last physical copy in the warehouse, and they wanted to get rid of it. The cover is bumped, the spine a little warped. But that actually makes it better – even the cover now has a sense.
This is a utilitarian book, rough and ready, it’s something one has to browse, read, possibly annotate. Like my collection of Zen and Daoist texts, books that I only buy second hand, it has a personality, a life.

And it looks very promising – I started reading it during lunch break, and it sounds like my sort of thing.

“Real writers don’t have time to talk about writing or read about it,” a guy I know once told me. I guess that explains why he writes rubbish.
I still like reading about writing, and discover new ideas, new opinions, new tricks. And I like to talk about the craft – not to strut about like a peacock, but again, to clarify my ideas, and learn something new.

So now I’ll write, and later I’ll read.
It’s a (reasonably) decent life.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Monkeys

  1. I love the cover! But that’s okay, good people can have different opinions.

    I am reading Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Clark. It’s very good with applicable exercises.


  2. “Real writers don’t have time to talk about writing or read about it,” a guy I know once told me. I guess that explains why he writes rubbish.
    Never, ever tell a wannabe or actual writer how to be a better writer unless he pays for your opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

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