The mystery surrounding Vincent van Gogh’s death has taken another twist after two experts disputed a recent biography that suggested he did not commit suicide but instead was killed by an acquaintance.
The Dutch painter was widely believed to have shot himself at the age of 37, even confessing it on his deathbed. Yet Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith made the shock claim that he had been shot, possibly accidentally, by a 16-year-old schoolboy.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors made the claim in Van Gogh: The Life, a 960-page biography released in October 2011. At the time of publication, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said the theory was “dramatic” and “intriguing” but added that “plenty of questions remained unanswered.”
Two research experts from the museum were set on the trail of exploring the claims, however, and have no published their findings that the shocking theory of manslaughter, or even murder, simply does not add up.
The less he can write, of course, the more admirable his achievement. As well as the heroism of Robert Langdon, we must think of the heroism of Dan Brown. This is a man who started out with such a shaky grasp of the English language that he still thinks “foreboding” is an adjective meaning “ominous.” I also relished “Sienna changed tacks.” Read aloud, these three words would suggest that the pretty, young woman had altered her arrangement with the Internal Revenue Service. But Dan Brown has never read one of his own sentences aloud in all his life; and why, now, would he need to? He can buy and sell all the pedants in the world.
It's easy to dump on Dan Brown. But it's not so easy to write like Dan Brown, despite what the reviewers might think--if it were, more people would be name-brand authors who sell a gazillion books.
I'll thank my mother for the link. She sent it to me this morning, apparently thinking I suffer from writer's block.
As regular readers of this blog know, I don't believe in writer's block.
Well, not really.
I think it was in my post "Advice to Young Lawyer's #13" that I first began to examine the concept of writer's block. I concluded that "the cause of writer’s block is always the same: a mistaken notion of self-entitlement, a touch of self-pity, and perhaps a lack of sleep."
To cure writer's block, I proposed this solution: "Simply take your head and bang it on your desk until you either lose consciousness or come to grips with the fact that you, and you alone, must write the next sentence. Continue in this fashion, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until your memorandum is complete."
In later posts, I proposed other cures, having concluded that the bang-your-head solution wouldn't necessarily work for everyone.
It's possible that in the past, I've been too harsh and dogmatic when it comes to writer's block. I might as well think about this for a little while. I'm stuck here in this room, after all, for another three hours, twenty minutes. And I really don't feel like banging my head on my desk.
A final warning. Please don't go looking for writing-block cures 1-56 and 58-177 on this blog--I haven't published them yet.
Maybe I will soon. In the meantime, happy writing!
P.S. Of the three posts I linked to above, only one of them is compiled in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground). To find out which one, you'll have to buy the book--or at least examine the Table of Contents in the "look inside" feature at Amazon. Please note that if you should happen to purchase and read this book, I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE a review at Amazon. Why? Because I recently had a five-star literary agent tell me that the lack of Amazon reviews for How to Feed a Lawyer might make it impossible for me to ever interest a publisher in anything I write ever again!!! Lacking additional Amazon reviews, in other words, my writing career is pretty much finished. And that's bad news for a guy who rarely suffers from writer's block!
Here's Christopher Buckley in the "By The Book" feature of this week's New York Times Book Review--
Which book has had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write?
H. L. Mencken’s “Prejudices.” He wrote these six volumes in the 1920s, but their zest, sinew and cut-and-thrust are undated, fresh and vital nearly a century after their ink dried. No American writer — except perhaps Twain and Bierce — could be so withering and gleeful at the same time.
Well said. I found the Prejudices series more or less by accident as a college senior, looking for something else in the library stacks--and soon had read them all. Now I have a set at home.
The lawyer from the planet Og arrived on Earth last month from a galaxy far, far away. His mission: to conduct research for Chapter 45 of Volume 768 of the popular Ogian reference work, The Very Large Guide to Lawyers of the Universe. The chapter's title: "American Lawyers."
The lawyer from the planet Og is very far from home, and his assignment was an unpopular one. He’s not sure why he drew the short ogstraw, but it was probably as retribution for the way he suffocated the entire lawyer population of Andromeda 765. It was a group of lawyers that would have annoyed any sentient being.