Enter Philip Roth

I recently finished reading Philip Roth’s superb novel, Exit Ghost, the latest (and final?) Zukerman story. Nathan Zukerman, by the way, is Roth’s literary alter ego; a fictional author whose life has mirrored that of his creator’s. Or has it?

And what can you say about a Roth book that Roth himself doesn’t say better in his writing? How do you communicate his inimitable sense of style and the way in which his characters take on a life of their own? Should you paraphrase? Quote passages? What would you leave out? What essentials would you miss?

And the questions… Roth poses and answers so many questions that his fiction feels almost Talmudic in scope (including, in this case, some student acolytes).

Roth’s writing is entertaining, funny, rigorous. and completely and unabashedly original. He’s in a class unto himself (which, I would imagine might be a bit lonely at times).

If you haven’t read anything by Roth, I urge you to do so; if you have, read more.


To blog or not to blog…

That is the question… a client asked a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what I suggested.

Before you get started

Figure out your objective. The blogosphere can be a good way to build awareness for you and your brand, but that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow burn, like media relations, and requires your full attention. In addition, you have to be passionate about writing (hopefully good writing).

Entering the fray

OK, you’ve done your soul searching and decided that blogging is something you want to do. Here’s what comes next:

  1. Select the topic. It should be something you love, intimately know about and where you’re positioned to become a thought-leader.
  2. Linkability builds credibility. Identify the players, the high profile and oft-quoted bloggers in your sector and start reading their blogs. And when you have an insight to share, post a comment. That way the bloggers start to know and build a relationship with you. Again, a slow burn which generally takes three to six months (or more).
  3. Decide on your format, which software works best for your needs and how often you’re going to post. Then stick to it. (Ideally this should be at least a couple of times per week in order to build a following.)
  4. It’s a DIY culture and publishing is as important as writing. I spend about one to two hours per post, researching, checking facts and links, copy editing and proofing. This isn’t something you can pass along to staff.
  5. The blog needs a voice – yours. There’s been negative backlash when people find out a site has been ‘ghost-blogged’. The most successful CEO bloggers write the posts themselves. This authenticity is what makes their blogs so powerful.
  6. You should be transparent, listen, admit any errors quickly and respond to comments in a timely manner.

Will this get you any business? In the long run, maybe. As I said, blogging can build your profile the same as marketing, PR, speaking engagements, etc.

Our advice? Unless you have the drive, energy and hours to spend, blogging may not be the most strategic thing for you to do.

Think of it as a part-time job with a full-time commitment.

The odds are in…

Since April 2nd, I’ve supped my share of rim-rolling Tim Hortons‘ coffees, in hopes of coming up with…anything.

According to the rules and regulations on the Rrroll Up the Rim website, my best chances were getting a food prize. Odds: 1 in 9.

Here are my results:
– 34 coffees consumed (from about six locations)
– Two free coffees won
– Odds that a coffee I bought would be a winner: 1 in 17
(considerably lower than the posted rate)

No wonder I was mildly disappointed, despite having consumed a more-than-adequate supply of caffeine.

Will that put a damper on my participation for next year? I doubt it. It’s part of a Canadian rite of passage from winter to spring.

Besides, the pleasure is in the thrill and getting to the front of the line, I say.

They started a joke…

With apologies to the Bee Gees, but this joke didn’t start ‘the whole world crying’. It was more like a frustrated sigh of bemusement.

It happened a week ago, on the stalwart CBC Radio interview show, ‘As It Happens’*. I was in my car and caught the middle of an item which purported to feature a representative of Canada’s mint. The gentleman was extolling the virtues of a new three-dollar coin – the threenie – that was going to replace the five dollar bill.

At first, I was incensed. How could they do this? What a typically bureaucratic, cost-saving move? (I admit I had forgotten it was April 1.)

I meant to blog about the situation that night but got busy. Later, when I did a search, I discovered it the whole thing was a lame joke.

Now first off, let me applaud CBC’s efforts at jocularity.

But second, I’d like to charge them with the heinous crime of attempted humour (without a license).

The premise of the joke was good. But oh, the delivery… It was too earnest and low-key; in other words it had the standard CBC tonality we Canadians are supposed to appreciate after we turn 40. That’s a right of passage, eh?

There was no signal of silly (i.e. a nearly hysterical bureaucrat), no frustration on the part of the interviewer, no absurd pronouncements, no delicious irony. In order to make people laugh, we need to sense a twinkle, a hint of mischief, a face full of pie. Otherwise, we miss the nuance.

Perhaps CBC needs to tune into itself and adjust its blandwidth. And maybe then, the next time it starts a joke, the world might catch on and start laughing (or at least crack a smile).

And by the way, can someone please tell them they don’t need the cover of April Fool’s Day to be witty.

Is blogging hazardous to your health?

The New York Times says it may be. Robert Scoble contends it’s worth the risk.

I think this entire story is a little nuts; a hilarious example of the pedestal we, in the social media scene, are placing on communications 2.0.

I mean, we’re not talking heroin here, or even addiction to cigarettes or alcohol.

Sure, on a personal level the fact that two prominent bloggers died from heart attacks is sad.

But c’mon people, this is hardly an epidemic worthy of front page coverage in the most venerable of dailies. I ask you what job is without stress and deadlines? And who could argue that numerous occupations aren’t far more high-pressure than blogger (e.g. surgeon, police officer, firefighter, waiter, bartender, to name but a few).

The so-called 24/7 stress syndrome some bloggers experience is more likely caused by a manufactured sense of self-importance than anything else.

We may spend too much time here (hey, this is my third post of the day), but, quality of content aside, the blogosphere is hardly a physically toxic pursuit. It’s mostly about reflecting, researching, reading and writing.

If this isn’t proof of a slow news day, I don’t know what is.