The purpose of this monthly series is to highlight an outstanding contributor to the site as chosen by the editorial staff. Over the past three years, Blogcritics has grown tremendously, in large part due to the contributions of a stalwart group of writers who have consistently informed, engaged, and entertained us. This designation is meant to recognize and celebrate the best of the best, those writers who not only shine by virtue of their talent, but whose continual participation gives all of us a reason to tune in each and every day. As new readers are continually discovering Blogcritics, we also hope to introduce these fine writers to a new audience.
Please join me in a virtual round of applause for this month’s honoree, Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti!
Even if you’re a relative newcomer to Blogcritics, you’ve undoubtedly encountered Sadi by now. A contributor since May of 2004, longtime readers know her to be a writer of uncommon candor and perception. The honesty that suffuses her musings on music and film and her many personal essays never fails to strike a chord with readers, as is easily gleaned from a casual glance at the comments her posts garner. Her grasp of the ties that bind us together as human beings and her willingness to put herself under the microscope are hallmarks of her work. Lately, BC readers can find her penning a very popular music feature dubbed “The List of the Moment.” Music editor Connie Phillips describes its appeal thusly: “The great thing about Sadi is the way she connects with her readers. Her regular feature ‘List of the Moment’ is always highly anticipated. Long conversations full of memories about great music always develop on the comments. It never fails that I always end up heading to iTunes to download at least one song I had forgotten all about after reading a new installment of ‘List of the Moment.’”
A born writer, Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti has worked in publishing for her entire career. It’s all she knows. She has worked at such houses as The Atlantic Monthly, Conde Nast Publications (Vogue magazine), Lumen Editions (of which she was the founder and editorial director) and is a freelance editor for a variety of presses both on and offline. A widely published writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, she currently writes for a number of print publications and websites in addition to Blogcritics and is finishing her second book, a memoir of her struggle with epilepsy titled Grand Mal. She has been anthologized in many books as well as had her own book published in Paris and London. She lives near the ocean, which she says grounds her.
Blogcritics publisher Eric Olsen perhaps described Sadi best when he offered this assessment: “Sadi brings an unyielding, sometimes self-lacerating honesty, a poet’s ear, a critic’s eye, and a literary mind to everything she writes. That she touches readers in so many ways is no coincidence. We are extremely lucky to have her.”
Q & A (The Serious Stuff)
BC: Your writing output is incredibly varied; you’ve written poetry, fiction, essays, you’ve done technical writing, and you blog. Does any form appeal to you more than the others? Which do you find the most difficult?
Sadi: Probably poetry, because it takes such craft and such honing, yet it’s my favorite kind of writing to do. It DOES come naturally, that much I’ll admit, but that said, it doesn’t mean it just flows out like gold or even ends up like iron ore; those that do work take a lot of revision and a great deal of effort. I’m putting my second collection of poetry together as of this writing, but weeding through hundreds of poems is a daunting task and selecting the best to pass on to my agent is near impossible. One wants to hand over the lot and say you do it!
BC: You’ve written very frankly and openly about many very personal things, ranging from your illnesses to your marriage. Many writers would shy away from such subject matter. Do you ever feel that you’ve crossed a line? Is there a danger in letting people know too much, or is it therapeutic for you to write about these things?
Sadi: I don’t ever regret writing about illness. Never should anyone be ashamed of that or allow any stigma to be applied to them because of that. I’ve put up with that before and I won’t anymore, which is one reason why I write about illness – epilepsy being the most difficult and least understood among them. I mean, how often do you see commercials on televison or subway ads for epilepsy? You do see ads for diabetes, lupus, etc., even erectile dysfunction, but never for epilepsy. I realize it’s rare, but perhaps that’s all the more reason to make people aware. I honestly don’t know all the answers to this, only that even though it’s over a hundred years later, epilepsy is still almost as misunderstood as it was in Lewis Carroll’s time. (Another famous epileptic, of which there are many.)
As to the other subject matter of what I write – sure, sometimes I regret it, but I tend to shoot first and ask questions later (laughs). I often wonder, what if I ever were to run for office and these writings were so readily available, what would people think? I also sometimes worry even about poems I write, but at the end of the day, who can really separate the fact from the fiction? What would they think, here is someone honest whom we can trust, or here is someone profoundly fucked up? Perhaps both, and I think that would be a fair assessment.
Therapeutic, yes, always.
BC: You’ve been writing and working in the publishing industry all your life. How do you think the advent of the Internet has changed the nature of what we read every day? How has it changed your writing life? Where do you see the publishing industry heading in relation to alternative methods of delivering content to readers?
Sadi: Publishing has changed vastly since I got involved. I still remember running a hand-crank letterpress sheet-by-sheet in my boss’s barn and setting type by hand. (I’m not that old, but he had the press and I was curious.) The Internet hasn’t really changed the nature of what I read – it may have changed how I interpret it perhaps because I can research it more, I can read commentary such as here and other sites, I can really see what others think perhaps before I even buy, but I could do that before with the New York Times. The Internet has just made it seconds away and that’s a great thing. Also, I download a lot of books to my Tungsten E handheld device, so I can literally bring hundreds of books with me when I travel in one slim device without having to worry about carrying a suitcase full of books.
In terms of delivering content – it’s sort of working in reverse. Yes, e-books are about and that’s a great thing and I write and podcast for a major (or one of the major) e-book sites, Teleread, which I highly recommend for real techies on this topic. But e-books are becoming p-books as well as the other way around, so it’s a dog chasing its tail. One guy I interviewed had podcast his entire book and had a hit counter and therefore established a “fan list” or “readymade reader list” and was then able to take this to a publisher and get a p-book deal. So there are many more options now.
In terms of my own writing life, I just write more for more people and am totally and utterly overwhelmed by the amount of writing I have to do every day for various sites, plus my Teleread podcasts and my own writing for print. It’s tough to keep up; the Internet has made it easier to commit to more because somehow, you think it will be easier — less real perhaps — more virtual. When it comes time to do the writing, you realize it’s just the same as any print commitment – words are words are words, no matter whether they exist in the ether or in black and white ink.
BC: The Internet has enabled anyone with a keyboard to call himself a writer. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff when you choose what to read when you’re online? Is there anyplace you go for content (aside from Blogcritics, of course!) that you consider special?
Sadi: Gosh, the “wheat from the chaff” – I suppose because I have been an editor for so very long (my whole career) and had to read so much “slush” (unrequested manuscripts that come across the transom), I can generally tell from the first paragraph whether or not an article is worth the read. If it doesn’t grab me right away, then I don’t bother. It must deliver a punch and hopefully, or ideally, be memorable. I, too, strive for the same things, and though I may not always succeed, I do try. I often get the sense that a lot of writers online don’t really try any more, that it’s just a quick medium and then things become sloppy — no revision or real editing of any kind. (Self-editing, I should point out.) It’s almost too immediate so you can just let it fly without really thinking about it. I hope I’m not doing that now.
For online content, yes, here at Blogcritics obviously – that’s a given. I think actually that Salon is great and that Bookslut is super if you’re interested in literature and things of that nature. I also pick up a lot at Teleread, and even though I write for them, there’s still a lot there that I learn. For community reading, my favorite site of the moment is Gather.com, which is a growing community (with some pains, no doubt), but still a good place (so far) and with a great many talented writers if you’re just in it for the read.
For information, I surf a lot, but I usually wind up at Wikipedia, which I think is quite useful, and generally reliable, emphasis on generally. Always double, triple check. Do this in life generally. One can never be too careful. That said, never be afraid to just trust and fall backward and take a chance.
Q & A (The Fun Stuff)
BC: What book/CD/DVD do you have more than one copy of, in case something happens to the original one?
Sadi: Ada or Ardour by Vladimir Nabokov, since it’s my favorite book probably of all time, though that’s such a tough question since there are so many great books that I have doubles of. Another is Outermost House by Henry Beston, but the two books are completely different. If I had to select one in a fire, it would be Nabokov, my favorite author. As for DVDs, that would be The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, of which I also have two copies in book form, and he also ranks as my second-favorite author, though it’s a tough decision.
BC: Would you like to tell us who/what do you share your life with?
Sadi: With my adoring and loving and too-clever-by-half husband, Mark Polizzotti, whom I adore more than I’ve adored anyone ever and who is a great support. When I ask what makes a relationship worthwhile the main question is this: Does it help you thrive? If not, then get the fuck out. If it does, then you’re in the right place. I’m fortunate to be in the right place. We also have a pesky and lovable and needy cat named Millie who is jet black and who we call Sqeaky Wheezy Batface and I have a stepson to whom I’m more like a big sister, and with whom I’m very close.
BC: If you had to pick one sense to do without, which of your five senses would it be?
Sadi: I could never give up smell, because that’s just so visceral to me. I rely on that for so many things. Same with sight and touch and sound. It would have to be taste.
BC: What do you wish they’d do a series about on TV?
Sadi: I wish they would end TV, period, or do a series about why people should read more books and watch less television or even write more books or learn a new language or take a dance class instead of just vegging, of which, I admit, I am guilty myself but I hate myself for it when I do it. I’d much rather be doing something productive – writing, dancing, anything but just sitting there. I find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time and doing only ONE thing.
BC: If you could, would you swap sexes for a week?
Sadi: No way. I like being a woman way too much. I think there are so many advantages to being a woman and while I see there are advantages to being a man, I think in so many ways there is more pressure to do certain things and be a certain way (the earner, the breadwinner, etc.). I don’t think I’d like that very much. Being a woman is sort of shrouded in mystery, if you want it to be. You have more options as a woman; you can be butch if you want to be, or you can be more feminine, Whichever you choose, you’re less likely to take grief for it than a man would . Besides all of that, I just love lace and finery far too much to be a man. They are the metaphysical underpinnings of me.
BC: What do you think you’d learn if you could swap to the opposite sex?
Sadi: How very difficult it is, and how much easier it is to live with the demons that you know. As my grandmother always told me, if you could walk into a room and put down the cross you bear and then pick up anyone else’s cross, you’d pick up your own and walk right back out. I agree with that.
BC: What sports team will you love until the day you die?
Sadi: I have absolutely zero sports loyalty, I’m sorry to say. I’ve never been a sports person, unless it’s skiing or running and there aren’t any teams that I know of that encompass those sports. It’s not that I DON’T support any teams — I do — it’s that I lack the conviction necessary to be a real and true “fan” the way I am with, say, a musician to whom I would be absolutely loyal to the day I or he dies.
BC: What’s one sign that you’re a total nerd?
Sadi: Nerds are dorks. I’m a geek. Seriously, I can’t disconnect from my computer without getting the DTs within a few hours and I read books and depend on my Tungsten E to run my life and am into podcasting for Teleread.org which is a site strictly devoted to e-books and copyright issues. That and the fact that I just look like a geek (at least I think I do, glasses and all) doesn’t help matters. I am Selma from Scooby Doo.
BC: What’s the first book you recall reading?
Sadi: Treasure Island.
BC: What magazines do you subscribe to?
Sadi: W, MoJo, Elle,
BC: Who is your favorite writer?
Sadi: Vladimir Nabokov
BC: Who is your least favorite writer?
Sadi: Crikey, probably some syrupy romance novelist. Really, probably someone like Brett Easton Ellis. I saw a great quote about him that my husband had from a book review of Ellis’s work. It read “Why tamper with mediocrity?” That sort of says it all.
BC: Do you have a favorite Blogcritic?
Sadi: I don’t. It depends on the moment, on the day. This is changeable, right? There is nothing permanent but change. We all have our great or good days and then our not so great days – so to choose just one is like choosing a favorite child or pet to me. You just can’t. I think pretty much everyone who writes for us contributes something of value.
BC: What do you think is the best part of Blogcritics?
Sadi: The absolute diversity and verve of the site; the real spirit and élan.
BC: What song is stuck in your head right now?
Sadi: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, but the Jeff Buckley version.
BC: What do you have set as the home page in your browser?
Sadi: My own page since I change it pretty much weekly and I check the stats daily.
BC: Who was your idol as you were growing up?
Sadi: Wow, that’s tough. I had idols on so many levels. In music, I was a huge Bay City Rollers fan. (Hey, give me a break, I’m Scottish/British.) I also loved Fred Astaire because I was a dancer and wanted to be a dancer, so I totally admired the way he could move and make it look so easy and fluid. I realize I should be saying James Dean or someone tough or cool, but that’s just not the case and I’d be lying. I was, however, a huge fan or Marcus Aurelius the philosopher – pretty much any of the Stoics I adored as well as Pythagoras as both mathematician and philosopher. Still am, as a matter of act. See, I am a geek.
BC: What are three items you would need to have on a desert island?
Sadi: An endless supply of Evian (the Evian fountain?) But really? Ava or Ardour by Nabokov to stay sane. A coconut tree for liquid and some sustenance, a good book as listed above, a magnifying glass to help start a fire. I’m assuming you mean it as a serious question.
Really, to be honest , I want an Internet hook-up and a telephone to say get me some freakin’ help here post haste!
BC: What’s the best place to get a meal in your neck of the woods?
Sadi: My own kitchen – my husband and I are the best chefs in town. Really.
BC: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Sadi: Predictably, the way we countries interact with one another and always have. I simply do not understand, and maybe I’m thick in this way, why diplomacy doesn’t work. Wars clearly do not work, and time has proven this, yet we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This, to me, is just stupid and shows a profound lack of understanding of history and of current events. It’s time we had some intelligent people in office and sometimes that will mean not always the most popular candidate. Sorry.
Sadi Picks Sadi
We asked Sadi to pick her favorites from among her many Blogcritics articles, and we hope you’ll take the time to check these out. In fact, take the time to check out Sadi’s entire Blogcritics archive for some very worthwhile reading.