June 30, 2003
The Guardian asks such authors as J. G. Ballard, Monica Ali, A. S. Byatt, William Gibson, and Ian McEwan for their summer reading recommendations. Not that you asked, but personally, I'd go with In the Forest if you're able to stomach brutal crimes while on the beach, or Why Girls Are Weird if you're not, or perhaps Shame - which I tend to reread every summer -if you want something meaty.
No country is more obsessed with the identity of their literature more than Canada. As further proof, we have a roundtable discussion with the new generation of "CanLit." Luckily, most of them seem sensible about the whole nationalism business.
I'm not sure anyone really needs to comment further on Andrew Motion's attempt to write a rap. The statement itself should speak for itself. The Guardian does anyway.
The poet laureate going hip-hop is like Mel C going punk - except without quite so many flying bottles. Even so, within hours of the rap being published, an online petition was launched demanding, with a rather sinister turn of phrase, that Motion "be removed".
The Daily Yomiuri has an article on the particular problem of translating Shakespeare into Japanese.
There are many things to grumble about in this article about "the magic" of Harry Potter; for example, the use of the word "Harrycane." Anyway, from the enthusiasm of the writer, you'd think that J. K. Rowling has singlehandedly eradicated illiteracy. I understand the "Oh my god! Children! Reading!" reaction, but there has been evidence to suggest that children who didn't read before Harry Potter don't read anything but Harry Potter.
Oh, and for the people who argue with me about Harry Potter, saying children's literature can be good literature, too: Yes, I know. Read Coraline. Read Alice in Wonderland. Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The Phantom Tollbooth. Hell, Narnia is on the 100 Books list. My argument is not against children's literature. It's against Harry Potter. (And for those of you who wrote to let me know you didn't think the TMFTML comment was at all funny, y'all are a bit touchy. Even my sister, the Harry Potter fan, giggled when I told her what he said.)
If the 1,200 pages of the new Robert Lowell collection just aren't enough, The Atlantic has brought forth from its archives a collection of writings about Lowell. There are poems and criticism and a review of the massive tome.
Claire Armitstead comments on the increasing coverage of novels - from BBC adaptations to bickering authors to the Big Read - on British telelvision.
Bookstores are accounting for a smaller percentage of total book sales than they used to, going from 50% in 1992 to 38% today. Wal-Mart's and Costco's booksales have increased sharply, and bookstores are blaming publishers. While it's likely that part of it is the huge discounts these stores can offer, Barnes & Noble are complaining that publishers are not supplying the books they request. Honestly, if the bookstores' allegations are true, that the publishers are unfairly favoring discount stores, aren't they kind of shooting themselves in the foot? Wouldn't it be best to get people into bookstores where they're more likely to buy more than one book?
June 27, 2003
Harry Potter wrap up part 2:
Tod Goldberg was dragged against his will to the midnight sale last Friday. His co-consumers were a little more than he was expecting.
In front of me is a woman dressed completely in black, save for the three-foot-long scepter she's leaning on. Behind me is an elf who keeps saying odd sexual things to a girl dressed like Britney Spears in her debut video--you know, the sexy schoolgirl--except that the girl in question tonight is about 50 years old, has pimples on her thighs and her little elvish friend is actually a fat, bald man who just happens to be about 5 feet 1, though judging by the lived-in look of his fancy costume, I'd guess it would be safe to assume that being an actual elf would please this gentleman to no end.
Many newspapers have been getting children to write reviews of the new Harry Potter, because we know how cute and adorable that is. The scariest of them all, however, had to come from the 11-year-old at the Guardian, who seems to be growing up to be the new Michiko.
Michael Bronski at the Boston Phoenix thinks Harry Potter is gay.
And finally, it seems that J. K. Rowling may be ripping her agent off. Now, can we find a new book to talk about, please?
There have been a lot of high profile theatrical and operatic adaptations of novels lately, Midnight's Children, Sophie's Choice, The Handmaid's Tale. But when Simon McBurney wanted to adapt Haruki Murakami stories to the stage, he wasn't sure the cast would ever understand what he was trying to do. He writes about the process of staging The Elephant Vanishes for the Guardian. (Link from The Literary Saloon.)
There are pictures up of the last Bookpunk, with, evidently pictures of me.
I think I'm getting soft. Everytime I read another article criticizing the new Oprah book club, I think, "Oh, leave her alone." I was one of those criticizing her first book club, but then again, I was forced to read White Oleander. I am not sure I could ever forgive her for bringing that book into the spotlight.
Anyway, Slate joins in on the poking-Oprah-with-sticks fun.
But if Oprah wanted to get pats on the back from literary types for introducing viewers to the American canon, she chose a curious way to do it. Not only is Steinbeck the canonical American writer most likely to have his work dismissed by critics as sentimental (Oprah-like?) pap, but East of Eden might be his most controversial book. In fact, Steinbeck has more reason to worry about his literary reputation being sullied—at least in the short run—by association with Oprah than Jonathan Franzen ever did.
Harry Potter wrap up part 1 (there will be a part 2 this afternoon. I bookmarked some links on my home computer and forgot to forward them here.):
Now that Harry Potter is a teenager with raging hormones, you'd think he would get some action in the new book. Alas, nothing more than a kiss. Well, the slash fiction writers are giving Harry a (sex) life outside of J. K. Rowling's books, and they're quite dirty.
In New Zealand and Australia, some editions are showing up with missing chapters.
And with Rowling suing a New York newspaper and threatening to sue others under the "right of first publication," Slate examines whether or not the case is valid.
June 26, 2003
Doug George is being mighty cynical about the new Oprah book club. His problem is not that the classics are going to be taught, he says. He's worried that they will not be taught intelligently. Of course, we'll have to wait a few more weeks until the East of Eden episode airs to know.
Will we find ourselves critically engaged? Will we become curious about the issues raised? Will we come to form our own opinions about the book, independent of Oprah's? Will we be inspired to read Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" on our own? Who knows? But not all signs look good.
The new collection of Robert Lowell's poetry, Robert Lowell's Collected Poems may span 1,200 pages, but A. O. Scott argues that it's worth sitting down and reading the entire collection in order. Well, maybe you can skip the sonnets.
Toby Litt's novels have spanned many genres, and now he's trying his hand at chick lit with Finding Myself. He's on the Granta list of Best Young Novelists, and you really should be reading him. Perhaps this interview with The Independent can convince you.
Remember those tiny Penguin classic books, at around 50 cents or a dollar from several years back? They had short stories or a few poems in them. I bought them all. I still have them stacked around the apartment. Back then, Blake Morrison says, less was more. Now the Big Book is back, with the latest Harry Potter, Middlesex, and the newly hyped Brick Lane all being popular reads.
Daily Harry Potter wrap up:
The back and forth review format at Slate is usually boring at best. They used that format to review the latest Radiohead album, and it was tedious and embarrassing. Well, now they're reviewing Harry Potter, and it's actually interesting to read. Even for a cold hearted Harry Potter-hating cynic like me.
I'm finding a lot of people even more bitter than me. (Of course, I'm not bitter as much as bewildered at the adults buying these books like their lives depended on it.)
The reason why children like him are so enthralled with Harry Potter is that Harry Potter reflects the worldview of what is being taught in the schools and that is socialism. The don’t excel, don’t make waves, don’t be judgmental, no moral authority crowd has our children in its greasy grasp.
See, I always thought that people objected to Harry Potter in fear that their children would start slaughtering newborn babies and placing hexes. Turns out they're just going to really want to move to Sweden.
Oh, and by the way, J. K. Rowling has single handedly saved literacy. Again.
The Austin Chronicle is now taking votes for the Best of Austin. You could, if you wanted, vote Bookslut for best local webzine. You know. If you wanted. I don't think you even need to live in Austin.
June 25, 2003
Finally, a summer reading list that doesn't make me cringe. Coudal.com advocates the reading of such books as Master and Margarita, All the King's Men, and Aimee Bender's An Invisible Sign of My Own for the summer.
The Onion tattles on the revelations to be found in the new Hillary Clinton memoir.
This week's Guardian profile is of Paula Fox. She's having a bit of a resurgence, in part thanks to Jonathan Franzen's mentioning her in every interview and press bit he does. He even writes the introduction in a reissue of her book Desperate Characters.
William Gibson writes about George Orwell.
Bunsen made a few suggestions to J.K. Rowling when she came to him for advice, but unfortunately, she decided to do things her own way. Bunsen shares with us what he told her.
The Harry Potter wrap-up for the day:
Spiked Online says the books aren't that great, making them wonder if this will be the downfall of our civilization. Or something. Even I'll admit that the writer goes a bit too far.
[A] startling proportion of young adults happily confesses to reading the books. Presumably anybody who is not embarrassed to read a children's book in public is not going to feel humiliated by a children's book jacket. In fact, the nature of our times means that aspiring to the infantile is positively cool.
Over at the New York Times, Michiko reviews the new book, as if you'd care what her opinion is. She uses the word "Kafkaesque" is all I'm saying.
Any article that has this passage:
"But it's the blatantly racist depiction of the house elves which bothers us most. Rowling seems to be sanctioning both the brutal, exploitative system of slave labour and the iniquitous racial segregation which existed within the antebellum plantations in the deep south of America until the latter decades of the last century."
has to be worth reading, right?
And as an increasing number of people find my website looking for the ending of Harry Potter, TMFTML breaks down and decides to tell the world what you'll learn at the end.
With the Supreme Court deciding that the government can require filters on library computers in order to receive grants, many libraries are waving good-bye to the grants. So there may still be a few computers in libraries that can access my site.
Sorry about yesterday's absence. A giant squid crawled out of Lake Travis and took out everyone's Internet connections. I couldn't get online at work nor at home. But the giant squid was defeated, and all is well again.
I do have one thing to say, however. I know everyone reads the list of the 100 Books and everyone has an opinion. I would appreciate it, though, if you did not e-mail me and say things like, "well, that's just stupid," and "what the hell is wrong with you?" and then suggest that we add your favorite books, particularly when you're suggesting books from the 19th or 21st century. We are not going to change the list, no matter what you call me or what interesting spellings of the word "loser" you come up with. Thank you for your cooperation.
June 23, 2003
Kathryn Chetkovich writes about the envy involved in a coupling of two writers, especially when one writes one of the biggest books of the year. (Yes, it's about Jonathan Franzen's sudden success and their subsequent break up.) It's quite well done. Your heart aches for her.
But occasionally he would report having had a good day, and I would feel, under my encouraging cheer, the shudder of panic you get when a friend deserts you by joining AA or leaving a bad marriage. It was one thing for him to be sitting down to it every day while I was not; but to hear that he might be getting somewhere made me feel abandoned and ashamed.
David Aaronovitch is sick of book marketing, whether its Harry Potter or David Beckham.
For the 27 of you who came to Bookslut yesterday with the Google search "Who dies in Harry Potter?", I don't know. If I knew, I still wouldn't tell you. But read this.
Like hearing your parents say the word "Yo," or seeing a 50 year old at the mall wearing Britney Spears clothing, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has written a rap.
When Mike started reading Suki Kim's The Interpreter, I would listen to him rant and rave about how Kim obviously "learned English two days ago" and "has written the worst book ever." His review was only slightly more polite. If you're still skeptical, you can read this article she wrote for the New York Times. It has all of the charm and coherence you'd expect after reading Mike's review. (Link from TMFTML.)
With all of the Harry Potter madness, it's to be expected that newspapers will run some funny stuff, trying to be creative and relevant. But honestly, I expected better of the BBC. They asked "real-life witch" Marysia Kolodziej to review the book for them.
To answer any questions you may have:
Yes, we switched to Movable Type. Yes, we should have done this a long time ago, but because of a weird quirk with our hosting company, we thought it was not possible. And no, just because we have a more reliable database and will no longer have to make each page by hand, that does not mean we'll actually make our deadlines. We'll certainly try, though.
June 20, 2003
Comic book retailers complain that the great comics and graphic novels aren't selling, but who is to blame? Steven Grant at Comic Book Resources says the retailers themselves just don't know how to sell great books.
More Harry Potter in the courts. This time a judge prevents a newspaper from breaking the embargo and printing an advance review of the book. Also, The Globe and Mail stamps its feet and says the lawsuit against the New York newspaper that printed excerpts without permission is in violation of the first amendment.
Also related to Hillary, Charles Paul Freund decides to ghostread her book. "Hillary didn't actually write her own book, so why should I read it before joining the public chorus about it?"
With the release of Hillary Clinton's new book, not much attention is being paid to the three ghostwriters. (Although, the book is getting such bad reviews, perhaps Hillary should have hired one or two more.) The ghostwriters themselves are thanked for "guiding [her] efforts," but they also signed confidentiality agreements. This is not an unusual arrangement. John Blake estimates that 80% of all celebrity-penned books are ghostwritten. Helen Brown of the Telegraph investigates the relationship between ghostwriters and their subjects.
Alex Good is distressed by the Harry-Potter-as-event-rather-than-book phenomenon.
Second blog entry
first blog entry
The Man Who Would be Queen is causing a fuss. Dr. J. Michael Bailey has done important research linking homosexuality with genetics, but his latest book is angering gay activists. He offers the theory (and studies to back it up) that you can tell if a man is gay by the way he talks, and he also ties homosexuality with transsexualism. Even the Amazon.com reviewers are angry.