October 31, 2003
Michael Moore writes about Aaron McGruder for The Nation. (He also wrote the foreword to the Boondocks collection A Right to be Hostile.) Unfortunately, Journalista (which is where I stole this link) already claimed the best punch line, which I will just repeat for you here. "[Michael Moore] seems overly impressed with the fact that it's in the papers and, like, it's drawn by a black guy, you know?"
The Utne Independent Press Awards nominees have been announced, and it's always a great way to find new magazines to subscribe to.
The British Library has set up an "Adopt a Book" program to save deteriorating books. For 25 pounds, you can choose a book from a list and receive a certificate of adoption. The list of books that need help is here.
If you missed Neal Pollack on the Daily Show last night, I feel responsible. I forgot to put a reminder on the blog. Luckily, the Daily Show is rerun only a couple thousand times today. You should be able to catch it. There was something uplifting about seeing Neal Pollack crack Jon Stewart up.
October 30, 2003
Charles Johnson argues that the most popular form of creative writing courses -- the "touchy feely," "write what you know" types -- will do the aspiring writer the least amount of good. What we need are literary boot camps.
"[Bleep] you. Let's pretend we've never spoken; let's go out of our way not to talk again. If, per chance, someone other than me buys New York magazine and selects you as editor, I quit. Michael."
The new Guardian quiz is about horror books.
Everywhere I go today is the story that Harry Potter causes headaches. Great. Tell parents that if their children read too much they'll get sick. Can't we tell them instead that it's because their brains are out of shape? More reading is the cure.
The New York Times has more about the controversy behind the book The Bookseller of Kabul. (Just to refresh, Seierstad lived with a family in Kabul and then published a book about them, highlighting how the head of the family oppressed his wife. He took offense and accused her of lying.)
"Senior Editor for Soft Skull, a shareholder, a board member, and a major mover and shaker in the company" responds to Sander Hicks's earlier claims about his removal from head of Soft Skull.
The hot new trend in chick lit: Christianity. Instead of going to the bar, they go to church group. Instead of the hot sex in the bar bathroom, they go to church group. Instead of being badly written... oh wait. That probably won't change. "Think Bridget Jones without all the drinking and carousing." That only leaves the body image problem. With church group. Charming.
An Ohio truck driver who admitted six months ago that he plotted with senior operatives of Al Qaeda to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison. Minutes before the sentencing, the driver, Iyman Faris, 34, tried to withdraw his earlier guilty plea, saying he had admitted a role in the plot only to fool the F.B.I. and secure a book deal for himself. Thanks to Kathleen for the link.
Amazon.com sells pretty much everything. But haven't you ever looked around for that certain something and come up short?
T. Coraghessan Boyle is awaiting the apocalypse in California.
This is the season of apocalypse, the season Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion came to dwell on, when the sea pulls the desert air down over the mountains and your eyes dry up in their sockets and all the pyromaniacs go to heaven. Southern California is at war with nature and the fires are burning from San Diego to Los Angeles to Ventura.
October 29, 2003
Meghan O'Rourke attempts to defend Sylvia Plath from those critics who call her work "adolescent."
When she died, at age 30, she had only begun to come into her gifts as a writer. For the most part, Plath's poems are decidedly unadolescent; her true subject is the scorched landscape of post-religious feeling, of a mind menaced by the absence of God. (This last, I suppose, could be called "adolescent," but then so is the work of Rimbaud and even T.S. Eliot.)
The new Helen Fielding book Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination is released soon in the UK, but if you only read this profile, you'd think it was another Bridget Jones book. I mean, can we at least find out what the book is friggin about?
A while back the New York Post wrote about the former head of Soft Skull Press Sander Hicks, and it was not a positive profile. In it the current president accused Hicks of nearly running the publisher into the ground by lying and not paying the authors. Hicks now contends these are all lies and gives his side of the story over on Maud Newton's blog.
The new Boondocks collection A Right to be Hostile has been out for less than a month, but it's already in its third printing. (For those of you whose newspaper does not carry the strip, you can get it delivered to your inbox every morning through UComics.) Creator Aaron McGruder is interviewed at the Seattle Times.
October 28, 2003
It's the new chick lit.
The Complete Far Side collection weighs in at two volumes of 17 pounds. It will set you back $135 ($95 through Amazon). There's a forward by Steve Martin and a collection of angry letters from readers. And now you have a review by Michael Dirda to assure you it's all worth it.
Timothy Noah is having fun with the new Amazon.com search feature.
Get your own talking Ann Coulter doll! Dolls will ship just in time for Christmas, so now you can scratch off the twitchy psychotic from your shopping list.
In this article, The Boston Globe claims that winning the Booker doesn't really matter because "Judges in aesthetic competitions, according to Victor Ginsburgh, a professor at the University of Brussels, are simply not very good at identifying art works that future generations will acknowledge as great." Nothing really predicts that, does it? Besides, awards come with cash prizes and increased book sales. I doubt D.B.C. Pierre is really thinking right now, "All right! I'm going down in history now."
David Foster Wallace has written a book about infinity called Everything and More. The Boston Globe interviews DFW on this seemingly off-course move. He uses math-speak and it hurts my little girl head.
Jeff VanderMeer explains how he came up with the idea for The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. Writers like Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, and others contributed stories of fantastic and strange new diseases.
Bookslut would like to announce the First Annual Pecker Contest!
It's very simple. Write a 350-word or less first paragraph to a terrible novel. Fill it with bloated, turgid prose. The only catch is you must use the phrase "ditch-dirty stupid" somewhere in the paragraph. Bonus points if you can work in "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation." Entries must be sent to email@example.com by November 20th.
All entries will be judged by me and winners will appear in the December issue of Bookslut. The winner will receive some nonsense or other. Second and third prize winners may win something as well, depending on what I can dig up. (Although I do have a glossy author photo of Dale Peck pursing his lips disapprovingly. I'll just have to get creative.)
So good luck and start writing.
October 27, 2003
Dale Peck called me ditch-dirty stupid. (Without being able to find a shift key, I might add.) I feel I have achieved my purpose in life. There may be no point in continuing my blog after this.
In Canada it's very difficult for writers to make a living off of their work. Royalties are paltry. The audience is small. Agents take a large cut. Only writers who get their works published in America have much of an income.
A writer will need another job if she has to depend on Canadian sales alone. She will have to teach creative writing. In Canada, a country of more than 30 million people, a novel is considered to have sold respectably if three thousand copies leave the shelf. You do the math: 3,000 x $3.20, minus 15 per cent, minus hundreds of dollars in expenses, minus your advance on these royalties, divided by four or five (depending on how many years the book took to write), equals, on a bad day, a fairly deep sense of futility.
Philip Marchand writes an odd little profile of Margaret Atwood for The Star. It's not odd because of anything he says about Atwood, but because he brings another book into the discussion.
Imagine, for a moment, that instead of her future fiction novel Oryx And Crake, she had written The Way The Crow Flies, by fellow Giller Prize nominee Ann-Marie MacDonald... If Atwood had written the novel it would have been 200 pages shorter and much the better for it. Atwood also would not have resorted, as MacDonald has, to the therapist's office as a means of resolving her heroine's emotional conflicts. A flood of therapeutic tears washes over the final pages of MacDonald's novel. What's cathartic for the character is not necessarily cathartic for the reader, a point no one would have to explain to Atwood.
He must really have to dislike The Way the Crow Flies to trash it in a profile of a completely different author. It's the sloppiest tie-in I've seen in weeks.
Canongate is finally operating in the black, thanks to successes like Life of Pi and Vernon God Little. Support them further by buying a copy of the newly reissued 1982 Janine by Alasdair Gray. It has kinky sex!
Where to start on this Dale Peck profile? I was asked about my opinion on snark the other day (my response: "More, please."), and then started thinking about Dale Peck. His reviews, or hatchet jobs as he likes to call them, are so graceless, so bitchy, so unrefined. While James Wood sticks to the target and hits it effortlessly, Dale Peck gets piss all over the rim, your bathroom rug, places you'll be cleaning up for days. "I know this is a review of Rick Moody, but can we talk about the entire postmodern movement for just one moment? Not long enough to actually say anything coherent or intelligent, just long enough to let you know I don't have an editor."
Plus, I don't know if you know this, but his books suck. Not even bad enough to be trashy. I tried to read The Law of Enclosures until I noticed I was using the cover to try to saw through my wrist. Me thinks the boy is bitter.
The profile itself is nonsense. It gives Peck way too much credit. "At the end of a Peck essay, his subjects -- Philip Roth, Julian Barnes, Colson Whitehead -- are wounded, their books in ruins, massacred. Even if you're a fan of the work of these authors, you'll never be able to read their works again without hearing Peck's noisy voice shouting in the background: 'Forget it! You're wasting your time. The guy's no good.'" Actually, his reviews make me want to go out and buy all of the books by the guys he's skewering. If Peck hates them, they're probably worth reading. Peck is a twat. Kansas hangs its head in shame. (Actually, Kansas doesn't have a lot going for it. It probably named a highway after the bastard.)
Just how Joycean is Kill Bill: Volume 1? I'm so glad you asked. Flak Magazine compares the new Tarantino flick to the obscenity trials of James Joyce's Ulysses.
If I only listened to the publicist e-mails I get, I would think Zoe Trope's Please Don't Kill the Freshman is the most important book ever written. But I saw that it was written by a teenager, and I decided to be doubtful. Today I found out she was 14 when she wrote it, and I rolled my eyes some more. Taylor Clark at the Willamette Week doesn't really get it either, not even able to finish the book, and decides to investigate why Trope is suddenly famous.
Zoe's chapbook was No. 10 on Powell's bestseller list in 2002, an unheard-of feat for a small-press book. She has been adopted into a community of young blue-chip writers and endorsed by Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer. She has done dozens of interviews in the past few weeks, and PDKTF is already being translated into Italian, Dutch and Japanese.
Zoe may sell a million books at this rate. And I have no idea why.
With Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, and now The Fixer, Joe Sacco has stretched the medium of comics into international journalism. He talks about his start, his dislike of the term "graphic novel," and his new book in the Guardian.
A proposal in Massachusettes would make books tax-free.
October 24, 2003
None of these are necessarily invitations for the readers to do likewise, tho. Sure, it's faster to type "Supes" instead of "Superman" -- tho the accumulated fractions of a second one would add to ones free time by doing this seem to me not entirely worthy of the lack of respect inherent in using such abreviations. And don't even get me started on "Bats"!
It's all about respect . These nicknames diminish the characters. They strip them of dignity. They whittle away the (already fragile) reality of the tales. Link from Journalista, who assures us this is not an Onion article.
"When the magazine was first discussed with me, we talked about it in terms of a New York Review of Books-style magazine for young people," he says. "I think the New York Review, which is a magazine I love and read every two weeks, is pretty remote from the kind of stuff people my age are reading." God damn it, when is someone at The Believer going to admit they don't write book reviews?
Neal Pollack informs me he taped the interview with the Daily Show yesterday, but got bumped by Anthony Hopkins. And if you're going to be bumped by someone, might as well be by a knight. His interview will probably appear next Thursday.
Dan Kennedy reports on The Atlantic Monthly's uncertain future.
"O Lady of the Book," said the Arts Editors, who, though there were many of them, spoke in one voice (which sounded a lot like a bad Arthur Gelb impression, actually), "there is trouble in the Kingdom. We have a great big hole in Thursday's section, and only you can help us fill it. We need 1200 words on the new trend of children's books written by celebrities. The basic thrust should be that they're not very good."
"Sounds boring," said Michiko. "Can't you give it to Janet Who Once Wrote About Flickering Images But Was Inexplicably Transferred Over to Literature Even Though She Shows Shockingly Little Aptitude for Writing About It?"
TMFTML imagines the meeting that took place to produce the crazy fairy tale review.
Amazon.com has completed its newest sparkly addition. Now when you search for a keyword, it searches the text of 120,000 nonfiction books and offers them in your results. I'm sure this is handy in some way. I bet people all over are rejoicing. But all I know is that when I was searching for "curing pig" in an attempt to find the book Curing the Pig by Liza Granville, I got 6,454 results, none of the first page results being the book. When I searched for Liza Granville, I got 202 results, none of the first page results being the book. I had to type in the damn ISBN number to find it. I'm sure this is handy, but you can't turn it off. It just clutters up simple searches, hiding what you're really looking for. Wired, however, calls the move ingenious.
Amazon.com is also having a contest to see how their "Search Inside the Book" feature has changed your life. Do you think if I bitch and complain that the feature is not optional I'll win a Segway?
The trouble with approaching "real writers," as Hollywood likes to call them (meaning, I suppose, writers who write books, not "pages"), to host these promotional events is that the more seriously talented they are, the weirder they tend to be. Real writers also are prone to having real opinions. And they become "difficult" when required to suppress them.
The writers you see at parties are not usually the "real" ones. Real writers are usually sitting in a chaotic farmhouse somewhere with a five-day growth of beard and a stained T-shirt in an onanistic trance at their computers, or else trying to kill themselves like Sylvia Plath. They don't like to be disturbed.
You just have to step away slowly. There's nothing else to be done.
Sorry, Neal. I jinxed it.
October 23, 2003
Alex Good writes about Spitfire Books and the arguments over what boys should be reading in school.
For those of you who were horrified at the thought of Woody Allen's tell-all autobiography (which seems now to be nonexistent anyway), you ain't seen nothing yet. Justin Timberlake is shopping around a tell-all about his relationship with Britney Spears, and the bidding has already passed the million mark. Can't he just give an interview with Vanity Fair? Does he really have to inflict this nonsense on the book buying public?
Michiko continues her descent into dementia.
Chuck Palahniuk's new goal is to get 30 people to faint during his reading tour. He's already up to 27. If you ask a question at one of his readings, you'll get an autographed fake vomit. He does research for his books by calling phone sex lines. Palahniuk interviews are so much more lively than most.
Winning the Booker may have increased D. B. C. Pierre's book sales, but Vernon God Little is still eight spots behind Life of Pi on the bestseller list. Me thinks it's because Pierre is not as hot as Yann.
October 22, 2003
For those of you who have thought about reviewing for Bookslut, we are in need of poetry reviewers. E-mail me if you're interested.
There are a few books about poet John Clare being released soon, a biography by Jonathan Bate and a collection called I Am. Slate wonders why Clare fell out of favor when he used to be as popular as Keats.
At the tail end of this article about Bloomberg's New York City education policies is a concern that ninth graders are being assigned to read Monster, a book with "butt plugs, rapes, suicides, and all." Now what I want to know is why I was assigned The Red Pony in the ninth grade instead of a book with butt plugs. Of course Myers thinks it's a-ok for 13-year-olds to be reading this book -- out loud in class, even. Seriously though, I'm still bitter about The Red Pony. Fucking scarred me.
Publisher's Weekly spends an awful lot of space wondering if chick lit is going to stay around. God almighty, does anybody care? There are maybe a handful (okay, maybe more like a pinch) of readable authors out there, but now I just wish the whole thing would die. I wish the bright pink displays as soon as you walk into the bookstore would go away. And most of all I wish that when I did buy a chick lit book by one of the good ones, I didn't have to buy Wittgenstein's Mistress along with it so the clerk doesn't think I'm a moron. But of course if there were no chick lit, there would not have been so much Jemima J fun.
Readers of Salon did not appreciate Kate Moses's rant about Frieda Hughes.
Book Magazine is going out of business. And as much as I would love to have been responsible, it probably was not me. I appreciate those who send e-mails suggesting it was, however.
So now that Book Magazine is gone and Readerville is on hiatus, the only book magazines are... Pages? That piece of crap? It's so bad I don't think I even have it in me to make fun of it. Attention all wealthy people: If you'd like to invest in a literature related magazine now that all of the competition is dead, you can always put me in charge of it. If nothing else, it would be a lively sinking.
October 21, 2003
My father's response when I told him Book Magazine called me a curmudgeon: "Huh. They must really read your site."
Bill O'Reilly is a tricky bastard. Every once and a while I'll watch his show or listen to him defend himself, and I'll almost nod my head. I mean, he's not all bad. He's pro-gay adoption and anti-death penalty. But then he'll say some boneheaded somethingorother or he'll start lying and I have to run away. So I was mixed about the Fresh Air interview. I was flippant on the blog, but during the interview I was thinking, "Well, he's got a point." Perhaps he wasn't very even headed about making it, but he was attacked by Terry Gross, and really, I can completely understand him hating her. I hate her. Evidently I'm not the only non-conservative, though, to end up on O'Reilly's side. The e-mails and phone calls NPR got regarding the interview were mostly angry. But don't worry. I'm not going to start recommending his book.
The real Stephen Glass, who re-entered the spotlight this year with a novel based on his experiences, saw the film last week. "It was very painful for me," he said.
Once a woman wins a Pulitzer, shouldn't that mean that profiles have to talk about something else other than what she's wearing. I know that's asking a lot, but the SF Gate talks more about her hair than they do Jhumpa Lahiri's new book.
October 20, 2003
If Danielle Steele becomes a nun, do you think that will stop her from writing books? If so, we should all encourage her on her goal.
For those slouching toward middle age, Plath’s poems are no longer guaranteed to provide either solace or provocation; she herself, like a war poet, was granted no middle age, and we can never know how the riper Plath might have chosen to outgrow, or even disown, the bitter fruits of her youth. Hers is a country for young men and, more obsessively, for young women; I now suffer from a constitutional aversion to her poetry, as one should to any art or writing that casts a spell on one’s teen-age years, and the extremity of her self-absorption, which a movie as careful and sociable as “Sylvia” can never properly catch, seems as likely to repel as to entrance.
Anthony Lane liked Sylvia, but did not like Plath as a poet. Other reviewers like Plath as a poet and hate the movie. There are also complaints about comments Paltrow made about not liking Plath as a person or a poet, and what that means for her portrayal.
Kate Moses, the author of Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, had many run-ins with Plath's and Hughes's families once word got out about her novel. The families are notorious for their responses to any commentary on the couple. Frieda Hughes (Plath's daughter) recently came out screaming about Sylvia when news of the movie leaked. Moses gives an interesting perspective on the enigmatic figure of Frieda Hughes, the woman who controls most of the Plath estate.
The familial umbilicus, for Frieda Hughes, seems not to be simply the convenient notion of "privacy" but the distribution of money. From the time of her death the income from Sylvia Plath's estate has been designated for her children's benefit. Having lost her mother before she could have more than the haziest memories of her, Hughes has known Sylvia Plath's tangible maternal attention only through the good schools, ability to travel, and material comforts her mother's estate made possible. All children feel a sense of "ownership" of their mother's corpus -- but in this case that corpus was nothing but words on paper and quarterly statements tallying the sale of those words.
And yes, Pynchon will be on the Simpsons.
Stephen King breaks the children's hearts.
Old Hag dissects the poetry finalists for the National Book Award.
Although this is technically music news, I feel that the presence of really bad poetry puts it into my territory. Judge Deborah Servitto handed down her decision on a lawsuit between DeAngelo Bailey and Eminem in rhyme.
Mr Bailey complains that his rap is trash
so he's seeking compensation in the form of cash.
Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain,
because Eminem used his name in vain.
The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact,
they're an exaggeration of a childish act.
It is therefore this court's ultimate position,
that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.
Aimee Bender (Girl in the Flammable Skirt author) has a thing for fonts. So much so that she envisions lives for some of them. Helvetica has vinyl boots, just so you know. Over at Daidala, she shares some of her stories.
Blah blah blah men have it so tough blah blah blah. There are more men complaining about the state of men in literature. This time it's Philip Marchand. There are too many sissy names in Canadian literature. Too many boys not fighting back. Not enough men with manly jobs. We all feel bad for the men, don't we? Poor, poor white men.
There are many reasons to hate the new 100 Essential books from the Observer, one of which being I thought they already did one of these stupid lists. But in this rather silly article, Reason complains that some of the choices are too readable.
October 17, 2003
You can listen to the Fresh Air interview with Bill O'Reilly (good for some cheap laughs), but O'Reilly is blocking the release of the transcript. Perhaps he realized he came off as a nutbag? It's hard to say.
The narrator in Claire Morrall's Booker nominated novel Astonishing Splashes of Color suffered from synaesthesia. It turns out the disorder has literary links as it affected authors like Nabokov, Burroughs, and Maugham. Julie Myerson explains how it can affect the words of those affected.
"The air was warm and green," writes Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita. He also talks about "a young golden giggle" and "her young silent hands". The sense impression you get is immediate, laced with just enough of the abstract to be somehow delectably effortless. Air that is warm and green has a zingy and restless feel to it (the word "air" is itself acid green). The effect of the black-blonde of "golden" linked to the silvery-pink of "giggle" gives you a wavy, up and down feeling, like the shudder of a laugh. The word "silent" (such a white word) stuck on to hands somehow adds motion: they're longer, slimmer, with a modest, downwards gait.
For those of you in Chicago who did not show up to the Neal Pollack events at Quimby's and the Subterranean, you missed rock n roll history. But you lucky bastards have two more chances today, at Borders and at the Athenaeum Theater. Check his schedule for more information.
But Neal is allowing me to break the news that he will be appearing on the Daily Show on October 23rd. Set your Tivos now. It should be wild.
October 16, 2003
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about what you won't see in the new movie Sylvia -- as in, an honest depiction of Sylvia Plath -- and why.
No, Paltrow performs postnuptial Sylvia as sinking into symptomatic lassitude and staying there. When her hostility is aroused, she seems delusional rather than angry; sitting at her writing desk after Hughes has deserted her, she rocks back and forth in her chair with a finger in her mouth. Moreover, the marriage is represented as entirely conventional -- Ted goes out into the world, where he's lionized; Sylvia stays home with the kids and broods. The actual Plath and Hughes had an egalitarian marriage that was quite unconventional in their time, but the movie doesn't show Ted babysitting or indeed doing any of the useful chores that occupied him during Plath's regular morning hours of writing.
After beloved editor Anne Godoff was kicked out of Random House, everyone has anxiously awaited her return with Penguin. The first 14 books of her new imprint have been announced and the reaction has been mixed.
The finalists of the 2003 National Book Award have been announced, and I have not read a single goddamn one. At least not in fiction.
Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History
George Howe Colt, The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin
Carlos Eire, Waiting For Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy
Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
Our own Comicbook Slut is not the only one disturbed by Laura Miller's recent review of Neil Gaiman's Endless Nights. Guy Leshinski also takes offense. He also points us in the direction of readcomicsinpublic.net, a lovely site. (Thanks to Neil for the link.)
TMFTML has taken up short story writing. "The Swimming Lesson" is quite possibly the most disturbing thing you'll read all day, unless Anne Geddes pairs up with ... Oh wait. That really did happen, didn't it?
October 15, 2003
The Independent has an interview with John Carrey, the chair of the Booker prize. He reports there was no squabbling, no shouting matches about the award. How dull.
God, if this news story doesn't make you want to stab yourself in the eyes with red hot needles, I don't know what you're doing reading my blog.
The Scotsman gives a short history of the patterns in the Booker award. Lanark kicked off modern Scottish literature, which led to the award for How Late It Was, How Late (which is shamefully out of print, even if available used; I love that book). Then there was that whole historical novel thing, which is better left ignored. But best of all is the Moral Indignation Novel, which the article refers to as the MIN.
Diane Duane comments on the Spitfire Books story by giving the history of Violet Elizabeth Bott of the Just William series, an example Spitfire used of great literature for boys with stupid women characters.
She shamelessly imposes her will upon him by threatening tears (the famous threat to ‘thcream and thcream’ until she’s ‘thick’ comes a little later). For William there is no escape from her tear-filling eyes and trembling lips as she insists that he plays ‘little girlth gameth’ with her, that he really likes ‘all little girlth’ and – most humiliating and horrific of all – that he wishes he was a little girl.
Seth Stevenson at Slate is writing about one Japanese cliche a day. Yesterday: weird food. Today: obsession with manga. Tomorrow I'm guessing he'll hit the hard stuff and go with the r/l thing. Of course he comes to no conclusions. That would ruin all of the, "Those wacky Japanese!" fun.
October 14, 2003
The Missouri Review has rejected the poem that George W. Bush wrote.
Nothing puts me off a book more than it being classed as 'women's' and I don't like this pinko-lefty-touchy-feely drivel that's around now. I have written my own stories for my child about pirates with plenty of fighting, mountaineering, monsters and adventure. We don't need to resort to gender stereotypes just to get back exciting stories. Just give us some ACTION!
I don't even know where to start with this. A group of men decided there weren't enough books written by men (you can pause here for laughter if you wish), so they are going to start Spitfire Books. They don't want this sissy stuff like Nick Hornby. They want violence. They want drinking and smoking. They want women in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.
They say that boys need books that espouse old fashioned virtues such as honour and chivalry, and that Richmal Crompton's Just William books are a much better read for boys than Harry Potter because JK Rowling had the temerity to make Hermione the equal of Harry.
"We don't believe that it's acceptable that literature should attempt to turn young boys into young girls," Mr Thompson, a 51-year-old divorcee and father, said yesterday.
Divorcee? You don't say. I can't even imagine why he would be divorced.
"Because of feminism and political correctness, what young men are being given to read is crap these days, with books by people like Tony Parsons [the author of Man and Boy]. It's all this new dad stuff, all namby-pamby, touchy-feely. Where are the great buccaneering, derring-do, true-life adventures and cowboy stories? Our criteria is that we want bloody good reads." Of Harry Potter, Elliott said: "It's typical of modern children's books in which there is a boy and a girl and the girl is as good as the boy. Just William [which features the unattractive Violet Elizabeth Bott as the only girl of substance] is a much better read for boys.
"Violet Elizabeth Bott was a whingeing, snivelling sneak who was always frightened. That is how I would like the girls to be."
The latest Holt Uncensored column is titled, "Ten Common Problems That Dismiss You As an Amateur." They are those tiny things that keep popping up in books that drive the reader mad. I'm sure Harold Bloom is getting ready to stand up and declare J. K. Rowling's use of "stretch his legs" instead of "walk" to the world once again, but we've heard it. More than once, Bloomy. My favorite example Holt makes is "Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino." That would be Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.
The UK press's drama over the Booker really seems out of proportion. Instead of just announcing the winner, there's the endless sniping, the "behind the scenes look!", the countless gossip about the pretty girls who were shortlisted. This column by judge DJ Taylor is of the "behnd the scenes look!" variety. It seems that a reading of Martin Amis's Yellow Dog ended in giggling by the judges. Poor Martin Amis.
Chris Miller has begun the Ulysses Project. He is illustrating different parts of the book and putting it online. He's up to seven illustrations at the moment, with more to come. They're quite stunning.
October 13, 2003
"What do you think of the Frankfurt Bookfair?" asked another interviewer.
"I think if I am a very evil man while I live, when I die I will be sent to a Frankfurt Bookfair that will go on forever in every direction, and will never end, and the interviews will never stop."
Neil Gaiman is not enjoying the interview process at the Frankfurt Bookfair.
Jeane Steig writes a tribute to her husband William in the New York Times. (Don't miss the slide show of his artwork on the side.)
J. M. Coetzee has taken up writing about animal rights. He has touched on the subject in the past, but in his new book Elizabeth Costello the book's subject compares the meat industry to the Third Reich. (Which all meat eaters know deep down inside is true.) The Boston Globe outlines his evolution in animal rights.
I tried not to link to the new Laura Miller review, I really did. But she used the sentence, "For Pete's sake, even a $10 hooker gets to take a night off now and then." Does it even matter what book she's reviewing now?
Has the Guardian turned into YM? They're asking respectable authors to write about their most embarrassing moments. They start with Margaret Atwood, and thankfully she doesn't write about "that time I got my period and the whole class could tell! OhmyGod!"
Another round of book cover critiques in Mastication is Normal, and it's Scary Book Month. So hurrah for critiques of Madonna's The English Roses, Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls, Chuck Palahniuk's Diary, and more. (Listed in order of scariness.)
"And living up to her outrageous reputation in this exclusive interview, Germaine Greer also talks to Jana Wendt about her love of good-looking young boys ..." And she does.
GERMAINE GREER: We're talking about the fact that there is a time in a man's life when he is not yet a man and not still a child, where he maybe more likely than any other time at his life, he may be very, very beautiful. If you look at Russell Crowe today, can you remember what he looked like when he was 18? He was gorgeous.
JANA WENDT: So you prefer the 18-year-old Russell Crowe?
GERMAINE GREER: I think so. And I think any woman of taste would prefer the 18-year-old Russell Crowe.
The psychological implications are baffling.
The author of Vernon God Little has found himself in the middle of a controversy. Evidently D. B. C. Pierre's real name is Peter Finlay, and he has admitted to selling his best friend's home and using the money to seek Montezuma's gold. He has admitted to past drug and gambling addiction, swearing he would pay everyone back. I have a feeling this is only going to help book sales.
The BBC did a poll to discover the most beloved 100 books written in English of all time. They released the list without putting it in order quite a while ago. Now they're going to unveil the order! I'm not sure anyone cares at this point. The Observer did decide, however, to release its own list of "essential fiction" from the past 100 years. Another one of those. It's pretty much what you'd expect.
There are many reasons I have yet to read Fortress of Solitude, but laziness seems to be the primary. So while I can't say whether or not I agree with this fellow Chicagoan on her opinion, I am intrigued by her complaint.
A lot of Brooklyn school names and place names and street names are repeated over and over, intoned with religious fervor. Not being a New Yorker, none of these names have any meaning to me whatsoever, except for "Riker's". Any emotional overtone I am supposed to get from the words "Gowanus" or "Delancey" or "Wyckoff Gardens" is totally wasted on me. I understand that the book's supposed to be dealing with a particular, very small neighborhood; but instead of making me feel as if I belonged there, I just felt more alienated every time I was expected to know what Dean Street or Bergen Street was like. It's a snobbery that transcends simple pride in one's hometown.
It's a common enough occurence in American literature. Most books are either set in New York City or they're "quaint" (read: insulting) portraits of small town life or the South, written by big city dwellers. The publishing industry is set in New York, and boy does it love reading about New York. And while The Welcome Rain's assessment may be, "If you are not a poor white Brooklynite crackhead who flunked out of Berkeley and loves Brian Eno, do not buy this book," I'll eventually get around to reading it.
The Chicklit.com forums ask the very important question... What book sitting innocently on your date's shelf would make you never call him or her back?
Various SF authors comment on the California governor election. Ursula K. LeGuin, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson... But as expected, the most interesting comment comes from Harlan Ellison.
I thought, early on, that it was a great slate with Gary Coleman and Schwarzenegger both running: remember in MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, the behemoth called "Master Blaster" — this seven-foot-tall brain-damaged, muscle-bound giant, with the midget strapped to his shoulders? Wow, what a terrific Governor we'd have if we just cranked Gary Coleman down onto Ahnuld's shoulders!!
October 10, 2003
Terry Teachout writes about America's middle brow culture. I think this may be the first time I've linked to his Arts Journal blog, which I feel silly about. Everyone should bookmark it and read it regularly.
"You can even get by without reading, but just regurgitating the opinions of Cool Lit Club to make it seem as if you really give a shit about books. If you genuinely are a big reader, read only hip books. This includes shit by Neal Pollack, Nell Freudenberger [possibly with irony, but I leave this up to you], Jeffrey Eugenides, Dave Eggers [you must hate him, but read him anyway], and a few comics lest anyone think you're some kind of book snob."
I'm not entirely sure this is about me (+ Maud Newton, TMFTML, and a whole bunch of other really great sites), but as the blog is mentioned in passing, I'll assume so. (Scroll down to the 10:59 entry.)
A family spat between father and daughter is destroying the publisher Mid-List Press. James Nora founded the publisher, and it is now run by Marianne Nora. James asked that they print his book of poetry, but Marianne refused, saying it would be in violation of nonprofit rules (he was a member of the board of directors) and they could lose their status. After that, James has taken actions that have nearly destroyed the press.
Thanks to technology, those of us who cringed at the thought of the National Book Festival (hosted by Laura Bush) can now cringe at the reading of her opening and closing remarks. "By reading together and sharing stories, we become part of the fabric of the American community." Really? What if we're all reading Dude, Where's My Country?
Besides being a respected poet, Nikki Moustaki has also written The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Poetry. (Shh... Don't tell Tom Henihan the book exists. His head might fall off.) She's interviewed at Pif Magazine about the Guide and why a respected poet writes for Dog Fancy.
October 09, 2003
Remember Revolve, the fashion magazine version of the New Testament? It gives hot beauty tips like "As you apply your sunscreen, use that time to talk to God. Tell him how grateful you are for how he made you. Soon, you'll be so used to talking to him, it might become as regular and intimate as shrinking your pores."
But then it gets sinister. "God made guys to be the leaders. That means that they lead in relationships. They tell you they like you." So remember, girls, ask a boy out on a date and go to hell. According to Salon, Revolve has sold over 40,000 copies and is going back for another printing.
William Boyd writes about Evelyn Waugh for the Telegraph.
The teaching of poetry whether in university, college or high school is the single most damaging force to the creation and appreciation of the genre. One of the underlining advantages of studying poetry at a university or college is that if you fail to create any poetry of merit you can always fall back on teaching it. This ensures that the damage will be perpetuated onto the next generation. I think the people who elect to teach and de-mystify poetry and make it accessible should keep Mallarme’s dictum in mind. “To suggest is to create, to explain is to destroy.”
Besides hating the teaching of poetry, Tom Henihan also hates the performing of poetry, the writing of poetry by people he does not deem worthy, "fun" poetry, not to mention the people who actually read poetry.
The New York Times has an article about Readerville the website, without any information as to what happened to the magazine. I miss the magazine. The website is fun if you like online forums and can devote a crazy amount of time to it (both are reasons why you never see me there).