December 31, 2003
"Co-publisher" Creative Arts Books in Berkeley has filed for bankruptcy. When a writer signed on to CAB, they would have to pay half of the printing costs. For some authors who did pay their half, books were never printed let alone publicized as promised. This SF Gate article is filled with angry stories and betrayed authors.
The New York Times has a small collection of letters sent by George Plimpton to Ernest Hemingway.
Jessica Abel's La Perdida is even better than Artbabe, if that's possible. Unfortunately, issue #1 (of five) has gone out of print and the ongoing financial difficulties of Fantagraphics is preventing them from reprinting. Abel decided to make the entire first issue available on her website. Once you get hooked, you can buy issues two and three and eagerly await the release of four and five.
(To help their financial situation, Fantagraphics is also auctioning off a copy of the rare Breakdowns by Art Spiegelman. If you're interested, you'd better ask VISA for a higher line of credit. It's already over $200 and there's a week of bidding left.)
Her sentences had the quality of laws of nature; they were at once surprising and inevitable, as if Amanda had not written so much as discovered them. As the catcher Crash Davis said to his wild and talented young pitcher, Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, in ''Bull Durham,'' ''The gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt.'' Amanda had that kind of great stuff.
Dear god, have we no standards anymore? Stephen King's award, the Army no longer shooting deserters, foul language on the television... It's amazing any of us can get out of bed in the morning.
I only hope that when I'm trapped and crushed by my large stacks of books the newspaper can think of words other than "bizarre," "gaunt," and "quirky" to describe me. You've gotta love the Post. (Thanks to Kathleen for the link.)
December 30, 2003
Bookslut needs a new SF columnist. All interested parties should e-mail me, and I will provide more details.
Who knew that Benjamin Franklin paved the way for terrorists?
Elizabeth Sigmund, Sylvia Plath's closest friend, has come out condemning the film. She had been an adviser to the film but argues the finished product is nothing like Plath at all.
Last night makers of the film defended it as "honest". "This is a responsible film," said Charles McDonald, the film's publicist. "As with any dramatic version of anyone's life, some dramatic licence is inevitable. John Brownlow, the scriptwriter, went into this with a great sense of responsibility. It's as balanced a view [of Plath's life] as there has been yet. John did research the story very thoroughly, and was at great pains to make the story as factual as possible. We respect Elizabeth's views. John's is an emotional interpretation of Plath's life."
Responsible or not, the film is awful. Avoid at all costs.
The Boston Globe gives us a synopsis of the book Saddam Hussein had finished when he was captured. Warning: Bad Notes from the Underground joke in the first paragraph.
It seems France had a law banning television advertisements for books. It has been lifted amidst controversy.
The first lady's stamp is all over a federal grant program to recruit a new generation of librarians, largely through scholarships in library and information science. In late October, the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is implementing the program, announced its first grants, totaling almost $10 million. The White House is asking for $20 million in its fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill now before Congress.
December 29, 2003
Everyone is offering up their end of the year lists. I know it's the expected thing to do, but I'm going to have to pass. Books are not like movies or CDs for me. I could easily offer you a list of my favorite movies of the year, as I compulsively try to see movies their opening weekend. But when new books arrive at my house, they tend to get shelved (or in my current apartment, stacked to precarious heights) to be drawn down on a whim. Books can stay up there for days, weeks, or every once and a while, years. There are books I'm certain I will love that were released in 2003, to be read in 2004 or beyond. Perhaps in ten years I can tell you what the best books in 2003 were.
I was asked for the end of the year review I participated in to name my favorite books of the year. I had intended to write up a list with a preface explaining the list would change dramatically in the years to come. Instead I noticed something curious. I had only read three nonfiction books released in 2003 in 2003. If I had written out the list anyway, I would have failed to mention Thank You For Not Reading, a brilliant collection of essays that I had started only over Christmas. With all of the great fiction of 2003 that I have not read (to give you some idea of how behind I am on the award winners, I still haven't even read Middlesex), I decided to pussy out on the question and only list my favorite reprints. After all, I couldn't read Fortress of Solitude because by then the buzz made it feel compulsory. It would have had the faintest aftertaste of cough syrup.
However, if you were a more faithful reader to the year, perhaps you would like to vote on your favorite books at Redwing. My Amazon.com wishlist awaits your answers.
Governor Pataki has pardoned Lenny Bruce's obscenity charges.
7. There is someone for everyone, part 2
Again, this is something attached people say to those who can't even get shopkeepers to look them straight in the eye. In fact, there are some pathetic individuals who are destined to die lonely, beating futilely at the darkness. This is because they are desperate, inadequate and sexually abnormal, with low self-esteem, a tendency to self-pity, and too many bad relationships behind them.
Germany is having a literature renaissance, but America, with its refusal to acknowledge other countries also publish books, will never know.
December 24, 2003
Now I must catch a train to Kansas. I have compulsive blogging problems, but they only have a dial up. It's doubtful you'll hear from me until I return on Monday. I hope everyone has a lovely nondenominational end of December.
The BBC-sponsored event definitely spurred book sales in Great Britain. But in this visual age, it also generated a huge spike in purchases of DVD film and television versions of the favorites.
December 23, 2003
I bet you always wanted to know what Tolkien thought about elf sex. Well, now you can! You can even read it in German! Seriously, you LOTR people scare me. (Okay, so watching Orlando Bloom take down the elephant nearly did me in, too.)
NYRB, only one of the greatest publishers today, has started a children's imprint. The first four titles have been announced, The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, The Crane, Jenny and the Cat Club, and The Little Bookroom. If you buy all four now through the website, you can get 35% off.
If you haven't decided what you're going to get me for Christmas (and you should really get on that. It's two days away), I'm now really wanting a copy of Black Earth by Andrew Meier. Go ahead. Read the interview with him and try to resist.
While I'm sure it's nice of Farrar Straus & Giroux to publish these massive collections of poets' work, you do have to wonder who they think will buy them. The new Ted Hughes Collected Poems is 1,300 pages and as such probably a good weapon of defense against intruders. To me it's like watching the director's cut of The Abyss. There are some bits better left out. The Boston Globe uses the release as an excuse to print some really unforgivable phrases. "Can Hughes the poet escape these encrustations?" Encrustations? Perhaps I worked at Planned Parenthood too long, but ew.
I'm rather hoping the news that Dave Eggers will be writing the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are is a joke. I thought Spike Jonze directing was bad enough. (I'm sorry. I don't get those movies. I really, really don't.)
December 22, 2003
This interesting (but a little too long -- I started skimming) article on how awards affect reading habits focuses mainly on genre awards. If nothing else, being able to see what a Stoker Award or a freaky British Fantasy Award looks like. (Link stolen from Sarah.)
If you write a book that includes a list of "great" or "necessary" literature, you can be sure that every review is going to contain at least two or three paragraphs complaining about what you left out. The Sun Sentinel follows this rule for The Well Educated Mind.
J. G. Ballard explains why he refused to accept a Commander of the British Empire for services to literature.
I'm pretty sure I offended someone at the Lord of the Rings on Friday night. All I did was express my wish for Liv Tyler to be trampled by one of those giant elephant things. (Okay, and then I made fun of him for having seen the damn thing twice in three days. But come on.) Well, geekdom should rejoice. The Narnia series might not be as beloved by the maladjusted, but it'll be another spectacular event. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will soon begin filming in New Zealand and is set for a 2005 release.
Publishers are having to slum with the ordinary folk these days to sell books.
"I did not read The Catcher in the Rye until I was in my 40s because I thought it was going to be about baseball in a field. It did not intrigue me enough. Mind you, it does not seem to have had that effect on many other people."
8. Start divorce proceedings.
Jennifer Contino interviews Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein about the recent activities of the fund. There are a lot of scary court cases out there right now.
We are participants in a number of amicus briefs, including New Times v. Isaacks, a case which asks whether satire can be taken as actual malice, which could chill satirical expression. We are participants in a brief called In re: George T, a case concerning a California teenager who was
convicted of making a threat because he wrote a poem. We also joined a brief in support of the ACLU called Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor v. John Ashcroft, a case challenging Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to seize any business records or property in pursuit of an investigation and impose a gag order upon the person seized. We are amici in the MPAA’s case, Tyne v. Time Warner, a right of publicity case involving the movie The Perfect Storm that affects the rights of creators to use real people in creative expression.
Perhaps now would be a good time to sign up.
The Harvard Crimson interviews Taslima Nasrin about living in exile and the furor created by the latest installment of her memoirs. Ka is the third volume of her autobiography (the only installment that seems to be in print is Meyebela), but this one sparked a lawsuit.
December 19, 2003
The movie adaptation of The House of Sand and Fog has managed to end up on both best of and worst of the year lists. Not that the author should care. The book was already an Oprah pick and wildly successful. And anyway, he likes the movie.
Lloyd Schwartz remembers studying with Robert Lowell at Harvard.
A few writers made it onto USA Today's list of 100 people of 2003. (Not 100 "superlative adjective" people, like most interesting, craziest, nor most frequently arrested. Just 100 people.) There's Zoe Trope, Dame Darcy, Chip Kidd, Neil Gaiman, and others.
"Graphic novels get book world's respect and geeks - er, readers' - satisfaction" Just another one of those articles. (Link stolen from Neil Gaiman.)
This photo of Norman Mailer's son is pretty funny. The pouty lips, leaning backwards over the table, one eyebrow softly lifted... His father would be horrified. But "youngest of Norman's nine children, the fruit of the most recent of his six marriages" is taking over High Times magazine. We should just be impressed he doesn't have white boy dreads.
December 18, 2003
Having my office aware of my blogging tendencies is a little strange. I'll post in the morning, come in and there's someone there commenting on the nonsense I wrote. And Bill in the cube next door and I throw around book recommendations, resistant as we both are. So perhaps, Bill, you should read this excellent Slate article on how Alan Moore transformed comics. Then go buy From Hell like I told you to. (That goes for the rest of you, too. Just because it was a really awful movie doesn't mean that gets you off the hook.) He has a few other books worth checking out, too.
The Register tries to explain the new Google Print, a feature similar to Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature. The Google version isn't any more helpful and just brings up all of those painful memories of what we thought the Internet would really be. They have a theory about what all this means.
The new M6 toll road has been built on two and a half million copies of old Mills and Boon novels to prevent it from cracking.
The Wall Street Journal helpfully points out who we should blame for not being able to find decent books at Barnes and Noble. Her name is Sessalee Hensley, and she likes Oprah books. She says of The Lovely Bones, "I knew immediately it was going to be the best book ever." And of Judy Blume, "the people who read Judy Blume don't grow up to read books. They grow up to read magazines." I fucking read Judy Blume. Every girl in America reads Judy Blume. Some of us turned out just fine, thank you very much.
How you answer "What's your favorite book?" says a lot about you. (But who asks that question? I mean, besides my religious aunt who is desperately trying to find a topic of conversation over Christmas dinner to break the awkward silence. People should know better.)
December 17, 2003
Don DeLillo and Norman Mailer have shown support for a lawsuit against the federal government to release documents about the JFK assassination. You can read the open letter they signed in the New York Review of Books.
A quick search for Gwyneth Jones on Amazon reveals a long list of out of print books. But her new book Midnight Lamp and the rest of that series are all available on Amazon.co.uk. She's good and worth importing. She's also interviewed at the Independent.
There's a new translation of Don Quixote out. It's sitting by my couch, laughing at me. And just as I probably won't get around to reading it, forsaking it for a much easier train read, I probably won't be reading Harold Bloom's assessment of Don Quixote's brilliance either. To be frank, this getting up before daylight and actually going to work thing is killing off brain cells. Soon it'll be all Sweet Valley High all the time. But perhaps you have some brain power left. If you can condense it into twenty words or less, you could e-mail me and tell me what he said.
Whatever you think of Vernon God Little as a book (and apparently, at least a handful of important people liked it), it doesn't make a very good satire. I hated Texas for the five years I lived there, and I was wrinkling my nose at bits. Prospect Magazine wasn't so much offended by the book as just bewildered anybody thought it was competent.
Everyone else is linking to it, so why can't I? "Pardon me for saying so, Mr. Amazon Recommendations Engine, but I'm quite sure I would rather rape my favorite uncle with rusty salad tongs than buy the paperback version of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing."
December 16, 2003
Stephen King doesn't even remember writing The Tommyknockers.
After reading the plot synopsis, I sort of remembered it, but, then again, maybe it just sounded like something else I wrote. After your 50 or 60th one, it's all kind of a blur. But if I had to venture a guess, I'd say I probably did write The Tommyknockers. It sounds like my kind of thing, what with this invisible evil being unleashed on a town full of innocent people and all.
It's time for the second Hollywood Madam experiment in terror. Or in having to read that final chapter of Cold Mountain. If you would like to find out what it's all about, visit her website and e-mail Liz.
Speaking of sodomy, NAMBLA has fallen in love with little Harry Potter. (Second item.)
Rick Santorum has contributed a story to the Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Good Manners anthology, edited by his wife. I'm just guessing here, but I bet the title of his story is "Good Little Boys Don't Fuck Other Little Boys in the Ass."
"Fuck off," says a voice. It is Sasha. Ted and he will soon become firm friends. Sasha is a misformed dwarf, a leader of the student revolution, whom all the women adore. "I have told no one that my father was a Nazi Lutheran minister," he confesses.
Commercialappeal.com has more information on the release of the first issue of Michael Chabon's The Escapist comic. The Escapist character was the invention of Chabon's fictional characters Kavalier and Clay. Now Chabon is "reviving" the comic for Dark Horse. Or so says the press release. It's all a little bit too meta. I just want to read the book.
Keiran Healy has written a list of the best books not read in 2003.
December 15, 2003
Comicon's annual auction to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is running throughout December. Items included in the auction: an unpublished chapter of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Frank Cho original artwork, a drawing by Frank Miller and more.
A new novel imagines that Princess Diana is not actually dead but instead faked her own death and took off to Pakistan. When her son is injured, she sneaks back disguised as a nurse to take care of him. The authors are no strangers to crimes against literature, as one of them wrote a sequel to Turn of the Screw called Miles and Flora as well as a sequel to Jane Eyre called Mrs. Rochester. The Princess Diana book is now being serialized and will be published as Balmoral in the spring. I can hardly wait.
A photo album belonging to JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, has been unearthed. In it are images of the children thought to have inspired the characters in his book.
It speaks for itself really.
Madonna wants to get her PhD in critical literary theory specializing in women's studies, gender and queer theory. She said, "I want to focus my attention primarily on postmodern American and British literature. I consider myself American and British. Multicultural, really."
The New York Times has an article about the literary history of St. Petersburg.
Evidently the "Big Read" thing has finally been announced. Is it just me, or was that the most anticlimactic survey ever produced? I'm not even going to link to the results because the idea was so goddamn silly. "First, we'll tell you the results, just not in the right order. Then we'll tell you which books made the top 20 or 25 or whatever the fuck, but still not tell you the right order. Now, we're going to... Wait, where'd everyone go?"
Patti Thorn of the Rocky Mountain News makes her Christmas list for the publishing world next year. She seems a little bit bitter. The poor girl, having to read books for a living. I know; your heart just cries out for her.
A witty response to this fun comment I get all time: "Read any good books lately?" My favorite quip - "Seen any good fists lately?" - seems to be lacking a certain finesse.
December 12, 2003
Jim Lewis is trying to attract attention to the 50 year old book Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature.
It deserves a wider audience—the widest possible, I would say, because it offers not just an eminent reading of the Western canon, but a mighty lesson in how to write. Princeton University Press has just reprinted it in an anniversary edition, with an introduction by Edward Said: An appropriate celebration of its semicentennial would see M.F.A. programs dismantled nationwide, with students given copies of Mimesis instead, along with instructions to go home and write as if its author was still around to be impressed.
Paycheck is coming out soon. The preview looks good, but haven't we all learned our lesson about English language John Woo films yet? If you get tempted, just remember it requires watching Affleck run and jump for a couple of hours and go to your video store and rent Hard Boiled again. Anyway, the movie gives newspapers and magazines the opportunity to write about what a nut Philip K. Dick is. I understand completely. There aren't enough drugged up writers to profile. But how many times has a slightly different version of this story appeared in Wired already? Please, Jonathan Franzen, do us all a favor and go on a bender. Literary journalists everywhere need you.
"But "Tuesdays," of course, finally did get published and became one of the best-selling books in history." Is that true? Tuesdays with Morrie? Jesus. I already had such little reason to live (13 degrees outside, goddamnit), I'm not sure I can carry on after this.
I think Julavits has some talent, but compared to Marcus, she's just doing standard fiction with an I-went-to-grad-school edge. My base suspicion is that Marcus likes her the way young masturbating Jewish boys like shiksas. It doesn't matter that she doesn't have a (literary) dowry.
A Dutch publisher has started distributing their books on trains. They place stickers on the books asking that they stay on the trains, I guess hoping that if the book struck their fancy they'll seek it out at the shops. It would have been handy last night, as after the office's Christmas Drinking Excursion Number One I drunkenly left my book in my office. Forty five minutes I could have been reading. Such a shame.
Find out how well you've been paying attention to my blog this year.
But the thing that really disappoints Adebayo about The Big Read is that the BBC has not had a single black person presenting an argument for a book. "We're always told that black kids should be reading more, so it might have made sense to show a black person getting enthusiastic about a book. There is this problem that black people in general aren't really associated with books, or with reading for that matter."
The British literary establishment, he says, is just as bad. "Did you see this year's Booker Prize panel?
Dan Brown is doing pretty well with both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons sitting in bestseller lists. (Although if one more Da Vinci Code nut tries to convince me I'll just love it, I might have to haul off and hit them.) The USA Today profiles Brown.
The New York Times has an article about the British Library's spoken word CDs. They collect rare recordings of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien and James Joyce reading their own works. A new collection is being released of children's authors.
December 11, 2003
The Black Table offers its list of magazines to subscribe to or avoid and those who are showing some potential. On its subscribe list is Foreign Policy, the National Magazine Award winner for general excellence in 2003, and on its unsubscribe list is The Believer.
Semen tainted magazines, men exposing themselves, crazy elderly women who yell, crazy eldery men who collection the subscription cards out of every magazine in the store, men leering at preteen girls, bomb threats... just your average day as a Barnes & Noble employee. (Link from TMN.)
I'm trying to avoid linking to every "best of 2003" list because they bore the hell out of me. But if you're interested, there's a collection of links over here.
A new PBS documentary about Emily Dickinson is being described as "entertaining in a Michael Moore-ish, guerrilla kind of way." "Loaded Gun: Life, and Death, and Dickinson" debuts on PBS on December 16th.
"A miniature painting that has been on full view to the public at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but whose significance has passed thousands of visitors by, may hold the key to one of the great mysteries of English literature - the identity of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets."
Terry Pratchett writes about how he deals with finishing the writing of a book.
The last few months of a book are taxing. Emails zip back and forth, the overtones of the English word "cacky" are explained to the US editor who soberly agrees that "poop" is no substitute, authors stare at text they've read so often that they've lost all grasp of it as a narrative, and rewrite and tinker and then hit "Send" - and it's gone without even, in these modern times, the therapeutic experience of printing it out. One minute you're a writer, next minute you have written.
The column at Moby Lives asks why there is no literary spokesman for Generation Y. One writer who believes he is that spokesperson has written the book Generation SLUT. (Coming out on MTV Books, natch.) And I thought having Douglas Coupland was bad. Anyway, debate rages over on the letters section.
EdRants writes an open letter to the Young Woman Who Writes Snotty and Unfunny Open Letters for McSweeney's.
I know it's hard for you. Most McSweeney's writers are thirtysomething Donald Barthleme wannabes who wouldn't know funny if it bit them on the ass. I know you deal with wanting to get published, sans compensation, in this environment, and having to proffer the wonted generalizations. Your cowriters like you, but they receive the same rejection notices, because they really don't understand you. They've read the same books you've read, they continually revere people like Julie Orringer as sages ("It is extremely important to hang out with non-writers and be interested in things that have nothing to do with writing." Duh.), and fail to ponder the intellectual value of hunky authors and authoresses salivating over, rather than questioning seasoned veterans like Joan Didion.
December 10, 2003
Choire Sicha writes about the Believer staff for the Observer.
If there were gay marriage, the gang that publishes The Believer could pass for the adorable adopted Malaysian children of Kurt Vonnegut and Garrison Keillor.
Well, that's depressing. In their search for the best books of 2003, the Washington Post came up with five poetry books. Five poetry books that are collections of much older poets. They have your ten pound collection of Robert Lowell poetry, your ever present newly collected Pablo Neruda collection, but what they don't have is anything new or exciting. Dale Smith, I await your response.
Jennifer Vanderbes, author of Easter Island, defends writing about what you don't know in the Washington Post. Since she decided to write about Easter Island at the turn of the century, we can guess there wasn't a lot coming from her real life.
Sara Bauer writes an open letter to young women who work at chain bookstores.
You're lonely, Young Women Who Work at Chain Bookstores, and you want to find someone who understands you. You dream of a man who will hold you in the dark, listen to you talk about your deepest fears, and take you shopping at Hot Topic. You size up customers as potential allies, and you try so hard to make friends with those who are like you, who bear the cross of Not Fitting In. You tell them you love their T-shirt, that no one around here listens to Indie Rock Band Depicted on Customer's T-shirt; you try to smile, take deep breaths, and not appear desperate. It's hard—it's so hard, I want to take you into my arms and promise that it will get easier, but it won't.
Another article about whether the publishing industry publishes too many books. A great deal of input is from Laura Miller. "Miller says she relies on a close community of reviewers, book scouts, editors and others in the business to help her decide what to review." She can't just see what she likes?
December 9, 2003
Samantha Power, the author of the must-read A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide is interviewed in the Atlantic about the situation in Zimbabwe.
While libraries around the country are having to slash book budgets and hours of operation in order to deal with budget cuts, the demand is growing. Libraries around the country are seeing a rise in circulation rates. (Link from Gapers.)
The New York Times has some stunningly mediocre books on its list of notable books of 2003. But, as always, it's a good chance to update your Amazon.com wishlist with books you overlooked. Cup of Chica writes about the list in her blog.
Jack Chick meets H. P. Lovecraft. (Thanks to Adam for the link.)
Tony Kushner has two projects with Maurice Sendak out, Brundibar, a new children's book, and The Art of Maurice Sendak, a collection he edited. Kusher writes about his friendship with Sendak in the Guardian.
When his wrath (there's no other word for it) is aroused, his vituperation is alliterative and bloody and guttural and as scorching as dragon's breath. It's quite shocking when you first hear America's greatest author of children's books raging like a mad Danish sailor, raging like Nixon, or rather like Nixon might have raged had he possessed Maurice's musicality and well-fed poet's ear.
Robert McCrum discusses the idea of the literary jackpot, something that very rarely exists.
Between getting a new job and the usual craziness that is the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have many excuses for the lateness of this issue of Bookslut. I, however, think it's worth the wait.
It was women's studies month for the 100 Books project with The Golden Notebook, The Color Purple, and The Handmaid's Tale all being read. (Of course there is also Sister Carrie, but the less said about that the better.)
The interviews this month cover an eclectic range. Jessamyn West, librarian extraordinaire, discusses the PATRIOT Act, scaring your library patrons, and her Librarian.net website. Audrey Niffenegger discusses being the "it" woman in the literary world with her new book The Time Traveler's Wife and life in Chicago with Veronica Bond. And J. T. LeRoy gives us his life story in a lively conversation.
You know we hate to be so happygolucky, but it's mostly raves in the reviews section this month. Everyone loved their books. Mostly. If you're looking for a book to fall in love with, may we make a few suggestions?
And although you missed the Christmas giveaway, you might want to consider subscribing to the notification list anyway. The new year is on its way, and with it many, many more free signed books. Just send a blank e-mail to email@example.com and I'll hook you up with the best I can find.
December 5, 2003
How the hell did this happen so quickly? Jayson Blair's book Burning Down My Master's House already has a publication date and a cover image. At least you can tell it must have been thoroughly edited and fact checked.
Robert Macfarlane has won the Guardian First Book Prize for Mountains of the Mind: How Desolate and Forbidding Heights Were Transformed into Experiences of Indomitable Spirit. The Guardian has a news story, an interview, and an excerpt.
I think the American population should be sent to The Hague to be judged. This is a country that has an enormous impact around the world. What is decided in Washington, D.C., when George Bush lifts his little finger -- someone around the world is going to feel it. To me it seems almost criminal that the people who live here, who elect someone like that -- if they really knew how other people's lives are affected by American policies, maybe they would pay more attention. It's appalling the amount of ignorance here about world events.
In a review of Martin Amis's Yellow Dog, PopMatters writes an open letter to Tibor Fischer. It seems that Fischer was so successful in his attempt to attach his name to Amis with his smear earlier this year, Amazon UK is now offering a reduced rate if you buy YD and Voyage to the End of the Room together. So PM would like to take this opportunity to explain a few things to Tibor.
"She is topping up your engine oil for the cross-country coming up. Your RPM is hitting a new high. To wait any longer would be to lose prime time...
"She picks up a Bugatti's momentum. You want her more at a Volkswagen's steady trot. Squeeze the maximum mileage out of your gallon of gas. But she's eating up the road with all cylinders blazing."
The unauthorized German translation of Catcher in the Rye:
And I am so, so angry at dis and dat. Vy? Vy ist me so wery angered? Because they ist der phonies! They ist der shams. Der phony, phony phony! All mit der smiling and laughing! Vat ist dis here, 99 Luftballoons? Mein Gott! So, ja, I making up mein mind I'm no more going back to my Pensey school. Nein! Mit more of dem phonies. Sorry to Charlie! Then, you understand, der ist ein carousel, going round unt round. And there ist dis catcher, he's grabben der kinder auf der rye. So, that's it. Ja? Now, what you say we dance? Unt an ein, and a zwei... Oom pah pah, oom pah pah!
December 4, 2003
The New York Post is dealing with the high and the low brow of literature today. The top story on their gossip page is a new tell-all about J. D. Salinger. Jaime Clark's O What Fun We'll Have! O The Times! reveals such personal details as: The name J. D. Salinger checks into hotels with! Salinger's hearing loss! Salinger once turned down an offer to allow Spielberg to direct Catcher in the Rye! (At least we know the man's taste hasn't declined.) What boring, boring stuff. No wonder no one has bought the book yet.
And in the low, low, low brow category, we have the story that Britney Spears is looking to make a film version of the book she co-wrote with her mother, A Mother's Gift. There's still a chance we might be spared, however. After all, God has made his opinion known on the Mel Gibson movie. Perhaps he'll throw some lightning bolts this movie set's way as well.
Inhabitants of the real Brick Lane are furious at Monica Ali's portrayal of the community in her book. The Greater Sylhet Welfare and Development Council has written a 18 page letter to Ali with their complaints. They are even making comparisons to The Satanic Verses, a fact that is making a few people nervous.
"She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.
'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator... "
After the news story of J. Robert Lennon's midlist success with Mailman it was announced that the script based on the book has been sold. Not only that, the producer linked to the project is none other than Robert Evans. We'll see where it goes from there. (Thanks to Matt for the link.)
The Book Editor look is so in!
December 3, 2003
Sting will be presenting this year's Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Among the nominees is Rod Liddle's Too Beautiful for You for this particular crime against taste: "She came with the exhilarating whoops and pant-hoots of a troop of Rhesus monkeys, which was flattering, if alarming."
This Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of City Lights. The Village Voice has a rundown of the festivities.
With his new book Absolute Friends, John Le Carre is writing about his "despair" at America's current government. In this interview at the Independent, he says at this point in time it would be impossible for him to write "optimistic fiction." Other authors chime in about his statement.
A gift idea for the person with everything: perhaps a $120 six-volume history of violence? There just happens to be one available through McSweeney's called Rising Up and Rising Down. The author William T. Vollman is interviewed at SFGate.
Oh, and limitless scorn for the rogue's gallery of central Texas yokels, anesthetized by consumer culture, tirelessly on the make and oh so fat. There's Vernon's fat, sentimental and clueless mother, and her posse of fat, sentimental and status-conscious neighborhood matrons, who cash in insurance premiums from their suspiciously missing husbands and await the delivery of side-door-opening refrigerators with all the fervor of Micronesian cargo cults. And as if such characters weren't sufficiently bathetic, Pierre also gives most of Martirio's citizens the same last name, Gurie, so as to hint none-too-subtly at a local history of inbreeding.
Cup of Chica lays out the reasons why Sylvia failed. (And fail it did. In my theatre, people were snickering.) "Films are very likely to fail if they are about any one of these three subjects: a writer, depression, a real person."
More about the grammar book Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
To the Austin Chronicle, an entity unlikely to respond:
People frown and grumble when I say Austin is not a very literary town. "But we have Bruce Sterling!" they say. "And an O. Henry museum! Not to mention the largest independent bookstore in Texas!" So allow me to clarify.
It seems that Austin used to be much more literary than it once was. I moved to town after the closing of Europa books, a bookstore I am told would have made me weep with joy. There was a small, alternative bookstore where I bought many quirky books and zines (they also had a lot of scary porn if I had ever been in that mood) before it closed -- only a few months after I moved to town. There was Austin Books, still one of the greatest comic book stores I have ever encountered, but it eventually got rid of its stock of non-picture books. It was a shame because they had a great selection of alternative SF and genre. Adventures in Crime and Space closed its doors a year or so later, and soon there was no place to talk to an employee that knew their genre works. (They had a few employees at Book People, but at any given time it was unlikely they were anywhere to be found.) I had been happy to shop at BookWoman until I arrived in the store with male friends one day... But that story has been told before.
There are enough Borders and Barnes and Nobles and access to Amazon.com to make up the difference, but that still doesn't make Austin literary. The local newspapers run fewer and fewer reviews every year, whether they want to admit it or not. And the majority of the reviews are actually from conglomerate publishers, Austin authors, or of an author who is coming through town. Many of the zines I read when I first moved there have closed shop and very few have stepped up to replace them. (Two Note Solo being the best of them.) And unless those zines are free and piled outside of stores, it's nearly impossible to find them in town. Book People carries a very limited number, and as a friend who runs a poetry magazine has told me, aggravating to get distributed to.
Austin does have two micropublishers that I adore, So New Media and Skanky Possum. Both are labors of love unlikely to ever be a reliable source of income to its owners. The University of Texas Press is nearly nonexistent. And before SNM began its Book Punk series, there were no grassroots reading series (other than bad open mic poetry nights at Ruta Maya) in town. Touring authors come through town and sign at Barnes and Noble or Book People, but other literary events were lacking. Armadillocon is nice, if you don't mind putting up with furry porn and stares and points if you're a girl, but 90% of the Texas Book Festival is designed for those big haired Texas women who need another social event to put on their calendar. If you're a big fan of LBJ biographers, it's the place for you.
However, the city has always frowned upon self-reflection. It calls itself "green", yet it has no reliable public transportation system and discourages pedestrians. It calls itself the Live Music Capital of the World, but all that really means is you can't go to a bar without a Blues Hammer-esque band assaulting your ear drums. And Austin may have a collection of writers living there, like Steven Saylor, Kinky Friedman, Neal Pollack and a handful of SF writers, but a number of authors do not make a literary community, just like a bunch of (poorly fact-checked) articles put together do not make a legitimate newspaper. So to whichever editor decided it was okay to allow Shawn Badgley to write out his fantasy world, and it would have to be a fantasy world for the two of us to have physical contact of any kind, I would go over my rules of journalism ethics one more time. Last I checked, calling someone a drunken slut, whether or not she is one, was frowned upon.
December 2, 2003
Because we love you so much, Bookslut is going to be giving 50 lucky subscribers to the notification list a Christmas present. So if you haven't subscribed yet, do so before this Friday when we will start the drawing. You can subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two takes on Borders Bookstore:
At 3a.m., Underground Literary Alliance writes about the Borders strike in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (It's the 11/23/03 entry.) While Borders used to pay their employees livable wages, now the managers can't even get by with one job. And Borders is notoriously unsympathetic to their employees joining unions. (Hostile might be a better word.)
In the Washington Post, everything is nice and happy and pretty. Borders pay attention to their customers' needs! I admit I was addicted to my local Borders in Austin, mostly due to a complete lack of good bookstores anywhere near my area, but it's still a bit much.
Kinky Friedman is running for governor of Texas. Wow, I really did get out of that God forsaken state just in time, didn't I?
Poet Talal al-Rasheed was killed in Algeria "when an armed group struck on Thursday evening near Djelfa, Algerian newspapers report."
Tom Cross had appeared in dozens of Bruce Springsteen songs: a blue-collar worker, driven to despair by the economy and a loveless marriage. "I am a bad, bad man," he yelled. "My son uz paralysed because of ma hatred. I called him a pussy and a tree fell on him while we wuz out loggin'."
I'm very glad to see Thank You for Not Reading getting so much attention in the press if only because Dalkey Archive Press deserves a much higher level of exposure. The latest coverage is from Playback St. Louis.
There is a documentary about Chuck Palahniuk being released on DVD. It mostly focuses on a conference held in Pennsylvania, and as we all know, the only thing scarier than a Tori Amos fan is a Chuck Palahniuk fan. The Chuck stuff might be interesting, but the Chuck fan stuff might just solidify my reasoning for not attending his book readings.
December 1, 2003
Margo Jefferson attempts to sum up the problems of the publishing industry with:
But for Zaid, ''the great barrier to the free circulation of books is the mass of privileged citizens who have college degrees but never learned to read properly.'' Too often, universities teach students to labor over books rather than devour and glory in them, and ''college graduates are more interested in publishing books than reading them.''
Sometimes, journalists and nonfiction writers don't feel like real writers.