March 31, 2004
"An executive said to me, `What about a regular actor who gets angry and turns into Hellboy?'" said del Toro, wrinkling his face in disgust. "I go, `That's ... not ... very good.
"Then they would say, `What if you call him Hellboy and he comes from Hell and all that, but he looks like a guy?' Then they would suggest things like, `Can he have a Hellmobile?' `Can he have a dog? A pet dog that comes from hell and is red?'"
I'm oddly optimistic about the film. Anyone who casts Ron Perlman in the lead role, dreamy John Hurt, and has at least one decent movie in his past (If you haven't seen The Devil's Backbone yet, you're missing out) deserves a chance. Even if I'm the only one in the theater.
It's embarrassing to admit, but the best news I've read today was that U2 will have a new album out by the end of the year. It's in this news story about an upcoming book on the band.
Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital is a flop. Thank god.
Why in the world is James Frey the 32nd most hated New Yorker? I mean, yes, A Million Little Pieces created too much press, too many accolades, and Frey said too many stupid things in the media. But that was a year ago. Let go of the grudge, New York Press. Just let it go. (But I'm totally there with you on Sarah Jessica Parker.)
So this is what the religious right is worried about these days: will Christ return before the "Left Behind" series is finished?
Well, this raises all kinds of complex eschatological problems, now that I think of it. First of all, what does the Book of Revelations say about fundamentalist-Christian pulp-fiction writers who are trying to complete their Revelations-based book series before they're raptured into heaven? Does Scripture itself predict whether novels about the Final Days will be published during the Final Days? Do they arrive in bookstores just after the seven-eyed, seven-horned Lamb opens the first of the seven seals (6:1), or do we have to wait until the appearance of the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon (12:3)? Second, when Christ returns, will He hang out for a while-- maybe even serving as an editorial consultant on the remaining "Left Behind" books-- before initiating the series of events leading to the Apocalypse, or will He just be all about the Apocalypse?
Most important, why would Christ return before LaHaye and Jenkins have finished their work in the first place? Wouldn't that be, like, God giving away the ending?
March 30, 2004
The only problem with The Satanic Nurses, J.B. Miller's smart-alecky book of "literary parodies," is that you have to be uncommonly literate to get the jokes.
Actually, the problem with The Satanic Nurses is that it was painfully not funny. The premises were good: Norman Mailer's dating tips, the missing transcript of Jonathan Franzen on Oprah, J.D. Salinger writing letters to Britney Spears... it should have been hilarious. Instead, so not funny. The jokes were pretty obvious, and anyone with a passing knowledge of who Salinger was or what happened to the Oprah book club would have gotten the jokes. Had there been any. (Link e-mailed by, again, someone whose message I deleted and therefore cannot credit.)
I went to Borders today (please don't throw rocks at me, they're the most conveniently located place I've found that sells the tea I like) and it was crazy. The last time I've seen a bookstore that full was Christmas Eve. They can't all be here for the new Left Behind book. They're all urban professionals, and they look too sane. I wandered around, trying to find the cafe, when I saw a large cluster of people. Must be a signing. It was.
Bob from the Bachelor has a fucking book, and he was in Chicago, making all of the primped urban professionals on their lunch break swoon. I'm beginning to wish my upcoming vacation (two days and counting) was to another country, one where they do not publish books by moronic, unattractive reality television stars. Does a country like that even still exist?
Rejoice you silly people, for Neal Pollack is back.
I’ll update this site from time to time, though not daily. Probably more like once or twice a week. The “character” who dominated this site before is gone, as, regretfully, is his beleaguered manservant Roger, now happily gay-married to a Canadian television reporter. Such semi-popular features as the journal of Raul, the last Iraqi teenager with access to the Internet, will continue, as Raul has survived the occupation against all human odds. Also, the Blogs Of The Candidates has been reduced to the blogs of John Kerry and George W. Bush, but as long as The O.C. is on the air and the next generation of Strokes lookalikes prowls the earth, there will be room to simultaneously make fun of party bloggers and Presidential candidates.
I'm about to say something very dull: there is an interesting interview with the author of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited at The Atlantic. But it is interesting, I swear.
I must confess, my very dear Mrs Mandela, that I was at first somewhat cautious of your missives. Dare I say it, I harboured doubts as to the seriousness of your intent, and even the veracity of your identity. Oh, foolish heart! I doubt no longer! Only a person of taste, of dignity, of theology and geometry, would be as versed as you are in the works of the master. I picture you now as an African Hroswitha, a pure, noble and chaste spirit clad in the rude flesh of your melanoid heritage.
But I digress. To business, oh my dark and most wondrous lady! We have great things to accomplish, you and I!
The I Love Books folks are combining books.
From Russia With Love Story
James Bond discovers that the love of his life has a terminal illness. Mind your sides!
Glorious Appearing was supposed to be the end of the Left Behind series. After all, Christ is back, so where do you go from there? But like every other bestselling monster (aHem, J.K. Rowling) they don't know when to stop. There will be at least two more books, a prequel and a postscript.
Housewives all across The South, beware.
From: Southern Living Magazine
Date: 3/27/04 4:19:02 PM
URGENT NOTICE REGARDING POTENTIAL FIRE AND SAFETY HAZARD IN RECIPE FOR ICEBOX ROLLS ON PAGE 154 OF THE APRIL 2004 ISSUE OF SOUTHERN LIVING
Please DO NOT USE the Icebox Rolls recipe. Combining the water and shortening as described in the recipe may cause the mixture to ignite, is extremely dangerous, and could result in fire and safety hazards. The correct recipe is currently available on our website, southernliving.com.
It will also be reprinted in the May issue of Southern Living.
If you have any questions, please call 1-888-836-9327.
March 29, 2004
Terrorizing us with his new novel on Salon was evidently not enough for Dave Eggers. (Did anybody read that? I felt embarrassed for him it was so bad.) Now there are very short stories at the Guardian. They almost read like they want to be from Anthropology by Dan Rhodes, but they fall very short from that book's brilliance.
It's interesting to come across the audio of two people discussing you, like digital eavesdropping. Just to let Thomas know... I tried to come! I went by your booth half a dozen times! It was always sadly empty.
He added, "Many people have asked me, Do you think they will finish the series before Christ comes?"
There is a whole lot of incestuousness at the Believer. As if you couldn't figure that out on your own.
To point out these connections, as well as noting in passing some of the multifarious examples of in-breeding and insouciant log-rolling (Heidi Julavits, Vendela Vida's co-editor at the Believer, is married to Ben Marcus; Ben Marcus interviews George Saunders in the current issue; George Saunders nominates Ben Marcus as one of his favourite writers in a recent interview and puffs a new Julavits book - "a terrific and important addition to our literature"; Hornby puffs a new collection of stories by Vendela Vida's good friend and recently -anointed true Believer, Julie Orringer, as well as talking up the latest novel by friend-of-the-magazine, Jonathan Lethem ...) is to risk being branded a "snark".
Saute Wednesday has links to some of the articles nominated for the James Beard award.
Sven Birkerts discovered he was the latest target of Dale Peck's rage by noticing his book My Sky Blue Trades being hacked through with a hatchet in the New York Times photograph. He has since learned that he will be the subject of a takedown, but it will not be released until Hatchet Jobs comes out. He uses this opportunity to discuss book reviewing culture in general, before his will is destroyed. (Someone e-mailed this to me, sorry I deleted the message.)
March 26, 2004
As you all know, the AWP conference in Chicago was this week. Running around, trying to meet everyone in person I have ever exchanged e-mails with, trying to see every reading, every signing, every panel I should have been on, has taken its toll. The blog has been boring, the cats went a whole 18 hours without eating as I didn't notice we were out of food (oh, the humanity!), I've been living on peanut butter banana sandwiches and vodka tonics (oh wait, nothing new there), I've been neglectful of my wifely duties and let the boy live almost exclusively on Mexican takeout, I've even forgotten to apply to work at three places this week thus putting in jeopardy the $315 a week I get from the government to watch Law & Order reruns.
But tonight the conference ends, and thus does the chaos. But not before a big bang, one of Hindenburg proportions. I am MCing an event. Yes, I will be in public, in front of people, perhaps holding a microphone -- I don't know, the details are not all in -- making an ass out of myself. I don't know why I'm telling you, as that increases the possibility of people showing up, but perhaps you should show up, if only to give me your drink tickets. I'll need them. Shelley Jackson is going to be there, thus increasing the possibility that I'll leave with a tattoo. And if it's bad, don't blame me. Blame the Bridge Magazine/Another Chicago Magazine folks hosting the damn thing. They're the ones who didn't listen to my pleas that I suck.
Christianity Today does not appreciate New York Public Library's series on the seven deadly sins. You may have seen them in your bookstore. Francine Prose writes on Gluttony, Joseph Epstein writes on Envy, etc. The reviewer accuses the writers of not being religious scholars and for, of course, reveling in some of the sins. He spends most of the article picking apart Prose's Gluttony, which I admit I have not read. (I have, however, read her chapter on Exodus in Killing the Buddha, which was excellent and well researched. Going on that, I'm skeptical that Prose's book on Gluttony was written on her general assumptions of the church's view of the sin. After all, the only book the reviewer claimed to like was the one written by a professed Christian. I think there might be bias.) Link poached from The Literary Saloon.
The shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has been announced.
The same with reviews. Any reader will have his own opinions and can express them freely on Amazon. The more, the merrier (although it certainly helps if you can spell). But, contrary to popular belief, a review is not simply an opinion. A review is an act of persuasion, an argument. It says, "I liked this film because of that." Or "This is why that show was bad."
Therefore, "Jerome's First Law of Criticism" states: A review must earn its own authority.
This whole Richard Clarke fiasco makes me miss Ari, just a bit. The press conferences are no longer horrifying, now just boring. Anyway, if you want to know what Clarke's book Against All Enemies actually says but have no intention of buying and reading the damn thing, Slate reads it so you don't have to.
I would like to apologize to anyone who went to the Soft Skull/FC2 reading based on my recommendation. If you went, you know that Daniel Nester did not appear, as he had some "projectile vomiting" bullshit excuse. In his place was a poet who used the word "Vulva" so many times, I was beginning to think he had some sort of anatomical Tourette's. "Vulva." "Phallus." "Breasts." Oh god, make it stop.
But look! I'm "hip." That's kind of terrifying, isn't it?
March 25, 2004
On Thursday in Manhattan, Downtown for Democracy is presenting "Where's My Democracy," two back-to-back fundraising readings introduced by Jonathan Safran Foer. The authors involved include some of the most well-known names in contemporary letters: Paul Auster, Michael Cunningham, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, Gary Indiana, Jhumpa Lahiri, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Sontag, Wendy Wasserstein and Colson Whitehead, as well as Lou Reed and other "special guests."
The list of authors was put together by Foer, who attended November's auction and was inspired to get actively involved. "I had had it in my mind to put such a thing together," he says. "I wanted to do something; I was very regretful looking back four years." Foer, 27, who has never been politically active on this level before, also says, "I used to be the kind of person who thought it was enough to be informed. I voted of course."
This time around, though, he wanted to do more. "Campaign finance law is very convoluted, as is PR, as are all the things that are necessary to raise money and give it away," he says. But those aren't the only ways to get involved. "I think everyone has the same responsibility to be vocal and determined, but there are different kinds of effectiveness. I'm a writer; this is the best way I know how to contribute."
Laura Miller doesn't like the online reviewers. Gee, I wonder why. (Near the bottom of the article.)
The television show 24 will soon be a comic. Without Kiefer's malevolent purr, however, I can't say I'd be interested.
The IMPAC shortlist was announced:
The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The White Family by Maggie Gee
This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Balthasar's Odyssey by Amin Maalouf
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi
House of Day, House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk
March 24, 2004
Elvis Costello: writer?
Salon is now printing letters in response to their Jane Austen Doe article. "If you must cry in your pillow, have the good sense to do it in private." "Oh, the misery! The cruelty! The crushed dreams!" "I find it hard to have sympathy for her." Neal Pollack even chimed in.
There are only about a thousand literary things to do this week, with two writing things going on. But tomorrow (Thursday) I think you should show up to Quimby's at 7:30 p.m. Soft Skull and FC2 writers will be reading, including:
Ben Greenman (Superbad)
Clayton Eshleman (Juniper Fuse)
Brian Evenson (Dark Property: An Affliction)
Lucy Corin (Everyday Psychokillers)
A. B. West (Wakenight Emporium)
Daniel Nester (God Save My Queen)
I'm mostly going to see Nester, who last time I saw him read, ended up singing half of the Flash Gordon soundtrack with a man who had many sound effects programmed into his keyboard. Quite the evening. His book is great, and all of you in Chicago should come.
Put together by Paul Gravett, an internationally renowned expert on comic-book art (he also curated last year's Comica festival at the ICA), the exhibition features a mass of original, rare or never-seen-before art created for Alan Moore works over the last 25 years, as well as previewing The Mindscape of Alan Moore, an 80-minute documentary on the writer.
"It's an enormous honour," Moore says of the show. "Even if it makes me feel like I'm almost dead."
Pamela Ribon is finding her second manuscript difficult to sell. (Her first was the charming Why Girls Are Weird, which I read at work, hidden in my lap, risking being fired.) No word on whether the book has the robots and monkeys she hinted at in our interview.
Gillian Slovo rediscovers Anna Karenina and finds the book just as wonderful (but for different reasons) as the first time she read it.
The Guardian has a profile of V S Naipaul's political weirdnesses. The question arises: how much should a reader allow an author's personal life and political leanings affect their reaction to the author's books? The sensible answer is, of course, it shouldn't affect the reader at all. But of course it does. Perhaps this is a question for I Love Books.
More on Ms. Daphne, if you can take it.
However, to wax rhapsodic about mothers "waking up to the meaning of life" when they first hold their babies in their arms is to imply that any mother who does not experience this kind of transcendent maternal desire is a bad mother. To her credit, de Marneffe herself recognizes this dilemma and struggles with it throughout the book. She writes about maternal ambivalence, she discusses the "good enough mother." Still, inevitably, if we accept her basic argument, then every mother who greets separation from her children with relief rather than despair, who views the loss of career as a loss of self, cannot help but feel that she is a bad mother. And that is, to borrow a word from author Peggy Orenstein, a kryptonite phrase. It causes us to lose our powers.
I am still waiting for someone to write a decent book about childlessness. And I don't mean The Childless Revolution, as it was awful and written by a mother who spent many, many chapters explaining how she thought she'd never have children, but now she has a daughter, and she's the best thing in her life. So someone get on that.
Cargo Magazine is the new Lucky, which I shamefully have a subscription to. Peter Carlson
at the Washington Post believes these two magazines (or catazines, as he calls them) are signs of the apocalypse.
The apparent idea behind Lucky was simple: Women are too dumb to read magazine articles. They just want to look at pictures of shoes and makeup and handbags and hairdos. The idea was profoundly insulting to women, and women responded by enthusiastically embracing Lucky, which now sells 900,000 copies a month.
I'm sure his head would spin around to discover some of us even have subscriptions to Lucky and Atlantic Monthly (which I do read the articles of).
Sandra Tsing Loh is back on the radio, just another station.
March 23, 2004
Garrison here. Look, I'm sorry. I know you were thinking that I couldn't just repeat myself, but I can't help it. I'm stuck. I'm hoping the critics will be dumb enough to pass it off as comic literary irony, but believe me it isn't. I've just reached that point so many writers reach: I now only hang out with writers so I've no idea how anyone else lives any more. I can only write about writing, and now I've written myself into such a cul-de-sac I have writer's block.
Controversial new book House of Bush, House of Saud is finding its British publisher getting nervous about possible Saudi lawsuits and dropping the book. (If you still want to read it, however, Salon has extensive excerpts.)
The Onion could have won a Pulitzer?
"As it went around the table, you could see that people were blown away by this work," Stalberg said about the entry, which included the paper's mock Sept. 11 coverage. "But it was a little too different, a little too risky. I voted to make it a finalist, but nobody else did."
I got four e-mails asking what the venom towards Daphne de Marneffe was all about, so let me respond here quickly. Society's view of motherhood has regressed back to the 50's somehow, and those of us with no intention of having children (and are actually quite horrified at the idea) are tired of being told we're defective women. The last two books I've read (The Bride Stripped Bare and The Mommy Myth) both assumed all women are mothers, and I'm getting wary of reading books with children, mothers, breeding, etc. The first was much more obnoxious, as the character claimed she couldn't possibly imagine a real woman not wanting to have children! It's the best thing in the world! The Mommy Myth wanted to do better, but addressed all women as mothers, with one or two sentences addressed to us childless creatures. So there.
Also, several people pointed me to this link regarding Michael Moore and the lawsuit. The rest of you should read it, too.
March 22, 2004
"Though the dialogue is mostly translated into French, real connoisseurs know that the words "boin boin" signifies the bouncing of a character's breasts, while "bashi bashi" is the sound of someone being hit on the head."
People never learn. If you want a book to die, you don't sue them. You just ignore it. Bill O'Reilly ensured that Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them made the best seller list, and Michael Moore is now causing How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office to get a lot of attention.
I'm sure many people have commented on this already, but it takes some sort of weird hubris to write what "Jane Austen Doe" did for Salon.com. That really has to be the worst pen name ever, and again with the hubris. Her "five things you can do to save the midlist author" is a bit ridiculous. I have a few suggestions for the midlist author to help themselves:
1. Do not fear the Internet. Update your goddamn website every once in a while, because as nice as it is to know exactly where you were reading a year and a half ago, it doesn't really help us find your current book tour info. And find someone who can make your website look, at the very least, readable. Authors have the ugliest websites in the world, and there's just no need for that.
2. Before your first book has come out, and you're still pretty sure you're going to be wildly successful because your publisher is throwing you a release party, be nice to the female website editor. Yes, she's drunk on the free whiskey and probably has smoked salmon and caviar breath, but when she comes up to you to actually talk about your book and possibly being interviewed on her popular website, do not accuse her of not having read your book and then ignore her for cleavage girl. She will never mention your book on her website. Ever.
3. You can help generate word of mouth, all by yourself. Tour your ass off. Instead of a general review book firebombing, research which publications would be most likely to review your book and send signed copies or nice notes along with the book. Instead of changing your name when you write a provocative online piece, use your real name. People are at least interested in what books you're talking about.
4. Write a good book and have an excellent editor.
I got an e-mail from someone trying to convince me to break the story of who Belle de Jour really was. I really couldn't care less, so I ignored the damn thing. The next day everyone was excitedly declaring Sarah Champion of Disco Biscuits the culprit. She writes her denial at the Guardian.
Only after he hung up, did I discover why he was so excited. Belle De Jour was a website proclaiming itself the 'Diary of a London Call Girl' and guessing the identity of its anonymous writer had become an obsession among the media and bloggers since it was revealed that she had signed a 'six-figure' book deal.
So Thursday morning saw me share the front page of the Times with Gordon Brown's Budget. And inside, across two pages, was the newspaper's verdict: I was either a fraud or a whore.
I canceled my subscription to Ms years ago, but every once and a while I flip through it, hoping it had gotten much better. But if a feminist magazine can't even publish a really good review of Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery, what hope is there?
March 19, 2004
Proving once again that just because you're an independent, that doesn't mean you have better taste in books or know of ignored gems. It's the 2004 - 2005 Reading Group Suggestions List from Book Sense. Ah yes, that neglected Da Vinci Code. If only people would read that book! Life of Pi, I Don't Know How She Does It, Middlesex, and The Red Tent. All reasons why I have abandoned book groups.
For some reason I'm just now getting around to linking to this profile of Vertical Books in the New York Times. Bookslut loves Vertical. They send us many very good books. I can't believe Twinkle Twinkle has sold so few copies, however. Buy a copy, you bastards.
I have read exactly one book on the Samuel Johnson longlist, Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time. Okay, even that's a lie. I'm about 100 pages into it, and it's amazing. Who knew I'd ever read a book about chess. I do own a few of the other books on the list. I may even get to them at some time or another. Until I do, though, I'm rooting for Bobby Fischer.
Test your Dr. Seuss knowledge at the Guardian.
Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" celebrates a phenomenal first anniversary this week. The publisher claims it's "the bestselling adult novel of all time within a one-year period."
I may have just lost the will to live.
So this is the third intervention of the United States in Haiti in the past hundred years or so. The first time, the longest occupation, the 19-year occupation from 1915 to 1934, they created the army, this army that was the bane of everybody’s existence... So we have these interventions where the United States swoops down and appears to rescue us, but nothing long-term seems to be done. I think the United States, they have their interests, which sometimes appear to have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Haiti. Or anywhere else where they’re liberating people.
Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament is good, if slightly flawed. I do have trouble recommending it, because there are just too many ifs. If you can stand a narrator you may hate. If you can overlook the child-warms-the-icy-heart cliche. If elaborately sculptured insults amuse you as much as they do me. But perhaps reading this interview with Christensen will help you decide for yourself.
Several people sent me this link of Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop's closure. The website gives 12 reasons for the death of small and independent bookstores.
4. Writers--who sell their souls to be published, write what is already being written or choose the new for its own sake, opt to feed the demands of editors rather than do their own best work, place style over substance, and bear no standards--for boring their readers unto television.
March 18, 2004
Newspapers are really excited to report on the dismal sales of Jayson Blair's book. Elated, even.
The individual article nominees are now listed for the National Magazine Awards. Caitlin Flanagan is nominated. Just watch the bloggers fume.
Susan Shapiro Barash is interviewed at Nerve about her book The New Wife: The Evolving Role of the American Wife. As someone who never planned out her dream wedding at the age of ten, and who has trouble saying "Congratulations" instead of "I'm sorry" when friends announce engagements, I don't know what the fuck she's on about.
The twenty-first-century wife is someone who finally has taken a look at the examples. There's her grandmother, who's probably still married to her grandfather. There's her mother, the baby boomer, who's disillusioned. There's her aunt who's forty and has a great job as a lawyer, but is dealing with fertility clinics. The new wife wants the self-confidence that her mother had in the workplace, the education that the '80s and '90s made a necessity, and the glamour and nourishment her grandmother had. She wants to get married younger, she wants to be available to her husband. She'll be well-educated, but doesn't feel this pull of right or wrong over missing one beat in the workplace. Her attitude is "I'll have children young, I'll go back to work and use my degree as I see fit." Women have never said that before.
Why do I have the feeling this woman will show up on Oprah pretty damn soon?
Gail Rebuck is going against the doomsayers of the publishing industry. As the world gets more chaotic, she proposes, people will crave less chaotic media.
The qualities that brands and institutions want are trust, authenticity, emotion, respect, personalisation and empowerment. Presentations outlined the exponential increase in the media, with individuals having to contend with a bewildering amount of messages: hundreds of TV channels, millions of websites, 250 commercial radio stations, 8,000 magazines, third-generation mobile phones, text messaging. Every Saturday or Sunday broadsheet newspaper contains more information than the average person in the 17th century would have been exposed to in a lifetime.
The result is the ever-increasing necessity to shout louder to get heard. The accent is on the sensational, the personal, the controversial, anything to stand out from the crowd. It means that seriousness, reflection, and balance are squeezed out. And one of the effects is a spiralling crisis in the relationship between media, politics and the people. The media is accused of distortion and cynicism, the government is accused of spin in its attempts to get over its message and the public ends up confused, disillusioned and often angry. This relationship is near breaking point. This is the world of inauthentic communication; communication that is losing trust. Both media and politicians need to step back and rethink the relationship.
Yet people crave moments of authenticity. And so as I listened to those marketing presentations, as speaker after speaker outlined the attributes of successful products and campaigns, one word kept coming into my mind: books. What the marketeers believed to be desirable in every product were the very characteristics of the industry I had been part of all my life. The oldest of all the media, ironically, is the one most in tune with the times.
March 17, 2004
The National Magazine Award finalists have been announced. I see Chicago Magazine was nominated for General Excellence in its circulation bracket. Does anyone read it? I've lived here for months and I have yet to pick the damn thing up. I'm still waiting for them to update the press release with specific article information on the nominees, which they said would be up at noon.
The relationship between writer and subject is as fraught with hopes and fears as a marriage. It is not for nothing that the process usually begins with the "proposal", in which the writer - who, of course, has not yet researched the subject - is supposed to summarise the as yet unwritten book in the hope of securing a contract from a publisher. Before the proposal, however, there must be a period of courtship. For some enviable souls, it is love at first sight. But being the sort of indecisive person who needs to call in a therapist when faced with a restaurant menu, committing myself to a new book was a near-traumatic experience.
Bookslut's poetry columnist Dale Smith and Hoa Nguyen are the new parents of Waylon Hart. All of my love, Dale and Hoa. Congratulations.
Viggo Mortensen has co-founded a publishing company, Perceval Press. They have already published 20 or so books, almost all of them limited runs available only on their website. Mortensen is not content to let the publisher be his sole contribution to literature, however. He's also writing. Poetry.
Stunning revelations about Sam Tanenhaus, the new editor of the New York Times Book Review: He may or may not be a Republican! He watches American Idol! He prefers nonfiction to fiction! Yeah, I don't care either.
March 16, 2004
This review of The Bronte Myth makes me want to buy the book, and the byline of the reviewer made me wonder why the hell a book reviewer would have a pen name. "Dana Stevens (a k a Liz Penn) is a scholar of comparative literature. She writes about television for Slate.com and on film and culture for the High Sign (www.thehighsign.net)." Crabwalk.com tries to figure out where Liz Penn begins and Dana Stevens ends.
I just realized what hell would be like for me: trapped on a cruiseship with romance novelists with no end to the turgid prose in sight. Someone has made my worst fear a reality. (Thanks to Kathleen for the link.)
Sandra Tsing Loh, author of A Year in Van Nuys and Depth Takes a Holiday, was fired as an NPR commentator when she used the word "fuck" on air. It was actually the mistake of her engineer, forgetting to bleep a pre-recorded commentary before it aired, but in these post-Janet times, god knows we must Protect The Children! She was offered her job back, but she declined. She's interviewed in Salon about why she turned them down and how it got blown out of proportion.
Joseph Roth has been getting a lot of attention lately. Most of his books are being brought back into print by Overlook Press, What I Saw, his amazing account of post WWI Berlin, was recently published, and now the Prague writers festival is being dedicated to Roth.
A collection of Arthur Conan Doyle papers -- including the first sketches of Sherlock Holmes -- are being auctioned. They are expected to fetch over 2 million pounds.
It's time for women's magazines to make all of us with the double x chromosome ashamed by producing the candidate fluff pieces.
Next week, a tiny Brooklyn-based publisher will bring out "How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office." The book, a low-budget paperback written by a group of political activists, is not to be confused with "Stupid White Men," a HarperCollins best seller by the filmmaker and author Michael Moore, which remains in hardcover.
But HarperCollins has been concerned about just that sort of confusion. In November, HarperCollins wrote to the Brooklyn publisher, Soft Skull Press, demanding that the title be changed and stating that the similarities would cause "irreparable damage" to Mr. Moore and his book.
Thanks for the Bloggie, guys. Evidently I get a pin (and cash!). Very sweet of you to vote.
March 15, 2004
A bestselling woman author said that she gave "generous" praise for books she considered "dire". She described it as a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" culture, with authors helping each other irrespective of the merits of the books.
Bonnie Greer thinks television is good for books. The Oprah-phenomenon has moved to the UK, where Richard & Judy makes books shoot up the bestseller list. Greer took part in the show about Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea, a book that is too good to ever have appeared on the Oprah show. (It's too bad the book hasn't been championed this well in the U.S.)
If I had known Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness -- and Liberalism -- to the Women of America had outlined the liberal media conspiracy and tied it to women's magazines, I would have requested a review copy just for giggles. Betsy Carter responds to the author's claims.
Ian Rankin, for whatever reason, decided that he could psychologically profile someone by their favorite records. There are stunning revelations (for example, the man who likes hip hop couldn't possibly be a native Texan). One of the profile subjects is dreamy Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly, which I have kept my subscription of up here in Illinois. He likes High Fidelity. My crush only grows stronger.
Popmatters has an interview with Josh Thorpe of Off Cut Press and its latest book, Very Short Stories. Each story in the collection is less than one hundred characters long. (And yes, I typed that correctly.)
Yes, the 100-character constraint places great limitations on narrative possibility. It also creates all kinds of freedoms. There is a wonderful history of constraint in art-making, the most obvious recent example being Christian Bok's Eunoia, the book that limits each chapter to words containing a single vowel. The French Oulipo movement is another. Artists who place restrictions on their art-making tend to focus their attention on media and materials. Consequently, their stories employ wordplay, fantasy, strange imagery, and a kind of brilliant succinctness, but not much personal confession or emotional subtlety.
March 11, 2004
Sometimes it's nice to have an all encompassing excuse. After two weeks of headaches, a general hangover feeling, never getting enough sleep, I come to discover that my furnace has been slowly killing me with carbon monoxide. I'm going to use this as my excuse for everything now, including my blogging absence tomorrow. But to anyone I've been rude to, yelled at, fucked up an interview with, whatever, I blame the carbon monoxide. (It's not an honest excuse for most of it, but I'm going with it nonetheless.)
Nothing is working today. My server keeps cutting in and out, Amazon Associates is giving me shit, and I have no heat in my apartment on a day in Chicago with a 40 degree high and the repair guy is nowhere to be found. So I'm going to the coffeeshop to huddle for warmth. We'll try again tomorrow.
The Village Voice deserves some sort of award for printing the shortest author interviews ever. This time, Robert Newman gets to say 136 words, or thereabouts, about The Fountain at the Center of the World. If you go to his official website, you can read many more of his words.
Martin Amis writes about Saul Bellow. (Bellow was, as you'd imagine, not so big on Jesus week.)
It's Jesus week! I wish someone had told me it was Jesus week. I feel so overdressed. Anyway, it's another story about Jesus, this time it's the illustration work of the Good News Bible. Very influential, blah blah blah. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a bundt cake for Jesus.
You can read the New York Times press release naming Sam Tanenhaus the new book editor.
With the next installment of Left Behind, Glorious Appearing is already a bestseller, even though the release date is still weeks away. The Passion is making a scary amount of money. The new book Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture examines the Christian fringe media, which is becoming less and less fringe with every success. (Link from The Rage Diaries.)
Yellow Dog bombed, not putting Martin Amis in the best position to negotiate a new publishing contract in the states. But on the bright side: "Writers like Martin always sell over time," Mr. Wylie said. "Scott Fitzgerald was broke when he died, but his publisher has done very well."
March 10, 2004
From a press release just e-mailed to me:
Sources indicate that NY Times management has announced to the Book Review staff that biographer Sam Tanenhaus will be the next editor of the section. The news was reportedly greeted with, in the words of one insider, "a sigh of relief" because of Tanenhaus' genial reputation and literary credentials. More later.
From a press release I received:
Revolve, the Bible for teen girls that looks like a fashion magazine,
was the #1 bestselling Bible for 2003. REFUEL is a Bible for teen guys in
the same magazine style format and will be in stores late April. The women's
version, Becoming, debuts in June.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.) In 2003, the Bible publishing industry was turned upside
down with the release of Revolve: The Complete New Testament, a Bible for
teen girls that looks like a hip magazine. Despite only being in the
marketplace for six months, Revolve was the #1 best-selling Bible of 2003 -
to the surprise and delight of its publisher, Transit/Nelson Bibles (Thomas
Nelson). Nearly everyone who got their hands on Revolve (including The New
York Times magazine and NBC's The Today Show) asked, "Will there be a guys'
The answer is a resounding YES, and it's about to hit bookstores nationwide,
taking teen guys by storm. It's cool, timely, and fashionable; it's the
Bible packaged in an easily-digestible form. Refuel (March 2004,
Transit/Nelson Bibles (Thomas Nelson). $16.99, 0-7180-0676-3) is designed to
meet teen guys where they are with relevant topics alongside the Scripture
of the New Testament in the easiest to read translation of the New Century
A recent survey conducted by the National Study of Youth & Religion
(http://www.youthandreligion.org/index.html) states that it is an incorrect
stereotype that teens are disconnected from organized religion-and that it's
getting worse. Their study shows that "the majority of 12th graders in the
U.S. (approximately 2/3) do not appear to be alienated from or hostile
toward organized or established religion." Refuel is here to meet the needs
of young men who are interested in what the Bible has to say, yet rarely
crack the leather-bound edition, much less carry it to school or to their
Refuel, with photos of a guitar and young guys on its cover, contains
information that guys are looking for, such as:
· Inside Her Head: Real Girls Give Their Opinions
· 72 Lists: On Everything
· Look Cool: Tips on Your Self
· Dive In: How to Make Your Faith Real
· 140 Ways to Walk the Walk
The Bible-zine, a term coined by Thomas Nelson to describe this new genre of
Bibles, also contains information on serious topics, such as sex, rape,
drugs and hazing. Refuel was written by youth pastors and has passed the
"cool test" from teen guys across the country.
"When Revolve was released, we had emails pouring in, asking us to create
the same type of product for guys. It's hard being a teen male. There's a
great deal of pressure to be and look cool," explains Laurie Whaley,
spokesperson for Refuel and Brand Manager for Nelson Bibles. "The guys who
have seen Refuel are really glad they have a resource to turn to during this
time of life."
Break out your Star Trek costume and your geekiest self and get ready for convention season. Sequential Tart has your spring and summer planned out.
Manga gets little respect in the comic book world, and as a result, the legions of girly manga fans are dismissed a well. But Barb Lien-Cooper would like to point out that manga has worth and can be art just as any other comic book can.
Speaking of 3am Magazine, I just came across their interview with Irvine Welsh. He reacts to the Alexander McCall Smith one-sided brawl from earlier this year: "A travesty. A travesty! Fantastic! Fantastic! It saves my publisher on their PR budget. I just think it is too trivial to respond to."
"We're exploring legal options. Just because the Mirror is owned by a conglomerate doesn't give them the right to rip off other people's identities. We don't want people to get the wrong idea about us," he added.
Nicholas Wright's version of Pullman's story in fact brings into sharper focus some of these issues. It is clear very early on that there is a plan to overthrow the Authority and that the Church is aware of this and determined to prevent it. What takes Pullman a long stretch of very subtle development to uncover is here foregrounded almost at once. But what kind of a church is it that lives in perpetual and murderous anxiety about the fate of its God?
Salman Rushdie has been named the new president of the PEN organization.
March 9, 2004
Page 264: Blair offers a new excuse for his inventions. He was do-gooding. He had visited a man in prison, taught at an inner-city school, and visited his girlfriend's childhood weekend home in Morris, N.Y. Also, he was tired.
I'm trying to keep the Blair coverage to a minimum here. Hopefully this will be the end of it.
I have no idea if the book is any good, but the website for Lisa33 is rather amusing. Instead of the standard "read some blurbs and an interview or two" website, Dan Allan has a list of books "other people seem to like a lot that I didn’t get at all," "very rarely asked questions," and his favorite shape. (Isosceles triangle, in case you were wondering.) And if you click on "Frustrations," you come across his plea to other authors:
Stop! O literary novelists, stop tormenting us! We know that healing takes time! We believe you! We swear it! Also, we know that homosexual men can form close friendships with single women, wherein they talk together about their guy problems. We know that mother / daughter relationships are often fraught with a complex mixture of love and competition and pain and joy. And yes, we know that cancer is a terrible disease. Enough! If your book is centered around teaching us about any of these insights, we beg you now. Stop! Stop writing immediately!
The Boston Globe has an interview with the never-stopping Fanny Howe about her new book The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Work and Life and her comment that Boston "is a parochial and paranoid city. It doesn't admit its own defects, and it belittles its own children as a result."
Some have argued that the logical conclusion of a meritocracy is that the poor deserve to be at the bottom of the heap because they are lazy. This is not true. This book is the laziest piece of cut-and-pasting statements of the obvious you could wish for, and I'm not poor.
BBC has a World Book Day opening lines quiz. I did miserably.
Wondering where the hell all of the fiction writers in Chicago are? (Have you tried looking in the slaughterhouses? Oh wait. Wrong era.) Alice Maggio at Gaper's Block gives you a few places to start looking.
New issue up. Bookslut is introducing a new series of interviews with literary journal editors, and it begins this issue with an interview with Gina Frangello of Chicago's Other Voices. She discusses the state of literary journals, the everpresent Steve Almond, and her own attempts to jump from editor to writer. Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet of KillingtheBuddha.com were wrangled into having lunch with me on their recent book tour (still going; see if they're coming to your town), and I'm thrilled they agreed. As I've said on this blog before, some of the chapters to Killing the Buddha have been the best things I've read all year (and yes, I'm aware it's only the beginning of March). They pretty much interviewed themselves, talking about their writing processes, trying to get a publisher to agree to their unique ideas for a book, and a few stories behind the stories that made it into the book.
In columns, Tom Bernard, our faithful Cookslut, takes a break from reviewing books and decides to review a pamphlet instead. Fucking Starbucks. Liz Miller raises a glass to the Sex and the City book, but wonders what the hell happened to the TV show. Karin Kross is getting an education in Buddha, and Adam Lipkin is scared of cities.
March 8, 2004
Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire has been released, and he discusses the book with Alan David Doane. It's one of the better interviews I've read with him, if only because Doane actually lets him talk. If the Internet has been good for literature at all, it's been the space allowed interviews with writers. It's also very refreshing to read an interview with Moore that doesn't use up three or four paragraphs explaining just how weird he looks and that whole snake worshipping thing. So thank you for that.
Salon has created a ruckus over the book Generation S.L.U.T. After they printed a very unflattering interview with the author, they got a large amount of angry letters calling Marty Beckerman "a self-centered blowhard," "greenhorn," and "another angry young man without anything meaningful to contribute." Now the author would like to respond, and he says he was tricked by the interviewer. He claims she changed the wording of her questions, making it look like he was responding to statements he wasn't. (He did not, however, have any excuses for the bizarre statements he made about feminism.)
Chicago's 848 has developed a list of books you should read if you want to truly understand Chicago. It's a long list, full of books like Native Son, The Devil and the White City, and Chicago: City on the Make. (Link from Gaper's Block.)
Neil Gaiman helps clear up a rumor being spread about Alan Moore's involvement with the upcoming Hellblazer movie. Ain't It Cool News (really, there's a reason no one uses them as a legitimate news source) announced Alan Moore is refusing all film adaptations because of how bad Constantine is about to be. (And for those of you who are optimistic, no. They cast Keanu as Constantine. Gavin Fucking Rossdale is in this movie. God have mercy on their souls.)
The Pulitzer Prize does not release its list of nominations until it actually gives the award. Instead of waiting until April 5, however, the Washingtonian discusses an unofficial list that is circulating throughout newsrooms. The story only talks about the newspaper nominations, but it looks like it is not going to be NYT's year. (Link from Crabwalk.)
The problem is that any pile of stones is passive, or dead, whereas the Holocaust is still very much alive for many people. In fact, I’ve striven -- how successfully, I don’t know -- to keep it alive for my children. When they were three, I read them Maus, at four Elie Wiesel’s Night. By five they knew that the best wooden toys and tastiest “gummy” candies were frequently made in Germany and therefore forbidden in our house. At six, they’d rather walk than ride in a Mercedes. The Shoah was mother’s milk to my children; the sun rises in the east and the Germans kill the Jews.
Have I mentioned I love Melvin Jules Bukiet? Perhaps you should read A Faker's Dozen. Or his Ezekiel chapter in Killing the Buddha, one of the best stories in the collection. Or scour the KtB archives, there's some Bukiet to be read there.
That picture of masculinity is drawn by men and women, but I think women tend to write about the relationship stuff a bit more, so we get their picture more than we get the male's. Going through a million women, not getting attached, being the emotionally unavailable guy — all that seems to be how people look at men in the dating world. And I've never found that to be true. Me and my friends have never approached it that way. The way men are drawn hurts me when I'm trying to date, when I talk to a woman: She's already looking at me like I'm some kind of player because I have the balls to talk to her. It's always shitty to have someone on their guard like that, but especially when you're trying to get them into bed.
The wisdom of the dick lit writer...
March 5, 2004
That wraps it up for me this week. It's been a (mostly) pleasant experience. Thanks for reading, and look for Jessa's return.
Percival Everett has a new novel, American Desert, coming out in May. Along with David Markson, he's one of the more intriguing experimental novelists working now, so the new book should be worth checking out. In the meantime, read a profile of him here and an interview with him here.
It must be Friday afternoon, since I'm dicking around online with diversions like this, from our friends at the Beeb.
Worth bookmarking if you haven't already: Word Spy, a site devoted to lexpionage ("the sleuthing of new words and phrases"). New this week: "tunnel advertising," "flying while Muslim," and "frienemy."
Graffiti seen on the walls of a U.S. soldiers' latrine in Iraq: "Who's your Baghdaddy?" (As reported in Rick Atkinson's new book about being embedded with the troops: In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat. Yes, he's a WaPo reporter. No, I don't know him.)
Sigh. Today's the day the Jayson Blair floodgates really bust open, as more reviews and outraged commentaries come rolling in and Katie Couric Asks Blair the Tough (but Perky) Questions on tonight's "Dateline."
This year's Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee (of "Spellbound" fame) will be held here in DC June 1-4, 2004. Unfortunately, tix aren't available to the general public ("spellers, sponsors, spellers' family members, and credentialed media" only), but you can read about how they compile the National Word list and read about the word-selection process here. Download an audio version of last year's Paideia, "a comprehensive recording of long-time national finals pronouncer [after seeing the movie, I'd have suggested "pompous ass"] Dr. Alex J. Cameron pronouncing each word . . . and giving a brief definition."
To hell with serious literature. This is the job for me. (Free registration required.)
Edward P. Jones's The Known World took top fiction honors at last night's National Book Critics Circle Awards ceremony. I haven't seen much in the news yet about who said what and whether there were any Stephen King moments, but in the meantime you can read about some of the lit prizes they handed out this week north of the border.
Why do I find literary prizes, even when they honor books and writers I admire, vaguely depressing?
March 4, 2004
Maybe it's just a Brit thing, but accountants in the U.K. spend more time reading for pleasure than members of any other profession do.
No jokes about Tolkien readers, please.
Just name somebody already and put us all out of our misery. (Second item.)
Although it has been entertaining to read all the bitching and whining about what the NYTBR will or won't be like under Chip McGrath's not-yet-named successor. Who knows? Maybe the suits in charge of making the decision actually do give a [several expletives would work here--pick the one you like best] about the before-the-fact backlash.
And if you're ISO a good DC novel (almost as elusive a beast as the Great American Novel), Robert Nedelkoff recommends The Bold Saboteurs by Chandler Brossard. "Brossard was a DC native (so native his brother-in-law was Clyde Tolson's roommate before Clyde moved in with J. Edgar Hoover) . . . . He's probably best known for Who Walk In Darkness, with its fictionalized portraits of Kerouac, William Gaddis, and Anatole Broyard in their youth, but a good many of his handful of readers regard Saboteurs (the story of a youthful hophead/car thief in the DC of the 1930's) as the better book; in some ways, it could almost be said to prefigure Pelecanos' work."
DC writers, installment #3: I deliberately haven't mentioned any writers of nonfiction. This town is lousy with presidential biographers, policy-tome wonks and political memoirists; they don't need any more ink than they already get. There are a lot of people here doing other kinds of nonfiction too, natch, but I'm sticking to fiction writers and poets for the time being.
A reader wants me to mention Margaret Truman, whose Murder at the Library of Congress he found "a bit unsatisfying as a mystery, but refreshingly pro-sex for the over-sixties."
Follow-up: If I could figure out how to point you to this appreciation of Literary Washington without looking like it's an ego-link, I'd do it, but I can't. So read it if you're interested and just skip over the bit about me.
Number of places occupied by Dan "Da Vinci Code" Brown on this week's WaPo bestseller list: 5
Learning that in high school he was known for his improv jazz-piano stylings: priceless.
March 3, 2004
Lord help us, it's another embargoed book. This one, by Valerie Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, promises to reveal the name of the person who leaked word of Plame's CIA cover to columnist Robert Novak.
The March/April issue of Speakeasy offers tips from Walt Whitman, Emily Carter and others on how to live the good life.
Jonathem Lethem may have started it, Mark Haddon and Elizabeth Moon took it in a new direction, and now Matthew Sharpe extends the franchise: fiction that features characters whose peculiar conditions (e.g., Tourette's, autism, coma-induced aphasia) give their stories a distinctly syncopated beat. Even though I think critics should avoid phrases like "best thing I've read all year"--along with references to spare, lyrical or muscular prose and metaphors that involve painting portraits and weaving tapestries--this review of Sharpe's new novel, The Sleeping Father, does make it sound pretty darn good.
Followup: Yes, I've read The Sound and the Fury. Thanks for asking.
Poet Nikki Giovanni thinks one out of every 10 people should be sent to space.
Tomorrow is World Book Day (celebrated tomorrow--but only in the U.K. and Ireland, as far as I can tell, which makes the name a tad puzzling. More on that here.). Hey, kids--J.K. Rowling's going to do a live online chat, along with "11 other children's authors in an unprecedented author-reader interface"! Log on to the Festival online and ask JK how it feels to be a billionaire.
Which brings me to Women's History Month. This year's theme: "Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility," which sounds like a bad rewrite of woman-as-muse. 2004 honorees include Maxine Hong Kingston, Leslie Marmon Silko and Jill Ker Conway. (Is having three names some kind of special qualification?) I recognize the good intentions of the organizers of events like this and World Book Day, and perhaps the educational/promotional opportunities are enough to justify doling out days and months to various good causes, but it feels more like ghettoization than progress. There, there, you had your day/week/month, what are you complaining about?
If you're in DC or New York next week and in a hardboiled mood, Ian Rankin and George Pelecanos are going to be doing two double-bill readings. NYC: 3/9 at the 82nd Street Barnes & Noble at 7:30 p.m. DC area: 3/10 at the Borders in Bailey's Crossroads, Va., 7:30 p.m.
Does Ian Rankin really account for 10 percent of all British crime-book sales? Holy cow. Writers are turning into conglomerates.
March 2, 2004
Paging Iceberg Slim: The Boston Globe investigates hip-hop lit.
SF Weekly goes to the Alternative Press Expo--and finds too few pictures worth a thousand words.
More writers with DC ties, courtesy of various readers (thanks to everyone who e-mailed names--keep 'em coming):
Carolyn Parkhurst, Carolivia Herron, Robert Bausch (brother of), Susan Shreve, Patricia Elam, Martha Grimes, Anthony Hecht, Maxine Clair, Leslie Pietrzyk, Vikram Chandra ... Alain de Botton used to spend half the year here, but maybe he's thrown us over for swankier locales.
Thank god they didn't give this roundup to Caitlin Flanagan.
One fish, two fish: It's Dr. Seuss's 100th birthday today!
What a lot of funny things there are.
Meanwhile, over in England, they're kicking around the last 40 years of lit history, according to Randall Stevenson, author of The Oxford English Literary History, vol 12, 1960-2000: The Last of England. Seems like his book made some folks over there hopping mad. "There are still critics who find any such account of English culture - varied, dynamic and democratic - peculiarly hard to swallow, preferring to go on equating tradition with virtue; the popular and entertaining with the familiar and the unadventurous."
As admirable as its mission is--"a nonprofit publisher . . . dedicated to preserving the works of America's greatest writers in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts"--I can't shake the feeling that the Library of America is turning into a reliquarium of mid-20th-century American writing that nobody really wants to read anymore. Case in point: the Library's latest offering, James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy. Not on my Christmas list, anyway. Others disagree.
Small, telling technical glitch: When you go to the Library of America's "New & Forthcoming Titles" web page and click on the two March offerings--Studs and Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (can you ever have too many copies, really?), you get a blurb for Novels, 1920-1925 by John Dos Passos.
Followup: Yes, I know that "mid-20th-century" is a loose term. I tend to use it to mean roughly 1930-1970, but those are loose boundaries. Yes, I know that the Library of America publishes things from--gasp!--other centuries too. No, I don't have anything against "the past" per se, just against valuing things simply because they've been around for a while--a bad habit in certain lit-crit circles.
George Pelecanos. Richard Bausch. Gary Krist. Tom Carson. Louis Bayard. Curtis Sittenfeld. Edward P. Jones. Matt Klam. Howard Norman. Thomas Mallon (recent transplant). Frederick Reuss. Robert Girardi. Alice McDermott. Did I mention George Pelecanos?
Some reasons why DC isn't the literary wasteland it's sometimes made out to be. (It bothers me I can't think of more local female writers at the moment. I know you're out there.)
This looks like a good read, especially if you're feeling cosmically challenged. (And who isn't?) Lucy Ellmann is Richard's daughter, FYI.
March 1, 2004
That same WaPo colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous, adds this: "Nowhere is this epidemic more prevalent than in children's publishing. The latest infections are from Jay Leno (If Roast Beef Could Fly), Maria Shriver (What's Happening to Grandpa?) and Billy Crystal (I Already Know I Love You). Nothing against these folks, but their books tend to swallow up all the attention and publishers' marketing budgets, forcing more talented and deserving authors to the sidelines."
Good point. And my 18-month-old daughter is obsessed with Madonna's Mr. Peabody's Apples ("Billy thought Mr. Peabody was the greatest!"), which I should never, ever have brought home from the office. I can only hope that it's the groovy, smalltown-America illustrations by Loren Long she digs.
Missing your weekly dose of Whedon wit on the now-defunct "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"? (I am.) Like "X-Men" comix? (I do.) If your answer to both questions is yes, this tidbit from Scifiwire will come as good news.
Followup comment from a WaPo colleague: "It occurs to me that hiring big-time writers to do comics is roughly analogous to the stunt-casting taking place on Broadway. 'Chicago' has featured a number of dubious but well-known celebrities, as have 'Rent' and 'Aida.' The latest is 'A Raisin in the Sun' starring Sean Puffy Combs. Ouch!"
Most Depressing Thing I've Read Lately (from David Markson's new novel, Vanishing Point): "But now the garret is a thing of the past. A good writer is a rich writer, and a rich writer is a good writer. Proclaimed an awesomely cognizant, incomparably discerning magazine editor named Lewis Lapham ca. 2001."
Did Lapham really say this? If so, the many underpublished, underfunded, abundantly talented fiction writers I know will find it very encouraging.
If you're in the mood for non-Cooveresque experimental fiction, take a look at Vanishing Point. Markson builds the book, like its predecessors This Is Not a Novel and Reader's Block, from anecdotes and quotes that have nothing and everything to do with the narrator, here called Author and, from the hidden-in-plain-sight evidence, a man on the verge of total breakdown. The Complete Review's writeup picked up on the Lapham quote too--that one really jumps out at you--but I think the Onion's take (linked to by CR) is more interesting.
For the 12 people who really care about the backstage machinations surrounding the Blair book and the broken embargo, Romenesko links to this story from Editor & Publisher: "New York Papers Break Silence...." And the Post (that's DC, not New York) ran this on Saturday. Watch the accusations fly. Stay tuned for the lawsuit.
Thanks for the kind intro, Jessa. Lord knows what you were thinking when you asked me to do this, but I appreciate it. Enjoy your week off.
Monday morning pre-9 a.m. is way too early to think about anything more literary than the Oscars--which were, for Hollywood, pretty lit-heavy this year. (I'm not sure Blake Edwards's flirty little nod to Julie Andrews's "promiscuous vocabulary" counts--and someone explain to me why Oprah introduced "Mystic River"?) Four of the five Best Pic nominees were based on books. Renee Zellweger, whatever you think of her or "Cold Mountain," at least remembered that the thing had an author to begin with--and thanked him first in her acknowledgements. And "J-dot-R-dot-R-dot Tolkien," as Ian McKellen called him, got mentioned more times than Harvey Weinstein. Progress? In red-carpet terms, maybe.
Now I can spend the rest of the morning trying to figure out why review outlets like the WaPo have to sign confidentiality agreements promising not to review embargoed books like Jayson Blair's Burning Down My Master's House before pub date when Amazon apparently will sell one to any NYT news aide with a credit card. (See end of story.)