April 30, 2004
From the Holt Uncensored mailing list:
Let me get this straight: BookExpo America, the annual book convention
that opens in Chicago on June 4, is representing Borders Books and Music
as a sales agent this year. The BEA's job is to sell "slots" of time to
book publishers, who will in turn get to pitch their Fall titles to
managers of Borders stores.
It's just that even I can't believe that mainstream book publishers -
accustomed though they are to groveling at the feet of chain bookstores
- have fallen so low that they'll pay $1,500 for TEN MINUTES worth of
breakfast time with Borders personnel, and $6,000 for a 40-MINUTE
presentation, and only then IF Borders invites 'em to come.
I would just like to mention that I will also take $1,500 to listen to publishers pitch. Actually, to be perfectly honest, all you'd have to do is buy me some alcohol and tacos, slip me a $20, and I'd probably review your book. So get in line, publishers and authors. My time is precious.
Michelle Tea has a lot going on these days. Her book of poetry The Beautiful just came out. She edited Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class and co-edited Pills, Thrills, Chills, and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person, both recent releases. Two more books are due this summer, a compilation and a graphic novel. And now she's the subject of a long profile in the Boston Phoenix.
It's not too often that reading an interview with an author I'm unfamiliar with makes me want to run out and buy their books, but I think this interview with Jenny Diski qualifies. Many of her books seem to be out of print in the US, but I may have luck with Stranger on a Train and Only Human, and perhaps I'll have to import her new book After These Things from Amazon.co.uk.
The Bitch in the House doesn't pretend to supply solutions, only "consolation." There's "no advice at all," as Karen Karbo intelligently notes at the end of her essay. Yet the cumulative complaints—most of which concern vestigial social pressures to get married and be perfect mothers—betray a kind of self-perpetuating martyrdom ethos at work. The model of angelic wifeliness embodied by, say, India Bridge in Mrs. Bridge and Edna Pontellier in The Awakening has been replaced by the flaws-and-all model exemplified by Kate Reddy in Allison Pearson's novel. What hasn't changed is the heroic light in which we're supposed to view female feats, whether of fervent devotion or frantic multitasking; implicit in the subversive "bitch" label is a touch of self-congratulation. A mother may snap at her children, but she still has the moral high ground: someone (her husband or society) has failed her. Playing the self-sacrificing, micromanaging martyr is easier—and nobler—than being merely overworked and tired.
Oh, Meghan O'Rourke, how I love you.
"If men are good at anything, it's pat solutions," a contributor writes, invoking one of the oldest male stereotypes in the book as he advises stressed-out working mothers to "buck up." He suspects women will bridle, and the truth is what's bracing about this book is the way the guys—wittingly or not—keep undercutting reductive gender analysis. The bastards' stories make clear that they know better than to believe in quick, across-the-board fixes. Nor do they seem to set much store by a one-size-fits-all diagnosis of the problem.
Ann Hulbert is pretty good, too, pointing out that The Bastard on the Couch's audience is of course going to be women. No matter what the editor of the book says.
Seattle is jealous of Spokane's "Get Lit!" festival. Hell, after the reading the article, I am, too. I haven't been to Chicago's lit festival yet; I'm just coming off of five years of the Texas Book Fest. There's no way the Seattle book fest is worse than that.
But everyone should be jealous of Spokane's book fest. It sounds awesome. The lineup for Printer's Row is unfortunately not as good.
April 29, 2004
DEAR MR. WORDWISE: When my friend (actually, a friend of my wife's) won the Giller Prize 10 years ago, everyone made a big to-do about it and took him to a fancy dinner. As though the Keg wasn't enough, we also had to buy him a set of champagne glasses and one of those laser-pointer things. Through grinding teeth I said to myself: "He's only going to do this once." But lo and behold, this year my wife's friend won the Giller a second time. Are we obliged to go to buy him another present?
--TEED-OFF IN TORONTO.
DEAR TEED: The literary-award system is a fickle, imperfect process. Some writers turn out book after brilliant book and never get recognized; while others eat at the Keg or, even better, Tony Roma's. Alas, our country--our parochial, log-rolling literary establishment--isn't ready for a writer who tells it like it is about women's curling. Oh no--not when there's a multigenerational, historical saga that needs overpraise and garlanding! It's all about fear. And ignorance. And the smear campaign (I'm no saint, but I wouldn't have called it a painkiller "addiction"). What I wouldn't give for some back ribs in honey chipotle sauce and a baked potato. Or the St. Louis-style Rib Sampler, with Ranch-Style beans. Anything but my integrity.
To answer your question, I'd get your wife's friend a card. If your wife insists on a present, I'd spend no more than $20.
Scrupulous comic book devotees may be put off by the gimmick. It smacks of a McTie-in and it depends on the same laziness with which "West Wing" watchers were treated to a full-blown Frontline-style episode about a day in the life of C.J. Cregg, White House press secretary. Yes, it's a guilty pleasure for novices — easy access to a universe that is downright daunting in its overwhelmingly popular appeal.
DJ Taylor is grumpy about book marketing.
Backed by an NOP poll suggesting that reading books makes you attractive, Penguin will offer a monthly prize of £1,000 to the first man spotted reading a featured title (the June book is Nick Hornby's 31 Songs), with the same amount going to the first woman whom the company's surveillance unit sees "chatting up a man reading that title". As if this weren't sufficient incentive for the bookless dullards of the target market, "sexpert" Tracey Cox will be appearing on Richard and Judy to hammer the message home.
Cora Susan, Amis's porn actress heroine, is an even more enthusiastic salesperson for the glories of pornography. Not only does she talk of her own body as the ultimate fantasy - "I'm a cock-puppet," she says rather bewilderingly at one point - but she also has the same jokey, fascinated way of discussing the industry that readers will recognise from Amis's own journalism on the subject. Amis has suggested that his reportage on the pornographic world may be a kind of moral journey: "The instinct being aroused in me was not sexual so much as protective," he said in one article. But it is also quite clearly a world that he finds exciting and amusing, and Cora shares these reactions.
The Guardian examines how contemporary writers portray the world of pornography. (Too bad she didn't mention Amis's statement that women hate porn because it wastes sperm. College literature papers could be written about that sentence.)
The Bitch in the House was bad enough. I couldn't even finish the book, as I kept thinking, "This is what women have left to complain about? He doesn't do the dishes right?" It was full of surface anger with no self examination to be found. And evidently many women like to hate their boyfriends and husbands, so the book sold well. Now we have The Bastard on the Couch, edited by the Bitch's husband. He's interviewed in Salon. There is also an excerpt, Anthony Giardina's "A brief history of the (over)involved father."
Seven years after our first daughter was born, my wife and I found ourselves pregnant with a second. Just as she was about to be born, I was invited to premiere my new play at a prestigious venue that would require me to be away from home for a month. Perish the thought! the more enlightened of our friends all shouted. (The women, mostly; the men tended to keep silent, while looking at me out of the corners of their eyes with a certain envy.) Of course I went. I committed the cardinal sin of missing my new daughter's sixth through tenth weeks on this earth. Further, I did it pretty much without guilt.
April 28, 2004
While most chick lit professes to be in the tradition of Jane Austen, the truth is it doesn't come close. The Village Voice has a short list of books that make this claim and how little they measure up. The brevity is disappointing. An article or longer list would have been an interesting read.
When I think back to Istanbul as it was between 1950 and 1980, it seems to me that our contempt for the highway code was more than a simple longing for anarchy. Rather, it was a subtle form of anti-western nationalism: when we were all by ourselves, without any strangers in our midst, the old order prevailed and we could go back to our old tricks. In the 1960s and 70s, a man could feel a surge of nationalist pride just by holding a rickety phone together with one well-placed nail, or by getting an irreparable German radio to work again by punching it with his fist. Feats like this made us feel different from these westerners who had such veneration for the rules of technology and culture: they reminded us how worldly we were, and how wily.
Someone should have told me (say, the publisher) there was a new book about 60 Minutes out. It's Richard Campbell's 60 Minutes and the News: A Mythology for Middle America, and Mike Wallace graces the cover. Growing up I used to hate that Sunday dinner took place with 60 Minutes on, but now I watch it religiously. Even 60 Minutes II, but mostly just to see Bob Simon. He's not as good as Mike Wallace, but he's so snarky. Campbell is interviewed (just a bit) about 60 Minutes's influence.
Yes, he's been there, eaten that — Bubble Yum, Pop Rocks, Jelly Bellys, gummy bears, which he tended to "burn with matches, thus combining my overt sugar lust with a more latent strain of pyromania."
HBO is considering turning The Poor Bastard by Joe Matt into a series. My favorite line from the press release: "The book, also known as a 'graphic novel'..." Oh, explaining comics to the general public is fun.
April 27, 2004
Salon's Laura Miller -- dollars to Post-Its the best book critic in the country right now -- had a smart piece in the April 18 New York Times Book Review about first-person-plural narrators.
We'll ignore the laughable statement for now, but "dollars to Post-Its"? The fuck? That can't be a real saying. Exactly what language did Babelfish translate that from? "Well, in the original Swahili, the saying is 'quite possibly,' but when we used Babelfish to translate the article into English, it came out 'dollars to Post-its'." That would also explain the article calling Laura Miller the best book critic in the country right now. Poor translation from Swahili.
The Atlantic talks to Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.
The Guardian digests Plum Sykes's Bergdorf Blondes.
My mother doesn't approve of me living in New York and working for Vogue. She thinks I should marry the earl who lives next door to her in England. You can tell where this is going already, can't you!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The short list for the Orange Prize has been announced.
We are about to see a flood of books released, all trying to debunk The Da Vinci Code. There's Cracking Da Vinci's Code, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code, etc. Notice that they have similar color schemes, similar fonts, hoping someone won't notice they're not buying the real book. (Is there anyone left on the planet who hasn't already bought it?)
Among "The Da Vinci Code" critics are evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who regard the novel, which is laced with passages celebrating feminism, anticlericalism and pagan forms of worship, as another infiltration by liberal cultural warriors.
Liberal cultural warriors? Where are they? Do they have a superhero costume? If so, I'm totally in. If the leader of the warriors could just drop me an e-mail, that would be great.
My inability to post yesterday was brought on by being enraptured with not one but two books. The first is the new book by James Kelman, author of How Late it Was, How Late and other out of print books. His latest is You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, and it's genius. It won't be released for a few more weeks, but to get you excited about it, you can read this older interview with Kelman in the Barcelona Review. (If you can get your hands on BookForum, they have an excellent interview with him, but it's not archived online. Bastards.) Bold Type has an online short story, excerpted from The Good Times, and Salon has Kelman reading two of his stories available for download.
The other book I'm reading is V for Vendetta, which I read for the first time five or six years ago. Reading it post-rise-in-terrorism has changed the book a lot for me. It's still as addictive as it ever was, it's just that now the book seems a little more real, if that makes any sense. But with most Alan Moore, half of the fun is reading about the book. There's an online archive of V for Vendetta annotations, there are a dozen or so links about Guy Fawkes worth reading, and, of course, interviews with Alan Moore on the subject.
Writing the book, that was the easy part. Now it was time for the heavy lifting. It was time for me to start signing my name.
Lawrence Block, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Block. Over and over, on book after book. On the title page, in the space the designer was thoughtful enough to provide for that purpose. Again and again and again.
April 26, 2004
In the words of the delightful Michael Schaub, "Man, if you can't trust a technothriller writer to pay his taxes, who can you trust?"
My recent replacement of the first volume of 100 Bullets First Shot, Last Call has reminded me just how much I love the series. I think a day of rereading all the volumes might be in order. The series revolves around Agent Graves who finds those who have been wronged, gives them a briefcase with proof of who wronged them, a gun, and 100 bullets, and assures them no one will investigate the murder. Well, it turns out there is about to be a 100 Bullets video game, written by Brian Azzarello. Like I don't waste enough time in my life as it is.
This is what happens when you're an English major. You can't tell when someone is wrong about an obscure Darwin theory. (Turns out it's obscure because he never wrote it.) This article on Alternet about Evolution's Rainbow (which I linked to in the past) mentions Darwin's theories about homosexuality. According to this guy, there are no such theories. He tries to explain the mess. (And if it turns out this guy is wrong, too, I take absolutely no responsibility.)
April 23, 2004
A two hour TV movie, coming to us Fall 2004 by the blessed folks at TNT:
Hidden beneath the monolithic New York Public Library is a repository for mankind’s greatest secrets. From the Golden Fleece to the Ark of the Covenant, every enigma and artifact from every known and unknown civilization is protected from the forces of evil who, if given the chance, would use the priceless treasures for their nefarious plans.
Only one man can keep them safe:
The James Frey drawing is now over, and Scott Sudel will soon be the proud owner of A Million Little Pieces and the press kit.
Slate rates the sleazy gossip magazines for you.
The Telegraph meets Boris Akunin, the pen name of Grigori Chkhartishvili. While Chkhartishvili is part of the literary elite, Akunin makes lots of money writing crime fiction set in 19th century Russia, such as The Winter Queen.
This being Russia, home of the writer-as-sage, it is little wonder that he had almost a Japanese sense of shame that he was dabbling in a new-fangled, low-brow form of writing scarcely able to call itself literature. Hence the disguise. "In the world that I belong to," he explains, "writing detective novels was just unthinkable. Even now, some of my old acquaintances look at me as if I were a defrocked priest or something. My mother often asks me, 'When are you going to finish writing this and return to serious writing?' She was a schoolteacher of Russian literature."
Today is World Book and Copyright Day. So celebrate today by either buying someone a book or just making illegal copies and distributing them.
I went to Itaparica [an island off the coast of Brazil] with Richard O'Connell, who's a great translator of Brazilian poetry. Our wives went out gathering seashells, and it turns out there were all these horrific creatures and indescribable insects living inside them. And O'Connell actually brought them back to Philadelphia and his wife nearly died from a scorpion that was living inside one of the shells. But before that, my late wife Amy and I were in our hotel room in Bahia, and I was awakened by a weird noise. I saw this shell walk across the dresser top, land on the floor, and then continue walking. So, all these elements came together in this story that I used to tell on Halloween for many years. And then I just sat down and wrote it.
While other movies and television series were relying on old standbys for the bad guys (Nazis in Jack Ryan movies, Russians in everything else), 24 thought that just maybe a Middle Eastern terrorist would be a good bad guy. And that's why we love 24. But evidently 24 the comic one shot is using an Irish terrorist. Ah yes, that's who Americans are afraid of and need to be protected from. The IRA. On the upside, it's a prequel so Nina will be back.
My crush on Anthony Bourdain is a mighty one. There's just something about watching him on the Food Network eating crickets and iguana and brains that is so weirdly sexy. He has convinced me to eat offal at times -- although with the diseases running through the meat industry I draw the line at brains -- but I'm not sure I would buy a cook book devoted to the extra bits: The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. (Bourdain writes the introduction.) Perhaps I should make Cookslut Tom Bernard try it out. Slate has an article about the new cookbook and the offal trend.
I received this e-mail in response to my girls in comic book stores post:
I'm a haphazard reader of comics at best (I don't buy any regular series now that Fray is done) but I hate the "Oh my god! Someone with breasts -- and not man-breasts! -- has entered the building! Everyone stop and watch!" feeling you get from comics stores. It's really off-putting. Way to make me want to come back every week, guys!
And now that I'm a mom, taking my four year old son in for his JLA and Teen Titans fix is even worse. They hates children, yessss, they doesss. And since my son is already a comics savant and can name Every Single Obscure Character in the DC universe (The Force of July! Black Orchid! Captain Carrot!) not only do *I* have to name-drop to prove I know what I'm talking about, so does my SON. It's crazy. We've got money, we're spending it, we're not tearing up the place -- my son knows that he can only use one finger to touch anything, and he has to ask first. But we don't "look like comics buyers" so we get the hairy eyeball.
I had to admit to myself that I am not a Jonathan Lethem fan. Gun with Occasional Music? Eh. As She Climbed Across the Table? Great title, but eh. I still haven't read The Fortress of Solitude, mostly because I'm afraid of the same result. But I love his nonfiction. Every essay about science fiction, every introduction to books, I even like his interviews. It's nice that I can link to Lethem's essay on comics, now that I've rather given up on his fiction.
April 22, 2004
After fucking up a freelance assignment, I decided to console myself with comic books today. I hadn't gone comics shopping since I got back from Arizona, and I had been meaning to replace some essential comics that I had lost in a divorce. The list was much longer than I could afford at that moment, so I settled on V for Vendetta, the first 100 Bullets and the first Alias while leaving many of the books I missed (Mr. Punch, Cages, Jimmy Corrigan, the entire Preacher series) not to mention other pricey lust objects (Acme Novelty Datebook, Amy Racecar) to another shopping trip.
When I first got to the store, there were two other girls browsing. By the time I had amassed my stack, they had left. Now there were only boys, and the mood of the store had changed. I've been reading comics since I lived three hours away from the closest comic book store. I had to survive off of a paltry Waldenbooks selection all through high school, which mainly consisted of Sandman and superheroes. On the rare occasion I got to a comics store, usually on trips to see my sister at college or on family vacations to St. Louis, I was immediately self conscious about having a vagina and being in a comic book store. This was the midwest. I was always the only girl, unless my sister was with me (by this time, I had brought her over to the dark side of comics reading), and I never quite got used to the feeling.
Even after comics shopping in Lawrence and Austin, two painfully hip college towns with other girls who swoon at the mention of Neil Gaiman's name, the girl thing was still an issue. I used to shop at Austin Books (quite possibly my favorite comic book store on the planet) with my friend Juan on an almost weekly basis. I spent so much money there. I probably still have debt on my credit card from Austin Books binges. And yet after a solo shopping excursion, a clerk mentioned to Juan the next time he was in, "I saw your friend here the other day -- the one who buys all the girl comics." How dare he! I was buying Preacher and Stray Bullets, but yes, also Berlin and Lenore and Optic Nerve. To that particular clerk, anything in the indie aisle was "girl comics." Whenever he rang me up now, I wondered how girly he thought I was being that day.
Today I had that same feeling. I'm buying beginner's comic books, and the cute boy at the counter will think I don't know my comics. It didn't help that I was buying issue #10 of Lenore, a guilty pleasure series. If even one girl had still been in the store, I would have felt much better. As it was, though, I was having flashbacks to geek boys in Wichita smirking as I walked in, the Tucson clerk who just two weeks ago looked at my sister and me like we were aliens until I name dropped enough writers that he backed off, and that shmuck in Austin. So here's to women working in comic book stores and changing the atmosphere to girl-friendly. We need more of you.
The Harvey nominations have been announced, with Chester Brown's Louis Riel, Craig Thompson's Blankets, Brian Vaughn's Y: The Last Man, Joe Sacco's The Fixer, and Chris Ware's Quimby the Mouse all receiving recognition.
Suicide Girls interviews Sophie Crumb about her Belly Button Comix series.
Harry Potter has been hailed as an inspiration to children suffering from depression or thinking about suicide.
Newspapers, especially ones in poor cities such as Baltimore, need to be filling their staffs with reporters from diverse backgrounds -- economically as well as racially. Unpaid internships are a way ensure that this remains a difficult task.
A collection of Michael Kelly's writings, Things Worth Fighting For, was released a few weeks ago. Last night at a tribute in Washington, journalists like Ted Koppel and Bob Woodward read from the book. Tom Kelly, Michael's father, talks to the Baltimore Sun about the Kelly legacy (eight Pulitzer nominations) and his relationship with his son.
Feel free to disregard this entry, as it once again is about agriculture. Since I don't get many opportunities to be proud of my home state -- Kansans have a tendency to protest funerals and kick evolution out of schools -- I have to post anything good I can find. The Land Institute is about an hour from where I grew up, and Deborah and Frank Popper are involved with it. They are the authors of books on agriculture. At Alternet they write about the future of farming.
April 21, 2004
It just doesn't add up. Maybe finding herself in the public eye after being outed as the book's author (prior to its release) allowed her to drop the veil and just reveal all? Perhaps, but I'm unconvinced that a woman who can sit opposite Andrew Denton (on his Australian Broadcasting Commission program, Enough Rope), not to mention a studio and home audience of thousands, and proclaim her distaste for blow-jobs has never been able to do the same thing in front of the man she married.
I resisted seeing the movie Shattered Glass for a long time, thinking it would somehow contribute to Glass's effort to capitalize off of what he had done. Turns out it's a really great movie. Even if you saw it in the theater, you should consider renting the DVD to listen to Chuck Lane's commentary. His comments on what the movie got right, what was "dramatized", what a good job Hayden Christensen did of portraying Stephen Glass, were fascinating. (And the included "60 Minutes" interview with Glass is all the more fun to watch after listening to Chuck Lane's commentary.) Netflix it already.
U.S. border officials have issued a rare apology to British author Ian McEwan after briefly barring him from entering the United States last month.
Think about it: for the first time in my life, possibly for the first time in anyone's life, I can make Harlan Ellison say, literally, anything. And he will. Because it's my acceptance speech. He's not going to extemporise here, or suddenly start telling a joke about a duck trying to buy a condom or something. He has to read what I've written.
Related: Neil Gaiman's favorite word is "fuck."
The Independent has an interview with Zoe Heller. Her book What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal was short listed for the Booker and long listed for the Orange Prize. She talks about the expectation for her novel to be fluff because she was a woman columnist and the scathing reviews she received in England before the US accolades began to pour in.
Dave Eggers would like to convince you to read The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant, one of the most recent releases from NYRB press. Wallant died at the age of 36, with only a handful of novels released.
Just in case you didn't hate Toby Young enough the first time he released a book, the vile and unsympathetic How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (you can read the Bookslut review here, which begins with, "You can probably tell a lot about a person by knowing at which point during How to Lose Friends and Alienate People he or she started to hate Toby Young."), he's writing another book. While he's writing that book, he's writing a diary for Slate.
I've only been in Los Angeles for 10 days, but this theory makes a lot of sense to me. In the same way that other cities have been ravaged by certain drugs, L.A. is in the grip of a fame epidemic. Like cocaine, it used to be the drug of choice for a privileged few, but now it's gone mainstream, often in a very adulterated form. The kind of notoriety that comes from appearing on a reality show, for instance, is the equivalent of crack. In effect, a few unscrupulous pushers have worked out how to cook fame in a microwave, and as a result an entire generation of Americans has been decimated.
Yeah, we get it. It's a drug metaphor. Now stop it.
Celebrity writers are descending upon comics. Joss Whedon is at Astonishing X-Men, Bryan Singer is at Ultimate X-Men, and I'm sure those who don't read comics are now thinking, "What's next? The Fantabulous X-Men? Superdelicious X-Men?" For that, I have no answer. Anyway, Bulent Yusuf really can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I'll agree with him that Kevin Smith should really just be locked up in a room with no control over any pop culture at all, but anything that gets casual readers out of their Sandman/Lenore/Fables habit and into a more expansive reading kick is okay with me. Even if it has to come from Buffy love.
April 20, 2004
Prison officials destroyed computer files containing inmates' personal writing days after a prisoner won a national writing award, best-selling author Wally Lamb said.
Lamb, who teaches a creative writing workshop at the York Correctional Facility in East Lyme, said Wednesday that 15 women inmates lost up to five years of work when officials at the prison's school ordered all hard drives used for the class erased and its computer disks turned over. From Boing Boing.
According to most porn star confessionals, deprogrammed XXX performers will eventually renounce their love for the industry that made them famous. Linda Lovelace turns her back on pornography in Ordeal, a pathetic tale of abuse. In Traci Lords' self-serving autobiography, Underneath It All, the girl with the fake ID who nearly sank the porn business in the '80s patches together a flimsy version of her youthful exploits. One might even take into account Ian Gittler's Pornstar, a book written from the perspective of a disillusioned porn photographer. Taken together, the books form a triumvirate of negativity, painting a hackneyed picture of an industry filled with only two types of people: malefactors and their victims.
Enter Christy Canyon’s self-published memoir, Lights, Camera, Sex! Canyon, one of the major stars of the ‘80s, has a different story to tell. Not that hers is a Happy Hooker for XXX film stars — Canyon struggles with the stigmas of her profession, gets a bit too wired on Reagan-era coke, and wrestles off a few sleazebags — but she emerges with an unqualified thumbs-up for her chosen profession.
April 19, 2004
Sometimes publishers forget what books they've already sent us, what we've already reviewed, and my office becomes cluttered with multiple copies of books. Today I received a nice Million Little Pieces package, with a paperback copy of the book, a press packet, and an audio cd of James Frey reading from the novel. We've already reviewed the book, I already have a copy, so this is all extra. I'm going to give the whole package away to someone on the notification list later this week, so if you'd like to be eligible, you should send a blank e-mail to email@example.com and subscribe now. (If you're already a subscriber, don't send an e-mail yet. I'll let you know when to enter.)
The Chicago Tribune has an article about the AWP Conference that was held in Chicago a while back.
On the one hand, I'm excited by all these writers, all these magazines and publishers, all this work I haven't heard of, all these new territories for the written word. Like most people here, I am (after a fashion) an academic, an instructor in a low-residency MFA program, and a writer on a constant quest for markets, places that might embrace my work. At the same time, I can't help feeling a little cynical, wondering what difference it makes to produce work in a vacuum, to publish books and articles that only a handful of readers ever see.
He obviously should have followed my example and gotten through the week in a vodka haze. After your third vodka tonic, you stop questioning your place in the literary establishment.
People are probably sick of hearing me talk about how good Bobby Fischer Goes to War is, but it's truly fascinating. You don't even have to like chess. (It also has a brilliant cover.) The authors David Edmonds and John Eidinow were interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition, and their website has an extended interview available.
Admit it. Even if you buy it, you're probably not going to read all of Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward's new book on the Bush administration. (Evidently he's gotten his lips removed from Bush's ass on this one. It was an eight hour surgery, both are recovering nicely.) So why don't you just go to the Washington Post, where they have a week of excerpts available.
John Malkovich has been cast in the role of a cult leader in the film version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Salman Rushdie should really grow back the beard.
For nearly a year, a vandal mutilated more than 600 books on gay and lesbian themes at the San Francisco Public Library. Without explanation, he carved up covers and pages and left small typewritten slips of paper advertising a Bible radio station tucked inside the damaged works. Ironically, his attempt to rid the library of these books resulted in a far stronger statement from the community: With help from artists around the country, the San Francisco Public Library transformed the crime into an art show titled "Reversing Vandalism," which features more than 200 works of various mediums and is on view in three galleries at the library through May 2.
Slate has a slide show of the art exhibit.
Volume Two of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle The Confusion is just as hulking and dense as the last. It includes "a long, detailed description of the mechanics of 17th-century bills of exchange." And yet everyone I know is excited about its release. (I prefer not to develop back problems while I'm reading, so I'm waiting for the paperback.) Stephenson is interviewed at Wired.
The Nebula winners were announced, including a picture of the winners. Harlan Ellison is standing in for Neil Gaiman, and really, if I ever need someone to stand in for me in a picture, I think I would choose Harlan Ellison, too. Also... Ann Crispin won an award? Should I be proud, just in case we're related? (Link from Neil Gaiman's blog.)
The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon
Coraline, Neil Gaiman
"The Empire of Ice Cream", Jeffrey Ford
"What I Didn't See", Karen Joy Fowler
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson
April 18, 2004
My favorite e-mail of the day:
Your website bookslut, is the most ridiculous, dehumanizing book site I have ever seen. If you want to use the title bookslut, have a naked man reading, not a women. It is insulting to women and just plain stupid.
You should be ashamed of yourself. No self-respecting person would be a part of this.
You could have named your group anything, but chose that. You are silly and nasty.
April 16, 2004
More on OSC: He's not afraid to take on the controversial subjects. This time it's, uh, The Prince and Me and sexism on ER. (Thanks to Liz for the link.)
Elizabeth Mitchell responds to the Orson Scott Card editorial. (Scroll down to the third section.)
Orson is a powerful and accomplished writer who deeply believes everything he says. He has even thought it through, I am sure, though this does not excuse him. But he is working with preconceived notions, emotional ideas rooted deeply in his upbringing and his religious beliefs, and letting these rule his writing. It's sad, and it's painful. It's like having a crazy uncle, who you are rather fond of, and having him confess publically to your friends and the world at large all the details of his embarrassing and most hurtful thoughts. He says things that will hurt people you know and care for. He says things that make you wince.
But I'm not the same person I was when I was fifteen or seventeen or nineteen. I'm not even the same person I was two or three years ago. So maybe there is hope for crazy ol' Orson, who after all, helped me take those first few steps.
The SF Gate has an article about the new book Where Girls Come First: The Rise, Fall, and Surprising Revival of Girls' Schools.
Chester Brown is getting a lot of attention for his latest work, Louis Reil, a graphic biography of sorts. It's nice to see some recognition for his work, as I've been smitten since I read I Never Liked You. Brown is interviewed at Time.com about the lack of money in independent comics, why he chose to tell Riel's life story, and The Passion of the Christ.
The Japanese creator of the Ironman 28 manga cartoon has died in a fire at his home in Tokyo.
Mitsuteru Yokoyama, 69, who also created Little Witch Sally, was found unconscious in his bed with severe burns and later died in hospital.
The Morning News interviews Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's and author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More.
April 15, 2004
A pared-down shelf can clear the mind as well as a room, giving a person a better sense of what's there and why. It might also prevent a biblio-avalanche from one day burying the desk -- or, in some cases, the entire house.
As someone who has mini avalanches every day (goddamn cats), it's not that big of a deal. Besides, I had to pare down my shelves by a third when I moved, and I still haven't gotten over the trauma. Every day I look at the stacks of books that only reach my waist, and I mumble, "Must buy more books. Books must reach ceiling."
(By the way, thank you to the person who bought me sci-fi from Amazon. The box did not include contact information, so I can only thank you here. It came yesterday. I jumped up and down.)
Morley Safer (wearing the usual pink shirt) was somehow demoted to 60 Minutes II last night, talking about the Left Behind series. What I like about Safer is his tendency to look at wackos like they're, well, wackos. My favorite line of the evening: “Unfortunately, we’ve gone through a time when liberalism has so twisted the real meaning of Scripture that we’ve manufactured a loving, wimpy Jesus that he wouldn’t even do anything in judgment." Ah yes, those damn hippies and their "loving" Jesus. Where the hell would they have come up with that?
National Library Week (only a week?) is starting off with a list of famous people's reading habits. Including Laura Bush. A former librarian herself, she reads Willa Cather, Truman Capote, and Dostoyevsky.
Dear I.R.S.: Please hurry with my refund check. I want to go comics shopping. I whimper outside the window of Chicago Comics. Hurry, you beaurocratic bastards.
Rob Hinchcliffe responds to this Washington Post article about bloggers and Amazon.com reviewers. And while I know when he refers to Amazon.com reviewers, he probably means the top guys, the reviewers publishers are now courting, I'm a bit insulted he links bloggers with just Amazon.com reviewers in general. A good 70% of Amazon.com reviews are along the lines of "Miy teachre mad me reed this book. Its bad." And at the very least, lit bloggers know how to spell "my" correctly.
I don't consider the Bookslut Blog to be a work of criticism. There may be the occasional "buy this book, it's amazingly good," and "don't buy this book, it's absolute shit." But that is not criticism. Hence, the rest of the Bookslut.com website.
"Yes, we get the girls," emails Jake Stratton, aka Prof JB Stratton, the singer with the Seattle speed metal band BlöödHag. "Several lady librarians have kept company with us. BlöödHag don't make passes at girls who don't wear glasses. No specs, no sex."
BlöödHag, you may have gathered, are not a conventional metal ensemble. Where there is darkness - or, perhaps, the Darkness - they wish to bring light. Where there is ignorance, they spread knowledge. Specifically, they spread knowledge of science fiction authors. For BlöödHag - motto "Read to Live, Live to Read" - are the only heavy metal band in the world whose sole interest is promoting literacy.
A rare copy of Hamlet did not sell at auction.
April 14, 2004
Tomorrow at Barbara's (for you in Chicago) is Rachel Cohen, author of A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854-1967. 7:30 pm, 1218 S. Halsted. It's part of a newish series by Barbara's, rumored to soon include booze. So be social and come say hi.
I was warned about this essay a few weeks ago, but I ignored it. Then someone e-mailed it to me today, and I felt compelled to at least glance through it. So here's my reaction:
Orson Scott Card is a very nice man. He once signed a book for my father and personalized the inscription based on questions he asked me about him. He has written very good books that I loved as a teenager. I respect him as an author.
I disagree with what he wrote. But I am not going to boycott his books or tell you all not to read him. His politics and his books are separate. It makes me sad that he thinks that way, as I would be to find out, say, Kathryn Davis is a major contributor to the Bush re-election campaign. I honestly don't see what one has to do with another unless the politics enter the books.
Green Fairy (one of my favorite blogs) has a list of words I was surprised actually exist.
Colposinquanonia - Estimating a woman's beauty based on her chest
Tarantism - An urge to overcome melancholy by dancing
Sphallolalia - Flirtatious talk that leads nowhere
There are more.
A reporter was caught plagiarizing. The Onion. He plagiarized The Onion. If someone shoots him for this we'll have a Darwin award on our hands.
I don't know why, but I completely forgot to post the Eisner nominations. (Read the full list at the link, I'm just posting the main awards with Amazon links to my personal favorites.)
Best Continuing Series
Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos (Marvel)
Daredevil, by Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev and David Mack (Marvel)
The Goon, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
Gotham Central, by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Brian Hurtt, and Stefano Gaudiano (DC)
100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)
Queen & Country, by Greg Rucka, Jason Alexander, Carla Speed McNeil, and Mike Hawthorne (Oni)
Best New Series
El Cazador, by Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting (CrossGen)
Invincible, by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker (Image)
The Losers, by Andy Diggle and Jock (Vertigo/DC)
Plastic Man, by Kyle Baker (DC)
Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (WildStorm/DC)
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (Image)
AutobioGraphix, edited by Diana Schutz (Dark Horse)
The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, edited by Scott Allie (Dark Horse)
Drawn & Quarterly 5, edited by Chris Oliveros (Drawn & Quarterly)
Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night, edited by art spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (HarperCollins)
Project: Telstar, edited by Chris Pitzer (AdHouse)
The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, P. Craig Russell, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Frank Quitely, Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara, and Bill Sienkiewicz; co-edited by Karen Berger and Shelly Bond (Vertigo/DC)
Best Comics-Related Book
The Acme Novelty Library Datebook, 1986-1995, by Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)
The Art of Hellboy, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
Black Images in the Comics, by Fredrik Strömberg (Fantagraphics)
Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, by Chip Kidd (Pantheon)
Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon (Chicago Review Press)
I was rather horrified yesterday to discover there is a book called Depression is a Choice: Winning the Battle Without Drugs. Whether or not the theories in the book are sound (I don't know, I haven't read it), someone should have stopped that title. I imagine it would tend to piss off people with depression, as the implication is they chose to become depressed. The only people I imagine the title would appeal to would be the frustrated parents who can't understand why their son or daughter won't just snap out of it. ("Look, Bobby, this here book says you chose to be depressed. So just choose to be happy. And pay us back for your therapy.")
The book didn't seem to merit many serious reviews, although there are a few mixed reactions. BellaOnline, evidently the "voice of women," agrees it's an awful title. The reviewer at Metapsychology seems to want to smack the author around a bit. That's the review to read if you're really interested. The author of Choice writes a letter in response. For a little taste of the book, there's 12 things to do when you're depressed, most of them along the lines of "do your nails!" and "sing a song!" It's remarkably similar to a list my younger sister sent me when I was homesick at camp. "Look up jokes on the Internet!"
So the lesson of today is if you're an emotional cripple on Prozac, you just made the wrong choice. Dr. Laura would be proud of this book.
April 13, 2004
When you read the following sub-headline:
would you assume the article would be about Salman Rushdie's life in the gossip pages, or Salman Rushdie the Writer? I guessed the Writer. I was so terribly wrong.
You understand that intellectually, in the broad and inhuman view of things, I perfectly understand that a book and a movie are much like an oak tree and a Porsche. They are both lovely, and they are not the same thing. Imagine for a moment what Boileau and Narcejac, authors of a potboiler called La Cité des Morts, thought when they first saw the obsessive, romantic, alarming Vertigo which Hitchcock based on their novel. Imagine what EM Forster would have made of all the sofas that co-star in the Merchant-Ivory versions of his books.
I was amazed to find myself on a list with Roger Ebert, but somedays you're just good. Bob Sassone asked a bunch of people to give their favorite ten books, a task that nearly exploded by brain. Now, of course, I know exactly what books I would have put on the list and the list on the site makes me cringe. But fuck it.
Whenever I think of Barbara Walters these days, I think of Rachel Dratch on SNL warbling "I've been to paradise, but I haven't been to me." But evidently "I've been undressed by kings and I've seen some things that a woman ain't supposed to see" doesn't quite sum it up. Barbara Walters will be writing her memoirs. And paid handsomely for it.
Maybe losers bring their own bitter, twisted emotions to their recollections of such events, but I still don't think it's wrong to describe the "literary" contingent at both events as, well, bitter and twisted. On both evenings, prize committee chairmen got up to praise the novel or historical work they'd selected, invariably adding a phrase or two about how, in "today's world" such works are "ever more necessary." Anyone talking about criticism described the lonely life of a critic; anyone talking about poetry became downright defensive. Most of the winners, in fact, were very brief. It was as if the gap between the nice things being said about them inside the room and the hostility of the world outside was too unbearable to discuss.
April 12, 2004
NPR's Morning Edition ran a profile of Ben Macintyre's The Man Who Would Be King, the story of an American who rode into Afghanistan on an elephant and declared himself the heir to Alexander the Great.
Hip-hop pioneer Joseph "Run" Simmons, of the rap group Run-DMC, has applied to become poet laureate of the New York borough of Queens, where he was born.
Mills and Boon romances have been adapted into manga form in Japan. No word on whether they added some schoolgirls getting raped by tree roots.
When a book is universally praised, loved by people you respect, and is becoming the next big thing, but you find yourself choking on lines like, "She swam like a mermaid in the swamp-tank of my dreams," and wondering why the main character seems to be missing a personality altogether, do you fear there is something wrong with you? Or do you, like me, assume there is something wrong with every single person who read this book and didn't shriek with laughter at the bloated prose? I think this book is the next The Lovely Bones, as in, the next book that so effectively pulls heart strings that no one notices it's not a real book.
Or maybe it's just me.
They were also the years in which he was exposed to his greatest, and perhaps most surprising, comedic influence. “When I was in seventh grade, I discovered Monty Python,” he said. “That shit still kills me. I try to get my friends to watch that and they just can’t get it. ‘No, no, no, it’s funny—the lumberjack!’‘Life of Brian’ is, to me, the most brilliant piece of satire ever—it’s just brilliant. He’s trying to write ‘Romans go home’ in Latin and he can’t do the Latin right.” McGruder shook his head. “A lot of black people ain’t up on Monty Python like they should be.”
When I met Shelley Jackson at the AWP Conference in Chicago, I was almost tempted to volunteer for her Skin Project. The thing that kept me from it was my overwhelming fear of pain. Just ask me if I once offered a nurse in the emergency room $20 to not give me an IV. Alas, I will not be a part of her short story, but I can proudly say I know braver people than I. Here's another standard story on the project.
Rosemary Goring takes offense at Edinburgh's Castle's choice of Scottish books to present to tourists. The list includes "teatime recipe compilations, 18 titles on whiskey, a biography of Mary Queen of Scots, and the Selected Poems of Robert Burns." She wants us to know they're not all alcoholics and gluttons.
April 11, 2004
Bookslut Issue #23 is up. Dame Darcy discusses her use of reality dating shows to publicize her work. Molly Peacock talks about writing programs, the recent AWP conference in Chicago, and the first poem she wrote. And Marty Beckerman, author of Generation S.L.U.T., declares war on Salon.com, and talks sex, Henry Rollins, and people his age writing books.
Chris Zammarelli finds homosexuality and (gasp!) second marriages in children's books, Tom Bernard pays tribute to Moosewood Cookbook, Liz Miller watches the most unintentionally funny Stephen King adaptation, and Michael Schaub finds the meaning of life in a used bookstore.
April 9, 2004
I know my interests tend to be scattered and tend to bore many other people. I had planned on rearranging my books to move all the nonfiction onto one bookshelf, but I quickly realized what that would look like. There would be the row of books on mental illness. There would be the row of books on abortion. There would be the shelf of science books I borrowed from my sister that sounded interesting but I suspect I don't have the brain capacity to actually read. If I spread these books out through the rest of my collection, I think less would be given away about me.
This blog works the same way as my shelves. It's arranged specifically by what I am interested in. I'll continue to plug my odd favorites (mental illness! John Banville! comics! Kathy Acker! Polish science fiction! For fuck's sake, Lanark!) regardless of anyone else's interest level in those topics.
And with that explanation, I give you an interview with the author of Against the Grain, a book about, wait for it, agriculture. I'm not entirely sure why this topic is of interest to me, other than I grew up in a farming community in Kansas. I do own an array of books on the subject. But I refuse to change my posting habits. I fear my blog would be boring if I couldn't enjoy a book about Bobby Fischer, a wonderful A. L. Kennedy novel, and rereading a classic all at the same time.
The Boston Phoenix profiles Pressed Wafer press.
The new Disney franchise W.i.t.c.h. is actually an Italian comic book, rewritten as a chapterbook for American girls. (Evidently they think the manga mania is "just a fad.") It's also about to be a television show and god knows what else.
For those in the Chicago area, you might want to check out the "Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature" exhibit at Moraine Valley Library. It will be there until the end of April.
But there were other teachers who made us memorize Old English or deconstruct poems about marriage and mortality - topics not exactly top-of-mind for 12-year-olds. The seventh-grade poetry nightmare scenario went like this: The teacher reads a poem that describes a rose opening on a summer day, and we think: "Oh, the poem must be about summer, or beauty, or nature, right?"
But the teacher sighs heavily and says, "No. This poem is about war and man's inhumanity to man."
After repetitions of this experience, many people never want to pick up a book of poems again.
CBR also has behind the scenes photos of Hellboy.
I've gotten several e-mails asking if I've seen it yet, so, yes, I have. I liked it. Yes, the ending made me cringe just a bit ("Remember who you are!"), but the plusses (Ron Perlman! John Hurt! David Hyde Pearce, who really deserves better work than he usually gets! No fear about having ugly characters! Faithfulness!) outweighed the few minuses. I'll be there for Hellboy 2.
Comic Book Resources believes the International Comic Arts Association will change the entire industry.
The common knowledge that the strategic business alliances, enhanced communication, and unity that are part of a trade organization's membership would be instrumental in helping grow our industry, particularly during the period of unprecedented attention that we are seeing right now. And nearly everyone in the industry is interested in seeing those grand, sweeping promotional efforts that a trade organization could bring to the world of comics, and that's exactly why trade organizations are such a white-hot topic amongst comics professionals.
The article explains what exactly a trade organization does, why the comics industry was dragging its feet on creating one, and the subgroups, like The ComicArts AdCouncil. The ICAA website is not yet live, but you can sign up there for notification when it is.
Sororities are bad for you. I do wonder why Alexandra Robbins felt the need to go undercover for Pledged, as anybody who has read news stories about sororities and frats knows most of this. Eating disorders, rape, binge drinking... It's interesting, I'm sure. I probably don't need more reasons to hate the popular kids from school, though.
The Guardian has a quiz on Christian allegories.
April 8, 2004
There are some strange literary awards requirements. Only women allowed for the Orange Prize. The fuss over England and its former colonies, but not all of its former colonies or else that would include the US for the Booker. But the Ondaatje award has to be the silliest. Your book must evoke a "sense of place." Whatever the hell that means. The vagueness makes for an interesting mix of books, from the recently Pulitzer awarded Gulag to The Voices, a novel by one of the Granta young writers.
There is nothing more embarrassing, more poignant than an author sitting alone in a mall concourse or exhibition-space corridor, his pen ready, while the kind of person who spends a Saturday afternoon at a book fair -- a person in a motorized wheelchair, usually, with a Canadian flag on an antenna and a stuffed bear on the handlebars and a lot of collector's buttons on her ski jacket -- rumbles up, stares in non-recognition and buzzes away.
Michael Dirda writes about Alice's Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture for the Washington Post.
April 7, 2004
The fantasy folks don't like my work because it spends too much time in reality land, and vice versa. I remember when I was younger I had two girlfriends I was trying to keep at the same time. My mother said to me watch out-- you can't put two feet into the same shoe, and she was right. Throughout my career I've been trying to put the real and the fantastic foot into the same shoe and it's caused trouble constantly. The reviews of my books are always, always very mixed. There's never been a pure yes or no. And the emotion behind those reviews is strong-I don't just write books-- I write either BRILLLLLIANT books or TERRIBLE books that are total failures in every possible way.
Stephen King is upset that ABC is trying to kill off "Kingdom Hospital".
"We don't know what they're doing," co-executive producer King told me yesterday in an exclusive interview from Maine. "It was originally on Wednesday nights, and now, starting this week, it's on Thursday night at 9 o'clock. That's a tough time slot - against 'CSI' on CBS and 'The Apprentice' on NBC. It's kind of like where shows go to die."
"Kingdom Hospital," which was adapted by King from a Danish series, is a now a major candidate for cancellation.
Yes. Good. Die already. (You can "vote," by the way, that the original Kingdom be released on DVD. Which you should.)
Alice Hoffman, who has written a lot of books I have no intention of reading (may be prejudice on my part, but one book was turned into a Sandra Bullock movie), writes about fairy tales for the Washington Post.
I didn't realize it, of course, but the tales were allowing me to examine fear, anxiety, desire, sorrow. It was a dangerous world, but truer to reality than anything else we were allowed -- those safe books with their happy endings. How could the trivial nature of the here and the now compare with journeys in which heads or hands were suddenly chopped off, bones were tied in silk and buried under trees, foolish brothers became swans, and a traveler might suddenly be beset by cruel spells, horses' heads that could speak and other twists of fate and circumstance?
The Boston Globe looks at the American Library Association's Read! posters and imagines what other books the celebrities could have chosen. Mel Gibson is holding 1984, but personally I think he should be holding The Holocaust Conspiracy: An International Policy of Genocide. ALA has 70 such posters for sale, with everyone from Ani DiFranco holding a Woody Guthrie biography to Oprah Winfrey holding a book from her book group.
The New York Times is bullying its freelance photographers to sign contracts stripping them of copyright. (Last item.)
Yeah, I missed the Pulitzers being announced, but damn it, I'm on vacation. The fiction prize went to a book I still haven't read, Edward P. Jones's The Known World. The nonfiction prize went to Gulag by Anne Applebaum, a very good book. A bunch of newspapers won something or other, and Slate says none of it matters.
April 5, 2004
How about a little satire for your Monday morning?
The global disappearance of Christians earlier this week attributed to the "rapture" predicted by premillennial theologians, and the corresponding disappearance of Left Behind books from bestseller lists have left authors Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, and their publishers discouraged and soul-searching. They're also disappointed that they were not among the airplane pilots, school bus drivers, or toll booth operators taken up to heaven in the wink of an eye, leaving behind piles of empty clothing as well as chaos, terror, and inconvenience, respectively.
When asked why the rapture hurt sales of a series that would seem more timely than ever, Jenkins commented, "Apparently the folks who've actually been left behind aren't interested in reading about it. And I can see why - it's a real kick in the teeth for me personally. This goes way beyond bitter irony."
Anthony Minghella has chosen an unpublished book from which to adapt his next movie. The poor author will probably never get a chance to see a copy of her book without the movie poster cover.
Am I the only one who noticed the crime scene from last night's CSI: Miami was ripped off from The Dante Club? Wound in the back of the head? Filled with maggots? Not quite dead? The only thing missing was the Dante-obsessed killer. I'm looking forward to next week's buried upside down to the waist, feet on fire murder scene. (And please don't make fun of me for watching CSI: Miami. When you're away from home and your HBO, your Netflix, your book collection, Sunday nights are best spent with slutty television. Plus, it was only the second episode I've ever seen, I swear.)
A publisher has canceled plans to reissue a racy novel by Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, after she said the book didn't represent "her best work."
Nor her Republican values, nor her subserviance to her scary husband, nor the wishes of her husband's boss that all gay people would just die already. But don't worry. You can still buy the racy Sisters used.
It's not just good, it's BOOKTASTIC!
The Academy of Art University here in San Francisco - the biggest art school in the country - recently expelled a student for writing a violent short story, and then fired his instructor for teaching a story by David Foster Wallace the administration also found offensive.
April 2, 2004
And as it just wouldn't be a day on Bookslut without your Left Behind wrap up, here's all you need to know about the crazies on April 2nd.
The Guardian has the best headline: "On tour with the harbingers of doom."
The authors are touring The South. No word on whether their tour will make it to San Francisco, aka "hostile territory".
Ian McEwan may have been refused entry to the US on his first try, but he did manage to get to his lecture in Seattle on time.
The Guardian has an extract from What Might Have Been, edited by Andrew Roberts. Twelve turning points in history are reimagined. The extract involves the IRA's assassination attempt of Margaret Thatcher in 1984, written by Simon Heffer.
In honor of my plane ride yesterday, I bring you my list of best airplane books, books that are captivating, but don't make you feel stupid:
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Pussy, King of the Pirates by Kathy Acker (will keep annoying strange people from trying to strike a conversation with you)
Peace on Earth by Stanislaw Lem
The Stand by Stephen King (original, shorter version if you can find it)
From Hell by Alan Moore
Rules for reading on the plane:
Do not bring well known books unless you want to get into conversations with annoying people. Once you pull out Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code, your neighbor will feel free to tell you what they thought of the book, how amazing it is, and will never let you actually read it.
Don't forget to pack books. Looking for something decent to read at the airport is like a vegetarian trying to eat at Red Lobster.
Don't be like me. Do not bring a dozen books in your carry on just becauase you haven't decided what to read on your three hour flight. You'll hurt yourself.
Does anyone know what happened to Sister Spit? I saw them two years in a row, but the website hasn't been updated since 2001. I only bring it up because Michelle Tea (author of The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America) has a new book out, a poetry collection called The Beautiful, and I was hoping that meant they would be hitting the road again. While I ponder this, read this interview with Tea.
In 1966, appalled by the best sellers of Jacqueline Susann and others, he challenged his colleagues at Newsday, where he was a distinguished editor and writer, to perpetrate a book so mindlessly crass it could not fail. “There will be an unremitting emphasis on sex,” he warned. “Also, true excellence in writing will be quickly blue-penciled into oblivion.”
April 1, 2004
The author of The Deep End of the Ocean (which I've actually read; I was working retail, I was allowed to read any of the books the store sold and all they had was mass market bestselling paperbacks. The book is as horrible as you might think) gets the final word on the Jane Austen Doe story.
While Ms. Doe's tone may have seemed whiny to some, it sounded wounded to me. And what she says is righteous, to the extent that editors and publishers do indeed foster a sense of deep personal connection when you're riding the winning pony. It cools rapidly when your horse fails to show. I suspect the same sort of distancing must occur between a physician and a patient who is terminally ill.
Here we go again.
Bonnie Fuller, aka "a tell-all by an intern waiting to happen" is changing Star's format from a tabloid to, well, a glossy tabloid.
Fuller said the story was prompted by Alley being dropped as a Pier 1 spokeswoman. Star editor-in-chief Joe Dolce said the piece was actually a sign of the kindler, gentler Star, which no longer pays for sources and has reporters canvassing everyone from gardeners to bellhops to sniff out the next big story.
‘‘If we were a tabloid, we would have just done, 'Look at how fat Kirstie Alley is,"' Dolce said. ‘‘Instead, we found friends trying to help her, we talked about this is what led to her problem, this is how she's trying to solve it. We added a level of depth. We could have just said, 'She's a fat pig."'
Celebrities around the world sigh with relief.
More on Left Behind:
It's nice to have Neal Pollack back, especially since his first real post on his return is on my favorite crazy fundamentalists.
On my way back from a recent trip to Chicago, I had an hour-and-a-half layover in Dallas, and was able to read all 12 novels in the series. That included an advance manuscript of the yet-unpublished Glorious Appearing, the final book, which I obtained by donating a pound of human flesh to a local fundamentalist church. I have to say I was surprised. LaHaye and Jenkins are writers of Balzacian scope. Their understanding of the subtleties of human interaction and the fragility of time rivals that of Proust. Melville, Wharton, Fitzgerald, Ellison, Chandler, Cather—they’ve got nothing on these guys. The only contemporary writer who comes even close to their greatness is Dave Eggers.
This preview of the Left Behind movie may be old, but come on! It has Kirk Cameron and fiery death. (Unfortunately, it was not Kirk Cameron's fiery death.) And while IMDB reports that Left Behind 5 is currently in production, there seems to be no listing for Left Behind III. (Movie Tome swears it exists, though. No worries.)
And this older article in Slate deals with the Jews-converting-to-Christianity-or-die-in-a-fiery-death plotline.
There is only one road to salvation for Jews, and that road runs through Jesus, LaHaye told me. To his credit, though, LaHaye doesn't believe that the Antichrist will be Jewish. He will be a European gentile, who will kill lots of Jews. "The Jews will be forced to accept the idolatry of the Antichrist or be beheaded," he said. This will take place during the seven-year Tribulation.
Man, I'm going to miss these religious fuckers if they ever go away.