May 27, 2004
I'll be taking my weekend a day early tomorrow, what with a job interview to implode at and heavy drinking to follow. Next week, blogging privileges will be given to the dreamy Ben Brown while I attend Book Expo and Printer's Row. (If you're at Printer's Row, be sure not to miss the Thomas Frank/Laura Kipnis event, and if you're at the Steve Almond reading I'm introducing, come say hi afterwards.)
ICv2 has more information on Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers, including a cover image. Also, he's in Chicago today, giving a lecture at the University of Chicago. But it's during work hours, and if you don't have a car, Hyde Park is a difficult place to be. The buses don't always stop for you when you're trying to leave the damn neighborhood. So good luck with that.
And the award for the most overblown sentence of the day goes to: "The Impressionist was an epic kaleidoscope of a book, gleefully engineered to entrance its audience with a Technicolor whirl of ripping yarns and exaggerated characters," taken from a profile of Hari Kunzru.
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl may be the anti-Harry Potter, and his interviews are a hell of a lot more fun to read than J. K. Rowling's. The latest, at the Telegraph, has him gushing about other writers, chugging Red Bull, and making me wish I could go out drinking with him. He's promoting his new book, The Supernaturalist, a kind of children's version of Oryx & Crake.
Comic Book Idol #2 has started up.
Acclaimed children's writer William Mayne has admitted to sexually abusing children forty years ago after accusations started to build. Now parents and bookshops are trying to decide what to do about the books.
Mayne's publishers are cautious. Walker books is withdrawing its Mayne titles from bookshops, Jonathan Cape has "postponed" a book called Emily Goes to Market, which should have been published this month and Hodder Children's Books has put "on hold" one novel due out next year, and, according to Charles Nettleton, managing director, will assess the response from its customers in school, bookshops and libraries, before issuing further reprints. "We are trying not to make any judgments," he says. "If we find that nobody is ordering his books any more, it makes it pointless to publish".
A living heir of Josiah Harlan, the subject of the book The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan has been found... in the Dawn of the Dead movie. He has been granted the title of Prince of Ghor.
Do you think anyone has ever introduced Steve Almond to Hilary Lifton? I mean, he wrote Candyfreak, she wrote Candy and Me... You'd think someone would have hooked them up by now. Or maybe both of them are afraid of dating another candy addict, because then they'd have to share.
Just barely related: here are two what kind of candy are you? quizzes. One said I was Hershey Kisses, the other said I was Skittles. I can't stand either one of them, so I'm not vouching for their validity.
May 26, 2004
"Well, as a writer I never believed in the idea of the Great Novel, or one Great Anything. I've always believed that for any artist it's the body of work that's important. You have to be patient - you do your work as if you'll live for ever (apart from your first work which usually you do as if you are going to die)," he says, wryly. "After that you have to relax a bit and go deeply into whatever you should at the time. Try and resist searching for broad canvases all the time. So I always felt that you should allow things to come as they should come, and this novel was based in the States because it was the right time for it to come."
Who gets the award for the most scathing review of On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense? It's been close, but I think the award has to go to Michael Kinsley at the New York Times! "The Brooks sociological method has four components: fearless generalizing, clever coinage, jokes and shopping lists." "[T]hat is just wrong, and mystifyingly so." "[H]e wields a mean shoehorn when he needs the theory to fit the joke." "These riffs will not win prizes for internal consistency." (Today is evidently political day. Conservatives are urged to come back tomorrow.)
What's the Matter with Kansas? has sparked many conversations in my household. My father now has his own copy, and I think he'll actually read it, even though now he knows the author is from a Kansas City suburb, i.e., "not really Kansas." But I've cornered just about every Kansan and former Kansan I know about this book (except for the scarily religious part of my family) to discuss it. We would just like to make a statement. "We're not all that bad."
While the book is interesting and gives a fuller history of my state than what was ever in my Kansas History textbook, it's pretty bleak. The progressives aren't anywhere near this book. Perhaps he thought he wanted to stick with his thesis of the conservative control, but the Kansas I know is different. The Kansas I know contains Dr. George Tiller, a personal hero of mine. Not only has his abortion clinic been firebombed, he was shot in an assassination attempt and he returned to work the next day. When I was in high school, my editor at the Salina Journal was a wacky liberal, often the target of scorn and ridicule. That didn't stop him at a press conference with our governor from asking really difficult questions about Kansas abortion and sodomy laws while everyone else looked embarrassed. My gay studies professor in college went up against Fred Phelps every semester, and he never flinched.
Of course, at the same time, my best friend from high school thinks I'm going to hell now for working at Planned Parenthood for four years. So there's that.
I know he's just using Kansas to make a point about the rest of the Red States, but it sparked something in me I didn't know I had much of. Kansas Pride. Sure, we're odd and overly religious, and as my friend Ron says, "The wind will drive any man crazy." When I tell people I'm from Kansas, I usually get one of two reactions: sympathy or a Wizard of Oz joke. I guess I had hoped Frank would at least talk about Kansas fondly, but he really didn't. It's still worth reading, even if you don't live in Kansas. But just remember we have our good points, too.
May 25, 2004
George Saunders has a simplified exit strategy for US occupation of Iraq.
To implement this exit strategy, we will have to practice running quickly. It is further recommended that, while running, the eyes be cast down, to avoid witnessing any last-minute people trying to kill us. We will have to establish excellent communications so that the moment that final person begins dying, we can all begin running quickly at the same time, eyes cast down, quickly, to our vehicles, to get to the airport and get out of the country.
I spent the evening last night fighting over McSweeney's #13 with the boy. I've skipped the essays for now, as I'm really not that interested in how men discovered comics as boys and they changed their lives. Just glancing through Ira Glass, John Updike, and Glen David Gold's essays, I caught on pretty quick they were all the same. So for now it's just the comics, which are astoundingly good. "The Little Nun" has become a new favorite, but the most remarkable comic included is the teaser for Art Spiegelman's new book In the Shadow of No Towers. It won't be released for a while, but it has been serialized in various publications. I could never find a reliable source, so I stopped looking for one until I could read the whole collection from start to finish. You can find excerpts scattered around the Internet, as well as a profile or two, but the short excerpt in McSweeney's is not nearly enough. (For Chicagoans and industry folk... Spiegelman will be at BookExpo this year. I'm more excited about that than Bill Clinton's presence.)
As for gripes about the issue, I only have two. (Surprise, surprise.) The Joe Sacco and the Chester Brown contributions are both from their books, The Fixer and Louis Riel, respectively. Both are great books, but they've been out for a while, and I'd much rather see something new or obscure from them. It feels a bit like cheating. Chris Ware did an amazing job, including a lot of historical strips and bios of pioneers, as well as involving a wide range of cartoonists. Anyone who includes Julie Doucet in a collection gets my support. Eh, I just noticed the Seth and Adrian Tomine contributions are also from recent books I own. (Introducing these authors to new audiences is more important than satisfying my collecting nature, so I'll shut up about it.)
To sum up: buy the damn thing. It's one of the best things McSweeney's has ever accomplished.
The Filth just keeps getting weirder. I'm reading it with about five other books, so it's slow going. But a giant sperm just attacked LA. I may have gotten looks on the el from the maniacal giggling. His new series Seaguy was supposed to come out last week. (Haven't been to the comic book store in about two weeks... anyone know if it was released on time?) Further discussion of Seaguy happens at Newsarama, but the more interesting interview is at ComiX-Fan. He talks about his X-Men decisions, becoming King Mob, and how he'd really like to see his series The New Adventures of Hitler collected.
Gregory David Roberts is writing a fictionalized version of his life in a series of four volumes. You might think nobody's life is that interesting, but he had a pesky heroin problem, was arrested in Australia for armed robbery, escaped from jail, moved to India, worked for the Bombay mafia, fled to Germany during a gang war, and was arrested again. At least the first book Shantaram won't be boring.
May 24, 2004
(I just discovered the comics issue of McSweeney's -- which I've been fawning over for the last three hours -- is $7 cheaper if you buy it through Amazon.com.... Amazon: bringing Dave Eggers' ridiculous pricing back down to Earth.)
Dear UPS Man:
I think I love you. Every day you come to my apartment, your arms full of books, a friendly smile on your face. I think you smiled even broader when you heard Daniel Lanois wafting from my apartment. Today marked the second time you helped me grab my cat as she tried to escape, making me think you might love me, too. That week you went away, making me think your temporary replacement might be permanent and I would forever have to deal with gruffness and my packages being left with my neighbors, was a very dark week. Thank you for returning and bringing light and sunshine back to my door.
I don't even remember why we were fighting. Your kind gift of Issue #13, edited by Chris Ware, was very thoughtful. I'm not entirely sure you meant to send it to me for free, but you did, and all is forgiven. It's beautiful. Let's not fight again, at least until you release yet another product way out of my budget and refuse to send me a free copy. Deal?
Thread to read on I Love Books: VC Andrews: Classic, Dud, or Criminally Insane?
The New York Times explains how Britain's libel laws hurt publishers and authors, using House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties as an example.
Kelman always manages to write challenging and important books; each one seems to make him even more essential. His prose perpetually reminds us that in this world, outside of our media-generated superficialities and stereotypes, classes and cultures are less cognisant with each other than ever. Ironically, some of the responses to this book will doubtless provide an illustration of this. A depressing number of critics will view You Have to Be Careful purely as a tale of a Scotsman on the piss in the US, reminiscing about his life and trying to make that flight back home, told in a largely unbroken "stream of consciousness" narrative. And so it is - in much the same way that Moby-Dick is about a big whale.
I didn't think Mil Millington was entirely successful in making his book Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About as funny as his website, but evidently it was such a hit in Britain it's being made into a movie. He has a new book, A Certain Chemistry, and he's interviewed at MSNBC about his book and using God as a narrator: "God talks like Joe Pesci. I really tried to have him sound like Joe Pesci. Or there’s a character actor and he plays airport security in “Die Hard 2” and he’s really kind of an Italian-American New Yorker."
I haven't had a good dose of Molly Ivins in a while, not since leaving Austin. (I once attended an event with Calvin Trillin as the keynote speaker, and Molly Ivins threw her dinner rolls at a noisy table to get them to shut up. Things were more interesting if she was attending.) And while Bushwhacked and Shrub will probably be reread during this election year, it was nice of New Pages to provide this link to her column "Call Me a Bush Hater."
I tend to easily believe conspiracy theories. After reading a few chapters of Lab 257, I was certain my government was trying to kill me. So even though CNN finds it ridiculous, if I read Murdering Mr. Lincoln, I'll probably believe the conspiracy to assassinate the president stretched through the whole damn country, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find my tin foil. The aliens are trying to read my brain.
May 20, 2004
Family is in town this week, so I wouldn't expect much today or tomorrow. Not that I'd leave you with absolutely nothing to do. Try Splinters. They are my favorite lit blog. You'll also find a giant time waster in barbelith.com. You can start new odd discussions at I Love Books. If you're in need of some recommendations, I'm reading Hopscotch by Cortazar, something I have strangely never read before. I've read The Winners and Blow Up and Other Stories, but I had never made it around to Hopscotch until book group made me. (Next month is The Winshaw Legacy: or, What a Carve Up!. I think there are people upset about this decision.) Also, if you like Calvino, you can do worse than Antipodes. It's tiny, brief, and words sing. Even in translation. Lastly, Grant Morrison's The Filth has been collected, and it's weird and beautiful to look at. If you like Morrison, you'll love it, I think. With something that odd, it's always going to be a recommendation with "but"s. That should keep you busy enough.
May 19, 2004
Robert Lovato responds to the book Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity. The book expresses fear about the rise of "expanding power of Latinos in U.S. society."
Gloria Steinem likes O Magazine? Also, she shows no love for Bust, which is unfortunate. Steinem is interviewed about Myrna Blyth's Spin Sisters which accuses women's magazines of being too liberal and creating an atmosphere of fear. Steinem blames advertising for the decay of the women's magazine, and thinks Blyth is a nut. What is not asked is, "For about two years there, your magazine was pretty good. Then it became boring as shit. What the hell happened?" (If you don't believe that it's boring, perhaps you should read the article about pornography in the (I think) latest issue. Men should be ashamed to watch porn? Wasn't this covered, I don't know, about fifteen years ago? Get over it.)
The idea surfaced a year ago at a cocktail party: What if you opened your mailbox to find a national magazine with your name on the cover and the headline "They Know Where You Live!" — under an aerial photo of your house? And what if, when you turned the page, the editor's note and the advertisements included details about your neighbors?
It was too sexy a concept for Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason magazine, to pass up. So, equipped with subscriber names and addresses, free Internet downloads and some fancy printing technology, Gillespie's staff and a team of direct-marketing experts produced 40,000 unique copies of the L.A.-based Libertarian magazine — shocking and delighting readers with personalized June issues that were sent out last week.
May 18, 2004
I've been meaning to post about Charlize Theron's casting as Jinx. She's playing the lead in the adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis's brilliant comic Jinx. But every time I try to write about it, it usually ends up along the lines of "AHHHHRRRRGGGTTKJLADLJKLA. STUPID MOTHERFUCKERS. She's not anything like the goddamn comic book. God Fucking Damn It." This usually ended with me pounding on the keyboard. Today is different only because ... well, it couldn't be that I've been drinking, because it's only 3:30 in the afternoon. That would be ridiculous, and my parents could be reading this. (Although if they were, they probably stopped at "fuck." They don't approve.) But hey, it's not my fault I have to pass a liquor store on the way home from cashing my unemployment check. I'm pretty sure they do that on purpose.
Harry Potter and Left Behind are essentially the same. Thanks to Adam for the link.
I don't know why it never occurred to me... I mean, it would make sense that if I read Jane Eyre at 12 or so and had it kick me in the gut, others found it around the same age and had the same reaction. But it really wasn't until I read this article about children's attachments to Jane Eyre that I had any idea. And just like me, many of the subjects of the article reread Jane Eyre when sick or depressed. It's the ultimate comfort book for me, and the odd hardback when the Tim Burton-ish engravings I received from my father is still the best gift anyone has ever given me. But since I do know people who detest Jane Eyre, I started a thread about the book on I Love Books. The opinionated can talk about it there.
Blah blah blah semiotics makes people famous blah blah blah.
The Opinion Journal has an article on the particulars of big celebrity book signings.
A high school has ordered a girl's poetry destroyed because she read aloud a poem critical of the war in Iraq. (Thanks, TF, for the link.)
But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.
May 17, 2004
The Nigerian Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka has vowed to launch new anti-government protests after being tear-gassed and arrested by police in Lagos at the weekend.
Josiah Dark came to Salts to supervise the building of the lighthouse. Robert Stevenson had a relative who wrote Treasure Island. The Pews have always been lighthouse keepers: Pew feels as if he has been there for ever. "I'm over 160 years old," he said nonchalantly. My dog nodded in understanding. See, everything can be interconnected if you're happy to write bollocks.
Depending on your perspective, Hari Kunzru was either very fortunate to score such a large advance for The Impressionist, or unfortunate to create expectations a first-time novelist would have serious problems living up to. His second book Transmission will be released shortly, and it should answer some questions about his staying power. Kunzru is interviewed in the Guardian.
Perhaps it won't be nominated for a Booker, but Sela Ward is More Attractive Than Shannen Doherty is worth a look.
If Andrew Arnold dies, could someone make sure that I am willed his job? Thanks. Today he's talking about rough comix, published by actual publishers, but looking like they were created on a copier. Jeffrey Brown's Unlikely, James Kochalka's Sketchbook Diaries, Volume 4, and Alison Cole's Never Ending Summer are discussed.
Neil Jordan has a novel coming out called Shade. As much as I like him as a filmmaker... We'll see. Right now he's working on an adaptation of Patrick McCabe's Breakfast on Pluto (he also adapted McCabe's Butcher Boy into a brilliant film).
May 14, 2004
ALA are generous folks. They'll be providing five sets of Neil Gaiman posters (the Author Reads poster and the P. Craig Russell-illustrated Sandman poster) for Bookslut. To register, you need to be subscribed to the notification list. (Blank e-mail to email@example.com.) The giveaway will start Tuesday, so be subscribed by then.
Someone at the American Library Association sent me the loveliest care package with posters today. They also sent a catalog, which has this. Which I NEED. (It seems the link isn't working anymore. It's the tea cup.) Anyway, they have a Lemony Snicket poster which should also be bought. (And did anyone notice that the Weird Al poster has him holding A Brief History of Time?) Go to the ALA store and do some shopping.
(Psst: the Joe Bloggs piece about the book deal for the kid who hasn't written anything yet was a SATIRE. Now you know.)
Shelley Jackson's "Skin" project has made it to an AP Wire report. It cracks me up that the word in the story is from Overland Park, KS. It would take a long time to explain to non-Kansans why that is odd.
The only young author I've been impressed with in the past few years was Danzy Senna for Caucasia. It hit big, got her a lot of attention. And then she sort of drifted away, and made me worry she was another Junot Diaz, never to be heard from again. But good for her -- it seems she actually took that time to work on her writing. Now we have Symptomatic. She's interviewed at the Boston Phoenix.
Publishers love it when the media types write books. The publicity is already built in.
They may not write great books, but they can sell books greatly. "I'm absolutely convinced that when people have a chance to read it, they will love Buffalo and love Big Russ as much as I do," Russert told reporters yesterday after his six-car motorcade, with police motorcycle escort, arrived for a book-signing in his hometown.
May 13, 2004
Dear Comix Revolution:
Thank you for having every single comic book I needed, as well as several others that I didn't even know I wanted. Also, thank you for creating an atmosphere where I can go into a trance and just grab, hand over my books to a clerk, and be signing my receipt before I realize that the amount just read out to me was in dollars, not cents.
Dear Bookcase Store to Remain Unnamed:
Four weeks? Are you kidding me? I was all ready to hand over a full two week unemployment check for you to make my apartment into one giant library, but then you told me it would take four weeks minimum to fulfill my order. I nearly cancelled on CB2 when they told me it would take them four days to deliver my dining room table. There's just no way I'm going to spend that much money without instant gratification. But your bookcases are very pretty. You make me sad.
Dear Borders Bookstore:
You know, I only stopped by because I had too much iced tea at lunch and you have reasonably clean bathrooms. It just so happens that your display with the Reporters Without Borders magazine caught my eye. It was very shiny and pretty, and the first page I looked at was a Leonard Cohen photograph. Had to have. But then I can't just buy one magazine, even if it is ridiculously priced. I have to stock up. But I would like to specifically address this to the clerk I handed my money over to. Yes, you, asshole.
First off, it would be nice if you hadn't rudely cleared your throat at me while I was browsing your magazine section, even if I was preventing you from putting up the new issue of Budget Living magazine. Second, grumbling about customers (of which you had about four while I was there) while you're ringing me up, bitching at the new employee because she was having trouble scanning one of those weird Discover credit cards, and then rolling your eyes at me for buying Black Book, telling me I was only buying it because there was a cute boy on the cover... all of these things make you a bastard. I was buying Black Book because of Anthony Bourdain. I would just like to thank you for reminding me that I should always just pay the 25 cent transfer, get off at the Main stop and give my money to the lovely people at the newsstand. And next time I have time before a movie, I'll just go to the bar in the theater (yeah, there's a bar in the movie theater) instead of buying magazines from you. Motherfucker.
Thank you for the comic book recommendations over lunch. I am now broke.
Neal Pollack is back to telling people to shut up.
A YOUNG writer was the toast of Fleet Street today when he was included on a respected list of promising authors before he'd even written a single book. Jake Purbright was a surprise inclusion on the Charlie Young British Authors list as it is known that he hasn't even written a book yet. "This has quite taken me by surprise," said Purbright, 26, from his fashionable home in a multicultural district of North London yesterday. "There I was just bumming around in Hoxton and the next thing I'm hanging out with Martin Amis and Dave Eggers. It's great!"
Mr Purbright, a media studies graduate, was thought to have been signed to a six figure publishing deal with Penguin following a lunch at his girlfriend's parents house last year. "I was a bit depressed, I mean I'm no good at art and I don't think I could handle the workload of being in a band. So I was just hanging around gallery openings and attending gigs on the guest lists of bands I know but I couldn't actually point to anything I did creative-wise. Being a writer sounded fun, and easy."
Enter Brian Creekbaum and Mary Lutes. Creekbaum, a Marion County native, had fought several censorship battles over the previous three years, including the one over It's Perfectly Normal. For this, the informal citizens group he chaired received the 2001 Intellectual Freedom Award from the Florida Library Association. Creekbaum has a lazy Southern drawl, an indefatigable devotion to civil liberties, a sharp mind and a dry wit. Referring to one of chapter one's naughtier bits, he wrote to me in an email, "I find it hard to believe the cucumber has nothing to do with this decision."
We can only hope that any day now the Complete Idiots Guide will run out of things to teach us. But coming in July is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel. Comic Book Resources interviews the creators.
There are approximately two dozen books being released in 2004 marking the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Slate suggests that the one to buy is Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Educationand Black America's Struggle for Equality which has been updated and reprinted.
Her own writing is full of the thrill of someone who is finally able to separate her own personal history from that of her country. "After some years I'll go back," she says. "But first I want to discover myself, to see my reflection, to see what I can do if I don't live in China for a while. Because when you're in China, the big, big Chinese voice overwhelms your own."
Terry Pratchett is doing a chat today at The Guardian. Submit your questions now.
Will someone please explain to me why It's a Bird by Steven T. Seagle is supposed to be interesting? The idea of it is intriguing, but the execution is boring. (And I know I'm not the only one, as The Boy made an attempt to read it before I did and pronounced it worthless a third of the way through.) A better meditation on Superman, something more linear, something more thorough, would interest me. This just wasn't it for me, and yet it's like Max Tivoli. I watch everyone else foaming at the mouth to heap praise on it.
The book is mentioned in the latest Salon "indie" publishing round-up, even though it's published by DC. He wastes two paragraphs explaining that comics -- everyone say it with me, now -- AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS, but his selections aren't bad. Lovecraft certainly deserves a lot more attention. But seriously. Someone's gotta do something about that graphic. I guess it's the reviewer's logo or something, but it's a crime against graphic designers everywhere. Make it stop.
May 12, 2004
Marianne Faithfull remembers William Burroughs.
In response to the Orhan Pamuk profile, Roderick sent me some information about the translator, Maureen Freely. Her book The Life of the Party (out of print, but widely available used) is set at Robert College, where Pamuk studied. Freely's father also wrote Strolling Through Istanbul, one of the best travel guides to the city ever written. Unfortunately, that makes it cost about $110. Used, $75. So thank you, Roderick.
Speaking of Rocco's Flavor, it hasn't been selling all that well. The reviews have been good. Gourmet called it one of the best cookbooks of the year, and now it's won a James Beard award. Of course, last year the theme of The Restaurant was "Rocco is an asshole." Perhaps this year, with a better villain, there will be more sympathy and his sales will go up.
I'm slightly horrified at this. But that's what I get for subscribing to Daily Candy and their like. (Remind me to tell you the story of interviewing with Daily Candy. It's really quite funny.)
May 11, 2004
I'm busy doing behind-the-scenes Bookslut stuff today, so why don't you spend your time reading this profile of Orhan Pamuk (his book Snow comes out soon), go to Splinters, or browse through our new issue.
A Wrinkle in Time was on last night. I have yet to hear that it was shockingly horrible, but it's only 8 in the morning. Until then, One-Sided Wonder has a response to the wretched New Yorker profile of Madeleine L'Engle.
Well, they weren't rules - no one sat me down and gave me a talking to, it was more like instinct, some characters just shouldn't be in a MAX book. They are mainstream licensed characters aimed at kids - and I write a bunch of them, I don't want to tarnish them or have a kid buy a comic like Alias by accident. When I was a kid I did, and look what happened to me.
To me, the MAX label had as many pros as cons. The pros were the literary freedom and writing for adults, but I already have that with Powers.
And marketing it was a nightmare. Most of the time I was the only MAX title. It was basically marketed to fans of Powers and that's about who was buying it, which was awesome and I’m grateful. But, I believe the book to also be of interest to the Daredevil audience and it was impossible to let them know because it was MAX.
Perhaps the Bookslut book group isn't the best sampling of modern America, but when the TV show Angel was mentioned last week, eyes lit up and everyone admitted to taping that night's show. Joss Whedon is a fucking phenomenon, but booksluts aren't the only people who love him. Evidently the Mormons have a special place in their hearts for Buffy, too. They even wrote a book about it, What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide. No word on whether there are WWBD? bracelets yet.
May 10, 2004
Marvel's The Pulse series worries me. It contains one of my favorite comic characters, Jessica from Alias (the last book of that series was just released). But evidently Marvel thought having Alias on their "adult" line (read: desperate attempt to compete with Vertigo, but unfortunately only had one series worth reading and they are now destroying it) was giving the series a too small audience. So instead of Jessica having the mouth of a sailor and having ill-advised sex, we have The Pulse, a toned-down, kid-friendly version. A pox on their heads. The Fourth Rail says it's good, but I'm waiting for the first trade paperback to make a decision.
NEWSWEEK: So you’ve seen the movie?
Madeleine L’Engle: I’ve glimpsed it.
And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.
She also talks about God being a shit and Harry Potter being hollow. She's quite the interview subject.
I hear that the folks at Miramax Books are buzzing about the autobiographical first novel of a budding literary talent.
The novel - titled "Junior" and scheduled for publication next March - is "part memoir, part rant, part comedic tour-de-force," according to the publisher's catalogue, and deals with the author's "quest to come to terms with the awesome pressures of childhood megastardom and family dysfunction."
Who is this promising new literary figure?
Puzzle Monkey alerted me to this: Agent Wimpy and others set up... Oh, just let them explain.
Nearly two years ago Agent White pitched the idea "Meet Anton Chekov" to Improv Everywhere. The plan was to set up a card table in Washington Square Park with a large sign that read "Meet Anton Chekov" and have someone sit behind it claiming to be said Russian playwright. A few months ago, we finally found someone who we thought could pull off the Chekov impersonation.
As someone who spends more money on books than anything else in her life, who takes two books with her wherever she goes just in case she's somehow trapped somewhere for hours and will need reading material to keep from getting bored, who carries as much affection for her favorite books as she does for her cat, I read this article worrying about the people quoted. Really? Books are like relationships, huh? Like divorces and dating and flings. Well, I guess that means my recent "marriage" to Louis Riel is currently a happy one. We're registered at Pottery Barn.
May 7, 2004
Kurt Vonnegut wants to be a war analyst on CNN.
This is the way I feel about the electronic versions of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times (also, free PDF), which serve the look and feel of the print editions on the Web. I should be raving about how incredibly cool it is to download the searchable and printable versions of three of my favorite papers onto my ultralight, wi-fied laptop and tote them around the house, into the backyard, and onto the subway. So why are these electronic editions as comfortable as a fat man trapped in an iron suit designed by a boa constrictor?
That these editions induce claustrophobia, even when displayed on a large flat-panel monitor, cannot be denied. For a sense of how poorly the facsimile of a broadsheet newspaper translates onto a computer screen, imagine reading a newspaper through a six-pane colonial window in which five of the panes have been blacked out. I haven't had this sort of tunnel vision while reading since the last time I endured newspaper microfilm at the city library.
Jack Shafer finds that online newspapers don't really do it for him.
Page 305: Wilson on Fox News host Sean Hannity: "one of the least interesting people I have ever spoken to"; "has no idea what he is talking about, at least on foreign policy"; makes "ad hominem attacks on the integrity and patriotism of those whose views he does not share." Wilson appears on the show several times.
You should consider subscribing to Columbia Journalism Review, if not also American Journalism Review. If you're at all fascinated with media, CJR is indispensable. Both are having funding issues, and AJR is cutting the number of issues from ten to six a year.
I was about to write something about Bookslut's second anniversary, some nonsense about how it doesn't feel like it's been that long... but it does. It feels like it's been exactly two years. I'm wishing I could pretend the second anniversary is also paper, so I could get some free books out of it (my Amazon.com wishlist is under the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) but I think it's cotton. Which is what? Underwear? If you're happy Bookslut is still around, you can send me some comfortable underwear.
Or you can read the new issue. This months interviews: Deborah Levy talks about her disturbing little books, Abram Shalom Himelstein discusses his latest New Orleans project and the zine movement, and Steven Brust explains why he moved to Las Vegas to write. Karin Kross survived 24 Hour Comic Day and lived to write about it (hopefully she's gotten some sleep since then), and new contributor Colleen Mondor examines some of the overlooked works of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, rereading them in the light of his plane's discovery.
May 6, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor (via The Seattle Times) profiles the book Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell.
He tells the story of Dorothy Deering, an out-of-work bookkeeper saddled with a felony embezzlement conviction. By 1987, she had written a science-fiction novel and been swindled by three "fee agents" who promised to find her a publisher. Rather than react bitterly, though, she was inspired to start a new career: Taking advantage of aspiring writers just like her.
Within 13 years, she and her partners would be imprisoned for fraud and ordered to pay more than $2 million to the hundreds of authors they had failed to publish. Told in the dramatic style of the TV show "America's Most Wanted," "Ten Percent of Nothing" documents how this convicted felon joined the "genteel racket" of fee agents, vanity presses and book doctors who bleed writers by promising to represent, publish and improve their works.
I absolutely need this book: Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Actually, I think I already know, but I'm pretty sure reading it would soothe my memories of my childhood there. There was an excerpt in Harper's, not available on their website, but some of it is available on Rural Womyn. (Where was this website when I was growing up?!) Lawrence Journal-World has an article about the making of the book. (Ah, Lawrence. I do miss you. Mostly for the grape leaves at the Mad Greek and a bookstore that doesn't actually exist anymore, but you were a nice place to live.) In the sidebar of that article is also an audio interview with Frank, as well as the original essay by William Allen White that inspired Frank's title.
For much of the state's history and especially during White's tenure, Kansas was perceived to be a place ruled by decency, common sense and hard work. It symbolized all that was right with America.
But in the aftermath of the state Board of Education questioning the need to teach evolution, of Olathe Republican Sen. Kay O'Connor doubting the merits of women's suffrage, and Topeka's homophobic minister Fred Phelps finding a national stage, Frank argues Kansas has lost its once-precious normalcy.
He compares the state to "staring into the eyes of a lunatic."
I think I want to marry Thomas Frank.
This is a little old, but I've been cleaning out my inbox. Indy Magazine's new issue is completely devoted to the anniversary of Paul Auster's City of Glass. Most of it is regarding the graphic novel, which I wasn't all that impressed with. The book itself is good, and I recommend the entire New York Trilogy, but I remember the artwork in CoG being much less than impressive. It could have used a Frank Miller or perhaps a Dave McKean. Something with more style. Evidently people liked it, though, because Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction.
Mistakes Were Made (MWMs)
Twizzlers: not just a horribly artificial flavor, but a texture that falls somewhere between chitin and rain poncho.
Chuckles: a fruit jelly the consistency of cartilage. Explain.
Circus Peanuts: a marshmallow pretending to be a legume. I'm baffled.
White Jellybeans: I defy you to tell me what flavor white is supposed to signify. Pineapple? Coconut? Isopropyl?
White Chocolate: this stuff is, in fact, not chocolate (as it contains no cocoa) but a scourge visited upon us by the inimical forces of Freak Evil.
Lime Lifesavers: The Lifesavers people haven't figured out by now that no one likes this flavor?
May 5, 2004
(By the way, I left out the word "fiction" when I complained about the lack of publishers in Chicago. Also perhaps "non-university affiliated." I had been talking to people recently about the lack of fiction, non-university affiliated publishers in Chicago, and I forgot to qualify it when I wrote it down. That is all.)
I was asked to answer 20 Questions for 3 a.m.'s Blog, so read it and find such stunning insight into my soul like what I think of Bono or even where that scar on the middle finger of my left hand came from.
Bookslut will be giving away signed copies of James Hynes's Kings of Infinite Spaces at the end of this week to subscribers of the notification list. If you're not already subscribed, you can do so by sending a blank e-mail to email@example.com.
The shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction has been announced:
"Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps", by Anne Applebaum
"John Clare: A Biography" by Jonathan Bate
"The Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson
"Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall" by Anna Funder
"The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War" by Aidan Hartley
"Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic" by Tom Holland.
Tonight the Chicago Bookslut book group meets to discuss Underground by Haruki Murakami, and yesterday I kept wondering what updates have arisen since the book's publication in 2000. (Underground is kind of an oral history of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, perpetrated by the Aum cult.) This website has a news archive of just about every detail of the case. Posting may be light today, as I have about 100 pages left to read before tonight. I tried to stay up last night to finish reading it, but nearly fell asleep sitting up. It's been a while since I've read a book good enough to make me try that. (Next month's book, for those following along, is Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar.)
While the entire world was saddened to hear Lynne Cheney had blocked the reissue of her tawdry romance Sisters, Whitehouse.org managed to find a copy. They have excerpts.
There are several books that are automatic shoo-ins for the Booker longlist. One of them, Cloud Atlas, just made its way to my doorstep in galley form, but won't be out in the US for a while now. Another, Colm Toibin's The Master is also taking its sweet time crossing the Atlantic, but the buzz in the States is already building. Toibin is interviewed at Nerve.com about the lack of sex in the book and The Master's subject, Henry James.
Neal Pollack has had some bad sex, and he would like to share these experiences with you. His biweekly column at Nerve.com started yesterday.
The Boston Globe interviews Vincent McCaffrey about his bookstore, the Avenue Victor Hugo, closing for business.
May 4, 2004
The Guardian is running excerpts from Felicity Lawrence's Not On the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate. Today's excerpts is what goes into your bread. Eck.
Since moving to Chicago, I've been impressed with the zine and literary journal scene. There are more literary journals in Chicago than I could ever afford to read, and yet not a single goddamn publisher. It's a mystery. Anyway, as the Chicagoans have been nothing but helpful when I have a question, I would like to pose another: Where is the best place to buy zines? All of this, by the way, was brought on by this article about Chicago's zine scene.
The artwork in Hans Rodionoff's Lovecraft, illustrated by Enrique Breccia, is the most beautiful I've seen all year. It's a story of H.P. Lovecraft, imagining that the reason his stories were so detailed was the creatures he described were real. He alone stood between this other world of Arkham and Providence's destruction. It's quite the story. The Providence Phoenix has a profile of the book and Lovecraft's relationship to his hometown, and the Vertigo website has sample pages.
Sykes refuses to entertain the idea of a stroll down London's most exclusive fashion street in search of a comparison. In fact, she will not acquiesce to any of The Sunday Telegraph's requests.
Just to be in her hallowed presence, I have had to go through tortuous negotiations. "Plum won't do Harvey Nichols," the Penguin press officer told me. Bond Street? "No way." Claridges? "Nope." Can we have two hours? "Good God, no. Plum is exhausted. An hour, max."
It is somewhat diva-like behaviour for a first time novelist - even one rumoured to have received a £350,000 advance. Her attitude would be more befitting of one of her foot-stamping heroines.
Magazines are still struggling to sell advertising.
May 3, 2004
While Ned Vizzini's ">Be More Chill may sound a bit like a male Mean Girls ("A supercomputer in pill form, the squip communicates directly with your brain to make you cool. By instructing Jeremy on what to wear, how to talk, and who to ignore, the squip transforms him from a complete into a member of the social elite. But Jeremy discovers that there is a dark side to handing over control of your life – and it can have disastrous consequences." Replace "pill" with "being cute" and you have the basic plot line of the movie that yes, I just saw and loved.) it has gotten a lot of buzz and praise from those in high places. Vizzini is interviewed at Word Riot.
Irvine Welsh has been traveling in Africa as a representative of UNICEF. He is now trying to draw the world's attention to a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
I would have immediately dismissed Wendy Shanker's The Fat Girl's Guide to Life had it not been published by Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury does so little wrong, I had to give it a try. It's a good read, even for someone who was asked, "Are you bulimic?" by a former boss. Shanker is interviewed at Salon.
The International Comic Arts Association website has launched. It is sparse for the moment, but you can learn more about the organization and how it came to be.
There’s been a lot of debate recently on The Classics. What makes a classic book? Are the old established classics still of any relevance? Which of the books being written today will be the classics of tomorrow? Trainspotting or Pet Sematary? Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones?
Most of the debate’s as tedious as most of the classics all of us were force-fed at school. (I still get a distinct choking sensation whenever I see a certain long-legged water bird lumbering past – symptoms of the post-traumatic stress brought on by having DK Broster’s tedious Jacobite epic The Flight of the Heron rammed down my throat at an impressionable age.) More than that, most of the debate’s a pretty transparent marketing exercise engineered by booksellers and publishers to boost sales of their particular products.
Just another book it seems unfair to make us wait for: Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty, which has been out in the UK for two weeks now, but will not be released in the US until November. (Although, if you can't wait, the price at Amazon.co.uk is discounted enough that it'll probably cost you the same amount of money to buy it through them, even with shipping; you'll have to deal with the ugly British cover, but you'll have it six months earlier.) Hollinghurst is interviewed at the Telegraph.
The latest also differs from his other three novels in being less fervidly preoccupied with carnality. Or, as I put to him, there's much less sex. "Yes, I'm so sorry," he replies with a short, gasping laugh. Did he feel a weariness of it? "Not exactly. The urgency and novelty of writing about sex in my first book has gone, I suppose." Given that sex is less insistently foregrounded in this book, I wonder if Nick could have been written as a heterosexual character. "I don't think so. Even with a third-person narrator you're spending the whole book, more or less, within this sensibility, and I don't think I would have been able to write about complicated things within that consciousness if he'd been a heterosexual."