June 30, 2004
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, will be joining the New York Times as a guest columnist. Okay, now you can say there's a liberal bias in the media. At least in that small corner of the media.
Nicholson Baker just may be my new hero, but I have a feeling that the PATRIOT Act is going to get a workout with the release of Checkpoint. Hell, I'm sure just by linking to the article, I'm now on some sort of list.
June 29, 2004
I haven't read any Alain de Botton since On Love, a book I've reread half a dozen times. I don't know why my affection for that book hasn't led me to his others like How Proust Can Change Your Life, a book recommended to me. (Maybe it was the hideous cover.) Anyway, he's gotten a lot of press for Status Anxiety, and he gets some more with this interview in the Atlantic Unbound.
Francis Wheen, author of Idiot Proof: Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power Brokers, Media Morons, and the Erosion of Common Sense, is interviewed at the Boston Globe about Madonna's new name, Margaret Thatcher's role in the dumbing down of the world, and Deepak.
Celeb Shocker!: Us Weekly Swears They're Nice.
Does the author have companion essays berating bird-watchers, gardeners, and music lovers for their "smug" and "self-congratulatory" attitudes? Maybe she should write similar essays chastising museum-goers for traipsing aimlessly through art museums, merely appreciating art without getting aggressive about it. And what about all those theater-goers who sit around watching plays, possibly even watching them the wrong way, applauding season after season without offering a detailed critique of each performance?
What about talented, intelligent people who write silly essays merely to get a rise out of readers? What are we to think of people who make a career out of writing and editing and then slam readers as "text grazers...ever consuming, never creating." Condescending crap.
Kevin responded to my request for negative Killing the Buddha reviews. The New Pantagruel opens with, "If you ever get a chance to meet Jeff Sharlet, give him a good swift kick in the balls," which gives you a pretty good idea where the reviewer is going with this. Kevin also reviewed the book himself, giving it a conflicted review. He sums it up as so: "Perhaps if you are a metropolitan agnostic who is interested in religion as a social phenomenon and fiction as a lens on that phenomenon, then you will find this unique book more to your liking." I guess he's got me pegged.
If you're at all interested in the book, I urge you to read Bookslut's interview with Sharlett and Manseau. They are very cool guys, and no, I did not kick Sharlet in the balls. I hadn't read Pantagruel's review at that point.
June 28, 2004
Go to I Love Books and share your favorite words.
Pamie has started 2004's Library Book Drive. This year, it's for San Diego.
Need help writing that bestseller? Starting can sometimes be the hardest part. Tobias Seamon lends a helping hand and a few first sentences, destined to become the openers for the next bestsellers.
—The fact of the matter was, Pinky Calhoun was scared of weasels and he always would be.
—You are Winston W. Dapper of Dapper, Cringe, Carpe and Plack, Attorneys at Law, and you believe your partners are bent on slowly destroying your reputation for good sportsmanship, but they are not, not even in the slightest.
—Much the way the Black Death cut a swath through medieval Europe, Handsome Jack Rhubarb left behind him an instantly recognizable trail of marital calamities.
I have many mixed feelings about Thomas Frank and his book What's the Matter with Kansas. I've gone through them before, so I'll spare you most of it. But what I realized after reading some David Brooks, was that while Frank complains in his book that Republicans like to pit the Blue States against the Red States ("Blue States walk like this, but Red States walk like this"), Frank was doing almost the exact same thing. So all in all, the historical perspective was good and very well written, the portrayals of those hearty Kansas folk (but only the Republicans, of course, as the progressives were missing) fell into the Brooks trap, just from the other side. (I'd give you an example, but The Boy just walked out with my copy of the book ten minutes ago. Don't worry, I'll be writing about this book again.)
But Frank is interviewed at Salon, and it's good to hear that his tour is going well. And his interviews are interesting to read.
Chester Brown, Louis Riel (D&Q)
Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf)
Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf)
Special Award for Excellence in Presentation
Acme Novelty Datebook, Chris Ware (D&Q)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Datebook (D&Q)
I love Chris Ware as much as the next person, but did Acme really deserve Best Colorist? I mean, it's a sketchbook. And it's pretty and all, and I own the damn thing, but maybe we can spread the love around to some other people. From the comments:
But maybe they should change it to the D&Q-Fantagraphics-Top-Shelf-awards. Can someone look into this? I certainly agree with Kyle Baker winning for Plastic Man but though Acme Novelty library is good, couldn't someone else win for best colorist besides Chris Ware for once? The Novelty is wearing off... Not that anyone really cares. That much is obvious because it seems like the same twenty people win every time.
Da male be complete-like egocentric, trapped inside himself, incapable o' empathizin' o' identifyin' wit' otha's, o' love, friendship, affecshun o' tenderness. He be some complete-like isolated unit, incapable o' rapport wit' anyone. Wassups responses be entire-like visceral, not cerebral; wassups intelligence be some mere tool in da service o' wassups rolls an' needs; he be incapable o' mental passion, mental interacshun; he caint relate t'anythin' otha' dan wassups own physical sensashuns. He be some half wo'm food, unresponsive lump, incapable o' givin' o' receivin' plaisure o' happiness; consequent-like, he be at best some utta' bo', some inoffensive blob, since only dose-dair capable o' absorpshun in otha's kin be charmin'. He be trapped in some twilight zone halfway between humans an' apes, an' be fah' worse off dan da apes becuz, unlike da damn apes, he be capable o' some fat-ass array o' negative feelings--hate, jealousy, contempt, disgust, guilt, shame, doubt--an' mo'ova' he be aware o' whut he be o' aint.
It's the SCUM Manifesto, Jive Version.
The Escapist's origin story, written by Chabon and illustrated by Eric Wight, has the lead in Issue #1. It's calculatedly old school: Thrust into his heroic role, the Escapist learns that he has a mission, that secret lore accompanies his mission, and that he enjoys the aid of a cast of super-powered assistants. Yet the tale lacks the mythmaking will-to-power of 1930s comics, and it's told far too straight to work as parody.
June 25, 2004
Superkid found. Now, if only he had been taken in by a couple in Smallville...
The only thing more entertaining than the Clinton book launch was watching the news trade try to fathom the Clinton book launch.
More and more, the coverage of these massive cultural events is like absurd comic theater. Act 1: Long before publication, the media announce that the book in question will be simply huge, The Biggest Thing In Years, and the drumbeat continues right up to the day of release. Act 2: The public, eager to participate in this foreordained historic moment, dutifully lines up to buy the important tome. Act 3: The media marvel at the popular frenzy, as if it had happened quite spontaneously and they had nothing to do with it.
I think I may have fallen in love with Commonweal. It's a little odd for me to fall in love with a magazine about Christianity, but I came across their issue devoted to Mel Gibon's The Passion, and asked many scholars to give their viewpoints. And now I see their current issue is about Catholics and Abortion. Fuck, I have to subscribe.
I do have one complaint, however. They gave a bad review to Killing the Buddha without ever saying why they didn't like it. When I like a book, I tend to seek out negative reviews, and when I don't, I look for glowing reviews to read. The only complaint I clearly understood was that the quality varies, but they refused to clarify who was bad. (Afraid of hurting feelings?) Everyone seems to love this book. Has anyone read negative reviews? I have yet to find one. If you know of one, please e-mail me.
It's a little sad that Joyce Johnson is known best for fucking Jack Kerouac and less for her writing. Even with her new memoir Missing Men, nearly every review calls her Kerouac's ex. (Of course, she did play up the connection a whole lot to sell her book Minor Characters, so I can't feel too bad for her.) She's interviewed at Nerve, mostly about Kerouac.
Cup of Chicha has images from a 1970's Scientology handbook.
Foreign Affairs has lost a book-review editor. Blame Kissinger.
June 24, 2004
Sorry everything is boring over here today. The construction in my apartment led to the collapse of the chimney which led to my apartment being coated with coal dust. First carbon monoxide poisoning, now black lung. My landlord is trying to kill me. Anyway, things will be a bit slow today and maybe tomorrow as I try desperately to clean this nastiness up. I need to find a new place to live.
June 23, 2004
We all have stories of things found in used books. Hell, I'm sure Found Magazine could survive on used books alone. The Wall Street Journal goes around to used bookstores to see what all they have discovered when buying books from people.
It's sad that the first thing I noticed when I clicked on this Atlantic interview with Edwidge Danticat was the big Today Show logo on the cover of her book, The Dew Breaker. Which leads me to wonder, which is worse, the Oprah logo (the old one that was actually added to the cover, not the little wraparound they put on the classics now) or the Today Show logo? Danticat should know, as Breath, Eyes, Memory has the Oprah logo. Poor Krik? Krak! has only the National Book Award finalist logo. She must be so disappointed.
I promise not to bore you with stories about Bill Clinton's My Life, although watching him on 60 Minutes was pretty unintentionally hilarious. There's nothing like someone apologizing for having an affair with a devious twinkle in his eye. But this Salon article about his signing tour is pretty funny (he makes the girlies wanna scream) and the Guardian finds the book disappointing.
June 22, 2004
In a bid to avoid massive construction in my apartment, I situated myself in an Evanston cafe and ordered a pot of tea to go with my stack of books. The man slammed a tea kettle on the counter, dumped a layer of tea bags in the bottom and then filled the whole thing with hot water. After drinking about a third, I realized if I drank the whole thing I would spontaneously combust from all the caffeine. But it was just enough energy to make me think about someone's e-mail yesterday.
Evidently, one year ago, I provided a list of overlooked summer reading. I can barely remember what I did/said a week ago, so I'm glad someone's keeping track. They wondered if I would provide such a list this year. I couldn't answer this at first, because what the hell did I know? I was on a Hellblazer binge for a while, trying to catch up with the series. But there's only so much prison sex, bestiality, and naked women chained to trees a girl can take before she needs something with sweetness and light. So summer reading it is.
First, I'd have to recommend Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum. It goes down easy like chick lit, but without the nasty aftertaste of stupidity. (Publisher: you can use that as a blurb, if you like.) Plus, virgin births! Jews who look like Christian iconography! Prose so biting, it gives you a shiver of delight! For example:
Mr. Wosileski -- as they called him because this was Brooklyn in the 1970s and not some cockamamie Montessori school in the city where kids were on a first-name basis with their teachers -- came into the room, and the class settled down. The way he did every day, for he was a responsible but uninspired teacher, he said, "I need five volunteers." Five volunteers, one for each homework problem, to go to the blackboard. Six hands shot up like bedsprings. The same six hands that always went up, eager, waving, convulsing almost, as if they were raising their hands to be chosen from the studio audience as contestants for a game show.
In no particular order the Suck-Up Six were: Joel Krotchman (need more be said?); Amy Epstein, who later, consumed by radical politics, the aim of which was understood by no one, actually -- get this -- robbed a bank; Mario Carlucci, a slight and bright boy whom no one messed with because he hinted at family connections, which, in fact, were a fabrication but an indication as to how clever he was to come up with such a solution for keeping the bullies at bay; Robert Frankel, later infamous for having stabbed his freshman roommate at MIT with a Swiss army knife (the roommate survived, needing only six stitches in his arm, but Robert was expelled); and Peter Janski and Richie Weissbart, the crown princes of Queerdom, queer defined as nerd, geek, dork, or as an adjective for anything unfashionable, such as That is such a queer shirt, queer pocketbook, queer haircut, ad nauseum, and entirely unrelated to sexual orientation except for the firm conviction that queers, who invariably wore queer shirts, shoes, etc., would never get to have sex of any sort except with themselves.
Also, the work of Boris Akunin. Two of his books have been translated into English (from Russian): Winter Queen and Murder on the Leviathan. They are the mysteries (I know, the shock of me reading a mystery) of Russian sleuth Erast Fandorin. Akunin (pen name for Grigory Chkhartishvili) wrote the books so his wife could read mysteries on the train unashamed. It works for the rest of us, as well.
Blue Suburbia is very, very good, and it is as summery as a memoir told in blank verse can possibly be. Killing the Buddha is still very good, particularly Peter Trachtenberg's piece. Mr. Dynamite will be out soon on Dalkey, and it's genius. (Or maybe it's out now? Can someone from Dalkey clear that up for me?) Our Nun by Rob Laughner looks impossibly good, although I haven't had a chance to start it yet. (I'm assured by Dennis Johnson, aka MobyLives, that it's great.)
That should keep everyone busy for a couple weeks.
The new "Writing in the Margins" is up at Salon. For some reason, he's recommending Valerie Solanas, the crazy bitch who shot Andy Warhol and wrote a book about cutting up men.
Decades later, though, others might consider Solanas' "SCUM Manifesto," as Ronell does, to be like Jacques Derrida's "Ends of Man" essay -- they were released in the same explosive year, 1968 -- in its illumination of deteriorating male supremacy.
Really? Because I thought SCUM Manifesto was just the ravings of a loony. No matter how impressive the introduction is, I'm not sure the book could ever much more than that.
The foreword, by Frank McCourt, contains another comma-free nonrestrictive clause (“I feel no such sympathy for the manager of my local supermarket who must have a cellarful of apostrophes he doesn’t know what to do with”) and a superfluous ellipsis. The preface, by Truss, includes a misplaced apostrophe (“printers’ marks”) and two misused semicolons: one that separates unpunctuated items in a list and one that sets off a dependent clause. About half the semicolons in the rest of the book are either unnecessary or ungrammatical, and the comma is deployed as the mood strikes. Sometimes, phrases such as “of course” are set off by commas; sometimes, they are not. Doubtful, distracting, and unwarranted commas turn up in front of restrictive phrases (“Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions”), before correlative conjunctions (“Either this will ring bells for you, or it won’t”), and in prepositional phrases (“including biblical names, and any foreign name with an unpronounced final ‘s’”). Where you most expect punctuation, it may not show up at all: “You have to give initial capitals to the words Biro and Hoover otherwise you automatically get tedious letters from solicitors.”
I don't think I mentioned that the fourth installment of Jessica Abel's La Perdida is out. It's very good, and the story just keeps getting better, but the huge gaps between issues means I usually have to reread the previous issues to remember what the hell is going on. So hurry up, Fantagraphics, and put out the rest of it.
June 21, 2004
"When I first pitched the concept," Vaughan says, "I think my editors were afraid. It does sound like it could be a bad, late-night, sex-romp movie. But I researched for almost two years to find all sort of factoids, such as what percentage of pilots are female. It's a shockingly small number. So what would that mean if there were this many planes in the air when it happened? And how many women are mechanics, and how many women work in the Internet, and how many combat-trained female soldiers are there?"
Because Dave Eggers can't just do something, he has to make it precious, he has given the new tutoring center 826NYC an alter ego.
The Library Journal has unveiled its "Most Borrowed Books" list. Great. Now we have even more evidence that people are still reading The Da Vinci Code and foolishly follow any new fad diet.
Someone asked me about joining the Chicago Bookslut book group, so I thought I'd just throw another notice on the blog. If you're interested, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The July book is The Winshaw Legacy by Jonathan Coe, and the August book is The Untouchable by John Banville.
Ray Bradbury has not been pleased with the title of Michael Moore's new film, Farenheit 9/11, and now he's being more vocal about it. Bradbury says he called six months ago to try to talk to Moore about changing the title, but his calls were never returned.
June 18, 2004
It wasn't too long ago that Alex Garland was the subject of all of those "Where's that follow-up novel?" stories. But then he wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later and now his new book The Coma is coming out. The Coma contains woodcuts by his father. The two are interviewed in the Telegraph about working together.
Alex Good writes about Chapters Bookstore's decision to include "lifestyle products" at the stores.
I'm kind of "eh" on Steve Niles. I liked 30 Days of Night, but that was mostly for the artwork. But I feel like someone has to warn him that Secret Skull is a terrible title. Please change it, Steve. The premise is interesting (but so was the premise for 30 Days -- vampires in Alaska? Brilliant.), it's the execution we have to worry about with Mr. Niles. And now the titles.
Justin Cartwright found himself seated next to John Updike, his idol, at a banquet. Things didn't go quite as he would have hoped.
I am still concerned that he has no idea who I am, and when we sit down I find I have been listed as Justine Cartwright, which suggests that I may be here under false pretences.
June 17, 2004
From the Onion:
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—Speaking though her publicist, author J.K. Rowling shocked fans and the publishing world Monday when she announced that she has opted to end the best-selling Harry Potter series because she has discovered boys.
"For many years, writing the Harry Potter books was the most important thing in Joanne's life," said publicist Mark Knowles, who is "just good friends" with Rowling. "She's been experiencing a lot of changes lately. She still wants to keep in touch with her fans, but she doesn't feel she can sit in a room at her computer all day while there are so many cute boys running around."
Reminder for those in Chicago: Adrian Tomine is at Borders tonight.
Timothy Noah believes no one will learn anything from Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
Author David Amsden (I just noticed the paperback for his book Important Things That Don't Matter uses the same image as the Spoon album Kill the Moonlight. That's some lazy graphic design.) is going to prom. For the sake of journalism, of course.
Related: The Atlantic Monthly finds that kids today are a lot better off than books about them would have you believe.
Not that I mean to be rude, but does any other discipline depend so much on vaunting its own methodology—especially when it's being used to confirm the obvious? As he shares the results of his painstaking investigations (adolescents seem to care a lot about clothes), Milner doesn't want anyone to be confused by his subject's arcana. Cheerleading, he explains, "usually involve[s] a mixture of verbal phrases and routinized physical movement," and you wonder: Usually? What in hell do the exceptions do—kick a possum to death in stony silence? (And by the way, does their team win?) On a bolder note, here's Milner analyzing high school gossip: "It is clear that rumors can be an integral part of gossip ... the tone of rumors and gossip is usually negative." A paragraph later he suffers a brief and endearing crisis of confidence: "Of course," he admits, "most people intuitively 'know all of this.'" The quotation marks are the charm.
Aleksandar Hemon writes about "espionage lit."
Martin Levin has just endeared himself to me by mentioning J. G. Farrell in his column. Farrell is the author of the brilliant Troubles, recently brought back to life by NYRB and John Banville's introduction (being a huge Banville fan, that's why I picked the book up in the first place). It's one of those books I'll read a couple dozen times in my life. The book Levin mentioned was The Siege of Krishnapur, luckily still in print, and again available from NYRB. Unfortunately, it looks like his Singapore Grip is out of print for now (although still available used), but hopefully NYRB is on that. All three of these books are part of his "Empire Trilogy." All three are very good, although Troubles is still my favorite.
From the Literary Encyclopedia's entry on Farrell:
Farrell's “Empire Trilogy” is a major work of postwar British fiction, although only in recent years has its qualities come to be appreciated fully by literary critics. Farrell takes a critical view of the British Empire, representing its demise not as tragedy or elegy, but as farcical. His characters are often deluded, cynical colonials crushed by circumstances they struggle to control or understand – such as Edward Spencer in Troubles or Dr Dunstaple in The Siege of Krishnapur – or youthful idealists drunk on dreams of imperial adventure but soon to be sobered by the sordid deeds of Empire, such as Matthew Webb in The Singapore Grip. Without ever minimising the horrors of conflict, Farrell plays with the conventions, clichés and dominant tropes of imperial fictions, poking fun at obsolete ideological values and pointing out the pitfalls of colonial arrogance. In this respect he is certainly not quietly elegiac about the end of Empire (a mistaken view of his work adopted by early critics) but anticipates – perhaps even partly inspires – a body of postcolonial writing in Britain in the 1980s by such figures as Timothy Mo and Salman Rushdie which mobilise the genre of the historical novel for similar critical purposes. In this respect Farrell was years ahead of his time, and it is revealing that a variety of critical books, articles, and one biography (Lavinia Greacen's excellent J. G. Farrell: The Making of a Writer, 1999) have recently appeared as postcolonial writing has become increasingly popular with readers and critics alike. Farrell also makes a central contribution to the evolution of the historical novel more generally in the postwar period, opening up this seemingly “realist” or mimetic narrative genre to more playful, occasionally postmodern elements which called attention to reality as a partial product of modes of representation. Indeed, the recent Booker prizewinner Matthew Kneale, author of a fictional account of nineteenth-century colonial travels, English Passengers (2000), recently cited Farrell as a fundamental influence.
He did write other, non-Empire Trilogy books, but they're out of print, and the used copies are expensive. (My birthday's coming up, just in case anyone has $250 to blow on this book.) Perhaps we should start a letter writing campaign to NYRB to bring all of his books back into print. You can write them here.
The Chicago Tribune has done another one of their 50 Best Magazines lists. In the top ten: Wired, The Economist, The New Yorker, and Jane?! Fucking Jane?! Have they read this magazine? I would have been more upset had I not quickly noticed they also ranked People above Atlantic Monthly and US Weekly way above Texas Monthly. (I'm telling you, even if you don't live in Texas, you should be subscribed to this magazine.) Ohh, the list is bad. They brought back Wooden Boat, but no New Scientist? Again, no Bust, which kicks Jane's scrawny little ass. If the Tribune is this out of touch with magazines, that doesn't bode well for their purchase of Chicago.
June 16, 2004
Arrest over writer's decapitation
A US man has been arrested after a 91-year-old screenwriter was beheaded and his neighbour stabbed to death.
Robert Lees, who wrote dozens of films including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and retired doctor Morley Engelson, 67, were found on Sunday.
Pretend you've read Ulysses. The BBC gives the cliff notes to the cliff notes.
You knew Slate was going to do a weeklong discussion on James Joyce for Bloomsday. But the authors they chose to conduct the conversation surprised me. I thought they'd go with, I don't know, someone Irish. It's not important, it just surprised someone who hasn't had any caffeine yet this morning. Thus far, only Jim Lewis (The King is Dead) has weighed in.
Just for the record, David Brooks was never my favorite conservative. I never understood that title bestowed upon him. Mine was always McCain. I always found Brooks annoying, especially in his "red states are this way..." columns. Coming from a red state, I knew he was full of shit. So I'm not really surprised that everyone is turning on Brooks these days, specifically over his new book On Paradise Drive, yet another entry in his "red states are so Wholesome, and WalMart sure is swell" oeuvre. However, someone does seem to be surprised that Brooks is being attacked by the liberals, and he tries to understand why.
June 15, 2004
Thomas Frank is interviewed on Fresh Air about What's the Matter with Kansas. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet as I'm about to go to work. Yeah, I know. I'm as surprised as you are that someone gave me a job. Anyway, I've learned to agree to disagree with Thomas Frank's book, especially after he addressed my concerns when I met him at Book Expo. Nice chap, Frank. I'm sure the Fresh Air interview is fantastic, if, as usual, you can ignore Terry Gross.
Instead, most people with a comment to make are making it about the absurdity of Coops having provided a "service to literature". She writes pot-boilers. She is known around the traps as the queen of the bodice-ripper. Ergo, this isn't really what you'd call literature. If she provided any service to the art form, it was by teaching a generation that it's possible to read with the telly on (a skill that I, for one, have found invaluable).
I know everyone is talking about the new David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I read the first half of the book and realized I had yet to laugh. On the other hand, I received a sampler of America: The Book by Jon Stewart and the Daily Show writers, only about six pages of the whole book, and was in hysterics the entire time. It doesn't come out until September, but as you're waiting, you can read this tiny interview with Publishers Weekly. Or his commencement address at William and Mary.
June 14, 2004
Journalista is gone. I mourn.
I should have posted this before, but the depths of my inbox is a scary place. Give books to Costa Rican children! What are you, a heartless, cheap bastard?
Salon.com has an excerpt from Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut.
When they’re in loss, they have the mouths of sailors — which nonetheless leave lipsticked imprints via prettified curses like "fuck you with orange rind, fennel and anchovy paste.... Fuck you puce and chartreuse." When they’re motherly, they coin pet names like "my darling little bone meal casserole"; when they’re not, as in "Touring the Doll Hospital," they ensure "every/bed in the head replacement ward is occupied."
(Although then I'll miss articles like this one, on the selling of James Joyce.)
No Jews in Dublin! God, I'll be glad when Bloomsday is over and there are no more articles like this.
Except that comics aren't and shouldn't be respectable. The closest they should come to the adult world is as a kind of foul-mouthed, filthy-minded and grubby adolescence, with adolescents of all ages duly sequestered in that teenage bedroom and, between bouts of what teenagers do, thumbing through thin, flimsy funnies instead of damaging their wrists trying to hold this latest over-weighty, overproduced whinge.
Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. Someone is trying really hard to be controversial, aren't they? I got the link from The Literary Saloon, who seems to agree. A certain someone also insists I should have arguments to back up my claim that comics are literature. But this article doesn't make me want to defend my claim. It makes me roll my eyes and get along with my day, just as any other boneheaded statement meant to get people angry would. I can't be bothered to care. More 100 Bullets for me.
And for people who don't believe comics can be literature, last week's Entertainment Weekly came with the comic THE CROCODILE HUNTER. Read that and try to tell me that's not art.
Huh. I'm in Time Magazine, for about a full second.
June 13, 2004
It's not often that a book will send me sputtering and fuming quite like The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage did. When someone gets worked up about a novel, I tend to flabbergastedly say, "But it's fiction. How can you get so upset by fiction?" This is an exception to the rule. A full review is forthcoming, but for now, I thought a bit of ranting might be fun. The book describes itself as:
From the outside, the Knowles family appeared to have it all—a loving marriage, two beautiful children, a home in an idyllic part of the countryside in upstate New York. Michael is a rising OB/GYN at a prominent private practice, his wife, Annie, teaches at a local college. But Annie’s role as "the doctor’s wife" has worn thin, and Michael has answered the call of an old flame to moonlight at the local women’s health center, the city’s only provider of abortions.
These subtle cracks in their life widen when anonymous threats arrive at their home. The reason for this intimidation is not at all clear—is it, as seems to be the case, the work of religious extremists opposed to what Michael is doing? Or are these violent warnings meant for Annie? For she has made at least one certain enemy in town—Lydia Haas, the painter’s wife, a disturbed young woman with a cellar full of her own dark secrets.
Told in the alternating viewpoints of Michael, Annie, Simon, and Lydia—four fascinating and complex characters—The Doctor’s Wife is steeped in psychological suspense, compelling and compulsively readable.
I wandered around online, looking for other reviews of the book, and I came across this "discussion group guide" on the author's website. Spoilers ahead, so if you have any plans on reading the book (plans you really should change), you might want to skip this post.
1) The thriller plot of The Doctor's Wife deals with violence against doctors who perform abortions. How did your own views about abortion affect your reading of the book?
It made me think, "Jesus, this woman has not done her research." My own background includes three years counseling women about abortion, a year at a sexuality education center reading everything I could about feminism, women's health, abortion, and sexuality, as well as personal connections to the issue. So I am not the average reader of this book. But Brundage's complete ignorance about the people who work at abortion clinics -- stereotyped as "a bunch of women in scrubs and white clogs and long silver earrings" -- and her lack of research into anti-abortion violence made me wonder if she bothered to pick up one book about the subject, or if she thought a passing familiarity with the topic was enough to sustain the book. It wasn't. Might I suggest The Wrath of Angels, Ms. Brundage? It's a good place to start. After that, perhaps the abortion section of Beggars and Choosers, Why I Am an Abortion Doctor, and A Question of Choice for a more wide ranging look at the issue.
2) Although the thriller plot focuses on the doctor, Michael Knowles, the title suggests the most important character is his wife Annie. Why?
Because Ms. Brundage didn't know what to do with the real meaty characters. Celina starts out interesting, but her actions in the middle and end of the book are baffling. The Reverend is completely underutilized and isn't even sketched out enough to be a stereotype. Michael must be a cold bastard, because look! Instead of going to his son's science fair, he's contributing to the holocaust of the unborn! That asshole! Annie is easy, because she's just the neglected, bored wife. Really, someone should have just given her a vibrator and told her to shut the fuck up.
3) Annie's affair with Simon is sure to press as many hot buttons as her husband's work in the women's clinic. How did you feel about the affair? Was it "justified"?
Infidelity isn't that shocking, I'm afraid to say. That entire subplot should have been cut out. It made Brundage lazy and gave her an easy way out of the point of the book.
4) Lydia's religious beliefs are exploited by a "reverend" with a political agenda. Who's responsible for her actions --- Lydia, Reverend Tim, or both?
Okay, here is where I really got pissed off. Instead of exploring what makes a person become violent for the cause they believe in, Brundage completely pussied out. The abduction of Michael was not about his abortion work, as you believe from the back cover synopsis, as well as the first half of the book. It's because his wife is sleeping with the abductor's husband. While The Doctor's Wife is supposed to be provocative and controversial, instead it turns into a weird Lifetime movie, bad dialogue and all.
As for Reverend Tim, Brundage didn't seem to have any idea what to do with him. He could have been a great fucking character. Instead, he barely shows up, and half of his actions go unexplained. Why did he show up at Annie's side? That obviously was supposed to be followed up on, but instead it falls flat. He's not a character, he's an outline.
5) Mothers beam when their daughters marry doctors, but Annie is disappointed in Michael precisely because he is a doctor. Medicine, she believes, has turned him into a "weary, densitized workaholic." That could be a description of many professional men. Would it be better if those men married women in their professions?
6) "They had come to a place in their marriage when they were blind to one another, and it was mutual." How does this change for Annie and Michael over the course of the book? What do you think happens to Michael and Annie?
Umm, I think it changed when he was pushed over a fucking cliff. They'll stay together for three more years, or at least until after the baby comes, and then the cycle will start all over again, and all will be bad. As if I care. Fucking boring characters.
7) Simon teaches Annie's class one day, and delivers a lecture --- directed at his wife --- about black-and-white. "Gray is where you want to go, but it's difficult," he says. In reading this book, do you feel the author prodding you to see life in its complexity, as shades of gray? Or is that a rationalization people adopt when, say, they're having affairs?
This discussion guide is very telling. The book is the exact same way. "Ha ha, don't pay attention to that whole abortion thing! We just put that on the back to make you look. All this is is yet another crappy 'she cheated, will their marriage ever be the same?' piece of shit that gets rolled out a couple dozen times each publishing year. But thanks for looking for depth! I'm sure there are some other books that might have some."
8) How do Simon Haas' paintings of Lydia reveal how he views women? Does this view change when he gets to know Annie?
Simon Haas was the worst character of them all. Wait, no, second worst. It's really hard to say, since they were all schizophrenic and made no sense. If he hadn't quit falling to the ground and weeping, I might have burned the book. I can't say I care that the only thing that stopped him was his death.
9) How do you visualize Simon's work? What painter's work do you see?
Oh, please. The painting descriptions were just as bad as the characters.
10) Which character, if any, were you sympathetic towards? Why?
None! Because none of them were actual characters! No one did anything that made sense, because if they had, the entire book would have fallen apart! "Gee, I'm pretty sure my wife has just abducted the husband of my lover, but instead of telling anyone about this, I'm just going to try to convince my wife to voluntarily commit herself to an insane asylum, even though I know she's the only person who knows where Michael is stashed. Because that makes sense."
11) Talk about the theme of guilt that runs through the book. Annie is guilty about her affair with Simon. Michael is guilty about his relationship with Celina. Simon is guilty about his life with Lydia. Lydia is guilty about murdering her father. What does this guilt do to the characters?
I see you're still bothering to refer to these wastes of paper as "characters." That's funny. Really.
12) When you first started reading this book did you expect that the story would take the twists and turns that it did? What surprised you most?
Probably that it started out as a blatant rip off of Misery and ended up as your run of the mill, purple prose, heaving bossomed, "Oh, Simon! We can't! We just can't!", waste of two days I will never get back ever again.
Full review will appear in the next issue.
June 11, 2004
Mark your calendars: Adrian Tomine will be speaking and signing at Borders (for his new release Scrapbook) here in Chicago on the 17th.
From the press release:
Acclaimed cartoonist, graphic novelist and New Yorker Illustrator Adrian Tomine, currently featured in the Chris Ware-edited McSweeneys 13, will appear on behalf of his new collection SCRAPBOOK. It will be his first Chicago event ever!
Q&A with Ray Pride (Film Editor - New City)
Signing to follow. FREE!
2817 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL
Thursday, June 17th - 7:30 PM
Slate has been picking apart The Jane Austen Book Club for the past week. I haven't read the book myself, but I have heard raves. Stephen Metcalf and Meghan O'Rourke don't find that much to like about it, however.
Nonetheless, I think we might start with a helpful distinction: the difference between fiction by a person of a certain demographic and fiction for people of a certain demographic. When readers start giving each other the high-hat about what they like and why—and more virulently, about what should be taught and why—a noble aspiration (to round out the canon with the unwhite, the unmale, and even sometimes the undead) gets easily confused with a base aspiration: to market to people on the basis of what we might call their census identity, as women, African-American, young adult, etc. I was delighted to be reading a book from the point of view of middle-aged, bookwormy women; I started to run out of gas, and early, when it became clear it was targeted, like the old International Coffee ads, pretty exclusively to middle-aged, bookwormy women.
The Nation profiles Shobhaa De, the bestselling romance author of India.
June 10, 2004
Kurt Vonnegut has written another political rant.
French film legend Brigitte Bardot has been fined 5,000 euros (£3,301) for inciting racial hatred in a book. The charges against Bardot, 69, related to her best-seller, A Cry In The Silence, in which she said she "opposed the Islamisation of France".
Katharine Viner was one of the Orange Prize judges, and the prize was recently awarded to Andrea Levy's Small Island. Evidently judging a prize like the Orange is a giant pain in the ass. There's crying involved.
Dame Darcy gives her vision of the future of marriage to Nerve.com.
Nothing dulls the pain of a vicious review so much as seeing the reviewer's book eviscerated as well.
My suspicion is that the ideas Morrison plays with in The Filth have a salience for men, especially young men, that they won't, in general, have for women. My guess is that most women, by the time they reach adulthood, have integrated the dualism of Spirit and "Filth" more completely than most men. They have to. A young woman has experienced monthly vaginal bleeding for at least a decade and anticipates several decades more of it. She either has given birth or has a very good idea what it entails. Social customs being what they are, she's probably cleaned more messes - done more laundry, more dishes, more toilets. Intimate with her mother's life in ways a son is unlikely to be, she is long over any shock at the idea that we are permeable bags of perishable fluids.
I bought another bookshelf this week, which means another reorganization. I broke down and started putting all of the nonfiction together, even though now I really do have "the abortion row," "the mental illness row," etc. But the combining of the nonfiction led me to rediscover two books I had forgotten I own: Sexing the Body and Lessons from the Intersexed. Both of these books came from the time I worked at the sexuality library, and this article at Slate made me quite happy. If you're at all interested in this topic, I do recommend those two books.
June 9, 2004
I'm hoping Laurie Lico Albanese's Blue Suburbia doesn't scare people off. It's a memoir (almost) that is told in verse. It also happens to be really, really good. You can read the Bookslut review, and this interview with Albanese if you need convincing.
The London Review of Books takes on lad magazines.
Dwelling on these public health risks inevitably serves to justify an expansion of authority for campus behavior cops and campus experts in mental hygiene. This authoritarian tendency is ubiquitous in Pledged. Robbins observes that "[e]veryday life in a sorority house generally goes unsupervised. The only adult who lives there is the 'House Mom.'… " It's disconcerting to have to point out to a recent college graduate that most sorority houses are populated exclusively by "adults," as that term is legally understood. It's even more disconcerting to register a hankering to impose a more exacting regime of supervision on these adults. But this is exactly what Robbins is up to.
Not everyone of his acquaintance shares Mr. Ricks's Dylan enthusiasm. "My eldest child is 45," he said, "and I think he faintly pities me about this." An expedition with some of his younger children to see the Dylan movie "Masked and Anonymous" was, he admits, "not successful." John Silber, the former chancellor of Boston University and a friend of Mr. Ricks, used to pretend that the Dylan who so captivated Mr. Ricks, was Dylan Thomas, not the former Bob Zimmerman. And even Mr. Ricks's wife, the photographer Judith Aronson, didn't go to all three concerts when Mr. Dylan was performing in the Boston area recently. But it never occurred to Mr. Ricks to skip one. Dylan concerts have a particular beauty and also a certain sadness, he explained, because Mr. Dylan himself is the one person who has to be at a Dylan concert and also the one person who can't go to a Dylan concert. "It's sad," he said, "the way it's sad that Jane Austen couldn't read a Jane Austen novel."
Look at us, we're all pretty today. Our genius webmaster has not only saved our website, he made it gorgeous. Give him compliments. (Also let him know if anything isn't working. This is the first day of the redesign, and things could go screwy.)
And just in time for the new issue! Michael Schaub talks to James Hynes about his fictional Austin, drowning cats, and the final episode of Friends. Seth discusses the word "nostalgia" and his recent work with Clyde Fans and the Complete Peanuts with our own Bryan Miller. Chuck Palahniuk answers some e-mail, and Kage Baker really likes Jethro Tull.
When I send out books for review, I for whatever reason assume their opinion will probably match my own. It's always a surprise when I read someone disliking a book I liked, or vice versa. With this issue, it happened twice. Comicbookslut did not like Lovecraft while I thought it was very good, and Veronica Bond liked The Confessions of Max Tivoli while I could barely stand to finish it. It's a lesson in tolerance, I suppose. Also, don't miss the Hollywood Madam column this month. She interviews a classics major about Troy, and the results are hilarious.
June 8, 2004
While she had most recently made headlines again with her battle against cancer, Omaha the Cat Dancer's creator Kate Worley lost her battle with the disease over the weekend.
Emily went to see Amy Tan speak, and it scarred her.
I am never, ever getting Botox, even if my jowls eventually dangle all the way down to my shoulders. Amy looks like one of The Witches from the movie, except scarier. Also she is no longer capable of expressing some of my favorite emotions, such as ‘angry’ and ‘confused.’ The ugliness of her scary mask face was trumped only by the ugliness of her shoes: an unholy cross between tevas and mallgirl wedges.
Bible-inspired dieting? "Praise Jesus! My ass is smaller!" It seems to be quite the trend with Twenty-One Days to Health The Hallelujah Diet Way, What Would Jesus Eat?, and The Maker's Diet all having sold more than one copy. No word on how many of those purchases were "ironic."
Why didn't I get the crazy Scientologist guy at Book Expo? The closest I came to crazy was the man dressed up like a goat bleating at me and then handing me a pamphlet. Actually, I could tell you other stories of crazies, but it would be impolite to name names. Maybe if you buy me a drink some time.
The Stranger examines the fall of Bookfest.
Carlin Romano, the man who snarled at Dale Peck at Book Expo, gives his impression of the convention and the books highlighted there.
Don't you just love it when you wake up and your website is gone? Over the past 24 hours, we've had problems with our Internet provider ("Gee, that doesn't make any sense. We can send someone out a week from tomorrow."), our server, and then Moveable Type crashed. Everything seems fixed now, thanks to the genius webmaster we have. God knows if I had to fix all of this on my own, it would have ended with sobbing on the linoleum floor.
Anyway, She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman keeps appearing in my inbox. Evidently many of my readers would like me to post about oral sex. Author Ian Kerner is interviewed at The Morning News, and his website is quite entertaining. While I haven't read the book, his use of the word "cliterate" makes me want to smack him just a little bit. My other thought is "Women stay in relationships with bad sex? Really?" Maybe the men should be given She Comes First and the women handed Against Love. True love isn't a good enough excuse for going through life with bad sex.
June 7, 2004
According to new research commissioned by Penguin Books, men who are seen reading a book are more attractive to the opposite sex, and I was keen to see whether this was true in practice. At Victoria, the experiment was temporarily suspended when a troop of schoolchildren got on and began swinging from the rails above my head. When the carriage was clear, I tried again. The lady tourist looked at me with interest, but then she was French. As usual on the tube, all English eyes were averted. When I tried to catch the attention of the girl sitting opposite - holding my book prominently in front of my nose and looking over the top of it - she clung rather more tightly onto her handbag.
The article also contains this line: "Women read novels by men to find out which planet they came from." That's interesting.
Abraham Lincoln's missing "suicide poem" may have been unearthed.
Miller went back and studied “The Suicide’s Soliloquy.” He found that it has the same meter as Lincoln’s other published verse, with characteristic references, syntax, diction, and tone. It fit the date given by Speed. Announcing the find in the spring, 2004, newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Miller wrote, “We might be justified in wondering if the mystery of Lincoln’s ‘suicide’ poem may now be solved.”
Though this news was delivered with academic equanimity, many Lincoln scholars believe that the poem is indeed the real thing. “It looks like Lincoln. It sounds like Lincoln. It probably is Lincoln,” Harold Holzer, the co-chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, said last week. “I don’t have many doubts that Lincoln wrote this,” Douglas Wilson, the author of “Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln,” said.
While trying to find the new issue of Bust, I noticed Anna Karenina was chosen as the new Oprah book and is now in the place of prominence in every bookstore. It's nice to see the New York Times use this as an excuse to profile the translators, even if Oprah did only pick this translation because it has the prettiest cover. Just a guess.
It's amazing how the end of BookExpo has destroyed my will to read. After being surrounded by so many books and meeting so many authors, publishers, agents, and publicists, what I really want to do is go read Lucky magazine.
There were some impressive looking books available. There's a new Philip Roth, a new Russell Banks. But I geeked out the most at the NYRB booth, and I think, "Oh my God, I love you guys," came out of my mouth. I also made it to the Melville House booth only to discover they have recently published a dozen books I am now dying to own. He handed over a copy of The Evasion-English Dictionary, a guide to all of the words we use to disguise what we're really trying to say. "Like," "but," "besides"... It's not only clever, it's really quite astute. I devoured it over the weekend, and it's now making its way through the first round of lendings. Melville House also has a series of novellas, looking sharp and enticing.
The highest point was definitely meeting Art Spiegelman and getting to listen to his talk about In the Shadow of No Towers and the history of comics. It was very interesting to see which authors were warm and funny (Spiegelman, Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain, Augusten Burroughs, Tom Wolfe, Jon Stewart) and who was an asshole (just one author who shall remain nameless). The lowest point might be my interview with Canadian television. We'll see how it turns out.
Oh, and I promised Jet Shon and Athen Eh Lee I would plug their business. I met them on the bus, had a lovely walk with them, and they are with JP Printers.
But now it's over, and it's time to take out the pizza boxes that have been accumulating, do some dishes, clear out the empty wine bottles. Right after I catch up on some blogging.
June 6, 2004
Perhaps the best title since Phone Booth (which is really hard to say without adding "Duh Duh DUNNNN" at the end), is TNT's new feature film, The Librarian. And, ladies and gentlemen, "Noah Wyle is THE LIBRARIAN." Duh Duh DUNNNN.
The Onion interviews book designer Chip Kidd in the current A. V. Club issue.
He pointed to the whole thing and he said, "You should never do this." He covered up the picture and said, "You either just have the word," then covered up the word and said, "or you just have the picture. But don't do both." It's insulting to the reader, or the viewer, or whoever. I think that's true. So what did I do on the cover for All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy? I showed a horse. I showed a pretty horse.
June 4, 2004
Someone sent in a link to this site, which looks to be the poorly done homepage for a small town in England. According to several pages on the site, a new book has been published about the small town, and it is horribly inaccurate and paints a terrible picture of the town and its inhabitants. It tells you several times not to buy the book.
Of course, the town doesn't exist, none of the towns people exist, and the site is just a promotional tool for the book.
That's wacky, right? Is it just me, or is that really wacky? I think its wacky.
I actually think that this kind of thing, done right, could be a great promotional tool. Unfortunately, the site looks so crappy, I don't think it will inspire anyone to buy the book.
Jessa, I swear, if you ever interrupt my guest blogging again...!
Looks like Jessica Cutler may not be so cutting edge after all. There's a new book out that details the wild orgies going on at the UN. Who knew all those diplomats had so much fun?
All these books about sex in government offices bother me. I mean, I have sex in my office regularly, and its not a scandal. And its definitely not worth writing a book about. So my concern is, are the people in government offices having better sex than me?
I think they might.
One other thing, and then I really am leaving. New City is hosting a party tonight to celebrate the Lit 50 issue, free if you show up before midnight. (I'm making up my #31 jersey at this very moment.) You should come.
I have just a few random observations before I need to get back to Book Expo this morning:
1. Dennis Johnson of MobyLives is a lovely person. He was a great gentleman during the blogging panel, and I felt intimidated sitting next to him. It was difficult to resist giving him a hug.
2. After the two cocktail parties last night, it would be a bad idea to drink something called "Enter the Dragon" ever again.
3. There is nothing better for the self esteem than a publisher snubbing the Fresh Air lady to declare, "Oh my God, I love Bookslut! I got so excited when you rsvp'd!"
4. When I receive a business card, I should write something to help me remember who these people are, because I have a large stack of them, and I don't remember meeting most of them. But that might have been the "Enter the Dragon"s.
5. I'd just like to restate that I love Dennis Johnson. Just in case he reads this.
6. My goal of the weekend is to gain twenty pounds exclusively off of hors d'oeuvres. Last night's sushi cramming session means I'm well on my way.
Now back to your regularly scheduled guest blogger.
June 3, 2004
A Day In The Life
Someone wrote in yesterday asking for more of a look into the life of a ultra-micr-mini publisher, so I thought I'd illustrate the sort of thing I do on a daily basis.
Yesterday, I flew back to Austin from San Francisco on a (delayed) red-eye flight. I had been in SF, theoretically, to work on my novel and a collection of short stories. In reality, I spent most of my time drinking Chimay in a bar where they played electronica.
I arrived at 10:45 in the morning. I rushed home from the airport so that I could get online and start my day job -- I am a consultant for an interactive media firm in Chicago. The work I do for this firm pays my bills, and pays for most of what So New Media does. My job is boring, and I will not go into any more detail, except to say that when people ask me what I do, I say "Computer stuff."
At noon, I went to the post office to collect the So New Media orders that had arrived while I was gone. There were two -- one from the Midwest Library Service for one copy of one book, and another from a book wholesaler for 2 copies of the same book. After the shipping supplies and postage, SNM will net about $1 per book.
Sales are, obviously, booming.
At 5, I took a nap for three hours in front of the television. The television was not on, because the television is broken.
At 8, I woke up in a panic. I occasionally write scripts for a Saturday morning children's show that is broadcast in New Zealand. I have a script due Thursday afternoon, and had not yet started it. From 8 til 11, I wrote feverishly, getting about half way through the episode. It is hilariously epic, and involves the following snippet of dialogue between Newt, a fish, and Spike, a penguin:
NEWT: You know, when I was a wee little guppy, I had a twin brother who looked just like me.
SPIKE: Is that so?
NEWT: Indeed it is. Jumbo-jim was his name. We were quite famous, actually, as child stars. Jumbo-jim and Newtly. You’ve probably heard of us. We had a very successful line of direct-to-video movies where we played a team of international counter-espionage spies who also happened to be fish larvae.
SPIKE: The story does sound familiar, but I can’t say that I remember it quite as you describe it. Are you sure you aren’t getting your life mixed up with the lives of, say, two plucky young American actresses?
NEWT: Hrm. No, no, I’m pretty sure it was me and my twin brother.
SPIKE: Ok then, what happened to this mysterious twin brother then?
NEWT: I ate him.
NEWT: Survival of the fittest and all.
SPIKE: I never thought I’d say this, but I’m terrified of you, Newt.
NEWT: Oh, it’s ok! I’d only ever eat my twin. It’s just the natural way – one twin must eat the other so that the moms and dads won’t be confused. Just like those Americans you were talking about. Mary-Kate ate Ashley because people kept getting them mixed up…
SPIKE: I’m not so sure about that. I think Kanoa might have the real scoop on The Olsen twins…
I will get paid approximately $250 NZ dollars for this episode, which will be 40 pages long. After the check is sent to me, which will take about a month, it will have to be sent back to NZ to be cashed. The NZ bank will take half of the money as a service charge, and the American bank will take about $15. The exchange rate is about $1NZ -> $0.50US, so I will make about $80.
This is why I'm trying to break into American television.
And from 11 on, I worked on an as-yet-unreleased project with a minor literary celebrity who I will leave unnamed.
Exciting, I know. And here is the lesson I would like to impart: Being a very, very small publisher is almost exactly like not being a very, very small publisher, except that there is a small room in the back of your house filled with boxes of unsold books.
As per usual, please send me book links and/or hatemail to email@example.com.
June 2, 2004
And while I'm on a roll, I'll take this opportunity to point out that you can still (still! I know! It should be back from the printers any day!) pre-order The Brick, the first novel from James Stegall. It is an exciting thriller from a man who knows what exciting thrills are all about.
(PS. This is why I get interviewed for articles about self-promotion! Zing!)
And also in the Guardian, Americans will be able to win a Booker Prize now, which, if my last post is any indication, means that it will be awarded to a 23 year old intern with a proclivity for giving anonymous blowjobs to sailors.
Jessica Cutler, the skank who blogged about her skankiness while also working for a Senator, and, surprise of surprises, got fired, has written a "tell-all" for the Guardian, including:
But the real reason I went to New York is not to hook up with sailors; I am here to meet with book people. If I get a book deal, that means I will actually have to write a book, which means I will actually have to do some work to make a living, which is bitterly ironic, since I had the easiest job in the world before I got sacked.
Doesn't that just sum it all up right there? Poor Ms. Cutler fucked her way into a book deal, and is now sad she might actually have to do some work. But first, she will have to learn how to put together a proper paragraph.
This article is, in my small and biased mind, the final nail in the coffin of the idea that mainstream publishing cares at all about quality. It is also a lesson in the new way to get published: This woman cannot write, but has created a scandal, thus will sell a few books. She will not get a second book deal. Her book will not be well reviewed. But it will sell enough to justify giving her a lot of money. Take note, kiddies! Want to write a book? Fuck someone important!
The piece ends, uninterestingly:
But I would rather stay in DC. I love my apartment, I love my neighbourhood and if some people in Washington hate me, I can live with that. Public embarrassment is really very liberating. You really stop caring about what people think, which is something only the elderly seem to able to accomplish with great aplomb. So I am way ahead of everybody. And those of you behind me can kiss my ass.
What a wonderful life lesson she has learned! And she'll share it with us this fall! Pre-order now!
June 1, 2004
And from Scott McLemee, self-promoter: this article, which -- at least the piece I read before getting nerded out -- is about how hard it is for the people who seriously study the works of JRR Tolkien to get their work published in academic journals.
Well, DUH. Ask anyone who seriously studied Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and then wrote their thesis up, and they'll tell you that the one BBS it got hosted on went down in 1985 and hasn't come back, even though they plaintively dial the number every night at 10:30, which is when the BBS used to go up from the basement of the guy's parent's house, and that they wish someone would get back to them because they want a copy of the cool ANSI art they used as an illustration.
The article is worth reading, however, because it features the line, "those working in the field of Tolkien studies" which both stuns and excites me, as I never knew that Hobbits really existed.
Junior Guest Blog Sleuth Alan Baird writes in with this link, which talks about a guy named August Highland who apparently has created 80 personas online, each of whom has submitted lots of writing to lots of web sites, all of which may or may not be edited by August Highland. And he's uh, calling it a literary movement or something.
I believe this as much as I believe that Kate Lee will manage to sell a quality novel by a blogger to a large publishing house.
From what I can tell from clicking on exactly 2 of these sites, the hyper-literary something something movement he's created consists of strings of words put together in meaningless order. Also, capitalization and punctuation rules have been thrown by the wayside. There are, however, lots of cute screen shots from first person shooter video games.
But he's inspiring. I call upon you, the readers of Bookslut, to join me in the creation of thirty five new literary genres, right this instant. We will call ourselves the Manic Depressive Lynch Mob of Letters, and all of our pieces will consist of the letter "E" typed in various type faces and sizes, many, many times. In just three months, you will be able to buy the entire body of our work in a laminated, gold-inlayed sarcophagus that is a 1/4 scale replica of the one King Tut's third cousin, Vice-under-secretary Numnum was buried in.
Hello Bookslut Readers. I am Ben Brown, writer, publisher, and increasingly minor internet celebrity. I will be guest blogging for Ms. Crispin this week, as she mentioned in the last post. I do not know exactly what this 'blogging' thing is, but I'm sure I will be able to figure it out as I go along.
Let me tell you a few things I have learned about the publishing business in my very short time as a very small publisher.
1. Books are expensive to make and difficult to sell, especially if you offer your customers a choice between buying a book and buying another round of beer.
2. There comes a point in the growth of a small publishing company where the demand for your books outweighs the ability of one person to pack them into envelopes in a timely fashion. This is why God created editorial assistants.
3. As well intentioned as they may be, moms do not make the best copy editors.
4. If you tell people that it is easier than they think to start a small publishing company, you will inadvertently launch a thousand small publishing companies, all of whom will want you to submit to their first print anthology, and this will cost you all the profits you made from your own publishing company because you will have to buy three copies of each one.
5. Dave Eggers had more time and more money to get McSweeney's started than you think.
And that is, surprisingly, all I've learned. If you've got questions or comments on this subject, feel free to fill my inbox with hate mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you've got a bookish link to share, send that on as well and I'll post it. The whole search-for-interesting-links thing is totally not my strong point.