July 29, 2004
Unlike just about every website I've seen this quiz on, I am not a book snob. I am a food and wine snob. (The deciding factor was the question about would I rather receive a dictionary or a basket of wine and brie. I've got a dictionary. Give me cheese.)
I never did do any sort of Comic Con wrap up. Perhaps I'm just bitter I didn't go. But, as usual, people dressed up oddly (there were even people as the Aqua Teen Hunger Force there), awards were given, things were signed, announcements were made. You should just go to the Comic Book Resources website. They have all the information you need, along with the photo galleries.
Amazon.com is making it more difficult for anonymous reviewers to post comments. Now Amazon "requires reviewers to provide their credit card details before posting a comment." My only fear is that fewer junior high and high school students will be able to grace us with genius such as this: "SUCKS BIG BANANAS.... the book should never be read again, it has no poit to it , the book was poorley writen and everyone should burn the book if thay have a copy"
Jordan told BBC World Service's Masterpiece programme that he remembered an alcoholic friend of his once saying, at the age of 50, "isn't it really terrible to be an adult."
"I understand exactly what he meant," Jordan added.
Just another impractical thing for me to wish I had enough money to blow on: Franz Kafka and Italo Calvino vladmasters. (Thanks to Kevin for the link.)
July 28, 2004
I have been working on two large-ish projects, so all of the books I want to read have been put on hold while I do research. It's not that I'm not enjoying the books I am reading for the research. The Leslie Cannold book I'm reading now is brilliant and leading to all sorts of light bulbs going off in my head. But most of my reading for pleasure has been magazines. So let's talk magazines.
First off, you really should read this article about the gap between journalists and readers when dealing with faith. It goes into why there is no good religion coverage in newspapers and magazines and why the religious are inherently distrustful of the media. It's also an excellent example of why I keep renewing my subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review.
(Also in CJR and worth reading: the honeymoon is over between George Bush and the Texas press. At least a little bit.)
Evidently all of the SF writers worth reading are subscribed to the New Scientist. And I've just become hooked. (Which is bad. Subscriptions are quite pricey.) Pick up an issue, toodle around the website. You'll get hooked, too.
The 9/11 report has been very good to W. W. Norton.
Dave Weigel, an intern at USA Today, gives further information about the Ann Coulter column that was killed.
I've gotten a lot of e-mails about the differences between the US and the UK versions of Neverwhere. Here's what seems to be agreed upon: neither is definitive. Hill House, however, is printing a definitive version. Of course, like their version of American Gods, it's going to be wildly expensive and in an extremely limited run. So start saving up now.
July 27, 2004
Ann Coulter was asked by USA Today to write a series of columns about the Democratic convention, but she couldn't even get one into print before she was fired. As if you even need to ask why, but the official reason was "basic weaknesses in clarity and readability."
Wagner is a 29-year-old snowboarder from Switzerland and has never written a book before. It seems that he has never read one either.
He goes on to call it "the literary equivalent of 'N Sync" and justify his decision to write a scathing review instead of using the opportunity to promote a book he loved.
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is having quite the life. The novel was adapted from BBC miniseries (good until the cow came on the screen), then rumored to be optioned for a US movie, and now announced as a comic book miniseries. And, it's probably just me because I can be terribly slow, did you know the British version of Neverwhere (the book) is different (and supposedly better) than the American release? I should have known, way back when, since my boyfriend-at-the-time's copy was larger and prettier. I asked where he got it and he said something about it being "the British release." I rolled my eyes, muttered something about "collectors" and forgot all about it until someone informed me that we Americans were robbed.
July 26, 2004
Salon.com has a review of a fascinating new book: Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot To Print. And I hate to say this, but I agree with Charles Taylor. I think the book should be an annual anthology. God only knows how many fascinating, yet too controversial articles aren't getting printed. I'll have to add the book to my giant to-be-read pile.
The leader of Turkmenistan, who likes to rename months of the year after himself, has released a new work of poetry. "The poem expresses his devotion to the nation, but warns against dissent." So I'm assuming a bad review of the poem would go under "dissent," huh? (Thanks to Jarret for the link.)
The story has the makings of great tragedy. A woman is killed by her father because of an illicit affair, her childhood friend denounces the murder and flees her Middle Eastern homeland in fear for her life, the story is published and becomes a worldwide bestseller.
Far from being a Jordanian who fled her home in the late 1990s after the "honour" killing of her best friend, Khouri is accused of being an American passport-holder who lived in Chicago from the age of three.
I'm not sure how I missed the New York Times's first comics roundup, except maybe the headline ("CHRONICLE COMICS; No More Wascally Wabbits") made me gag and put it out of my mind.
Got millions of dollars lying around? Slate's for sale.
In the past couple of years, the once fusty and elitist world of literature has undergone a makeover: books have not only become a little less bookish, they have actually become hip. For a jaded generation of late twenty- and early thirtysomethings, literature is filling the slot once occupied by nightclubs, records, trucker caps and magazines. These neoliterati are just like any dudes and dudettes slouching on the Tube, wearing Converse All Stars, with scuffed hair and bulging pupils — only they’re more likely to be engrossed in the first-edition Anthony Burgess paperback they found on eBay than the latest issue of Dazed & Confused.
Those hipsters, they're drinking their alcohol at the book groups, they're reading James Kelman on the train... And even if it's not true, it's nice to see the new assumption about young readers is that they're getting laid.
If you're feeling just a little too good about the state of the world today, you might watch the movie trailer for Constantine. (All I can say is, at least Keanu isn't going for a British accent. I shudder at the thought.)
"Without the novel, there would be no Europe." Britain's literary focus has changed from Europe to America, both in interest and in inspiration. Prospect Magazine explains the whys, hows, and whens, and it's a much more interesting read than you would think. (Link from Joe Bloggs.)
This week marks the end of Ruminator Books. The St. Paul Pioneer Press tries to explain what happened.
Astroy Boy author Osamu Tezuka is having a little bit of a revival, with Vertical reprinting his eight volume Buddha biography (they're up to four) and now Dark Horse reprinting the Phoenix series. Time.com has more information.
July 24, 2004
Where Julie Andrews's Mary Poppins has a whiff of saccharine magic, the original is excitingly frightening. In the tradition of Alice and Peter Pan, there is a great big dollop of terror about her. This Mary is unique and unnerving, the "great exception''; she will never tell, but she knows the truth of things. Secrets pass between her and her conspiratorial friends, which the children notice but cannot fathom. Travers said "we cannot have the extraordinary without the ordinary" and, with her small, peering blue eyes, Poppins negotiates the frontier between mundane reality and a world in which magic lurks around corners. It is found in the hissing of a snake (Mary's first cousin once removed), in a compass discovered in the park, or in the birds whirling around St Paul's Cathedral.
If you're feeling too good about yourself today, you might try the Guardian's new quiz: music in books.
Comic Book Resources is constantly updating with Comic Con news. (Although we'll have to wait until next week for my favorite part: the photo galleries.)
I have to admit something. Sometimes I don't read authors I know are very good because I'm afraid I'll have to make the investment of their entire back catalog. Case in point: Barbara Ehrenreich. I read Nickel & Dimed and then steadfastly refused to buy or read anything else. I was not going to be sucked in! She seems a little too liberal, even for me. (I really am a moderate. Sometimes it's just difficult to see that with the issues I choose to spout off on.) But her New York Times columns have been slowly winning me over, and now my wishlist is cluttered with her books. This column, in particular, on women refusing to admit they've had abortions is so good.
At least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized, mostly for the kind of reasons that anti-abortion people dismiss as "convenience" - a number that amounts to about 40 percent of American women. Yet in a 2003 survey conducted by a pro-choice group, only 30 percent of women were unambivalently pro-choice, suggesting that there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves.
July 23, 2004
Alan Moore is interviewed at Salon. It's very political, and all his talk of Reagan reminded me that for the end of June, my apartment was all Thatcherism, all the time. I tend to fall into certain topics headfirst, and my reading of The Winshaw Legacy, which was a skewering of 80's, early 90's British politics, just happened to coincide with the purchase of Billy Bragg's 3-CD Best Of as well as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover coming up in my Netflix queue. It's a wonder to me that the British are allowed to spit when they think of Thatcher, and yet we're supposed to light a candle for Reagan.
If they were the most intelligent, visionary, humane political thinker in the history of mankind, but were also fat, had some sort of blemish or something that made them less than telegenic, we would not be able to elect them. All we're able to elect are these telegenic, photogenic crypto-Nazis. As long as they look good. I suppose it's too early to go into my rant on Ronald Reagan? That would be tasteless.
He goes on to rant anyway. And bless him for that (and the phrase crypto-Nazi; I'll have to remember that one).
It's hard to say how much fuss Neil Boyd's Big Sister will make when it is released in the US. It's been available in Canada for a few months, and it has been met with equal amounts of eye rolling and "Hell yeah! Women are trying to take our porn away!" I haven't read the book myself, but if the Publisher's Weekly review on Amazon is accurate, and Boyd is using Dworkin as a jumping off point, I have to wonder, isn't he a little late? Hasn't most of the feminist movement kind of backed away slowly from Dworkin, as they realized she's fucking nuts? “My view is that the ideas of radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Lenore Walker, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis are bad ideas that undermine gender equality.” Does he really think these feminists are still influential? I'm going to have to read the book, but at the same time, I'm less than interested in reading nonsense.
Daniel Nester reacts to the idea of Kill Your Idols, although he admits he'll probably buy the book used.
Meanwhile, let’s have some fun with DeRogatis' writing, in particular some gems from his foreword, posted on his website, taken out of context to make him look even more stupid...
Design geeks, rejoice! By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis Xiv, and Other Object Lessons is coming back into print! (Although evidently Amazon.com has not yet gotten the message.) Core77 is very excited about this, and they have an excerpt of the revised edition, an interview with the author, gushings by designers who fell in love with the original edition, and a general celebration over there. (I got my copy last week, and it is very nice. You almost want to pet it, it's so well put together.) Just wait until the fall, and you can stop paying $50 for used copies.
July 21, 2004
Martha Stewart is planning to write a book about how to get through the trial process. Just one question: what kind of genius advice is she going to provide, seeing as she was found guilty and sentenced to jail time? Nobody has asked the Cubs to write a book on how to get through the post-season process.
Will Scatch is writing poetry for Wonkette on Craigslist. With rimjobs. In sestina format.
Caryl Phillips's A Distant Shore got him a lot of accolades, although my opinion was a little more lukewarm. When a book only has two characters, and only one is interesting to you, it's going to be a struggle to finish. But the nonfiction he's been writing for the Guardian is always very good. This week he's writing about the lack of black characters in British fiction.
Today, Britain remains the most multiracial of European countries, and London is Europe's most multicultural and racially diverse city. More than 300 different languages are spoken daily in London schools, yet, if we look at contemporary British literature, some of the absences of the 1950s continue today. Then and now, black writers addressed British life, and naturally enough these writers included black characters in their work. Perhaps Samuel Selvon's The Lonely Londoners (1956) is the best example of a 50s novel that tackles the problems of race and class that bedevilled British society at the time. But writers such as George Lamming and VS Naipaul also wrote about race, class and British society, as did Africans, most memorably Wole Soyinka in his poem "The Immigrant". Like their successors in Britain today - Ben Okri, Hanif Kureishi - these writers wrote and write about contemporary Britain with eyes that take in not only black people, but white people too. The lack of any reciprocal imagining on the part of white British writers is puzzling.
Bret Anthony Johnston is interviewed in the Atlantic about his new book of short stories, Corpus Christi, joining Oscar Casares in the tradition of naming your book of short stories about southern Texas after the town in question. (But Brownsville was immensely good. Let's hope Johnston is as good.)
South Texas is a region that hasn't been explored too often in literature or movies. It's a bit mysterious, a region that doesn't quite know what it is, which is kind of charming. In the book, there's mention of a hurricane. On the Gulf Coast, you're always in a state of flux and vulnerability, and that shows in the way people live their lives. It's a place that reinvents itself almost on a daily basis, especially when a hurricane hits. Yet five or ten miles inland there are cattle ranches, and five or ten miles north there's the city. All of these seeming anomalies go into making up the whole. It's an extremely diverse culture and an extremely underestimated community.
Boy, they sure do know how to solve the interest in reading crisis! Just put out another list of books everyone should have read by now! But this one is supposed to be somehow better because it has Stephen King on it. It's the "essential read," not the "big read," and only includes living writers. Keep up.
Once it was discovered that Antoine de Saint Exupéry's plane was not shot down, the family started to get nervous that his reputation as a hero and an icon would be tarnished by the truth. The truth might be a suicide. (For more on Saint Exupéry, you might want to read this Bookslut feature, "The Overlooked Works of Antione de Saint Exupéry.)
I forgot to link to this thread on I Love Music in my Kill Your Idols post (see below). Some of the participants decide they could write better negative reviews than what shows up in the book:
Trout Mask Replica? I'd hate to see the original!
the beatles? repeated stabbings in the scrotum with a phillips head screwdriver!
The Rumour(s) that Fleetwood Mac is shit is true.
July 20, 2004
I was challenged by a fact checker to back up my claims of sloppy editing in Kill Your Idols. Evidently I should have used specifics (which I would have, had the boy not taken the book that particular day to work with him). Since the U2 chapter was the one mentioned specifically in the e-mail, let's just make a quick jaunt through there, shall we?
P. 243: "Everything about U2's fourth album (The Joshua Tree) indicated that it was designed to be its Big Career Statement..." [The Joshua Tree was U2's fifth album, after Boy, October, War, and Unforgettable Fire. Information available on allmusic.com.)
P. 244: "Bono was the goods -- holier than Van Morrison, wordier than James Joyce..." [Wordier? Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake both clock in at over 650 pages. I'm pretty sure there's a better adjective than "wordier."]
P. 244: "His injunction to "Play the blues, Edge!,"..." [The words are actually "Okay, Edge, play the blues!" Nitpicky, yes, but isn't that what fact checkers are supposed to be?]
P. 245: "Akin to the Mad Caucus Race of Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass..." [The chapter "A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale" was in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, not in Through the Looking Glass. It was chapter three.]
P. 247: This isn't a technical error, but when you're trying to convince someone that a singer's lyrics are insipid, quote something other than the "woah"s and "la dee da"s. Every song in the world has a "hey na na" or a "wooooo" in it. You're not even trying, asshole.
That's just one essay, and I only went through about half of it. Yes, at some point, I was just looking stuff up to find more mistakes, but when it's so sloppy, how are we supposed to take this seriously? Sadly, I could go through the entire book and find a whole slew of corrections, rivalling the length of one of the included essays. But I do actually have other things to do with my time.
Fight Club references pop up in the strangest places. Like your local OfficeMax. (Thanks to Jeff for the link.)
I'm sorry, but I thought this was supposed to be a review. I mean, could a reviewer talk more about himself? Is it even possible? The book itself is mentioned, what, second page, three paragraphs before the end? It's even more of a shame since American Taboo is supposed to be really good. But I guess talking about the book instead of mentioning many times over how you tried to write about the exact same subject years ago is too boring for Salon.com.
"The idea of [Reading Lolita in Tehran] is so brilliant," said one Tehran resident, who wished to remain unnamed so she could speak candidly about a system that still can cause problems for people who speak openly. "The intermingling of literary criticism and politics is brilliant. The style of writing is brilliant. I mean, it's a brilliant book.
The problem, several Iranians said in interviews, is that Nafisi left Tehran seven years ago. Her highly personal account of 18 years living under the mullahs is as absorbing a history as might be found of this place in that time. But it ends precisely at what most people here call the dawn of a new era in Iran, the 1997 landslide election of Mohammad Khatami as president.
Two bars -- Sloppy Joe's and Captain Tony's -- are fighting over which was Hemingway's favorite. At least, if you go by their names, they sound like the kind of place Hemingway would go to. While in Oak Park with my mother, we stopped in at a place called Hemingway's, expecting some cheap pub food. When we walked in, however, it was a little horrifying. Lots of lunching ladies sipping white wine and eating spinach salads, a waiter who immediately rolled his eyes at my jeans, and a menu where the chicken salad sandwich was more than my CTA expenses for a week. I almost demanded to speak with the manager to find out whose bright idea it was to name the place Hemingway's, but I think my mother might have stabbed me with her dinner fork. We did stay, just to giggle, but I nearly yelled again when they charged me $4 for a Tazo herbal tea, which was not very good because the "hot" water was barely above room temperature.
But the duck was very good.
The Artsjournal has a wrap up of finger pointing for our nation's reading problem. The Chronicle of Higher Education looks no further than the television. The Slate somehow comes up with Dr. Seuss. And the Wall Street Journal is shocked that so many people are reading.
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2004 results have been announced:
She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail . . . though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.
July 19, 2004
Irvine Welsh would like to share his philosophy of life with you. He covers it all, from drugs to porn to your future career as a crack dealer.
This may have more to do with film-business politics than Wurtzel herself, though one of her more notorious statements has played its part. In February 2002, while promoting More, Now, Again via an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, she was asked about the events of 11 September 2001, in the context of her residence close to the World Trade Centre. Her reply ran: 'I had not the slightest emotional reaction. I thought, this is a really strange art project... it was a most amazing sight in terms of sheer elegance. It fell like water. It just slid, like a turtleneck going over someone's head.' She concluded: 'I just felt like everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me.'
The upshot was a predictable savaging in the New York Post and the first postponement of the film's release by Miramax. 'In dealing with any of our films that had a 9/11-related concern, we have chosen to err on the side of sensitivity and allowed more time to pass,' said a company spokesman.
But if you really need a Wurtzel fix (that doesn't include snorting Ritalin, I guess), she has yet another book: Radical Sanity: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women. The thought of young girls taking her advice is chilling, isn't it?
Not to nitpick, but don't you think Wonder Woman would turn back into Diana to be in the hospital?
Besides having a great title, Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth also evidently pissed off the UN. One of the contributors is interviewed at Nerve.com about how running from snipers makes you want sex.
July 16, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor has just gone through a brutal round of layoffs.
Over the next few months, The Christian Science Monitor will begin making several operational adjustments and exploring new strategies to eliminate the need for financial support from the general operating funds of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, by 2009. The first steps are aimed at reducing net expenses by $3.3 million.
To that end, total staffing has been reduced by 14 percent since the beginning of 2004, through an equal combination of attrition and layoffs. Editorial positions have been reduced by 13, while business and operations positions have been reduced by eight.
"Bookslut is an amazon.com shill with a sheen of sarcasm." ::Sniff:: It feels like for the first time, someone really understands me.
I am proudly the 99th person to be interviewed at Zulkey.com. Hooray.
July 15, 2004
Simon just reported to me that the poetry broadsides are in the $50 - $65 range instead of in the hundreds. Making it even easier for you to buy me one! Aren't you excited?
The Morning News chats with the men behind Clear Cut Press.
The Poetry Center of Chicago is selling limited edition broadsides of various poets' works. Billy Collins, Mark Strand, Charles Wright, Molly Peacock, Christian Wiman, and Lucille Clifton are included in the large group. You have to call for prices, which is never a good sign. But if you were thinking, "Gee, I wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on Jessa Crispin's birthday, but couldn't think of what to get her," this "Blood" by Lucille Clifton might be an idea. (Link from Gaper's Block.)
I live with a music geek who can argue for hours on what a wanker Bono is or how overrated the first Velvet Underground album is compared to the others. I'm sure he has other topics he can argue on; I have learned to tune him out when "and another thing..." comes into the conversation. But I do know one thing. He hates Jim DeRogatis. Kill Your Idols is getting a lot of dramatic readings, interpretive dances, and just hysterical laughter in our apartment.
Anyway. Jim DeRogatis, the man responsible for this book, is interviewed in Media Bistro.
I'd pitched this idea to my fellow writers for a long time, and invariably they were all like, "Fuck yeah! I've always wanted to write about fill-in-the-blank." And my idea of a great editor is you just choose a writer whom you respect a lot and you give him or her the room to run wild. I didn't pick any of the albums, I just picked the people, with Carmel, who is a really brilliant editor. We chose the essays that made the cut together and chose the people together, and just let the people run free.
Yeah, that's not obvious in the quality of work or anything.
The glamorous world of newspaper comics:
"She looks at the comic copy that comes in, and if an artist had drawn a butt crack in a cartoon, it's her job to edit it. This is very demeaning work . . . It's one of her principal duties. She hasn't told me if she's found any yet, but that's one of the things she's looking out for, finding those offending butt cracks."
July 14, 2004
A P.S. to my letter to Jim DeRogatis (see below):
I'm sorry, I'm just freakishly attracted to this book in a car crash kind of way. But how did you let this sentence into the book ("Horses" essay by Melanie Haupt): "The only musician on this record I can't find fault with is drummer Jay Dee Daughtery, whose credentials are damn near impeccable, including stints with the Indigo Girls..." I don't think I need to say anything more.
Another summer break has begun, and with it the arrival of a new edition of the essay anthology I use when I teach college freshman writing classes. Instructors use these anthologies to teach students how to compose and organize nonfiction writing for use in school, work and daily life.
The essays, used in classes as models, typically include a mix of well-known and lesser-known writers. Like every edition published since the early 1990s, this new edition offers a selection of writers that is ethnically diverse. I'm glad that has not changed. But something else that has not changed has me worried: Every minority writer is writing about being a minority.
Steve Almond is profiled in the Boston Globe.
Every year on your birthday, it's nice to sit back and take stock of what really matters -- how likely it is you'll end up with a six-figure book deal before you hit 30, making you the next big young thing to be featured in the New York Times. Razors anyone? If that's not enough, perhaps an article on successful child writers will put you over the edge. But don't forget. You're special in your own unremarkable, unmarketable way.
July 13, 2004
Dear Jim DeRogatis:
You call yourself a journalist. I don't argue this point. You have done some interesting music journalism. However, if you are a journalist, it's astounding that the book you edited, Kill Your Idols, is so riddled with factual errors.
The premise of the book is not necessarily interesting. Young kids complaining about their parents' music? Oh yee-fucking-haw. But it makes it ten times harder to take seriously when release dates are wrong, lyrics are misquoted, albums are misplaced sequentially. A quick visit to allmusic.com would have straightened out many of these problems. How lazy do your writers have to be?
We won't even talk about the quality, as it's all subjective, but perhaps asking your writers to actually write about the albums they're assigned was too much? Is that why I'm on page five of the Joshua Tree essay and the album itself has been mentioned once?
Seriously, DeRo. You are listed as the editor. So fucking edit.
Someone who evidently has too many release dates/lyrics/and sequential order facts stuck in her head.
My only thought was, why hadn't this happened before? Thanks to Ben for the link.
As someone who both downloads music and buys it and buys books used and new, I think some of this article is a little silly. In my experience, there are just some books you'll buy used and some you'll buy new, no matter what the prices. (For example, books I have on hand for reference, mostly nonfiction books, I'll always buy used. The new releases by authors or from publishers I love, I always buy new, even if used are available online. Book group books? Used. Books by the same book group book author after/if I've fallen in love? New.) But the textbook industry, the bastards that make you shell out a couple hundred for one book, is supposedly hurting, too.
James Kochalka's American Elf is being released this month, and he's on a book tour with Blankets-man Craig Thompson. (They'll be at Chicago Comics this Friday.) Kochalka's "interviewed" -- and by that I mean "they include four sentences of his in this tiny article" -- at the Boston Globe.
Jessica looked sad. "We're going to have to try IVF," she sobbed. Paolo breathed hard. He would do it because he loved Jessica so much, but inside he wondered whether her desire for a baby might not tear them apart. He took her in his arms and they made love. And do you know what? That night she conceived.
"Isn't it exciting that we're both pregnant at the same time?" tweeted Jessica.
Megan smiled, but inside she knew that Jessica was at an early stage and it could go wrong.
Jessica felt the trickle of blood. "It's not fair," she sobbed. "Now I've miscarried we'll never have a baby. I want to move house and devote my life to material possessions." Paolo indulged her because he loved her so much.
If you were wondering what exactly was behind the Ian Spiegelman firing from Page Six, and the news reports of who did what to whom were just a tad confusing, some helpful person has created a flow chart. And you may not remember this, but Spiegelman also has a book. It's called Everyone's Burning. Last time I posted about the book, however, I got a ranting e-mail from Mr. Spiegelman. So I'll just stop right here.
July 12, 2004
I really do need to track down a copy of Sock by Penn Jillette, but until I do, I'm obsessively looking for information about it. Atheist sock monkey, people! How can it be bad? The Boston Phoenix asks why a sock monkey:
Actually, I didn’t choose to do a sock monkey; there was a book about sock monkeys, and I wrote the first chapter as a short story for that, and then a friend of mine — who’s mentioned at the end of the book, Nell — just really, really loved it and begged me to write a whole novel based on that chapter. Which I wasn’t sure I could do, and she was, so she kind of pushed me, and that’s why it ended up being a sock monkey.
Things I didn't know, being a "godless heathen" (my grandmother's pet name for me): The Grand Canyon is a result of Eve's naughtiness. Thank God for Grand Canyon: A Different View. That'll straighten me out.
Guys, give it up. The Superman movie is never going to get made.
The Boy somehow caught on to my desire for Rocco DiSpirito's Flavor. It must have been the constant, "Hey, Kenan, know what I want for my birthday? That Rocco book." When he handed me the very cookbook-shaped present, I knew my mind control had worked. I feel a little bit embarrassed to put it on my shelf. I tend to be scared away from the celebrity cookbook, and I am proud that you will never find a book with Emeril's face bam!ing out from the cover on my shelves. But I will have to get over this, as Anthony Bourdain has a cookbook out this fall, and there's no way I'm not getting that.
But the Rocco book is probably the prettiest goddamn book I have ever seen. The photography is beautiful and drool-inducing, and layout is impeccable, the sidebars are so handy they make you wonder why every cookbook doesn't do the exact same thing, and Rocco's writing is very clear. I actually had to rip the book out of Kenan's hands as he fell in love with it as well. Who knew that guy I hated while addicted to "The Restaurant" could turn out such a good book? Whether or not anything is ever made from the book, it will be well-thumbed just from the looking.
"Eightball #23 hits stands July 14, just as Clowes and Ghost World film director Terry Zwigoff will begin working on their second feature film collaboration. Mr. Mudd, the production company behind 2001's Ghost World, reteams director Terry Zwigoff and cartoonist/screenwriter Dan Clowes for the eagerly anticipated Art School Confidential."
While this article is better than most, it's still difficult to get excited about a comics overview article when you're already a fan of most of the writers mentioned. I know, I just had to write one. "But just comics in general? Where the fuck do I start?" Of course, Charles McGrath was given a larger word count than I was. But it does have a few things going for it: the picture of Art Spiegelman with a cloud of cigarette smoke around his head, and the interactive feature with interviews and sample artwork.
The survey, by the National Endowment for the Arts, also indicates that people who read for pleasure are many times more likely than those who don't to visit museums and attend musical performances, almost three times as likely to perform volunteer and charity work, and almost twice as likely to attend sporting events. Readers, in other words, are active, while nonreaders — more than half the population — have settled into apathy.
July 9, 2004
All I have to say is, Amen.
Do you have the reading habits of a fifteen year-old boy? Can you name three of the X-men? If so, you could be my boyfriend. I have a fetish for comic book geeks.
Except then it degenerates into stereotypes. Hasn't she heard? Scrawny white boys read comics, too, and they're getting all the chicks these days. (Link from The Beat.)
A linguist has written a book about George W. Bush's mispronunciation of the word "nuclear" and named it Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Controversial Times. Now, I think by now everyone has figured out my feelings about Bush, and I'm sure the book is about more than just this one mispronunciation, but can we stop -- maybe just until after the election -- tearing every tiny little thing he does wrong in pieces in a book? Wouldn't a magazine article have been just as effective? Say, in Linguistics is Fun! magazine?
Booksfree.com -- and don't ask me why they label it free, because you pay a minimum of $7.99 a month to keep the ball in the air -- will ship paperback books to your doorstep on demand. With more than 40,000 titles in 74 categories and 10,000 authors available, the Web-based library will keep the books coming your way as fast as you can read them.
Penn Jillett of Penn & Teller (umm, he's the tall one) is releasing a book this month, Sock. "The novel is told in the first person from the perspective of a sock monkey named "Dickie" who belongs to a New York City police diver." How that doesn't make every single person want to run out and buy it, I'll never know. Penn is interviewed at the Boston Globe.
This stuffed sock has a dirty mind, doesn't believe in God, and peppers his narration with lyrical bites from the Beatles, the J. Geils Band and the Village People. The result is a sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious story that's framed by sex, death and pop culture.
"This isn't a Tom Clancy book or something in the 'Left Behind' series," says Jillette. "I'll be happy if people say it's a pretty good book by some (expletive) Vegas magician that's just fine on the shelf with those weird, crinkly olives."
(And, related, is Penn & Teller's series Bullshit! on Showtime. The first season is on DVD, and it's a must own. The goal of the show is to debunk quacks like spirit mediums, magnetic therapy practitioners, etc. It's genius.)
Joining the fight against the Child Online Protection Act was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The CBLDF executive director is interviewed at Newsarama to explain how that does not mean they're all for children looking at porn.
July 8, 2004
That little poetry spat involving Franz Wright reported on Slate is not the first time Wright forgot to take his blood pressure medication. It seems he attacked a blogger for daring to even link to something relating to him.
The producer of There's Something About Mary is rewriting Alice in Wonderland. People are horrified.
Larry Flynt has a new book, Sex, Lies & Politics: The Naked Truth, and it has no naked ladies in it. I don't know how he expects me to read it without the naked ladies. He's in Seattle promoting the book.
The Observer has a bit of fluff today: how to pack vacation books when both of you are readers.
Coding the new issues is a pain in the ass. I'm not really complaining. I do enjoy doing it. But it's rather monotonous to go through every piece, make sure everyone is using the same kind of dashes, make sure there's only one space after each sentence and not two, and change the 'i's to 'em's now that that's the preferred italics code. I then reward myself by, say, letting myself eat only bread and brie for the entire time it takes to put the issue together. This time it took three days. It's amazing my jeans still fit. But regardless! The new issue is up, and we have some illustrious contributors this month.
Ian Daffern from Book TV in Canada was sent to Ireland for Bloomsday. (What he doesn't know is, I'm planning on arranging an assassination so that I can have his job. Shh.) He brought back some lovely pictures and many stories to tell. Dana Stevens of Slate and The High Sign fame has written about the new edition of the SCUM Manifesto. Emily Cook, head of Chicago's Printer's Row festival, reviews Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby.
Which is not to diminish our regular contributors, who write such great things. Be sure not to miss Dale Smith's column about his travels through Illinois and Wisconsin, Liz Miller overdosing on Nick Hornby, Veronica Bond's evisceration on a housewife's handbook, and Tom Bernard's dabblings with pig tails.
In features, we have Roohi Choudhry interviewing four women for their takes on Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. There are interviews with Larry Young, aka Comics' Great Satan; Jim Fischer, the man who wrote 10 Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell; and C. J. Hribal, "midwest writer" extraordinaire. In reviews, we have the new releases from China Mieville, Molly Ivins, Barry Gifford, Alasdair Gray, and more. And The Doctor's Wife is still a very, very bad book.
To the "Mrs. H" who recommended my blog on the Washington Post chat... I appreciate it, you were very kind. But now Michael Dirda is going to know what an idiot I am. I'm not sure I can handle that much pressure.
July 7, 2004
Kevin needs a co-blogger.
You have got to love a good brawl. (Third item.)
Franz Wright, the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, and the critic William Logan (aka "the most hated man in American poetry") have at it. The brawl started when a Logan review called Wright's poems "rancid and repetitive," "the Hallmark cards of the damned," and the author himself a "fragile, self-obsessed" "sad-sack punk." Wright (not the first Pulitzer winner offended by Logan) wrote the Criterion to brand the critic a "grotesquely mean-spirited mediocrity" and warned Logan that, should their paths cross, "I will not be able to resist giving you the crippling beating you so clearly masochistically desire."
It's been five months since I stopped reviewing mysteries and crime fiction for the Boston Globe, and still my stomach clenches whenever a UPS or FedEx truck approaches my front door. I dread the thought that the driver will hop out and deliver yet another big shipment of books, all demanding immediate attention, few displaying the craft and precision required to create a vibrant novel and at least one or two gems readers might prize forever.
Writing that monthly column for the Globe was easily the worse job I've ever had, and this coming from a man once responsible for the nightly hamburger run for a dock's worth of Teamsters. The assessment has nothing to do with the Globe or Boston, which, one could argue, is the epicenter of American crime fiction, what with Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Linda Barnes, Jeremiah Healy, Philip R. Craig and many others setting their books in and around the region. I was delighted to be asked, and happy to write the first few columns.
Thanks to Dwight for the link. But I was surprised to read this column, as my visits from the UPS man are almost always the best part of my day. (Maybe his UPS man isn't as cute as mine is.)
From Gaper's Block: Next time you have a bookshelf culling session or have extra cash lying about, consider giving to the Chicago Books to Women in Prison organization. They're looking for money, volunteers, and books.
Add this to the list of books I'm assured is good, but I just can't find any shred of interest in: How Soccer Explains the World. But if that's your thing, this interview with the author in the Atlantic is worth reading.
Being an absolute magazine junkie, I even have favorite issues. The '99 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit is a must-have during the holidays for me. The "Boys We Love" issue of Bust with Thurston Moore on the cover is still around here somewhere. I believe that was from '96. But perhaps my all-time favorite, which has been devoured over and over again, was the Texas Monthly Crime issue from a few years back. (Cuz you know Texas crime just ain't like what you'll see on Law and Order.) In it was the story of Jesse Sublett's girlfriend's murder. It took place in Austin, where I was living at the time, and something about it was heartbreaking. It turns out Sublett has written a book about it, Never the Same Again, which I will have to run down a copy of. In the meantime, he's interviewed at NPR.
Agents are bastards, publishers don't know good work when they see it, the cultural gatekeepers all hate me personally, magazines don't read their slush piles...
I would have thought the lesson would have been learned by now: if you're getting government money, do not in any way use urine in the art you produce. Of course, it wasn't so much the "I pee in church" that got the Belfast City Council, it was the entire magazine devoted to Satan.
Last week, Jonathan Yardley convinced me to pick up Ward Just's An Unfinished Season, which I'm reading right now, and now this week he's reviewing Amazonia. So guess what I'll be reading next week. He's very persuasive, that Yardley fella.
July 6, 2004
I wandered into Comix Revolution on Friday, not intending to actually spend money. And then the clerk walked up. He was one of those "helpful" clerks who remembers what you buy, one of those employees that will also "help" you part with large chunks of money. But he did make me buy Epileptic 1 by David B., that bastard.
Of course, it's great. It should be bought immediately. The artwork is similar to Persepolis, only more accomplished when the occasion calls for it. The story is autobiographical, a young boy and his older, epileptic brother. The family comes from accupuncturist to macrobiotic commune, trying to heal him without the experimental surgery the doctors suggest. The humans are drawn rather crudely, but their invisible demons and the spirits that guide the narrator and keep him company are quite beautiful.
The only problem with this book is that it's volume 1 (of 6, I believe), and the second volume has been delayed since last year. The new rumor is that Pantheon has picked up the rights and will be releasing all six in one giant volume, ala Palomar. While good in theory (and probably cheaper in the long run), when I try to read Palomar, I lose all circulation in my legs. Yeah, like I'll complain if the damn thing actually comes out. More, please.
It's not just that I'm bitter Jeff Tweedy was ranked one spot ahead of me on the Chicago Lit 50, but when I heard that he had a volume of poetry coming out, I nearly fell over laughing. It's called Adult Head, and I have no idea why. So just how bad is it? It's divided.
They are, unsurprisingly, Wilco-esque, although the sludgy indirectness, crossed wires, dark hints, etc., that serve Wilco's music so well can look, when seen in black and white, like the caprices of a poor temper. "I want to begin/where the dilation charges/and juries weep/over half-opened wombs." Well, don't we all?
The over-all effect is like spending an evening with the poet, perhaps on the snowy back porch of someone else's house, pitching cigarettes into the yard, and, as they said in the '70s, that last great era of singer-songwriter-poets, relating.
The Guardian follows an upcoming trend: dictator literature.
Calling the new Spider-Man film the best comic-book movie ever made — and it is, without a doubt, the best comic-book movie ever made — is a little like calling a Chicken McNugget the best processed fast-food poultry product ever produced. It's praise, but how substantial can the praise really be, given the source?
July 5, 2004
While I've heard about how good The Winshaw Legacy is from many people for a few years now, I only picked it up after it was voted on by the book group. I quickly found myself cackling quietly on the el, attracting worried looks.
From the Diary of Henry Winshaw:
I THINK I AM IN LOVE. Yes! For the very first time! The President of the Association is a girl from Somerville called Margaret Roberts and I have to say she is an absolute pip!* An utterly gorgeous head of nut-brown hair -- I just wanted to bury myself in it.
* Margaret Hilda Roberts... later Margaret Thatcher
The book follows the Winshaws, a wealthy family whose influence stretches through all realms of society -- banking, politics, agriculture, entertainment, journalism... It's all set at the brink of the first Gulf War, and all of the Saddam talk feels eerie being read now. A respected but broke novelist is hired to write their family story, and of course the skeletons come out of the closets to play.
But don't just take my word for it. Jonathan Coe's essay on parenthood (or the lack of the urge for) should be read. The Complete Review has a page of information about the book. Salon, back when they had books coverage, interviewed Coe. As did The Atlantic. And here is the IMDB info page about the movie What a Carve Up!, which was borrowed from for Coe's book.
The Boston Phoenix profiles Continuum's 33 1/3 books, a series of fiction and nonfiction based on landmark rock albums.
Related: Daniel Nester's response to the Zoo Press fiasco:
So in regard to Zoo Press, are are we talking about a) consumer fraud; b) failure to read fine print; c) sour grapes that something isn't suitable for a publisher; d) lack of respect and/or knowledge of publisher/editor instead of contest judge as initial "arbiter of quality" as opposed to superfamous contest judge; e) antipathy to unintelligence; f) zealous litigiousness; g) sense of entitlement; h) uninterestedness in getting free poetry books; i) being uninterested in getting backlisted free poetry titles; j) lack of understanding of how the non-profit or non-profitable publishers are run; k) frugality, and/or; l) non-gender-specific novelist machismo over how hard-earned their money is; m) general bad attitide that perhaps is n) part of writerly persona; o) starting a ruckus to start one; p) messianic tendencies; q) specific lack of understanding regarding editorial processes, printing costs, editing, publicity; r) willful ignorance for sake of rallying truly ignorant troops; s) specific hatred of researching specific publishers; t) inexperience in submitting to contests?
If you were thinking about writing a book of poetry about rock music, you might want to reconsider. Daniel Nester has a monopoly on that genre. Not only did he write the fabulous and hilarious God Save My Queen, a love letter to the band that led to his sexual awakening, he now has God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On, which deals with the band's later albums and the death of Freddie Mercury. Over at The Morning News, he's writing about the loneliness of a Queen fan. He also has a blog.
"I think I've just understood what happened," I said to Catherine. "I dreamed I woke up, but I was still in a coma."
"That's pretty deep, Carl," she replied. "Because you're still unconscious. I suppose that means the same thing's going to happen in the second half of the book."
I had high hopes for this story, a Steve Almond Killing the Buddha story about Genesis. But I kept thinking, "Does he realize he's misspelling Abel's name? Is that on purpose?" and "Is this going somewhere?" But no, sadly, it's not. (Link from Kevin.)
Welcome to my Birthday Week. I'm not entirely sure how it's going to be any different than any other week, other than I feel like convincing you to buy certain books. Later today will be The Winshaw Legacy by Jonathan Coe. (These, of course, will be books for you, but if you wanted to find some books for me, this might be a good place to start. Or the "Good Writing is Sexy" t-shirt. I want that, too.) But it'll be a busy week with the regular posts, a new issue of Bookslut, and digging around on these books.
But perhaps it should start with a little nostalgia. I wonder if my mother was wary when my father took over bedtime story duties. She had been reading the children's books, and we all learned to read at a very early age, but then we started curling up on my parents' bed to listen to my dad read. He decided he'd rather not read Dr. Seuss or what have you; he decided he'd just read us what he was reading. So first it was Dune. Then The Robot Novels. I distinctly remember a short story about cannibalism by Mark Twain and some Edward Gorey. So if I have anyone to blame for my demented love for Stanislaw Lem, comic books, and stories about cannibalism and ship wreck, it is probably my father. And my mother for not trying to stop him.
July 2, 2004
You can hardly blame Menand for hugging himself when he finds the first mistake at the book's very beginning, in its dedication. Here, he delightedly discovers, "a nonrestrictive clause [that] is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there." Does he have a point?
Too many magazines? Never. Well, except for maybe the Conceive one. That sounds fucking horrible.
It's about time that someone covered this in the press... Poets & Writers gets to the bottom of the failed poetry prize from Zoo Press. Previously, the only person covering it in any comprehensive way was Moorish Girl and a few bloggers. According to P&W, this article is the first in a series on literary prizes.
July 1, 2004
Gary Indiana reads the Clinton memoir.
What happened to the Village Voice? Each year their summer reading list comes out, and each year you feel so very, very unhip. But not this year. This year they're recommending The Rule of Four, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Natasha. The list does have a book from Akashic press and two from Bloomsbury, but it seems they've given up a little. Or maybe they're just getting old.
The Guardian asked Jonathan Coe (The Winshaw Legacy), Jackie Collins (you know who she is), AL Kennedy (Everything You Need), Tony Parsons (Man and Wife), and Robin McKie (Dawn of Man: The Story of Human Evolution) to define what makes a man. Being that I love AL Kennedy to death, I went for her answer first.
But I have noticed a few points. For instance, there aren't any New Men. There are only men who want to hear about your periods so they can give you the kind of solemn look they'd offer to someone who's suffered a bereavement. When this makes you want to slap them, they will then look even more sympathetic because your Special Girlie Body Chemistry is clearly leading you astray. Then they will offer you cake. Or try to shag you. Or both. Naturally, there are men who want to hug each other, sit in sweat lodges and weep theatrically, but that's not exactly New.
...Possibly for some of the reasons above, my relationships with men amount to a series of slow-motion car crashes.
You should read AL Kennedy's books if you haven't already. Everything is a good place to start, and On Bullfighting is brilliant.
The man who uncovered Stephen Glass's lies is getting his own column at Wired News. Adam L. Penenberg will devote his column to uncover untruthful reporting and the evolving state of online media.
John Patrick Donleavy is profiled in the Guardian. His famous book The Ginger Man was almost a book group choice, but I still haven't read it. I hear amazing things about it. Just add it to the list of should-have-read-by-now. But the story of the book -- first published as pornography, then being sued by the publisher, and the end result of the trial being Donleavy's ownership of the publisher -- sure makes it tempting.