August 31, 2004
I have a bit of an antihistamine hangover this morning, thanks to a slight Benadryl overdose. Anyway, read this interview with Augusten Burroughs, visit a good blog or two, and I'll try to caffeinate myself properly for the afternoon.
Arundhati Roy's political life is profiled at SF Gate.
But it's true that I still write stories that deal with sexuality or genitalia or whatever. Cuz they occupy a lot of my thought space. And, frankly, that's true of most people. It's not polite to say, particularly in the dainty pastures of high art, but people think about sex and their bodies and the consequent and related fears and desires a great deal of the time. I'm not sure this should come as a shock. And, in fact, it's a testament to our generalized cultural neurosis when it comes to sexuality that people would fix on the sex in my work.
Steve Almond is interviewed at 3am.
August 30, 2004
R. Crumb has signed a deal with W. W. Norton for a "nonfiction graphic work." "Industry sources say the book will be a 'literal' interpretation of Genesis, the first book of the Bible." Egon.com has more details.
R. Crumb is also profiled in the new issue of ARTnews. The article is not online, but feel free to read it at your local book and music superstore. It won't take that long.
"The magazine was trying to get across the idea of giving men a whole new way to talk to each other and come across without fear of judgment," he says. "But when you look at the things that were happening in my life, there was no place in the magazine to deal with them. The experiences I was having and the feelings they were inspiring in me would be completely inappropriate for Maxim articles."
My run with nonfiction continues. Right now it's American Taboo, an investigation into the murder of a Peace Corps volunteer. While thrilling and fast paced, I'm not sure it's going to rise above the true crime genre. (I have half of the book left, however.) But if the purpose of the book was to bring attention to the fact that Deborah Gardner's murderer is walking around free, it looks like he succeeded. 48 Hours has filmed a segment on the story with an air date scheduled in October.
But with the arrival of a big box of novels bought from eBay (more on that later), the nonfiction hold might be loosening. Just as it's becoming the thing to read. "In this country; book buyers seem interested only in non-fiction."
SF Gate points out it's Christopher Isherwood's centenary.
The book I've been waiting for all year is almost here: Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers will be released September 7. The Guardian gets a head start on the media blitz with an extensive interview with Spiegelman. He gives some news about a new book next year.
The spectre of censorship hovered over Spiegelman's life at the New Yorker. In an interview printed in Corriera della Sera in February 2003, he was quoted as saying that "the censorship of my work began as soon as I set foot in the magazine, long before September 11". Spiegelman claims not to remember having spoken those exact words, but he acknowledges that "the compromise and self-censorship necessary to play well with others settled in the minute I started working there". Next year he will publish a visual memoir of his 10 years at the New Yorker, "with all the different covers and images I did. It's basically a history of the wrestling matches, of what it means to try to graft an underground cartoonist's sensibility on to the DNA of the New Yorker. God bless 'em, they tried. And God bless me, I tried. I guess I got spoiled at an early age. I got used to publishing myself without editorial interference."
The 3 a.m. Magazine guys have started a blog specifically for Booker Prize news.
August 27, 2004
Booker judge Rowan Pelling wrote a short encapsulation of her thoughts going into the deliberations. At least we know someone was thinking of the authors that were snubbed, including AL Kennedy and Kate Atkinson.
By the time you read this, I will be in delicate negotiations (code for verbal punch-up) with my fellow Man Booker Prize judges to decide this year's longlist - culled from 127 submissions. Inevitably we will disappoint many editors whose self-deluding ardour on behalf of favoured authors can prove limitless. I barely suppressed the desire to write to one publisher, "It is for the judges and readers to decide whether or not this book is 'a masterpiece' - especially when parts of it sound like a berserk 98-year-old colonel firing off letters to the Daily Telegraph."
Jennifer Frey writes about the continued popularity of Jane Austen for the Washington Post.
The general reaction to the Booker has been along the lines of, "Who?" and "The fuck?" I'm especially bitter that James Kelman's You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free was neglected. It's my favorite book of the year, and even better than How Late it Was, How Late, which did win the Booker. But I'm not the only upset person. Expect this to mostly be Booker Commentary Day.
August 26, 2004
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the Booker long list has been announced.
Chimamanda Ngozi – Purple Hibiscus
Nadeem Aslam – Maps for Lost Lovers
Nicola Barker – Clear: A Transparent Novel
John Bemrose – The Island Walkers
Ronan Bennett – Havoc, In Its Third Year
Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Neil Cross – Always The Sun
Achmat Dangor – Bitter Fruit
Louise Dean – Becoming Strangers
Lewis Desoto – A Blade of Grass
Sarah Hall – The Electric Michelangelo
James Hamilton-Paterson – Cooking with Fernet Branca
Justin Haythe – The Honeymoon
Shirley Hazzard – The Great Fire
Alan Hollinghurst – The Line of Beauty
Gail Jones – Sixty Lights
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Sam North – The Unnumbered
Nicholas Shakespeare – Snowleg
Matt Thorne – Cherry
Colm Toibin – The Master
Gerard Woodward – I’ll Go To Bed at Noon
I have three thoughts on Dean Koontz:
The first is the memory of the gag on The Family Guy. A van runs over a man walking along the side of the road. The driver sticks his head out and yells, "Oh my God! I'm so sorry! Are you Stephen King?" "No!" the man yells back. "I'm Dean Koontz." The driver backs up over him again.
The second is my memory of reading one of his books while working retail. I was allowed to read on the job, but only the books that the store sold. It was just a rack of mass market paperbacks, whatever the bestsellers were that week, so I picked up a Dean Koontz. I don't remember the title, but the plot hinged on a supersmart dog that communicated through Scrabble letters. I'm not even kidding.
I guess I could have other thoughts by reading this interview. But I'd really rather not.
Steve Almond tries reviewing How to Make Love Like a Porn Star for Nerve.com, and what do you know? No shower needed. (Thanks to Eric for the link.)
Her desire to strip is, to her way of thinking, one way of connecting to her late mother, a Vegas showgirl. Alas, she is rebuffed in her initial job interview, for the flimsiest of reasons — because she is wearing braces.
Many applicants would take this as a sign that they are perhaps a bit too young to be dispensing lap dances. Jameson, however, does what any future porn princess would: she goes home and yanks off her braces with a pair of pliers, then chips the dried cement out of her teeth. Thus begins her odyssey into the empowering realm of adult entertainment.
Edinburgh is trying to become the global capital of literature with the support of J. K. Rowling. "Three other authors who have defined literary perceptions of Edinburgh - Dame Muriel Spark, Inspector Rebus author Ian Rankin, and Alexander McCall Smith - also voiced their backing for the UNESCO bid yesterday." Poor Glasgow. They have better talent with James Kelman and Alasdair Gray.
Flak Magazine has rediscovered the wonders of William Gerhardie.
Yet for all Gerhardie's early success — his first novel was extravagantly praised by the likes of Edith Wharton and Katherine Mansfield, while Gerhardie was hailed by Waugh with the il miglior fabbro touch of "I have talent, but he had genius" — Gerhardie would die in obscurity and poverty in 1977. Since his death, the writers William Boyd and Michael Holroyd have championed Gerhardie, but only his novels "Doom" and "The Polyglots" have been republished in the UK as part of the Prion Lost Treasures series. In the United States, his first novel "Futility" has been resissued in the New Directions Classics series.
I had dreaded reading another biography of Glenn Gould. Aren’t there enough already? Ah, never! Never enough biographies of Glenn Gould! Angela Hewitt reviews Kevin Bazzana's Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould for the TLS.
Reading Charles Taylor's ideas about sex really, really gives me the creeps. I mean, just read his review of Something's Gotta Give. The guy seems to have some issues, and he really wants to talk about them.
So when I saw he was reviewing Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, I just couldn't... look... away. (The book is getting pretty good reviews. In comparison, EW said it was better than Sister Carrie. Don't ask why they were comparing the two, I still don't know.) He quickly takes a superior tone, because at least he'll admit he watches porn. It becomes obvious, however, that he buys into that women-as-sex-workers-are-all-empowered-and-shit, so he's actually helping women by any of his sex work patronage.
Jameson is the prototype of a new sort of star, one who doesn't treat her particular brand of notoriety as notoriousness. Look at her book with that phrase -- porn star -- right there in the title, no coyness about it.
I should add here that I have no feminist stance on sex work -- either for or against. I haven't done much reading or thinking on the matter, but I do know that whenever a porn-watching, stripper-going, prostitute-hiring man (and I'm not implying Charles Taylor is this man, I have no desires for a libel lawsuit) talks about women being "empowered" by sex work, I feel the need to take a shower.
What could seem a better way to flout middle-class values than going into stripping or nude modeling or adult movies (even though, for some of the people who go into them, they are the quickest route to middle-class stability)? ...
Back when strippers were occasional guests on daytime talk shows (instead of the staple they've become), there were always a few well-appointed middle-class women in the studio audience who rose to chide the guest on her lack of self-respect and ask how she would ever manage to justify her job to her children. Whenever I'd hear a question like that, I always thought, fairly or not, that the person asking it must never have worked a day in her life.
Of course, I guess the alternative would have been Laura Miller or Stephanie Z. reviewing this book at Salon. It's hard to say what the worst outcome would have been.
Would someone please take away celebrities' publishing privileges? Lisa Whelchel (she played Blair on the Facts of Life) has written and published Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline. What it should have been called: How to Inflict Pain on Your Child Without Child Welfare Services Being Called. The book advocates the use of hot sauce as a disciplinary tool. And really, when you're raising a child, who wouldn't want to take advice from washed-up sitcom stars? Especially Blair.
Louisa Waugh complains in the Guardian that travel writing is all rich white people writing about exotic countries full of non-white people.
Yesterday many, many people came to Bookslut with the search "Jane Pauly bipolar disorder." What amazed me most about the articles about her disorder I've seen is that no one questions it. I know it's mostly about her book, but not one single editor working on these stupid announcements bothered to look up the definition to "bipolar disorder." And while the only review on Amazon is a five star one, the opening cracked me up: "The first few pages of Jane Pauley's memoir, "Skywriting" felt cerebral and--in spite of being a fan--had me thinking the story of her life might be too high-minded for my tastes. This was NOT the case."
August 25, 2004
One Cleveland-raised friend cites Portnoy's Complaint as a formative influence, most notably the scene in which Portnoy masturbates with a piece of liver he's been sent to the butcher's to pick up for dinner. (So much for Middle America and family values.) But by far the most popular item on my friends' reference shelves (alongside Judy Blume's Forever; Wifey and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret) was Flowers in the Attic.
With its peculiar, tantalizing mix of prudish naiveté and breathless carnality, Flowers was deeply dirty without being intimidating. Chris and Cathy were so guileless and kind that even after 200 pages of lingering looks, unnameable urges and sadistic whippings with a willow switch, they were still straddling the divide between childhood and adulthood, just like I was.
The sex parts, rare and oblique as they were, felt familiar to me, too — my first little horny urges also felt dirty and wrong and confusing. When Cathy, letting Chris treat her wounds after being beaten by their grandmother, says "it felt odd to be kissed while lying naked in his arms . . . and not right," I could certainly relate to the sentiment, if not the circumstances. And I wasn't alone.
It's Nerve.com's Flowers in the Attic essay, as promised.
SF Gate interviews Tea's collaborator on the book, Laurenn McCubbin. McCubbin is also the art director for Kitchen Sink, another Bookslut crush. She talks about Kitchen Sink, Michelle Tea, why she left Chicago, and why she's afraid of comic book stores.
"Graphic novels are the hope of the future. More women are working in comics than ever, which is wonderful, and if graphic novels can be sold in bookstores, more women will be reading them. Really, I can't stress the importance of getting comics out of the comic book stores. They are like porn stores for juvies."
The Guardian has the story of an Iraqi poet who has become something of a folk hero.
Only 1,000 copies of the original works were published, in one private UK pressing back in 1994. That slim volume contained both the original Brother Yasin, (written in 1974 and published to great acclaim in Egypt and the Lebanon), and its follow-up, a more mature work flowing out of the experience of exile. Most copies were sold through Arabic bookshops and a handful of copies were sent abroad to a female poet in Amman. That was where Yasin believed the story ended. "Once it had been published I forgot all about it," he says today. "It was impossible to imagine it inside [Iraq] while I was in exile. In separating me from my country Saddam had effectively silenced my voice."
It was only on further investigation that Yasin discovered what had truly happened. The female poet (who still wishes to remain anonymous) had kick-started a journey that ended in Iraq. At the end of 1995 a lone copy was smuggled across the Jordanian border, legend has it, in a lorry carrying food supplies. Although the borders were supposedly impenetrable, it was possible to bribe the poorly paid guards and smuggle illegal materials - such as Yasin's banned poetry - across.
August 24, 2004
There's a new issue of Indy Magazine up, and its focus is the secret history of the graphic novel. They feature some older works you've probably never read, but the piece I recommend you read is the "Key Untranslated European Graphic Novels." I hope comics publishers are paying attention.
While Wide Sargasso Sea is considered to be a successful rewriting of a classic, I never cared much for it. I thought she spent too much time trying to prove a point about women in literature and not enough time paying attention to who the characters were. But anyway, the BBC has an article about rewriting and writing sequels to great works of literature. Mentioned is Emma Tennant, someone I've always wished would just find her own stories to write one day.
It's horrible to be back in England. My best friend Suze has got a new best friend, Lulu; Lukey-wukey has cut his hair and works too hard; and I don't have enough money to go shopping. Even mummy-wummy and daddy-waddy have been hiding something from me. Grrr!!!
"We've just discovered daddy-waddy had another daughter from a previous girlfriend," said mummy-wummy.
I've got a sister. "How fantastic is that," I say, because I'm too shallow to think through the consequences.
August 23, 2004
A new Russian magazine looks suspiciously familiar.
Umm, I think this was supposed to be an article on the future of literary magazines. I think. It seems to me Sven Birkerts got a little distracted.
They're looking for someone to write a sequel to Peter Pan.
The trustees aim to commission a new story which will "share the same enchanting characters as the original, the same longevity, and be just as valid in a hundred years as the original is today".
For some years now, this column has dined out on the wonderful statistic that in Britain we publish more than 100,000 new books a year. On several occasions, indeed, we have asserted this to be a record. What's more, since the turn of the century, this astonishing figure has grown more, not less, awesome. The last time I checked, it was possible to claim that this total had risen - sensation! - to something close to 120,000 new titles per annum.
I know that one newspaper might write something interesting but obvious, and the other newspapers will wonder why they didn't think of that first. So they'll scramble together a column or a short article on the same subject. It grows and grows. A while back, that article was "comics are literature, too." Now it seems to be, "Gosh golly, we sure do publish a lot of books." Can we please kill it now?
Yet American readers may not have been reading the real ''Second Sex.'' In ''The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir,'' a new collection of essays edited by Emily R. Grosholz, several Beauvoir scholars contend that the English-language translation is so badly botched that it distorts Beauvoir's intent and presents her as an incoherent thinker. One scholar, Nancy Bauer of Tufts University, says that she has counted ''literally hundreds'' of mistakes in translation ranging from elementary bloopers to misunderstandings of scholarly jargon.
Knopf is refusing to spend money on a new translation. I'm glad to see Knopf takes their literature seriously.
It's so nice to find reviewers whose opinions you can really trust. And when those opinions are on Amazon.com, so much the better. Take Amazon reviewer Chad Kultgen. Now I know the 2-piece Patriotic Toe Ring Set isn't quite patriotic enough.
When those fricking a-holes blew down the twin towers, I told my girlfriend that we had to do everything we could to support this great land. So we went out and got American Flag tats and she got a sweet ass belly ring of a proud looking Bald Eagle. I bought the 2-Piece Patriotic Toe Ring Set as a birthday present (she was born on the same day as Pamela Anderson - sweet) in the hopes of rounding out her patriotic look.
Don't get me wrong, the toe rings, especially when worn together are patriotic as hell, but that bald eagle belly ring is still more patriotic.
Choire Sicha reviews some tough girl lit for the New York Times.
Maybe I'm just being insensitive. But let me walk you through my reaction to Jane Pauly's new memoir, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, after my initial, "Man, is that a terrible title." Jane Pauly reveals she took steroids for some hives.
As a side effect of the steroids, "I was revved," she writes in the book.
"I was so energized that I didn't just walk down the hall, I felt like I was motoring down the hall. ... I told everyone that I could understand why men felt like they could run the world, because I felt like that. This was a new me, and I liked her."
Or, as my doctor put it when he wrote me out a prescription after a bad allergic reaction, "This is going to make you a total bitch for two weeks."
Jane Pauly says she "crashed" and that the steroids triggered a bipolar disorder. She had to recover in a mental institution. Why do I feel like this is the lamest "look at me, celebrities get disesases, too!" attempt to sell a memoir ever? "I had a bad reaction to my prescription medication, but I'm going to market it as a mental disorder."
August 20, 2004
I'm on a serious nonfiction kick right now, so I'm collecting quite the pile of novels-I-will-read-once-I-feel-like-reading-fiction-again-whenever-that-might-be. Currently in the list: I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl. SF Gate gives me more reasons to want to read it, if only I had the attention span for fiction right now. I guess whenever I get my fill of cheese, feminism, and god.
For the librarians: "I love you, Madame Librarian" by Kurt Vonnegut.
Elizabeth Loftus, author of The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse is now defending herself against a lawsuit by a woman Loftus wrote about (with the woman's permission), but who now insists her memories are real.
What drives Loftus is not, as her detractors believe, a perverted desire to keep sexual predators free to wreak havoc on young innocents, but rather a passionate belief that, during social hysterias, the presumption of innocence becomes subsumed under a tidal wave of lock-’em-all-up-and-throw-away-the-key rhetoric. And that, during such hysterias, finger-pointing by those who really have been victimized is enough to convict the innocent and guilty alike, while, at the same time, finger-pointing by those who have never been victimized is also enough to doom the accused. Suffused with a sense of history, Loftus is haunted by the ghosts of the Salem witch trials from over three centuries ago. Combine sloppy police work, the pressure to identify, and convict, high-profile criminals at any cost, and intense pressure put on suspects during interrogations to own up to — to remember — committing certain acts, and, Loftus argues, all the ingredients are present for grievous miscarriages of justice.
August 19, 2004
Something Awful has some Watchmen remixes for ya. Some of it's offensively bad, but what can I say? It's a slow week.
Don't go messing with my Lucky, folks.
"I find the whole concept deplorable," said Martin Walker, a longtime magazine consultant in New York. "It's like they say, you can never go wrong by underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
But such denunciations exasperate Kim France, Lucky's editor-in-chief.
"There's this attitude that every time someone picks up a copy of Lucky, an Atlantic Monthly reader is going to drop dead somewhere," France said.
In the second incident, literary hatchet man Dale Peck was taking notes and photographs in 1 Police Plaza Tuesday morning, for an architectural essay, when he was approached by officers and hauled into the station for an hour of questioning.
Remember when we got fewer looks "behind the scenes" of literature awards? Judges didn't write tell-all columns complaining about the number of books to read, the sniping at one another never became public, and the only commentary afterwards was about the books themselves.
Wasn't that a fun time?
August 18, 2004
PR Week has a short interview with Dan Gilmore about his new book We the Media: Journalism by the People, for the People.
The sex life of Italy's most respected 20th-century novelist was heading for the courts yesterday after his widow instructed lawyers in Rome to seek an injunction banning the publication of further extracts from his passionate correspondence with a married lover.
The row centres on a series of letters written by Italo Calvino in the 1950s to the actress Elsa de' Giorgi. Extracts serialised this month in the newspaper Corriere della Sera testify to a torrid love affair between the writer and the star of, among other films, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom.
I attended a reading for Graydon Carter's What We've Lost and barely made it out of there alive. He read depressing statistic after depressing statistic of how our country and world is going straight to hell, and the people around me started looking for instruments with which to kill themselves. (Luckily, he was followed by Tom Wolfe who told stories about attending frat parties and showed off his new white shoes. The suicidal tendencies abated.) Newsday reports on why Mr. Carter has written a book about the current state of the nation and what turned him against Bush. They didn't mention, however, why he decided to go about it so humorlessly.
Jeanette Winterson reports on her website that Lighthousekeeping will not be released in the US until 2005, and indeed, Amazon.com does not even have a listing for the book. You can read excerpts there, and you can buy it through Amazon.co.uk if you can't wait.
August 17, 2004
With the complaints regarding the lack of translated literature published in the US, I'm surprised I haven't heard more about Archipelago Books. They were launched about a year ago, but the books have just started arriving. Thus far, they're looking really good. Bookslut received a big box of their books, and you'll be seeing reviews soon. But it's rare that when a large box comes from a publisher, most of it looks good enough to stop whatever I'm doing and change my to-be-read list.
Multiculturalism and multi-lingualism are inseparable. Archipelago will bring out a broad array of international poetry and prose. Although important literary voices in the English language will not be ignored, a vital goal of the press is to increase and deepen the American public’s awareness of other literary traditions, of other historical and social perspectives. Seeking to develop a wider audience for international fiction and poetry in this country, we will work in partnership with like-minded national and international organizations.
It also helps that the books are handsome. There's a poetry collection that folds out like a map. Rainer Maria Rilke's biography of Auguste Rodin lacks the lightweight coffeetable book prose, but it begs to be left out. Although my favorite has to be Sarajevo Malboro by Miljenko Jergovic. It's a collection of (quite) short stories, translated by Stela Tomasevic, and they're so darkly disturbing and funny, I immediately reread each one at least once.
Explosive growth in the market for women's fiction, particularly in newer genres like chick lit and women's thrillers, has been drawing readers away from traditional romance novels, those formulaic bodice-rippers stocked with hunky heroes and love-conquers-all endings.
August 16, 2004
Over at the Julie/Julia Project (oh, how I miss that website) is a lovely tribute to Julia Child.
Those wacky Wild Animus fellas are at it again. First they hire their own protesters for Book Expo, complete with throwing the book on a (not lit) grill, bad polyester suits, and Christian rage, and now they're giving away a whole lotta free copies. (Link from Chicha.)
The Old Gray Lady is excerpting a passage from Wolfe's raucous new novel, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (due out from FSG in November) in an upcoming "Back to School" issue of the Book Review. But even though the section's editor, Sam Tenenhaus, selected one of the tamer passages in the sex-stuffed tome, the Times' censors have axed some choice bits, we're told.
According to insiders, the terms "need some ass," "get some ass" and "get laid" are being excised, and will most likely be replaced with the words "sexual activity" in brackets.
The Boston Globe speaks with James Wood very, very briefly. Three questions briefly. Perhaps they're rivalling with the Village Voice to see how little they can converse with an author.
While the best way to remember Julia Child is to drink a lot of gin and then cook some French food (note to PBS or whoever may own the rights to her show now: DVD box set, please), there are also interviews with Child you could read. Epicurious has an interview with her and Jacques Pepin. Salon.com has an interview with Child, back when Salon was still good.
Time.com reviews Dan Clowes's Eightball #23.
"Modern science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence." Popular Science argues that the focus of contemporary SF has changed from speculation to fantasy, cowboys in space, or alternative histories. The future has become too damn difficult to predict.
Wandering through the exhibition room at a science- fiction convention in Boston a few months ago, I saw plenty of reprints of golden-age SF classics for sale. But I also encountered paintings of half-naked people battling dragons, vendors hawking crystals and a folk musician warming up for a recital. Where is the science in science fiction? I wondered. Whatever happened to envisioning the future? Anthropologist Judith Berman, who recently surveyed a crop of science fiction published in 1999, has a grim answer: Many modern stories are nostalgic, wary of new technologies rather than enthusiastic about them.
August 14, 2004
Polish poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, known for his intellectual and emotional works about some of the worst cruelties of the 20th century, died Saturday, his assistant said. He was 93.
Milosz died at his home in Krakow surrounded by his family, the assistant, Agnieszka Kosinska, told The Associated Press by telephone. The exact cause of death was not immediately known.
"It's death, simply death. It was his time -- he was 93," Kosinska said.
August 13, 2004
This is old, but I had not seen it before: Flak Magazine gives you the best books of the 90's. They're not judging the books on, say, artistic merit. The categories are "best cover," "best foreward," "best blurbs," and "best punctuation."
Reason to hunt for Tricycle archives: to read the full interview with Don Cupitt. Part of the interview can be found on the website (clever bastards, just enough to get me hooked). Cupitt is a Christian theologian, author of 30 books, and the subject of the book Odyssey on the Sea of Faith: The Life & Writings of Don Cupitt by Nigel Leaves.
Thanks to all who pointed me in the direction of raw milk cheese. There is now more-money-than-I-can-dare-admit worth's of cheese in my fridge. And for those who haven't yet had a chance to read Gina Mallet's wonderful book Last Chance to Eat, her essay on Canadian dairy problems (which, of course, includes the raw milk issue) is archived here.
August 12, 2004
The Nerve.com Pulp Issue is shaping up. There's a short story by Steve Almond (a quite fucked up one), an interview with the curators of a lesbian pulp novel collection, and sex advice from romance novelists. What is not up yet, however, is an essay about Flowers in the Attic and how it introduced sexuality to a generation of youngsters. I await eagerly.
For years the word "feminist" to me was like nails on a chalkboard. I was the good little feminist, fighting the good fight, volunteering my hours for "the cause" until I was becoming sleep deprived. Along the way, I became disillusioned with the other women calling themselves feminist, trying to one-up one another and telling me I was a bad feminist for a multitude of reasons, usually starting with the fact that most of my friends were men and usually ending with the topics addressed in my interview with Leslie Cannold.
But when someone like Bonnie Fuller starts using the word "feminist" to describe what she does at Star Magazine, boy, does that ever make me want to start calling myself a feminist again. Dissecting female star's every movements, every fluctuation of weight, every bad day that Star turns into a drug binge isn't doing much for the sisterhood, Ms. Fuller.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington planned to officially announce the appointment Thursday.
"Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains," Billington said. "His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."
Four veterans and authors -- Christian Bauman, Andrew Exum, Joel Turnipseed, Buzz Williams -- have sent an op-ed to Salon.com condemning the "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth."
August 11, 2004
Jana Riess's booth at BEA attracted a lot of attention. People would see it out of the corner of their eye, shriek "Buffy!" and join the line. Riess is, after all, the author of What Would Buffy Do?. Her website is now live with interviews, spiritual guidance, and forums.
Back when I was in my memoir phase, Autobiography of a Face was one of my favorites. When Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty, her memoirs of her relationship with Lucy Grealy, came out not to long after Grealy's death, it felt too soon. I'm told it's an amazing book, but I don't know if I can read it yet.
Now Suellen Grealy writes about her sister's death and her reaction to Truth & Beauty. She makes some pretty strong accusations about Patchett's motivations, and I'm curious to see if there will be a response.
The UK is a little bit behind the US in the whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon. Just as people start moving on and talking about something other than Dan Brown here, the UK starts filling in the vacuum. Now, with a weird sense of deja vu, the Guardian reports on the Da Vinci Code backlash. Oh, please let the book have a shorter shelf life than it's had here.
C-Span's Booknotes program will be no more.
Donald Justice, an elder of American poetry whose formalist verse and teaching skills were equally acclaimed, died last Friday at an Iowa City nursing home, where he had been since a stroke several weeks ago. He was 78 and lived in Iowa City.
August 10, 2004
Update on the similarities between The Village and Margaret Peterson Haddix's Running Out of Time. (Thanks to Beth for the link.)
Simon & Schuster Inc. is reviewing its legal options against The Walt Disney Co. and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan over what the author of a children’s book says are similarities between its plot and the film “The Village,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said Monday.
Slate takes a look at the literature and poetry that Maxim magazine has sired: Dave Itzkoff's memoir Lads: A Memoir of Manhood, ormer editor in chief Keith Blanchard's novel The Deed, and Maxim publisher Felix Dennis's book of poetry, Glass Half Full. The review has perhaps the best concluding paragraph ever to appear in Slate:
I don't know if Maxim lit will become a full-fledged literary genre, but there's something sort of noble about these Maxim guys all the same. With the dwindling down of traditional masculinity, "manhood," once literally synonymous with virtue (vir, Latin, "man"), is now just a euphemism for "schlong." With their giant bronze Geronimos, their Elizabethan castles, their Xboxes, their SAT words and sentimental poetry and, above all, their unbridled, gleeful embrace—also, as it turns out, literal—of their respective, um, manhoods, Maxim men unapologetically indulge their inner adolescents. I suppose it's true that all men carry deep within a collector's centerfold poster of Bruce Lee in "Fists of Fury." Speaking of fists, Itzkoff claims near the end of Lads that he can "masturbate to nearly anything," and that "luscious spokesbabes" and supermodels only make him "want himself more." And Dennis has announced his newest venture, to plant 20,000 new acres of forest all across England, "The Forest of Dennis." With all the countless thousand handfuls of seed scattered over the years by Maxim men, it's nice to think that some will finally take root.
Greg Hales entered the NSA inner sanctum. Susan thought he might be NDAKOTA. "It's not right we should be able to spy on ordinary Americans," he said.
"TRANSLTR has already saved America from two terrorist attacks," she replied.
"Then how come we couldn't stop 9/11?"
"Because this book was published in the US in 1998 and it's only getting an outing in the UK to cash in on The Da Vinci Code."
Hundreds of unpublished works by celebrated poet Philip Larkin have been discovered in his home city Hull.
When I start reading a book like Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World, I should really find a cave and hide myself in it until I'm finished. Otherwise, I find myself annoying those around me by constantly announcing, "Okay, just one more passage, and I'll stop reading this to you." It's just that Gina Mallet is so deliciously snobby. When she writes about leaving the individually wrapped slices of American cheese out on her counter for four days, trying to encourage bacterial growth so that her grilled cheese sandwich will have some sort of flavor, I just fall in love with her.
Of course, I'm not sure the book is for everyone, and I can tell that by the rolling of the eyes when I start reading. I believe it might take a special kind of food obsessed person to want to read 60-70 pages about why brie cheese isn't good anymore. (It's the pasteurization, silly.) It's got me on a craze to find some good raw milk cheeses (anyone who knows a Chicago supplier, let me know,) and basically, just eat a lot of really good food. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go grocery shopping.
Letters from a real-life Willy Wonka to Roald Dahl have been discovered by researchers preparing papers for exhibition in a new museum dedicated to the author. But whereas Dahl's fictional creation owned a chocolate factory, his non-fiction namesake was a postman in Blue Hill, Nebraska, the letters reveal.
Ms. Magazine has released a summer reading list. Because it's Ms., it's a little humorless, so don't think of it as books to take to the beach. They're more like solid nonfiction (with the token novel) that you should maybe be reading. (Although I am surprised that Maternal Desire is on there. The interviews I read with the author made her sound like all women desire to be mothers, something I wouldn't think Ms. would be down with.)
August 9, 2004
I love Calvin Trillin. I love Calvin Trillin so much I have had to replace my copy of The Tummy Trilogy three times (and about to go on a fourth) because I keep forcing others to read it. Now it seems his collection of poetry Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme is unexpectedly successful, and I couldn't be happier that so many people will now discover Trillin's words.
Poetry is hardly ever seen on the hardcover best-seller list. The last time was in 2002, when three books by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, a young boy who suffered from muscular dystrophy, were best sellers. But even famous poets like Maya Angelou have a hard time getting poetry on the list; Angelou's most successful sellers have been her books of essays and autobiographical stories.
"I think a lot of people in America hear the words 'rhyme' and 'poetry' and think it might as well be Canadian," said Trillin.
A Virginia Woolf essay thought to be lost has been recovered. It was originally written for Good Housekeeping, and it will now be published in October.
I appreciate everyone's comments on Checkpoint. It seems to be quite divided, but I think I've figured it out. If you really, really like Baker, you'll probably like Checkpoint. If you hated Vox, you'll hate Checkpoint.
I'm glad to see it finally getting some actually review coverage, however. (Even if that New York Times review stopped talking about the book two-thirds of the way through.) Oddly enough, it's the Entertainment Weekly review that makes me want to go out and buy the book. They gave it an F. They called it "ugly" and said there wasn't one graceful sentence in the entire book. I tend to like ugly books. But I got enough e-mails from people who either hated the book or admitted they loved it just as much as Vox (I think I've made my view on Vox pretty clear) to keep me away from the book. Even if it is the book everyone will be talking about.
The idea is interesting, a political karmic return. I just wish someone else had written it.
Jessica Lee Jerrigan has posted an excerpt from her article in the summer issue of Bitch Magazine comparing Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes and The Anxiety of Everyday Objects by Aurelie Sheehan. If you want to read the whole article, however, you'll have to buy the issue.
Anytime I say anything about romance novels, I get a bunch of spewing e-mails from romance fans and writers. So I'll just let you read and comment on this one yourselves.
Although readers have always devoured romance, criticism from the fiction community has been loud.
"You'd better read them before you criticize them," said Christina Skye, a romance novelist who lives in Surprise. "The heroines are tough, strong and smart. They call the shots. How can that be anything but a positive image and social model?"
Last week, SF Gate was wondering where the female superheroes in movies were. Now Fort Wayne writes they're getting their respect in other venues. Like comics and TV.
Bookslut Issue #27 is up. Leslie Cannold, author of The Abortion Myth, spoke to me about her controversial book, her former supervisor Peter Singer and how wrong he is, and the extremities of both the pro-life and the pro-choice movements. Michelle Tea, former founding member of the Sister Spit tour and prolific author, answered a few e-mails regarding her new collection of poetry and graphic novel and being pigeon-holed a gay/lesbian writer. Comic book writer Brian Wood spoke to Bookslut about the many projects he has going at once. Liz Miller reports yet again from Comic-Con. Our new feature on the good and bad of book cover design debuts. Matthew Lesh continues his series on literary magazines with an interview with the creators of Barrelhouse. When Bill Clinton descended upon Barbara's Bookstore, our own Ben McLeod got a good look at the chaos.
In columns, Hollywood Madam finally tackles the holy grail of bad adaptations: Bonfire of the Vanities. Michael Schaub considers group sex and lingonberries in his latest Propaganda! column. Dale Smith rounds up the best of the new poetry crop. Comicbookslut loves her Free Comic Book Day... and more!
August 6, 2004
Where you can probably find me next week: Raw, Boiled and Cooked: Comics on the Verge.
The Reverend Patrick Fitzgerald of Mary Immaculate Church in Bellport, Long Island, told The Observer that he never discussed abortion at a baptism earlier this year, nor did he say that Presidential candidate John Kerry “talks crap,” as Mr. Breslin reported on page 2 of his book about the Catholic Church’s sexual scandals, The Church That Forgot Christ. “That is a pack of lies,” Father Fitzgerald said. He said he moved to Long Island in 2003 after living in Zambia for 21 years and has never heard of Mr. Breslin. “I’m an Englishman, as you may detect from my accent,” he told The Observer. “I haven’t come across Jimmy Breslin.”
Comic Book Resources has the origins of and images from MirrorMask, the Jim Henson movie written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Dave McKean.
Hi. Would someone please bother to tell me if Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint is any good? Because I've read reviews that are only recaps of the controversy (two characters talk about killing George W. Bush through the entire book), but no one seems to care whether or not it's good. I care. I'm not the one reviewing it at Bookslut, so I'll probably have to buy my own copy. But I'm not going to if it's as bad as Vox. It's sadly up to you, New York Times. Your review better have something to say other than "Rush Limbaugh sure is pissed!"
The David Foster Wallace lobster piece in Gourmet made a big fuss, and now Ruth Reichl admits she was a little bit scared of it when it came in. It does make you wonder what she was expecting such a writer to turn in about a lobster festival, though. Certainly not brevity.
August 5, 2004
While some reviewers are claiming the plot of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village was lifted from a Twilight Zone episode, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it's eerily similar to Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel Running Out of Time. Of course, they're also calling it stupid and one of the worst movies ever made, so I'm not sure what that says about Haddix.
Without spoiling the film's big surprise, we can say Running Out of Time and The Village are both set in an insular rural town where something major happens that requires medicine. In both projects, the protagonists are tomboys and the adults are keeping a secret - the same secret, say those familiar with the works - from the young people.
Internet connection is out (damn you, Comcast), and so depending on how brave I'm feeling at work today, posting may be sparse to nonexistent.
August 4, 2004
While this interview with Chuck Palahniuk is so-so, it does reveal some interesting information. Like Fight Club: The Musical looks like a go. Choke: The Movie looks like a go. Otherwise, you just feel a little embarrassed for this writer who so desperately wants to hang out with Chuck Palahniuk.
The fact that Pamela Anderson "wrote" a novel (the book was ghostwritten; she admits the book was ghostwritten; I don't know how this allows her to say she wrote it, but I don't think I want to get involved) keeps me up nights. It's called Star. It came out this week. In hardcover. She's naked on the cover. (Although Elizabeth Wurtzel did that, so I guess there is precedent.) Andrew Gumbel says it's not bad for what it is, but what it is is just a little bit scary.
It's my first, and probably last, Middle East comedy. It gets people's attention because it's such an oxymoronic concept. Ultimately it's a light comedy about a very serious matter. After years and years of headlines about car bombs and suicide bombs (as Dorothy Parker would say, "what fresh hell is this?"), and amidst some really wonderful reporting from behind the iron veil, if you will, by very brave women who documented what was done to women in Afghanistan under the Taliban—as well as books like Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran and the works of Fatema Mernissi—I became sort of enchanted with the idea of liberating Arab women. I mean, how much worse could things get in the Middle East if some of them had a voice?
Sam Tanenhaus justifies his existence at Media Bistro.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is still a month away from publication, but the hype won't stop. There's a profile in the New York Times. The galleys are going for more than $200 on Ebay. The book's website is packed with goodies. Okay, I'm sold. Just give me a week during which I don't have anything else to do, and I'll read it.
The transcript of Michael Chabon's keynote speech at Comic-Con is up at the website.
Children did not abandon comics; comics, in their drive to attain respect and artistic accomplishment, abandoned children. And for a long time we as lovers and partisans of comics were afraid, after so many long years of struggle and hard work and incremental gains, to pick up that old jar of greasy kid stuff again, and risk undoing it all. Comics have always been an arriviste art form, and all upstarts are to some degree ashamed of their beginnings. But frankly, I don’t think that’s what’s going on in comics anymore.
Now, I think, we have simply lost the habit of telling stories to children. And how sad is that?
August 3, 2004
The money quote: "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases: and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased ... we might probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty and yet few be absolutely starved."
I am enamored with Ben Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany. So imagine my delight when I realized the Food and Wine magazine I only bought for the radish and balsamic cherry soup (something I will never make, but looked so damn pretty) had a profile of Mr. Schott himself. He's quite the odd fellow. He insisted the book be printed in accordance with the golden ratio for starters. For the rest, you'll have to read it yourself.
It is precisely that wildness that is missing from so much of our contemporary nature writing. There's lots of wilderness, sure, but one of the things that is lost is the element of quest -- of personal wildness -- or what we might call the Montaignean aspect of Thoreau's book. Strange that a book like "Walden," so outside of genre and driven by such a boldly personal and idiosyncratic quest -- "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. . ." -- should have created a genre that is so often dry and impersonal.
You will not find these titles on bookshelves or bestseller lists - One-Eyed Olaf, The Man Who Was Addicted to Seeing, Poke the Pig and Scrumping in Persia.
These books, along with many others, have not been written - so they are only to be found in the Library of Unwritten Books.
An art project travelling the UK, this library is collecting stories and ideas for books people would like to write - but never have, and probably never will.
Nothing is more depressing for me than working for a magazine whose sole purpose is selling advertising. Not journalism, not photography, not anything interesting, just "What ad can I sell today?" But at least the magazines mentioned in this New York Times piece are upfront about it. The success of Lucky Magazine has led other publishers to start their own shopping mags. What they don't mention is how Cargo is doing. Everyone said men wouldn't buy a testosterone version of Lucky, and I'm wondering if they were right.
August 2, 2004
Patrick pointed me to the katiet.com website, home of the book Katie.com. There is some horrible writing there, but more disturbing is the frequent misspelling of "excerpt," including on the sidebar. Perhaps someone should fix that.
There's a book called Katie.com. There's a website called Katie.com. They are not associated, but that doesn't mean the publisher wouldn't like to suddenly be in possession of the domain. (Link from Bookninja.)
Today I also had a very unpleasant phone call from a lawyer working with Katie Tarbox, the author of the book. She tried to convince me that I should donate the domain name to them. Somehow this would resolve my problem. OK so not only do I get walked all over, my life invaded by this book, treated badly by the publisher/author who refuse to acknowledge that they've done the wrong thing, but then I get to hand it over to them on a silver plate and I not only have suffered all this aggravation but ultimately have lost the thing that I care about. Exactly HOW does this resolve anything other than give them the thing they want which they have done everything to hijack without any care and consideration for what is right and just?
Patricia Wells's Bistro Cooking is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. I subscribe to her butter-cream-animal fat philosophy whole heartedly, and any cookbook that has more than one thing stuffed with sausage is all right by me. And while The Provence Cookbook is not quite as approachable and friendly, eventually I will conquer something in that book. In the meantime, it's damn near impossible to find an interview with Wells online. Here's the most substantial I found, and it's really quite short. Perhaps she's press shy. (Harper Collins also has one on their website, where we learn she has a weakness for cottage cheese.)
And Time.com reports on the alternative comics present at Comic Con.
Why didn't anyone tell me Courtney Love was writing comics? Stripper manga at that! She's listed as a co-author for the Princess AI books, although who's to say how much she's actually involved. I had to find out through your typical girls-don't-read-comics-but-they-sure-love-their-manga articles. (The Boston Globe's take: it's just like the OC!) I don't read manga, but goddamn, if Courtney Love is writing some, I've gotta get my ass to the comic book store. Again.