January 31, 2005
Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
Well, it's been fun. See you in Canada.
I was flattered when my book I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles: A Biography of The Proclaimers became a Number One bestseller in Scotland. And now I find out it meant nothing. I feel so betrayed. (Via Confessions.)
Plato wanted to banish all poets from his ideal Republic, and having just watched an advance copy of a new documentary film, "Voices in Wartime," I suspect that President Bush would also like to ban poets from his less-than-ideal republic.
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator." George W. Bush, Dec. 18, 2000
Jesus Christ, would somebody please get Scott Thill some good books? His woefully inept column about small press books for Salon.com needs a major reworking. "I consider myself a serious journalist," he confesses, while misstating that Will Eisner's death has been largely ignored. Oh really? And I'm not entirely sure he's even reading the books he's writing about. He manages to talk more about the air around the books than the writing, usually padding with a few paragraphs from interviews with the author and letting them explain the book. At least this column isn't as bad as previous months when he made ridiculous statements about Austin's Ransom Center, a place he's never even visited. I can't believe I just resubscribed to Salon. (It was mostly for the free New Yorker subscription, just so you know.)
Was Pushkin a pornographer?
But now Alexander Pushkin’s legacy is in danger of being tainted by an argument over whether some of his early work is pornographic, and whether his ‘adult verses’ even came from the pen of the ‘National Poet’.
A collection of his poems has been seized by Russian police as part of a crack-down on "obscene" literature. The move has horrified the nation’s literati in a country where serious literature is a serious business and popular with the masses. Only last week, Moscow’s foreign ministry published a book of poems by the nation’s diplomats.
Terry Jones of Monty Python got slammed by English critics for his mystery novel Who Murdered Chaucer? (Well, "his" in the sense that he coauthored it with three other people. But none of them are ever quoted ad nauseam by a fleet of nerds, so: "his.") The book was just released in the States, where he's hoping for a better reaction.
Ian McEwan is interviewed at the Scotsman.
"My own wariness of language was very much drawn from my mother. She always had a weird, problematic relationship with language. She mispronounced things, she got the wrong end of the stick, hilariously, and although I shook it all off in a way, or thought I did, something remained. A wariness. I could never quite trust language, because I thought it might not do what I wanted it to do."
At the Boston Globe, James Sallis looks at "the Copernicus of the horror story," H. P. Lovecraft, in preparation for the new Library of America Lovecraft collection. (I'd love to get my brother's take on this article; he's a Lovecraft aficionado.) If you can't afford the Library of America collection, though, don't despair you can always read Hello Cthulhu for free.
Back when I was in high school, Details was an excellent magazine. They were basically what Esquire is now (most of the time). They had good articles, their taste in books, music, and movies tended to match mine, and they once published an article about a sniper in Sarajevo. I think I read that article half a dozen times I loved it so much. They even turned it into a (mediocre) movie with an unfortunate Bon Jovi title.
So imagine my surprise when I'm about halfway through Hello to All That by John Falk and I happen to read the About the Author. I was already enjoying the book, but learning he was the author of that piece made me excited. This was, after all, his memoirs about that time he spent in Sarajevo, but with alternating chapters about living through depression. It might seem like a weird gimmick, but it works if only because when you're reading about how he can't get out of bed, you're wondering how the fuck he managed to get out of bed and onto a plane to Sarajevo. He does get around to telling the story of how he met the sniper from the Details story, but the best stuff is what leads up to that: a war correspondent who has no idea how to find the war.
The depression parts are equally good and manage to not make "stayed in bed again today" sound repetitive or boring. He was obviously blessed with a remarkably supportive family, and I kept wishing his parents would adopt me. The ending is a little sappy, but it's forgivable. At least it answered my question about what the hell the author of that piece had been doing all these years.
I also read Ex Machina this weekend. It was pretty good. Comic book geeks everywhere have been raving about it, but I like Vaughan's other series Y a whole lot more. I thought it was a clunky start, but I'll probably keep picking it up. I think that brings me up to ten books for January. Not bad.
Few activities are as likely to bring on a fit of depressive jealousy as leafing through the back pages of one's alumni magazine. While you molder in a studio apartment, stuck in a dead-end job, your former classmates are founding clinics in Thailand, cranking out best sellers and unveiling major new paintings -- as well as bearing exceptional children. You thought you'd be a success, or at least have a chance to make a decent stab at it while you were still young. Sorry.
Goddammit. How did she know that?
Lizzie Skurnick of The Old Hag (who will soon collaborate with us on a website to be called The Old Slut's All-Natural Good-Time Book Revue) reviews Sam Lipsyte's Home Land for the New York Times. Her advice, which I am planning to heed: Buy it.
"Moshe," I said, "I know what to do if attacked by a bear, but not a wild pig. Have you ever seen a wild pig before? What should we do?"
To which Moshe replied, "Oh, I've come across wild pigs several times."
Which temporarily made me feel a little better about the situation, until he followed up with: "I was in the Golan Heights in a tank, though, so I never had to figure out how to defend myself against one..."
LA Weekly has an interview with Marilynne Robinson about (of course) the 25-year gap between her novels Housekeeping and Gilead, why goodness does not have to equal "boring," and her interest in theology.
January 28, 2005
You’ve probably heard the sound yourself at a reading—an "mmmmm" emanating from somewhere in the crowd, usually at the conclusion of poem with a linguistic or emotional zinger. Does that "mmmmm" mean that listeners have been transported into the sublime? Or is the poem just cheap, the mmmmm a smug "Amen!"?
Even the Bible isn't Christian enough for Southern Baptists.
Rolling Stone Magazine reversed its decision not to air an advertisement for the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible earlier this week, but the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated Lifeway Christian Resources has not yet changed its decision to keep the edition out of its 122 bookstores because of the version’s gender-neutral translations.
“The cool thing about Barth as a teacher is that he has a very systematic approach to analyzing stories. He talks about a story as if it were a machine,” Whorton says. “He will acknowledge that there is a mysterious aspect to a work of art, but he doesn’t try to talk about that in class. He will just talk about the machine.
“What we can’t talk about, we must pass over in silence,” he muses, summing up Barth’s teaching style.
I'm not sure "muses" was the right word to use here, since it's pretty clear that Whorton was directly quoting Wittgenstein. But whatever. It's an interesting profile.
I understand the way David L. Ulin thinks. I am also a completist in my collecting, or at least I was when I could afford to be. But when Ulin started his 30 year search for an elusive copy of Vonnegut's Canary in a Cathouse, it was only for one short story that had not been reprinted elsewhere. Personally, I would love to finish my collection of J G Farrell books, but not $486.02 love. Ulin got off easy with $75.
Comic Book Resources has the transcript of a fascinating interview between Alan Moore (genius) and Stewart Lee (creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera).
AM: I mean, like the super heroes, it only really works when you're a kid, to be honest. When I was I think seven, I decided what I wanted to do with my life which was to actually put on a costume and fight crime. (audience laughs) It's obvious, what else were you going to do? I got my mum to make me a costume, well it wasn't really a costume it was a kind of a vest and I wore Wellingtons because that was the nearest I could get to the sort of super hero boots and I've got a mask on. I remember hiding in a tree…
SL: Was that your special power? (audience laughs)
AM: Yeah, I could hide in trees at will!
Mice are sneaky. Disney has somehow obtained an advance copy of James B. Stewart's DisneyWar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom, thus pissing off publisher Simon & Schuster (which is pronounced "Viacom").
Bruce Wagner nursed a large latte and studied The New York Times. As always, he was dressed in black, and two or three days’ dark stubble decorated his cheeks and prominent chin. His eyes, warm and brown like those of a highly intelligent dog, peered out of hefty black-framed glasses, and his partly bald, partly shaved head was the color of an old onion.
"Hello, ________? This is the MacArthur Foundation. How are you today?* Great! Our records show that it's been ___ years since your last exceptional literary work, and we were just wondering when you were going to, you know, write something else really outstanding, because in light of that article in Crain's Chicago Business suggesting we make adjustments to increase our effectiveness by adopting a more disciplined, businesslike approach, we thought we'd just check in every other day or so to make sure you're busy, and that you're working on something good, and that it's not just about, say, cooking lobsters, though that whole business about 'turning up the heat under you' sure is vivid, ha ha, isn't it, Genius, ha ha!"
*Norman Manea always just hangs up at this point.
January 27, 2005
The county election supervisor who devised the infamous "butterfly ballot" that helped spur the 2000 presidential election meltdown is writing a book about her experiences.
The weird thing is, people trying to buy former Palm Beach County (Florida) Election Supervisor Theresa LePore's book will actually end up voting for Pat Buchanan.
The Comics Reporter links to this press release (pdf) about Roaring Books's graphic novel imprint First Second. The artists attached include Jessica Abel, Eddie Campbell, Sara Varon, and Grady Klein. Their website, so far, doesn't do much.
John Eldredge wants Christian men to start kicking ass.
Citing a quotation attributed to Jesus in the Bible, that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force”, (the book) advocates the “deep and holy goodness of masculine aggression” and contrasts this with the idea that “the kingdom of heaven is open to passive, wimpy men who enter it by lying on the couch and watching TV”.
Because fundamentalist Christians aren't violent enough already, I guess.
Houston has finally solved the biggest problem to ever face their city: the presence of Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale in the city's public libraries.
(Houston Mayor Bill) White recently ordered that the library's dozen copies of Jameson's best-selling How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale be removed from open shelves.
In making his decision, White sidestepped the committee process that Houston's libraries typically use to evaluate complaints about items in their collections.
It's really hard to be Nick Laird. I mean, being married to Zadie Smith has to really hurt your literary career. Can you imagine how much press he gets just because of his famous wife? And he has to wonder if his six-figure book deal was the primarily the result of the marriage. Sigh. So hard to be an over-paid writer.
As a couple they are, he says, "very involved with each other's work"; but her fame is something that can't but make life tricky for him. At parties he has found himself "feeling two feet high a lot of the time" as his wife is mobbed; at a big literary dinner in Italy Zadie was at the top table beside Bernardo Bertolucci while "I was between the gardener's daughter and some woman who was Italian and didn't speak any English. It was a really long three hours."
Remember those rumors that the New York Times would start charging for access to its website? A recent survey makes it look like subscription costs could be around $13.49 to $15.99 a month, or $1 for daily access. There goes all Bookslut links to The New York Times. We're broke.
The BBC has a short profile of Whitbread-winning Andrea Levy.
Elvis Costello, poet laureate of the recently dumped, is writing an opera based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen. This news is as good an excuse as any to go buy whatever's missing from your Elvis collection, though might I suggest the tribute album Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello from Austin's Glurp Records? It might well be the best tribute album ever.
Roll out the red carpet: the publishing industry is trying to apply some glitter to its image with a new book awards program that is a cross between the Oscars and the People's Choice Awards.
January 26, 2005
Tonight at the Hideout is Funny Ha-Ha II, with Claire Zulkey, Wendy McClure, Nathan Rabin, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and many others reading. You should come and say hi. 1354 W Wabansia, 8-10 pm.
Someday, I will copyedit the Great American Novel.
A grandmother on a drugs charge who cooks treats using cannabis has written a book about her activities which she aims to get published.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
The Independent has a duel between two booksellers: one who works for a small shop and one who works for a superstore. Their arguments are nothing new. Service vs. Selection. Personal touch vs. Pricing. Just because you're supposed to support independent anything if you're a good human being vs. Convenience. What they don't answer is "Which is the best shop?" When I lived in Austin, Borders Bookstore really was the best bookstore. Better service, better selection, fewer facial piercings and attitude problems. In Chicago, I have to take the bus and transfer to the el to get to Unabridged, even when there are two or three chain stores more conveniently located, because I love it so. So argue all you like in hypotheticals, it never gets to the real question.
Thanks to everyone who sent me get-well emails over the past few days. (And to those who didn't, fuck you. Fuck you so much.) I am still in a virus-induced haze, so I apologize in advance if my posts over the next few days don't make much pancakes.
Hugh Grant helped pick Andrea Levy's book Small Island as the Whitbread winner, you know. Maybe you heard. He did it, by the way, to force himself to catch up on contemporary literature.
Amblongus comments on a CNN interview with Hugh Hewitt about his book Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.
"When you come to hughhewitt.com or Powerline, we'll line things up."
Line things up? I just don't understand the way the hip kids talk. Is it a coke reference?
"If you want to know what's going on in Baghdad today, Mabil Gazette is there. He's a soldier blogging from Baghdad."
That's the Mudville Gazette, a chickenblogger favorite, as it lets them feel they're a mouse-click away from the blood, noise and glory without having to put their pants on and leave mom's basement.
Just a quick 50 Books update:
#7: Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind. A good trashy, catty read.
#8: A book that I didn't like for so many reasons that I'm not even going to post the title or author here. I know, completely unlike me, but there you go. I had wanted something light for the cold winter day, but instead I ended up questioning the future of literature from my generation. Maybe if you get me drunk I'll go into the whole thing.
So now I'm working on John Falk's Hello to All That. Terrible cover art (The Boy turns it over whenever he finds it so he doesn't have to look at it), great book. I had to give up on Brothers Karamazov as I lost my copy. For some reason I just wasn't that into it anyway. I enjoyed reading it while I was doing so, but I just didn't want to pick it up again to keep reading. Just the wrong time for me to try to read it. I might try The Devils instead for the next book.
Or maybe I'll go with one of the ten hardbacks I bought yesterday. I've probably mentioned it before, but my favorite bookstore in Chicago is Unabridged Books. They have an excellent selection, and the best remaindered selection I have ever seen. It's not just the usual Bill O'Reilly bookfest, they have books you actually want to read for seven bucks. I got out of there with ten hardbacks (Feeding a Yen, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, This is Not Civilization, Metro Stop Dostoevsky, Getting Mother's Body, The Solace of Leaving Early, Desert Memories, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It, Pattern Recognition, and Borrowed Finery) for under $70. God bless those guys. If you want to pay full price for some books, their selection is one of the best in the city, at least as far as it corresponds with my taste. Everyone in Chicago: go shop there.
January 25, 2005
John Eklund does not like the world of book marketing. Nor the Amazon.com recommendation features. He gets into the topic of how bad publishers are at predicting the reception for any given book and how readers find the next great book to read. He doesn't really offer any suggestions, and he admits, "I’m not moved by advertising, though I’m obsessive about reading reviews." But when the industry is met with the Incredible Shrinking Book Review Section, what's a reader to do?
Pitchaya Sudbanthad profiles a Brooklyn used bookstore for the Morning News.
The arrival of the internet brought sweeping changes to the used-books trade. Bookstores can now list their inventories online. A used bookstore in Arkansas might be able to sell a volume on the mating habits of hairy-nosed wombats to a gentleman in Brazil looking to fill a void in his library. As a result, used books are making a comeback. According to Ipsos Book Trends, used books accounted for an estimated 14 percent of trade book purchases made by adults in 2003, up one percentage point from 2002. Using an online survey of booksellers, Book Hunter Press estimated that sales of used books amounted to $614 million in 2003, with online sales accounting for over 53 percent of all used book sales in 2003, up from 49 percent in 2001. Used bookstores now have to compete with stay-at-home sellers who keep their inventories in a spare closet. Why then even bother to open a store at all?
“Winter has been very slow. There are days we panic,” says Rachel. “We worry about which bills to pay first.”
Knopf has really outdone itself with the Haruki Murakami website. There's commentary by Chip Kidd on Murakami's cover art, excerpts from his books, an interview with Philip Gabriel about his work translating the newest book Kafka on the Shore, and a hell of a lot more. You can spend the rest of the day there.
A rare book of German drawings valued at $600,000 has brought its owner under fire. The state-owned Staatsgalerie claims the book was stolen from the German government by a Nazi general in World War II. St. Louis Today has more on Germany's attempts to retrieve the book.
Alternet has created a separate website called "Books We Like: The People's Republic of Books."
Books We Like is "activist e-commerce", a way for progressives to use their online shopping to effect change. BWL collectivizes online book (actually any product at Amazon, Powells, etc.) purchases, maximizes the resulting sales commissions, and pools them to fertilize progressive independent media.
The bible of rock 'n' roll, Rolling Stone magazine, will run an ad for the Holy Bible next month — the same ad it rejected two weeks ago for its "spiritual message."
"In my view, my job was to be his secretarial assistant as needed, as well as his social secretary, his nourisher, his bed mate, and eventually his breeder. My job was not to be anything not related to him."
Then [Betty Fussell] decided to write her own books. Oh sorry day. "The fierceness of my needs conflicted almost totally with the fierceness of his. The betrayal was that I now put mine first."
Michael Schaub is not dead! Nor did we get into a feud over which John Banville book we had the most sentimental attachment to, leading him to leave Bookslut forever. He's just sick. You know smokers. They have the immune systems of kidney transplant patients. But with every vote for Bookslut for Best Topical Weblog in the 2005 Bloggies, he will regain just a little bit of strength. Oh shit, that's Tinkerbell and clapping, isn't it? Nevertheless, I'm sure he'd be thrilled.
January 24, 2005
Kevin Boyle, "Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age"
Edward Conlon, "Blue Blood"
Diarmaid MacCulloch, "The Reformation: A History"
David Shipler, "The Working Poor: Invisible in America"
Timothy B. Tyson, "Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story"
Ron Chernow, "Alexander Hamilton"
Bob Dylan, "Chronicles Vol. 1"
Stephen Greenblatt, "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"
John Guy, "Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart"
Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, "De Kooning: An American Master"
Richard Howard, "Paper Trail: Selected Prose 1965-2003"
Patrick Neate, "Where You're At: Notes From the Frontline of a Hip-Hop Planet"
Graham Robb, "Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century"
Craig Seligman, "Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me"
James Wood, "The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel"
If you're born with all your immaculate senses present and correct, and if one of those senses dwindles away to a whisper, you do tend to mind. Initially I minded because of the connotations of hearing loss. If you are short-sighted and wear glasses, you are traditionally perceived as either very stupid or very clever. If you go deaf, you are traditionally seen as thick, or old, or both. You're dumb, you're slow on the uptake, you're a few crucial beats behind the rest of the world. I spent most of my childhood being mistakenly seen as stupid, and I didn't like the reminders.
Cathleen Falsani is offended that Rolling Stone refused to accept an ad for the Bible, saying, "Perhaps Rolling Stone honchos were worried that an ad for a Bible would somehow blow the cool." Or, just maybe, Rolling Stone was worried that the godless heathens that subscribe to their magazine would like one thing to remain God-free. Good for Rolling Stone.
Professor Gronas, who teaches Russian literature, used customer reviews on Amazon in order to study how tastes inform what people read. "Most studies of taste are based on surveys," Professor Gronas said. "With the Amazon.com reviews, you have a huge bank of material that is voluntary."
In his study, he examined the star ratings given by readers to determine what patterns, if any, correspond to different types of books. He also analyzed the content of the reviews to see what criteria people used in making judgments and by what processes they came to those conclusions.
Christopher Hitchens is interviewed at The Atlantic Online about his new book Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, why the smoking ban in New York shows off Mayor Bloomberg's "penis envy," and why everyone thinks he's a loon now.
I guess I shouldn't really complain, because at least it means I have a reputation for something. It must be the same if you're a politician—you make one remark and it ends up being the thing that people remember about you. I suppose Dan Quayle must have to force himself to laugh along with all those people who make potato jokes. When people introduce me by saying something like, "This is the guy who said Mother Teresa is no good," I just have to suppress a sigh.
(Also, you can watch Hitchens on the Daily Show in their archives.)
January 21, 2005
It turns out that the "Books for Babies" program is not structured like the "Toys for Guns" programs, so if you show up with babies, you can not exchange them for books. Completely blows my weekend plans.
One of the models of American leadership is that of Moses, leading God's chosen people - then the Jews, now the Americans - towards a promised land, following a pillar of fire. At one point, according to the Bible, Moses was shown a sign: "Behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed."
But the key fire passage in the Burning Bush speech - "We have lit a fire as well; a fire in the minds of men" - actually has its origins in a novel by the 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils, about a group of terrorists' ineffectual struggle to bring down the tyrannical Tsarist regime.
Sometimes it pays to be subscribed to Esquire. One of the best stories in Esquire in a long time was January's "The American Dream" by Sara Solovich. The article debunked the claims of Jumana Hanna, an Iraqi woman who claims she was tortured and raped and that her husband was murdered by Saddam's guards. Hanna was the subject of an extensive Washington Post profile and her story was referenced many times by the Bush administration. Well, the Washington Post has now printed a retraction.
Jerry Weinstein is upset about the popularity of Thomas E. Woods, Jr's The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. (Read Michael Schaub's commentary about the book here.)
In mapping the Colonial through Clinton eras, Professor Woods' overall strategy is to take on the Liberal Gods, rehabilitate the fallen, and smear, smear, smear along the way. Among his "revelations" from the last three-hundred-and-fifty years of American history: there was no genocide of Native Americans, the Federal government was meant to be subordinate to the will of the states, and the civil-rights movement — starting with Brown vs. Board of Education — was a bust.
I Love Books dishes about The Morning News's Tournament of Books.
In this world there are the Golden Globes, presented by the foreign "press," and the Academy Awards and it's true that on awards night you can't find a waiter anywhere in town. Several steps below that is the Nobel Prize followed by journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzer.
Only the Nobel brings a huge cash prize and -- if you happen to teach at UC Berkeley -- a parking space marked NL for Nobel Laureate.
Looking for a 300 volume collection of books about golf? Alan Parker's library is going to auction and included is a first edition of the Scottish SF book Golf in the Year 2000.
[I]t follows the tale of avid 19th-century golfer Alexander J Gibson, who falls into a deep sleep on 24 March 1892 and wakes up Rip Van Winkle-style on 25 March 2000 to find a world transformed.
Television, superfast trains, digital watches and female emancipation are all predicted in the tale, which envisages a world of leisure where golf is paramount.
Contra Costa Times profiles Thai Jones's new book A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience. Turns out writing about your lawless parents in the 60's can be a little awkward at times.
"My goal with the book is not to get my parents put in jail," Thai Jones says. "I said, 'There's not going to be any sex in this book about the '60s. I'm going to put in as much rock 'n' roll, drugs and car chases as I can,'" he recalls.
January 20, 2005
The Paris Review is searching again for a new editor, barely a year after appointing a replacement for George Plimpton, the only other person to fill the post in its five decades as one the nation's premier literary magazines.
If you look to your right you'll notice a link to The Morning News's Tournament of Books. (That image, by the way, is evidently a rooster. You have no idea how long I looked at that going "What the fuck? Is that a pointy beard?") The first results won't be coming in until the beginning of February, but today they explain the ground rules and you can see the books that were included. (Not the list I would have come up with, but what are you gonna do?) I've read my super secret books and have made my decision, but they're not letting me in on what the other choices have been either. I'll put up another notice when the results start to be released.
The newly announced chairman of the 2005 Man Booker prize has admitted that the judges are unlikely to read all 130 books in contention, while describing his fellow judges as "light on the minorities" and the process as like a "world federation wrestling match".
Daniel Asa Rose spent some time copy editing at a porn magazine.
Tackling a new letter, I'd first hit the find and replace key and change every "cum" to "come" (an average of 19 changes per letter). As per my style sheet, I'd make sure every "doggie-style" was hyphenated, every "bunghole" was not, every "blowjob" was one word, every "daisy chain" was two. Picture, if you will, all of this being dispatched with a 10-month-old baby draped over my lap. In our cozy, kinky domesticity I enlisted my wife to proofread, which she'd do during commercials of "20/20." "Honey," I'd call out from my study, "is 'dream cock' hyphenated?"
Los Bros Hernandez are interviewed at The Onion AV Club.
Director Francis Lawrence seems to think that what fans are most upset about with his movie Constantine is the change of location from London to Los Angeles. Oh yeah. That's exactly it.
Galleycat has more information on King Wenclas's accusations of plagiarism.
January 19, 2005
Steve Wasserman (LA Times): One of the great scandals of American journalism is the sad fact that too few newspapers regard the publication of book reviews as news that they should feel obligated to bring before readers, and instead consign such reviews --- where they publish them at all --- to virtual ghettos. In most newspapers, readers are lucky to get a column or halfpage, much less an entire separate Sunday section devoted to the coverage of books. And then, adding insult to injury, such reviews are too often written in baby talk. And yet it is doubtless the case that, despite all predictions of the triumph of the world wide web, books remain the single most important instrument for the conveyance of deep knowledge and lasting entertainment yet devised. Books still retain the patina of authority that only time can bestow. They have yet to be bested for ease of access and even for pure sensuality. They will not soon disappear so long as the human species is defined by its opposable thumb and its obsessive need to tell each other stories --- sometimes the same stories, over and over, albeit in new guise.
From Bookreporter's Round Table Discussion (that I seem to have overlooked for a month or so) with editors Wasserman, Sam Tanenhaus, Charlotte Abbott (Publishers Weekly), and Bob Minzesheimer (USA Today).
Andrew Stilwell explains how Waterstone's (a large chain bookstore in the UK) has fallen in the last ten years and why independent bookstores are still important.
Even when the business underwent rapid expansion in the mid to late 1980s, each branch retained its local individuality, the manager was given his/her head and booksellers were valued for their knowledge: centrality was a very dirty word indeed. As part of our recent bid to run the bookselling concession at the Royal Festival Hall, we sought some testimonials from authors who had some first-hand knowledge of (and liked) our shop. In his piece, Colm Tóibín summed up the difference between Waterstone's then and now: "Up to 10 years ago, each manager could order and select according to his or her taste and judgement. Since then everything is arranged from central office by people who are experts at everything except books."
Kids these days, they have no sense of history. Esquire was sued for libel in 1969 after they printed accusations by Gore Vidal that William F. Buckley, Jr. was, among other things, an anti-Semite. Thirty years later, with all parties still alive, that same piece is collected into the anthology Esquire's Big Book of Great Writing: More than 70 Years of Celebrated Journalism, their excuse being they didn't know the history of the lawsuit. What do you know. Buckley got upset again. (Scroll down.)
Leiber was a different kind of writer, and weird horror was only one of his strengths. Among my favourites of his books are the science fiction satires. A Spectre Is Haunting Texas might be worth another look right about now. It’s set in the not terribly distant future when Texas oilmen have taken over all of North America. What a frightening thought. How could that ever happen?
January 18, 2005
"Tell me I'm Edmund Wilson," I said as I mounted her.
"Yes!" she said. "You are Edmund Wilson! You are Edmund Wilson! You're, you're...better than Edmund Wilson!"
"Yes! Yes! Oh, my fucking god, yes!"
There is no such thing as bad sex with Neal Pollack.
I love exorcisms. I love it when the History Channel or TLC gets all trashy and shows terrible re-enactments of exorcisms, I love it when Spanish priests show up on these programs swearing exorcisms are real, and I love watching The Exorcist, even if I have to carry around a knife with me in the apartment when it's over. (Which caused my friend Ben to comment, "The Dark Prince probably won't be stopped by a knife, for what it's worth.") M. Scott Peck's Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption will definitely find its way onto my to be read list. Peck is interviewed at Salon, and he's actually quite charming. In fact, he one day hopes that exorcists will be an equal opportunity job.
The fourth is the exorcist himself -- or hopefully herself, one of these days -- who is crucial to success since it is he who makes the diagnosis and gathers the team together.
In the former Yugoslavia, people are snapping up books by murderers Milorad Ulemek (Legija), Biljana Plavsic, and Radovan Karadzic, the man who brought the world "ethnic cleansing."
George Szirtes, a Hungarian-born poet, has won Britain's T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. In related news, Patrick Buchanan looks to be a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Anti-Semitism. More on that as it develops.
Rolling Stone rejected an advertisement from Zondervan's Bibles citing concerns about any ads of a religious nature. The ad was for Today's New International Version, which they are marketing to 18 to 34 year-olds.
The rejected ad shows a serious young man, apparently pondering the problems of modern life. The text touts the TNIV as a source for "real truth" in a world of "endless media noise and political spin." A blue Bible peeks up from the corner of the ad.
While the ad won't be carried in Rolling Stone, it will appear on MTV, VH1, The Onion, and Modern Bride. This version of the Bible is controversial to some Christians, and USA Today also explains the changes made in language that have irked some.
Want to read comic books without the hassle of, um, reading comic books? Marvel has the plan for you!
James Bowman is calling for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly to stop publishing anonymous reviews.
This weekend at the newsstand I came across conceive magazine. (They prefer the small case, thank you very much.) I had heard about it and thought the idea ridiculous, and with it now before me I knew I had to read it. I considered shoplifting it as I felt quite embarrassed, but I hid it amongst respectable magazine purchases like a girl buying socks and a pregnancy test.
For some reason I began to get optimistic on the way home. I thought about all of the areas that could be covered that for some reason don't get much attention. They could do an article on the daughters of mothers who took DES and the continued problems they're having. Wow, they could even maybe interview Judith Helfand and find out how things have changed for her since her documentary "A Healthy Baby Girl." Or you know what would be really interesting, even if highly unlikely? If they really addressed some of the controversies involved in reproduction. Like the gap of access to fertility treatments, or some of the more unsavory things about international adoption from certain countries, or the possibility that current fertility drugs could end up being the new DES, causing future reproductive issues in the children the women are trying so hard to conceive. Yeah, unlikely, but wouldn't that be great?
When I got home, all I saw was a bunch of nonsense. "Did you know... that a woman's sense of smell becomes more sensitve right around ovulation? 'If you're hoping to conceive a child, it's something to keep in mind. If you notice that things seem to be smelling stronger to you, it may indicate a good time to try.'" There are tips on how to program your ovulation schedule into your PDA and reminders that waterbeds might be killing your man's fertility. Beyond the nonsense there's also a whole lotta guilt. Did you used to smoke? That might be why you're having problems. Carry a few extra pounds? Well, obviously you have to lose that ass before you can get pregnant. Work too hard at your job? You're going to have to quit and go on a month-long "fertility retreat" to even get ready to get pregnant. The magazine wants women trying to get pregnant to think of only their fertility. Even in the column from a man's perspective, the woman is portrayed as a combination of holy and nag. She knows what's best, even if she has to control her husband's every move, clothing choice, and exercise regimen for optimal sperm count.
I know I'm not the right audience for this, as I don't have a single maternal bone in my body. But in the news we have a 66-year-old woman who just gave birth to a live baby so there are obviously controversies that should be discussed. They should even be discussed in a venue for women trying to get pregnant because right now the system seems to be "anything you want as long as you can pay for it." conceive magazine only serves to continue to cut women off from the discussion. "Don't worry your pretty little head about the ethics, here just inject yourself in the ass with some drugs, and we're really going to have to talk about how your yoga/t-shirt/house location/past/bubble bath is getting in the way of your One True Purpose: Motherhood."
The American Library Association has announced the winners of their children's literature prizes.
Newbery Medal: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Caldecott Medal: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Coretta Scott King Award (Author): Remember: The Journey of School Integration by Toni Morrison
Coretta Scott King Award (Illustrator): Ellington Was Not a Street illustrated by Kadir Nelson
January 17, 2005
Some legislators want Arkansas' public school textbooks to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman -- just like the recently approved amendment to the state Constitution.
Why does it always have to be the South? Why, God, why?
Will peace and equality save a virtually deserted Sudanese bookstore? Owner Gabriel Dok hopes so:
"They're not accustomed to reading anymore because of the struggle," he said, gesturing at racks with only a few secondhand copies of English classics, virtually the only reading material available in the town.
Elizabeth Janeway, who began her career as a best-selling novelist in the 1940's and later distinguished herself as a critic, a lecturer and an early advocate of the women's movement, died yesterday at a retirement home in Rye, N.Y. She was 91.
The San Francisco Chronicle uses the release of the movie Elektra to explain why Frank Miller's not getting any money for the adaptation of his character.
Mr. Michael Schaub, also known as the "better half of Bookslut" to those in the know, has a review of Robert Anderson's Little Fugue in the Washington Post. Next thing you know, they'll be asking him to pose topless in the Austin Chronicle.
Clint Eastwood's boxing drama Million Dollar Baby won this year's University of Southern California Scripter Award, an honor bestowed by The Friends of the USC Libraries for the best adaptation of a book or short story to film.
The Hillary Swank-Morgan Freeman movie was based on F. X. Toole's Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner.
Booker compiles a Jungian taxonomy of stories, distilling the entire history of the fictive arts into a handful of flexible but unbreakable archetypes—Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth—and then extracts from those seven imaginative drops a single battle royal between Dark and Light.
Samedi, le 1 novembre. French is so sophisticated and sensual. It also reminds you that I'm middle-class and respectable, because no one's really interested in working-class or foreign prostitutes. Did I mention that I am actually rather clever? Oh, I did. Well, Martin Amis is cool.
Vendredi, le 12 décembre. My nipples are clamped and a bald-headed man is pissing on me in the bath. I knew that would get your attention.
So I cheated on Brothers Karamazov this weekend. It was just a little too cold and depressing to continue reading a cold and depressing book, so I put it on hold to read a few graphic novels. Book #5 became Jason's You Can't Get There From Here, a classic tale of boy creates monster, monster gets lonely, boy creates monster's girlfriend, boy gets hot for monster's girlfriend, boy rapes monster's girlfriend, etc. It's pretty typical of Jason's work, rabbits and dogs standing in for people, an almost complete absence of dialogue, and a very simple artwork style. But it says something of his talent that a dog with a slightly boxy face immediately brought to mind "monster." It's a pretty clever story.
Book #6 was David B's Epileptic. I read volume one last year, after the nice man at Comix Revolution told me I had to read it. I'm grateful to him for it, as I never would have picked it up and only because of the cover. The cover was a bright yellow with two black and white line drawings of two young boys. Nothing about it grabbed me, and I'm sure I passed it over many times over the years. But when it was recommended, I immediately fell in love with it, struggling to continue to read the book during the previews before Spider-Man 2.
Pantheon has combined the two volume work into one hardback, and it's a handsome book. My only complaint is that the Pantheon book is somewhat smaller than the first volume, making some of the detailed artwork smaller and harder to see. But I'm grateful that they released the book, because the second half is even better than the first. Epileptic is David B's memoirs of growing up with a brother with epilepsy. The family is thrown into chaos as they try anything -- including a whole lotta quack remedies -- to save their son. I stayed up late to finish the book, and now I'm forcing it on everyone who steps into my apartment.
Now, back to Dostoyevsky.
There appears to be a lot of money in self-help books. So much so that publishers are now targeting children, adolescents and teenagers with titles like The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens, Who Moved My Cheese? for Teens, and the unsettlingly titled My Daddy Is a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids.
Rachel Cooke explains how Suad Amiry's e-mails from Ramallah to her family and friends became a successful book. Attention publishers: Someone please hurry up and publish Sharon and My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries in America so that I do not have to pay extreme shipping fees from Amazon.co.uk. Thanks.
..."Dear Senator" is not an angry book. (Essie Mae's closest approximation of rebellion: "I hate to say this, sir, but do you realize how black people feel about you?") But it manages to be an oddly candid one, less about Mr. Thurmond than about Essie Mae's lifelong sense of dislocation.
January 14, 2005
According to the Harris Poll, reading is still America's favorite pastime, with horseback riding, tennis and theater coming in last. I guess this explains the sudden, unexpected failure of Tennisslut.com. (Thanks and meow to GalleyCat for the link.)
Were there teenagers in the late 1940s and ’50s who were as messed up as Salinger’s Holden Caulfield? Of course there were and anyone who began to mature in that era knows it. Are there similar young people today? You know there are.
The Bozeman, Montana, parent who challenged the book On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God (see yesterday's post on the subject) has decided not to appeal the school district's decision to keep the book on the shelves. It's easy to be graceful in defeat when you lose the vote 9-0.
Want to make a lot of money by writing a self-serving memoir? Just hire an undocumented immigrant as a nanny! Not only will you avoid paying taxes, and screwing your employee out of Social Security, but you're guaranteed a lucrative book deal. Everybody wins! (Except, of course, the nanny, but we can't concern ourselves with the lower classes, can we?)
One of the worst parts about postmodern criticism and that's a deep well, as far as bad parts go was the condescension inherent in its belief that "classic" literature had nothing to offer those without a formal education. Jonathan Rose responds to these assumptions in the City Journal.
And yes, Plato is intensely relevant to former drug addicts. "Those of us in the grip of addiction use this process to rethink our lives," one student explains. "Socrates makes clear that you have to have the courage to examine yourself and to stand up for something. A lot of us have justified our weaknesses for too long a time."
Moscow's literary community is abuzz with reports that Novy Ochevidets, Russia's answer to The New Yorker, has been shut down after just five months in operation.
When I became the librarian at the sexuality resource center, one of my first actions was to stock it with books by Ariel Gore. The Hip Mama Survival Guide was genius, I thought, giving on advice from the usual (you know, don't smoke when you're pregnant, it's bad) to the why-the-hell-isn't-this-in-every-pregnancy-manual like how to get the father to pay his child support and a step-by-step guide to applying for WIC programs.
There are just so many lies surrounding motherhood. There are so many silences. Just telling the truth of our experience is still a revolutionary act. Sometimes I think, "Why should I publish this thing? It's just my freakin' DIARY." And a few reviews have agreed with that. But my actual readers, my mama-peers, we're all just so hungry for truth. Now, a lot of people ask me if I don't think my daughter has had to pay a price for all my righteous truth-telling, and I used to say "no," but now I see that she has. My family has paid a price because although I'm careful not to disclose anyone else's business, I do write and talk publicly about my business and there is a lot of overlap. It's not the easiest thing in the world to be my kid.
I'm curious about Sam Lipsyte. Several people have recommended The Subject Steve recommended to me, and it appears to have been slammed by a lot of Amazon.com reviewers, which is another good sign. Taylor Antrim's positive review of Lipsyte's latest, Home Land, makes me think I should just go out and buy his books already. Even if this sentence by Antrim hits way too close to home:
What to call male, unmarried life between the age of 27 and 40? Sunset youth? Still-coming-of-age? These are years of rejiggered aspiration, metabolic slowdown, waning cool.
Boo-hoo. It ain’t prostate cancer. It ain’t Falluja. Does anyone want to read fiction about not-quite-still-young men contemplating their place in the world?
I just turned 27. My back hurts. I call people under the age of 21 "kids." I'm one step away from referring to popular music as "just noise." Maybe I really do need this book.
Colin Meloy is one of my new favorite songwriters. The frontman for the Decemberists is hyper-literate and unbelievably original, so I'm looking forward to reading his contribution to the Thirty Three and a Third series, in which he considers the album Let It Be by the Replacements (another one of my favorite bands). The Village Voice reviews Meloy's book, though the first third of the review is spent subtly chiding Meloy for his grammar. The 'Mats deserve a book like this, especially after they had to endure the Crash Test Dummies' unspeakably terrible cover of "Androgynous," one of the standout tracks on Let It Be.
The Times profiles John Falk, who struggled with major depression, but found a sort of redemption in Sarajevo. He's written what looks to be a fascinating book about his experiences, Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace. Falk, evidently, has always depended on the kindness of strangers:
A kindly family, the Nonoviches, accept him as a tenant despite warnings from the local militia that he might be a spy. They decide that this is probably not true after Mr. Falk sets his pants on fire while sitting in their living room.
January 13, 2005
A federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, has ruled that a suburban county school district's textbook stickers referring to evolution as "a theory not a fact" are unconstitutional.
In ruling that the stickers violate the constitutionally mandated separation between church and state, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that labeling evolution a "theory" played on the popular definition of the word as a "hunch" and could confuse students.
Conversational Reading has an excellent roundup of links dealing with the Salinas, California, library closing.
Slate loves Dave Barry. Me too.
One week, when Tropic converted itself into a kind of Devil's Dictionary, (editor Gene) Weingarten instructed Barry to come up with a definition for "sense of humor." Barry disappeared from the office for a few days. He came back with this: "A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge." Then he promptly went back to writing about exploding livestock.
The town of Bentonville, Arkansas, will name streets in a new subdivision after authors such as Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chaucer, and, uh, L'Amour.
(I used to live on Scarlett O'Hara Drive. I'm serious.)
Poet C. K. Williams is profiled in the New York Times.
The Home Office has given in to pressure from some of Britain's leading writers to hold a meeting with them to discuss their fears that the proposed new law on inciting religious hatred will stifle artistic liberty, it emerged last night.
Salman Rushdie and more than 200 writers of various faiths signed a letter from the writers' group English Pen which was sent to the home secretary, Charles Clarke, earlier this month seeking an "urgent" meeting with him.
English Pen said Mr Rushdie had received a response from home office minister Fiona Mactaggart and that they hoped the meeting would take place within the next week.
A British writer forced into hiding after violent protests by Sikhs led to the cancellation of her play has broken her silence and defended her work.
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti has received death threats over her play Behzti, depicting rape and murder in a Sikh temple.
Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times had a bit of fun at my expense, saying what a ridiculous crush the author has on Nicole Kidman. I think most people have gone to the movies because they like looking at certain people. It doesn’t mean you’re stalking Edward Norton and have plans to make him yours. You find him attractive or appealing. We’ve always gone to the movies to see attractive people.
I've been giggling about this all morning. I had a moment of holyfuckfreakout when I grabbed the paper this morning, though, because they didn't use the naked photo. Now I'm convinced the photographer just took it for his "private collection." And, sadly, I'm still only one down on my goal to appear naked in every Chicago publication. Sun Times, it's your turn next.
The San Francisco Chronicle weighs in on the "Guide for the Mexican Migrant" comic book controversy. Unfortunately, it looks like the American government is standing by its policy of relying on the labor of undocumented immigrants to support its economy, while refusing to grant any of those workers the most basic human rights. USA! USA! USA!
I love it when the good guys win. Despite the best efforts of a yoga instructor named Pius, the Bozeman (Montana) School District unanimously decided not to remove the Louise Rennison adolescent-fiction book On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God from the shelves of a middle school library. Bozeman Daily Chronicle reporter Gail Schontzler seems to be having a bit of fun with this story:
The title's message is "misleading, degrading and harmful to the minds and possibly the safety" of girls, (parent Pius Ruby) said, and could lead to sexually transmitted disease or even suicide.
Ruby's voice quavered as he argued for protecting America's children.
The confusion arose over the term "sex god." Apparently Pius didn't know that was a British slang term for "hunk." What a bloody wanker.
January 12, 2005
Here's your chance to mock the president and help with the tsunami relief fund at the same time.
Celebrities. Is there anything they can't do?
Thanks to Casey Moore for the link.
We've all had enough year-end lists, I know, but PopMatters always does such a great job, I can't resist posting this one.
Margaret Atwood's recent invention a remote book-signing robot, so authors don't have to actually, you know, meet people gets a well-deserved knock from Neal Pollack. (Atwood, Pollack hilariously and accurately notes, "(has) made a nice career for herself writing one great book and a bunch of boring ones.")
Hers is a feminism that seems not to like women very much. Men should be rounded up and shot, that's a given. But women aren't any picnic, either. For Weldon, strange creature, is both misanthropist and misogynist. She doesn't hate humans as a race, she hates men and women, as different, specific groups, for different, specific reasons.
The CIA is revising its procedures for clearing the publication of books or articles by currently employed analysts and case officers in the wake of controversy generated by the best-selling book, Imperial Hubris: How the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism.
Proving no one who works at Us Weekly has a soul, a representative uttered the following sentence regarding the breakup of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston: "For a celebrity weekly, this is our tsunami."
Tobin Levy attempts to find representation of her 29-year old single self in books that don't make her want to throw up. Good luck, hon.
Derek Kirk Kim is interviewed at NPR for his book Same Difference and Other Stories (read the Bookslut review here). I respect Kim more now that he gracefully answered questions along the lines of, "So, Asian, are ya?"
The parent of a Duxbury (Mass.) Middle School student wants a book banned because he believes it teaches hatred toward Arabs. George Shamma filed a formal complaint about the use of One More River by Lynne Reid Banks in his daughter's reading class after she came to him upset about passages that use expletives and slurs to describe Arabs. He wants it out of the seventh grade reading curriculum and said he may take legal action if it isn't.
The Book-of-the-Month Club is making some drastic changes in an attempt to stop their membership from dwindling down to nothing, reports the New York Times' Edward Wyatt. This comes almost two years after they unveiled the International Book-of-the-Month Club, which apparently wasn't quite the success they'd hoped for. I had sort of forgotten that the Club existed, actually, but they're still around, and they even have a sex/erotica section, where you can order titles like Rebecca Chalker's The Clitoral Truth. Titles like that aren't available just anywhere.
Book #4, the Super Secret Project book is finished and it will appear on another site, sometime in the future. I loved it so much, however, I had serious problems deciding what to read next. Go with the sf-y bits and follow that into a Stanislaw Lem book? Try to find a book that would be equally meaty and try to finally finish The Executioner's Song? Maybe match its whimsical nature with a rereading of Lanark?
The answer came unexpectedly as I checked the ten day forecast for Chicago. Starting Thursday, I have absolutely no plans to leave the apartment for at least a week. Highs of 14? Are you out of your fucking mind? It's settled. I'm reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I only wish I could link specifically to the edition I have, which has the best line from an author bio ever: "Fyodor became acquainted at an early age with misery, misfortune, and death." I also learned that his father was killed by "enraged serfs." It's too bad this edition is out of print.
January 11, 2005
It turns out I spoke too soon. That Lindsay Moran book cover really isn't the worst ever. Honey at Punk Rock Penguin has a collection of even worse ones. (Thanks, Honey.)
Germaine Greer, the feminist author and academic, today packed her bags and quit the Celebrity Big Brother house.
Ms Greer, who was the oldest Big Brother contestant ever to have joined the Channel 4 show, decided to leave after just five days.
A sad report from NPR about the looting of Iraq's National Library and Archives.
Whatever I think of Jennifer Baumgardner's book Manifesta (hated it, do dramatic readings from it when I'm drunk, and tend to spit when the title is spoken), my first reaction when I saw the "I had an abortion" t-shirt that she conceived was, "That's fucking brilliant." The t-shirt is still causing controversy (and it's back on sale at Clamor Magazine's website), and Baumgardner is busy with a dozen other projects. She's back with another book that I haven't read yet, Grassroots. Who knows. Maybe it won't be vile. She's interviewed at Alternet about her very full schedule.
I would like to go on record as saying that I think Margaret Atwood's remote mechanical book-signing apparatus is the work of the devil, or at least a really really stupid idea.
"Da Vinci Code Fans" should really be the next Bond villian.
A fascinating article at Jewsweek (yes, Jewsweek) about anti-Semitism at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Although displaying or selling anti-Semitic propaganda in Germany is illegal, the fair featured books from a Syrian publisher alleging Jewish involvement in the 9/11 attacks on America, according to a Simon Wiesenthal Center employee. The fair also had a display from the Arabic publisher of Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, though none of those books were on display, evidently.
When asked about Garaudy's books denying the existence of gas chambers, (publisher Ibrahim) El-Moallem replied that Garaudy's works "are not Holocaust denial, they are Holocaust discussion." Asked if he personally endorsed Garaudy's view that Nazis did not use gas chambers, El-Moallem replied, "I just don't know. I'm not a specialist in this subject." Despite several attempts, El-Moallem declined to confirm that the Nazis used gas chambers, repeating: "It's a debate."
I hope this controversy doesn't turn into yet another "let's demonize all Arab writers" exercise, since there are plenty of Holocaust deniers from all backgrounds. But Holocaust denial remains one of the most unforgivable acts of racial and religious hatred around, and I'm all for making sure the evil bastards who practice it never get a good night's sleep again.
Although it was approved for publication by the agency's review board, the book has been savaged in print by some of the CIA's old hands. The main charges levelled at Moran, who graduated from Harvard with a degree in English literature, are that she was guileless and opportunistic. One critic labelled the book "Nancy Drew Joins The CIA"; another suggested the jacket sleeve should say: "Read how a spoiled Ivy Leaguer tried the spy game for a laugh".
I don't talk about it much, but I used to work for the CIA too. Well, not exactly the CIA. But it was a spy agency. Well, not a spy agency so much as a supermarket. But it's kind of similar.
My life is so boring.
We are all doomed. At least that's what Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and the newly released Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, seems to think in this interview at Salon.
Yet for all feminism's social achievements, what it never managed to accomplish was the eradication of the heterosexual beauty culture, meaning the time-consuming and expensive potions and procedures—the pedicures, highlights, wax jobs on sensitive areas, "aesthetic surgery," and so on. For some reason, the majority of women simply would not give up the pursuit of beautification, even those armed with feminist theory. (And even those clearly destined to fail.)
Hopefully, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will read this excellent profile of Sister Helen Prejean in The Independent. Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, discusses the religious right in America, and her latest book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.
A friend of Spanish author Ramon Sampedro, the quadriplegic subject of last year's movie The Sea Inside, has admitted she helped him take his own life in 1998.
January 10, 2005
A Baylor University professor has uncovered what he believes is a previously unknown section of a Mark Twain essay. Joe Fulton, an associate professor in American literature, said the six-page manuscript appears to be the ending of an essay published after Twain's death titled "Corn-Pone Opinions."
Professor Fulton also uncovered the controversial alternate ending to Huck Finn, in which Huck wakes up in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette, and realizes it was all a dream.
The lovely waif who presents herself to a guest on Carrie Fisher's couch turns out to be a man.
"Ahm J.T.," says author J.T. LeRoy, whose life has been pretty much defined by his girlish good looks.
Bettijane Levine has a fairly interesting interview with author J.T. Leroy (Harold's End). But just one small request for the love of God, reporters, please stop trying to capture dialect with patronizing spellings like "Ahm." Seriously. It's fucking annoying.
(Litsa Dremousis interviewed Leroy, much more successfully, for Bookslut in 2003.)
University of Alabama theater majors and professors are worried about state Rep. Gerald Allen's proposed bill to ban the use of public funds for any works that "sanction, recognize, foster or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state."
Peder Melhuse, a UA associate theater professor, said he has little fear the bill will ever become law. But "if it did go through, I would certainly go out of my way to choose and vote for [productions] that went right in the face of the law," he said.
Editor Nick Beadle wasn't successful in his efforts to reach Allen, but you can try yourself: (205) 556-5310. Call early, call often.
"This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," Buckingham, a stocky, gray-haired man who wears a red, white and blue crucifix pin on his lapel, said at the meeting. "This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."
Yeah, those fucking Muslims. Always trying to force science on our children. Salon profiles the battle for science textbooks.
The New York Times is considering charging subscription fees for online reading. Bloggers everywhere weep into their morning coffee.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund outlines its victories and struggles of 2004.
Ms. Magazine does not like Caitlin Flanagan because, among other things, she listed "feminism" as one of her pet peeves in an interview. (Hell, I usually list feminism as a pet peeve, but that doesn't mean I think women shouldn't be able to vote. Only Ann Coulter thinks that.) Oh, and then there's that whole thing about Flanagan bragging that her husband should never help with the housework.
Now I rather liked Flanagan's contributions to the Atlantic Monthly, but I haven't really cared for her work with the New Yorker. I do think that lately she's been a little too pleased with herself. I think the descent downwards came when Slate put her together with Barbara Ehrenreich and Sara Mosle. Flanagan obviously adored Ehrenreich, which everyone should, only to be smacked down by her. Her writing hasn't been the same since.
Whether or not she's the anti-feminist that she declares to be, I do think that having contrarian voices, especially voices so funny and spot-on as hers, in the feminist movement is important. But of course the knee-jerk reaction keeps going.
Former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Georgia professor behind the Republican "revolution" of 1994, is on tour promoting his new book Winning The Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, which is fueling speculation that he might run for president in 2008. Compared to some of the other possible Republican '08 candidates Rick Santorum, John Warner Gingrich actually looks like an intelligent moderate. Never thought I'd say that.
Since I read Epileptic 1 last year, I've been waiting impatiently for the rest of the series to be released. David B. recounts his childhood with a brother with a severe case of epilepsy and the way the family fought to cure him. Now Pantheon has released the entire run into one volume. David B. is interviewed at Time.com.
"[Creating 'Epileptic'] was a therapeutic experience, but not only that. It was an artistic experience too," says Beauchard. Finding visual metaphors for intangible concepts became the driving force behind the book's creation. This dedication keeps it from becoming a maudlin disease-of-the-week experience. "I really wanted to work out the drawings. How can I draw and epileptic attack, for example. Is it possible to draw that with a pencil and a piece of paper?" His solution to that particular challenge is to depict his brother in coils of a fantastical snake, twisting him in knots.
FEMINIST author, broadcaster and professor of English literature — but from today Germaine Greer will also be known as the first pensioner on Celebrity Big Brother.
The Female Eunuch author traded a little personal dignity for the lucrative rewards of appearing on the Channel 4 eviction show with housemates including Sylvester Stallone’s former wife and the dancer from the 1990s band Happy Mondays.
Libby Copeland's profile of Boston University's new Boink magazine it's about what you think it's about has the sentence of the year (so far):
"What would you use 'cling'?" asks Christopher Anderson, 38, her co-founder. He is not a BU student but he is a man fond of photographing young people who wear no clothes.
I'm no prude, but this Anderson guy kind of sicks me out. I mean, I'm 27, but even I feel a slight sense of shame whenever I take pictures of naked college students. Slight.
Arizona Rep. J.D. Hayworth wants to put a stop to the comic books that explain how to safely (but illegally) cross into America that are printed by Mexico's Foreign Ministry and distributed in border towns. Arizona, of course, is where many of the unprepared men and women die of dehydration and exposure. (A very good book about the subject is The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea.) You can read the comic online.
Library officials in two southern Mississippi counties have banned Jon Stewart's best-selling "America (The Book)" over the satirical textbook's nude depictions of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.
January 07, 2005
You don't understand what this post has to do with literature? Fuck you.
Ryszard Kapuscinski is one of those miracle writers. Every time you pick up one of his books, you're stuck until it's completely finished. The Independent has his latest piece "When There is Talk of War," also available in the new issue of Granta.
We find ourselves in an increasingly bleak landscape. There is smoke along the distant horizon. We pass empty settlements, lonely, burned-out houses. We pass battlefields strewn with abandoned implements of war, bombed-out railway stations, overturned cars. It smells of gunpowder, of burnt things, of rotting meat. We encounter dead horses everywhere. The horse - a large, defenceless animal - doesn't know how to hide; during a bombardment it stands motionless, awaiting death. There are dead horses in the roads, in ditches, in the fields a bit further out. They lie there with their legs up in the air, as if shaking their hooves at the world. I don't see dead people anywhere; they are quickly buried. Only the horses - black, bay, piebald, chestnut - lie where they stood, as if this were not a human war but a war of horses; as if it were they who had waged among themselves a battle to the death and were its only victims.
Who knew the Finns had a national epic?
I mean, besides the Finns...
NPR profiles Joanne Greenberg, who teaches creative writing to future engineers at the Colorado School of Mines.
Telling the difference between what's crap and what's not is one of the big steps in writing fiction, doing anthropology, thinking about ethics or living a life.
50 Books Project:
#2 - Eating Mammals: Three Novellas by John Barlow
Review will appear in next issue of Bookslut, so we move on to...
#3 - Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine by Mark Oldman
Probably my favorite wine guide that I've come across. Well organized, very easy to find things, there are pronunciation guides -- god bless him -- and Oldman is a pretty good writer. It's not going to make you into an instant expert, and you'll probably be just as lost trying to remember names and years the minute to step inside the liquor store, but you should feel no shame about bringing the book with you. Or ordering online, that helps, too.
Be prepared, however, to double the amount of money you usually spend on wine. There's still a place for $6 red wine from Trader Joe's (in front of the television, or the fourth bottle of the dinner party when everyone's too sloshed and full to notice), but Oldman will quickly convince you to start making a few investments. And with the book, you'll feel confident enough to do so. There are also many tips on lesser known grapes that will be cheaper and just as good.
Moving on to #4, which is a secret as it's part of a super secret project that will be unveiled later. And Christopher sent in this list of "rules" for the 50 Books Project that David Harris wrote last year, before leaving Bookslut for something more important. Bastard.
City Councilwoman Pam Holm, a former schoolteacher, is outraged that Houston's libraries might be enticing children to read a national best seller.
The problem is the book, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, contains the lurid confessions of porn queen Jenna Jameson, as well as some of her nude photos.
But it gets better: Councilwoman Holm is suggesting that the library adopt a "book rating" system. You know, because the MPAA has done it so successfully with movies. Way to go, Pam! Thanks for embarrassing Texas yet again.
The West Yorkshire house where Ted Hughes was born is for sale. The asking price is about $275,000.
Every time I go to the movies, I have to endure the trailer for Constantine. Sometimes I can't quite make it through and I start wailing all over again, "Keanu? KEANU!?" That monstrosity hasn't even been unleashed (not to mention the Elektra movie, which I highly doubt will make Frank Miller proud) when the news arrives that the adaptation of V for Vendetta is a go with the Wachowskis giving directing duties to a first time filmmaker. New rule: no more comic book adaptations, unless it's X-Men 3 directed by Bryan Singer. And none of this Magneto spin off crap. If it doesn't have Ian McKellan in it, it should not be made. Find another medium to pilfer, Hollywood.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has hired a journalist who resigned from the Florida Times-Union following allegations of plagiarism and sexual harassment. He should fit right in.
The writer and critic who was dubbed the "Shaikh of Syrian intellectuals," Antoine Makdessi, has died at the age of 91.
One day, a Middle Eastern writer will die, and the American media will take notice. One day.
January 06, 2005
David Kipen mourns the closing of the Salinas libraries, and what it means for literature.
Until library funding can increase, it needs to be much more equitably distributed. There's simply no excuse for a system in which San Francisco embarks on an ambitious branch library renovation and construction program while, just down the 101, the next John Steinbeck can't check out a book by the last one.
Dan Kennedy reports on the past feuds and the futures of Slate and Salon.
A beautiful remembrance of Susan Sontag from the National Catholic Reporter.
Then she asked, “Now aren’t you Catholic? I want to hear about that.” I steeled myself for another of those How-can-you-be-intelligent-and-Catholic harangues writers and activists aim at me. But she listened carefully and respectfully, asking questions about Thomas Merton, Simone Weil, Ignatius of Loyola and other Catholic thinkers. She’d read them all -- I later learned that early in her life she’d taught religion -- and she wanted to be sure I had. Then, satisfied, she sighed as we turned onto a brighter Chinatown street and said, “Whatever you do, don’t misuse what you believe so that it gets in the way of the truth. That’s so easy to do, especially when so much around us encourages us to.” She spoke that night as if seeing clearly and acting responsibly, whatever one’s context of belief, was for her the great act of faith.
A desperate writer turns to Miss Manners for advice about book tours. (I think it's Margaret Atwood.)
(And you know what? I'd hit that.)
"I think (youth papers) are condescending, I think they degrade the readership, I think they're talking down to the reader," he said. "They're saying, 'You don't (understand) what we offer ... so we're going to give you this thing that you can get.' And you know something -- bullshit. We don't want to become less than we are to reach an audience whose needs we wouldn't do a good job of meeting." (Of course, they were lying.)
Are you fucking paying attention, Red Eye & Red Streak? Trees deserve better ends than to be made into you assholes.
Oh, and Mike Wallace is smoking hot. Mike, you said it like you didn't believe me.
The machine, created in consultation with computer experts under Atwood's newly created company Unotchit Inc., is still in the development phase, but at the moment it will comprise two units. The first will consist of a screen, where the author can see and speak to the book reader in real-time, and a tablet on which the author will write the inscription. The second unit will be with the book reader, and will also include a screen to communicate with the author in real-time, and will have a flat book holder as well as an electronic arm and pen that will scrawl out the autograph.
The Polysyllabic Spree is the first in a proposed series of Believer books that will be published by McSweeney’s. Forthcoming titles include a study of H.P. Lovecraft by Michel Houellebecq, and a collection of Jim Shepard’s film essays.
Oh, good. Will Jim Shepard also give interviews, saying he's never read of a person writing about the films he wants to watch instead of the films he's paid to watch?
Johnny Ryan's Angry Young Youth Comix takes on McSweeneys.
I'm posting this review of David Blum's tick ... tick ... tick ...: The Long Life & Turbulent Times of 60 Minutes mainly for the benefit of Jessa, who thinks that Mike Wallace is smokin' hot.
Project Censored presents the top 25 censored stories of 2004.
Rick Kleffel documents his descent into comic book addiction.
Many years passed, and I fell into the evil ways of the Book Addict, always seeking a new source of Read. And for me, graphic novels were no more Read than marijuana is heroin. I couldn't get a buzz off those words, panels and pictures, no way. Even from the finest graphic novel, like Watchmen, though some small, un-addicted part of my brain was able to recognize an interesting substance. The receptor sites were all blocked by something to my mind stronger.
Jean-Claude Bianco, the fisherman who found a bracelet belonging to The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is now suing the author's family, who apparently didn't believe Bianco initially, and thought he was "a cheat and a liar."
People are still talking about Irvine Welsh's admission that he was influenced by Jane Austen. The Scotsman sets out to find what other older authors have influenced Scottish writers, and gets some entertaining reactions to Welsh's comments.
The Fife-based thriller writer [Paul Henke] also expressed surprise that Welsh could have been inspired by a writing style so at odds with his own.
He says: "I believe that writers should set standards. I think it’s ironic that Irvine Welsh cited Jane Austen when he can’t string a written sentence together without using the ‘F’ word."
Why is that ironic? Hasn't he read this passage from Mansfield Park?
She would not stir farther from the East room than the head of the great staircase, till she had satisfied herself of Mr. Crawford’s having left the house; but when convinced of his being gone, she was eager to go down and be with her uncle, and have all the happiness of his joy as well as her own, and all the benefit of his information or his conjectures as to what would now be William’s destination. Fuck.
Novel: Small Island by Andrea Levy
First novel: Eve Green by Susan Fletcher
Biography: My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy
Children's book: Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean
Poetry: Corpus by Michael Symmons Roberts
January 05, 2005
Man. I remember a day when I liked Virginia Heffernan. New York Times, why did you have to beat all of the humor and wit out of her?
Let's be honest. Many of us don't like comic books and have feigned interest in their jumpy bif-bam fighting scenes and the way they redeem loser guys, only to impress and minister to those loser guys. And now we can admit that while the redemption dynamic - little X-Men boys finding in their eccentricity and loneliness a superpower - is touching, there's nothing duller than listening to someone explain, in all seriousness, the Syndicate and the Shadow Force and the Hard Drive and the Plutonium Lance.
Man self-publishes novel. Man sells six copies. Village goes into uproar. Man pulls remaining 494 copies and refuses to sell them to anyone. It's a classic story, really. (Seen at NeilGaiman.com)
The New York Sun celebrates Sherlock Holmes's birthday by profiling the Baker Street Irregulars.
The Center For Cartoon Studies will be opening this fall with twenty students in White River Junction, Vermont. It is the baby of cartoonist James Sturm who wanted to build a place where comic artists could master the medium. The Boston Globe profiles the new school, which surprisingly is not the first of its kind. Joe Kubert founded a similar school in 1977, and approximately 45-50 students attend each year. Strum's school serves a second purpose, the revitalization of a dying town. For people perhaps interested in attending:
CCS will have 20 students in its first class next fall, with an eventual goal of 80 students per term. Tuition is $14,000 a year for the two-year program. (The school is in the process of gaining accreditation, which will allow it to grant degrees and help students get financial aid.) In addition to its full-time faculty of five, the school has an all-star roster of visiting faculty that will include Spiegelman, Ware, Vermont's James Kochalka ("American Elf"), and Canadian cartoonist Seth ("Clyde Fans").
Chintan Girish Modi looks at upcoming book-to-film adaptations, Bollywood style.
Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged at a Milwaukee school where it was being taught as an elective. The attempt was unsuccessful, but as Chbosky mentions in this interview with Word Riot, at least two other schools have succeeded in banning it from their classrooms. Leading the interview is Marty Beckerman, author of Generation S.L.U.T. (and some seriously, seriously wrong headed political rants, but we try to move past that. We're trying really hard).
Although you probably shouldn't click on this link if you're at work, Jen Miller at Nerve considers intimately the latest batch of sexual self-help books.
Lee Siegel has been named the new book critic of The Nation. And arts critic for Slate. Not to mention his current gig as television critic of The New Republic.
"He’s doing something very brave," New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier said, on the phone while traveling in Chicago. "He’s trying to earn a living as a freelance intellectual."
I never watched any of those Amazon Theater short films, but Seth Stevenson did. He wishes he hadn't.
Montana considers creating a state poet laureate. I hear Amiri Baraka is available.
(I just found out that not only does my home state of Texas have a poet laureate, but also that he happens to be an ex-Marine named Cleatus.)
Publishers Weekly has a new editor (Sara Nelson, formerly of the New York Post). Now all they have to do is figure out who's reading their magazine, and why.
"The magazine might not be for everybody who buys books," Ms. Nelson said. "But I do think there is a good size 'civilian' population that is fascinated by books and the book business. Find a group of three people, and two of them want to be writers or have a book idea. Everyone I know belongs to a book group. There is a crossover population that we should be able to add to the mix without sacrificing our appeal to people in the book business."
I think maybe a new, hip nickname would help. From now on, let's all start referring to it as "P-Dub." Come on! Who's with me?
The Onion reprints their 2000 interview with Will Eisner.
January 04, 2005
Whoa, whoa, whoa Christians can be liberals? Whaaaaaaaa? At Slate, Elizabeth A. Castelli reviews Jim Wallis' God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.
Wallis also passionately reminds his readers that not only is "Christian" not coterminous with "right-wing Christian fundamentalist," but more important, the Bible's overarching justice claims demand that social and economic life be organized around the needs of the community's weakest members.
Makes sense to me. I was raised Catholic, and there's a great tradition of liberalism in the church that tends to go unnoticed today. My theology teacher in high school, a Jesuit priest, told us that voting Republican was a mortal sin, and I'm pretty sure my grandparents would have loved to see FDR canonized. For more discussion about how the right has hijacked Christianity, be sure to read Bruce Bawer's Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, John Shelby Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile, and John Cornwell's wonderful Breaking Faith: The Pope, the People, and the Fate of Catholicism.
You could, you know, nominate Bookslut for a Bloggie for Best Topical Blog. You know, if you're not too busy.
Jabari Asim wonders what Susan Sontag would have thought of his comic book fixation.
Sontag, who managed to defend the excesses of modern culture while not owning a television, was celebrated -- and occasionally vilified -- for her efforts to synthesize seemingly disparate art forms. "When I go to a Patti Smith concert," she once famously asserted, "I enjoy, participate, appreciate and am tuned in better because I've read Nietzsche."
See, when I go to a Patti Smith concert, I enjoy, participate, appreciate and am tuned in better because I've ingested a huge amount of LSD. (Just kidding, kids. Don't do drugs and all that.)
Perhaps the first sign that Richard Parkinson and John Nunn had given up on ever finding a place in mainstream society was when they even thought about translating children's stories into ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
I missed THE LIBRARIAN! on TNT, and I'm still upset about it. No fear, the Dispatches from a Public Librarian will recreate it for us.
Fourth, there was a line in the movie that went something like this:
MALE: That's the librarian?
FEMALE: Don't underestimate him.
While the movie had several false moments, this was not one of them. Don't ever mess with a librarian—we will kill you, grind up your body, then create a cannibalism edition of Harry Potter that other librarians will use to teach literacy to flesh-eating tribes in Papua New Guinea. I'm not kidding about this.
Editor & Publisher makes predictions for the coming year in newspapers and journalism.
The Tribune Company, in a continuing effort to cut costs, will take its budget-slashing ways beyond its newspapers to the Chicago Cubs, where it will offer buyouts to top players, reduce the size of Wrigley Field hot dogs by 20%, and seek a joint operating agreement with the cross-town White Sox.
My apologies if you're on the notification list. You would have received an e-mail with information about the new issue had the list not had a bit of a breakdown. The list is password protected, or should be, but when the system goes down, all passwords are lost and my hosting service (that manages the list) never remembers to tell me to reset it. So I apologize to those on the list, but I have moved it to a much more secure program, and it will not be happening again. It will definitely be set up by the next issue.
But until then, we have the January issue of Bookslut.
Jane Brox is the author of the American Farm Trilogy and a strong supporter of the regulation of food and farmland. I talked to her about the Flint Hills of Kansas, how and why she finally leaved the family farm, and the research involved in her books.
August Kleinzahler wrote one of the best books of 2004, his personal essays Cutty, One Rock. He talks to Adam Travis about his brother's suicide, snobbery, and his ideal poetry reading.
Sharon Adarlo looks at new releases for the new year for her Judging a Book By Its Cover series. Included are Christian thrillers, the latest by Ha Jin, and a book that looks like a box of detergent.
In columns, Hollywood Madam loves the movie Sideways, but wonders how good the book is. Comicbookslut reviews the end of the year reviews by Salon and Time.comix. And the Scarlet Woman of Self Help attempts to find zen. And more.
Also, with the beginning of a new year comes a need for new writers. Contact me if you're interested in writing poetry reviews, nonfiction reviews, small press fiction reviews, feature articles and author interviews, or a column about any of the following subjects:
Mysteries and Suspense
New York Magazine profiles Louis Auchincloss, "the last of the gentlemen novelists," and a defender of moral fiction.
Over his long writing life, Auchincloss has been praised — and as often dismissed — for his chronicles of a ruling class that’s pretty much dead and buried. In response, the novelist is equal parts modesty and defiance, insisting that “when people say your subject is limited, it’s because they don’t like it.”
January 03, 2005
I've been getting email from a lot of conservative readers (and by "a lot of conservative readers," I mean "my dad") claiming that I'm too liberal and need to give conservatives equal time. So here's a best-of-the-year list from John O'Sullivan of National Review. I'm hoping that this simple gesture will mend all the bridges I might have burned with our readers on the right. I'm also hoping that my dad will put me back in his will now.
The Guardian looks at the upcoming books of 2005. Reporter Stephanie Merritt seems excited about the new novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which apparently deals with the aftermath of 9/11. (Oh, Jonathan, no...) Also mentioned are new books by Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro. (The Herald has a similar article.)
Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who lives in Sri Lanka, is encouraging his readers to contribute to the relief funds for tsunami victims, in particular CARE and Oxfam. Clarke and his family were unhurt; obviously, thousands weren't so lucky.
p 115: In Paragraph 2, the part that says "driving west towards the sun" is incorrect. Because I'm driving from Chicago to Pennsylvania in this chapter and going, you know, EAST. The corrected passage should say "driving east towards the sun," and the scene in question should take place in the morning, even though technically it didn't, because The Chicago Manual of Style does not advise reversing the earth's rotation unless absolutely necessary.
Newly released documents show that the British government in the 1920s had made secret plans to put lesbian author Radclyffe Hall on trial for obscenity. The documents...show that the government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin wanted to disgrace Hall for writing The Well of Loneliness, considered the first great lesbian novel, and force her to defend herself against the charge that she was corrupting the young.
I don't know how I missed it when it first came out, but the Village Voice has a very good best of the year list for books. It includes all of those forgotten, but wonderful books like Blood and Soap, The Half Brother, Mr. Dynamite, and You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free.
With a new year comes a new 50 Book Challenge. The idea, of course, is to read 50 books in 2005 and blog about them either in this livejournal community or on your own blog. (I think there was a list of non-livejournal participants last year, but I can't seem to find it again this year.) Large Hearted Boy is going all fancy this year with the challenge and getting sponsored. (It must be those extra two books he commits to.)
I myself finished up the first book of the year yesterday afternoon, Patton Dodd's My Faith So Far. I have to admit, I was enthusiastic about it until about 3/4 of the way through. Dodd was an evangelical, charismastic Christian, attending one of those giant megachurches three times a week and applying to the Oral Roberts University. The book was about how he lost his faith, and that he covers pretty well. But he regained it, in pieces, but completely left out how his views had changed. When he was attending ORU, he mentioned that Christians can't vote Democratic, which of course got me rolling my eyes. And then there was his admission that he was pro-life and anti-gay rights without ever knowing why beyond "I believe in God." So is he still that way? It was never brought up.
Of course, being an atheist pro-choice lefty pinko commie reading this book is different than someone of faith reading this book. And perhaps it will supply everything a believer needs to be happy with it. But I wasn't. I kept wanting to know if I would be able to like Mr. Dodd (if he had changed his social views, or even if he had come up with honest answers for why he is pro-life, anti-gay rights, etc.) or if I would want to smack him (still just repeating scripture to justify his beliefs). I was hoping for a book that would say, "Hey, you can be a good Christian and not picket abortion clinics, not vote for Bush, not think that people of other faiths are going directly to hell. I used to be that person, but here's how I changed." This is not that book. I really, really wanted it to be, but it's not.
On to Book #2, Eating Mammals by John Barlow.
Just in time for tomorrow's college football national championship game (Go Sooners), the New York Times considers some recent gridiron books, including Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, which sounds obscene but is not, and the hilariously titled The Only Game That Matters: The Harvard/Yale Rivalry.