February 28, 2005
The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books is over, and the winner of the Rooster Award has been decided. Congratulations to David Mitchell and Cloud Atlas, beating out Philip Roth's The Plot Against America.
Francine Prose's Blue Angel was one of the best books I've ever read about academia and political correctness. You really have to read it. Now Prose is back with her first novel in four years, A Changed Man. It looks great, despite the deeply unfortunate cover. Boris Kachka profiles Prose for New York magazine.
Among her current targets: the sentimentality of the "Holocaust industry," the egotism of professional humanitarians, and the spotty morality of a victim-besotted media that edits out all ambiguity. Prose’s last novel, Blue Angel, a send-up of a scholar’s midlife crisis, was nominated for the 2000 National Book Award—but she shrugs off the honor. "Academia is like shooting fish in a barrel," she says. "About halfway through this one, my husband read it and he said, 'It makes Blue Angel look like an Anna Quindlen novel.' And I went, 'Yes!'"
That's pretty sad and all, but I just moved to a new house, and I can't find my stapler. That thing cost me ten bucks. So don't talk to me about missing stuff, OK? We've all got problems.
Joe Sacco has an 8-page comic about being embedded with US troops in Iraq. The Guardian has it available for download as a PDF. Be warned, it'll take forever to download, but it's worth it.
Thought Balloons reports on the alliance between Center for Cartoon Studies and Hyperion to create graphic biographies. First on the list will be the life of Harry Houdini as written by James Sturm and Jason Lutes (author of the great Berlin).
Are they an ethnic or a national sub-group? Can the discrimination episodically exercised against them be described as "racist", or is it based on religion and class? How integrated have they become, over the past couple of centuries, into the host community? What has been the effect of a large, active and self-conscious Irish community on British politics, and on the history of British labour?
All these questions continue to be the subject of lively debate; but too often the argument assumes that Irish immigration took the exclusive form of working-class manual labourers, male and female.
Yeah, from what I hear, the Irish didn't just build railroads. A couple of them wrote some books, too.
I realise now how lucky Tommy, Ruth and I were to be brought up in such surroundings. We even had a sports pavilion where we would go to chatter amongst ourselves. You may wonder why I mention these details, but such empty observations are the hallmark of the consummate prose stylist.
I present to you the most beautiful poem ever written in any language.
Hurry, Hurry .....Dont delay, rush to Walmart buy today.
Have a baby? Need a crib? THEY have blue to match the bib....
Hurry ..Hurry...they have more..Visit at their online store..
Super Center Shoping Store?....Walmart's at the very core.
Thank you, Sue Graham. Thank you.
D.H. Lawrence's wife was "the real Lady Chatterley," according to author John Worthen. Even more surprising: she was also Deep Throat.
That's one hell of a heckler's veto. Jose Canseco has been forced to cancel dates on his book tour because of an email death threat.
"We are not taking the threat lightly," (Canseco's lawyer Robert) Saunooke told the paper. "It's not that I believe Jose is in immediate danger. He's a black belt in three different kinds of karate, so he can take care of himself. We are more concerned about the people who come to the book signing."
From Whisky Galore to The Wind in the Willows, it is the ultimate literary search: a quest to find the best Scottish book of all time that organisers say will take six months and will include every library and bookshop in the country.
As you might expect, there's already some controversy about the competition, though the list won't be officially unveiled until Thursday. Scotland on Sunday obtained a draft list, and some are aghast that Scottish novels such as Treasure Island and Ivanhoe were left off. They found room for J.K. Rowling, however, so you can rest easy. Barry Didcock is unimpressed with the whole enterprise, and wonders what the hell To the Lighthouse is doing on there.
The winner of the Canada Reads competition: Rockbound by Frank Parker Day. Inspired by the CBC's competition, the Fox network will soon launch a copycat program, to be called America Watches TV and Maybe Eats Some Potato Chips.
The Observer asks six debut novelists to write about their attempts to launch their careers: Carole Cadwalladr (The Family Tree); Charles Chadwick (It's All Right Now); Diana Evans (26A); Peter Hobbs (The Short Day Dying); Marina Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian); and, David Nwokedi (Fitzgerald's Wood).
Somewhere along the line, she learned to tell a riveting story. But it is less clear that she has learned to live a good life. Moving from smashed to whole takes more than narrative talent. Someone has to pick up the pieces and put them together carefully. Although Koren has described many of the pieces with precision, she has a very short perspective and very slight insight. And all the pieces may not be there anymore.
Before we get to books, I just have to say: Is that Sean Penn a dick, or what?
February 25, 2005
When deciding to hook up with a partner of the same gender, some people either get bogged down with sexual identity issues or they just jump right in. And some do both, like Jen Sincero, the hetero author of “The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping with Chicks” (Fireside).
“I had definitely fooled around with women before. You know, made out or pulled out a boob at a party. But I had never really gotten down with a girl,” Sincero says.
I bet copy editors fight among themselves over who gets to write the headlines for stories about Deep Throat. (Exhibit A.)
The LA Times profiles Monowi, Nebraska, where the population is 1, but the library is still open.
Because they run on volunteer labor, making do with the books at hand, rural libraries survive even in tight times like these, when big cities are shutting branches. In California, John Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas (population 150,000) has announced plans to close all of its libraries by April to save money. But it's still possible to check out a book in Gaylord, Kan. (population 97), and Strang, Neb. (population 38).
Hey, all you librarians out there is it too late to do something about this guy? Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association, is throwing a red-faced hissy fit over "Blog People."
Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.
I had heard of the activities of the latter and of the absurd idea of giving them press credentials (though, since the credentials were issued for political conventions, they were just absurd icing on absurd cakes)....
It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wants to help women overcome stereotype. In his new book Hating Women: America's Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex he outlines the four stereotypes (1) the greedy gold-digger; 2) the brainless bimbo; 3) the publicity-seeking prostitute; 4) the bitchy backstabber) and how women can take a stand and fight. But in this column that Ms. Magazine's blog pointed out, his advice seems to boil down to "stop flashing your titties on the tv." (Which, I don't know, seems like pretty good advice for women who want to be taken seriously, but I don't think I need to pay $25 for that.)
You know who the New Republic doesn't like? Newt Gingrich.
People really want blogs to destroy something, don't they? Are they destroying newspapers? Are they destroying Dan Rather? Now On the Media asks if they're destroying webzines like Salon and Slate. Umm, people, we have to have something to link to. Do none of these people even know what a blog is?
"In Europe and America they say I am surreal and unrealistic and postmodern and I'm happy to hear it," Murakami laughs. "But in Korea or China or Taiwan nobody says these things. They just enjoy the stories."
Thank you to everyone who has sent in reading recommendations. I plan on making a list and going to the bookstore this weekend, so please keep them coming. Nothing in my house looks at all appealing, except for the latest issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Reading bits and pieces of the Monster issue has been keeping me sane. And I've been learning so much! About Godzilla, about Shaun of the Dead (which really, if you haven't seen it, immediately go add it to your Netflix queue), about why poets wrote some horror films in the 50's and 60's, and why ugly people make better writers. (I don't think that last one really goes with the theme, but whatever.) In fact, I've loved everything that I've read in it, and so I've already filled out a subscription card, even though I suspect the next issue will be light on Godzilla-content. (Especially since the next issue's theme is Walt Whitman.)
If you really think about it, it seems ridiculous that we've gone so long without a comic book fact checker. We need someone to ask the tough questions like, "Would Judo Master's costume prevent him from being a Judo master?" And "Will the Teen Titan's archery cover lead to lawsuits once children imitating it lose their fingers?"
Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie, is happy with the recent film adaptation of her book. You've seen the previews, right? It stars (listed here in descending order, talent-wise) Jeff Daniels, Eva Marie Saint, a dog, several houses and trees, and Dave Matthews. I'm sure the grocery store chain is happy with the free advertising. Yep it's going to be a great year for Winn-Dixie!
(I would just like to thank TMN for asking me to join them and making me read Cloud Atlas. All of the talk about the innovative structure had made me afraid it was one of those stunning but cold books it would take me forever to wade through. Instead, one night I woke up at 2 am wide awake and desperate to read it some more. I finally went back to bed at about 7 am, very upset at leaving the book behind. I even read bits of it over the phone to people. So thank you, TMN, for introducing me to one of my new favorite books.)
February 24, 2005
OH MY GOD I CANNOT FIND A BOOK TO READ. The list of books started but I can't be bothered to finish continues to grow, and now contains Diary of a Rapist, Mad Mary Lamb, Brothers Karamazov, A Bad Man, and that's just from the last couple of weeks. Someone please write me and recommend me a book I'll actually want to finish before I have a nervous breakdown. Thanks.
The Pope has been hospitalized again, just after the European release of his new book, Memory and Identity (slated for release in the States in late April). The BBC has a brief rundown of the book's themes, and the Guardian covers the (justified, I think) outrage of Jewish leaders, angered that the Pope compares abortion to the German Holocaust. He also calls gay marriage part of an "ideology of evil," which sounds like it came straight from the mouth of Cardinal Ratzinger, the far-right advisor to the Pope who many suspect is running the Vatican behind the scenes.
In somewhat related news, the National Catholic Reporter covers the controversy surrounding Jesuit priest and author Roger Haight, who was disciplined by the Church for his book Jesus Symbol of God. The NCR also has a rundown of Catholic theologians disciplined by the Pope (read: Ratzinger) during John Paul II's papacy.
(If you're planning on writing me an angry email about this, I'd recommend you first familiarize yourself with Vatican II, the existence of which seems to continually surprise the right-wing fundamentalists who insist on calling themselves "Catholic," and the works of Dorothy Day, the great Catholic social activist. And if you're a conservative who thinks that only fellow right-wingers belong in the Church, do all of us a favor and pick up a copy of the Catholic Catechism. The Church's teachings on anti-gay discrimination, war, capitalism, the death penalty, and the separation of church and state might surprise you.)
The Seattle Weekly reviews a whole assload of comics.
Boink’s first time, it turns out, is a little too real; though it sounded like fun, it’s actually awkward, self-conscious and entirely un-sexy. Plus, it ends without delivering any real action.
Not that that mattered to the hundreds of horny bastards who lined up outside The Roxy on Thursday, gladly fisting over $20 for the privilege of getting first pokes at the nascent porn rag—as well as scores of drunken BU girls in underwear, both of which prompted one of The Roxy’s bouncers to mutter, “I hate these fucking people.”
The Austin Chronicle interviews John Irving.
File this under "Things I Didn't Need to Know": Jonathan Lethem is turned on by Donald Sutherland's buttocks.
Oh my God! You mean, one of those fad diet books LIED TO US?! How will we ever recover our faith in mankind?
Jim Wallis is interviewed at AlterNet about his new book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, debating Jerry Falwell, and appearing on The Daily Show (which you can watch here).
USA Today looks at five books about Hollywood, in preparation for the Oscars. I love how newspapers use the week before the Academy Awards to tie in every single story to the Oscars. Even the food writers print recipes with lame Oscar-inspired names. ("Million Dollar Gravy is surprisingly easy to make!")
But anyway, there's an item about Roger Ebert's The Great Movies II, and Ebert's always worth reading. As for the Oscars, if Ray doesn't win for sound mixing, it just proves what a huge crock of shit this whole thing is.
An 18-year-old Flagstaff man who burglarized an eastside home in late January apparently knew he stumbled upon something valuable when he took a bundle of comic books sealed in protective plastic coverings.
On Feb. 1, he took the comic books to Bookman's Used Books, Music & Software to exchange for cash. Store staff offered to give the burglar $600 for the lot. The burglar accepted and walked out of the store with a check.
Had the burglar done a little homework, he might have discovered the comic books were worth more -- a lot more. $140,400, to be exact.
A Stanford student turns to a book club for entertainment. I guess it's a little slow there now that there's no Chelsea Clinton to hit on.
Maryann Reid is promoting her upcoming book Marry Your Baby Daddy with a contest for all-expenses-paid weddings for ten couples with children.
"Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith" details how the author, Dr. Martha Beck, a sociologist and therapist, recovered memories in 1990 of her ritual sexual abuse more than 20 years earlier by her father, Dr. Hugh Nibley, professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and arguably the leading living authority on Mormon teaching.
Umm, did no one tell her about this book? Or this one? Or the highly publicized revelation that recovered memories are a bunch of shit and every therapist who tells you you just don't remember your parents dressing in black cloaks, raping you and drinking the blood of the baby brother you also don't remember having should be castrated and exiled? No? Well, then, maybe the book deserves all the hate mail it gets.
Tobias Seamon recalls reading Hunter S. Thompson for the first time.
It wasn’t a coincidence, then, that the first time I got drunk, around the age 13 on cheap white wine from a big green jug, I commemorated the occasion by reading Hunter for the first time too. The book was insane, confused, desolate, angry, mournful, and about the funniest goddamned thing I’d ever read. In short, the thing was similar to its enraptured reader: a geeky and awkward teenaged boy in an already doomed farmhouse sneaking downstairs to guzzle wine from his father’s jug more from curiosity as any desire for inebriation or escape.
Flashback to 2000 and 2004: The morons win in Florida, again. The "media committee" for a Lake Wales elementary school have voted to ban the children's book Anastasia Again! by Lois Lowry from its library. Parent Kristi Hardee, who spearheaded the censorship drive, refused to comment to The (Lakeland) Ledger, but the newspaper details her motivations:
However, in her complaint she objected to the book's references to beer, Playboy magazine and Anastasia making light of wanting to kill herself.
The committee managed to resist the urge to ban five other books in Lowry's "Anastasia" series, despite Hardee's best efforts.
Today's The Morning News Tournament of Books brings us to the semi-finals with Philip Roth's The Plot Against America moving into the final round, beating Cynthia Ozick's Heir to the Glimmering World.
February 23, 2005
Matt Williamson's "Queer Studies: Six New Texts" is the funniest story I've read in years hell, it's one of the funniest stories I've ever read. (Matt's written a few reviews for Bookslut.) He's unquestionably one of the most talented young writers in America right now. And he's younger than me. Fuck. (Thanks to Laila for the link to Barrelhouse.)
A San Diego city councilwoman is leading a crusade to install "smut filters" on the public library system's computers.
"I'm not going to let it lie," (Councilwoman Marie Waldron) said. "Do we want to wait until a child is attacked or molested in a restroom? It's not a matter of if but a matter of when."
Yeah! Wait. What?
Guillermo Cabrera Infante's death might have gone largely unnoticed by the American media, and been studiously ignored by the Cuban media, but some people are paying attention. The Literary Saloon has a rundown of notices and obituaries, and some good news about the planned publication of some of his books by the Dalkey Archive Press, one of America's best publishing houses.
McSweeney's looks at banned books in the year 2191 (Our Robot Masters: Though They Force Us to Say Otherwise, We Are Not Proud to Serve Them) and the last lines from Best American Short Stories Not Yet Written.
Magazine Publishers of America is launching a three-year ad campaign to convince you to read them and their ads.
One of its basic premises is that — unlike most commercials on TV and the annoying pop up ads on the Internet — consumers identify with and enjoy magazines — and that extends right down to the ads.
Yes, because you want your magazines to smell of three types of conflicting perfumes, you love the little subscription cards that you find weeks later in the cushions of your chairs and couch, and that terrifying new Dillard's ad of the bras that you can mix and match so you can have one pink tit and one blue one, you know, for whimsy! Yeah, there's nothing annoying about magazine ads at all.
Malcolm Gladwell and I have a lot in common. He has a huge faux-Afro that probably isn't as cool as he imagines; so do I. He's a Canadian of Jamaican extract; I'm a Texan with German and Italian ancestors. He's a certifiable genius and a world-renowned author; I make dick jokes on the Internet. We really do have a lot in common, but mostly it's the hair.
I figured out how a person can read Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety without losing your sense of perspective. Mentally add "Privileged white" in front of every mention of "women." Then maybe her book will make sense.
Also, you can try reading these imagined IM conversations about the book.
NYT: those women are so boring
NYT: the ones who stay home with their kids
NYT: they're so self-absorbed
NYT: unless they went to princeton
NYT: if they went to princeton and they stay home, they're cutting edge
The Cuban media didn't report on the death of the greatest writer in their country's history, Guillermo Cabrera Infante. Well, mostly:
...(O)nly the online version of the culture magazine La Jiribilla noted Cabrera Infante's passing in a four-paragraph story that said his writings were "unfortunately tainted with his stance against the Cuban revolution, which became a fanatical obsession."
_______ says she recognized the problem after returning to this country after a few years in France, where attitudes toward _______ were very different.
A. Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner
B. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
C. Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure by Juliet B. Schor
D. Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World by Gina Mallet
For a nation that hates France as much as we do, we seem pretty sure they've got all the answers.
Students at the University of North Carolina the school that former Sen. Jesse Helms charmingly suggested be fenced off and turned into a zoo are protesting the Alabama bill that would forbid state funds from being used to purchase books by gay authors.
Olivia Henderson, a UNC senior majoring in dramatic arts, said she was influenced by her recent part in a production of Tony Kushna's "Angels in America" at the school.
"Tony Kushna is my favorite writer," she said. "The thought of other people not being able to experience him is just terribly sad to me."
Unfortunate headline of the day: Zadie Smith to tackle 'young black men'. Good for her. I just don't want to hear about it.
In 2003, for instance, Parents Against Bad Books in Schools, a group in Fairfax County, Va., tried to have several of Ms. Block's books removed from school libraries, because of what it called "profanity and descriptions of drug-abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture."
“One night, Jackie woke up past her bedtime. She smelled something funny in the air, so she walked down the hall to her parents’ bedroom.
“‘What’s that, Mommy?’ asked Jackie. ‘Are you and Daddy smoking a cigarette?’
“‘No, baby,’ said her mother. ‘This is a “joint.” It’s made of marijuana.’”
So begins It’s Just a Plant: A Children’s Story of Marijuana, written and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, CC ’95, who read his book Tuesday night to an audience of about 50 Columbia students.
It's expected to be the biggest-selling marijuana-themed children's book since Curious George Learns to Appreciate Phish.
A German state that holds the rights to Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" said Tuesday it was seeking legal action to prevent the book from being published in Poland.
Not the abusive husband, mind you -- but the sleeveless, white undershirt. The "wife-beater" -- frequently spotted on Kid Rock, available at your neighborhood Gap -- is soon to be immortalized in the Oxford English Dictionary. It'll likely be added, somewhere between "whip" and "women's lib," next month.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a surprisingly complete article on the etymology of the term, including a new variant:
And young celebs such as Avril Lavigne and Haylie Duff have reportedly worn tank tops that say "Boy Beater." (In fact, plenty of clothing sellers have taken to calling all women's tank tops "boy-beaters." Ask for one at the Gap or American Eagle and they'll know exactly what you're talking about.)
February 22, 2005
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is remembered at the Seattle P-I, The New York Times, Flak, the Philadelphia Inquirer (via the Duluth News Tribune), MTV, Editor & Publisher, The Miami Herald, the Tucson Citizen, Newsday, and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
Oral sex and pot? Only in California.
Boston cops busted the release party for Boink magazine (link not safe for work, unless you work at a place where naked pictures of college students are tolerated and encouraged, in which case, are you hiring?), the new Boston University porn publication. (Via, of course, Nerve.)
The Writers Guild of America honored screenwriters Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Sideways) on Saturday. The WGA also gave awards to television writers for Malcolm in the Middle (seriously?), Late Night With Conan O'Brien, The Simpsons, and the funniest live-action show on TV, Arrested Development.
Unbelievably, the best movie of 2004 was once again snubbed. God, who do the writers of Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 have to blow to get some recognition? Jesus Christ.
Why do some people seem to resent Ivy League graduates?
For Colleen Kinder, author of the campus bestseller "Delaying the Real World," there is something to be said for eschewing the post-graduation office environment and jumping into the wilder parts of the world.
Oh, that's why! I guess some poor bastards just resent 23-year-old Yale graduates lecturing them about why their office job sucks, and how they should be riding trains across Mongolia or teaching English in Kuala Lumpur. A lot of people actually have to work in offices to pay off their student loans or support their families, and they tend to not like it when people dismiss their lives as boring. But hey, good for Kinder, who talks like a true Ivy League kid:
"The idea of strangers reading my book is still, like, wow," Kinder said.
At the height of his powers, Walter Freeman could take an ice pick, hammer it into a person's brain twice and, in six minutes, sever the fibers at the bases of the frontal lobes.
Jack El-Hai talks to Skyway News about his new book The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness. Why I laugh?
"Maus seems to have become canonical. This book is more of a loose cannon. I'm surprised by institutional support." At the time he was making the pages that were first published abroad and then later collected into the book, this kind of debate was even further from his mind. "I didn't even think of these things as political cartoons for the most part, but looking back now it's clear that's the category this stuff would fall in. I was even surprised when people told me the pages and the book were polemical. I just thought of them as descriptive."
(And yeah, I read Infinite Jest a few years ago while recovering from surgery, and that was only after reading several issues of Sports Illustrated many times over. I seem to remember the book had a lot to do with tennis and marijuana, but that might have been an SI story about Jennifer Capriati. I'm not sure. I was taking a lot of codeine.)
The astonishing thing about Miuccia Prada's fall collection is just how much it has in common with the rhythm of modern language, whether the verse of Ezra Pound or the chilling clarity of Elfriede Jelinek, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004, whose novel "Women as Lovers" presents marriage as the end of youth and the beginning for women of a death throe that will last through years of looking after men.
When I'm elected president, I will round up the nation's fashion writers and make them sell NASCAR t-shirts at Wal-Mart.
Chicago Sun Times: "Thompson did things with words that Clapton does with a guitar."
Chicago Tribune: "Thompson could work a sentence like Seinfeld could work a room."
And that, Chicago newspapers, is why you're not relevant.
Steve Hendrix is the world's worst speller.
"Do you say" - the actor spelled the letters out - "L-E-D or led?"
"On this planet we say L-E-D," said Mr. Topping, wearing an expression that was equal parts amusement and acid-reflux, the expression of a man who has heard Beijing, bruschetta and Chile mangled too many times.
"I hear some people say led," the narrator offered.
"That's linguistic anarchy," Mr. Topping said.
See how many times you can fit "That's linguistic anarchy" into conversation today.
I don't know if forced bed rest really leads to great works of literature as Virginia Woolf suggests, but I do know it leads people to being able to finish Infinite Jest and other bloated novels. Personally I never would have finished the damn thing had I not spent most of that summer in bed, and I even liked the book. Isn't that how you read it, too, Mike? On the other hand, no amount of confinement has ever led me to finish reading To the Lighthouse. (Link from Maud.)
Great. If there's one thing the literary world needs now, it's more bad news. Exiled Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante has died in London at 75. He was one of the best Spanish language writers of all time. If you haven't read Three Trapped Tigers, check it out.
That libel case that wasn't really libel? The court didn't see it that way, and granted the plaintiff $2.1 million.
Damn it, the British have trumped us. I thought it was cool that we now have James Baldwin stamps in the US (currently displayed on my refrigerator), but they have won with their Jane Eyre assortment. One thing, though: Bronte said Jane was plain looking, not hulky and nasty.
Artist Ralph Steadman, who provided the now-legendary illustrations for many of Hunter S. Thompson's books and articles, remembers the good doctor at The Independent.
I had the good fortune to meet one of the great originals of American literature. Maybe he is the Mark Twain of the late 20th century. Time will sort the bastard out. I have always known that one day I would know this journey, but yesterday, I did not know that it would be today.
Surely if he is going to drop by the Vatican during his trip, The Da Vinci Code would have been more instructional ("Is it true, your gracefulness, that Jesus had a love child?")?
The Age profiles Heatherhill Secondary College in Australia, one of many schools there participating in the Premier's Reading Challenge. The excellent Australian litblog Matilda has been covering the Challenge, here and here.
February 21, 2005
More notices, obituaries and remembrances for Dr. Thompson at Salon, Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Denver Post, the Aspen Times, the Los Angeles Times, NPR Morning Edition and NPR Day to Day.
Kate Taylor remembers Dr. Thompson at the Guardian.
The old man walked briskly to the dairy at Gabriel Park. "Good day, sir, or should that be colonel," he rasped. "Touché," the colonel replied. "Indeed Mr Shane was an intelligence officer, for we had reason to believe the parrot had learned the Nazi cipher codes. The young man had been the son of a Jewish doctor who ministered to influential figures before his deportation."
Largehearted Boy has posted two lectures by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
New York Magazine profiles David fucking Mamet.
Oh, wow. The Complete Review has posted an exhaustive "punter's guide" to the International Booker nominees Saul Bellow and Gabriel García Márquez are given the best odds to win. Tomás Eloy Martínez is the longshot at a thousand to one. This is who they ignored Rushdie for? Huh.
Mark Steyn, right-wing propagandist for the Moonie paper, engages in some good old-fashioned character assassination of the late, great Arthur Miller.
Miller was the most useful of the useful idiots.
And it just gets worse.
Australians are trying to buy the house that legendary author Patrick White once owned, and convert it into a writers' center. But White's reputation as something less than a total sweetie isn't helping.
"Australians want their national icons to be cuddly, they want the koala but they aren't that keen on the spiny ant-eater - but I'm glad for the spiny ant-eater," (author Thomas Keneally) said.
"Who said we should let this national treasure slip away because, although he was a genius, he wasn't a cosy bloke?"
It's an all-star literary smackdown! In this corner, Salman Rushdie, perhaps the greatest English-language novelist alive! In the other corner, Patrick French, who...uh...
It's kind of an all-star literary smackdown!
Struggling writers everywhere prepare to throw yourself down the stairs.
"Leonardo is misrepresented and belittled," Vezzosi said in a telephone interview hours before the event. "His importance is misunderstood. He was a man full of fantasy, inventions and genius."
Everyone, repeat after me. IT'S A FUCKING NOVEL, DUMBASSES.
I swear I've been trying to care about the new Booker award. But I just can't quite bring myself to do it. After Salman Rushdie was snubbed, how the fuck is anyone supposed to take this seriously? The Scotsman notes that only one Scottish author (Muriel Spark) was nominated, while North America is represented well on the list:
The United States is the most heavily represented nation on the list, with Philip Roth, John Updike and the novelist and critic Cynthia Ozick alongside Bellow, while Canada, which could also claim Bellow as he was born there, has Margaret Atwood - a Booker winner four years ago.
Novels routinely portray children as adorable moppets who pop up with wisdom beyond their years at the dinner table. Oh, they may get a little fussy, but any less than charming behaviour is never their fault: they need a nap, or their parents are getting a divorce...
But that gag law ensures that if their parents do go through periods of disliking their own children, they will not say so, not to anyone. One of the reasons that mothers enter into a pact to be sunny come what may is that they live in terror that some careless slip or angry explosion will damn their poor urchins for all time, which is why my mother's honesty about her first pregnancy would be less likely a generation later. Modern-day mothers get stuck with virtually blanket responsibility for how their kids turn out.
Oh wow, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin just shot up in rank on my "To Be Read Next" bookshelf.
After reading book #13, David K. Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America, I felt the need for a light novel. Actually, the entire time I was reading the book I felt the need for a light novel. At several points when I started distressing about the direction of the country and my own financial situation, The Boy would physically take it out of my hands and replace it with book #15, Calvin Trillin's Feeding a Yen. I wanted something contemporary, and hell, even chick lit would work. I picked up Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, thinking it would be a good mix of chick lit and literary.
My question is: why did no one warn me about this book? It got almost universally positive reviews. I found the book horrid. I do love hyperbole ever so much, and when I had finished the book (partly because I had a sick fascination with the book, and partly because people I know and trust liked the book and I kept waiting for it to pull together), I declared I was giving up books by contemporary women writers. (That declaration was helped along by the fact that the last three books I've read/started to read by women were painfully bad.) Since then I've read some Norman Mailer, some more of Diary of a Rapist, and it's cleansed my palate.
A question to Zoe Heller: Was it really necessary to make Barbara into the embodiment of every stereotype about spinsters you could think of? Desperately lonely, old cat, leaning towards lesbianism, bitter and cold, etc. Really, the reader could have pictured one of Marge's sisters from the Simpsons in the role and it would have fit.
There was no insight into Sheba at all. I mean, isn't that the title of the book? What was Sheba thinking when she had an affair with one of her students? Did you forget to add that part, Ms. Heller? Also, would it be possible for someone to create a contemporary book or movie with women characters somewhere inbetween the Ya-Ya sisterhood and this catty, must-destroy-all-other-women nonsense? That would be great. Let me know when someone does that, and until then I'll be hiding out with my Elizabeth Bowen.
February 20, 2005
America has lost its greatest journalist. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who was one of the main reasons I became a writer, has committed suicide.
I can't really imagine America without him.
February 18, 2005
The nominees for the International Booker Prize have been announced, and only three British writers made the shortlist.
Margaret Atwood (Canada)
Saul Bellow (Canada)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia)
Gunter Grass (Germany)
Ismail Kadare (Albania)
Milan Kundera (Czech Republic)
Stanislaw Lem (Poland)
Doris Lessing (UK)
Ian McEwan (UK)
Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)
Tomas Eloy Martinez (Argentina)
Kenzaburo Oe (Japan)
Cynthia Ozick (US)
Philip Roth (US)
Muriel Spark (UK)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
John Updike (US)
Abraham B Yehoshua (Israel)
I predict high school seniors will be applying to Boston University in record numbers this year.
In the end, actually, one gets the overwhelming impression that Mr. Canseco is delusional. Early in the book, in the course of advocating steroid use for everyone—yes, everyone—he writes, "I’m forty years old, but I look much younger—and I can still do everything the way I could when I was twenty-five."
When Jose Canseco was 25, he hit 37 home runs for the best baseball team on the planet. Take a good look at him now.
Following its brethren in the music, video game and television industries, book publisher Random House is venturing into the burgeoning market for delivering content over mobile phones.
Unless this results in my being able to download "Back That Azz Up" as my ring tone, I do not care about this.
David Wygant, author of Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life says not to be afraid of some drunk plucking.
Q: Any advice for women?
A: Women can "close" a guy the exact same way. You've got the guy, he's talking to you. He's scared to death to ask you out because he thinks maybe you're just being friendly. Just say, "Well, maybe we'll run into each other again." It's gonna bring up nightmares of all the times he screwed up on casual encounters with women. Take control. Stop waiting to be plucked by a guy because you keep getting plucked by the wrong drunks.
While the movie version destroys the hearts and dreams of fans everywhere, Hellblazer has passed its 200th issue. The Seattle Times makes a few recommendations for those unsure where to start with the series. (My suggestion: uh, the beginning?)
A mole was sent in to infiltrate a malevolent organization, learn its habits and organizational structure, and then get out and destroy it from the outside. Only an e-mail was intercepted, and the evil genius mastermind learned of the mole's plan! The mastermind decided to crush the mole... with a court injunction? It's really too bad US Weekly doesn't share more likenesses with SD-6.
Bill Maher responds to the survey that said that the majority of American teenagers think the First Amendment "goes too far" in a piece called "Kids Say the Darndest, Most Stalinist Things."
But the younger generation is supposed to rage against the machine, not for it; they're supposed to question authority, not question those who question authority.
And what's so frightening is that we're seeing the beginnings of the first post-9/11 generation — the kids who first became aware of the news under an "Americans need to watch what they say" administration, the kids who've been told that dissent is un-American and therefore justifiably punished by a fine, imprisonment — or the loss of your show on ABC.
The BBC profiles Nuruddin Farah's new book Links, "the story of Jeebleh, a Somali who returns to Mogadishu for the first time after living in the United States for 20 years." Farah himself is living in exile, but he returns to Somalia twice a year. In the interview, he explains why he feels safer in Mogadishu than in Johannesburg, why the Somali government should return, and what happened after American troops abandoned the country.
Scott Douglas has another Dispatch from a Public Librarian, this one titled "Corny Library Pickup Lines, and How Librarians Effectively Shoot Them Down."
Libraries should allow food in the building, because right now I could just eat you up.
Policy is policy, but if you'd really like to change that, the appropriate forms are behind you—just drop it in the suggestion box when you're done, and in due time it will be pulled out and set in the loser pile.
Iain Banks made a rather surprising move with his upcoming book The Algebraist, which is already out in the UK. In the US, he moved from Random House to NightShade, a tiny SF press. He explains why in this interview at Salon.
I think I've kind of played the field with the U.S., all the main contenders over time. Bless them -- they've all tried. And I think through no fault of their own, they've all failed to make me big in the States. The conclusion I've come to is that I just don't write for an American audience as far as the mainstream is concerned. The science fiction has done reasonably well. I've had some quite reasonable deals out of them, but they have never earned out or made any royalties. And usually after a few months a very large packet of books comes back and ends up in my garage gathering dust. I think with Night Shade it is a bit different because they are a smaller concern. I'm kind of a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and there's real enthusiasm over there. With the larger corporate concerns it's harder to maintain that enthusiastic edge. These guys are so enthusiastic, I thought it was worth a try.
Can't nobody hold Marcel down. Blake Morrison examines the heretofore unknown connection between P. Diddy and Proust.
February 17, 2005
Remember Earful of Books? Yeah, I didn't think so. The Austin-based chain sold and rented audio books, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The stores were all closed two years ago. Now founder Paul Rush has been arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering.
The book depicts Paraguay, (poet María Eugenia) Garay complained, as a savage country "populated by uncouth and hairy aborigines, distinguishable from monkeys only by the fact that they know how to play the harp," Paraguay's national instrument.
Still, author Lily Tuck shouldn't feel bad. Ray Bradbury went through the same crap when The Martian Chronicles was released.
Put down that Harper's and treat yourself to a real magazine. The first issue contains a Galway Kinnell poem about Justin Guarini and Louis Menand's fascinating article "Whither DeGarmo?"
Salon asks the partners of the essayists of Committed: Men Tell Stories of Love, Commitment, and Marriage to respond to the allegations made about their relationships. Luckily, everyone stays in their assigned gender roles, so as not to confuse anyone.
Sarah Hepola looks at the recent slew of rock memoirs. She's not a Mötley Crüe fan, evidently:
It's hard to romanticize anything about drummer Tommy Lee's TommyLand, a numbingly idiotic book that might as well be written in all lowercase with emoticons after every sentence. Lee's style could be a cautionary tale about the dangers of drug use, except I suspect he was always this stupid.
Lynne Cheney Terry Gross SMACKDOWN! I'm sure Ms. Cheney just wanted to talk about her children's books, but instead Ms. Gross pushed her on children being taught "intelligent design," gay rights, and whether Cheney is advocating for a sugar coating of American history. (The most unintentionally funny moment is when Cheney declares first wave feminism was "a breath of fresh air." The whole fight for real equal rights, however, didn't really do much for her.) It's just too bad that there was no performance from Sisters.
I have recently fallen in love with Zembla magazine. It's an expensive import, so I had to be sure before I committed to a $50 subscription, but when the last issue came out with Tom Waits on the cover, a story about Vidal meets Mailer, an author talking about the various cover designs for her last book, a new interview with the dead Arthur Conan Doyle, and a dozen other brilliant things, I was hooked. Of course, immediately thereafter came the rumors that it was shutting down production because it's broke. This interview with Dan Crowe at 3am Magazine was conducted before the financial woes, and they do confirm that the magazine has suspended publication. But Crowe's optimism about the future of literary magazines is cheery.
It somehow doesn't surprise me that Dean Koontz is obsessive-compulsive. The horror writer talks to an L.A. Times reporter about his dog-grooming habits and his "outrageously indulgent" Orange County home.
Today's installment of "Successful, Critically Acclaimed Authors Who Are Younger Than Michael Schaub" features Sightseeing author Rattawut Lapcharoensap. Join us tomorrow when I try to figure out what exactly went wrong with my life!
The Book Standard may have given a column gig to the unworthy Book Babes ("Margaret Atwood is such a nice lady!" "Isn't she though?"), they've also given one to Adam Langer, author of Crossing California. In the third installment, we find out hero struggling with blurb writing.
Still, at this moment, I’m struggling with the blurb format, which often seems to be a particularly literate form of Mad Libs:
“This (adjective) and (adjective/noun) cuts to the bone of (evocative phrase). Reminiscent of the works of (mainstream author) and (groovy, less well-known author), this (adjective) work marks (insert writer’s name) as a (choose one: [a] writer at the top of his/her game; [b] a bold new voice of his/her generation).”
February 16, 2005
Any nerds in the house? Check out the new trailer for the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at Amazon. Martin Freeman? Sam Rockwell? Mos Def? I'm not sure there's any way this movie can be bad.
GalleyCat looks at new books that will probably not enrich our culture, making a very important point in the process: "Western civilization doesn't need more rape-fantasies about God from girls named Mary." In unrelated news, the release date for my debut novel, Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women, has been pushed back while I do some last-minute retooling.
For the past decade, The Pegaso bookstore, a cozy shrine to the printed word, has offered browsers free coffee, overstuffed leather sofas, and a wide-ranging literary selection. But now it's scaling back, ditching poetry and history, and keeping the few things that still sell - some novels and glossy art books. Pegaso, like many other Mexican bookstores, is on the verge of succumbing to a complicated crisis that threatens Mexico's book industry - one Ms. Woolrich says boils down to this: "Mexicans aren't reading."
Random House to P. Diddy: Pay or die.
Sher tentatively distilled If This Is a Man into a first draft without checking on the rights. He then discovered that the Primo Levi estate had decided never to allow anyone to film or stage the book. "I respected them for their stance," he says, "because the blood does run cold to think of what Hollywood at its worst would make of that book."
They almost had me. Hayden Christensen to play lead in adaptation of Italian classic The Decameron? Not a problem. Yeah, he was in one of the least erotic love scenes ever to be caught on film, but he was great in Shattered Glass. Then I read the next sentence, and my heart went cold. "Christensen will play the role of Lorenzo, starring opposite The O.C.'s Mischa Barton, who in December signed on as Pampinea, the project's leading lady." Yeah, that's not going to be any good.
Lafayette College has selected Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers as its freshman orientation book for 2005. The book has already been on the curriculum for the English course "The Graphic Novel" where the discussion was heated. The book was selected in the hopes that it would stir up controversy and strong opinions. (Link from Egonlabs.)
Gerard Jones, author of Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book comments on the ruling that Marvel Comics owes Stan Lee millions of dollars for the movies based on the characters Lee (co-)created.
Lee's lawsuit had sent a modest shock wave through the comics community — not because a comic book publisher scammed one of its creators — that's what those publishers have always done — but because Lee, of all the creators in the business, seemed to be the one immune to scammery.
"By all rights, 18 months from now we should be looking back at this and all kind of embarrassed to say the word blog -- I hope." I Want Media reprints Michael Wolff's keynote address from the 2005 SIIA Information Industry Summit held earlier this month. Wolff is the author of Autumn of the Moguls and the media columnist for Vanity Fair. He has some interesting ideas about media on the Internet, specifically about online newspapers and free content.
And then something happened, and I've sort of tried to figure out when this was. It was certainly mid-'90s in that the Journal kind of disappeared. The [Wall Street] Journal went out of the conversation as a point of influence other than the eccentricities of its editorial page. It seemed to if not stop existing at least stop mattering.
It was interesting because the product was as good as it had ever been. It just wasn't present in the discussion. I've spent a lot of time thinking what happened because I know a lot of people at the Journal, and it feels to me from a journalist standpoint something of a puzzle and a little bit of a tragedy. And I think that the answer is the online thing. I think the fact that the Journal felt that it was powerful enough to charge, and for a long time everyone regarded the Journal's activities online as the ultimate. They had unlocked the puzzle. In fact, I don't think they did. I think they locked themselves into a puzzle.
While the New York Times on the other hand became this ubiquitous information brand. It became finally the national information brand. And it did this, I think, because it was free.
February 15, 2005
Why was a nondescript, white, middle-class girl from the Midwest awarded not just one of the top-notch school's coveted spots, but a fat scholarship, too?
If every generation gets the classic of disaffected youth it deserves, you might well expect that the heroine of Prep would at least come within hailing distance of that emblematic figure of our times: the "organization kid," as David Brooks christened the intensively parented child, steadily amassing credentials from cradle to college. But Sittenfeld studiously avoids supplying any evidence of accomplishments that might have moved an admissions office to look favorably on this particular applicant—except, of course, for the very novel we're reading, narrated in the first person by Lee a decade later.
Oh sweet Jesus. Hi and Lois are totally going to fuck.
I know I just asked you guys to donate what you could last month (and thanks to you, the Mike Schaub Killer Bong Fund is doing better than ever). But this time, a legitimate cause needs you. Send a few bucks to Baltimore's The Book Thing. I'll know if you don't. (More information from The Old Hag, who puts the "Mary" in "Maryland." No, I don't know what that means.)
Ah, shitty Wal-Mart bookshelves. (Scroll down to the second list. Or you can read the first list if you want. I'm not your fucking mom, you know?)
The Bible's funny! Who says the Bible's not funny? It's fucking funny!
The experts will also focus on the story, told in Luke’s Gospel, of Zaccheus, a short man and despised tax collector who, eager to see Jesus at a busy gathering, is forced to take the undignified course of scrambling up a tree.
Zaccheus’ efforts are rewarded. Jesus chooses the company of the most hated man in town and gently tells him to come down from the tree, as he wishes to be a guest in his home.
The Guardian takes a look at the two Beowulf movies coming out the big-budget Roger Zemeckis version and the smaller version out of Iceland.
Stanford student Grace Liu says she's a loser, though she's actually pretty hilarious. Check out her take on self-help, "This book will change my life, goddammit."
The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.
This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest-selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey's public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality.
It's hard being a debut author, particularly in the world of children's book publishing. It can seem nearly impossible to catch a break and make a name for yourself. But it's easier when the publishers happen to be on the board of a charitable foundation that pays you over $77,000 a year as a "consultant." And it's easier still when you're married to the governor of New York, and he agrees to provide a campaign aide to push sales of your book. Huh I'm beginning to think maybe Madison in New York wasn't published on its own merits after all.
February 14, 2005
Three men were arrested Friday for allegedly stealing several rare books from the Transylvania University library, including a first edition of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and then attempting to sell them to a New York auction house, authorities said.
Apparently the plot fell apart when the men asked to be paid in small, unmarked OxyContin pills.
The US government (or at least a spokesperson) tries to justify the sanctions against dissident writers from unsavory nations publishing in the US without first obtaining permission.
Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees OFAC, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but spokeswoman Molly Millerwise described the sanctions as ''a very important part of our overall national security."
"These are countries that pose serious threats to the United States, to our economy and security, and our well-being around the globe," Millerwise said, adding that publishers can still bring dissident writers to American readers as long as they first apply for a license.
This week's Guardian Digested Read is Richard B. Pelzer's A Brother's Journey: Surviving a Childhood of Abuse. No word on whether his memoir is as fake as his brother's yet.
For the past 10 years I had allowed my brother Dave to cash in on the story of his abuse, while never daring to think that I, too, could have my own publishing contract.
I should have learned so much from Dave. Like writing in italics for no apparent reason, speaking inane psychobabble platitudes and mixing up my tenses. But I chose not to. How often the abused are condemned to repeat the tragedies of the past!
Whoa, whoa, whoa Canadians have sex?
Loathsome gossip hacks Mara Reinstein and Joey Bartolomeo wrote a book about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston in five days, but will the Pulitzer committee notice?
How did you write so quickly?
M.R.: I still don’t know.
J.B.: We looked like we’d been on some bizarre drug binge.
M.R.: Bob Wallace, the head of Wenner Books, said it had to be 40,000 words, which I didn’t really understand—all I knew was that an Us Weekly cover story is, like, 1,300 words, so I knew it would be a lot.
Roberta Alexander sticks up for the mainstream media, empirically proving that establishment journalism is superior to blogs and webzines by reviewing a bad print-on-demand novel. Yeah, I don't get it either.
Any copy editors out there looking for work? Get yourself to the tattoo parlors. There's a need for you there.
Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky presents "ten love poems to woo her with." But it's not what you think.
Love is linked to art and persuasion, and also to the ideal or affectation of innocence. Poetry has roots in courtly flirtation, seduction, and complaint—that is, in courtship.
Oh, wait it's exactly what you think. Sorry about that.
"From the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent," reads the first line of the H.P. Lovecraft story "The Shunned House," but chances are Lovecraft, who died in 1937, wouldn't have appreciated the irony of his present position as American literature's greatest bad writer.
The French have developed an affection for graphic literature.. No one tell Bush unless you want to be reading "freedom books" for the rest of your life.
The only thing more annoying than that intrusive bitch at your office wondering aloud every time she passes by your office where your roses are on Valentine's Day would be someone like this girl declaring, "Cats are better than men!"
"I have never loved a guy as much as I have loved this cat," she laughs, marking her poor tabby Perry with a red smooch on his fluffy white fur. "And I totally understand why girls date guys in rock bands -- BECAUSE THEY LEAVE."
Two guesses what genre she writes in.
The city of Houston is finally coming to terms with Jenna Jameson. The porn star's autobiography, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, will be placed back on the open shelves of the Houston Public Library. This reverses Mayor Bill White's earlier end run around free speech last month, he ordered the book placed in the library's closed stacks.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the controversy over the book caused the waiting list for it to double. So wait trying to ban a book actually results in more people wanting to read it? Wow. I never could have seen that coming.
February 11, 2005
Remembrances of Arthur Miller from the Los Angeles Times, The Times, the Associated Press, the BBC (and its readers), Salon, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today. Charles Isherwood and Harold Pinter write tributes to Miller.
The New York Times has posted their obituary of Arthur Miller.
Arthur Miller, 89, the playwright whose authorship of such theatre classics as "Death of a Salesman," "The Crucible," "All My Sons," and "A View from the Bridge," made him a giant of the 20th century American stage, died yesterday of heart failure in Roxbury, Conn., his assistant Julia Bolus said.
Who will be the next U.S. Poet Laureate John Ashcroft or Roy Moore? Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Moore makes a good case for himself with his poem "Our American Birthright":
I’m glad they’re not with us to see the mess we’re in,
How we’ve given up our righteousness for a life of indulgent sin.
For when abortion isn’t murder and sodomy is deemed a right,
Then evil is now called good and darkness is now called light.
(Also at the Swift Report, Deanna Swift uncovers the conservative plot to remove the face of gay President Lincoln from Mount Rushmore.)
There's nothing more romantic than saying "I do" with your loved one at the home of a man who shot himself in the head, is there?
Damn you, McSweeney's. It's like you anticipate my every literary obsession.
For some reason that I can't explain, I just bought two books by Icelandic writers. Maybe it's all the Sigur Rós I've been listening to. Or the fact that my girlfriend is Icelandic-American. (You've heard the stereotype that beautiful Icelandic women like dorky guys with big guts and stupid haircuts? It's true.) But in any case, the new McSweeney's issue features "11 of the most Icelandic writers writing today." (And, uh, Roddy Doyle.) Birna Anna Björnsdóttir gives a short but fascinating rundown of the country's writers for those who slept through Icelandic Lit in high school.
All this is making me hungry. Anyone know a place in Austin where you can get a nice bowl of saltkjöt og baunir?
Reason Online interviews Neal Stephenson.
At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick rolls her eyes and admits what a lot of us have been thinking even though Ward Churchill might well be the biggest fucking moron in the world, he shouldn't be fired for his incendiary comments comparing September 11 victims to Nazis.
But goddammit, I hate this guy. And though I disagree with Lithwick's assertion that Churchill's remarks "were not hate speech" what the hell else would you call it? she's dead right that firing him "would make virtually every professorship in the land subject to a heckler's veto."
3AM interviews Doug Miers about his comic Prophecy Anthology.
The new edition of Best American Erotica is out, and the editor Susie Bright is interviewed at the Boston Phoenix. I used to get her confused with Annie Sprinkle as they both had unlikely names. Then at some point I read their works and realized, oh yeah, Annie Sprinkle is the moron who dresses up like a vagina, Susie Bright is the feminist sexologist. You see how I would get them confused.
(Related: at the bookstore yesterday, the book Vagina Warriors scared the shit out of me. Stop it, Eve Ensler. Not only does my vagina not need a theme song, a funny hat, a mood, and certainly not a feather boa, I also do not need my vagina to be a warrior. And I would prefer it if you kept your vagina out of the spotlight from now on if you can't stop talking about it in the third person. Thank you.
Hoping a tale of drugs and desperation in South Boston persuades them to improve their behavior, the Suffolk district attorney yesterday offered five juveniles arrested at the Patriots' parade an unusual deal: read Michael Patrick MacDonald's "All Souls" and deliver a 2,500-word report on its meaning, and the charges will be dropped.
I tried getting out of a speeding ticket once by telling the judge I'd watch Gone in 60 Seconds the original and the crappy remake. No dice, though.
February 10, 2005
If you've ever wondered what your chances of finding love with Sam Lipsyte are, today's your lucky day! (My own chances are 47.5%. I hate to brag, but that beats Jessa's 28%.)
A row has broken out about the choice of a recital poem for children at this year's Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff.
A head teacher has said the poem "Chei di ddim odli" (There Shall Be No Rhymers) by Myrddin ap Dafydd is unsuitable for children under 12.
But to be fair, what else are you going to rhyme with "locksucker"?
The chief executive of Penguin UK quit the company abruptly yesterday following last year's disastrous distribution problems at the company, which is owned by media group Pearson.
Anthony Forbes Watson, who was responsible for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley in Britain, is to leave the company after 15 years, eight as chief executive.
Happy 75th anniversary to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, first published on February 14, 1930. USA Today offers some trivia and a rundown of planned Hammett-themed celebrations, and the AP provides a short history of the book. Also wishing happy birthday to Sam Spade and friends are The Wall Street Journal and NPR. Six, two and even they're selling you out, sonny.
When I read that David Talbot was stepping down at Salon, I hoped that maybe his replacement would take an interest in books and revamp their lit coverage.
"There is still a need for fearless, independent journalism," Ms. Walsh said. "But we have some of the best book and television coverage there is."
The evolution/textbook-sticker controversy lives on, this time in Kansas.
The Boston Phoenix explains the difference between a newspaper being wrong about a public figure and being libelous as it pertains to The Boston Herald's accusations against Judge Ernest Murphy.
The US Supreme Court, in its landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan decision, raised the bar to an extraordinarily high level for any such person to sue for libel successfully. The court ruled that a public official must prove "actual malice" — a legal term that means Murphy must convince the 12-member jury that the Herald and its lead reporter, Dave Wedge, went to press with articles that they knew were false, or that they acted with "reckless disregard" for whether those articles were true or false. Such a standard, Justice William Brennan wrote in the Times decision, is necessary to ensure that "debate on public issues" remains "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open," even to the point of including "vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
Random Bookslut-related update: our Breeder columnist (and my sister) Jen Crispin has gotten herself knocked up. That was the goal, as those who have been following her column will know, so go issue congratulations to the first in my family of girls to start breeding. (Aw, fuck, I'm going to be an aunt, and to what my sister is now calling "Wriggly Worm the Blood-Sucking Parasite.")
Increasingly, writers, readers and publishers are turning to literature as a bridge between cultures, particularly Western and Arab societies estranged since Arab extremists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
This in turn is driving a boom in translation.
Book #11 for me was Sam Lipsyte's Home Land. Blah blah blah funniest book of the year blah blah blah. Not that I'm saying it's not. It's as good as everyone is saying. But instead of me repeating all that, you can read about it elsewhere if you haven't already. You should also read the story in the Observer about how no publisher in America wanted to release this book, and of course now it's selling out its print run.
Mr. Lipsyte never expected or aspired to be a famous author. ("Yeah," he deadpans, "I’m all about the bling.") But he did think he’d be able to write fiction without having a day job—a pipe dream for Mr. Lipsyte, as for so many others. Mr. Stein said he’d like to make a home for Mr. Lipsyte at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "That would be great," said Mr. Lipsyte. But he remains cautious. He knows that in your career as a writer, anything can happen—or fail to.
After reading Home Land I picked up Evan Connell's Diary of a Rapist which was recently rereleased by New York Review of Books. I'd start reading it for a few pages, and then just want to get away from the book. At one point I decided I couldn't be reading this book because my kitchen floor had to be scrubbed at that particular moment. That's a book that makes you uncomfortable when someone like me starts doing superfluous chores. But I keep picking it back up, so eventually I'll get through it.
But until then, I wanted something lighter, something in the same satire realm as Home Land, and I remembered that I never got around to reading W. Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale over Christmas. I fell in love with Of Human Bondage a few years ago, but had never picked up a Maugham book since, perhaps worried nothing else he wrote could be quite as good. I really shouldn't have worried. However, I couldn't tell whether it was funny or depressing that his satire of 1920's literature in England was still spot-on for today's industry.
"His [literary] career might well have served as a model for any young man entering upon the pursuit of literature. I could think of no one among my contemporaries who had achieved so considerable a position on so little talent. This, like the wise man's daily dose of Bemax, might have gone into a heaped-up tablespoon. He was perfectly aware of it, and it must have seemed to him sometimes little short of a miracle that he had been able with it to compose already some thirty books."
It was an absolute delight to read, especially for a lit blogger. Cakes and Ale contains long asides about the state of reviewing, the portrayal of women in literature, double standards for women in general, snobbery against bestsellers, and the tendency for critics and fellow authors to forgive and forget all sins the moment an author has died.
Last night I started reading The Working Poor: Invisible in America about which I have heard only good things. I did have one quibble about a blurb, however. "Shipler's report is gripping, his characters more alive than those found in many novels." Yes, Austin American Statesman, one would hope that real people are "more alive" than fictional characters. One woudl hope.
Poetry Magazine is giving away free copies of its magazine to book groups if you request them by March 1.
February 9, 2005
Lisa: These are my only friends grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he's kissed more boys than I ever will!
Marge: Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.
Not in Loudoun County, Virginia, they don't. A school play at Stone Bridge High School in the city of Ashburn has scandalized homophobes across the commonwealth.
(Virginia state) Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) e-mailed his supporters claiming that, in the play, "two male students engaged in a homosexual kiss onstage" and that public schools were "being used to promote a homosexual lifestyle." His son-in-law, Loudoun County Supervisor Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run), followed up with a missive of his own, warning of the play's disturbing "indoctrination." On Sunday, activists blanketed Loudoun churches with fliers decrying the production.
Cheers to Sabrina Audrey Jess, the student who wrote the one-act play, Offsides. Jess defends the play with an eloquence unusual for a writer of her age, or any age:
"I try to promote tolerance in a school where there is not enough among teenagers and am in turn flooded with the intolerance of their parents," Jess said, in comments that prompted a standing ovation among supporters.
"People who are negatively commenting on my play are proving my point," she said.
On the Internet, nobody knows you're Amazon.com, if you hide behind the friendly face of an independent start-up.
Salon investigates 43 Things, "a place where visitors can confide their hopes, dreams and goals and connect to other people with the same aspirations." The company behind it goes by the name Robot Co-op, but it's funded by Amazon and founding members of the site used to work at Amazon.
Miller was once an enthusiastic Young Republican who forged credentials just so he could hang out inside the 1992 GOP convention in Houston. Now he's a Green-turned-Democrat with a link to MoveOn.org on his website. And he is also the only writer in the cosmos who jump-started a career in Christian publishing by going to Reed College, a school where the unofficial motto is "Atheism, Communism, Free Love."
In a strongly worded "notification," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal agency, has denounced the book
In consequence, Haight, an American, has been prohibited from teaching Catholic theology "until his positions have been corrected so as to be in full conformity with the doctrine of the church."
Reading Lucky gives me a peek into other girls' lives—girls who actually mix cocktails—and put them on coasters. I'm usually left feeling hopelessly clueless and out of the loop, as if everyone but me somehow learned to be a grownup who doesn't pin posters of their favorite bands on the wall or eat cereal for dinner anymore. Lucky girls, I imagine, host dinner parties and drink wine and call each other "darling," while I'd be hard pressed to recall the last time I had someone over for Chinese takeout. The closest I get to feeling truly part of the Lucky universe is entering the series of "Lucky Breaks" contests they offer each month.
Comic books: They're not just for white kids anymore!
A committee is hoping to raise $5 million to support Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review. I don't read AJR very often, but I'm a long time subscriber to CJR and love it very much. They have significantly dropped their subscription costs lately, so consider giving them a hand and subscribing.
A Motley Vision offers some possible first lines for Mormon fiction.
Elder Thatcher's companion strongly believed in the 'baptize 'em all -- let the branch president sort 'em out' school of missionary work.
Gary had long passed the point of being a 'danger to society' and was well on his way to being a full on menace.
Not many people know this, but, done correctly, scrapbooking is a contact sport.
I'm annoyed at myself that I didn't go to Larry McMurtry's Archer City, Texas, rare bookstore Booked Up when I had the chance. McMurtry has closed the store, but he won't say for how long. Residents of the small town near Wichita Falls hope it will reopen soon the closing of the legendary store, which drew international visitors to Archer City, could hurt their economy pretty badly.
Neal Pollack is not going to say anything bad about Jonathan Safran Foer's new novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nor the excerpt that Houghton Mifflin has posted online, "lest I find myself accused of professional jealousy and bad faith." But if you want to say something bad about the book, he will definitely post it on his website.
Former Bookslut writer and current editor of Symmetry magazine comments on the origin stories of superheroes and supervillains for USA Today.
Background: A lab accident involving radiation welds a harness with four steel tentacles to his body. Doc Ock wanted the robotic arms to help him conduct research involving radioactive substances.
Could it happen? The authors liken Doc Ock's robotic arms to sophisticated prosthetic limbs and conclude that the harness could indeed be grafted to his body, but not by means of radiation. Exposure to such an enormous amount of radiation would cause death, not insanity.
Harris says: "A major challenge for Doc Ock will be to strengthen his back muscles enough to support the weight of those robotic arms. Training his brain and nerves to control them is another story."
Michael Pollan is one of my favorite food science writers. The Botany of Desire was uneven and could have been trimmed in places, but damn is that man enthusiastic about his subject matter. Reading his books makes you giddy, there's no way around it. Once you're in love, books like A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder are suddenly irresistible. Pollan is at work on his next book, this one about the "three principle food chains: the industrial, the organic, and the hunter-gatherer." And because he takes his research very seriously, he's taking up a gun and going hunting for wild boar for the "hunter" section. Go read this new interview at AlterNet about his research process, why the New York Times doesn't have as much power as we all think, and how America has become "cornified."
Sarah Essaied was searching for pants in a bookstore.
HA HA HA HA! What a dumbass! You can't find pants in a bookstore! The only thing that might save poor Sarah from a lifetime of being mocked is if the second graf of this story somehow revealed the lead to be a joke or pun or japery of some sort! But I doubt that's going to happen.
Not actual pants, but the recently released Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, one of a series by Ann Brashares that chronicles the lives of four teenage friends.
Whaaaaaaaaaaa? Damn you, Houston Chronicle reporter Kristin Finan! Damn you and your winkingly clever half-joke! (This article is about "teen chick lit." You've been warned.)
If you look to your left you'll notice the new issue of Bookslut went up yesterday with interviews with Dennis Cooper, Brian Evenson, and Bill Knott. Colleen Mondor wants everyone to read N.M. Kelby's Theater of Stars, a wonderful book that was unjustly forgotten. Matthew Kirkpatrick profiles the literary magazine 32 Poems. Gordon McAlpin gives us his next installment of Stripped Books, this time a reading by Stephen Mitchell. And Sharon Adarlo gives her last Judging a Book by Its Cover, this time a special Romance Book Edition. (Those interested in applying to be the next book cover critic should send writing samples and summarise your interest in book cover design to Mike.)
In reviews we have the latest by Jonathan Lethem, Stephen Amidon, Dorothy Nelson, Eric Chevillard, Steve Erickson, Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Wright, and Sharon Olds. Hollywood Madam has your Oscar adapted screenplay picks covered, Breeder examines some cervical mucous, Mystery Strumpet tells us what to look out in the coming months, and Spec Fic Floozy examines a new type of writer, the blogger turned science fiction writer.
February 8, 2005
'Deep Throat' Mania Strikes! (For those interested in the "book" part of Bookslut.)
'Deep Throat' Mania Strikes! (For those interested in the "slut" part of Bookslut.)
Bookslut reader Eric "Big Stick" Ferguson, who maintains the excellent literary baseball journal Baseball DIY, asks:
Is it too early to nominate Juiced for Worst Cover of 2005 (and, probably, Worst Book)?
No. No, it is not. Meanwhile, the release date of Jose Canseco's controversial book has been moved up a week to February 14, and the White House has responded to Canseco's allegation that President Bush knew about Texas Rangers players using steroids when he owned the Texas Rangers (scroll down and check out the sidebar for Bush's reaction). And John Levesque at the Seattle P-I suggests that Canseco could learn a lesson about humility from the world champion New England Patriots.
Faye was the first. She invited him for a drive in her car and they soon settled down into a quiet routine of adulterous monotony. Owen was neither happy nor unhappy, though his penis appreciated the exercise. He was never certain whether Faye had an orgasm or not, and in truth, such was the nature of his solipsism that he didn't much care. The affair fizzled out when Faye told her husband, who in turn informed Phyllis. But life in Middle Falls soon returned to normal as Phyllis understood she was past her prime and that a man had needs.
We're only five weeks into the new year, but we already have a recap. While the Comics Reporter's recap is informative, I like to pretend it's being read to me by Michael Ian Black. It just seems natural at this point.
Matas and Shipley have big plans. Delicious Library is now a cataloging program, appealing to those with an obsessive, Nick Hornby-esque desire to catalog every song, book and movie on their living room shelves.
But from the start, the software was planned to be social, allowing friends, neighbors and colleagues to see what's in each others' media libraries, and turn collections into personal lending libraries.
Version two, due later this year, will allow users to browse each other's libraries. It will be location-aware, letting users know who has what in their neighborhood or city.
This whole "let everyone see everything you own thing" is getting a little creepy. It's difficult for me to allow other people to see my Netflix ratings on their Friends feature without suddenly allowing all of Chicago to browse through my shelves. Especially if I can't hover around them saying, "Oh, I didn't buy that, one of my friends forced me into borrowing it. I'll never read that." or "No, I, uh, have read [enter trendy book everyone else has read but I haven't], it's just not on my shelves. It, uh, got lent out." (Thanks to Shani for the link.)
Alasdair Gray has updated his official website, and now you can read his plays online.
As Jessa suggested in The Guardian, people under 30 shouldn't write memoirs unless they've done something truly unusual or amazing. How about getting drunk all the time? Yeah, I think that qualifies. I mean, a college kid who drinks rarer than the fucking unicorn. Koren Zailckas, 24, is getting attention (of course) for her new memoir, Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood. My favorite part of the Globe story is the "related advertising link" at the bottom for the Party Starter Beer Bong ("The only custom beer bong painted to match your favorite team colors"). And the book? It looks like exactly what you'd expect.
When she drank, she would become the life of the party -- "speaking out when I would normally have kept quiet or laughing when I normally wouldn't." She had long felt pressure to be more assertive: "I thought that was what being a girl and a grown-up woman were all about." Her binges were sometimes accompanied by memory loss. Once, she woke up in bed, naked, with a boy she didn't know, and no memory of how she had gotten there.
Laughing at random things? Memory loss? Sex with strangers? Wow, no one else in the history of college has ever gone through that.
Fun as it is to mock them, even the most cynical among us can't but wish the Quills well....Heaven knows, as the National Endowment for the Arts' recent "Reading at Risk" study suggests, book culture in this country needs all the help it can get. If they'll get one more kid into a library -- provided his hometown still has one -- I'll put on a monkey suit outside the Quill Awards and work the red carpet myself: "Hey, Thomas Pynchon! Who are you wearing?"
The subhead for this Slate article reads "Was there any substance to his politics and art?" Which would probably be more effective if the actual headline wasn't "Stephen Spender, Toady," which kind of answers the question before it's been asked.
A company that organizes a nationwide sports lottery, Chestnaya Igra, say(s) its use of an image of famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is legal.
The company is being sued by the writer's great grandson, Dmitry Dostoevsky, who says the use of his ancestor's image on lottery tickets is unauthorized and insulting.
The writer had a long struggle to give up a gambling addiction, which is the subject of his novel The Gambler.
This is the tackiest use of a public figure's image since Bacardi's ill-fated decision to put Kitty Dukakis' picture on bottles of rum.
The Monitor asks a "bouquet of writers" heh what their favorite romantic book is. Anita Shreve selects The Transit of Venus; Katherine Govier likes By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. For my own part, I'd have to think about it, but I can name at least one book that makes me so fucking hot I can barely stand it. Give it to me, Karen.
February 7, 2005
Today is "Best Adapted Screenplay" day at Turner Classic Movies, and they're showing only movies nominated for an Oscar. Today's schedule includes Kubrick's Lolita, Peyton Place, Stand By Me, and several other reasons I won't get much reading done today but can still feel literary.
Legendary baseball player Jose Canseco has a new book called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. He has an interesting tale to tell about his days with the Texas Rangers.
Canseco claims the team's general managing partner at the time - an aspiring politician named George W. Bush - had to have been aware that his players were using performance-enhancing drugs but did nothing about it.
The 2005 Edgar Award nominees have been announced. Sarah Weinman is on it with a fascinating, exhaustive look at the lists.
Publishers releasing memoirs by 30-somethings who did not discover a new element, did not survive on a mountain with two broken arms, did not do anything other than just live their lives like everyone else, drive me crazy. They're the same as high schools that allow illiterate students to graduate, and my only wish is that the entire genre would die.
I'm kind of annoyed that the Guardian didn't print my diary. I guess spending every night masturbating to Full House reruns isn't intellectual enough for them. Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Fancypants London Newspaper Editor.
At Newsday, Maud Newton reviews Darcey Steinke's latest novel, Milk. Her verdict: It does a body good. (Actually, she finds it "alternately fascinating and frustrating," but I really couldn't pass up the "does a body good" joke. I am an incredible hack.)
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has taken on a new case, this one defending Rome, Georgia retailer Gordon Lee on a charge of "distributing material depicting nudity" and a charge of "distributing obscene material to a minor." The charges are a result of a Halloween night giveaway at the store Legends where Lee mistakenly gave a minor a copy of Alternative Comics Free Comic Book Day effort Alternative Comics #2. That book contained three pages of male nudity in an excerpt of Nick Bertozzi's "The Salon."
Satanists and neo-Nazis have begun targeting a Moscow apartment famously used by writer Mikhail Bulgakov, terrifying local residents.
Swastikas, SS symbols and pentagrams cover the walls and stairwells of the apartment block where the writer set his most famous work, The Master and Margarita.
"Tolkien was a very nice guy who was very encouraging to me when I was young, though not as encouraging as T.H. White and, of course, Mervyn Peake. That said, I was deeply disappointed when I read the books, having saved up for them when they first came out. They sounded like Uncle Mac to me, from the old BBC Children's Hour—and I've since learned that Uncle Mac and Co. were consciously doing exactly what I suspected they were trying to do, which was turn me into a nice middle class boy..."
Subhead of the year: Metro’s sexperts look at books that’ll help heat up your Feb. 14.
How do you become a sexpert, anyway? Is it a degree? Like a two-year associate's program or something? Maybe you just have to read books like The Lowdown on Going Down and Blow Him Away. (Metro's sexperts say, sagely, "I think the point we’re making is don’t buy both books, pick the one you’re comfortable with and go with it.")
River of Gods by Ian McDonald
Iron Council by China Mieville
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Market Forces by Richard Morgan
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
With such a great list of books, it's a shame that this might be the last year for the award. They're running out of money, and the deadline is May for finding a sponsor. (Thanks to Paul for the press release.)
The BBC today moved a step closer to the launch of its much-publicised book club with the announcement of the programme's shortlist of books.
"Publicise"? "Programme"? "Books"? Them Brits sure spell things funny!
J.K. Rowling, not one known for her forgiving spirit, is considering yet another lawsuit, this time against the US Army magazine Preventive Maintenance Monthly which "teaches soldiers how to care for their kit." Yes, Rowling, I'm not too thrilled with their actions of late either, but perhaps while they're in a warzone having to make their own armor is not the best time to take their magazine away with a lawsuit.
Milan has banned a billboard "inspired by The Da Vinci Code" in unknown ways with barely dressed women re-enacting The Last Supper. I don't really remember a naked man sitting on the lap of a disciple in the original, but it's been a while since I've seen it.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has won the challenge against US Customs over the seizure of "questionable" comic books at the border.
It's not just conservatives who ban books. Grand Rapids, Michigan, teacher Patricia Bouwhuis has been suspended for assigning the critically acclaimed young-adult book Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher. The problem? One of the stories contains the word "nigger."
Hazel Lewis, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the story "trash" and said Bouwhuis should be fired.
"It's terrible," she said. "She should be more sensitive than to bring that into a seventh- and eighth-grade classroom. College students can handle stuff like that, but not our babies."
Crutcher responds to Lewis on his website:
The “n” word (and I use that euphemism only because it seems we have lost our capability to speak real truth) is probably the single most vile word in our nation’s historical vocabulary, a sadistic weapon of a word that has been used in this nation’s history like a hammer. You don’t hide a word like that. You expose it. You tell the truth about it. Unlike the people who are challenging the story, I have confidence in our children’s intellectual ability to understand that.
Hazel Lewis should be ashamed of herself. There is never, never, never an excuse for censoring a book, and the president of an NAACP chapter should know that. Bouwhuis should be reinstated, the book should be returned to the classroom, and Lewis should resign. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than a sad joke.
If you ask the White House what President Bush is reading these days, the press office will call back with the official list: "His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph J. Ellis, "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow and, not least, the Bible.
What the official list omits is Tom Wolfe's racy new beer- and sex-soaked novel, "I Am Charlotte Simmons." The president, a fan of Mr. Wolfe, has not only read the book but also is enthusiastically recommending it to friends.
Man, I bet anyone who defended Wolfe sure feels like a dumbass now.
Deep in the throes of title block, I’d been trying to convince myself that titles really didn’t matter much—that Annie Hall would have been just as successful had Woody Allen stuck with Anhedonia, that I’d still have read A Streetcar Named Desire in English class even if Tennessee Williams had used any of his original titles, such as Blanche’s Chair in the Moon. I’d like to think that Joseph Heller would probably have been just as successful if he had kept calling his debut Catch-18.
Adam Langer procrastinates titling his next book by giving a history of discarded titles of great works.
February 4, 2005
Emma Garman, blogging over at Maud Newton's site today, offers a rundown of upcoming book-to-film adaptations. Elijah Wood will star in the film version of Everything Is Illuminated, and will be paid upwards of $500,000 per eyelash.
Fidel Castro, I'm sure, never heard of the small town of Vermillion, South Dakota, until late last year, when the Vermillion Public Library—founded in 1902, on the eve of the Progressive era in American politics—began to gain international attention by becoming the first, and only, American library to call attention to Castro's imprisoning of 10 of Cuba's independent librarians to sentences of more than 20 years.
Kate Coleman's biography of environmental activist Judi Bari called The Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First has people demanding to know which side Coleman is on. She's been heckled and picketed at readings, a website called Colemanhoax.com, and Bari's ex-husband has called the book "the literary fraud of the year." The fact that the publisher is the same scumbag that brought us The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in All the Wrong Places doesn't help. But, Coleman insists, "I don't think the book is a smear of Judi. I'm ambivalent about her."
Some of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate notes will be made public today by the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. UT ponied up five million bucks for the papers. The most interesting part of this story, however, has to be Editor and Publisher's headline:
I think I saw that movie.
The manuscript went through endless revisions until it finally made its way to the publishers. Now the book has been printed as part of a series with the telltale name of "The Freak Parade" (Parad Urodov).
(Via The Literary Saloon.)
Sequential Tart has an interview with Jessica Abel about the final installment of her wonderful La Perdida, coming out shortly on Fantagraphics. The interview reveals Abel is working on a prose novel next, but I'll read anything she does.
Don't hate Michael Crichton because he's a terrible writer. Hate him because he's a fucking liar.
The phrase now makes my skin crawl. "Thing is, as you’ve probably read over the past few years: comics aren't just for kids anymore." Ah, but wait, the article isn't going where you think it is. With the focus on graphic novels for adults, fewer and fewer comic books are actually coming out for children.
But the new wave has had its costs, chief among them being the near vacuum that’s been left in what was once a thriving market for well-crafted kids’ comics. If you need proof, just take a stroll through your local 7-Eleven. You'd be hard pressed to find any evidence of kids’ comics or the iconic racks they used to call home. That’s because the continent’s largest convenience store chain did away with wire comic racks over the past decade, citing a lack of demand for kids’ comics. If comics of any kind are even carried you’ll have to root through copies of People and Electronic Gaming Monthly to find them.
Shaun of the Dead director and co-screenwriter Edgar Wright will adapt graphic novel Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life for the screen.
Is Bob Conder a racist, or is he just illiterate? It could go either way. The superintendent of the Norwood (Colorado) School District single-handedly banned the acclaimed novel Bless Me, Ultima from Norwood High School, turned all the copies over to a parent who intends to destroy them, and forced the teacher who assigned it to write a letter of apology to the parents of the students to whom it was assigned. The novel, of course, is considered a classic of Latino literature, and has been recommended by First Lady Laura Bush.
A group of "furious" Norwood High students are planning a sit-in to protest the book's censorship, and they've invited the book's author, Rudolfo Anaya, to come to Norwood. Once again, the students show themselves to be a great deal smarter than the parents. The Daily Sentinel quotes this letter from Norwood High student Christian Skyler Kelley:
“This was the same feeling of the communists: Keep them dumb and we will stay in control. I never knew books were dangerous. You cannot educate if you censor.”
Brendan Kennelly is more famous than Seamus Heaney. That's in Ireland, of course.
Are you guys thinking what I'm thinking? Cage match! Kennelly vs. Heaney! The Drubbin' in Dublin! (See? That's why I'm not a boxing promoter.)
From the new issue of the Paris Review: Svetlana Alexievich's oral history of Chernobyl. The (harrowing) piece is an excerpt from her upcoming book Voices from Chernobyl, which will be released on Dalkey Archive Press in the spring.
Unlike other people, Miss Rand had definite value preferences, including when it came to food. Some food she liked—and some food she did not like. (Link from Crabwalk.)
Suzy Prince pays tribute to the British Kitchen Sink novels of the fifties and sixties, which includes such books as Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey.
Authors were concentrating on the typical rather than the exceptional, relating the mundane details of everyday life and the frustrations experienced by those with huge limitations placed on them because of their backgrounds, families, social conventions and, ultimately, themselves. The stories were littered with dead-end jobs, unwanted pregnancies, stifling families, shotgun weddings and sexual frustration. The style differed greatly from author to author, but the common factor was the overwhelming and brutal honesty of the writing. There are no typical heroes and villains here. Just people in all their confusing, mixed up glory.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a lot more information about the Publish America Atlanta Nights sting.
February 3, 2005
This is why I have a man-crush on Jonathan Yardley.
"The Kinkster's independent candidacy is no less of a joke than what Democrats have put up in recent years," says Luis Saenz, (Gov. Rick) Perry's campaign manager.
This is going to be fun. It should be an interesting race anyway incumbent Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, will probably face a primary challenge from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and/or state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, both of whom are extremely popular in Texas. The Democrats, sad to say, will probably continue their tradition of nominating someone deadly boring, unelectable, or both like San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza, former Comptroller John Sharp, or the hilariously unsuccessful 2002 nominee, Tony Sanchez.
Can Friedman win? Texas' two preeminent political bloggers, Charles Kuffner and Byron LaMasters, seem dismissive and a little pissed off about Friedman's candidacy. I love these two blogs, and God knows they know more about politics than me, but I think they're underestimating Friedman.
Or maybe not. After all, this is the guy who once described El Paso in song as a city where "you walk down the street knee-deep in tacos / And the wetbacks still get twenty cents an hour." He annoyed feminists with his song "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" ("If you can’t love a male chauvinist / You’d better cross me off your shopping list") but also wrote "Rapid City, South Dakota," which he describes as "the only pro-choice country song ever written." Then there are his books, many of which have a pot-smoking Willie Nelson as a character.
So can he win? He's smarter than Ventura or Schwarzenegger. (Or Bush, or Perry, for that matter.) I'm a liberal, but if the Democrats nominate someone as lame as Sanchez, then I might just send a check Kinky's way. Why the hell not?
UPDATE: I originally referred to Tony Sanchez as "Tony Garza," who is someone else entirely. My apologies.
Sister Helen Prejean brought Louisiana's death row into the global spotlight with her brilliant book Dead Man Walking. Now Jed Horne, an editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, revisits the Angola death machine in his book Desire Street: A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans. It's the story of Curtis Kyles, who served 14 years in the state prison's death row before being exonerated and freed a few years ago. The Gambit Weekly interviews Horne about the racism inherent in the case (Kyles is black; the woman he was accused of killing was white).
"Race infuses the case in every way," Horne says. "Just like it infuses life in New Orleans today; not always malignantly, but always there."
It's hard to argue against such points when considering details revealed in the book like revelations in court of statements by John Dillman, a New Orleans Police Department detective and Kyles' arresting officer. Dillman, in coercing Darlene Cahill, his romantic interest and future witness, to testify, pleaded, "Come on, Darlene. Help me get another nigger off the street."
Look for a review of Desire Street in the March issue of Bookslut.
The Philadelphia City Paper has a profile of Legs McNeil, author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, and most recently The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry.
Though there are many revelatory details in The Other Hollywood — including a blow-by-blow of Linda Lovelace's act of love with a dog, lengthy FBI investigations, and how what was once known as GRID permanently halted the sexual revolution — it wasn't one tip that got McNeil started. "I knew some of these people from doing that film and wanted to see what had happened to them. I knew it was an interesting story."
Over a holiday weekend last year, some thirty-odd science fiction writers banged out a chapter or two apiece of "Atlanta Nights," a novel about hot times in Atlanta high society. Their objective: to write a deeply awful novel to submit to PublishAmerica, a self-described "traditional publisher" located in Frederick, Maryland.
The project began after PublishAmerica posted an attack on science fiction authors at one of its websites (http://www.authorsmarket.net/). PublishAmerica claimed "As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction.... [Science fiction authors] have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home." It described them as "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."
(Thanks to Beth for the link.)
Cintra Wilson is the author of the new Open Book in USA Today. Her novella is being serialized with one new chapter going up every Thursday. You can read chapter one now.
The Orlando Sentinel interviews Oprah Winfrey about the adaptation of Zola Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, to be shown on ABC March 6th. The article brings hope that it might be good: Suzan-Lori Parks, author of Topdog/Underdog and Getting Mother's Body, wrote the teleplay.
The Iowa Writers' Workshop is looking for a new director. The finalists: Richard Bausch, Jim Shepard, Lan Samantha Chang, and Ben Marcus.
MY "EH" IS SINCERE. Think of it this way: You happen to have a drawer full of grocery lists. Grocery lists stretching back to 1999 or so. Some big publishing company comes along and says "Your grocery lists would make a great book! We could make money off your grocery lists! You could make money off your grocery lists too, although probably not quite as much as us!" You would probably say yes because why the hell not, but you would not suddenly fancy yourself the Jane Austen of grocery lists. You would not quit your job or buy expensive pointy hipster shoes or say "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" to the bartenders at the Rainbo. You wouldn't even call yourself a "writer" because dude, grocery lists? Come on. And if a guy with a porn-star name and lots of scary media words in his vocabulary called you and talked real fast about "optioning" your collected grocery lists into a screenplay or whatever, you would not hang up thinking you had hit the jackpot, you would hang up going "uh...okay." Yes you would. This book thing has been a bit like the log ride at a theme park: I have a feeling I will end up slightly damp, but mildly exhilarated and hopefully not very nauseated.
The Stan Lee segment on last night's 60 Minutes has caused some controversy. (You can read about the segment here in case you missed it.) Many comics bloggers are all over this already, including Mark Evanier's perfect summation, "Can you imagine a newsman going out to do a story on Paul McCartney who didn't know of John Lennon?"
Indeed, in an increasingly crowded media marketplace - both online and offline - new competitors may try to differentiate themselves by providing a partisan voice, says Mr. Welch. Some upstart newspapers may even cast off the practice of impartial, or "objective," journalism in an attempt to corner an underserved political market.
"A publication without a point of view isn't worth reading," avers John Battelle, a cofounder of Wired magazine and columnist at BoingBoing. "At the end of the day, this fabled mythology of objectivism has hampered newspapering."
Oh, that's exactly what we need. The New York Times to become more like Crossfire and the Wall Street Journal to hire Bill O'Reilly as their fact checker.
The Independent profiles Naim Attallah who was the assumed subject in Jennie Erdal's book about ghostwriting Ghosting.
He is more distressed by his former assistant's disloyalty than by the blow to his reputation. "You can say anything you like about me but I value loyalty above everything else. For her to betray my trust is something I cannot fathom." About the accusations of ghosting, he says, "It was a genuine collaboration. If I am an assistant to Tony Blair, and he says, 'Here, answer Lord so-and-so and say there is no vacancy for such-and-such a job', am I ghosting for Blair?" He is particularly stung by the implication that his famous interviews were not his own work. "Yes, she researched them, for which she got half the credit and half the money. But you know how interviews work, how you depart from the set questions if things are going off at interesting tangents?"
Oh. Oh, right.
Jeff VanderMeer lists his favorite books of 2004 at Locus Magazine Online. The list includes my favorite book title of the year, One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead, although I never got around to reading it. Other books he lists include David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Leena Krohn's Tainaron, and no end of the year list is complete without a mention of The Plot Against America.
Talk of the Nation did a show about manga, anime, and Japanese culture. The panel included Peter Carey who just wrote Wrong About Japan, Calvin Reid, the comics editor of Publisher's Weekly, and Elizabeth Kawasaki, managing editor at Viz.
February 2, 2005
Hamilton College has cancelled a speech by author and professor Ward Churchill. Evidently, some people were upset by Churchill's description of September 11 victims as "little Eichmanns." Gee, how unreasonable of them.
Radar Magazine lives! Maybe! Who knows if it could ever be as good as it was in its prime, but there is a teeny tiny chance that the new editor-in-chief Maer Roshan might not make it as bad as the "redesign" made it right before it crashed and burned. But please, drop Tina Brown and walk away slowly. The original Radar would never have hired that woman.
Those Amazon motherfuckers better not be taking away my free shipping with a $25 purchase for this Amazon Prime bullshit.
Fine. I'll say it. I still love Christopher Hitchens.
There's the "he's a ranting drunkard" low kick, the "he's a neo-neocon former-socialist sellout" punch, and the "he's just being combative to make money on television" swing. He's been accused by Noam Chomsky of "expressing racist contempt for the African victims of a terrorist crime," namely the 1998 bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan (which Hitchens condemned forcefully), and Tariq Ali wrote, "If Hitchens carries on in this vein, he'll soon find himself addressing the same gatherings as his sparring partner, Henry Kissinger."
That's John Giuffo in the Village Voice, profiling Hitchens and considering his most recent book, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays. Hitchens pissed off most progressives in the States and the U.K. with his recent support for Bush and his attacks on the far left. And as a Texas liberal who's voted against Bush three times, and an opponent of the Iraq war, I profoundly disagree with much of what he says.
But why the hatred for Hitchens? Yeah, he's wrong about a lot of things. But he's a great writer original, consistent and intellectually honest. I stopped reading The Nation after Hitchens, disgusted by the readers' responses to September 11, quit (he explains his departure, eloquently, here and here). Hate him if you want, but all of us on the left should pay attention. Drunk jokes aren't going to change the fact that unless we have answers for the questions Hitchens raises, we're going to keep losing elections, and everything we care about is going to be rendered irrelevant.
I also like that he's not ashamed about smoking cigarettes. Take that, Everett fucking Koop.
"I've always wanted to bring a jar of pure grain alcohol into a library," Warren St. John said after he presented his audience with a jar full of Bama Bombs.
Bama Bombs, as described in "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania," are maraschino cherries soaked for months in pure grain alcohol.
St. John then scandalized the audience by lighting a blunt, snorting a line of coke off a hooker's ass, and then showing the audience what he means by "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer."
A Christian bookstore in Oak Park, Illinois, is selling Harry Potter books, thus scandalizing some of the more hardcore Christians. The believers are particularly upset about the scene in the latest book where Ron performs an abortion and then fellates Satan.
THE POPE'S DEAD?! Oh wait, no, it's just an unfortunate choice for a pre-autopsy pope.
Proof that books will fuck you up (and I'm sure Bush will use this study as an excuse to hurry up the banning of those pesky books with sodomy and the like): 15% of Nagasaki students believe the dead can be resurrected because they read about it in books (and saw it in movies).
Time Magazine profiled "four daring young artists" who are "shaking up the world of cartooning": Paul Hornschemeier, who is here in Chicago and whom I have a bit of a crush on, author of Mother, Come Home and The Collected Sequential among others; Marjane Satrapi, author of the two Persepolis books; Rieko Saibara, a writer I have never heard of; and Joann Sfar, author of The Rabbi's Cat and other books. Take note, however, that this might be the first article of this kind that did not mention Jeffrey Brown. Obviously, Time Magazine hates Jeffrey Brown.
One of my favorite passages from Hello to All That is when John Falk reads parts of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to his therapist to explain how he feels. It's a perfect moment for anyone who ever read themselves in a book. In this interview with the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Falk reveals some news about a possible film adaptation. Owen Wilson has expressed interest. He might, however, back down when he realizes there aren't as many opportunities to run in slow motion than in his last Sarajevo movie.
At the Times, Edward Rothstein considers "the last romantic," Ayn Rand, on her one hundredth birthday.
She divided her world - and her characters - in similarly stark fashion into what she wanted and what she didn't want. Here is what she didn't want: Ellsworth M. Toohey, "second-handers," Wesley Mouch, looters, relativists, collectivists, altruists. Here is what she did want: Howard Roark, John Galt, individualism, selfishness, capitalism, creation.
She'd be so proud of us today, wouldn't she?
February 1, 2005
The textbook stickers may be gone, but religious zealots have succeeded in creating a chilling effect on the teaching of evolution. Cornelia Dean goes to the South and looks at the theory that dare not speak its name.
"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.
If I had bothered to make a best-of-the-year list, which I didn't, I would have mentioned Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill, which I reviewed for Bookslut a few months ago. I just found out there's a forbidden chapter, and it's a good one. (Go here and scroll down to download it.) Good job, Ned.
At a major artisan market here, Quixote trinkets keep pace with Mexican comic idol Cantinflas and the masked rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos.
"Tourists, Mexicans — they all buy him," shop owner Bolivar Farfan said of Quixote. "I would imagine it is because of what they read; his teaching is a bit crazy, but he achieves his objective."
Li Robbins is proud to be a book club virgin, dammit.
Book club advocates still reading at this point are likely frothing about the obvious differences between reading and discussing, jawing on and on about how “talking books” is a pleasure unto itself. Sure it is. Just as discussing your moron boss, or those bastards in the NHL, or the fine points of Ukrainian politics no one ever talked about until last November are also pleasures. Pleasures in passing. Pleasures perhaps best shared with an intimate, as opposed to a cult – whoops, a “club.” For example: Friend #1: “I just read that fantastic The something Incident of the Dog in the Whosit. But I don’t think you’ll like it, it has all these diagrams where you’ll think there should be words.” Friend #2: “I laughed myself stupid over the latest Shopaholic. Too bad you don’t appreciate crap the way I do.”
When John Middleton recently led a tour through the new John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library, a high school student enthusiastically compared the entrance, with a wavy gold plastic awning that floats over large glass doors, to the hip Ikea store.
Middleton smiled. That's what he was hoping to hear.
The Houston branch library hopes to further the comparison by serving Swedish meatballs and selling just an insane amount of affordable duvet covers.
Is the pharmaceutical industry a dangerous and crooked business that federal and state authorities need to bring to heel? Should those who develop, market or prescribe drugs hang their heads in shame when faced with the stark reality of what they do to earn a living? Is Big Pharma in fact the moral equivalent of the tobacco industry?
At American Scientist, Arthur L. Caplan considers three recent books about the pharmaceutical industry, and finds no easy answers. (Also, check out John Le Carre's now-famous essay on the topic, "In Place of Nations.")
The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at the finalists for the NBCC Awards in the biography/memoir category. The "rockers who write" angle is, for once, thankfully ignored.
Well, now poetry's getting the shaft again. Because The Quills Awards, like every other awards show, is going to be about what's selling. And poetry ain't it. Which we knew.
But dammit, if there's finally going to be a party -- even a crass, empty, all-about-the-benjamins kind of party -- couldn't they at least have invited the poets too?
I know not everybody liked Alexander Payne's movie Sideways, but I thought it was amazing. (How Paul Giamatti was not nominated for an Oscar remains a bizarre mystery to me.) The film's success has had a positive effect not only on pinot noir, but also on Rex Pickett's book of the same name, upon which the movie was based. Pickett talks to The Guardian about his autobiographical novel, and clears up a misconception along the way:
One final point: Rex Pickett did not, just for the record, stagger into a winery and drink down the wine from the dump bucket, as Miles does. "No," Pickett says. "I did not do that in a winery. I did it at a high-end tasting." He laughs. "Everyone else was horrified. But I thought, hey, there's a thousand dollars' worth of wine in there, and I need another drink."