March 31, 2005
A scheme to promote the healing powers of poetry has found its way into thousands of GPs' surgeries. But can rhyming couplets really help the sick?
Who needs Vicodin when you have Galway Kinnell?
(Me. I do.)
C is for cheers and congratulations
A an able Duchess fine
M means marriage for a second time
I instils invitations, maybe flowing wine
L denotes the love I hope she feels for him
L is for logistics, she needs to say her grace
A arrange the future in this manic human race
This pretty much defies comment, don't you think?
Creative Loafing has uncovered the secret index to Jane Fonda's forthcoming memoir.
China Syndrome, The (1979)
Five weeks spent learning Chinese for, p. 380
Two-hour tantrum after finding out film has nothing to do with China, p. 382
Thanking Three Mile Island managers for cross-promotional nuclear accident, p. 386
Camille Paglia talks to the Philadelphia City Paper about poetry.
Look at this whole period now, where you have the entire art world, which is opposed to the Iraq war. Where is the strong poem that comes from that? I saw a lot of stupid poems. There's one [adjusts voice] "Dick Cheney's at the White House today! Dick Cheney's --" Oh my God! This is so stupid! Sneering, snide, preaching-to-the-choir stuff. If you have something to say, and you are opposed to the war, where are you? We don't want "Bush is bad." That's not a poem. We can get that in an op-ed.
She's making the same point that Neal Pollack has made before. And though I opposed the war, I agree with both of them. The poets-against-the-war movement might have been well-intentioned, but it was about as effective as the "Just Say No" and "Increase the Peace" campaigns of decades past. Just like no one really wants to hear LL Cool J preach to them about drugs and violence, I'm not convinced that Adrienne Rich is going to change that many minds about President Bush.
Look for an interview with Paglia in Bookslut's April issue, coming next week.
Kiko Martinez has an excellent story about the new anthology Desahogate: Growing Up Xicana/o, an anthology published by the Xicana Xicano Education Project. It doesn't look to be available for purchase on the Internet, but if you live in San Antonio, you can pick it up at Hogwild Records or Black Mountain Books. The article gives a well-deserved shout-out to Arte Público Press, the University of Houston imprint that publishes a number of excellent books, including the Texas literature classic George Washington Gómez, which I love dearly.
While reading selections from his novel, 21, author Jeremy Iversen showed yesterday that fraternity parties can inspire art.
That's not news. According to his biographer, W. Somerset Maugham wrote Of Human Bondage while "smashed on Zima" and after "totally hooking up with this one chick from Texas Tech."
But anyway, the Penn student paper talks to Iversen about his debut novel 21 and, for some reason, commercialism. "People buy products to feel good about themselves," Iversen says. Hey, that's a noble sentiment! Maybe I was wrong to dismiss the guy as just another alcohol-loving frat boy!
In order to make the book more appealing to college-age readers, Iversen plans to release shot glasses and a clothing line based on the book.
The Philip K Dick Award winner has been announced: Life by Gwyneth Jones. "The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States."
Public events similarly intrude on the two wartime novels: In Mrs. Dalloway a mysterious motor car bearing either the queen or the prime minister is spotted in the streets, and in Saturday the prime minister is glimpsed on the displayed television sets in a shop; throngs of admirers gather outside of Buckingham Palace in Mrs. Dalloway, and protesters wave placards in Saturday; a plane on fire evokes terrorist fears in Saturday, and a plane advertising toffee breeds fear and confusion in Mrs. Dalloway. The war against Germany hovers anxiously over Mrs. Dalloway, as the war in Iraq hovers over Saturday; in both books one can feel the city's tension in the traffic.
The US military is planning to win the hearts of young people in the Middle East by publishing a new comic.
An advertisement on the US government's Federal Business Opportunities website is inviting applications for someone to develop an "original comic book series".
"In order to achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached," the ad says. (Thanks to Lindsey for the link.)
Although most reviews have been glowing, one naysayer, Marta Salij of the Detroit Free Press, was so eager to castigate Prose that she described Maslow as "a stand-in for Elie Wiesenthal," mixing up survivors Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal.
Prose laughs when reminded of the piece. "It's absolutely not Elie Wiesel," she insists.
It's time for the New York Press's 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers list again. This year the list includes publisher Judith Regan, the "writers" of Brad and Jen: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Golden Couple, New York Times food critic Frank Bruni, and Graydon Carter.
The Boston Phoenix takes a look at the redesign of Poetry Magazine and the influence of editor Christian Wiman. The most radical change? The addition of prose.
Some sad news out of Canada The Porcupine's Quill, the beloved Ontario small press, is reducing its staff and cutting its publishing list. Founder Tim Inkster doubts the press will stay in business past 2007, and blames the publisher's troubles on the "scorched-earth policy" of chain bookstore Chapters and its corporate parent, Indigo Books. The Globe and Mail's Rebecca Caldwell gently suggests the publisher's decline might also be due to "a change in the taste of the reading public such as a decrease in demand for literary fiction, Porcupine's specialty, and an increase in easy-on-the-mind thrillers such as behemoth bestseller The Da Vinci Code."
Bloomsbury, one of my favorite publishers, is having a good year.
Elaine Lafferty is resigning as editor of Ms. Magazine. As she has only been there two years, and those two years have been some of the greatest in Ms's history, you know there's a story behind the resignation. The Observer tries to find it. If you believe that feminists are humorless, stodgy old ladies, I wouldn't read this article. It'll only cement your opinion.
However, according to Ms. Lafferty, Ms. Spillar objected to the language describing the “baby” and its body parts. From Ms. Lafferty’s perspective, the piece transcended politics, but concerns about the political use of language in the abortion-rights controversy are a major preoccupation for feminists at the moment; for some feminists, using the word “baby” (instead of “fetus”) in a story about abortion violates a cardinal rule...
Ms. Lafferty felt that the legal excuse was a front for concerns about the image being too provocative. She said she’d consulted other lawyers who felt there was no problem with trademark infringement, but that Ms. Smeal and Katherine Spillar, the executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, were firm...
March 30, 2005
The problem, critics say, is the company's list of overwhelmingly liberal contributors, including Al Franken, Melissa Etheridge, Quincy Jones, (and) Chuck D. Of the 31 contributors listed on Starbucks' Web site, only one, National Review editor Jonah Goldberg, offers a conservative viewpoint.
Largeheartedboy is adding a new series on his blog called Book Notes. Authors will create mix CDs based on their new work. Today's Book Notes is provided by Tom Bissell, author of God Lives in St. Petersburg.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the conservative National Review magazine apparently has removed advertisements for two "virulently anti-Muslim books" it is selling in its online store.
The New York Sun profiles poet John Ashbery.
6:15 A.M. After whipping up an omlette aux fines herbes and squeezing the oranges for his juice, I wake up my husband with the customary morning blowjob. Torrid. From what I can make out through the door, the kids have realized that they're going to have to cook their own breakfast again. I hope they also realize that if they make a mess, they're going to have to clean it up. This mommy business is rough, demanding stuff. The husband finishes his breakfast and takes me from behind.
Robert Gray explains the upcoming project "Reading the World," a collaboration between Dalkey Archive Press, FSG, Archipelago, New Directions, and Knopf to promote literature in translation. It's all being headed up by Dalkey editor superhero Chad Post.
As Post recalls it: Last year at BEA, I produced a small booklet listing all of our upcoming translations, from Dutch, from Estonian, from Bulgarian, etc. Paul Yamazaki [City Lights bookstore] picked this up at our stand and said that it was the "most beautiful thing" he had found at BEA. So in talking with him, I mentioned that it would be great if we could figure out a way for publishers and booksellers who love these type of books to work together to help raise the awareness of the translations being published.
Canadian radio documentarian Paul Kennedy wants Leonard Cohen to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. If you're not a fan, start your eye-rolling now: I agree. He's the best writer in Canadian history, and one of the best in North America. Read his magical novel, Beautiful Losers. Read Stranger Music, a collection of his poems and lyrics, which I carried around with me pretty much constantly from 1995 to 1997. I guarantee you'll fall in love with his writing. (Note: This is not a guarantee.) Kennedy explains:
"There are a lot of people in Montreal who are very passionate about Leonard Cohen ... He's different from a celebrity; he's almost God."
To which I can only say: Almost?
I finished Paradise some time last week, making it book #26. It's just great. I loved it. I've gushed enough on this blog already. I'll probably gush more in the future. I picked up Nervous System: Or, Losing my Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen. We've been complaining a lot about memoirs on the blog lately, but if there's one thing I like, it's a well written illness memoir. Especially if it's a mental illness memoir. Nervous System reminded me of one of my favorite memoirs of all time, Molly Haskell's Love and Other Infectious Diseases (which currently has some tragic cover art; my edition doesn't look like that, poor thing).
Jan Lars Jensen wrote a book called Shiva 3000. At some point in the publication process he became convinced that his book would lead to protests, a declaration of war, and an eventual nuclear holocaust. He began to believe that the FBI had found out about his book and would not let him live. He began to believe that the only way to protect his wife would be to kill himself. A suicide attempt lead to the psych ward, where he saw FBI agents where there were only air conditioner repairmen.
My favorite part of the book came near the end when Jensen began writing about the effect literature has had on his mental illness. How the books he reads forms his delusions, and how the religious freak he shared a room with at one point had the Bible influencing his delusions. And the excitement a first time author should be going through were of course marred by the knowledge that in some ways his own book had driven him crazy.
Mary Matalin's conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster will publish a memoir by Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter.
Australian officials cracked The Da Vinci Code when they discovered illegal drugs hidden inside a copy of the best-selling novel sent to Australia from Britain, Justice Minister Chris Ellison said on Tuesday.
The drugs in question were anabolic steroids. There's a Jose Canseco joke somewhere here, but you'll have to think of it yourself.
Weetzie Bat is not welcome in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. The mother of a Mascenic High School sophomore is challenging Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels, a collection of the popular young-adult Weetzie Bat books. Oddly enough, teacher Penny Culliton has been down this road before.
This is the second time that Culliton has faced complaints about her choice of literature. In 1995, she was fired from her position at Mascenic for teaching three novels with homosexual themes: "Maurice" by E.M. Forster, "The Education of Harriet Hatfield" by May Sarton, and "The Drowning of Stephen Jones" by Bette Greene. Culliton later won her job back in binding arbitration.
March 29, 2005
Do you have any books by Moby Dick? (Thanks to Mike for the link.)
Islam for Dummies isn't afraid to address the rift between the Western and Muslim world. (The paragraph about the Israel-Palestinian conflict is flagged, ironically, with a "HEADS UP" icon showing a man getting bonked in the head with a flying object.)
This interview with Dr. Richard Deyo on Alternet has convinced me to put his new book Hope or Hype: The Obsession with Medical Advances and the High Cost of False Promises on my to-be-read pile. (But like my obsession with books about farming, I worry that I am the only one who's interested in books about the modern medical establishment.) Deyo touches on some of the issues being idiotically ignored on the news lately.
The patients feel like there is no limit because insurance picks up the tab up to a million dollars, sometimes two. Now health insurance is becoming unaffordable to many people and Medicare is in trouble financially. I argue we should be trying to get the most health care for the most people as opposed to getting every last minute of life for an individual who may have a terminal illness. But words like "rationing" are taboo. We can't talk about it. It is almost as bad as being liberal in today's political debate. The truth is, if we reflect, we acknowledge that we'll have spent hundreds of thousands for one patient to prolong a week of life in an intensive care unit as opposed to spending that on other things like prenatal care and preventive services, on things that might save more lives.
I recently switched from Linux to Windows at work, and the first thing I did was disable the horrible fucking grammar check function on Microsoft Word. (Though it took me an hour to figure out how, which, admittedly, says a lot more about me than it does about Microsoft.) But God, I hate it, hate it, hate being corrected on my usage by the same computer program that brought the world that talking paper clip.
University of Washington Professor Sandeep Krishnamurthy: Also not a fan, but maybe for different reasons. Krishnamurthy points out that the grammar check doesn't actually catch all usage mistakes, and lets stand sentences like "Marketing are bad for brand big and small. You Know What I am Saying? It is no wondering that advertisings are bad for company in America, Chicago and Germany."
My main problem with the grammar check is that it insists on "correcting" sentences that aren't actually incorrect. Split infinitives, terminal prepositions, "sentence fragments" all bullshit rules that only grammar prescriptivists give a shit about. (Yeah, that's right, I ended that sentence with "about." Fucking sue me.)
Regardless, both Krishnamurthy and I both agree that the Word grammar check should die and burn in hell. (Krishnamurthy never actually said that, but you can kind of read between the lines.) Seattle reporter Todd Bishop continues the discussion on the P-I's Microsoft blog.
Starbucks is featuring cups with quotes from a host of famous and sorta-famous people, including writers such as Roger Ebert, Philip Levine, Walter Mosley, Al Franken and Mitch Albom. Apparently this is meant to foster discussion and debate in coffee houses. The last time I went to a coffee house, I listened to two kids talk about how they considered themselves "post-post-punk," but maybe if they were staring at a quote from the guy who wrote The Five People Morrie Met in Heaven Last Tuesday, the quality of discourse would improve. Hey, it's worth a try! (Just kidding. It's totally not.)
Via Political Wire.
Having been to India, I am a deeply spiritual person and I can usually tell exactly what someone is thinking about me before they know themselves. I couldn't have reached this state of serenity without so many people, like my good friends Mike and Dragana, reminding me of how important I am to them.
Nine Ki has also been profoundly influential on my life. Every person has three numbers based on their birth date and this dictates how well you can communicate with others. My numbers are 317 which means I am open and kind. Madonna is a 683. Enough said.
It's time to nominate your favorite female comics creators, writers, and artists for this year's Lulu awards.
In a review of Hugh Miles' Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, The Globe and Mail asks "Which do you trust less: Al-Jazeera or Fox News?" (Note the different subititle for the US version: "How Arab TV News Challenges America.")
USA Today discusses Iranian women writers, mentioning Afschineh Latifi's Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran, Azadeh Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, Roya Hakakian's Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Persepolis 2, and Firoozeh Dumas' Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America.
D. Parvaz discusses needless memoirs and just totally loses it.
Scots are perplexed, and maybe just a bit flattered (I'm guessing here), about the popularity of Scottish imagery and characters in American romance novels.
The authors, some of whom can barely contain their passion for a land they see as impossibly romantic, say their books are successful because Scottish men in kilts are so breathtakingly beguiling.
"Who's interested if the leader of Niger goes on Newsnight? It's 'get Geldof'. I'm Mr. Bloody Africa. I'd dearly love not to have to go there the day after tomorrow. More often than not, it bores me profoundly - the pace of change is far too slow, and Africans excuse their own complicity in exactly the same way as our politicians." Sir Bob Geldof, January 2005
"Africa has the lot - vast seas of sand, tropical jungles, equatorial rainforest. And within this immense continent more peoples, more languages, more cultures, more animals than anywhere else on our world. It is quite simply the most extraordinary, beautiful and luminous place on our planet." Sir Bob Geldof, March 2005
The rock star and occasional Nobel Peace Prize nominee is sounding a lot more diplomatic after he received a deal from Random House to write a book about traveling in Africa.
March 28, 2005
The War on Drugs claims another casualty. A young Maryland poet and her boyfriend have been arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and hallucinogens with intent to sell. Feel safer now that this criminal is off the streets? Thank the Republicans and Democrats who insist on prosecuting kids for a victimless crime. God bless America.
(James) Gudaitis' son, however, was disturbed by the same work. Daniel was uncomfortable with references to the occult, including the main character's ability to see visions, play the piano without using her hand and levitate, because of the family's evangelical Christian faith, Gudaitis said. Gudaitis was equally disturbed by the elements of sexual exploitation in the book.
Berkowitz offered Daniel the alternative, Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," after Gudaitis objected to Allende's book, but Gudaitis said reading a different book can make students feel inferior to their classmates.
You know what can make a student feel inferior? Having a psycho dad who tries to ban the books you're supposed to be reading for school. And yeah, The House of the Spirits has some pretty explicit discussions about sex. But the kid in question was 17 when he was assigned it. That's one year older than the legal age of consent for sex in Alaska. So: he's old enough to have sex, old enough to drive a car, old enough to be tried as an adult and old enough to enlist in the National Guard, but not old enough to read Allende?
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for being sane.
I only wish I had thought of the comment written over at I Love Books: Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon have somehow turned into the Angelina Jolie/Billy Bob Thornton couple of the literary world.
I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any. This could fill me with smug well-being. I could sit in the room and gloat over my wonderful marriage. I could think about how our sex life - always vital, even torrid - is more exciting and imaginative now than it was when we first met. I could check my watch to see if I have time to stop at Good Vibrations to see if they have any exciting new toys. I could even gaze pityingly at the other mothers in the group, wishing that they too could experience a love as deep as my own.
Oh my god. Please.
The great Jessa Crispin, whose star I conveniently hitched my wagon to, is interviewed at MediaBistro. And you've got to love that picture. If a photographer made me pose in front of my bookshelves, you'd just see like 25 copies of
The Charlotte Observer profiles North Carolina censor Martin Davis, who tried to get the city's library to ban sexually explicit books. He's turning his attention to the Gay Pride Festival and The Vagina Monologues now. Davis might be interested in the Fox News Channel blocker, which a Tulsa man is marketing to sensitive liberals. It might sell well, despite the fact that, as my dad points out, "you could just not turn on the Fox channel."
Each year, hundreds of students use the essay portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to write about being abused, neglected or raped, education officials say.
Others write about being depressed, or wanting to die or hurt themselves or others.
I am filled with hope that I may dry your tears of lemonade. As my xiphoid process falls from my mitten, it reminds me of your hailstone.
I remember the days when Michael Schaub was just a wee lad with aspirations to write for the Austin Chronicle. ::sniff:: Now he's all grown up with a second review in the Washington Post, this time for Seth Greenland's The Bones. I'm so proud.
Daniel Gross thinks that the new conservative imprints are too late.
The choice of conservative to run the line is also pretty uninspired. For Matalin, the deal is less about the books than it is about the permanent campaign. The canned quotes in the S&S press release sound like they were written by Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. "The unstoppable quest for human and economic liberty is remaking the world, literally before our eyes," she said. Of course, she won't be actually poring over the galleys looking for dangling participles. Rather, her role will be more like that of a political strategist—a profession she'll continue to practice—providing "conceptual editing."
Matalin's partisan hackishness almost certainly guarantees she will publish only the most predictable conservative writings. (Rep. Chris Shays this week noted charged that "this Republican party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy." Would Matalin sign up Shays to write a book on the topic? Of course not. She's far more likely to publish a memoir by flack Scott McClellan—It Ain't Lying If You Believe It?—than by a Republican who might tell conservatives something they might not want to hear.)
Liesl Schillinger, who's one of the country's most incisive book critics, reviews A Changed Man for the NYTBR, and finds it "powerful, funny and exquisitely nuanced." Francine Prose discusses her novel in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "It's about so many other things: how people make moral decisions and try to lead decent, moral lives and become their idea of what a good human being is." Book of the year, I'm telling you. (Though now I have to read AL Kennedy's Paradise, which Jessa, who has never led me astray, swears is brilliant.) And if the NYTBR would give Liesl Schillinger a weekly column, I would mortgage my house to buy a daily subscription to the Times. Which is high praise, seeing as how I rent.
"A Bush election is very good for anarchist consumerism," said organizer Joey Cain, 50.
What if the diaries portrayed Barbie as a pioneering feminist -- and never mind that she herself would never use that term?
What if they revealed that, when she wasn't trying on miniskirts, she was schlepping down to Washington for the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
What if they took on anorexia, for heaven's sake?
I would say: Please! Shoot me now! In the head!
Habitus: A Diaspora Journal brought two Nobel Prize winners, Imre Kertesz and Gunter Grass, together with exiled writer György Dalos for a conversation on the fall of Hungary to communism, the state of denial Germany went into following WWII, how they became writers, etc. It's a fascinating conversation, and it says great things about the future of newly launched Habitus.
"It's awful when a book such as Katie Price's Being Jordan or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is criticised in the press," cried Elaine McQuade of Penguin. "We've got to be a lot less snooty about books." In other words, suspend all critical faculties and be grateful for anything that comes wrapped in a cover and printed in ink. But have you been in any bookshops lately? They're stuffed with lifestyle bibles, ghosted celebrity memoirs, and Charles and Camilla joke books. The volume of low-brow, short attention-span, or picture-led books is staggering.
I'm not sure what the US equivalent of Charles and Camilla joke books is. But remember the 25,000 Lewinsky joke books that came out about six years ago? Yeah, I'm glad that's over.
March 25, 2005
Ray Bradbury, John Updike and William Saroyan are among the authors whose selected works some parents and clergy want banned from a sixth-grade reading list in Washington County public schools.
Don't these people have jobs? Have they considered taking up a hobby? I hear stamp collecting is fun.
The Boston Phoenix interviews Jonathan Safran Foer.
The Texas State Board of Education is in charge of setting standards for textbooks in the state's public schools. No surprise there. Also unsurprising: the board is dominated by the Christian right wing of the Republican party. As a lifelong Texan, I'm prepared to lie in the bed that my insane conservative neighbors have made. That's the price you pay for living somewhere where chicken fried steak and Shiner Bock are readily available on every corner.
But it ain't just Texans that have to live with it. It's cheaper for textbook companies to make all textbooks conform to Texas' standards. Which means if your kid goes to school in, say, Vermont or Iowa or another state with a progressive citizenry, they'll still be reading books that have been carefully vetted by the Texas SBOE, and guaranteed not to offend sensitive fundamentalist sensibilities.
So hopefully you have no problem with your children being lectured about abstinence, but kept in the dark about birth control and disease prevention. Hopefully you're OK with your kids being taught that, despite all common logic and scientific evidence, evolution is just a flimsy theory. Hopefully you don't want your children to know about global warming a handful of Texans don't believe in it, so don't expect your kids to ever hear the phrase in school.
In his brilliant novel Kings of Infinite Space, James Hynes has some fun with the idea. The protagonist is fired from a textbook company after including hidden messages like "EAT ME SATAN" in grammar books. It's an unbelievably funny idea, even if the actual situation is pretty tragic. This is why the 2006 state election in Texas affects everyone in the country. If the religious right keeps winning here, everyone in America loses.
Coolest mugshot ever. When I'm in my forties, I want to look like Jeffrey Page. He's got kind of a Sam Elliott thing going on. The New Jersey columnist makes some good points about a group of Fair Lawn, N.J., parents who want to ban Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline from their child's school.
Jessa, I'm going ahead and buying a plane ticket to Scotland. Is it cool if I expense it? Or should I just use the Bookslut credit card? Please advise.
Enough of the Brontë industry's veneration of coffins, bonnets and tuberculosis. It is time to exhume the real Charlotte - filthy bitch, grandmother of chick-lit, and friend.
Authorities in China have banned a novel about adultery set during the Cultural Revolution. I guess this is why John Updike never broke into the Chinese market.
John Banville draws some interesting comparisons between HP Lovecraft and Michel Houellebecq in this essay at BookForum.
Philip K. Dick will be posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on May 6. But what the hell took them so long? Several SF authors are already members, including Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Ursula K. Le Guin and Samuel R. Delany. Good authors all, but did any of them have Dick's insanely high literary credibility?
The new issue of Indy Magazine is exclusively about the work of Art Spiegelman. They not only have the usual scholarship about Maus but also an essay on his out-of-print book Breakdowns, an interview with Francoise Mouly about her collaboration with Spiegelman on RAW, an oral history of RAW, the influence MAD Magazine had on Spiegelman, and more. You've got your reading cut out for you, Spiegelman fans.
I mention in one of the stories that I think absolute belief to be the easiest thing. And I can't listen to someone who has never doubted or gone their own way tell me how I am supposed to live my life. I remember going into the laundry room on Friday night at a young age and going OK, I want to see what happens if I put this light on. And you do it and hold your breath and wait to die. And you don't. You shut it off before your parents find out. At some point, you do the math: If God didn't kill me, my parents will. How are you supposed to grow up wanting to be around that?
In case you haven't seen it before, Scans Daily has images of the comic book Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame illustrated to the lyrics of Pulp's "Common People."
I wanted to do something other than read Paradise yesterday because I'm almost finished and when it's over I'll be sad, so I read Wilfred Santiago's In My Darkest Hour instead. It had its moments. You can read an interview with Santiago here.
March 24, 2005
The Red Sox won the World Series last year because their home jersey was inadvertently featured on the cover of the Spring 2004 issue of The Kenyon Review.
Best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin is taking to the stage for a series of performances which will include storytelling and live music.
Jonathan Safran Foer is slated to follow in Rankin's footsteps with a pop opera tentatively titled Extremely Funky and Incredibly Rockin'. Deborah Solomon co-wrote the libretto.
I'm still getting used to referring to Ethan Hawke as an "Academy Award-nominated screenwriter," but hey, there it is. Now he's a fellow book reviewer (though not really). Gawker has the scoop. (Via Academy Award-nominated sound editor Bookninja.)
Australian conservatives are demanding the removal of two children's books that feature characters with gay parents. Normally, I'd get off on a long, self-righteous rant here because I know everyone loves that but it's a lot harder to get angry at right-wingers when they have cool accents.
The foreword for Garry Trudeau's upcoming Doonesbury book will be written by Sen. John McCain.
In his new column, Adam Langer discusses some differences between American and European publishing.
What do the following books say about a person's sexual characteristics:
- A man currently reading The Da Vinci Code?
This guy is going to be awful in bed. This is just one step up from a sci-fi reader, someone who thinks sex can't measure up to masturbation.
From the titles of Roberts's books, you can tell what kind of nonsense she'll write: "Today, female creativity is still constrained by the need to cook the children's tea, exploration limited to the wilder shores of Tesco, and women novelists undoubtedly do produce work that's dull, domestic and depressed (especially since publishers and readers lap up the genre)." She seems to be advocating for more chick lit, but this time on the naughty side. Jesus. Jane Roberts points out the number of women authors that don't write exclusively about domesticity.
AL Kennedy, however, reinforces why I love her so.
Sadly, Women's Writing is the only one of the above repeatedly used as a stick to beat women who write. Either Women's Writing is fluffy and inconsequential, full of romps and buttocks - or Women's Writing is coarse and aggressive and the kind of muck you'd expect from an off-duty stripper in a strop - or Women's Writing is obsessed with plumbing and bleeding and bonding to whale music. Effectively, Women's Writing is whatever has most annoyed any given journalist, commentator, academic, or author in the past few books by women they've read. Sweeping generalisations must be made, insults must be slung, personal abuse is welcome and two or three days of columns and op-eds can be sustained with the merry to-and-fro.
What no one mentions, however, is that many women authors love the Women's Writing label. They either spend their time trying to defend chick lit as a genre, or they're producing right wing propaganda in tales of women who can't do it all afterall. God knows I temporarily declared I would be reading no more contemporary literature by women for a while after coming across Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, wherein Rosenthal defined "What a Woman in Today's World" is. And of course it was restrictive and offensive and completely ridiculous. But because publishers and even some of the writers themselves insist on this box called "Women's Writing," you can see how the reader would get confused. Maybe that's why AL Kennedy uses her initials.
Our criteria for listing a children's book are:
The book must contain no racially destructive propaganda, either in text or illustrations.
The book should serve a racially constructive purpose by providing White role models, instilling White values, or building a sense of White identity through the teaching of White history and legend. Sometimes, as in the case of fiction intended more for enjoyment than for edification (an example is Wind in the Willows ), the constructive purpose may be subliminal, but it is still there. Even books for very young readers may be constructive, if only by teaching love for animals, reverence for Nature, or proper standards of behavior for White children.
March 23, 2005
Emma Garman noticed a few similarities between Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Nicole Krauss's The History of Love. But they are, after all, married, so a plagiarism lawsuit is unlikely.
Is it a cute postmodern joke? God knows Foer is fond of those. Or perhaps it's a romantic statement: as we are joined in matrimony so is our work? (Naturally, the dedications are to each other.) Reading the novels back-to-back triggers the strange sensation of exiting an imaginary world only to immediately re-envision it through a slightly different lens. And it's an appealing world, notwithstanding the war—or terrorism—derived gravitas with which the authors imbue their tales: a cozy milieu of Manhattan Jewish intellectuals, of unostentatious comfort, of kind and cooperative strangers, of family members who are always nice to one another and whose dysfunctions are poetic, never crass or petty.
If the two books are so similar, the question is which is worth reading? The answer, surprisingly, is The History of Love, a book unlikely to get as much attention as her husband's.
He meant it as a piece of religious satire, a playful look at the life of Jesus. But Gerhard Haderer's depiction of Christ as a binge-drinking friend of Jimi Hendrix and naked surfer high on cannabis has caused a furore that could potentially land the cartoonist in jail.
Mike and I might have to eventually battle over the best book so far in 2005. He keeps harping on about A Changed Man, but I see your reformed-Neo-Nazi and raise with drunken sex with a dentist from Paradise by AL Kennedy. It is so good. Kennedy is keeping score of her reviews, the good, the bad, and the odd. The US attention has just started, so you can keep checking back at Metacritic, where Paradise is beating A Changed Man by three whole points.
Poor Andrew Motion. The UK's poet laureate has to write a poem celebrating the upcoming marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. (We can only pray it's not a rap.) But it's not all bad news for the guy:
Since he took up the 300-year-old post in 1999 for an annual salary of £500 and 500 bottles of sherry, Motion has dutifully written about the royal family but also penned poems on everything from train crashes to trade unions.
Whoa, whoa, whoa 500 bottles of sherry? What? Britain, explain yourself.
More about The New New Journalism: The Boston Globe has a short interview with the editor Robert S. Boynton. Columbia Journalism Review also has a review of the book. Julia Klein raises a few questions, like, where are the women at? And, can we have an anthology, please?
The ever popular Pictures of Writers thread.
The IACP finalists for 2005 Cookbook Awards have been announced. The food writing award, or "The Cuisinart Award" as it's called, has the following nominees:
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher by Joan Reardon
Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque by Sirio Maccioni and Peter J. Elliot
Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro
Other worthy books nominated include Pure Chocolate, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Companion, Bouchon, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, and Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork: A Guide to Buying, Storing,
and Cooking the World's Favorite Meat.
The complete list of nominees for the journalism award has also been announced.
Things I would rather do than watch any movie starring Christina Ricci:
1. Watch any movie directed by Ben Affleck.
2. Perform "It's Raining Men" in a karaoke bar in Alabama.
3. Read Chloe Does Yale five times, consecutively, while periodically looking up at whoever happens to be sitting next to me and exclaiming, "This Chloe girl sure does enjoy oral sex!" While in Alabama.
4. Watch a film adaptation of Chloe Does Yale directed by Ben Affleck and scored by the Weather Girls while performing oral sex on Alabama state Rep. Gerald Allen.
But I liked her in The Addams Family.
Slate has a hilarious review of Prozac Nation, the movie based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's book, which stars Ricci. And which qualifies as a match made in the depths of hell. It's been awaiting release for about five years, evidently, which probably tells you about all you need to know about the film's apparent quality. And if that doesn't, well:
But perhaps Jason Biggs, Ricci's co-star in the film, got at the most important reason for the film's underachiever status when he told the press, "I just don't know that the center of the story is a very endearing and likable character." Proving Biggs' point, Wurtzel herself was less tactful in a recent assessment of the film, telling the New York Times, "As you should have figured out by now, it's a horrible movie."
Anyway, Ricci has a topless scene, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Slate's Dana Stevens perfectly captures the appeal of movies like this as "mental-health porn," which seems apt. God, I thought we'd heard the last of Elizabeth Wurtzel's literary career. I was wrong. I was so wrong.
Things I would rather do than read any book by Elizabeth Wurtzel:
1. Watch any movie directed by Ben Affleck.
...and the rest sort of plays out the same way.
Top Cabinet officials are up in arms about the allegations of widespread steroid use made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in his new political tell-all Pumped: Living Fast, Loose, And On The Juice During My Tumultuous DC Days—And Nights.
Poor Dennis Lehane. This is going to suck, baby, suck.
A food author died in an arson attack at her mother’s home, police said today.
Norman A. Porter Jr., who wrote and performed poetry under the name J.J. Jameson, has been arrested in Chicago. Porter, a convicted murderer who escaped from a Massachusetts jail in 1985, had apparently been living in Chicago for several years. He's being extradited to Massachusetts, where he'll face charges of prison escape and violating parole. ChicagoPoetry.com, who once named Porter their "poet of the month," is shocked by the news, and links to several news stories about his past and his arrest.
When publishing and politics meet, only one thing can happen: pure fucking excitement. Or mind-numbing boredom. It's definitely one of the two. At any rate, USA Today run stories about Mary Matalin's new conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, and the new book by fired CBS News producer Mary Mapes.
I hate Mary Matalin's politics, mostly, but she's one of only a few outspoken pro-gay conservatives, which takes guts in the party of Sen. Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum. She's also pretty charming in The War Room, the excellent documentary about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Yeah, Mary's all right. For a Republican.
March 22, 2005
Nerve has announced the monthly Henry Miller Award, with a prize of $1,934 (the year Tropic of Cancer was released) to the best literary sex scene of the month. (Thanks to Jackie for the link.) This month's nominees:
Agatha Christie and Jack London books are easily found on the shelves of the El Segundo (California) Public Library, but the City Council has deemed the two celebrated authors too un-American literally and figuratively to attach their names to new meeting rooms at the library.
Christie was nixed because she was British; London because he was, at one time, a socialist. Columnist John Bogert is pissed.
Mayor Kelly McDowell best summed up the feelings of the council and the whole namby-pamby spirit of our overly cautious offend-nobody child-safe silly-ass times when he said, "I don't want to make a political statement by naming a room, period. I don't want to use one whose politics, in my view, weren't in line with American ideals."
Michiko Kakutani, I will send you fifty dollars if you use the word "silly-ass" in your next review. Actually, better make it twenty. Twenty damn dollars! You'd have to be a fool to turn down that kind of scratch.
I was 28, and it was with a woman who, unbeknown to me, was thinking of a way to leave me. We spent two weeks in a horrible part of Corfu, infested with horseflies, where the discos thumped all night and the dogs barked along with them. Our neighbours in the apartment were a father and son from Glasgow, both butchers, who had come to Greece because they had worked out that, even taking into account the price of the airfare, it was cheaper to be drunk for two weeks in Greece than in Glasgow. They only went out at night, and spent the days sleeping off their hangovers. They were pasty faced and as pale as vampires.
A month ago I couldn't find anything to read. Now my to-be-read-next stack is not only huge and about to tip over, it's full of things I can't wait to read. On that pile is The New, New Journalism, a book I hope I can hurry up and get to soon. There are "conversations" (as they call it) with some of my favorite nonfiction writers ever, like Calvin Trillin, Jon Krakauer, and William Langewiesche. When reading this round-up at the Millions of the writers' various books, I thought that they also probably had a lot of free content online. Just something to keep me busy while I waiting for the book to come up in my queue.
Losers: The cult of failure in Silicon Valley.
Online archive available at her website
Letter from Berkeley
Richard Perle: Whose Fault Is He?
Don't Mention It: The hidden life and times of a Greenwich Village restaurant.
Lost Son: Finding the Family He Left Behind
The Red and the White
Online archive available at his website
Rosa Lee's Story: The Series
Online archive available at his website
Lone Patriot (excerpt)
Private Lives: Germany's Troubled War on Terrorism
Richard Ben Cramer
Joe DiMaggio (excerpt)
How Israel Lost (interview)
What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?
An Inexorable Retreat
The Problem with Houston
Inside the Sky (excerpt)
Letter from Baghdad
Welcome to the Green Zone
I've been telling people that A Changed Man might well be the best American book of the year. That's a risky pronouncement to make when it's not even April. And already I find myself eating my words. Presenting The Marino Mission: One Girl, One Mission, One Thousand Words, "a young-adult fiction paperback that features 1,000 of the most common SAT words." (It's published, unsurprisingly, by Cliffs Notes.)
Where do you go for well-written stories about American poetry? The UK, of course. The Scotsman's Susan Mansfield has a truly fascinating article about US poets Jane Hirshfield, Thomas Lynch, Sharon Olds, and, happily, the brilliant Mark Doty.
On Saturday the Scottish poet and novelist John Burnside, in conversation with Richard Holloway about "Poetry and the Spirit", praised American poets for their willingness to engage with spiritual issues. It is especially interesting that at a time when the US government is embracing a narrow strand of religious faith and its societal aspirations, creative thinkers in the country are still exploring the role of the spiritual in all our lives.
"The story is about my cat Shayna eating barbeque chips. My cat is a black and white tabby," said (young writer Alexa) Bergeski.
The story revolves around a winter day in December where Bergeski was eating barbeque potato chips and her tabby, with natural cat curiosity, began sniffing around her. Bergeski went to the family's Christmas tree and gave her cat a chip. After a few sniffs, Shayna gobbled down the crunchy treat.
"Then Shayna went to her water bowl to get a drink," said Bergeski.
Hey, she's still better than Dale Peck.
The archvillain in Spider-Man 3 will be played by Thomas Haden Church, who was inexplicably passed over for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Sideways. Exactly which archvillain he'll play is being kept a secret. I wonder if Michael Chabon will be involved in this one?
Rebecca Caldwell at the Globe and Mail considers the new crop of writers whose parents are also writers. Mentioned are Christopher Rice (son of Anne Rice), Owen King (son of Stephen King), Anne Giardini (daughter of Carol Shields), Emma Richler (daughter of Mordecai Richler), and David Layton (son of Irving Layton).
And booksellers won't automatically order more books based simply on the ancestry of the author, because there's no guarantee that they will sell, just the way other name-dependent book gambles, such as the celebrity memoir, aren't surefire sellers.
Said Richard Bachmann, the owner of A Different Drummer Bookstore in Burlington, Ont.: "Having a name's a start, but probably even better would be having a good editor."
Oh, amen, man.
A previously unknown novel by Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers, has been discovered in the French National Library, the daily Le Figaro has reported.
I was wondering what Denis Johnson was up to. I hadn't heard much lately about the author of the amazing short story collection Jesus' Son (which was made into an equally amazing movie) and the novel Already Dead. It turns out he's written a play, now being performed in Seattle, called The Cassandra Cycle, Play One: Hellhound on My Trail. The Seattle Times likes it, mostly, and notes that the next two plays in the cycle, Shoppers Carried by Escalators into the Flames and Soul of a Whore (sweet Jesus, those are great titles) will be performed in the coming months.
A Gannett reporter looks at the success of the Complete Idiot's Guide and For Dummies books. There's some interesting information: the first topic in both series was MS-DOS. The second most popular Idiot book is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Catholicism; the ninth most popular is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex. And:
People who buy the "Idiot's Guides" tend to go for religion, with the Bible guide being one of the brand's consistent best sellers.
Somewhere in Chicago, Jessa is laughing very hard.
A Harvard assistant librarian is suing the university, claiming she was passed over for promotions because she's African-American "and is perceived as merely a 'pretty girl' whose attire is too 'sexy.'" Jesus, who the hell is advising Harvard on gender issues? Bobby Riggs? Pat Buchanan? Larry Summers?
March 21, 2005
Some good news from Virago, one of the coolest publishers on the planet: A new Sarah Waters novel is scheduled for release next February. (Waters is the author of the extremely acclaimed novel Tipping the Velvet.)
New at Newsday: Stuart Klawans thinks Jonathan Safran Foer is plenty talented, but finds Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close somewhat disappointing, and Maud Newton recommends A.L. Kennedy's Paradise.
These contests are fuelled by vanity. My appeal to all writers of poems and stories is to please stop entering contests that require entry fees and provide subscriptions in return. Please, have faith in the intrinsic value of your writing and don't look to others to affirm your genius. Please, pull the plug on the life support to a score of mostly unwanted and unread literary journals.
Clark County (Oregon) commissioners and library leaders are mulling whether registered sex offenders pose a threat to young library users -- and whether libraries should be off-limits to them.
Funky Winkerbean starts a series on the issues facing comic book stores selling adult material to adults. (As in, they get arrested for it.)
I have a big enough ego that I just don't care. In Y, a couple of issues ago, there was a two-part arc with a theatre troupe and Yorick wasn't in it too much. I think about 90% of readers really hated it. They were like, "What's the point?" and "Let's get back to the main story." And, uh, I don't care. This is something that I wanted to tell and these are characters we'll revisit and will have a larger importance to the story. So, no, for good or bad, I write stories that I want to read. And you know, it's great when people like it. Bad reviews make me eat Oreos and feel miserable, but no, it doesn't change my desire to tell the story exactly the way I set out to do it.
Man, who'd have thought that Communist Chinese censors wouldn't have a sense of humor?
China has banned a new novel by an award-winning author on grounds that the title satirises the slogan "Serve the People" coined by late Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong, publishing industry sources have said.
This does not bode well for my forthcoming memoir Serve the People Lunch: Eleven Years of Working at Bob's Sausage Shack. Don't make fun. It's a living.
A new book argues that Huey Long, the legendary Louisiana politician, was killed by his bodyguards and not by Carl Weiss, the physician blamed for assassinating him.
John Leonard's essay about Jonathan Lethem in the New York Review of Books almost had me convinced. I tried very hard to like Lethem's books, but his metaphors kept getting in the way. Maybe one day I'll pick up Motherless Brooklyn, the book people tell me will change my mind, but until then I'll stick with his essays. Leonard, on the other hand, does not appreciate Lethem's essays at all, not even the hysterical one about telling a girlfriend as they walked out of a Cassavetes film, "If you don't understand that film, you don't understand ME!" Leonard's essay is called "Welcome to New Dork," and he takes offense at Lethem's cravings for pop culture.
But if you read the essay, you realize it's only in the nonfiction that it offends him. He likes Lethem's fiction. He thinks The Fortress of Solitude falls apart in the final third, but that is hardly pop culture's fault. Books fall apart sometimes. Endings are rough. So when Leonard declares at the end of the essay, "But it is time this gifted writer closed his comic books for good," I have to wonder why he thinks that'll help. It seems to me that Leonard liked everything Lethem wrote before The Fortress of Solitude, was disappointed, and started looking for the cracks in Lethem's other work. Then The Disappointment Artist is released, and Leonard realizes Lethem's inspirations come from a completely different place than Leonard had hoped. So he decided to write this silly essay. But if you are at all interested in Lethem, you should maybe read it. Just don't read the last third. It all falls apart there.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone got a lot of flak for urging Catholics not to buy or read The Da Vinci Code. The book's defenders had a good time with the story, casting Bertone as a would-be censor (which, to be fair, he probably is). If Bertone had just urged people not to read the book because it's terrible, he probably wouldn't have been mocked so relentlessly.
Now comes Archbishop Thomas Collins, the highest-ranking Catholic cleric in Edmonton, Canada, who encourages Catholics everywhere to chill out.
"It's all a bunch of hot air," he said. "It's sort of like an anti-Catholic Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"It's very gripping. It's got tidbits of obscure and fascinating, but inaccurate, information. And it's all put together in a concoction that appeals to conspiracy theorists antagonistic to the Catholic Church."
Fiction: Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
Nonfiction: Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation: A History
Biography/Autobiography: Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan's De Kooning: An American Master
Poetry: Adrienne Rich's The School Among the Ruins
Criticism: Patrick Neate's Where You're At: Notes From the Frontline of a Hip-Hop Planet
Celebrate World Poetry Day with the Guardian's poetry mood matcher. (I was recommended "Lassitude" by Mathilde Blind, with the explanation "You're experiencing a bit of an existential crisis, aren't you? Here's a poem to help you through your long dark night of the soul.")
Book #23 was The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston. It's an interesting book. It might very well contain important information. It wasn't exactly revelatory to me, as I've read a lot of women's studies books and I'm not in need of convincing. Most of what it said -- diamonds are bad and monopolized, marriage is harmful to women and beneficial to men, unmarried women with important jobs aren't unmarried because of their jobs, they have the jobs because they're unmarried -- I agree with. I've been dumped because early on in the dating process I've stated no kids, no marriage, no changing my mind. I learned some new statistics in The Meaning of Wife, and I do wish it had been more anecdotal, more like Peggy Orenstein's Flux. There are only so many percentages and studies quoted a person can read before they start wishing a real person would show up and tell their story.
But my main complaint has nothing to do with the research, the writing, or the theories. It's the cover. Sure, it's cute. But now the only people who will pick up this book are us crazy women libbers. It's aggressively feminist, even with the color and the bridal script font. It screams "Fuck you, men!" Books like Why There are No Good Men Left and The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism manage to look like real books and could fool thinking women into buying them. They're also considerably less embarrassing to read on public transit. This is a book that could possibly change people's minds, but not if they run away in fear at the cover.
Book #24 was Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping. There's nothing to be said other than I was really into her in high school. Now not so much.
March 18, 2005
Can anything good come out of Alabama state Rep. Gerald Allen's bill to prohibit state funds from being used to buy books with gay characters or themes? Alice Walker thinks Allen's hate bill presents Alabama with a chance to move forward.
"Do not go backward, Alabama," Walker said. "You're on the move; you don't have to go backward. You all know all that was back there was an incredible amount of pain and an incredible amount of confusion.
"Don't let them push you all back, because all of us must live. We must live in dignity and honesty. There's no future back there."
There's a lot of denial that happens with my writing. I can't really think to much about what I'm revealing, or who will be reading it or seeing it. I know intellectually it will be out in the world, but something crucial stops that from sinking in. It's a weird ability that absolutely allows me to write these pieces honestly and ideally without a lot of internal censorship born of shame or embarrassment.
The Glasgow Evening Times profiles local comic creators, like Grant Morrison and Mike Millar.
More than 500 students from English and performing arts classes at Skyline High School were treated to a performance by hip-hop Chaucer rapper Dirk "Baba" Brinkman this week.
Brinkman, 26, put to music literary favorites the "Pardoner's Tale" and the "Wife of Bath's Tale" and rhymed along.
Odd. I spent last night watching Freaks and Geeks on DVD and avoiding the music-industry infestation of Austin that is South by Southwest. I'd never really seen the show before, but sweet Jesus, it's brilliant. Now comes the news that creator Paul Feig has a new book: Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin, the cover of which is pretty sweet. I actually read Feig's previous book, Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence, and I wasn't really impressed. But I'm willing to give this one a shot, if only because I'm still blown away by Freaks and Geeks. How can a show with "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett as its theme song be bad? It can't. Rent or buy it today.
Author and professor Barry Hannah is being treated for an undisclosed illness in an intensive care unit at a Texas hospital, his wife, Susan Hannah, said Thursday through a family spokesperson.
Your eyes probably hurt just thinking about it: Tens of thousands of Japanese cellphone owners are poring over full-length novels on their tiny screens.
So it's not enough that my debt collectors somehow figured out my cell phone number. Now I have to worry about John fucking Irving calling me at three in the morning. Great.
There is a very interesting discussion going on in the Letters section of Moby Lives about first time novelists. Writers, bookstore owners, and readers are all weighing in. Go catch up.
Mein Kampf has become a bestseller in Turkey.
(Publisher Sami Kilic) agreed that the unexpected popularity of "Mein Kampf" in this Muslim-majority country has its roots in a rise in anti-American sentiment sparked by the occupation of Iraq and anti-Semitism resulting from Israel's Palestinian policy.
"Nazism, buried in the dustbin of history in Europe, is beginning to re-emerge in Turkey," he warned.
It's the 2005 National Magazine Award Finalists! I get excited about this annual announcement like some people get excited about the Booker. Some of the highlights:
My new favorite magazine the Virginia Quarterly Review was nominated for General Excellence in the Under 100,000 Circulation category, and I hope it kicks the Believer's ass.
Samantha Power's article "Dying in Darfur" was nominated for in the Reporting category. Power is one of the best reporters out there right now, and her book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide is required reading. Also, Cynthia Gorney's article in Harper's "Gambling with Abortion: Why Both Sides Think They Have Everything to Lose" (nominated in Public Interest) was excellent, as is her book Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars.
William Langewiesche, a writer I will read everything he does even when it's about fucking planes, was nominated in Feature Writing. He's why I will always keep subscribing to Atlantic Monthly. Another nomination for AM was for the always controversial Caitlin Flanagan and her article "How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement." Flanagan has since moved on to the New Yorker and become much less interesting, but man do I miss her crazy ass ideas.
There are a few "The fuck?" nominations. Men's Health? Details? GLAMOUR? What, are there only five magazines in the entire world with a circulation over 2,000,000 and so you absolutely had to nominate Glamour? Has anyone over there read this magazine? But I'm happy for the folks at VQR, Esquire, Gourmet, and the Atlantic Monthly for scoring so many nominations. They're all well earned.
Boulder Weekly profiles Keith Baker, a lifelong role-playing game fan and the creator of the new Dungeons & Dragons world. He's just published his first book, the D&D novel The City of Towers. (Unfortunately, it probably won't be a big hit among Israeli army soldiers.) I'm a Level 12 blogger with well over 20 hit points, so I'm pretty excited about this news. No one can defeat my Broadsword of Irony!
I'd like to believe I'm not insensitive to the agonies of mental illness, but I was tremendously disturbed by the display of self-justifying narcissism which was "Living Out Loud -- Online." I don't know what it would take for the author to acquire a healthy sense of boundaries, but I do know that airing your dysfunctions in public to such a degree that your 7-year-old child is traumatized and fearful for the life of his mother is an inexcusable act of child abuse. God help these poor children as they get older and find their adolescent growing pains and struggles broadcast over the Internet by their mother, who apparently believes that their lives are ultimately all about her.
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder should not be license to damage your loved ones by publishing your tortured navel-gazing for all the world to see.
Hey, here's some encouraging news. George Plimpton might be gone, but his position at the Paris Review is being taken over by someone who can actually handle the job the great journalist Philip Gourevitch. He's the author of the certifiably brilliant We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, which was the rare kind of book that was as morally courageous as it was beautifully written.
Gourevitch did say he wanted to add nonfiction, especially "voice-driven" reporting "you want to read" because of how it's written as opposed to what it's about. He also wants to publish more poems by fewer poets, allowing readers to get more familiar with an individual's work.
This is going to be good.
The Guardian profiles independent bookstore Wenlock Books.
March 17, 2005
LA Weekly reviews Azadeh Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran.
Some (University of Alabama) students will follow the lead of out-of-state college students today by protesting a bill that would prohibit state funds from going toward literature acknowledging homosexuality.
The demonstration, which will be held today from 2 to 4 p.m. on the steps of Gorgas Library, is in protest of the bill, which would also prohibit state funds from going toward literature and programs at state institutions that gays played a hand in creating.
Boy George! Salman Rushdie! Boy George and Salman Rushdie! (Second item.)
Conservative firebrand David Horowitz has conceded he misrepresented a University of Northern Colorado student's complaint against her instructor.
A lying conservative? Stop the presses!
ABC profiles Lauren Willig, Harvard student and author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a historical "bodice-ripper." Harvard President Larry Summers says he's pleased that female students are pursuing romance writing, and not math, "which causes their pretty little faces to get all wrinkled."
The communist-led government in the Indian state of West Bengal has opposed a controversial Bangladeshi writer's request for citizenship.
The author, Taslima Nasreen, fled her native country after Islamic radicals alleged her writing was blasphemous.
Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy is publishing a book featuring naked fat bottomed girls.
Get on your bikes and ride!
Mark Seigel talks to Comic Book Resources about Roaring Brook Press's new graphic novel imprint, First Second. I, for one, can't wait. Their first book hasn't even been released and their writer roster is very impressive: Jessica Abel, Warren Pleece, Eddie Campbell, Catherine Clinton, Greg Cook, Adam Rapp, Chun Yu, and Lat. Seigel seems dedicated to keeping his list of writers and artists international, as well as delving into genres like comics journalism.
I agree with Allen Barra. If you're not reading Flann O'Brien, you're missing out. He recommends starting with At Swim Two Birds and The Best of Myles. You can also read Randy Schaub's review of The Third Policeman here at Bookslut.
Book #22 was Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmons. Here's my summation of this modern retelling of Madame Bovary: If you like chick lit and are not horrified by the thought of Emma Bovary being turned into a chick lit heroine, you might like this book. If, however, every five minutes you'll be thinking, "Jesus Christ, they made her into an idiot," just read Madame Bovary again.
OK, I doubt Kristin Gore's novel, Sammy's Hill, is all that great, but Jesus Christ, I'm not sure she deserved this article by Dan Glaister. It starts out innocently enough, noting that Al Gore's daughter "is funny, charming and earnest - like her heroine, but without the irritating bits." But then:
The tedium of the "worthy" prose is matched by the artlessness of the "comedy". Sammy is obsessed by Steve Martin, she has a poorly fish, she inadvertently sends a raunchy email to her entire address book, she has a rash on her neck that turns virulent when she meets someone she finds attractive, she, oh, what the hell. You get the idea....
The chick-lit label serves her novel well. And like all trash, there's more to come. Once she's finished the screenplay, she goes back to her room to work on the sequel, with Sammy, wrong shoes and all, in the White House.
I'll take the Bush family any day.
Pure anti-Americanism, that's all it is. I mean, the British press never prints anything remotely negative about Prince Charles' kids, right? What's that?
Oh. Oh, right.
Maybe she did deserve it.
March 16, 2005
This guy is my new hero.
Former University of Virginia quarterback and NFL rookie Matt Schaub was acquitted Friday of assaulting a student who taunted him by repeatedly mispronouncing his name.
According to testimony, second-year student Mark Schottinger repeatedly called Schaub “Schwab,” and referred to the financial services firm with the same name. Schottinger said an irritated Schaub slapped him, put him in a headlock and later punched him in the mouth.
I have wanted to do that for years. For the record: Matt (no relation) pronounces his last name "Shawb." I pronounce my last name "Shoub" (as in "shout"). If I hear "Schwab" one more time, I am going to shoot somebody. Or get Matt to do it for me.
A new William Trevor short story, in time for St. Patrick's Day.
I am so fucking sick of Dan Rather-bashing. Somehow a small cabal of dumbass right-wing bloggers have convinced themselves that they were responsible for bringing the guy down. But Rather's a legend, and he'll still be a legend fifty years from now, long after the crappy conservative blogs have become something less than a footnote in an obscure journalism textbook. Rather's something they'll never be: a real journalist, a real reporter.
At NYRB, James C. Goodale takes apart the "independent" report on last year's Rather-Bush controversy. He's not impressed.
The panel was unable to decide whether the documents were authentic or not. It didn't hire its own experts. It didn't interview the principal expert for CBS. It all but ignored an important argument for authenticating the documents—"meshing." It did not allow cross-examination. It introduced a standard for document authentication very difficult for news organizations to meet—"chain of custody"—and, lastly, it characterized parts of the broadcast as false, misleading, or both, in a way that is close to nonsensical. One is tempted to say that the report has as many flaws as the flaws it believes it has found in Dan Rather's CBS broadcast.
As for the shrill right-wing bloggers still patting themselves on the back, enjoy this while you can. You're at about 14 minutes, 55 seconds, and counting.
You might say this poetry contest is a bit...cheesy! Get it? Because it's about cheese! So it's true both literally and figuratively!
I am so utterly dispensable.
It looks like Harvey and Bob Weinstein haven't given up on the publishing industry. Hooray! I guess.
In those days, he could do no wrong. In the Sixties, he was the man who published Catch-22, Portnoy's Complaint and Hemingway's A Moveable Feast; he put John Lennon's doodles into cold print, launched the careers of John Fowles and Gabriel García Márquez, looked after the wayward visionaries Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut and later, in the early 1980s, was the godfatherly mentor of Amis fils, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, the most vividly talented galaxy of novelists corralled together in decades.
The Independent profiles Tom Maschler. Besides being "the most intensely tanned Caucasian I'd ever seen," he was the founder of the Booker Prize, and the man every book lover is in some way indebted to.
Q: In your opinion, which California senator is more attractive, Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein?
A: Barbara Boxer. I admire Barbara Boxer for her willingness to stand up for values when others will not.
Q: Did you ever consider that your premise was wrong? That maybe men are from Jupiter and women are from Pluto?
A: Without a doubt, there are exceptions to every rule.
The Boston Globe has a short interview with Paula Kamen, author of the new All In My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache, a book currently very high up on my to-be-read-next pile.
Acupuncture, massage, and other techniques have helped relieve my headache temporarily. And alternative medicine has given me some important coping tools-I don't get as upset about the pain as I used to. But as for the New Age idea that we can heal ourselves by listening to the wisdom of our bodies? I happen to know that my brainstem is a babbling idiot.
Don’t call it a comeback — Sylvester Stallone’s just-launched vanity magazine, Sly, is entirely too craptastic to lift the action star’s flagging Q rating back to the dizzying heights of “Yo, Adrian! I did it!” (Rocky II), “I think my underwear is riding into my throat” (Tango & Cash), or even “Emotions… there ought to be a law against them” (Judge Dredd).
There are a few essential books that every SuicideGirl should have. One is Junky by William S. Burroughs, another is The Art of War by Sun Tzu and now the final piece of the puzzle is The Modern Girl's Guide to Life by Jane Buckingham.
The musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which probably won't be called Hobbit! though it really should, will debut in Toronto, and not London, as originally scheduled. What did poor Canada do to deserve this? Oh, yeah.
I know, I know. The news is very comics-heavy today. But I'm thoroughly enjoying James Sturm's weeklong journal at Slate, to the point where I wish they would give him a regular column. In Tuesday's entry, he discusses female applicants, the influence manga has on young cartoonists, and the perils of trying to put socks on his two-year-old daughter.
Bookslut ♥ Jimmy.
Publishers are stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to customer data: beyond vague ideas that reading increases with age, class and education, they have little or no idea who their customers are, where they live, or what their tastes may be. Who are all these new Da Vinci readers? No one knows. Publishers need to be much more sophisticated about building consumer databases and mining them through newsletters, websites and focus groups.
Even more potentially-devastating-comic-book-adaptations news. Chud interviews Paul Greengrass about The Watchmen adaptation he's working on. As all of the fanboys are still weeping over Terry Gilliam's abandonment of the project, I think Greengrass is a fine choice. (Anyone see Bloody Sunday? I spent an hour after that movie curled up in a ball on my bed, completely devastated. The guy's got a way with the camera.)
How do you deliver the Citizen Kane of comic books to screen? That is basically the problem. It’s a bit intimidating to be honest. I believe two things, really: I do believe, obviously because I am here, that you can make a film based on Watchmen the novel that is both truthful to the novel and also works in two hours. I really do believe that, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.
March 15, 2005
(Thanks to my friend John Portman for the link.)
Warren Watson is concerned that high school students in America don't know enough about censorship and free speech. It's a valid concern he points to a study that finds "fifty percent (of high school students) incorrectly think the government can restrict indecent material on the Internet." Pretty scary. So how does he aim to correct the problem? With pure condescension!
Put down your iPod for a minute. Put aside that romance novel and pick up a newspaper. Turn off "Fear Factor" and embrace real life. Remember that Jon Stewart is a comedian, not a journalist.
Way to win 'em over, Warren! You couldn't find a way to work in the phrase "that rock and roll noise"?
Eastwood's latest movie, Million Dollar Baby, quotes the Yeats poem "Lake Isle of Innisfree."
Steve Almond considers Michael Jackson's dick. I guess someone had to.
This article's connection to the world of literature is tenuous at best, but tell me this headline doesn't draw you in: SQUAREPANTS WRITER GIVES PORN STAR A BIG BREAK.
Remember Gary Condit? The former U.S. congressman who was widely rumored to have had an affair with Chandra Levy, his intern who was slain in 2001? He's settled a defamation lawsuit against author Dominick Dunne, who implied on a television show that Condit might have been responsible for Levy's murder.
"I did not say or intend to imply that Mr. Condit was complicit in her disappearance, and to the extent my comments may have been misinterpreted, I apologize for them," Dunne said in a brief prepared statement.
How do authors get noticed? Besides writing thousands of weird, vaguely creepy emails to New York Times reporters. The Baltimore Sun reports that many writers are being left to their own devices, publicity-wise.
You know how a bill becomes a law and how babies are made. (Bribery and fucking.) Now USA Today examines how a book becomes a bestseller. (Bribery and fucking.)
James Sturm, the author of The Golem's Mighty Swing and founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, has the journal feature at Slate this week. He tries to answer the question, Why Vermont?
All that said, downtown WRJ is still only a few square blocks and has a few too many empty storefronts. The town's biggest need (in my own selfish opinion) is a decent cafe. The coffee in this town really stinks. All you can get is gas station coffee. I've recently become a regular coffee drinker for the first time in my life. I sometimes find myself driving to Hanover, N.H., (10 minutes away and home of Dartmouth College) to get a potent cup of coffee.
This fall, 20 students are coming to downtown WRJ for two years to learn to make comics and graphic novels. I'm doing my part and will have classrooms, a library, and a production lab ready to go. I hope someone, somewhere, will step up and have a cafe ready. College students need a quality cup of joe and a cool place to drink it. Where else will they scrawl in their journals?
Fleischer also complains that reporters, letting their supposed Democratic bias seep through, fail to label the American Civil Liberties Union a "liberal" organization even though they're quick to tag a group like Club for Growth as "conservative." Here's a partial list of the news outlets that have referred to the ACLU as "liberal" in the last 12 months: Bergen (N.J.) Record, San Antonio Express-News, Associated Press, Time, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Sacramento Bee, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, Seattle Post Intelligencer, United Press International, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Kansas City Star, San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune, International Herald Tribune, CNN, and Dallas Morning News.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Bertone will host a seminar called Storia Senza Storia (Story Without History) to rebut the claims.
Can you guess which book? I bet you can't!
MSNBC interviews Aline Kominsky-Crumb, the wife of R. Crumb. They talk about The R Crumb Handbook, about Terry Zwigoff's documentary, and, weirdly, whether she thinks her husband is racist and sexist.
Score another one for the good guys. The Blue Springs, Missouri, school board refused to ban Lois Lowry's The Giver from a middle school reading list. And the vote was unanimous. (Go to BugMeNot.com for a password.)
Apple has an interview with the man who helped turn Ira Glass and Chris Ware's collaboration "Lost Buildings" into an animated DVD.
Oh, Sam Taylor's life... Sold his house, moved to the French countryside, wrote a book, sold it, is writing another book... But he managed to compel me to read the entire essay without leaving the page, so maybe that says something about his book, The Republic of Trees.
However, I don't want to idealise our situation. We're still broke, and besides, life is life - wherever you are, however much money you have. There are some things you can never escape: stupid arguments, bad moods, doubts and worries. And, of course, bad things can happen, at any moment. One of my most vivid memories from our first summer here is of the beautiful sunny day when our youngest son almost drowned in a swimming pool. As it happened, I saw him in time, jumped in and saved him; the whole incident was over in seconds, and Paul-Emile doesn't even remember it. But I do. That terrifying image - of the top of his head floating like an island of blond hair in the calm blue water - is burned into my mind. It's a constant reminder, a symbol, of all the things that might go wrong. Not that I really needed reminding. Part of what drove me to make the move here in the first place was a growing awareness of the brevity of life. Since we've been here, that sense of mortality has been sharpened, if anything. I hold on to it, because it makes me feel more alive. The happier you become, the more precarious - and precious - that happiness seems.
Now that is some good fucking publicity. Ashley Smith, the woman taken hostage by Atlanta killer Brian Nichols, seems to be crediting the insanely popular Christian book The Purpose-Driven Life with convincing Nichols to let her go and surrender to police.
Hey, we won a Bloggie! The Bloggie is to blogs what the LaFontaine Aquatic Entomology Award is to aquatic entomology. So we're very flattered.
Thanks so much to all you readers for your support, and to Timothy Latz for sponsoring the Best Topical Weblog award. In addition, I would like to thank God, and Jessa would like to thank Jamie Foxx's grandmother.
March 14, 2005
I am going to make a really unique, controversial statement about my 20th book of the year: Damn, that Madame Bovary is some good readin'. So is, for that matter, Book #21, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and Other Stories. I had never read that entire collection before, and I was shocked at my inability to put it down. Usually short story collections don't hold my attention for more than a few stories at a time. But there wasn't a single filler in the whole thing. Farrar Straus & Giroux just brought out a handsome reprint (although a quick note to the designer: the serif/sans serif font mix on the spine looks silly), which is what sparked my interest. But here is my question: Did you lucky bastards really get to read "The Lottery" in high school? We never did; we got tortured with Ethan Frome instead. More books with stoning in schools!
I'm no fan of US English. I've never seen the need to make English the official language of the United States (although the good people of Arizona, or at least their legislators, disagree). But they've come up with a fascinating report on the diversity of languages spoken in the United States. The top ten languages spoken in the States? In order: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Italian, and Russian. Pulling up the rear are Upper Chehalis and Kalispel, with ten and four speakers, respectively.
The Times considers the long list of languages spoken in New York City, while local reporters in San Francisco, Houston, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and San Antonio look at the linguistic varieties in their respective cities.
As for my hometown, it seems that there are no fewer than 20 speakers of Welsh, and 45 speakers of Bisayan (which is apparently a Filipino language) in Austin, Texas. God, I could play with this all day. Looking for an Icelandic speaker in Tulsa? There's 120 of them! Which county in Delaware has the most languages? Why, New Castle County, of course! I'm still not down with US English's goals, but damn, this is one incredibly interesting piece of research.
Kanye West won't be posing nude in Playgirl. Sorry, ladies. And ten to fifteen percent of dudes.
Coincidentally, that's the entirety of my "to do" list today. Well, that, and "buy salad dressing." I really need to remember the salad dressing.
At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mark Holmberg talks to gay mystery novelist Greg Herren about his recent uninvitation to speak to a Virginia high school's Gay-Straight Alliance. So I just have to ask: Is it intentional that Holmberg's mugshot makes him look like a gay porn star, or was that just a happy accident?
Oh, this is going to be awesome.
Writers include Chinua Achebe, the African novelist, Margaret Atwood, the Booker Prize winner, and Karen Armstrong, the author, religious commentator and former nun.
Good news for Jessa, a Canongate fan from way back.
U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, a socialist from Vermont, has reintroduced a bill to exempt libraries and bookstores from the Patriot Act. Both Republicans and Democrats are pledging their support. It's about fucking time.
Libraries in Portland, Maine are getting into trouble with their comic book and manga collections. While none of the books in the column mentioned are of the hardcore rape-by-tree, rape-by-octopus, rape-by-demon variety, many are protesting the portrayal of women in manga. At least they are allowing a dialogue here, instead of immediately calling for a ban.
This month's nominee for Scum of the Year: Bernie Kerik! (ReganBooks gets a dishonorable mention, too.)
Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik accepted thousands of dollars in royalties from a book published to raise money for the families of heroes killed on Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Daily News has learned.
Kerik contributed an 11-sentence foreword to the book of photographs, titled "In the Line of Duty," in which he praised police and firefighters who "desperately fought and struggled and bled and died in a noble effort."
How much did he earn for those eleven sentences? $76,000, so far. Don't think for a minute that this sweetheart deal has anything to do with the fact that Kerik was fucking Judith Regan while married to another woman, though. I'm sure that wasn't a consideration at all.
"I think we, as a reading culture, seem to be getting less able to cope with ambivalence," Bissell said in response to critics who question the often harrowing ways his characters meet their fates. These aren't easy stories to read, and Bissell's skill at creating completely believable protagonists makes their struggles gut-wrenching.
The Orange Prize longlist has been announced, which means the "Does this prize even need to exist?" articles have only just begun. But this is an interesting batch of books, books that deserve a little attention drawn to them, so let's do that, shall we?
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
The Great Stink by Clare Clark
Escape Routes for Beginners by Kira Cochrane
Billie Morgan by Joolz Denby
The Zigzag Way by Anita Desai
Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey
It So Happens by Patricia Ferguson
Away From You by Melanie Finn
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
The Mysteries of Glass by Sue Gee
Nelson's Daughter by Miranda Hearn
Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill
The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
Black Dirt by Nell Leyshon
The Remedy by Michelle Lovric
Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy
The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The River by Tricia Wastvedt
If you're a baby boomer stinging from being blamed for Social Security's problems, now there's something else that's your fault: the decline of the mass-market paperback book.
Add that to the list that includes "ruining rock and roll" and "electing Reagan twice." I'm not sure what my generation will be blamed for, though I suspect we'll have to answer for the Crash Test Dummies and MTV's The Real World sooner or later. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure what generation I'm in. What does it make you if you were born in 1977, besides "increasingly unable to go to rock shows without teenagers staring at you like you're one of those creepy old guys"?
But then (author Richard) Bradley himself appears to be a rather peculiar guy. During the 1990s, when he went by his birth name of Richard Blow, he was executive editor of George, the political magazine founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. Immediately after Kennedy's death in 1999, he ordered the magazine's staff not to talk to the press about him, then rushed into print himself with American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy Jr., a bestseller that was roundly vilified in the press (the Hartford Courant, notably, called him "a low-rent opportunist") for honoring its author more than its subject. Having been subjected to much mockery focused on his last name, Blow changed it to Bradley, his mother's maiden name.
Hey, he's not the first guy to change his name. Just ask John Updike, whose birth name was "Rufus Q. Fellate."
Adam Langer discovers the horror of being labeled (this time, "Chicago Jewish writer") in his latest column for The Book Standard.
I began my lecture by saying truthfully that I was born Jewish in Chicago, that I’ve been writing since I was about five years old, and that I’ve been a “Chicago Jewish writer” for, oh, about nine months.
Get any exposure whatsoever as a writer, and before you know it, you’re going to have a label, a publicity-ready identifier such as “the Korean immigrant writer,” “the outspoken, funny sex gal” or “the Chicago Jewish writer.” It’s a phenomenon many writers abhor.
"Today, as our house passes the three–year mark, we, quite frankly, are wavering on our commitment to literary first fiction." This week's Moby Lives column is written by Robert Lasner, the head of Ig Publishing.
From I Love Books: Reductive Literary Equations. For example:
(The Hardy Boys)^1.618 = The Da Vinci Code
Gravity's Rainbow - The Crying of Lot 49 = Infinite Jest
Stephen King - HP Lovecraft = Don Delillo
Janet Maslin likes A Changed Man, though she notes that "not a lot actually happens" in the novel. OK, fair enough. Also giving some well-deserved positive reviews to Francine Prose's book are Victoria A. Brownworth in the Baltimore Sun and Robert Birnbaum at the San Francisco Chronicle.
And then there's Marta Salij. She's the Detroit Free Press book reviewer who found the novel "plodding (and) unfunny," as well as get ready for a razor-sharp critical judgment here "bad."
Should I spend any more ink on this? "A Changed Man" is the story of a young neo-Nazi, Vincent Nolan, who one day decides to leave the Aryan Resistance Movement and seek refuge with a human rights organization headed by a Holocaust survivor named Meyer Maslow, a stand-in for Elie Wiesenthal.
"Elie Wiesenthal"? Would that be Elie Wiesel, the celebrated author, or Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter? And shouldn't a major American newspaper have reporters and copy editors who can tell the difference?
March 11, 2005
Actress Julia Stiles is suing the film producers who she says cut her out of a project to make a film version of The Bell Jar. Luckily for her, she's been confirmed to star in a movie called Going Down (get it? GET IT?), about "a young woman (who) becomes a prostitute to pay her way through college." So buck up, Julia! You'll conquer Hollywood yet! (Via Choriamb.)
Goddammit. I thought I posted this last week, but it turns out I was wrong. This is probably due to the memory loss I've found myself experiencing because of my habit of smoking a blunt after each post. It's sort of like a little reward for myself.
But anyway, the Austin Chronicle published its SXSW Interactive issue last week, and it included a reflection on Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, and interviews with Al Franken and Ana Marie Cox, whose answer to the "Why doesn't your blog have comments" question I am planning to steal and use at every opportunity.
I get lots of letters. I read them. But I am very possessive – my blog is my blog. This might sound incredibly snobbish, but I don't read comments on blogs. I think writing is a one-way medium.
Well said. I'm still laughing at her take on Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column, articulated on this very blog in 2003.
You need to read Francine Prose's A Changed Man. You need to read it. Entertainment Weekly and the Rocky Mountain News agree with me on this. I'll have a full review in the next issue, but you shouldn't even wait that long. It's the best book I've read since The Plot Against America. Like Roth, Prose isn't just a great writer, she's unbelievably courageous. Go check it out. Now. There'll be a quiz on Monday.
More hand-wringing over the new writing section on the SAT. The Christian Science Monitor wonders whether the popularity of IMs and text-messaging might actually make students better writers. Call me a cynic, but...actually, I guess that's it. Just call me a cynic.
If you're going to write a novel with a blowjob scene, you might want to reconsider having kids.
I know something about this, having grown up as the child of a fiction writer. When my mother, Hilma Wolitzer, published her first novel, "Ending," in 1974, it featured a scene in which a woman performs oral sex on her dying husband: "I kneeled and made a carpet of our clothing on the floor, and I led him down inside me." After the novel came out, Brian Spiviano went roaring down the ninth-grade hall, shouting, "Read Page 180! Read Page 180!"
A Virginia high school invited, then uninvited, gay mystery author Greg Herren to speak to the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. The uninvitation came after parents learned that Herren has written erotica, and edited books like Fratsex: Stories of Gay Sex in College Fraternities. The Virginian-Pilot wonders why he was invited in the first place, and the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that the ACLU is pushing for a re-invitation.
The Seattle P-I profiles Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, paying special attention to his plans to distribute a free newspaper column to local newspapers across the country.
This month, his American Life in Poetry project will offer a free six- to eight-inch column to local newspapers each week. It will feature a poem by a living American and a brief introduction, written by Kooser.
"I want to show that poetry need not be intimidating, or impossibly difficult," Kooser said in a phone conversation from his Nebraska home.
London vs. Paris: It's the battle for "literary hegemony"! Excited yet?
Whenever you look at the list of consumer goods that (according to the critic) people don't really need, what you invariably see is a list of consumer goods that middle aged intellectuals don't need. Budweiser bad, single-malt Scotch good; Hollywood movies bad, performance art good; Chryslers bad, Volvos good; hamburgers bad, risotto good and so on... Consumerism, in other words, always seems to be a critique of what other people buy. This makes it difficult to avoid the impression that the so-called critique of consumerism is just thinly veiled snobbery, or worse, Puritanism.
Book #18 was The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness by Jack El-Hai. Rarely am I ever so repulsed and yet so fascinated by a book. Even when I wanted to throw the book across the room -- say, after Dr. Freeman said something ridiculous like "Lobotomy, instead of being the last resort in therapy, is often the starting point in effective therapy" -- I had to keep reading.
El-Hai tries to make Dr. Freeman sympathetic. His father was a distant, unloving man, his grandfather was a towering figure in the medical community and Freeman spent most of his life trying to match him. He was bright and promising, but he was a researcher, not a hands-on doctor. He really didn't have any interest in mental illness until an assignment at an asylum came his way. If he was going to make a name for himself, he thought, he better come up with a revolutionary treatment for mental illness.
He did not, however, invent the lobotomy. Muniz in Portugal did, calling it the leucotomy. Freeman just championed it in America. Once he started performing lobotomies in America, you couldn't stop the son of a bitch. The procedure began as brain surgery, going in through drilled holes in the skull to access the frontal lobes. Freeman, however, came across an ice pick in his kitchen drawer and inspiration hit. He started performing lobotomies with that ice pick and a carpenter's hammer, going in through the eye socket. It was such a simple procedure, he argued, you could do it anywhere. And he did. He started doing lobotomies in his private office instead of at the hospital, even after patients of his died from hemorrhaging. He once lobotomized an unwilling patient on the floor of a motel room. And instead of using anesthesia, he used electroshock therapy, knocking them out with an even higher risk of injuries.
The real question, however, is were the lobotomies successful? If he's a maverick doctor, saving the masses, who cares if he's a little reckless with the rules. The problem is it's nearly impossible to tell if the lobotomies were successful. He did not believe in the scientific method, and only once did he use a control group. (Even that was unwillingly. The control group sprang up when 50% of the families of the patients refused to give him permission to "treat" their loved ones.) El-Hai does not give the results of the control group. Freeman threw around success rates, but you have to take his word for it. Besides, the most "successful" group he cited were those with emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, disorders that tend to go into remission periodically anyway. And even if the patient had to return to the asylum at a later time, he still counted that person in the "cured" statistics.
After a while, when he really gets going, it's hard not to hate him. He performed lobotomies on children, some as young as four. He experimented with treatments on his own family members. He continued to perform lobotomies on schizophrenics, even though he admitted very early on that the lobotomies do them no good. One patient told him she still has the hallucinations, but now she just doesn't care. He conducted an affair with at least one post-lobotomy patient. By the end of the book, I was glad the motherfucker was dead.
The book is fascinating. The only problem is the author is too sympathetic to his subject. The ending sentence is, "We should not allow Walter Freeman's ghost to flicker unnoticed in the shadows." Right. We shouldn't. But not for the reasons El-Hai mentions. We should hold him up as an example of how harmful medical hubris can be, for the reason why we have strict rules on medical experimentation (when the Nuremberg Code on medical testing was laid down, it turns out Freeman did not meet the standards), and why the treatment of the mentally ill is still a very thorny issue. This book makes a good companion to Mad in America, as its cynicism balances El-Hai's good nature.
In an attempt to get all of the images of the ice pick lobotomies out of my brain, I followed The Lobotomist up with The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal. That is some weird shit. Egyptian Gods come back to Earth in search of fuel for their ship, a psychic green and white striped cat named Gogol, social dissidents frozen and shipped into space, a fascist regime in Paris... The book certain did the trick.
March 10, 2005
Bookslut readers: Is there anything they don't know? Matt Bailey was kind enough to identify the painting on the cover of a book I mentioned earlier:
The cover of that Anne Giardini book is a Gerhard Richter painting, "Betty" (1991). It's in the Dallas Museum of Art. I'd like to shake the hand of the designer who had the great taste to come up with the idea of using it. I have no idea about the book itself, but it's the kind of cover that would get me to at least pick up the book to read the flap copy.
It really is a beautiful painting. Thanks, Matt.
Wolf Wikeley is a language junkie who can speak and understand some Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, German and French.
But he dreams that one day, he will travel across the world on a convention circuit -- perhaps linking with Trekkies and Worf- and Spock-wannabes -- to speak the fantasy languages of Elven, Dwarven and Tho Fan that he created to bring computer-game characters to life.
Wikeley talks to the Edmonton Journal about the difficulties of inventing a grammar, and his recent promotion to full professor at the University of Dork.
Asked for comment, the publishing world stuck their fingers in their ears and commented "NA NA NA NA NA NA WE'RE NOT LISTENING NA NA NA NA NA NA."
The Czech Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the conviction of a man who published a Czech language translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," ruling he did not seek to propagate the book's racist ideas.
If you've ever seen an issue of Dog Fancy or Cat Fancy or Coatimundi Fancy or whatever the fuck, you know how powerfully lame animal-centered magazines can be. But there's at least one good one, apparently: Bark magazine, which appears to be a hyper-literate publication for people who, for whatever reason, like dogs.
The magazine combines practical advice columns, newsy stories about such things as hotel dog concierges and the Mardi Gras Krewe of Barkus, and canine history like a photo essay on a pair of 1920s poodle acrobats with contributions by such literary lights as Rick Bass, Ann Patchett and Augusten Burroughs.
My girlfriend, who works in veterinary science and knows from books, loves it. And she doesn't even have a dog. I've always been a cat person, but hey, it's all good.
Minna Proctor is interviewed at Salon about her book Do You Hear What I Hear? Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father.
I sort of digested it for a period of time and then found myself talking about what a funny thing it was with my friend Alex, who was an editor at [the now defunct online magazine] Feed. He said, "Why don't you write about it?" So I took my steno pad and went to find out how you get to be a priest. It was such a naive mission -- first of all, the idea that it could get figured out and then represented in 1,200 words. And then, in the course of my first interviews with my father, it was emotionally stunning. If I had known a lot more about the church and about religion I would have known that spiritual stories tend to be thorny stories. I was expecting something sweeter, smaller and filled with goodwill and aspirations. But it was far more twisted than that.
Sad news. I read The Sin Eater as a high school student at the urging of the Jesuit priest who taught me theology. That was ten years ago, but I remember loving it Thomas Ellis was widely considered to be one of the world's greatest Catholic authors, and she wrote with a rare, razor-sharp sense of humor. She'll be missed.
Who knows if Anne Giardini is a good writer, but her debut novel has a killer title: The Sad Truth About Happiness. (The cover's nice, too.) The Canadian author talks to CTV about her knack for happiness, and her famous mother, the late Carol Shields.
We love Michelle Tea. Rent Girl was one of my favorite books from 2004. So this auction of a tarot card reading done by Ms. Tea to benefit Bitch Magazine makes me giggly. There are three days left, people. Start your bidding.
Huckabee ♥ food.
But not quite so much anymore, maybe. The other governor from Hope, Arkansas, lost over 100 pounds and has now written a diet book, guaranteeing that no one will call him "the doublewide governor" anymore. (Huckabee made national news a while back after he and his wife decided to live in a trailer while the Arkansas governor's mansion was being renovated.)
Tina Brown, running out of magazines to ruin, will write a book about Princess Diana.
Liza Ward's Outside Valentine is a fictional account of the Starkweather Murders in 1950s Nebraska. (The brilliant film Badlands is another fictional account.) However, Ward's paternal grandparents were two of the victims of the actual Starkweather Murders. She explains the line between the fact and her fiction in the Telegraph.
I winced whenever the subject of my father's past came up around strangers. Years later, at university, I found my grandparents' photographs in a book about American mass murderers and serial killers, and learnt where I had got my chin, my straight hair, the shape of my eyes. Now, with each year I look more like my grandmother. Until that moment, at the age of 20, it had never occurred to me that I could, in fact, find out what had happened so many years ago. For a time this book would seem to provide answers to all the mysteries, however poorly written, however gratuitous in its violent details.
By now you've heard me, Rick Moody, and just about every newspaper in America gush about David B.'s Epileptic. "Sure, it might be brilliant," some of you may be thinking to yourselves, "but do the Christians like it?" Yes. Yes, they do.
The finalists for the PEN/Faulkner award have been announced.
"Whether the buildings in question are exemplars of architectural splendour or of more humble design, the library building stock needs to be safeguarded, and maintenance and refurbishment should have been planned, and provisions made, by its custodians before now," it said.
Over half of public libraries are rated as below an acceptable standard by the Audit Commission.
Sentence of the year:
What a pity nobody had the chutzpah to write a book about Newton's penis.
That's from a Guardian article about the supposed decline in popularity of pop-science books. Still, see if you can work it into conversation preferably with a boss or loved one today.
While on Spring Break, Jessica Lee Jernigan fills the void with her thoughts on James Joyce. It seems she has a paper to write for her James Joyce class, and a lot of it is random notes and wandering thoughts. Still, somehow, it's very interesting.
March 9, 2005
The CBC has a great article about comic strips online, even if they don't mention that cornerstone of Canadian literature, For Better or For Worse. They do give some love to Achewood, one of the funniest, most original comic strips ever written. (All Achewood books are on sale 25 percent off! for a limited time, and you really, really should pick up a few. Trust me on this.)
There's no Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side anymore, but there is Get Fuzzy, which is very nearly as great as its predecessors. And there's Boondocks and Cat and Girl and Toothpaste for Dinner, all brilliant and original in their own ways. There's even a hilarious, incisive blog The Comics Curmudgeon dedicated to comic strips. Read them all. Buy their products. And don't talk to me about the golden age of comic strips being over, man.
In college, you can study anything you want.
Are writers' festivals a waste of time? Bruce Elder and Susan Wyndham debate the question in the Sydney Morning Herald. I think writers' festivals are a waste of time unless there are corn dogs, in which case they are a delicious waste of time. (Via Matilda.)
IT'S a rare crime book that gets reviewed by the killer who is its subject. But convicted murderer Danny Pelosi called his fiancée, Jennifer Zolnowski, from Suffolk County jail in Riverhead and dictated his critique of "Almost Paradise: The East Hampton Murder of Ted Ammon" by The Post's Kieran Crowley. The review, posted under her name on amazon.com yesterday, was only up for a couple of hours before the site yanked it. Luckily, PAGE SIX kept a copy of the three-star review, titled "Believe half of what you read." (Thanks to Kathleen for the link.)
Dave Eggers discusses ... something ... at Salon.
What always cracked me up about some of the initial reaction by a few to the Believer was that here was this magazine that was designed to talk calmly, enthusiastically and intelligently about books, and some people were, I guess, threatened by that.
At the beginning, it was very much like the Believer was saying, "Hey everyone, let's be a bit more mature and calm when we talk about books, and here's some good stuff you might not have heard about." And of course that got certain people even angrier.
It's pretty funny, when you think about it, right? It's like an anti-violence movement being crushed by military force.
What all of this has to do with articles about light bulb stores and interviews with Tina Fey remains, at least for now, unclear.
Ann Hulbert wonders who in the world believed the "myth" that motherhood is all peaches and roses?
Actually, I'm not persuaded mothers are so easily cowed, and the fact that these personal polemics by their very form work to confirm in readers a susceptibility to the peer and popular pressure of the moment is just one way in which the medium seems at least potentially at odds with its mission: to liberate mothers from oppressive external ideals. Warner's impassioned book, for example, depends for its effect on readers strongly identifying with the author's angst—an angst that she internalized from our "culture of narcissism" and in turn discovers mirrored in the "vicious self-and-other-attacking form of anxious perfectionism" she hears in the focus groups she assembles.
There are some days I want to reach through my computer monitor and just start shaking the Book Babes. In this bone-headed column about the differing tastes in books by students and teachers, Margo, who sees snobs like McCarthy saw communists, says, "Teachers, like most book critics, are book snobs. Harry Potter, for better and worse, is not associated with literature as much as with commerce, and book snobs pride themselves on shunning anything popular. I think that's a shame. Sometimes literature and commerce actually do intersect."
Um, excuse me, Margo. Are teacher really supposed to mold their lesson plans around what the kids want to read? Because as much as I hated The Scarlet Letter, I'm pretty sure if the kids in my English class had their way, the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue would have taken its place.
Wow, somehow I missed the latest book-based-on-a-movie-based-on-a-book, Constantine: The Hellblazer Collection. This article about DC's future in movies, though, is a bit silly. “Comics readers understand that DC has very little control over what happens to these books once they’re turned over to the studio. As long as DC keeps making movies we’ll be happy. We’ll take the good with the bad.” Except, so far, it's only been bad.
Levitz said that any movie exposure often signals a strong showing for books. Noting the box-office disappointment The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), which was based on a DC property, Levitz pointed to the fact that the graphic novel was nonetheless a major hit, cited by the press as one of the bestselling graphic novels of 2003.
Exactly. Which means you can stop whoring out Alan Moore's works to the highest bidder, allowing anyone to make shitty adaptations of his brilliant works. They sell anyway, asshole.
One evening in 1983, I was having a drink with Kingsley Amis. He made the mistake of asking me what I was working on. I made the mistake of telling him. I made the further mistake of not looking across at him, in order the better to concentrate. My account would have involved words such as "Flaubert" and "parrot" and perhaps, as an indicator of generic category, the phrase "an upside-down sort of novel". As I was nearing the end of my preliminary outline - still with some way to go - I glanced up, and was confronted with an expression poised between belligerent outrage and apoplectic boredom. It was the sort of look pioneered by Evelyn Waugh and now more or less extinct in literary society.
Why do you need to read widely in order to write better? After all, you have something to say and it's like nothing anyone's ever said before. But if you have any perspective at all, you know it's all been said before and you are a pygmy standing on the shoulders of giants and the best way to make yourself worthy is to quote your betters and, when push comes to shove, appropriate their work.
March 8, 2005
Grant Morrison is interviewed at Suicide Girls about his novel about children declaring war on adults, his new DC Comics series, and, uh, naked girls, I imagine.
It seems that the writers of these articles about Harry Potter books printed on recycled paper need to watch the recycling episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit!
Responding to the earlier post about Yale sex columnist-cum-author (which is a play on words that will make more sense in a sentence or two) Natalie Krinsky, reader Duncan Thaw points out this Yale Herald review of Chloe Does Yale.
"Sex and the (Elm) City," the Yale Daily News column by Natalie Krinsky, TD '04, began drawing national attention when a 2001 column that trumpeted Krinsky's enthusiasm for swallowing after oral became ubiquitous on the Internet, and The New York Times picked up the story. Capitalizing on her previous exposure, she has compiled some of her columns, embedded them in a novel about a perky sex columnist at Yale, and titled it Chloe Does Yale. Unfortunately, while the individual columns have a sort of needy charm, the book as a whole is embarrassingly awful.
UPDATE: The super-nice reader who sent that link along is named David Thaw, not Duncan Thaw. Duncan Thaw would be a character in Lanark, which, oddly enough, I just bought. Weird. Sorry about that, David.
Editor and Publisher prints what might be a list of Pulitzer Prize finalists, but then again, might not.
It is a dark burden to bear, this business of not finishing books. You start out with all the goodwill in the world. You flip the pages diligently. Your circle of acquaintances expands by a dozen or more as this cast of made-up people enters your life. And before you even find out how it all turns out for them, you set them aside. What's your problem?
I used to finish every book I started, included the books I hated. Now I have problems finishing books I kind of enjoy. If I'm not enthralled by page 50, it goes to the stack of unfinished books on the nightstand, just in case.
If I may direct your attention to the left sidebar, you'll notice we have a new issue of Bookslut up. With interviews with Richard Hell, John Falk, K E Duffin, and Ayun Halliday, a report on the Toronto literary scene Book Lovers Trivial Pursuit smackdown, a love letter to Hortus Magazine, author Barbara J. King's response to the silliness that is Home-Alone America, and a round up of cultural guides, not to mention reviews of new books by Haruki Murakami, Rod Little, Czeslaw Milosz, John Abramson, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Silvio Sirias, and more, you've got your reading cut out for you.
Opposition was not restricted to men, or tabloid reporters. 'I am against positive discrimination,' said Anita Brookner, a Booker winner. 'If women want equality, which they do, and which they have largely achieved, they shouldn't ask for separate treatment ... If a book is good, it will get published. If it is good it will get reviewed.'
It seems in this article about the Orange Prize that some people haven't seen the statistics on the percentage of reviews written for books by men compared to books by women. And when books by women are reviewed, they're given less prominent space unless they're writing hysterical books about how we're getting fat/we do too much for our children/women have to drop everything and have babies now.
When Laurie Garrett resigned from Newsday, her letter of resignation was posted on Poynter. Citing the circulation scandal, the corporate ownership of Newsday, and the decline of journalism as some of her reasons for leaving, she created quite the stir. Columbia Journalism Review interviews Garrett and asks her to elaborate on some of her points.
Do you really think that in 1967 Americans were so fundamentally different as human beings that they wanted Walter Cronkite and the "CBS Evening News," and they wanted Life magazine and all those amazing photographs? And they wanted their family-owned daily newspaper that was published by somebody they might even know? And today they are fundamentally different homo sapiens that only want stuff that gets shouted at them, that has gory, graphic, violent details? [That they want programming] that tells you the inner lives of people whose only claim to fame is a reality TV show? Do you really think that fundamentally there was something different in 1967 that made it so that people who were watching Cronkite had a different hunger for valid information than people today? I don't. I just think that everybody is playing to the lowest common denominator.
Russell Smith may not appreciate book readings -- "If I hear a no ther po etry read ing that sounds like this I'm go ing to DIE." -- I keep going back because one time I heard a former stripper reading her poetry about hamsters. I know that nothing could ever top that, but every month, I'm back at the reading series, hoping and praying they asked Hamster Girl to read again. (Link from Galleycat.)
Cultivating what appears to be an unhealthy obsession with sex and the young women who have it, USA Today considers Natalie Krinsky, a Yale graduate who used to write a sex advice column and who has now written a novel called Chloe Does Yale, which appears to be the most thinly veiled memoir ever to be veiled by humankind. I've recently been accused of having an irrational dislike toward young Ivy League graduates with book deals, an allegation which is completely accurate (sorry), so I'll just select a quote from the article that makes the author look suitably shallow and then move on. Ah, yes, this will do nicely:
"I didn't want to lose my friends," explains Krinsky, 22, who graduated in May and works for an ad agency. She's smiling over a latte — skim — at a West Village café. ("You don't want to be a fat sex columnist.")
There's also a profile of authors Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, who have written The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up. USA Today provides this helpful explanation for readers under the age of 90:
Don't bother looking up "hookup" in the dictionary. The newest definition has nothing to do with washing machines or sound systems.
Be sure to take the pop quiz. Can you go another day without finding out whether you're bootyphobic, bootylicious, or a bootymonster?
March 7, 2005
Vanity Fair seems to be having an identity crisis, confusing themselves with Sports Illustrated and releasing a swimsuit issue.
All week long, the Guardian will be printing a selection of "new and little-known" R. Crumb works. Today they print an interview with Crumb.
He mentions Serena Williams's body and I nod and say that it sure is a fine body, and he rushes out of the room like an overexcited schoolboy. He returns a second later with a cute, hand-made book. He shows me the photograph he has pasted in of Williams in her tight black tennis outfit. He analyses the image with unrestrained passion. "This butt is just bionic. It's beyond anything. It's unbelievable. Imagine having access to that?" he says in his creamy whine - part Woody Allen, part Jack Nicholson. "That kind of woman is very underappreciated in the western world. Look at the type of women that are touted in the media."
Top Shelf Comix is having a massive sale, with many graphic novels priced at $3.
Gawker Presents: My Big Fat French Book Signing.
Author Mireille Guiliano, a native of France, now lives in New York where she serves as the CEO of Veuve Clicquot champagne (every night she pours some out for all of her bitches and homies who never made it out of the ‘hood). Last night, she dropped by the 92nd Street Y to chat with the masses. I arrived expecting the confluence of every Jenny Craig meeting in greater Manhattan –perhaps someone sitting in the back eating Fig Newtons by the sleeve, possibly while sobbing, maybe some blaming of the mothers. (“I learned it from watching YOU, Mom, I learned it from watching YOU!!!”) However, everyone is surprisingly…thin! What is this fraudulence!?
On the other hand, comics can also incorporate a complex sequence of events, an entire history, into a single composition. The cover of Seth Tobocman’s 1999 War in the Neighborhood, for example, shows a standoff between the police and protesters outside a squat on New York’s Lower East Side. The image wraps around to the back cover, which features a cut-away of the building. Each room shows a different scene from the squat’s history — repair work, a party, a meeting, a fight, a couple holding their newborn baby. Past and present are spliced together on the page. You can see at a glance what the protesters are seeking to defend.
Introducing Saucy, Bookslut's first sister site!
March 4, 2005
The pilot episode hasn't been shot yet, but FOX's Pamela Anderson vehicle "Stacked" will be making its way onto the airwaves in just about six weeks.
The show, in which Anderson plays a bookstore employee trying to make a new start in life, is set to premiere at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, April 13.
The Independent interviews Kazuo Ishiguro about his new novel Never Let Me Go, his memories of Guildford, and why his books have a tone equivalent to the suburbs. (Warning: If you don't want any revelations about the last parts of the book, don't read this interview.)
I'm so glad this article pairs a man whose collection of pornographic manga was seized with a man who tried to lure a five-year-old girl for sex. Really, it's quite comparable, don't you think? (Link from The Comics Reporter.)
We all agree that the movie version of V for Vendetta is going to suck, right? It's directed by a no-name, there's no way in hell the studio is going to be okay with all aspects of the storyline (fascism sprung up from democracy, not an outside source; the hero is a fucking terrorist; etc.), it has Natalie Portman, and just look at the track record of bringing Alan Moore's comics to film. It's not going to work. Now, if you want to know every single reason why it's not going to work, you can ask this guy, as he just read the script.
If you live in Chicago, you've probably noticed the advertising blitz for Time Out Chicago, which debuts this week. The Sun Times is not impressed. And the question still remains: Why pay for Time Out when the Chicago Reader is still free?
An extortionist who threatened to kill building workers unless they received a $50 million ransom from construction giant Multiplex used a 400-year-old code to communicate with the company.
The Vigenere Code – made famous recently by best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code – was invented in 1586 and not broken until 1860.
The Telegraph interviews the man who convinced the Pope to write his memoirs, George Weidenfeld.
Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Awards have been announced.
March 3, 2005
In a move that has raised questions of professional integrity, Newsweek magazine has combined an image of Martha Stewart's head and a model's body on its latest cover, according to a report Thursday.
Refusing to be outdone, Time magazine admitted darkening Martha's face to make her look more like O.J. Simpson.
Responding to yesterday's post about Scottish author Robin Jenkins, Bookslut reader Dave Caithness writes:
I've been a fan of Jenkins for years. He's been a seriously overlooked writer. Two books not mentioned in the Scotsman article are "Dust on the Paw," based on his experience as a school master in Afghanistan, and "Guests of War" dealing with the evacuation of children from British cities during the Second World War. "A Would-Be Saint" is a terrific morality play on pacifism, a position Jenkins has taken since the Second World War, and as far as I know still adheres to. The Scotsman did mention "The Cone-Gatherers," an original and a classic, and "Fergus Lamont," which for me is one of the best contemporary novels to come out of Scotland, if not the entire UK. There were plans in Britain to turn it into a movie, but as far as I know they've stalled.
Dave was kind enough to recommend another Scottish book I hadn't heard of, Lewis Grassic Gibbon's The Sunset Song.
New York rapper Nas is pursuing a career as a novelist. He was reportedly disappointed, though, that the title Fuck Jay-Z was already taken by Alice Munro.
It's World Book Day. That is, unless you think World Book Day is April 23rd. But whatever. The Guardian is going with March and rounds up World Book Day news.
There's no such thing as bad publicity! Except when a notorious serial killer says he likes your book. That's bad publicity. John Camp, who writes under the name John Sandford, responds to the revelation that the BTK serial killer is apparently a fan of his book Rules of Prey.
Nick Hornby, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood are among 16 writers involved in an anthology of new work, published to raise money for tsunami victims.
New Beginnings isn't available in the States just yet, but you can get it from Amazon UK for five pounds.
And speaking of Neal Pollack: He has the story of a Kentucky student who's in jail for writing a story about zombies. Like Neal, I went to high school pre-Columbine, so this hysteria freaks me out. But zombies freak me out too, so I say let the little motherfucker rot. (I'm just kidding. Please don't send me angry emails, ACLU dudes.)
Neal Pollack has somehow resisted the urge to mock Jonathan Safran Foer in print, which is hard. It's like trying to quit smoking. Luckily, the New York Press does the dirty work for us, calling Foer a "smarmy, arrogant and falsely insecure punk."
Thompson was out to break the mainstream media's rules. His unruly mix of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen of minutiae and rant.
Oh my god, Shut Up, Frank Rich.
The Independent asked 100 British authors, journalists and editors to name their favorite fictional characters. James Bond, Alexander Portnoy, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom and Anne of Green Gables are all given their due.
The South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York, is lending iPod Shuffles to go along with the audio books downloaded from iTunes. The Shuffles are actually saving the library a lot of money on audio books, as CD versions cost up to $75, while most MP3 versions can be downloaded for about twenty bucks.
Thanks to everyone who submitted recommendations for books to break my reader's block, and thanks to Kate especially for recommending Stanislaw Lem. As soon as I saw her e-mail, I realized it was a perfect way to break my bad run, and I grabbed the first Lem book on the shelf. It happened to be The Invincible, not one of his best, but still better than 98% of space-exploration science fiction.
Now, I'm not someone who pays as much attention to translations as I should. People around me will recommend translations, and I trust their opinions, but unless it's a painfully bad translation, I tend not to notice. The translation of The Invincible, at least the edition I have, was painfully bad. It's an old Ace mass market paperback, bought for fifty cents at the used bookstore. The title page reads, "Translated from the German by Wendayne Ackerman." It took me about two pages of reading before I realized why this was a shit translation. Lem wrote in Polish. So someone translated the book from Polish to German and then Ackerman translated the German to English. And man, did he not do a very good job.
Everything is an "optical illusion." Hallucinations, misinterpretations of visual data, and yes, one instance of an actual optical illusion. "Weird" is consistently spelled "wierd." The same three adjectives are used over and over again: "carefully," "hardly," "naturally." When the explorers discover what had looked from above like a city, but turned out not to be, they always referred to it as the "city" in their dialogue. "Are you going to the 'city'?" "I will take a team to the 'city'." Now, I have figured out it's not a real city, but I doubt the entire crew uses air quotes when they speak. The entire book looks like someone who didn't speak either language sat down with a German to English dictionary and copied it out that way.
Nevertheless, I devoured it in two sittings. I just tried to ignore it. Being a Lem fan, I knew it would be worth it, and it was. It didn't have the sort of slapstick humor of some of his other work (and for that I'm grateful, because I shudder to think how the translation of those passages would go), but the story is strong and rather classic Lem. If you've never read Lem before, definitely start elsewhere, perhaps with his Ijon Tichy books.
I'll still be going through everyone's recommendations, scattering them along my reading throughout the year. I also finished a second book yesterday, Marjane Satrapi's Embroideries, which made it book #17. I was pleasantly surprised. Look for my review in the Globe and Mail coming up.
March 2, 2005
You're not doing anything right now, are you? Then take this blog reader survey. In the words of the good folks at Blogads, "The results will help us communicate with advertisers, the press and the public about the huge and unique audience that blogs serve." EVERYBODY WINS. Be sure to tell 'em who sent you, by answering "Bookslut" to question #16. It takes about four minutes, and will make you more attractive to members of both the opposite and the same sex.
The Scotsman recommends Robin Jenkins, "the author who never wrote a book that wasn't worth reading."
The Iowa Idol contest continues. Jim Shepard, a candidate for the director's position at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, makes an interesting point about the derby:
The English professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., admits he's his own harshest critic but thought the reading in front of an audience of 75 people could have gone better.
"Maybe here at Iowa people say, 'Oh, that was great, but we're really too cool to say so,'" he said, noting that he didn't hear the "gales of laughter" he'd experienced with other audiences.
Adam Langer comments on the extra changes made when hardbacks go to paperbacks for his column at the Book Standard.
As far as my novel is concerned, the major changes will take place within the covers. These days, paperbacks allow the author and the publisher to add bonus material, in much the same way as DVDs now come jam-packed with trailers, interviews and audio commentaries. Where the old paperbacks on my shelf might include a little author bio of Ian Fleming or a clip-out coupon for the other novels in the James Bond series, paperbacks today are often full of Q&As, readers’ guides, new prefaces, afterwords. My editor asked me to write some questions for reading groups and to provide a chapter of my next novel, The Washington Story. I was happy to write the questions, but was nervous about the new chapter idea, fearing it might detract from Crossing’s sense of completeness. Instead, we reached a compromise, in which I offered to write the script to a trailer for the next book, which was not only fun, but also allowed me to use a line I’ve always wanted to see in print: “THIS BOOK HAS NOT YET BEEN RATED!”
Usually, I'd be the first guy to argue that books are not punk rock. They have weight, they have those things called "words" in them, and they require attention. Kinda like kids or pets.
The Seattle Times profiles Portland's Mercury Studio(s).
On any given day, a majority of the 11 artist members are bent over drawing boards, conjuring the worlds of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Catwoman and the Fantastic Four, among others.
It's a colorful, riotous place. Shelves groan beneath art reference books, model cars and stuffed piranhas; the stereo blares "Eaten by the Monster of Love"; and on a recent afternoon, one member was scanning photographs of his own face being ground into a carpet, so that he would have a photo reference for a fight scene he needed to draw.
And yet this quirky little studio occupies an important place in the multimillion-dollar comics industry: One editor once joked that if all Mercury's members were to fall sick, at least one major comic-book company would be forced to shut down.
My coworker has a "George W. Bushisms" daily calendar. Today's entry:
"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures." U.S. News and World Report, January 3, 2000
The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Swedish mystery novelist Henning Mankell, who is insanely popular in Europe but mostly ignored in the States. I read one of his novels (Faceless Killers) over Christmas, and loved it. But God, it's dark and so, apparently, is Mankell.
He also writes children's books. In one, he says, a cat disappears and never comes back. The book differs from most children's books about vanishing cats. Ordinarily, the pets return and there is a happy ending.
Not in Mankell's dark, out-of-the-ordinary story. When the book was published in Sweden, he says, "it created a scandal." Some critics thought Mankell's view of this planet as an uncertain vessel, full of loneliness and loss, may have crept into the tale a little too much.
None of his children's books, it turns out, have been translated for Americans.
Via Sarah Weinman.
When Sequential Tart asked various comic book professionals what they would recommend to readers unfamiliar with comics, their "gateway book," if you will, the standard answer seems to be to list what their wives read. But what's most bizarre to me is that no one brings up Sandman. Sure, it's been gone for a while, but I can't think of any comic book ever that has converted more nonreaders (those who didn'r start as children) to the medium. Also not mentioned is Maus, the book that convinced a whole lot of people that comic books are worthy. (The question is worded poorly, which may have something to do with it.)
Authors either have to decide which one it is: parents focus too much on their children (Perfect Madness) or parents don't focus enough on their children (The Road to Whatever). Because both books focus on the same demographic (middle to upper class families) and come to opposite conclusions. Neither one, by the way, start their sentences with "some." "Some middle class families do this." Neither book deals with what I'm interested in learning: why do so many teenagers think the first amendment is a suggestion? Figure that out, and we'll determine what the real problem with our kids today is.
THE row over whether Scotland is a country populated by inward-looking people who celebrate failure and revel in a "culture of poverty" took another twist yesterday when a leading literary agent said Scottish writing was dour, dark and in need of sexing up.
Jenny Brown, a former director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: "In an age where readers are looking for feel-good novels, Scotland excels at feel-bad books."
She said the black comedy of contemporary Scottish novels - when even sex was "dark, perverted" - could be one reason they don’t get made into films. "We would probably do well to cultivate other novelists with voices who are putting forward an alternative picture."
Yes, that's exactly what we need. Scottish chick lit.
Referring to Radar’s core 25-39 urban reader base, executive editor Drew Lee insisted: “This is a generation that doesn’t have a general-interest magazine speaking to them right now.”
It's amazing our generation has survived this drought, isn't it? But we no longer have to wander the desert lost. Radar is here to guide us.
The pineapple has such a tough, leathery skin. It’s almost an imposture to drink pineapple juice; it’s hardly a true experience of the pineapple. Drinking pineapple juice is life made easy. It’s fraudulence. I adore my pineapple juice, though.
After 20 years, Bruce Campbell is finally getting Man with the Screaming Brain made. Dark Horse celebrates this fact by adapting the movie into a four-issue comic book run. The Beat has an interview with Campbell as well as previews of the artwork.
There's a new short story by George Saunders in Harper's. You'll have to buy the magazine to read the whole thing, you cheap son of a bitch, but here's an excerpt.
March 1, 2005
If you’re a novice journal writer and you don’t know quite how to begin spilling your invidious feelings about Josh and Nicole, you touch a pouty-faced-girl icon on the special FLY diary and the pen issues a catfight screech, followed by a Lindsay Lohan-ish voice prompt: "What are you so jealous about?" If Josh smiled at you in pre-algebra, you touch an icon covered with tiny hearts, which elicits a protracted smooch sound followed by "Ooh—dish alert! What's going on?"
Reviews have been expectedly mixed. The most pointed came, unsurprisingly, from an elected official out to politicize the book. During a February 16 House Drug Policy Subcommittee hearing on "harm reduction" approaches to intravenous drug use, the committee's chairman, Indiana Representative Mark Souder, held a copy of the book in front of him and denounced it as a "pro-marijuana children's book." The representative then read excerpts into the Congressional Record. Cortes says he has already e-mailed a rebuttal to Souder's office, in the hopes will also be included in the Congressional Record. Souder's office hadn't yet seen it when contacted by the Voice.
Is Douchebag of Freedom really doing God's work? (Last item.)
Better go get in line! Today's the official release date for Taking Heat, the new memoir by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. The Washington Post profiles Flacky McLiarface, and at the Times, Michiko slaps Fleischer down old school.
The Christian Science Monitor profiles the nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry.
Arthur Ransome, author of the children's books Swallows and Amazons and others, was being watched by MI5 in the 1920's and 30's. He had married Trotsky's secretary and traveled widely in the Soviet Union, and it took the M15 20 years to admit they were maybe wrong.
The Charles Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction has announced a winner: The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia by Charles Montgomery. (Thanks to Philip for the link.)
Did Ann Coulter refer to reporter Helen Thomas as an "old Arab" in a Feb. 23 column? Coulter's syndicate is rushing to cover its ass, and no one seems sure how the phrase got in there. (Thomas is Lebanese-American.) Also from Editor & Publisher: At least three newspapers refused to carry yesterday's Boondocks comic strip, which you might want to sit down refers to President Bush's past drug use. Yet they still find space for Luann every day. Amazing.