May 31, 2005
The Washington Post has confirmed that W. Mark Felt is Deep Throat.
Former FBI official W. Mark Felt says he was the source called "Deep Throat" who leaked secrets about President Nixon's Watergate coverup to The Washington Post, Vanity Fair reported Tuesday.
The Washington Post had no immediate comment.
China's book bans aren't all that effective, reports the Weekend Standard. You can buy the censored Serve the People, which has characters having lots and lots of sex and urinating on Chairman Mao's slogans, on the Chinese streets.
Using comics is a delicate balance for artists and writers trying to spread a religious message through a medium sometimes viewed as frivolous or tawdry. But to (artist Sherwin) Schwartzrock, comics are just like movies.
"You can produce 'The Passion (of the Christ)' or you can produce porn," he said.
The Boston Globe sees manga's influence everywhere. (Slideshow)
And unless you're Lindsay Lohan, editors are likely to respond to your proposal for a tome about your tumultuous childhood with a yawn.
If only that were true! Will someone then please explain to me how Smashed, Oh the Glory of It All, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, I'm Not the New Me, Fat Girl, and Welfare Brat all managed to get published in the last year?
Female audience member: Excuse me. I'm not usually awkward at all but I'm sitting here and we're asked not to smoke. And I don't like being in a room where smoking is going on.
Christopher Hitchens (smoking heavily): Well, you don't have to stay, do you darling. I'm working here and I'm your guest. OK. This is what I like.
IK: Would you just stub that one out?
CH: No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it. If anyone doesn't like it they can kiss my ass.
(Woman walks out)
It's not too long into this panel that crazy Hitch comes out, although it's difficult to say who in this situation is the more annoying.
Summer reading lists! Summer reading lists! Do you give a fuck yet? Me neither. But hey: summer reading lists!
Largehearted Boy points out this collection of lists from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which might be one of the only interesting summer reading articles I've ever read. (Themes for the lists include "Quit Whining About How Hard Your Life Is" and "Great Canadian Novels That Aren't by Margaret Atwood or Robertson Davies.")
And at the Boston Globe, Ellen Goodman points to such obscure titles as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Kite Runner, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. It's good to see the underdogs getting some love.
Say this for Koontz: Nobody will ever accuse him of formulaic writing.
Yeah, I know. I can't believe I just read that either.
This book is an old-fashioned work of persuasion that aims to convince you of one thing: that I am one of the most influential social commentators of the 21st century. To this end I have decided to take the generally accepted premise that modern culture is dumbing down and argue the opposite, as this will guarantee me a lot of attention.
The fact that Nottingham is named for an Anglo-Saxon gentleman called Snot is just one of a number of unearthed details in a new reference book on Britain and Ireland place names.
Fascinating! Oh, wait no, it's not.
The New York Sun covered the Books in Translation panel moderated by Moby Lives's Dennis Johnson recently held in New York.
It costs about $35,000 for Dalkey to publish a translation, Mr. Post said, and if 2,000 copies sell, the publisher earns back $12,000–$13,000 dollars. Selling 3,000 copies is considered a “wild success,” he said. “Now we know why the big publishers stay out” of publishing translated work, said Mr. Johnson. Joking about how that loss per book could be made up, Mr. Johnson added, “We’re selling cupcakes outside.”
Okay. It's amazing to me that Marianne Apostolides can work up so much bile against Oprah. Yes, she picks silly books, yes, she kissed George Bush on her show, yes, she did a lot of dieting. But come on. She gives people stuff. She seems like a nice lady. Is she single-handedly causing "the homogenization of literary culture"? Do you also wear aluminum foil on your head to protect your brain from the aliens? (To be fair, I did exactly as much eye rolling when the group of writers wrote to Oprah to ask her to bring back her book club.)
British newspapers print stories about the Orange Prize at the same rate American newspapers print stories about teenage obesity, which is to say, every fucking day. But it's the Prize's tenth anniversary, so hey, print on. The Independent points out that the Prize has gained (somewhat) widespread acceptance after being mocked and attacked a decade ago. And The Observer, via The Guardian, reveals that men still don't read very many books by women. (Jesus, that's depressing.) Here's academic Lisa Jardine's reaction:
Jardine said: 'When pressed, men are likely to say things like: "I believe Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a really important book - I'm afraid I haven't read it." I find it most endearing that in 10 years what male readers of fiction have done is learn to pretend that they've read women's books.'
The Louisville Courier-Journal, which I thought would still be recovering from their collective mint julep Derby hangover but is apparently soldiering on, has a story about moleskines, the blank books that have legions of devoted fans.
DRE: So would your wife agree with you that’s its not autobiographical?
SL:: I think she would pray that he wasn’t me. When you are writing your earlier stuff that’s where the straight up autobiography stuff pours out. Then there is that old cliché that everyone has one book in them. After that it’s about constructing new characters and thinking through world views that aren’t your own.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican who might run for president in 2008, talks to Salon about childhood obesity, censorship, and his new book, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork: A 12-Stop Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle. (Huckabee recently lost over 100 pounds.)
I'm politically astute enough to know that just because I lost weight, started running and wrote a book about it, that's not singularly enough of a qualification to say: "Yeah, this guy ought to be president." Otherwise, Dr. Phil would be running; Oprah would be running. Actually, come to think of it, Oprah could get elected.
American aviator Charles Lindbergh had three German mistresses simultaneously and seven secret children whom he visited and supported for decades, according to a new book published on Monday.
If you can't trust a Nazi to be faithful, who can you trust?
May 27, 2005
The Agony Column has an audio interview with Chuck Palahniuk about, among other things, his new book Haunted. The one question I would have liked him to ask: How is it even possible this book is as bad as it is? It seems to violate laws of physics with its badness.
Cuban Commies Dishonor Beloved Hungarian Poet, and Pestiside is pissed.
Seventy seven Korean and foreign literary figures, including Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, Friday adopted the "Seoul Declaration for Peace" expressing hope for the peaceful resolution of nuclear problems on the Korea Peninsula.
The New York Observer reviews a whole mess o' books, including 1776, The Perfectionist, and Michael Cunningham's latest, Specimen Days. (Thankfully, the phrase "after hours" does not figure into the headline.)
Beyond the reflexive rejection of anything resembling required reading, some readers overlook the classics for the same reason they never get around to visiting the landmarks in their own towns: The Empire State Building isn't going anywhere, and neither is "Remembrance of Things Past," so what's the rush? Besides, I hear there's a new novel out with a flip movie in it!
It's a sprawling kitchen sink of a memoir, stuffed to the gills with seemingly everything the author can remember about his youth and in dire need of some industrial-strength editing, but at the same time, an epic performance: by turns heartfelt, absurd, self-indulgent, self-abasing, silly and genuinely moving.
But restore serious criticism to the discussion of children's books, and something else happens. Indeed, with Pullman it already has. No longer will the promotion of young people's writing look like some safe, uncontested corner of social policy, like low-fat school dinners. It becomes, as it should, an arena of bitter cultural struggle, of quarrels over means and ends, forms and values.
May 26, 2005
Soon the publishing industry will have one imprint for every man, woman and child in America. It’s not that far off. It seems that Dan Brown has monopolized the whole “runaway success” concept, so all that’s left to make money with is the nichification of literature.
Have You Noticed Anything a Little Off About New Mexico?
I've never been too excited about Umberto Eco, but when The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana came through the door, it created quite the stir. It's so attractively put together, it sounds amazing, now all I have to do is get through the book I'm reading now so I can attack it. Eco talks to the Telegraph about the difference between Foucault's Pendulum and Da Vinci Code, why he was mooing when the interviewer showed up, and whether his latest book -- about a book dealer who loses all personal memories, but can remember every book he's ever read -- is autobiographical at all.
'It is difficult for me to recognise it as autobiography because it is more the biography of a generation. But it is obvious I gave to the character a lot of my personal memories. The "historic" or "public" memories are from my private collection of memorabilia, from the Flash Gordon or Mickey Mouse cartoons of my youth. The illustrations I use in the book are all from my own collection, as displayed in that cabinet back there.' He directs a thumb over his shoulder. 'The character lived his childhood through books and cartoons, as did I. They dominated my life.'
At long last, Disney has found a way to get on the good side of fundamentalist Christians. The American Family Association has decided to end their boycott of the company, largely, it seems, in anticipation of the new film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Conservative Christians are also heartened by Disney's decision to adapt The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in CS Lewis's classic series of Narnia stories. Although set in a magical land populated by talking beasts and witches, Lewis's tales are traditionally read as thinly-veiled Christian allegories.
They'll probably change their minds, though, when Disney releases Cars in 2006, which features a lesbian Rolls-Royce who performs safe and legal abortions in western Massachusetts.
Metroactive interviews new California Poet Laureate Al Young about the state of poetry and his meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger, who had memorized one of Young's poems, about the wife of a San Quentin prisoner:
"The governor said, 'You'd think I would hate that, but I love it. Why? Because I follow hip-hop and I, too, am for prison reform.' Then he asked if I was withholding anything that if revealed would prove damaging to the state. I said no, and the governor laughed and said, 'None of us could claim that.'"
Uh...that's good to know.
Florida's West Boca Raton High School has assigned the Book of Genesis as its summer reading requirement for incoming juniors, and another Florida high school requires juniors in honors classes to read from the book.
The New York Observer continues the conversation about the absence of women on the op-ed pages, and now that Maureen Dowd is on book leave (to write Are Men Necessary?) and has been replaced by a man, it's especially dismal.
Schools are increasingly worried about the literacy of boys, who score significantly below girls on annual reading tests in Kentucky and Ohio.
As a result, some teachers are loading up on "boy books." They feature sports, adventure, blood analysis - even the science of scabs and snot.
OK, so I give the patriarchy about five more years before it slides into a really hilarious decline.
Louisiana, I take it back.
A nonbinding resolution calling on libraries to keep "age-inappropriate books" out of the hands of children died in a House committee on 4-3 vote Wednesday.
Cheers to the Louisiana Library Association, who vocally opposed the resolution.
At the San Antonio Current, Lisa Sorg takes a look at several great indie/progressive publishers, including Haymarket, Verso, AK Press and South End. Responding to those who criticize progressive authors for signing deals with corporate publishers, Haymarket's Anthony Arnove makes an important point:
Arnove says the battle is more nuanced than corporate versus indie. "If people want bigger distribution and a more mainstream audience, I don't think we should systematically oppose that strategy. If you did, you would give up that ground to the right-wing."
Sorg's article is actually part of a huge and hugely impressive Texas Books Issue, all of which is worth reading, particularly Alejandro Pérez's review of two books from Texas A&M University Press, and Elaine Woolf's interview with former Texas state Rep. Frates Seeligson Sr., who is trying to read his way through world history.
May 25, 2005
He encounters traumas and tragedies. He gets detained, interrogated, and beaten. He gets drunk, enraptured with women, entertained by a community of literary colleagues, and entangled in raunchy sexual escapades. He gets hassled, numerous times, for the quizzical nature of his name (which yes, sounds Jewish and no, is not). He also gets harangued, in at least as many instances, by Arab writers in Paris who tell him not to hang around with other Arab writers in Paris.
Samuel Shimon talks about his autobiographical novel, An Iraqi in Paris.
A parent of one student complained to school officials the site for poems contained several works of poetry that contained sexual content.
Of course. Of course. I'd love to see how the parent would react if his or her student was assigned Rainbow Party.
The AP profiles Ali al-Dimeeni, the Saudi poet and novelist who is serving a nine-year jail sentence for "sowing dissent, disobeying his rulers and sedition."
Alice Munro accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Vancouver Public Library yesterday.
It sounds like one of the most bizarre vanity projects ever to come out of Hollywood. Sylvester Stallone is to direct his own script about the life of Edgar Allan Poe.
If it's half as good as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, I will camp out overnight for tickets. Even though it will almost certainly be unnecessary to do so. My anticipation is that great.
Neal Pollack is writing about his beloved Phoenix Suns for Slate. He's a good guy, so I'm hesitant to be too gloaty about the Spurs' victory last night, particularly since a lifetime of rooting for the Spurs has taught me that given half a chance, they will blow even the safest of leads. (Witness the Lakers debacle last year. Or better yet, don't.) Besides which, Phoenix will have Joe Johnson back for the next game, and he's dangerous. So I'm still worried. At any rate, Neal points out that the Suns are a pro sports team that even book nerds can love:
I began to idolize the Suns. These guys were cool. Steve Nash, the league's MVP, is a longhaired Canadian who spoke out against the war in Iraq and reads The Communist Manifesto. Quentin Richardson declared after a game-winning shot that it "was like Hamlet. It was a suspense thriller, and I killed them at the end."
From USA Today: Bookstores and libraries are wondering whether they should stock Rainbow Party, Paul Ruditis' new young-adult novel about "a group of teens who plan an oral-sex party at which each of the girls wears a different color of lipstick." Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has an aneurysm over the whole thing:
A "rainbow party," you see, is a gathering of boys and girls for the purpose of engaging in group oral sex. Each girl wears a different colored lipstick and leaves a mark on each boy. At night's end, the boys proudly sport their own cosmetically sealed rainbow you-know-where -- bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of "party favors."
Malkin also notes that the book's galleys feature the "provocative" tagline "Don't you want to know what really goes down?" Which is pretty racy, I admit, but is still much better than the original "Like Bridge to Terabithia except instead of a secret forest kingdom there's a bunch of teenage girls having loads of oral sex."
The Christian Science Monitor looks at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has organized mass giveaways of Don Quixote and plans to do the same with Les Misérables The Monitor says Chávez "is playing an Oprah Winfrey-like role in Venezuela, turning the country into one giant book club." Tom Cruise has announced plans to appear on television with Chávez and act like a psycopathic marmoset who has just swallowed a whole bottle of cheap trucker's speed.
Ward Churchill plans to write a(nother) book. I bet he asks Rudy Giuliani to write the foreword.
Michigan college professor David Myers has "been told to prepare for some hate mail" after the release of his new book, What God Has Joined Together?: A Christian Case for Gay Marriage (which he coauthored with Letha Dawson Scanzoni).
Michelle Tea and poet and chapbook publisher Nicole Henares sit down for a chat at the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Bill O'Reilly: Newspaper critic.
In a May 17 radio broadcast, telephilosopher Bill O'Reilly fantasized unpleasantly that terrorists might "grab" the Los Angeles Times editorial and opinion editor "out of his little house and … cut his head off." O'Reilly went on, "And maybe when the blade sinks in, he'll go, 'Perhaps O'Reilly was right.' "
Daniel Alarcón, author of War by Candlelight, assures us that even the intelligent literary community can be idiots. He is asked the same question in almost every interview he does: So, what did your parents do?
In essence I am being asked what social class I belong to. What kind of Latino I am. Now, we spend a lot of energy in this country talking about race and not enough talking about class, but is this the way to start that much-needed discussion? I have come to feel I am disappointing certain people when I say I grew up in the suburbs. That I didn't want for much. That, though we were never ostentatious, we never had serious money problems. We always had food to eat, had safety and comfort and good schooling. These are facts: I grew up comfortably, in an American sense -- which means, of course, that in a macro-global sense, I am filthy fucking rich.
May 24, 2005
Greg Lindsay would like to talk to recently graduated journalism students about what they just paid for.
To have made it this far, you've had to inhale the usual bromides like "the reporter's job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"--a noble sentiment that overlooks the fact that anyone who can spend $30,000 on j-school should be considered "comfortable." You've been trained to be skeptical of every truth and every detail ("If your mother says she loves you, check it out") but you've been steered away from skepticism about j-school itself. So think of the following as a quick adult education course.
Alan Moore, co-creator of the "V For Vendetta" comic, has publicly disassociated himself from the upcoming Warner Brothers movie project based on the comic book and written and produced by the Wachowski Brothers. And as a result, he has cut his remaining ties with DC Comics, including future volumes of the "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
After From Hell, Constantine, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the casting of Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta, does anybody blame the guy?
In Harris and Uncle Tom, Stowe felt she had flipped the arguments in slavery's favor on their head. No amount of reasoning, however devious, could defend the theft of Harris' natural talents as a God-given right, or portray Tom's fatal beating at the hands of Legree as flattering the providential order. As anyone who has read Uncle Tom's Cabin realizes, Tom's salvation was infinitely more important to Stowe than Harris' emancipation. Harris wanted a right to a fair wage for the value-adding power of his labor. (He doesn't want 40 acres and a mule; he wants to keep working in a factory where he had "invented a machine for the cleaning of the hemp," an invention that made the manufacturing of bags far more efficient.) Her appraisal of Tom, however, is anti-utilitarian: a man's worth, as a creature in the image of God, is infinite, and to barter in it is a grievous sin.
What's the most overused word in the rock snob's vocabulary?
David: There is this compulsion to describe guitar solos as "coruscating." The word "plangent" is confusing to people, because they take it as onomatopoeia. They think it means soft and chiming, but it means loud and resounding. Also, "seminal," as in the seminal band, the seminal song, which basically means any rocker who was in on a trend too early to make money.
Bust out your ironic t-shirts: Pitchfork has a summer reading list.
Angry conservationists yesterday demanded to know how four rare black rhinos died within days of being moved from a Kenyan national park to an author's private ranch.
The writer in question, Kuki Gallmann, is author of the autobiography I Dreamed of Africa.
Oooh, look. I'm a B-Lister. Of bloggers. Which translates into Q- or V-lister in real life, doesn't it?
Before long, patrons wanting to use Naperville Public Library System computers without a hassle will have to prove their identity with a fingerprint.
The three-library system this week signed a $40,646 contract with a local company, U.S. Biometrics Corp., to install fingerprint scanners on 130 computers with Internet access or a time limit on usage.
You know what would be nice? If suburban Naperville had given that $40,646 it just blew to some of the many libraries with budget crises. That would have been swell of them.
God, this "let's censor gay-themed children's books" trend is becoming an epidemic in the South. The latest state to jump on the bandwagon: Louisiana. State Rep. A.G. Crowe, a Republican, is sponsoring HCR 119, which "requests public libraries to confine certain books and materials to areas designated exclusively for adult access and distribution." (The ALA and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans have more on this.) The whole controversy seems to come from King & King, a children's book about two princes who fall in love.
But I love that Louisiana is suddenly worried about the welfare of its children. Sure, the state is so polluted that the area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is called "Cancer Alley," and sure, you can't walk ten feet in the French Quarter without seeing meth addicts window-shopping for cock rings, but a children's book about two princes and a kitty is going to corrupt schoolchildren in the worst possible way. What the fuck?
It's a beautiful sight: Cobb County, Georgia, public schools are (reluctantly) removing the anti-evolution stickers from the school district's science textbooks. (Go to Bugmenot.com for registration.) If you're a fundamentalist Christian with an antipathy towards science, you might consider printing out these stickers and affixing them to the books in your local library. It's the least you could do for Jesus.
Are high school English classes taking the joy out of reading? Don't everybody say "Oh my God yes" at once now.
That happened to Abbey Becker, a graduate of Richard Montgomery High School who attends Emerson College. During the summer before 11th grade English class, she read Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" and enjoyed it. The joy was lost in class, however, "ripping apart sentences and trying to figure out the metaphors."
"The word 'funny' might have meant one thing to me," she said, "but it supposedly had a definite counter-directional slant to it, in the author's mind. How did my teacher know this?"
Abbey Becker is seriously my new idol.
This year's Mountain Ridge High School yearbook, X Rated, has community members divided about what's creative and what's inappropriate, school district officials say. The yearbook staff at the Deer Valley Unified District school released the book with a table of contents that used "Hardcore Action" to refer to sports pages and "Obsessions" for school clubs.
Harmless, maybe, but there was really no reason to refer to the debate team as "cum-guzzling." I'm all for free speech and everything, but come on.
(UPDATE: More on this at Newszap.com. How do I get a copy of this yearbook? My interest is legitimate; I went to Mountain View or whatever.)
May 23, 2005
Barnes & Noble Inc.'s Sterling Publishing unit has launched a new line of 10 literary classics that appeal to both those who struggle to read and to avid younger students whose reading skills aren't quite strong enough to let them master "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in its original. The books, which have been retold using simpler words, have been surprisingly hot sellers, so much so that they are already in their fifth printing.
Wouldn't you love to have that job? "So, what do you do for a living?" "I dumb down the world's classic literature for the young and the stupid."
"Persepolis" put a human face on Iran for the cadets. It was clear that Satrapi's portrayal of herself and her world moved them, and many said they had not realized that Iran isn't completely fundamentalist. "I got 'Persepolis 2' through inter-library loan," said Noyes. "I had to find out what happened to Marjane." Pedersen had a more sober view. "No one [here] knows what they think of Iran. Tehran at nighttime looks like Detroit. Dark with lights."
This year may have the easiest Christmas shopping spree for me: All members of my family that I never know what to get will be receiving copies of The Complete Calvin & Hobbes. Editor & Publisher examines the marketing efforts for this three-volume collection, which will be released in October with new artwork and a new essay.
When I'm relaxing at home in the summer, I invariably fire up the barbecue. Who writes this shit? Do you really think I've got the fucking time to sit around at home and fire up a fucking barbie when I've got restaurants to run, Michelin stars to protect and telly projects on the go?
"The all-white-male canon has been gone quite a while," said Bonita LaBelle, who directs the English program at Shrewsbury High School. Unfortunately, it's in favor of making kids read The Joy Luck Club over, say, Slaughterhouse-Five. Quite the dumb move. I mean, you might get weepy fourteen-year-old girls' attention, but aren't the real targets in high school English classes the boys, who tend to lag behind girls in reading? (But yes, definitely drop The Scarlet Letter. No one actually reads that.)
In 2001, W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz had barely hatched when its expat German author died in an auto accident near Norwich, England. The book came of age in its creator's absence. As a steady stream of miscellany, new translations, and critical exegesis in books about World War II has emerged, Sebald's posthumous trajectory resembles, of all things, that of slain West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur.
Slate has an article about the Birthing from Within book and classes, but all the name can make me think of is poor John Hurt birthing an alien. Ew. I'm guessing they didn't mean Birthing from Within Your Chest Cavity, but the image won't leave my mind. Evidently the book is full of hippie crap about the beauty of childbirth, but the passage on "DEEP VAGINAL TEARS THAT EXTEND INTO THE RECTUM" make me so, so glad it's my sister pregnant and not me.
May 20, 2005
Book collectors! Make wills! And stop being crushed by your collections; it's really beginning to make me paranoid about the way I'm going to die.
Last Thanksgiving, he stumbled over a pile of materials in his packed apartment in a West Harlem housing project. As he fell, he clutched at a stack of books, which tumbled down on him, according to Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakr, a friend who took care of him. Mr. Nash, a lecturer and essayist whose flowing African robes made him a familiar figure at dance events in New York, lay on the floor for five days, until friends heard his cry for help, she said. "Every single room was storage - his bathroom, his bedroom," Ms. AbuBakr said. "He just had enough space to lay down."
Mr. Nash never recovered from the fall, friends said; he died on April 13 at 85 of cardiovascular problems. Now, because Mr. Nash had no heirs - and apparently left no will - the city has changed the locks on his apartment door and seized his property, in preparation for auctioning it off. Archivists, dance lovers and Mr. Nash's friends are appalled by the possibility that the collection could be scattered to the winds.
Stanislaw Lem's official website has a gallery of the cover art of his books. Some of them are as bad as you would expect to see on a science fiction book, others are quite beautiful. I just finished reading The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy, which is not only a hilarious satire, but it managed to get America's future down pretty well. America's response to the overpopulation problem being "sex vouchers"? Genius. The out-of-control pharmaceutical industry being utilized to keep the population in denial about the overcrowding and poverty? Why have an emotion, when you can take a pill? The book doesn't have much of a plot, but who cares, it's hilarious. You can read more about the book, including an excerpt, here.
Is it even possible that this article on short stories be titled something more offensively awful? "Short and curlies"? Jesus, someone needs to fire that copy editor.
May 19, 2005
It's kind of a gray area, you know? I've seen hundreds of violent television shows and movies, and I've never so much as pushed anyone in my life. On the other hand, I saw the movie Crash last weekend, and since then, I've been really boring and able to speak only in stilted, unbelievable dialogue, so maybe there's something to this whole thing. (Seriously. It's not good.)
Facing intense public criticism, members of the Johnson County Library Board voted Wednesday to reinstate national guidelines of intellectual freedom that guide how library materials are selected.
Bad Librarian Erik Wennermark considers the Patriot Act.
"I cross ocean, poor and broke/ Take bus, see employment folk," begins the poem, which has circulated in different but like-spirited versions on the Internet for several years. "Nice man treat me good in there/Say I need to see welfare."
The Telegraph profiles Neil Belton whose new book A Game with Sharpened Knives I'm tempted to buy despite its lack of US release. It is set in Ireland during World War II, a time not many Irish authors have explored.
"It is a murky period," Belton says, "almost a lost subject. Very few people have written about it. Irish neutrality may have been politically defensible, but it was morally ambiguous. Ireland received reports on the true nature of the Nazi regime, but there was an attitude of, 'well, if the British are telling us that then it must be wrong', while the IRA was working hand-in-glove with the Germans on the basis of 'my enemies' enemy is my friend'."
The war period allowed Belton to "write about a world before I was born, during the Emergency, and imagine the place when there was a great deal to play for. If the war had gone Germany's way, there is no doubt that a strain of nationalism would have found an accommodation, with Ireland ending as a vassal state within a Nazi Europe.
Even though the tone of this NPR segment on Iranian literature is "Oh my god, there have never been books by Iranians before!", the recommended PEN anthology Strange Times, My Dear did have to sue the American government in order to get it published.
What would Yakov Smirnoff say? MosNews.com looks at Tolkien fans in Russia.
Storytelling is one of the best things about the scene, and one of the best-known stories goes like this: a Tolkien fan coming back from a game and wearing an expensive leather coat over his ring mail was unfortunate enough to run into a couple of skinheads late at night. Taking him for a rich and easy prey, they tried to rob the man, threatening him with a knife. When the knife bounced off the hidden coat of mail and the man raised a huge real-looking sword over his head, the two would-be muggers fell to their knees, begging: “Have mercy on us, Duncan MacLeod,” mistaking the Tolkien fan for the immortal highlander.
I am Michael Schaub of the Clan Schaub. I was born in 1977 in the city of San Antonio on the shores of Salado Creek. And I am immortal.
Two public libraries in Ohio had to discard thousands of dollars worth of books because they were put down your bagel stained with urine.
"I can't even believe we're discussing something like this," said Linda Yanko, manager at Geauga West. "It's appalling and disgusting."
I am going to go out on a limb here, and guess that perhaps Ohio public librarians are not getting paid enough.
A Muslim group in the United States has called for a public apology from online bookseller Amazon after a second-hand copy of the Koran was sent to a customer with “death to all Muslims” scrawled inside the cover.
The state prosecutor for the Sidi M'hamed Court in Algiers is seeking a one year prison sentence with no parole for Farid Alilat, former director of the daily "Liberté", Ali Dilem and Mustapha Hammouche, a cartoonist and columnist, respectively, with the same paper. The three journalists have been charged with criminal defamation.
The prosecutor annouced that he was seeking jail sentences for the three journalists on 10 May 2005. This followed a hearing at which they were charged with "insulting" President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The judgment is expected on 24 May.
Brigid Hughes, former editor of The Paris Review, plans to start a new literary magazine.
A Public Space will feature poetry and fiction, both art forms that get little play in mainstream magazines.
Emily Wilson has a message to the "momoir" writers of the world: Shut up.
Later, when one is becoming a world expert in putting a baby to sleep or changing nappies, or even if your child has secured a place at a really great school, it is helpful to remember that no one except, possibly, your partner, gives a toffee about the blow-by-blow: you are living in an anecdote-poor environment. This is heartbreaking, but true. When your children start to take hard drugs, beat you up and sleep with their drama teachers, then, and only then, will your travails as a parent be of interest to your friends and acquaintances.
“They’re not a personal thing at all,” Peters said. “But because I take my work so personally, and I identify so closely with it, any attempt to censor one of my books hits me very hard.”
We pointed all you baseball fans to Baseball DIY yesterday (and if you didn't see it: Baseball DIY!). But if you're looking for still more baseball lit, New Orleans' Gambit Weekly reviews Michael Lewis' Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life and two others. And there's always Largehearted Boy's excellent list of recommended baseball books (which includes, thankfully, Philip Roth's The Great American Novel).
Seattle Weekly reviews the Tiny Ninja Theater's production of Hamlet, and finds it "ironically haunting, oddly moving, and humane." It plays in Freemont, Washington, until May 22, and it opens in Charleston, S.C., on May 27. It looks to be the best play performed by a group of plastic toys since the critically acclaimed "My Little Pony" version of Glengarry Glen Ross that horrified a whole generation of children.
May 18, 2005
Christopher Hitchens, an unlikely favorite of mine, is interviewed at Stop Smiling Magazine.
I used the word “Promethean” and the [magazine editors] said, “Take that out because people won't know what Promethean means.” I said, “Maybe they won't. I'll cut it out if you give me another synonym for it. You give the words that would stand in for it and I'll change it.” “There doesn't seem to be one,” they said. “No, there isn't, is there?” You either know what “Promethean” means or you don't. If you do, it saves you about 50 words. And if you don't, then you can look it up! So I said, “No. I'm going to keep it, because it's an important word and it's actually not condescending to Americans in the least. You have to condescend far more by finding the 50-word substitute. No, I won't change it. Fuck you. And I don't mean to publish in your magazine, either, for that matter.”
I'm not exactly sure why, but I love this guy. (Via Moby.)
The new issue of Baseball DIY is up, which is good news for anyone who cares about baseball, good writing, or, ideally, both. Issue 2 includes an interview with Joe Pernice, author of The Smiths' Meat Is Murder (part of Continuum's very cool 33 1/3 series of books and hey, why not scroll down a little for a chance to win a bunch of them), and the musician behind one of my favorite albums ever. Colleen Mondor, who is also a contributor to Bookslut, reflects on A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti, by the late, great baseball commissioner (and father of actor Paul Giamatti). It's a great issue, no matter what your favorite team (and here's mine) is.
Add to that illustrious list: Rosie O'Donnell, who is now maintaining a poetry blog.
i was the actor
on james liptons show
inside the actors studio
he is a charming man
with a beautiful wife
he wondered y this blog
is as it is
comma and capital free
hard 2 explain
but i tried
i am going 2 slit
Sarah Vowell finishes John Intini's sentences.
THE ONE JOKE I WISH I WROTE . . . is "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. But I got distracted, so I missed it." It's from Kids in the Hall.
Bruce Robinson will adapt and direct The Rum Diary, the first novel by the late Hunter S. Thompson, reports Variety. Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, will again play the gonzo journalist.
Two men were arrested today on suspicion of the murder of a best-selling food author.
The BBC looks at Pratham, an Indian mobile library program.
Through its volunteer system, Pratham libraries cater to 40,000 children in Delhi. In a country where 30m children in the age group of six to 14 years cannot read at all and 40m children can read only a few letters, Pratham's collection of picture books and big bold lettering has become a resounding success.
"Sometimes people interview me about Zorro with this intensity, this seriousness, and I say, look, we're talking about Zorro, not Che Guevara. Calm down."
US Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican and all-around weirdo, introduced a bill that would allow parents to censor books in classrooms and school libraries. He was evidently driven to action following news reports about a Wilmington, N.C., school district that decided to censor the children's book King & King, about two princes who fall in love and thus clearly a threat to our nation's security. (It was also one of the ALA's most challenged books of 2004.)
The Observer goes after The New York Times for its review of Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper in last week's Book Review.
While it was perhaps inevitable that The Times had to review Ms. Leff’s book, lest the newspaper be accused of trying to ignore its publication, the review itself carries an unmistakable tone of condescension. While openly admitting that "The Times was seriously negligent throughout the period," The Times’ reviewer, Robert Leiter, spends a good portion of the review trying to discredit Ms. Leff, charging her book with the crime of "moral indignation" and calling it "a high-minded crusade against one newspaper." The review contains some curious assertions: Mr. Leiter notes that during World War II, "The Times was the pre-eminent newspaper in the country," but then implies that even if The Times had run front-page headlines about the Holocaust, it wouldn’t have had an influence on the culture at large. The fact is, other papers across the country paid close attention to what The Times chose to highlight; they would have quickly followed the paper’s lead on any big story. Going even further, Mr. Leiter tries to lay the blame for The Times’ aloofness on the Holocaust itself: The Nazi death camps, he writes, were unprecedented, and thus the Sulzbergers couldn’t be expected to have "comprehended the extent of what was happening in Europe."
The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature is 900-pages long, $160, uninteresting, and on top of all of that, ugly. The New Criterion would like you to save your money.
May 17, 2005
Bill Moyers: "A democracy can die of too many lies."
(Thanks to Leela for the link.)
You know how certain '80s rap acts featured one guy who would do all the actual rapping, and another guy who would stand next to him with his arms crossed and occasionally say "Yeeeah"? I am going to be Jessa's "Yeeeah" guy from now on.
Normally, I don't take her recommendations very seriously, because she's all into "serious literature," and I'm more about novelizations of The OC episodes. But I read AL Kennedy's Paradise after she (and Maud Newton) recommended it, and it was absolutely amazing. I just finished another book Jessa loved, Shalom Auslander's Beware of God, and I can't remember the last time I read a book as funny, charming, and unbelievably smart. One of the stories is called "Smite the Heathens, Charlie Brown." And that just about says it. (For a much, much, much more intelligent discussion of Beware of God, check out Megan Walton's review.)
So, you know, uncle. I give. Or: Yeeeah.
At Blogcritics, Aaman Lamba considers Stacked.
Harper Collins plugs a number of their books prominently in the show, which is not such a bad thing really, and hopes to feature a couple of real-life authors in future episodes. The third episode parodied the publishing industry and book tours as similar to rock tours, with lusting groupies replaced by author-stalkers and groupies, who get handed down to the publicist when the author has had her way.
Real-life authors! Will it be Jacques Barzun? Oh God please let it be Jacques Barzun.
Alicia Keys, the acclaimed singer-songwriter, is writing "a fictionalized version of her life story told through journal entries and letters," and has plans for a series of young-adult mystery novels.
I can only guess that the folks at the Oregon Daily Emerald were being ironic when they wrote this headline:
I'm sure this guy's going to get a great reception in Eugene.
The New York Public Library has raised more than $35 million from the sale of the Asher B. Durand’s "Kindred Spirits," an 1849 landscape ... The buyer was Alice L. Walton, a Wal-Mart heiress who plans to exhibit it in a museum being built by her family's foundation that will open in 2009 in Bentonville, AR, reported the New York Times.
The Wal-Mart Museum will be hiring docents and support staff soon. If you're an underage undocumented immigrant who loves both art and being exploited financially, this is your lucky day.
It felt so terribly Midwestern, thinking I was on the cutting edge when, in fact, I was years behind. But Karyn -- that's chef Karyn Calabrese -- was, fortunately, way ahead of me. She'd just opened Karyn's Cooked on Wells Street, an airy, unpretentious-looking cafe that offered vegan fare, but without the whole rawness gimmick.
Desperate, I convinced myself it was the perfect spot.
And so Reichl, in her sensible black traveling clothes and with her unruly curls piled on her head, gamely shows up there less than an hour after landing at O'Hare.
"If it's good," she says, surveying the place and its menu full of innumerable varieties of tofu, "I'll be shocked and amazed."
David Mitchell is interviewed by Nazalee Raja about the novel written before Ghostwritten, the "secret architecture" of number9dream, which character in Cloud Atlas appeared in an earlier work, and his upcoming novel Black Swan Green, which he is almost finished with.
It's about 13 months in the life of a 13 year old boy. It's set in a small, narrow village in South Worcestershire that the narrative only leaves twice. It's 1982, in the cold war, and the year of the Falklands war. Each chapter is one short story that I've tried to write as an independent short story.
But after a few years, everything became stale. For the best part of 300 pages there had been predictable, repetitive episodes with Morris and his mates, droll psychic encounters with the general public, and dry aperçus about suburban life, and Colette reluctantly concluded the book was going nowhere. "Surely Big Al could have predicted just how dull this would be," she thought.
"In the music industry, young bands make their own CDs, and filmmakers make their own (first) films, but, in publishing, there's a real cringe factor about putting out your own books," he says.
Also at The Age: an ecstatically positive review of We Need to Talk About Kevin, the school shooting-themed novel that's been steadily been gaining attention on both sides of the Atlantic. And the Pacific now, I guess. It's published by a real punk publisher, the great London-based indie Serpent's Tail, which offers free shipping anywhere in the world. How can you beat that? You cannot.
Best headline of the day: "The Bloody Scalp of Literature." You don't even need to know what it's about, do you? You're intrigued already.
The NPR website has an extended interview with Kazuo Ishiguro about Never Let Me Go, as well as audio of him reading excerpts of the book. I fell in love with this book, and it's still worth reading even if you read one of the reviews that gave away a major plot point. Like this review by Margaret Atwood, which is on one hand so well written that it makes you immediately want to run out and read the book, but on the other it gives so much of the plot away, you could wonder why you would need to read it anymore.
May 16, 2005
Mondegreens and Coke commercials. I am just dorky enough to find this fascinating.
The film adaptation of Scott Heim's novel Mysterious Skin (read it now) had an extremely strong showing last weekend, reports Cinematical, "bringing in $17,425 on just one Manhattan screen." It's also reviewed at Nerve. Goddammit, this movie needs to come to Austin soon.
For a certain kind of person and I am that kind of person the mix tape is probably one of the most romantic, meaningful gestures possible. Mix CDs? Not the same. (I've been working on a tape for my girlfriend for almost a year now. It has to be perfect, which is why I've scrapped dozens of possible playlists because they just didn't feel right. Currently, I expect to be finished in early 2007.)
Happily, there's a new book about the dying art Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture and it's no surprise that it was edited by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. The book is reviewed at Newsday and (briefly) at Newsweek.
Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.
By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.
School administrators also plan to replace the existing glory holes in the library's men's rooms with e-glory holes, thus revolutionizing the way college students have anonymous sex. Only in Austin!
Norman Porter, the Boston murderer-turned-Chicago poet, is offering to take a polygraph test to prove that he's innocent of the 1960 slaying that he confessed to, and was convicted of, decades ago.
Get Underground profiles Ragan Fox, "the most fantastic queer poet you've ever seen."
I think men are terrified to date me, because they know they’ll become literary objects. I recently did a reading and signing at a bookstore, and I jokingly said to the audience after reading a scathing poem about a man’s small penis, "You know, boys, I am single and my new manuscript is only two-thirds of the way done. Anyone want to take me out to dinner?"
He's single, boys! (I'm guessing.)
The Library of Congress opens its Leaves of Grass exhibit, called "Revising Himself," today.
Penguin, one of India's leading English-language book publishers, has taken what it describes as an "unprecedented" decision to print books in Hindi in a drive to reach more readers.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund came away a winner in South Carolina this week – with a little help from its friends. Joining a broad coalition representing everything from booksellers to an obstetrics practice, the CBLDF gained a crucial victory over South Carolina's Harmful to Minors Law. On Monday U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Michael Duffy struck down the law, and a key amendment that expanded the law to include on-line material, as unconstitutional.
Under the statue, the state would have been able to bring criminal sanctions against those who disseminated "harmful material to minors" online, defining the term "material" to mean "pictures, drawings, video recordings, films, digital electronic files, or other visual depictions or representations but not material consisting entirely of written words." The felony would have been punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Legendary newsman Ben Bradlee (who I can't help but picture as Jason Robards now) talks to the San Francisco Chronicle about the future of newspapers.
I'm a little bit more upbeat than most of my colleagues. Circulation is down, there's no question about that. The real impact of television shows up now on the youngsters. I don't think that people my age or the 60-year-olds are abandoning newspapers; it's the 20- to 25-year-olds who never started. I'm up to my ass in newspapers every day at home. Even if circulation is going down in newspapers, ratings are down for the "CBS Nightly News" and all that, without talking about the quality, certainly the amount of cable shows has vastly increased. And the newspapers that are left are far better than they were. Jesus Christ, if you looked at the Washington Post in the '60s, the design was terrible, they were terrible to read and the level of writing and reporting was nowhere near as good, either.
Well, you know, I think that in my heart I'm a vegetarian. In my soul, I'm a vegetarian. But, in reality, ohhh, I'm incredibly weak! And I just love, love, love shish kebabs and roasted chicken, and ohh, I'm just so susceptible. So I'm kind of constantly going back and forth between what would I would rather do, and what I feel is right, and what I end up doing, which is munching my way through roasted lamb with garlic.
Some Phoenix parents might be "startled" to learn the public library's new teen reading program is called "Shut Up and Read," reports The Arizona Republic. They should just be grateful the library didn't go with their first choice, "Read a Book, You Fucking Pussy."
Mark Svenvold, author of Big Weather: Chasing Tornadoes in the Heart of America explains why he chases tornadoes at Salon.com.
Chasers are, as they used to say of a certain type of social misfit, a bit touched -- liable to vanish suddenly, to wander out of doors for days, then return just as suddenly, their pickup trucks pocked by hailstones, wheel wells caked with mud, their clothes in tatters, hair in disarray, eyes like saucers and wearing a crazy, beatific smile. The mighty big finger of God had descended upon their minds, it seems, leaving them standing by roadsides, or in convenience store parking lots, quasi-autistic in T-shirts that said things like "Project Vortex" or "Storm Trackers" or "Moderate Risk."
That movie Twister sure did odd things to Kansas tourism.
Hey, you know that annoying trend of celebrities writing children's books? Do you think that's finally over?
"Every celebrity should have a children's book," says George Foreman, boxing champ and entrepreneur extraordinaire. "We want the celebrities to just flood the market."
Oh. Oh, okay. I'll check again next year.
Poet Stanley Kunitz turns 100 this summer.
"He's someone all poets revere and admire," says poet and author Jay Parini. "He's in that old tradition. He has that conscience. He always seemed like someone who had a fierce morality, but could also write lyrically."
Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters announced Friday the company would issue an apology to Flagstaff voters for an ad relating a Nazi book burning to the big-box ordinance.
But Flagstaff voters, and Jews worldwide, were dismayed when the company announced the apology would be issued by the bouncing yellow smiley face that cuts prices at Wal-Mart's stores.
Penguin Books is marking its three-score-years-and-ten with a well-mannered orgy of history and nostalgia.
I always knew that my daily Google search for "penguin orgy," though unsettling and distasteful to some, would one day pay off.
May 13, 2005
In an interview with Hayden Christensen (who was brilliant in Shattered Glass, which you really should rent right now), the actor claims that Tom Stoppard helped polish the dialogue for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. But Matt at Wasters of Cinema has some disappointing news for enthusiasts of British playwrights: "Rumors that Harold Pinter is working on the dialogue for Alien vs. Predator II remain unverified."
Londonist has a rundown of 1984 (the opera) reviews.
Socialite Dede Wilsey is considering legal action against the Penguin Group if it goes ahead with the publication of a memoir by her stepson, Sean Wilsey, who writes about her and other fixtures of San Francisco's social set in "Oh the Glory of It All."
Did you know you could burn 500 calories just by screaming at women walking into an abortion clinic? 500 calories!
Harlan Ellison is interviewed for the series Tough Questions for Tough Jews.
I knew I was a Jew because they would not let me forget I was a Jew. We’re talking here about the middle-America version of The Protocols of the Elders of Fucking Zion. And I became a tough Jew because I had no alternative. I was very small and when we were all small, I was able to hold my own and I could brawl pretty good with the best of them. But as they got older and taller, and I stayed a dwarf, they were able to beat on me like a big door. When I got to high school—Champion Junior High School in Painesville—one day I was sitting in an auditorium because there was an assembly, and behind me were Wheeldon and Beckwith and Jividen and the rest of those assholes whose names, of course, are burned into my memory because they were those memories that never leave you, no matter how well-adjusted you get. And people say, “Well, let it go, let it go.” Fuck you, “let it go.” You let it go. I think bad memories are as valuable to a writer as good memories. Pain is a much greater friend to a real writer than pleasure because the pleasure takes care of itself—it’s what sustains you. But what gets you passionate and angry enough to write are the hurtful memories. And one of ‘em behind me called me a kike, and I turned around and I slammed the guy—I think it was Wheeldon, but it may not have been Wheeldon; it may have been another one of his no-neck cronies. I slammed him in the face with a geography book. And when he recovered from being hit, he punched me, and he hit me so hard, he tore the chair out of the floor. It was an old wooden high school, and the chair was pulled straight out of the floor.
So did I have any role models? Yeah. Me. Is that tough enough for you?
China Mieville's Iron Council won the Arthur C. Clarke award over Cloud Atlas, continuing the trend of genre awards refusing to award merit over their strictly defined standards of what SF/F is supposed to look like.
Tulsa libraries have moved gay-themed children's books to a special, restricted section, which they're calling the "Parenting Collection." Apparently, the cause of all this furor was King & King, by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, about two princes who fall in love. (There's a sequel, too, called King & King & Family.)
No word yet on whether this will affect other gay-themed kiddie lit, like Leslea Newman's The Boy Who Cried Fabulous (seriously), Johnny Valentine's One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads (also seriously), or Jim West's Timmy, The Little Self-Hating Hypocrite Who Got Exactly What He Deserved (still seri...ah, fuck it).
You know, you'd think that a state that shares its name with a musical would be a little more understanding about these things.
Marcel Proust's madeleine is the cliché cookie—a highbrow reference that's penetrated pop culture. (Take the Sopranos episode in which Tony's Proustian madeleine is a slice of cappicola.) The great French author put madeleines on the map, and probably in our mouths, too. We surely have him to thank for those little packages at every Starbucks checkout.
But Proust left out one important detail: the recipe. And no one ever asked him for it.
On a related topic, my crush on Alton Brown (I'm Just Here for the Food) decreased just a tiny bit the other night when I heard him mispronounce "Proustian" on his show. It was like hearing Lance Armstrong say "funner." Poof! Crush over.
Ha Jin is working on an opera.
Campaign ads bankrolled by Wal-Mart and depicting a Nazi-era book burning are offensive and backhanded, say some Flagstaff citizens and veterans.
Jonathan Coe's Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of BS Johnson is finally seeing an American release, just as it's shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.
May 12, 2005
In fourth grade, I asked my mother what Darryl Hall was referring to when he sang "I Want to Play that Game Tonight," and laughed knowingly when she answered "Monopoly." I had suffered eye strain from repeated late-night viewings of the Spice Channel and was a longtime aficionado of The Joy of Sex. Still, nothing quite prepared me for the copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves that I found in my parents' basement.
So...it wasn't Monopoly? What, then? Hungry Hungry Hippos? I am confused.
What do the Phoenix Suns have to do with Italo Calvino? Neal Pollack explains.
President Bush carrying a book? Shocking, yes. But President Bush carrying a book he was supposed to have finished months ago? A bit less so.
The Book Standard has two articles relating to VidLit, a company that produces trailers for book releases, like this one for Yiddish with Dick and Jane and this one for the graphic novel adaptation of War of the Worlds.
Alex Balk, guest blogging at Gawker, reports that Apprentice winner and cigar-peddling douchebag Bill Rancic is writing a children's book. Rancic's previous foray into the world of literature was a motivational book called You're Hired, which puts a clever and totally unexpected spin on a popular television catchphrase.
The Boston Phoenix finds Will Eisner's The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion seriously lacking compared to his other work.
Columbia Journalism Review might not have their feature on the slow decline of 60 Minutes available online (Mike Wallace is 87 years old and still the best thing on that show. New blood, please...), but they do have this article on the art of fact checking Hunter S. Thompson by Robert Love, Thompson's editor. I think that makes it official -- everyone who ever knew HST has now written something, but this one is worth reading.
Okay, intrepid Bookslut readers, I'm blanking on something. I've been reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is So Good, by the way. But all I can think when I'm reading it is that it reminds me of the story we read in grade school of the world where the sun only came out on this one day, and the mean girls in the school locked one of the others in the closet during the day of sun, so she never got to see it. What the hell is the name of that story? It's driving me crazy. (Thanks to Chris for answering my question.)
But back to Ishiguro. He's interviewed at the Knight News about the new book. (Oh, and skip the introduction to the interview, if you don't want the secret of the book ruined for you, not that it hasn't already been ruined by a thousand different reviews already.)
Cheer up, emo kids: Your comic book is finally here.
(Jamie) Reidy, a former Pfizer Inc. drug sales representative, says he is negotiating the movie rights for his book recounting his days selling Viagra and other pills for the New York-based drug giant in the late 1990s.
The book, "Hard Sell: Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," has been a hit among drug industry critics who believe drug reps use gift-giving to woo doctors into prescribing the latest, most expensive drugs.
Ha ha! Hard Sell! Get it? I don't mean to sound half-cocked, but I bet this book is very stimulating! In fact, you might say that this book blocks cyclic GMP-binding cGMP-specific PDE, allowing cGMP to accumulate in the penile area, thus allowing the patient to maintain an erection! OK, that kind of got away from me.
"I used to own quite a lot of white suits. At one time I had 34, today I only have 24. But it's tough going. If I had Dr. Freud's ... number I'd call him to ask him why I do this," said (Tom) Wolfe, who is to address the opening of Rio's 12th Biennial Book Fair on Thursday.
So apparently Tom Wolfe's slide into senility is going to be hilarious.
The Believer will include a compilation CD with their June issue, featuring your favorite indie rockers covering your other favorite indie rockers. Spoon does Yo La Tengo! The Mountain Goats do the Silver Jews! Huh. Perhaps I should have phrased that differently.
May 11, 2005
William Crossman, a futurist and an English instructor at Vista Community College in Berkeley, believes that reading and writing are doomed.
Fuck. I guess we're going to have to completely reinvent this blog. Join us tomorrow for the debut of Blog of a Badmintonslut! Will China take the Sudirman Cup, or is Denmark, with powerhouse Peter Gade, the team to beat this year? Will Mesinee Mangkalakiri be an asset to the USA team? Will they think of a less hilarious name for the shuttlecock? Stay tuned!
Imagine getting thrown out of your classroom for accompanying your students to the public library.
According to a report released Monday by the American Institute of Religions, the Church of Scientology, once one of the fastest-growing religious organizations in the U.S., is steadily losing members to the much newer religion Fictionology.
She sleeps with her feet on the pillow, can lift a horse and has no respect for grown-ups -- Pippi Longstocking turns 60 this year but the rebellious Swedish redhead is about to run riot in the graceful world of ballet.
Sixty, huh? Still I'd hit that. I guess I have a thing for elderly Swedes. Here's to you, Mrs. Söderlund!
Some people decided that building a statue of a drunken, wife-beating prick wasn't such a good idea.
The Guardian has another profile of Javier Marias. It makes me happy to see him getting so much attention for the release of his new book Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear, at least in the UK. The Guardian even talks to his translator about the particular difficulties of translating his sentences.
Jull Costa admits her heart sank somewhat when she was faced with the epic abstractions and equivocations of Fever and Spear, but denies that Marías's approach to sentences is a liability: "Are they a weakness in Proust? It's just a way of getting deeper into things, of not accepting face-value judgments." His style enacts his subject, which "is really the individual consciousness - how we think, how we justify, how we perceive, and how we flail around for some certainty, some absolute feeling or judgment and find it a lie and an impossibility." Having said that, his "sense of humour is essential".
At the P-I, John Marshall talks to Jack Hamann about his new book, On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, about the lynching of an Italian prisoner of war at Fort Lawton in Seattle. Marshall calls the book "riveting," and I can report that he's absolutely right. Hamann, a television journalist, is a natural writer as disturbing as it is, On American Soil is a pleasure to read, thoroughly researched and perfectly paced. Pick it up.
You write an article about how no one in their right mind would just read the encyclopedia as if it were a book, and you don't reference The Know-it-All by A.J. Jacobs, a book about a man doing exactly that published just six months ago?
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a resolution that would ban books on gay families from the children's sections of public libraries.
UPI reports that HR 1039 passed 81-3. The bill's author, Rep. Sally Kern, has a nicely self-serving press release on the Oklahoma House site, complete with audio files of her comments on the bill. (Someone should splice that with audio from a gay porn movie, and then set the whole thing to house music. Guaranteed hit.) Ah, Oklahoma! When they're not electing psychopaths who think abortionists should be killed, they're trying to rid their state of Heather Has Two Mommies. I didn't see that in the fucking musical.
The LA Times has an article on the surge of food related books being published, including James Beard winner Last Chance to Eat, Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, and The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine.
May 10, 2005
The Times has a fascinating profile of M. Scott Peck, the self-help author whose The Road Less Traveled is still something of a publishing phenomenon. Peck, who is 69 and has Parkinson's disease, comes across as amazingly honest and human as he discusses his vices and regrets including the recent dissolution of his marriage. Peck is now a songwriter living in Connecticut.
Eric Bogosian, whose Talk Radio (directed by Oliver Stone) is one of the best movies ever, has just released his second novel, Wasted Beauty. He talks to Nerve about the book, testosterone and pornography.
Arthur Miller was remembered yesterday at the Majestic Theater in New York. Paying their respects were Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, and actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who is Miller's son-in-law.
Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill Monday that would have made English the state's official language and required that government business be conducted in English.
Charles Patterson, author of the controversial Eternal Treblinka (which compares the mistreatment and abuse of animals to the Holocaust), is returning his Ph.D. to Columbia "to protest the university's continuing abuse of animals." (PETA was recently forced to apologize for a similarly themed publicity campaign, which they tastefully named "Holocaust on Your Plate.")
A newly discovered fragment of the Book of Revelation challenges the conventional belief that the Antichrist's mark is 666, indicating instead that it is 616. Expert classicists used multi-spectral imaging to get a better view of the text, which is written in archaic Greek and dates to the late third century.
If you believe that Satan speaks through area codes and you should then Grand Rapids, Michigan, just got a whole lot more evil.
Moneyball's success left a lot of brilliant sportswriters in the lurch. They are eloquent wordsmiths, but they don't have the nerdy hard-wiring it takes to devour page after page of decimal points. Instead of walking away from the fight, they get hung up on fencing with Lewis and the statisticians.
Well, this couldn't be more heartbreaking.
I wanted to be an animator for Disney, but I also wanted to be like Ron Jeremy, you know, the porno actor.
And on creative writing students:
I no longer know why people come to creative writing programs to write novels. It certainly cannot be for the fame and fortune, for the job possibilities, to be liked, etc... I don't know. Then again, I don't blame those people who get fired, or laid off and who want to do something different with their lives. That I can respect. But we get a lot of young people who haven't seen the world, but they want to write about digging up bones in Africa, or write about their last job as monkey masturbators for some laboratory that hires itself out to NASA.
I think I kind of like this guy. (Thanks, Jarret.)
JJ: I don't know why I decided to kill myself, really. Sure my girlfriend had left me and my rock band had split up, but this was everyday stuff for a superannuated everybloke from north London. In the end, I guess it was just that I didn't think the book would work with only three voices as we'd never sell the film rights unless I pitched up, too.
May 9, 2005
The Book Standard profiles the delightful book shop Atomic Books.
The Guardian talks to Javier Marías about the first volume of his three-volume novel Your Face Tomorrow. The interviewer strays into hyperbole -- the piece ends with the statement, "The next thing Marías deserves is the Nobel Prize" -- but if you've ever read Marías, you'll understand.
With these influences in common, no wonder WG Sebald recommended his work and spoke of him as a 'twin writer': their narrators are commonly in states of malaise or fever; their narratives are interested in those same patterns of association that exhaust all possibilities; their prose exerts an almost opium effect over the reader as time slows down, expands or is still.
Meghan O'Rourke wonders why the world of poetry has forgotten about Jack Gilbert.
I am seriously behind on posting the books in the 50 Books Project this year, so let's just do a highlight reel. All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache by Paula Kamen exists somewhere between Spalding Gray's brilliant monologue Gray's Anatomy (that Soderbergh fucked up the movie version to) and The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon. I don't know why her publisher is marketing this book as a memoir, because that's only the very beginning of what it is. When Solomon wrote his book with a similar scope, it was "An Atlas." I only worry that the marketing will lead people to believe that they would only enjoy it if they had a chronic headache, and that limits the audience a bit.
Skipping The Pulse because it was utterly disappointing, I picked up Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and wondered how I had gone so long without reading it. Read it immediately, and then go out and burn any copy of the Neil Jordan adaptation you run across. Seriously, Mr. Jordan, how could you get it so wrong? I blame you for making me uninterested in reading the book because your movie was so dull. After that it was on to The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, which I'll be reviewing for Saucy. But good lord, I could barely put it down.
And then last night I finished Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, which was sparked by frustration at the bookstore. I had an hour to kill before a movie, and wandered across the street to the store that shall not be named with an urge for a PKD book. I wanted a book I hadn't read yet, but with PKD, you have to tread carefully. I wanted a clerk to tell me which of the books were written during his crazy-and-can't-string-sentences-together phase and which were written in his crazy-but-interesting phase. It's such a thin line, and when you've already read the most obviously good books, you must tread carefully. The best the clerk in the SF section could do was tell me, "That one is being made into a movie." Thanks, that's very helpful. Then I remembered I had never gotten around to reading High Castle, which kept being mentioned alongside Roth's The Plot Against America, which I loved until that crappy ending. It was exactly what I wanted for a Sunday afternoon, weird and hard to put down. And hey, Nazis. I didn't even have to watch the History Channel to get my weekly fix of Nazis.
Whatever causes my unease with a foreign work, at root I know there’s something I just don’t get. International writing always has something to do with crossing cultural borders, with negotiating limits and lines. The experience can be baffling, intimidating—just plain overwhelming...
As an American male, I anticipated I’d have a difficult time finding a way into Satrapi’s story. But instead, an intensely proud, educated woman close to my own age shares experiences at-once cosmopolitan and completely personal—and rather than being rebuffed or offended, I see her as she sees herself.
Wow. I didn't realize that I was supposed to be reading only about people whose life experiences closely matched mine. Do people really think things like this?
Police in Somerville, Massachusetts, closed a public library early on Saturday to prevent a white supremacist group from entering the building.
Good news for people who like lonely, bookish Scottish people. Which, let's face it, is all of us.
John Donne was the Cole Porter of his day, a writer of subtle popular songs rather than just the author of cerebral poetry, according to new research.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, on their eight-day trip to Europe, visited the home of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney on Sunday afternoon in the suburbs of Dublin to renew their friendship.
I've been trying to score an invitation to Heaney's place for years. I guess I should just tell him that I'm "Viscount of Texas" or something. It could work.
For years, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been asking, "Where are San Francisco's great new poets?" The answer is, they are here, and in fact have been here in San Francisco and the Bay Area for a long while, and have been sadly overlooked.
I always thought trying to find poets in San Francisco was like trying to find singer-songwriters in Austin: kinda easy.
What Charles Manson was to crappy folk music, so BTK suspect Dennis Rader is to crappy poetry.
Stephen King delivered the commencement speech at the University of Maine. He is evidently not a Da Vinci Code fan.
"I can find out where you live," he said. "I have my resources. And if I show up at your house 10 years from now, and find nothing in your living room but Reader's Digests, nothing in your bedroom but the latest Dan Brown novel, and nothing in your bathroom but 'Jokes for the John,' I will chase you down to the end of your driveway and back shouting, 'Where are the damn books? ... Why are you living the mental equivalent of a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese life?'"
The AFP reports from the Tehran Book Fair.
Iran’s massive annual literary fest, it seems, has pretty much something for everyone: Thomas the Tank Engine, interior decorating, Microsoft Windows programming, "How to Kill an Israeli" and Jean-Paul Sartre.
A talented young writer named Christine Newgard takes a page from the food pyramids to beg her fellow UT students: For the love of God, read.
Then non-genre fiction (regular novels such as "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby or "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan) and decent genre novels (Anne Rice vampire novels, Larry McMurty westerns) make up the produce portion. The lesser genre books (Stephen King, John Grisham, Chick Lit) fill in the meat niche (note: This is not modeled on the Adkins diet). And the books to read in moderation, the symbolic fats and oils, are the serial fantasy, romance, science fiction, mystery and true crime books. Yes, this includes Harry Potter for anyone over 12. Why? Because you are over 12.
These types of articles usually drive me crazy. It's medical pretentious we-know-what's-good-for-you assholes wringing their hands and asking, "How can we get America to read more William T. Vollmann?" actually give me these weird hives, and I have to get a shot. I kind of feel that if someone wants to read nothing but John Grisham novels, they should just be left the fuck alone. But Newgard is actually charming and tongue-in-cheek enough to pull this off. (Although: Anne Rice's vampire novels are decent? Really? Ah, well, vive la difference.)
May 6, 2005
The Gregg Araki film adaptation of Scott Heim's novel Mysterious Skin opens today, and here's hoping it gets Heim the long-overdue recognition he deserves. He's one of America's brightest, most talented fiction writers, and there's no better proof than Mysterious Skin, his brilliant first novel. Gay City News interviews Heim and Araki, and the film is reviewed at Newsday, The Village Voice, AlterNet, and Catholic News Service. (Seriously. And they liked it.)
Go see the movie. (If you live in New York, that is. The rest of us will have to wait.) But more importantly, read the book. It's one of my favorite novels, and I don't know anybody who's read it who hasn't been touched deeply by Heim's writing. American literature is lucky, lucky to have an author this talented and this brave.
Now that his own novel has taken flight, Simon looks forward to having time to catch up on his non-required reading.
If you've ever dreamed of being the art director for Boston Magazine, I think the position might be open soon. Just a feeling.
Dick and I say goodbye to Sherry, then tool around K.C., which is much prettier than I ever imagined (most all I know about Kansas City comes from hometown author Calvin Trillin, who claimed that Arthur Bryant's is the best restaurant in the world and that his daughter once remarked that all the bagels here taste "like round bread").
Columbia Journalism Review explains why Michael Finkel, author of the new book True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa which in part deals with his firing from the New York Times for lying, is different than Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair.
After three weeks in Africa, Finkel had his story, but it was not a story about slavery. It was, rather, a story about poverty, and what desperate people will do for a chance to escape it. It was also a story about how the media, as he would later write, “can generate misunderstandings, and how aid agencies can perpetuate these errors.” Back in America, he pitched this complicated, albeit less sexy, idea to his editor at the Times.
I remember that all of us in the class sensed what was coming next in Weschler’s tale, which was that Finkel’s editor was not so interested in this approach. And we could have guessed what would happen after that, which was that Finkel submitted draft after draft of his story, loaded with characters, until his editor asked if he could tell the story through the eyes of a single character and still get across all the complexities.
Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, died Wednesday, his wife said yesterday. He was 74.
A new award honouring translators has been announced by the organisers of the international Booker Prize.
The £15,000 honour has been created to recognise the role translators play in bringing fiction to a world audience.
Byrne's of Chester will auction an unpublished letter from George Bernard Shaw to a young would-be poet.
"It does not amount to poetry," George Bernard Shaw scribbled.
Having annihilated the poem in three scrawled lines, "anyone with a literary turn and a good ear could manufacture it by the mile", Shaw offered some career advice: "Find a woman willing and able to keep you as a household pet on the chance of your proving a genius."
Coincidentally, that's the exact same letter I got when I sent one of my poems to Ally Sheedy.
A Jack Kerouac bobblehead doll has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The toy was given away as a promotion by the Lowell Spinners, a minor league baseball team in Kerouac's hometown.
He lives in a tiny flat in Kennington, south London, in the basement of a house owned by the writer Patrick McGrath and the actress Maria Aitken. It's so dark, even at five o'clock, that I can barely navigate to the sofa - but then I see that the blinds are down. Perched on the sofa is a large soft toy with a long body like a sausage dog. "That's Jim Giraffe!" says King. "I made him myself." He is, I remark, made of the same check material as the screen that separates the sofa from the kitchen. "Yes," says King, "that's his mother."
May 5, 2005
"So they've gone and killed 'Star Trek.' And it's about time," says Orson Scott Card.
In honor of Election Day in the UK, The Guardian has a quiz on politics and literature.
Kurt Vonnegut is being dragged into a Kansas Supreme Court case over whether wealthy school districts should be forced to share resources with poorer districts. (Thanks to BW for the link.)
Attorneys representing students from the Shawnee Mission district say the story "Harrison Bergeron" shows that a world of forced equality would be a nightmare, so unequal funding of public schools is OK...
"Nobody was smarter than anybody else," the attorneys quoted Vonnegut as writing. "Nobody was better looking than anybody else.
But in a telephone interview Wednesday, Vonnegut told the Journal-World that the students' attorneys may have misinterpreted his story.
In his latest column for The Book Standard, Adam Langer solicits advice for a book tour.
I have made the repeated mistake of breaking this maxim, with the tangible result of a halving of my sales every time I do it. Writers are not rock stars, or if they are, they're the kinds of rock stars who stay clothed.
Neal Pollack, author of Never Mind The Pollacks
Boondocks even approaches the line of good/bad taste, and it gets yanked out of newspapers across the country. B.C. has a strip about evolution being ridiculous, no one blinks. (Although to be fair, it's probably because no one reads that stupid thing.)
Publisher's Weekly tells the strange back story to the book True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by "disgraced journalist" Michael Finkel. (That's what they keep calling him.) See, after he was fired for making things up at the New York Times, he discovered that a man that had murdered his family was using his identity. Finkel met Longo, the murderer, after he was arrested and started pitching the book idea of "Finkel, Longo and the Longo-Finkel relationship." But a problem arose. Can a publisher trust Finkel's book to be true?
He liked to give his writers the benefit of the doubt, but he'd been around long enough, as a tabloid sportswriter and as deputy editor of Esquire, to know it wasn't that simple. So he hired an independent fact-checker, Esquire's Kevin McDonald. Even without Finkel's past, McDonald's detective job would be tricky—Longo, after all, was a man prone to endlessly telling new versions of his life. How do you fact-check that?
John Berendt, whose Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil sold 78 billion copies, will release his second book in September. No word yet on whether the new one will, like its predecessor, be adapted into the shittiest movie of all time.
Twenty-five years ago, Mirta Ojito and her family fled Cuba as part of the Mariel boatlift that eventually brought 125,000 Cubans to the American shore. She returned 18 years later, and her reports back to the New York Times won her a Distinguished Writing Award for foreign reporting. Now she has released Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus which explores both the reasons behind leaving and the results of her return. Ojito is interviewed at Poynter about the difference between writing a newspaper piece and a book and the stress of telling her family's story for everyone to see.
A £1.4 million project to bring culture to culturally poor areas will include bringing "urban music" and "street poetry." God help Scotland.
May 4, 2005
Largehearted Boy has posted his second installment in his incredibly cool "Note Books" series (in which musicians let you know what they've been reading, and what you should be reading). Today's subject: the American fourtracker himself, John Vanderslice.
Ann Coulter came to my hometown last night. Unfortunately, I missed it, but UT English major Ajai Raj was on hand to ask a penetrating (Get it? Huh? Well, you will in a second) question:
"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"
UT Police officers approached Raj to arrest him, resulting in a mass exodus of protesters chanting, "Let him go."
"The person had been disruptive the entire event," said Matt Hardigree, former Student Events Center president. "He took the opportunity to say something lewd and offensive and then made masturbatory gestures as he exited."
If I weren't so lazy, I'd set up a legal defense fund for this kid.
(UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has the police affidavit for Raj's arrest.)
The results of the newspaper circulation survey are in, and the Chicago Tribune had one of the largest drops in the country. Yay Chicago.
If I could stop the publication of certain types of books, well, the list would be long. But at the top of that list would be books by people who think they've figured out who Jack the Ripper is.
If you'll kindly glance to your left, you'll see that the new issue of Bookslut is up. And oh sweet Jesus it's a good one. Elizabeth Kiem talks to Ariel Gore, author of The Essential Hip Mama: Writing from the Cutting Edge of Parenting, about the Pope, bearded ladies, and hip motherhood. Beth Dugan interviews Ray Bradbury biographer Sam Weller, who reports that his subject was incredibly accessible and supportive. And Daniel Nester talks to poet Todd Colby, the pride of Soft Skull Press. We're pleased to introduce our new "Judging a Book by its Cover" columnist, Melissa Fischer, who looks at the classics for her debut. Barbara J. King has a lovely reflection on Bernd Heinrich and a goose named Peep. And Colleen Mondor presents...well, the title says it all: "A Compelling Literary and Historical Mystery/Thriller Not Written by Dan Brown."
In reviews, we have the latest from Douglas Coupland, Seamus Heaney, Quinn Dalton, David B., Catharine MacKinnon, Philip Short, and Richard Siken. In columns, our Banned Bookslut considers the challenges against the work of Chris Crutcher. Deann Welker, our new Magazine Whore, is crazy about Interview. And as far as Hollywood Madam Liz Miller's new column goes, I have but three words for you: Hot Teen Shakespeare!
Check it out.
Tim Dowling tries to get his children interested in reading science books. He should maybe talk to my father. After my sister and I were already huge bookworms, he declared that for every fiction book we checked out of the library, we would also have to check out a nonfiction book. This worked on my sister. I think she actually followed the rules. Me, I just got good at hiding fiction books under my mattress, in the drawers of my desk, under a pile of something or other in my closet. This is something I still do on occasion, when my ratio of books bought to books read teeters out of control. The Boy will find books in the cupboards, behind the bookshelves, in the closet. That reminds me. I have a stack of books to hide from yesterday.
Looking over the Aventis shortlist, it seems that the magic formula for attracting children is common knowledge. All the books are large in format and slim, with eye-catching graphics and lots of boxed-off text. Each has the look of a mildly disappointing birthday present.
My youngest child, who is five, regards all books with suspicion. When presented with six shortlisted science books, he burst into tears and stormed out of the room, although he later came back and snatched the one about earthquakes off the pile.
Transita, which plans to publish two paperbacks a month aimed at its target readership, declares itself to be the first publisher devoted to producing fiction for women aged over 45 and over. According to its founder and director, Nikki Read, the idea is "to give women of this age-group storylines they can relate to and fictional characters with whom they can empathise. Until Transita, the majority of published fiction has centred around younger women's lives and experience."
Really? Because I thought that the majority of published fiction centered around men's lives and experiences, but maybe I'm mistaken. These seems like a pretty specific demographic to shoot for. Pretty soon the publishers will launch an imprint for each and every person on the planet. I can't wait for mine.
Madonna was shocked at a recent signing appearance to promote her children's books - because the crowd was almost entirely made up of gay men.
It's just so hard to find good children's books these days.
Well, if you can make it there...
It seems like there's been a rash of book-theft cases lately. Are you ready for the most boring Law and Order franchise yet?
He recently met a minister who was on the opposite side of a British political debate. When the minister put out his hand, Dawkins kept his hands at his side and said, "You, sir, are an ignorant bigot."
Salon.com interviews Richard Dawkins, gleeful atheist and author of The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) strongly protests the closure of libraries in Turkmenistan and its impact on freedom of access to information and freedom of expression in the country.
There are reports about conditions under Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov at Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. (Thanks to Sarah for the IFLA link.)
May 3, 2005
Did anyone really expect Paris Hilton to know how to spell?
Despite an embarrassing number of typos, the Harvey Awards for excellence in comic books have announced their nominees. The Comics Reporter has the full list (of nominees, not of typos).
More than forty years later, it's still unbelievable. David Cohen reviews Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era, the story of Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 100-point NBA game.
(In other NBA-related news, Neal Pollack is closely watching his Phoenix Suns, who just swept the Grizzlies, and are considered favorites to win the championship this year. Unfortunately, though, they'll have to face the Greatest Team Ever on the way. Phoenix, you will fold like Denver. Well, probably not. But I can still dream.)
The UK will soon see (as in, in three days) the publication of Jonathan Coe's collection of unpublished work, 9th and 13th. America probably will not, but there's always Amazon.co.uk, even if shipping will be three times as much as the price of the book. I love Coe, I can't help it. While I wait for it to ship, there's this piece in the Guardian about his affection for Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and the novelization of the film by Michael and Mollie Hardwick.
Next, I discover a book by Maurice Zolotow, called Billy Wilder in Hollywood. An odd sort of biography, composed of one part psychoanalysis and two parts salacious gossip. But it tells me some important things about the Sherlock Holmes film. The version released in the cinemas, the version I have seen on television, is only two-thirds of the completed film.
Two whole stories, and numerous important scenes, were chopped out by Wilder at the studio's insistence. A flashback to Holmes's student days at Oxford, when the discovery that his girlfriend is really a prostitute confirms his lifelong misogyny. More details about his drug addiction, which gets so out of control that Dr Watson himself devises a phoney case about a corpse in an upside-down room, purely to get his friend away from the cocaine. Many others, as well.
This was to have been Wilder's longest, most complex, most personal film. Now, all that remains are its ruins. I know that I cannot rest until I have seen the original version.
Bad craziness at Club Midd. The editor in chief of the school's newspaper, The Middlebury Campus, resigned after the paper "publish(ed) a doctored photograph in the March 17 issue portraying the college's next commencement speaker, Rudolph W. Giuliani, as Adolf Hitler." Middlebury is widely regarded as the best language school in the world, but it sounds like some of the campus' conservatives need to enter an immersion program in irony.
White Noise on White Noise is a collection of 36 randomly selected fragments of text from Don DeLillo's novel White Noise. The identifying details of each fragment - the page number it appears on, the line number to begin quoting from and the number of lines to quote - were selected using a random number generator. The fragments appear in page number order, to provide an experience akin to quickly browsing through the novel in a bookstore.
It looks like when Nick Hornby forgot to check Snopes.com before he wrote his latest novel, A Long Way Down. Four characters trying to kill themselves at the same time on the same building decide not to when they notice other people there as well.
The idea came from statistics showing suicide rates spike on certain nights of the year, such as New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, Hornby told the BBC World Service's The Ticket programme. ...
A study of all reported suicides in Olmsted County during a 35-year period did not find an excess number of suicides just before, during or after Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's or the Fourth of July holidays. Nor did researchers find a higher suicide rate on birthdays, or three days before or after birthdays.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel profiles Spencer Reece, critically acclaimed poet and Brooks Brothers clerk.
From the site of Britain’s most disgusting toilet to the setting for countless fights, drug-taking and sordid sexual encounters, it is not, perhaps, the face of Edinburgh that tourism chiefs are particularly keen to promote.
Yet a tour of the real-life landmarks featured in Trainspotting, the disturbing novel by Irvine Welsh, is proving so popular that it is threatening to eclipse the city’s more traditional literary walks.
May 2, 2005
Due to a problem with my email, which is almost certainly my fault, I haven't been able to respond to many of the messages I've received in the past few days. If you've written me, I'm sorry I haven't responded yet, but once I figure out how I managed to screw up my email account, I'll be in touch directly.
Due to a troublesome Internet connection, the new issue of Bookslut will be a day or two late. Saucy will updated tomorrow.
According to the nonprofit Bible Literacy Project, 98 percent of the country's "best" high school English teachers said students need to know about the Bible to fully understand numerous religious references in Western literature.
Nick Hornby's latest novel, A Long Way Down, is reviewed at The Herald. The Guardian runs two reviews of the book, by Joanna Briscoe (who likes it) and Adam Mars-Jones (who does not). There's an interview with Hornby at The Telegraph.
David Milofsky wonders why the "One Book, One Denver" program hasn't taken off this year, despite the cheerleading by popular Mayor John Hickenlooper and the choice of Sandra Cisneros' Caramelo as the book.
This doesn't necessarily mean that people aren't reading or that they aren't reading "Caramelo." It could be a matter of timing. One friend, for example, says, "I'm always reading, and I'll probably get around to that one. I'm just not reading it right now." Being independent sorts, Denverites may not like the idea of someone telling them not only what to read but when to read it.
Yeah, well, it's not just "Denverites." (Seriously? "Denverites"?) Some of these programs have been more successful than others, but it's pretty much always a flop. Jonathan Franzen, who is famous for spurning a book club, reminds us that reading teaches us "how to be alone." That's not true for everybody, certainly, but there just aren't that many readers in Denver or anywhere who feel like finishing a book and then discussing it with a bunch of strangers at some community center.
The stated goal of One Book, One Denver, which is to popularize reading among the general public, is unquestioningly laudable in an age when the printed word seems increasingly irrelevant to many. Laudable or not, however, it may well be that most people simply don't consider reading and literature an important part of their lives, no matter what book is chosen or who is recommending it. Those of us in the business of promoting serious literature and writing don't want to believe this, and, for what it's worth, I don't.
And that's the other problem condescending attitudes like this. Just because the people of Denver declined to buy into what looks a lot like a marketing campaign (and when someone says "This isn't a marketing campaign," it usually means "This is a marketing campaign") doesn't mean they don't take literature seriously. Maybe they just prefer to take literature seriously by themselves. Anti-smoking campaigns don't make me want to quit cigarettes (unfortunately). The new food pyramids haven't decreased my appetite for batter-fried pork products. And "One Book, One (City)" sure as hell doesn't make me want to read whatever book a few city leaders have decided to hype.
You want to "popularize reading among the general public"? Stop talking down to them and start campaigning for more library funding. No offense to Sandra Cisneros, but there's room enough for more than one book in Denver.
The AP profiles controversial author Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith. Manji, who is gay, has criticized what she sees as the unfair treatment of women, gays and Jews by fundamentalist Muslims.
That's nice and all, but I think they were kind of hoping for, you know, body armor.
“We thought this isn’t a very productive way of getting rid of [the books] They’re just going to rot in a landfill site and produce methane. This time we thought we’d burn them as a way of raising the profile of the issue.”
Book lovers are wait for it unhappy. The Sunday Times provides some historical perspective:
Joyce Watson runs Wigtown’s Old Bank bookshop and is among the fiercest of the critics of today’s event. “The whole thing makes me red in the face,” she says. “A woman living near here who died recently spent the second world war working for the Dutch resistance. I wonder what she would have made of Shaun’s event?” Nor is the artistic motivation for the bonfire any excuse, she adds. “I don’t think we need to go as far as burning books to appreciate what a precious commodity they are.”