June 30, 2005
How long am I going to keep mentioning Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin, and the new Gregg Araki film adaptation, on this blog? Until every one of you motherfuckers reads it. And sends in photographic proof. (Maybe just a picture of you reading it, while smiling or giving the thumbs-up. Which wouldn't exactly prove that you read it, but whatever.) Anyway, the movie finally opens in Austin today, and there are recent reviews at Metro Weekly and The Austin Chronicle. And on his blog, Heim promises he'll soon post some exciting news about his latest novel, We Disappear.
Jessa Crispin takes on Dave Eggers' teddy-bear school of literary criticism, and thank God.
But at least when Mailer reigned, there was spark and excitement. Building a wall around writers and saying that all of them are equal is just delusional. Not everyone should write a book. And not everyone who does write a book is deserving of praise, as if the literary community is one big Special Olympics. That’s not interesting, and it’s not how you foster growth.
Michelle Tea (love) profiles Manic D Press for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
"I read every manuscript that comes over the transom," Joseph says, with both weariness and pride. "The Bigfoot book came in the slush pile. I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever read in my life." She's referring to In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot, by Graham Roumieu, an illustrated novel in which the mysterious creature demystifies himself, offering opinions on a variety of pop-culture and philosophical quandaries. It's been one of Manic D's best sellers.
Yes, when I think Faulkner, I think overpriced French Toast.
George Singleton might be America's funniest writer of fiction. I (inelegantly) reviewed his These People Are Us a while back for Bookslut, but everything he has in print is worth checking out. His debut novel, Novel, is reviewed at Newsday, and it's also recommended by Syntax of Things. You should probably check it out, you know?
Astrobiology Magazine looks at Mars in the history of literature.
Chinese Uighur author Nurmohammad Yasin has been sentenced to ten years in prison for writing a "subversive" short story. It's another sad chapter in the continuing oppression of Muslims in China.
With the help of Time Warner Book Group, Patterson has established the James Patterson Page-Turner Awards, $75,000 in annual cash prizes awarded to individuals and institutions that get people excited about reading.
God, it would be sweet to get my hands on some of that cash. But not as sweet as reading Patterson's latest brilliant novel, Lifeguard. You won't be able to put it down!
So you can go ahead and get that check in the mail, James. Don't worry about Jessa. She hates you. But me I fucking love you, dude.
The Boston Phoenix presents its Eighth Annual Muzzle Awards, a tribute to "those who undermined free speech and personal liberties."
The Book Standard follows the buzz of Julie Powell's cooking memoir, Julie & Julia, based on her blog the Julie/Julia Project. Someone should really give that girl a cooking show. But on HBO or something, because it's just not the same without the swearing.
“If it was being run today, it would be futile for me to apply the same ‘Bloom County’ approach to political satire to the Bush administration because he has successfully connected mockery of the Bush administration’s principles to disloyalty to the nation,” Breathed says. “I would probably lose half of my newspapers today if I, by name, did the same thing to Bush as I did to Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan.
“The times have changed, and it has everything to do with declining circulation and an aging readership who are reluctant to give political satire the kind of patience that it deserves and instead immediately leap to accusations of treason.”
Norman Mailer, against all common logic, manages to dig himself an even deeper hole.
The 82-year-old novelist - who in an interview with Rolling Stone called the Japanese-American critic "a one-woman kamikaze" and "a token" minority hire - received a spanking yesterday from Dallas Morning News reporter Esther Wu, president of the 2,000-member Asian American Journalists Association.
The City Paper looks at how indie bookstores are competing with Amazon and brick-and-mortar megachains.
The love of books and the dusty enclaves they call to mind may be quaint, but it is becoming a bit of a dinosaur as more bookworms look to the megastores, which supplement their stacks with music, cappuccinos and shiatsu massages.
If you think that's bad, you're definitely not going to like Borders' new plan to start selling blowjobs and meth.
The first video game title is set in New York and pits a small resistance force against the Antichrist, who has seized power at the United Nations with the goal of world domination.
Whoa! Right-wing Christians distrustful of the UN? Now I have seen everything.
The Boston Globe's Alex Beam looks at Brad Evans, the "right-wing adventurer" and father of the late Tristan Egolf.
June 29, 2005
One publisher is venturing beyond its titles on dragons and bunnies with "Claiming Georgia Tate," about a 12-year-old girl whose father pressures her into a sexual relationship and makes her dress like a prostitute. In "Looking for Alaska," prep-school students watch pornography and pass the time binge-drinking. Coming this fall is "Teach Me," in which a male high-school teacher has sex with a student.
All of which makes the controversial anal sex scene in Johnny Tremain seem kind of quaint.
Describing it as a "discerning and literary companion" to their flagship entertainment-news magazine, Us Weekly editor-in-chief Janice Min announced on Tuesday the creation of Us Quarterly, a scholarly, four-times-yearly journal dedicated to sizzling-hot celebrity gossip.
How long before the Republicans nominate Henry C. Smith for something?
Liberals are inevitably handing the victory to the conservatives by "eliminating" their offspring through abortion, a Christian author from the United States claimed today.
Smith's Understanding the Cultural War in America is published by just wait for it PublishAmerica (which has previously tackled the abortion debate with the groundbreaking Don't Throw It Away!: A Graphic Statement Against the Practice of Abortion in the Form of Christian Fiction, available also as an e-card).
"While the humanists are busy killing off their own offspring, they are really helping us. I am not saying we should approve of abortion for that reason," Smith says. "It is clearly a wicked act, one which, from God's perspective, is worthy of death. But we must not overlook the fact that those who commit this horrible act are nevertheless doing us a favor. By destroying their own offspring, they are killing off a source of future voters, the majority of whom would probably grow up to be just like their parents. Thus, abortion ultimately works to our advantage. It helps cleanse our society of future humanists."
Looks like we know who's going to replace Rehnquist.
South African novelist Andre Brink (the forthcoming Praying Mantis) is promoting his new book by guest starring on local TV shows like Hard Copy and 7de Laan. Next: Michael Chabon on The OC. Seriously, I bet it happens.
For T.C. Boyle, the "creative process" includes possibly being killed by mountain lions.
I am not working on my biography with the rather pushy Rodge Glass. He has started work upon a book about my life and working methods. He is equipped to do so because we met when I was his Creative Writing tutor at Glasgow University in 2001 and I saw the first drafts of his forthcoming novel, ‘No Fireworks’. Finding him an excellent, patient secretary who could use a computer I have since dictated parts of several books to him, and hope to dictate more. I will not read any of the book before it is finally published, though I promise not to sue him for libel action.
Alasdair Gray talks about a few things he's working on.
Kate Taylor wonders why Canadians read more than Americans. (Registration required, apparently; what the fuck, Globe and Mail?)
Perhaps it's something as amorphous as our perpetual quest for identity or our openness to the outside world that sends us to books for answers and insights. Maybe it's something as practical as our healthy circuit of literary festivals that encourages us to read. Whatever your explanation, the gap should be recognized as another example of our cultural divergence from the United States despite the current climate of globalization.
Maybe it's because we're too busy running the world! Whooooooooo! No, I'm just kidding. It's probably the quest for identity and shit.
June 28, 2005
Laura Miller reviews L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, the Bible of Scientology.
From reading "Dianetics" alone, you can glean a picture of Hubbard as a man wrestling with mental illness, who saw his mind as a potentially superhuman machine beset by invaders and parasites. Without knowing anything about his life, you can tell that this is someone raised in an environment of betrayal, secrecy, bullying and violence, someone who stands a good chance of re-creating the same conditions in his adult life if he's not careful.
Laura. Laura, Laura, you don't even-- you're glib. Here's the problem, Laura. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
The Russian State Historical Archive is being relocated, and historians are worried.
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has "lost" over 30,000 books, and the country's top literary prizes might be fixed. Plus, the world's most preeminent linguists have just issued a report noting that with its array of silent consonants and counterintuitive pronunciations, the French language is "all fucked up and shit." Can't find the link for that one, but trust me.
Let's see, you got yer Maus reference, you got yer "I never read comics as a child" statement, and you got yer "I always thought comics were for kids." Ah yes, it's another delightful addition to the boneheaded reviews of comics in the mainstream media. This time, Will Eisner's The Plot gets the treatment.
Can we please find a happy medium somewhere? Because I don't like reading the comic book journalism for hardcore comic book readers, either. Maybe just someone who, I don't know, treats comics like they're books? That'd be great, thanks.
The latest installment of BookNotes on Large Hearted Boy's blog is Chuck Klosterman for Killing Yourself to Live.
This would actually be a killer fucking album, now that I think about it. Except for that Great White song.
Vintage tries to predict which contemporary books will still be read in 100 years time. It's trying to narrow the list down to 15, and it's an odd mix. Palahniuk next to Calvino, Heller next to Desai. But Erica Jong? I'm pretty sure no one even reads that now, let alone 100 years in the future.
I was recently very impressed with Maureen McHugh's Mothers and Other Monsters. The short stories are the perfect blend of SF/F and literary to make me fall in love completely. You forget you're reading genre after a while and the fact that, say, one character turns out to be a clone comes as a complete shock. It's just so, so good. You can read the story "Oversite" on Ruminator's website, and you can read her blog here.
Britain's literary scene is so parochial that there is virtually a conspiracy against readers experiencing the best of the world's literature, according to John Carey, the chairman of the judges for the first International Man Booker prize.
Replace every mention of "Britain" and "UK" in this article with "US" and "America," and it still holds up.
Pitchfork Media's Rob Mitchum, apparently not having taken seriously Dave Eggers' "Everyone should be nice to everybody about everything" manifestos ("Pitchfork, of course, is The House that Snark Built, and you'll have to pry the snark out of our Cold. Dead. Haaaaaands."), finds The Believer's 2005 Music Issue CD to be forgettable.
After all the nonsense about the NEA Reading at Risk report, author Paul Collins (the wonderful Not Even Wrong) wonders why this much more optimistic Gallup poll didn't get more attention. (Thanks to Colleen for the link.)
High gas prices, a Republican moron in the White House, and angry parents challenging The Chocolate War: The '80s really are making a comeback. The latest complaints are from Michigan mother Chris Anderson:
"It has vile language and bad sexual conduct and masturbation," Anderson said. "Wet dreams and masturbation were mentioned something like six times. The entire book has a very negative message. The main character stands up to the school bullies and gets beat to a pulp for it."
Link via Leila at Bookshelves of Doom, who notes, "I didn't think that people used the term 'vile language' seriously anymore." Me neither. Who the fuck are these people?
June 27, 2005
A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility by Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan has gotten on Lynn Harris's nerves.
First of all, who in God's name puts a baby on the cover of a book about infertility? A baby? It's like putting a brioche on the cover of The Atkins Diet.
Second, can we please stop calling ourselves "chicks"? Please? The whole "take 'queer' back from the bigots" thing really just hasn't worked here. Deserved or not, "chick" still refers to something giggly and trivial, fun for the beach, good with General Foods International Coffee. All of which — and I promise you I haven't entirely lost my sense of humor — infertility is not. Do we "dish" about the "nuttiness" of depression, "gab" about how "kooky" it felt to have that abortion?
I love Lynn Harris, I really do.
Australia's Green Left Weekly looks at Pablo Neruda's Stalinism.
Book Babes Deride Comic Books for Destroying Western Culture! (Would you expect anything less from them?)
I am patiently working my way through two graphic novels, David B’s Epileptic and Marjane Satrapi's Embroideries, just one more indication in our world that Western culture increasingly depends on visual messages to perceive and understand what's going on. Do I think this is a good thing? No.
I love the use of the word "patiently." Isn't she the one who said we have to act like The Da Vinci Code is a real book? So glad to see she thinks crap trumps an entire medium, including her mention of one of the best books of the year, just because it ain't got no pictures in it.
Blair Tindall is the Pamela Des Barres of the classical music world. Except that Tindall was actually a musician herself, thus rendering that analogy kind of weak, but the point is: She had lots of sex with musicians and has now written a book talking about all the sex she had with musicians. A North Carolina music festival had asked Tindall to speak to a group of teenage musicians, but disinvited her after learning about the book's content. Tindall says she understands, and won't schedule any more educational appearances, thus depriving the pedagogical world of the last possible chance to make classical music interesting.
Doctorow agrees. “Think about the care that goes into pirating a book!” he says. “That person has not done that because he hates the author and wishes to do the author harm, but because he loves the work and loves the author. Calling that person a thief is about the most suicidal thing you can do.”
A gorgeous man comes into the office. "Hi, I'm Marley," he says. "Ivy asked me to do a graffiti mural in the office."
We go out that evening. He explodes inside me and I come for the first time. "I love you," I murmur. "I love you, too," he whispers. This could be the real thing.
"I've got to have a pee," I coo. "Vaginal sex always gives me an infection."
I can't wait to see how the Christian right reacts to the gay penguin book.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing the Virginia Quarterly Review in my mailbox. This new issue is especially good (I think I say that each time; it really does get better and better) with essays by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William Kloefkorn, and Martin Prieb being the highlights. The Prieb essay is online, and I highly recommend you take a look at it. Also, the short story "Crawl" by Joanna Hershon has convinced me to take a look at her novels Swimming and The Outside of August. Their website has some other content from the magazine and as bonus material, like this art made from books that I'm currently completely in love with, and conversations with Marquez and Oe. My plans of flipping through the magazine Sunday morning turned into glued into my hands all day Sunday, oblivious to everything. Everyone go fill out a subscription now.
Hey, if you have to live with a media monopoly, you might as well make it a friendly one.
June 24, 2005
Dan Clowes showed up on Fresh Air yesterday to talk about the upcoming film Art School Confidential and his new book Ice Haven, which is getting rave reviews. But wow, did Terry Gross just ask "Are there really such things as comic book critics?"
THE GODS HATE KANSAS! It's true, they do. Thanks to Beth for sending me the link. Now I have to go find the book immediately.
Money can't buy you happiness might have been the moral to her last children's book Lotsa de Casha, but evidently not the moral of The English Roses. On the book's official website, you can buy shoes, charm bracelets, tea, dolls, umbrellas, and clothing at the quaint little online "shoppe." So then what was the moral of The English Roses again? Oh, I remember. Being pretty is hard.
Hot Sapphic action at the Guardian.
When a South Side landmark was rededicated in the name of literature Thursday, it wasn't only culture vultures who spoke but a Chicago alderman, a government bureaucrat and an Old Lefty.
But then the book being honored on its 100th birthday and its author were always oddballs. Upton Sinclair had trouble finding a publisher for "The Jungle," his classic account of a Chicago working-class neighborhood. A century ago, his word picture of hardscrabble life in the Back of the Yards was considered too risque for genteel society.
The Independent profiles Ismail Kadare.
Canadians enjoy curling up with a book as much as they like sitting in front of a television, a new survey has found.
Hey, if all I had to watch was Degrassi: The Next Generation and Due South, I'd be all book-nerdy too.
Tom Segev seems unimpressed by Hebrew Book Week:
The organizers also made a great effort to get the papers to write about Hebrew Book Week, and the papers, as is their wont, acceded willingly to the PR courting. Suddenly the entire media, including the Internet, is dealing with books, as though this were the major topic of the day: the intifada is behind us, we have pulled out of the recession - now, books.
June 23, 2005
The Telegraph tries to classify the way people pack books for their vacations, but they manage to neglect my category: stuff every single book on my to-be-read pile into every square inch of available air in my bags until my bag is too heavy to move, and then when I arrive at my destination become entirely dissatisfied with the books I brought and make a trip to the closest bookstore in the city.
An Italian librarian who lent a government-recommended book to a 14-year old was cleared 17 June of charges that she lent obscene material to a minor.
The book in question was Virginie Despentes' Baise-Moi.
Robin Cody has released a new version of his young-adult novel Ricochet River. He's removed the profanity and references to sex, and even "toned down another (scene) that occurs in the woods near some mating salmon," reports The Oregonian. We can all rest easy now.
Every year the Tribune shuts off their collective brain and posts their list of their favorite 50 magazines. There was that Wooden Boat magazine of a few years back, but nothing says "I have no standards of taste at all" like naming Blender your favorite magazine. It's an almost painful list all around, with hasn't-been-good-in-years Vanity Fair in the top ten, People and People Espanol in the top ten, Shop Etc over the more quirky and approachable Lucky, and every crunchy hippie magazine known to man on the list. Even Chicago magazine made the list because, hello! YOU OWN CHICAGO MAGAZINE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE. You might want to mention that. God damn it, if you keep saying stupid shit like this, the rest of the world will continue to think Chicago is run by a bunch of idiots.
Saddam Hussein's new novel, which has the vaguely Hestonian title Get Out, You Damned, will be released next week in Jordan.
Eric K. Arnold talks to Tamara Palmer about her new book, Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop.
Law enforcement officials have made at least 200 formal and informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001, according to a new study that adds grist to the growing debate in Congress over the government's counterterrorism powers.
"I have a terrible urge," she tells me later, "to run away and live in a cave. Especially after the recent nonsense in the papers. It made me think well why the fuck would I be a public person at all? Why would I want to be? It makes no difference, people make up rubbish about you and it becomes true. I wonder," she muses, "if the only thing is to insist on context, or to remove yourself altogether".
William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook, has renounced the book on Amazon.com:
Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.
Galleycat has notes on the interesting new marketing campaign for the book Tropic/of/Cubicle.
One of the things I've tinkered with lately is Google AdWords. This service allows one to bid on search terms and have searchers' returns supplemented with text advertisements. Using AdWords, I set up an ad campaign based entirely on the names of popular or critically acclaimed contemporary authors, such as Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon. For more than a week, when anyone has searched for "Michael Chabon," among other authors, my ad (pictured above left) has appeared in the "Sponsored Links" column on the right side of Google's search returns page.
A poem published in the San Antonio Express-News in its Sunday Culturas section on June 12 was plagiarized from a verse by the now-deceased Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Marianne Moore, prompting the newspaper to adopt new standards to scrutinize submissions by amateur poets.
Careless fact-checking: another tragic symptom of Spurs fever.
(I think I can safely speak for all the readers of this blog when I say that tonight's NBA Finals Game 7 makes literature seem insignificant, frivolous and worthless by comparison. Literature has the power to change lives blah blah blah, but there's one thing it doesn't have: Robert motherfucking Horry. Go Spurs.)
The Weekly Dig talks to Rick Moody about his band, the Wingdale Community Singers. The intro makes reference to Moody "taking shit from Jonathan Franzen for being 'the worst writer in America,'" which is odd. Dale Peck called Moody "the worst writer of his generation," but I don't think Franzen ever said anything similar.
The interview concludes with this bizarrely distasteful exchange:
Yeah? What do you think Franzen would think of your album?
He'd probably like wanna tie me to the back of a pickup and drag me through the countryside.
Oh...wow. Wow. That was maybe not the best choice of words.
June 22, 2005
Well, of course I knew it would be bad. I just didn't know that it would be that bad.
From the ALA:
The American Library Association (ALA) today released the findings of a comprehensive survey demonstrating the significant impact on the public of federal law enforcement activity in America's libraries. Based on the survey findings, ALA believes that public anxiety and librarian concern over law enforcement activity in libraries is justified.
Richard Eyre (Iris) won't direct the film adaptation of Atonement after all. He'll be replaced by Joe Wright, who just finished directing an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Brenda Blethyn. Eyre says that reports claiming he was fired are "pernicious bollocks."
I dare each of you to use that phrase at work today. ("Jones, what's this I hear about you using company computers to build a nurse porn site?" "That's bollocks, sir. Pernicious bollocks.") I also think it would be a good skateboarding term. Like if someone sticks an impressive landing, onlookers could shout "Those bollocks were pernicious!" or something to that effect. There's literally thousands of ways we could go with this.
Jewish leaders in Germany are upset that people have written about the Holocaust in graphic novel form. Two graphic novels -- Yossel by Joe Kubert and Auschwitz by Pascal Croci -- have been recently published in Germany only to be met by odd protests.
“A comic strip is not the appropriate form,” said Ezra Cohn, 64, of the Jewish community in Düsseldorf. “The subject is too serious to portray in this way.”
The publisher who translated the works was hoping to introduce the books into schools, where Maus is already being taught.
Faced with that literary troublemaker TS Eliot, a York University academic called in the FBI and now claims to have cracked the case of how The Waste Land was written.
The FBI also offered to give the professor a list of everyone in America who has ever checked out The Waste Land, along with their ethnicities, sexual orientations, and who they voted for in the last election.
China will make two statues for Iris Chang, the late former female reporter of the Associated Press, for her exposure of "atrocities committed by Japanese aggressors" in China and the spirit to "dig up the historical truth".
Chang, who committed suicide last year, was the author of The Rape of Nanking.
Jonathan Morris explains how Cornwall's Elephant Fayre turned from a grimy rock festival that had to be shut down due to crime and drugs into a literary festival that attracts top name authors.
The Guardian talks to Mohammed Moulessehoul, the Algerian army officer who wrote under the nom de plume Yasmina Khadra for books like Swallows of Kabul and Wolf Dreams, fooling literary France into thinking they were reading the oppressed emotions of an Arab woman. Instead of course, Moulessehoul was "not just an army officer, but one who had led a struggle against armed Islamist radicals and who, as a result, faced opprobrium in the French media for being tainted with the blood of civilians killed in brutal oppression by the north African state."
Miramax Books will release Dare to Hope: Saving American Democracy, by New Paltz (N.Y.) Mayor Jason West, in August. West is currently awaiting trial on charges of illegally performing marriages for several gay couples in his New York village. Of the book, he tells the Mid-Hudson News: "I wanted a book for people who are not involved in politics, who have a sense that the world is screwed up and want to change it, and talk about ways to do that."
Mary Duncan reports on the sad fate of her English language bookstore she opened in Moscow nine years ago.
Mafia elements were never a problem. Our krysha, our "roof" as protection is referred to in Russia, was a middle-aged Moscow bank director who loved Kurt Vonnegut. While purchasing books one day, he handed me several of his business cards and said, "If you have any problems with the local protection mafia, give them one of these and ask them to call me." During the next few weeks, we gave out three cards.
From that time on, no one from the criminal elements bothered us.
Cosmopolitan book editor (yeah, they have one, apparently) John Searles, whose novels Boy Still Missing and Strange but True were both fairly well-received, provides a summer reading list on The Early Show. For "Fun Trashy Fiction," he recommends Adored by Tilly Bagshawe ("As we say in Cosmo, this book is packed with more plot twists than an episode of 'The O.C.'"). And he manages to give Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) the most backhanded compliment ever: "This is one of the most buzzed-about literary books of the season; a cross between Ann Rice and Dan Brown." As we say in Bookslut, oh my God please stop.
June 21, 2005
Texas A&M, my alma mater, might be getting the George W. Bush Presidential Library (third item). The university is already home to the president's daddy's museum. You can just imagine how thrilled I am to hear this. It was bad enough having to drive on George Bush Avenue (seriously) every time I wanted to get to campus, and it was even worse passing the Clayton Williams Alumni Center. (Williams was the Republican candidate for Texas governor in 1990. After noting to a reporter that "Texas weather is like rape; if it's inevitable, you should just relax and enjoy it," Williams lost the race to Ann Richards.)
I know there are some liberal Aggies already plotting some kind of protest (probably at Duddley's Draw, if A&M progressives are anything like they were six years ago). Fight the good fight. Or just get drunk and complain, which is what I did when I was there. Either way's good.
Salon's Rebecca Traister on The Truth About Hillary author Edward Klein: What the fuck?
"The Truth About Hillary" boasts a passel of petty, sexist and plain old "no duh" claims against Hillary: "She shows no wifely instincts," "She isn't maternal," "She's a feminist, but she rode to power on her husband's coattails," "She has abetted decades of chronic infidelity," "Many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians." It claims to shed light on the way that "the culture of lesbianism at Wellesley College shaped Hillary's politics" and that "she set up an elaborate system to monitor her husband's girlfriends." The book opens with a scene in which former White House intern Monica Lewinsky fondles Bill Clinton's penis at Radio City Music Hall.
"The culture of lesbianism"? Is Klein afraid that a President Hillary Clinton would name the Indigo Girls to the Supreme Court, or replace the tee ball games on the White House lawn with field hockey? Shit, I'd welcome a president from the "culture of lesbianism." You could get away with wearing hiking boots to even the most formal of events.
But my point is, Edward Klein is a sociopath. And I still think that all the buzz around this book is going to end up helping, not hurting, Sen. Clinton.
Neal Pollack writes about his breakup with Dave Eggers:
Ultimately, the train of manufactured rebellion lost its funding, but first, I got booked to do a reading with Eggers at the Dallas Museum of Art. After the show, some guy I'd never met held a party for me at his house. I ate seven special cookies. By the time Eggers arrived, I could barely stand.
"I want things to be more straightforward from now on," he said.
"Blurgh," I said.
It's a strikingly funny, humble piece, and Eggers responds to it on McSweeney's:
It was our hope at McSweeney's, and continues to be our goal with The Believer, that the literary world could be one of community, of mutual support, of spirited but nonviolent discourse—all in the interest of building and maintaining a literate society. It's what we teach at 826 Valencia, too: that books are good, that reading is good, that everyone can and should write in some capacity, and that anyone pissing in the very small and fragile ecosystem that is the literary world is mucking it up for everyone—and sending a very poor message to the next generation.
I like Eggers, but the whole literary Messianic complex thing just has to fucking stop. And with all due respect to The Believer, which is, at times, quite interesting, there's more good writing in The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature and Never Mind the Pollacks than in any given issue of that magazine. I'm not saying that Eggers and McSweeney's aren't good for literature; I think they are, undeniably. But I'd rather eat special cookies with Neal than sing backing vocals in The Believer's Up With Authors tour. I'm just sayin'.
At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Byrne and Jennifer Howard report (subscription required) from the annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses. As you might expect, the attendees were none too happy with Google's digitalization plan. (Both guns and assassins are mentioned, though jocularly.)
Bob Geldof participated in a Yeats reading at the British Library. See if you can guess which of these selections is from Yeats' "The Ballad of Father O'Hart" and which is from the Boomtown Rats' "She's So Modern."
'Cause she's a modern girl, oh yeah
A modern girl, yeah, ga ga ga ga ga
A modern girl, oh yeah.
But if when anyone died
Came keeners hoarser than rooks,
He bade them give over their keening;
For he was a man of books.
Give up? I thought so!
Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down has become a bigger hit in America than anyone expected, thus proving that the public's appetite for comedic treatments of depression and suicide was not slaked by that one very special episode of Growing Pains. The Australian reports that a few US-based suicide hotlines are "using episodes from the book as part of their counselling program."
An adviser at one LA help line said: "This book is not for everyone and certainly not for someone ready to harm themselves right now. But for young people who may be phoning us after a first wave of depression has hit them, it may help ... The message is that they are not alone."
USA Today looks at books by reformist/progressive Muslims, including Reza Aslan's No god but God and Feisal Abdul Rauf's What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America.
Christian girls just want to have fun too, and the U.S. publishing industry is working overtime to cater to a growing demand for good, clean fun.
Reuters looks at the surge in popularity of Christian books. Even Harlequin has a Christian imprint, Steeple Hill, which offers novels like Blessed Bouquets and Hearts Under Construction. But they won't publish just anybody:
Guidelines for authors are strict: "The stories may not include alcohol consumption by Christian characters, dancing, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, hero and heroine remaining overnight together alone, Halloween celebrations or magic or the mention of intimate body parts."
Since all of my romance manuscripts involve characters getting hammered and playing strip Uno, I might have to find another prospective publisher.
"Various books were mentioned that wouldn't have worked at all. It's harder to do the Trainspotting primary school teachers' pack," she observed.
I actually would have written that pro bono.
June 20, 2005
With all adaptations, some parts are going to have to be cut or changed. But where is the dog-man of the book? Miss Angorian? The love stories involving Lettie and Martha? And why is Howl's apprentice, Michael, called Markl here, turned from a youthful, but not infantile, boy into a Margaret Keane-eyed tyke from a Saturday morning children's cartoon? Is it pure spite or marketing savvy?
It's time for the summer book recommendations to begin in force. First up, the Guardian collects recommendations from authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jonathan Coe, R. Crumb, David Mitchell, Orhan Pamuk, and James Wood.
I spent my school days and early adulthood believing that the creation of serious literature was primarily a male endeavor. Women's writing was the stuff of discussion groups and beach fantasies; men's writing dealt with the big themes like existential angst and stoical heroicism. Of course, women were capable of writing beautifully and memorably, but there was always a suspicion that they were like Danica Patrick taking the lead at Indianapolis or Hillary Clinton getting ready to run for president -- women making a name for themselves in a man's world.
In other words, I was an idiot.
I am a big fan of the online book promos with short films, little games, flash presentations, etc. But I think this Italian promo for Will Christopher Baer's Kiss Me, Judas might be the best I've seen. Not only does it make me want to immediately read the book, it makes me want to read the book in Italian.
June 17, 2005
Neal Pollack reflects on the Chicago he knew, which is very different from the city Jeffrey Eugenides thinks he just moved to.
Chicago is "well-run," in certain ways. And it's definitely cold much of the time. But the Chicago I knew was more like 1950s Krakow than Denmark.
The North South Brunswick Sentinel profiles poet and translator John Ciardi, "a man who was born into poverty but who became a millionaire doing what he loved."
In Denver people are so nice that if you only want to discuss three things with them—jeeps, aliens, omelets filled with diced ham, bell pepper, cheese and onion—they are delighted by your knowledge of and interest in their city.
I always thought the weirdest thing about living in Denver would be having to use those special high-altitude directions they have on the back of cake-mix boxes. I mean, do you ever forget you live in Denver, and use the regular directions? And then what happens to the cake? Is it all fucked up? Still edible? Seriously, what gives?
Bob Dylan and Norah Jones will play an anniversary concert for Amazon, which will be streamed live on their website. Bill Maher is scheduled to emcee.
The Summer Books issue of Time Out Chicago came out this week. With scary Billy Corgan on the cover (of the books issue? Seriously?), I'm refusing to buy it. I don't need scary Corgan's eyes following me around the room from my magazine stack. But you should maybe find a bookstore and read the Paul Hornschemeier interview while you're there. The guy has the best contribution to the upcoming Mome anthology from Fantagraphics, and I'm anxiously awaiting August's release of Three Paradoxes.
(As for the rest of the Books issue, when will people learn that readers are not scared of words? That printing a bunch of 50-word "reviews" that are so short the reviewers didn't even have to read the damn books to have an expressable opinion isn't going to lead anyone to their favorite book of the year. Thank God we have the Chicago Reader whose biannual books issues kick the lazy asses of every other publication.)
Kids get assigned classics like The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick that may seem outdated or irrelevant to people their age, someone bitches. Teachers try to include more contemporary literature in the mix, someone bitches.
The Book Standard adds up the economics of book pirating.
Somehow, this story does not involve Rick Santorum.
While only two B.S. Johnson novels appear to be available (and by available, I mean you might find a copy or two somewhere), his books do seem to be back in print in the UK, with Omnibus: Three Novels reprinted by Picador just last year. Jonathan Coe's biography Like a Fiery Elephant has been renewing interest in the experimental novelist, so let's hope someone like Dalkey or NYRB notices over here in the states. Coe writes in the Guardian how his interest in Johnson came about, and why a biography of an obscure writer became something of a sensation.
If anyone has been wanting to make a trip to Scotland, it looks like August might be the time to do it.
Raymond Hernandez reports on The Truth About Hillary:
A spokesman for Sentinel strenuously denied that the book was politically motivated or that Sentinel was coordinating publicity with conservative and Republican groups, a contention Mrs. Clinton's backers doubt.
"They are treating it like a right-wing hit job," a spokesman for Sentinel, Will Weisser, said in referring to Mrs. Clinton's supporters. "It's absolutely not a right-wing hit job."
You almost have to admire a lie that absurd and transparent.
June 16, 2005
Stacy Schiff is my new hero.
More than 60 percent of the American people don't trust the press. Why should they? They've been reading "The Da Vinci Code" and marveling at its historical insights. I have nothing against a fine thriller, especially one that claims the highest of literary honors: it's a movie on the page. But "The Da Vinci Code" is not a work of nonfiction. If one more person talks to me about Dan Brown's crackerjack research I'm shooting on sight.
Mark Bazer writes an open letter to Doubleday publisher Stephen Rubin, who is declining to release The Da Vinci Code in paperback until hardcover sales decline.
A former journalist has converted a silo on his Connecticut farm into his personal library. So in case you were wondering what to do with that silo you never use, well, there you go. The importance of home libraries in general is also discussed.
"I can't imagine living without books. If I go out to dinner at someone else's home, and they don't have books visible, I wonder if I want them as friends," said Barbara Farnsworth, an antiquarian bookseller in West Cornwall, Conn.
OK, so I'm not the only one. Thank God. I was beginning to feel like a total snob (which I am, I just don't want to feel like one).
Dover sole was only one of the reasons that Jeffrey Eugenides moved to Chicago.
"I view it as a Denmark kind of place. Cold, well-run--a clean, beautiful, pristine city where you can have a nice life and bring up kids and not have a lot of stress. After living in Europe, Chicago reminds me of some of those cities."
But there are also literary reasons, he says: "I came here in a lot of ways, probably, because of Saul Bellow's books and the Chicago that he conjured. Places like [the Cape Cod Room] are like the Chicago that I've dreamed of ... it's a part of the whole American mythos."
Ismail Kadare, winner of the first Man Booker International Prize, is coming to Edinburgh in less than a fortnight (Don't British people say that? "Fortnight"? Ha! I love it!), but there might be a problem:
However, publishers yesterday were in a frantic race to get any of his works into the city's bookshops after a casual inquiry by The Scotsman revealed that none were on sale.
That's pretty embarrassing. But in fairness, not even Ismail Kadare has heard of Ismail Kadare. I bet he wouldn't have that problem in the US, where international writers practically live in the limelight. It's like I can't even get on the bus without tripping over a dozen people reading Imre Kertesz.
Just kidding! I don't ride the bus.
Choriamb links to this collection of short essays on American poetry landmarks. It looks like the closest ones to me are the Sidney Lanier Cottage in Macon, Georgia, and the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace in Guthrie, Kentucky. Whoooooo! Road trip! Or I could just go to Branson and see the Yakov Smirnoff Show like thirty times in a row, as I originally planned. What a country!
Reed Exhibitions -- the people behind BookExpo -- have announced a New York-based Comic-Con to launch in 2006.
The House handed President Bush the first defeat in his effort to preserve the broad powers of the USA Patriot Act, voting yesterday to curtail the FBI's ability to seize library and bookstore records for terrorism investigations.
Mark Haddon (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and Caryl Phillips (A Distant Shore) refused invitations to meet with the Queen after winning Commonwealth Writers prizes. The Guardian finds out why.
Phillips and Haddon are agreed on the need for a public debate about the monarchy. For Phillips, who grew up in Leeds and now lives in New York and London, the royal family "represents a particular type of Englishness - not even Britishness - that's comforting to some people, even though they know it bears no relation to reality". That tradition, he says, "sits squarely in a fake conception of Britain ... in direct opposition to what I've been trying to write about for more than 25 years".
Further research indicated the Herald could do a much better job attracting female readers, especially working single women.
A light went on.
Why not serialize a book that would attract working single women? If they found just the right book, the paper could promote the hell out of it, and with any luck they'd rake in a demographic mother lode.
Miraculously, the perfect book appeared at the perfect moment. Written by six local women of a certain age, Dish & Tell: Life, Love, and Secrets is a communal confessional that supposedly delivers hot sex in a cool way -- and of course much, much more.
Much, much more like an alienated staff that doesn't understand why all of a sudden their newspaper is being used to promote crap -- including a reporter who said "Well, I guess this is the perfect summer reading material for people in Miami because it's about shallow, selfish, self-absorbed." And eye-rolling once it came out that several of the contributors to Dish & Tell had connections inside the newspaper. So way to go Miami Herald! Mission accomplished!
The obstacles are daunting, but Betsy Sawyer dreams she and her after-school club in Groton, Bookmakers and Dreamers, will someday create the world's largest book.
The book they want to build would be 12 feet high and 10 feet wide, making the previous record-holder, Denver's "Superbook," look like worthless crap.
The New Orleans Gambit has an excerpt from Rob Walker's Letters from New Orleans, in which the New York Times Magazine columnist "charts the course of 'St. James Infirmary' from Dublin, Ireland, to Rampart Street."
If you're lusting for the Edward Gorey-illustrated War of the Worlds, you can now get it at 33% off when you order it from the New York Review Books website. Also, this website has a collection of illustrations from various WotW editions. And while not as nice as the Gorey, Penguin has recently released new editions of HG Wells novels. Enjoy it now, kids, before Spielberg makes it suck.
Publicists explain why authors just don't get it.
“They think they should get on Oprah, but their book is about the economy of Japan,” says Lissa Warren. “They've written a book on massage for dogs and think it should be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. They think they should hit USA Today's bestseller list but their book is on a niche topic—like rose gardens in Arizona—and the print run is only 2,000 copies.”
June 15, 2005
The Guardian follows the publishing process from idea to physical book with Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists. The book is described as "It is a fair bet that if you are amused by the exclamation mark in the middle of the book's title, you will appreciate its brand of humour, and that if you're not, you won't."
A new U.S. poll reveals that 40 per cent of Americans think Fox News Channel personality Bill O'Reilly is a journalist, compared to 30 per cent who think Bob Woodward is a journalist.
America: Fuck, yeah! (Link via Bookninja.)
I'm going to be optimistic and pray that The Advocate Messenger's editor ran up to Jennifer Brummett and said "We lost Scott's completely insightful and interesting column on comic books, and now he's dead! We have ten minutes until print! I need you to write 400 words on comics NOW!" Otherwise I'll just get a headache.
Vanity publishing houses in France have been accused of gross incompetence after apparently failing to recognise the manuscript of one of the greatest French novels — Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
Believing it to be a new work, they offered to print it at a cost to the author of up to €4,800 (£3,200). The newspaper Le Figaro sent a copy of the 19th-century masterpiece to five of France’s biggest vanity publishing companies. It changed the title and names of the main characters. None identified the novel.
Canada's Indigo Books and Music "is quietly stepping up its in-house private label book publishing, essentially becoming a rival to some of its own supplier-publishers," reports The Globe and Mail, perhaps taking a cue from Barnes and Noble, which is doing the same thing (successfully) in the States.
(Indigo) teams up with publishers to produce, for example, hardcover classics with "gorgeous" illustrations at $7.95 for an abridged version, or $12.95, unabridged, she said.
That's Canadian dollars, so the unabridged versions are selling for about...let's see...fifty U.S. cents! What a deal. God bless capitalism!
The Book Standard looks in on the Campaign for Reader Privacy and what's going on with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. (Section 215 allows business records -- including those of bookstores and libraries -- to be searched without a warrant.) That section, along with several others, expires this year, and Bush has been pushing for renewal. Now, all of the information about records seized are kept very, very quiet, so it's difficult to say how many rights have been violated or even how successful the PATRIOT Act has been in capturing "terrorists." Bush is throwing around the number 200 terrorists caught as he fights for renewal, but god only knows. United States Rep. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.), however, is working with the CRP to append Section 215 with the Freedom to Read Amendment. But we all know Bush isn't a big supporter of the readin'.
Jonathan Coe's Like a Fiery Elephant, which was just published in the US, won the BBC Four's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
Colleen Mondor's rave review of The Historian definitely means it's on my summer reading stack as soon as I can get ahold of it. There is quite the media blitz going on, so until I do, I can read interviews and excerpts. I only pray it lives up to the hype.
Library officials in Tampa-Hillsborough County, Florida, ordered a display of gay-themed books taken down after patrons (and is it offensive to assume these patrons were old? It's fucking Florida) complained. Then they approved putting it back up, so long as it wasn't so big and prominent and, you know, gay. (Or something like that.) The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times have more. The controversy has spurred Hillsborough County officials to...well, this headline really just says it.
Is Shirley Jackson's The Sundial really out of print? There must be something wrong with this world that the freaky little book about the end of the world that kept me up last night is not available on the market. It's hard to believe that anything by the dark, delightful Jackson would be out of print. (And if you're not reading Shirley Jackson, you should really rectify that. Read this to determine where to start.)
June 14, 2005
Authors aren't always the best TV show guests, but Jon Stewart found a way to make it work, says Jessa Crispin.
Stewart’s interview style goes a long way toward selling books. The author almost seems funny by proxy (compared to, say, NPR’s Fresh Air, whose Terry Gross makes her visiting authors seem dull by proxy).
John B. Thompson considers the problems facing academic publishers, asking questions like "Why have monograph sales declined so sharply?" God, I'd love to buy more monographs. It's just that after rent, utilities, medicine, gas, all that stuff, I don't have the monograph budget that I used to. Oh, I remember a time when I'd go crazy, charging hundreds of dollars worth of monographs every Saturday night, going to monograph release parties at midnight on Mondays. But I'm 27 now. I have responsibilities.
Anyway, with the amount they make screwing college students with exorbitant prices, I think they can all just burn in hell. Thompson comes to a different, slightly more nuanced conclusion.
Iowa library pamphlet war! Iowa library pamphlet war!
New Zealand's Cambridge High School opened a new library last week, two years after the school's principal closed the original library in order to build a "cybercafe" (which never happened).
Last month's Henry Miller award went to Colleen Curran for Whores on the Hill. This month's nominees:
The Almond by Nedjma
Blinding Light by Paul Theroux
Love Creeps by Amanda Filipacchi
Genevieve by Eric Jerome Dickey
The Hilton Head Island Packet looks at an endangered language, Gullah-Geechee.
After all, they’re the ones who make National Poetry Month (NPM) happen. That’s a bit like throwing a Mardi Gras party for the entire nation.
T. C. Boyle's latest book is The Inner Circle, which is crazy on sale at Amazon right now for $10 in hardback. He's interviewed at Alternet about his interest in environmental issues, why Kinsey, and whether or not humans are a plague.
Adam Langer talks with the second most unheralded workers in publishing, the book designers.
Robert Pinsky introduces two poems by Theodore Roethke, "The Waking" and "My Papa's Waltz."
June 13, 2005
I made a mistake about Umberto Eco. I admit it. After an attempt at The Name of the Rose, I dismissed the guy as kind of dull. Then I started reading The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, which is playful and interesting and managed to hold my attention through a dozen changes in tone, and I knew I had made a mistake. You can read an excerpt at the Harcourt website, and just try to resist buying the book after that.
The only Printer's Row event I attended this year was the kick off Umberto Eco reading (I'm still in recovery from BEA), which was completely satisfying. He read, he sang songs in Italian, he made a masturbation joke... everything you need for a really good night on the town. My only complaint was that the moderator seemed to run out of questions for him after two -- Can you tell us a little about the book?, and, Are the poems the 16-year-old Yambo wrote poems you wrote for the book, or are they your own poetry from when you were that age? And that was it. Maybe next time the moderator could be someone who has actually read the books by the author they're interviewing.
Bill Kohler writes a column about how The Da Vinci Code inspired him to start reading again. Here's the quote Kohler chooses for an epigraph:
"Books are fun,
books are great.
Let's sit down with a book today."
- Barney the dinosaur
So you pretty much know what you're getting there.
The Comics Curmudgeon isn't sure what to make of Curtis' take on rap.
Den ah snuffed ‘im!
I snuffed ‘im! Woo!
He looked at me wrong,
so ah snuffed ‘im!
Now, I've never been present at convocations of candidates for other big literary prizes like the Booker, whose predominantly male shortlists are all too common. But I've got a hunch: if you ask six male candidates who are up for a packet of free publicity, vastly boosted book sales, and by the by £30,000, "Do you want to win?", you'd hear the universal chorus, "Of course I want to win, are you stupid?"
Throughout the whole Orange prize experience I was confronted with evidence that women are uncomfortable with naked ambition, trained to have low expectations, embarrassed by head-to-head competition, and virtually obliged to act abashed when they win. In contrast to a certain other sex that will go unmentioned.
What about a teakettle? What about little microphones? What about writing the same book again and seeing if anyone notices?
Richard Russo on Gloversville, New York, his hometown and the site of an endangered public library:
"It's not my town anymore," he wrote. "But if it were, and if the decision were mine, I'd let the snow pile up in the streets and the potholes go unfilled. I'd shut every tavern and church in town and bar their doors before I'd allow my library to close."
A school serving kindergarten through eighth grade pupils is getting rid of its librarian to make way for a computer teacher.
Librarians fight. I think they fucked with the wrong profession.
Paul Grondahl interviews Trevanian, sort of, but doesn't discover the famously anonymous writer's identity.
There's a new giant ("36,000 square feet spread out across two floors") Barnes & Noble in downtown Chicago? I should seriously get out of the apartment more often. It's not so much a cause for celebration as a time to contemplate whether B&N is killing the soul of literature, at least for the Chicago Tribune.
That has always been the magic of a Barnes & Noble. It manages to seem friendly and folksy even while you know -- you know -- that every nook and niche has been vetted by multiple focus groups, that every detail has been polished for maximum consumer appeal. Yet even with all the hyper-charged corporate scrutiny, a Barnes & Noble never feels cold or sterile. You can chalk up this phenomenon to two factors: The softly comforting presence of books; and the inarguable truth that if you can fake sincerity, then you've really got it made.
(Actually, I always did find B&N cold and sterile. Borders I could live with when there aren't any other bookstores around. [But shame on the Borders at Michigan and Chicago, for punishing their fiction section by banishing it to the basement. What the hell were you thinking? I stopped in there to pick up a copy of Metropolis magazine, and noticed History now took up the space Literature had been. Did it do something bad? No one goes into that basement. It's where oversized cookie cookbooks go to die at half price.] I don't know what it is about B&N, the lighting, the bad music, the iced tea that tastes like pumpkin pie even though they insist it's a plain black tea... Their stores give me the willies.)
Tsipi Keller, author and translator, has an essay about translating, and why after thirty years of English as her primary language, she's still nervous about writing in it.
Iain Sinclair talks to the Londonist about the surprise success of the very beautiful London Orbital, his friendship with William Burroughs, and why he is now defined as a "travel writer." (I'm glad Slow Chocolate Autopsy is touched on somewhat, as that was my first introduction to Sinclair. And after reading the interview, I'm keen to do a rereading.)
Major book publishers are preparing to boost their business by selling directly to consumers from their websites, a move that has booksellers spooked about being squeezed by their own suppliers.
I always wondered when publishing houses were going to discover this "e-commerce" thing everyone's been talking about. Jessa's been talking about selling Bookslut merchandise directly, which angered our main reseller, Pottery Barn (which is offering a 25% discount this week on Bookslut highball glasses, throw pillows and grapefruit-bergamot aromatherapy candles).
"Beware the teenage girl at the drugstore counter holding a fistful of cosmetics: She just might be the nymphomaniacal, self-esteem-challenged hostess of a rainbow party, those now-infamous group gatherings in which girls, each wearing a different shade of lipstick, give guys blowjobs, leaving a multicolored party favor on their respective penises." Nerve.com dispels myths surrounding the horrible book Rainbow Party.
(Might I just add here that someone who works for RP's publisher defended the book at BEA, saying that it won't inspire Rainbow Parties around the country because in the end, the characters realize how hurtful it would be and decide not to go through with it. Yeah, and we read that very special issue of Sweet Valley High with the slambook that caused a girl to kill herself or whatever, too, but that didn't mean we didn't immediately start up a round of slambooks. Seventh graders aren't too smart.)
Little Black Sambo is a bestseller in Japan.
I have found that Belgian pink-coloured beer is very much to my taste too, and that the local dish, Waterzooi, which looks like everything the chef couldn't find a home for, is far more subtle than it appears at first glance.
June 10, 2005
In his upcoming memoir, former Sen. Jesse Helms acknowledges he was wrong about the AIDS epidemic but believes integration was forced before its time by "outside agitators who had their own agendas."
The Guilderland, New York, library board refused to adopt a plan that would have labelled sexually explicit young-adult fiction with an orange "PG" sticker. Because it worked so well with records. Remember the PMRC? The only thing they ever accomplished was inadvertantly selling a lot more copies of 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be than was artistically merited. Anyway, the vote to reject the proposal was 7-1, so that's encouraging. Though it would have been interesting to see a Judy Blume samizdat develop had the measure passed.
June 9, 2005
Want to hear me deliriously tired and making little sense? I knew you would. Ed of Edrants ran into me at a Book Expo party and did an interview, and between the wine and the sleep deprivation, it's amazing I got complete sentences in there. (Actually, I think there were only two.)
Hey, see that box to the left? Or kind of up and to the left, depending on what time you're reading this post? It's kind of beige with a sort of pinkish tinge to it? That will take you to our brand new issue, which is sizable. (Where I'm from, we call that "Texas-sized," an appellation that causes residents of pretty much every other place in the world to laugh loudly and for a long time.) But go check it out. We've got interviews with authors Jon Scieszka, Elizabeth Crane, Frank Bidart and Lois McMaster Bujold. Clayton Moore talks to Andrew Vachss about the writing life, American history, and the spectre of racism. Damien Weaver conducts a translators' roundtable discussion with Dorna Khazeni, Benjamin Paloff, Mark Polizzotti and Peter Wortsman. Ian Daffern explains why Fox owes him some big time royalties for the show Stacked; and Melissa Fischer, who's doing an amazing job with our "Judging a Book by its Cover" column, gets all meta on your lame ass.
But that is so not all. Our reviewers consider the latest offerings from Elizabeth Kostova, Joshua Braff, Steve Almond, Joe Sacco and Charles Simic (and a whole bunch of others). And do you like columns? Sure you do! We have lots. Specfic Floozy Adrienne Martini considers Carol Emshwiller and wonders if she's missing something. Liz Miller, our longtime Hollywood Madam, points out that the Hitchhiker's Guide film adaptation could have been a lot worse. Deann Welker, our go-to writer on periodicals, is concerned about the pervasive shallowness of American magazines. And James Morrison provides a rundown of Muriel Spark's best books.
Check it out, and see why Margaret Atwood said "The June issue of Bookslut makes every other English-language publication in history look like worthless crap." Or maybe it was me that said that. I get us confused sometimes. At any rate, enjoy, and thanks for reading.
Cool the 92nd Street Y has a new blog. (Thanks to Neal for the tip.)
One incident, however, does stick in her mind. "I remember the review Margaret Drabble wrote for the Times - I think it was the Times," she recollects. "It talked about what American teens did in their cars - though Katherine and Michael never made love in a car. She also talked about "insies" and "outsies", mistakenly thinking the words had to do with genitalia, when really they were Katherine's descriptions of belly buttons. I was a huge fan of Margaret Drabble's - I read everything she'd written - so I was fascinated though, ultimately, disappointed by her review. And who knows if I'm even remembering what she wrote accurately ... "
That's what American teens do in their cars? I thought they just sat alone in the driveway, feeling sorry for themselves, smoking a joint while listening to Leonard Cohen, wondering whether they're doomed to die alone. Wow. I went to the wrong fucking high school.
But won't all this generosity be lowering the intrinsic value of his book? "Of course!" Chalmers laughs. "No doubt there'll be a few hundred on eBay before the week's out. It's probably commercial suicide."
It's been kind of a slow year for really good comics. Epileptic was amazing, one of the best books in any medium, but that was followed up with "eh." (Although I find it funny that at least one reviewer has referred to Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana as a "graphic novel." There should maybe be a workshop for book reviewers to explain this crazy new kind of book to them. Just because it has some pictures, that doesn't make it "graphic.") But now, as Andrew Arnold (a guy I had an embarrassing encounter with at BEA -- sorry, Andrew) points out, there are suddenly five books worth buying, including Joe Sacco's War's End and Daniel Clowes's Ice Haven.
You can read the story that won the Harpers & Queen/Orange Prize for Fiction short story competition over at the Guardian. 23 year-old Sam Binnie won with "The Dress."
Author Richard Rodriguez has decided not to give the commencement address at Cal State East Bay, after some students and faculty announced they would boycott the ceremony if he spoke. Rodriguez, the conservative author of Brown, Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation opposes bilingual education and affirmative action.
Kind of a shame. I disagree with Rodriguez on any number of issues, but he's a brilliant writer. Maybe the best way to create a dialogue between progressives and conservatives isn't by trying to silence the right with a heckler's veto. On the other hand, it ain't my school. And a number of my college friends boycotted their graduation ceremony because former President Bush was the commencement speaker, a gesture which I completely understood.
I'd recommend reading Rodriguez, though, even if especially if you disagree with his politics. Read this interview with him at MELUS, and for an opposing take, check out this article at Pocho.com.
Wal-Mart's PR flack for Arizona and Southern California has resigned after his office approved an ad comparing Arizona zoning proponents to book-burning Nazis. The store also evidently fired the firm that created the ad.
June 8, 2005
Charles McGrath wonders whether American culture is dishonest about class.
But to a considerable extent novels these days take place in a kind of all-purpose middle-class America, in neighborhoods that could be almost anyplace, and where the burdens are more psychic than economic, with people too busy tending to their faltering relationships to pay much attention to keeping up with the neighbors.
It's a place where everyone fits in, more or less, but where, if you look hard enough, nobody feels really at home.
"I tried to do fiction with characters that I didn't know, detective stories and things like that, but it didn't fit me," Rabaligati says in a thick Quebecois accent. "If it wouldn't be about real life, I wouldn't do it. I would prefer continuing in commercial illustration."
Local and international publications - books, novels and magazines - will no longer be censored in Jordan, the Jordanian Culture Ministry announced this week.
OK, so: Jordan 1, Oklahoma 0.
Whoa! Did you guys know that Michael Jackson is on trial? Why isn't the US press covering this?
Juror No. 5's granddaughter, Traci Montgomery, told The Associated Press that her grandmother talked about writing a book soon after being chosen for the jury back in February.
My own jury-duty chronicle, 45 in a 40: Traffic Misdemeanors, Punishment, and the Heart of American Justice, is forthcoming. Look for it!
Edward Klein, author of the much-hyped forthcoming propaganda book The Truth About Hillary, is already batting .000, truth-wise. Media Matters for America easily dismisses a claim about Sen. Clinton made by a right-wing website that interviewed Klein. Man, 2008 might be easier than I thought.
There's coverage of Lionel Shriver, the US-born author who won the Orange Prize yesterday for We Need to Talk About Kevin, at The Scotsman, The Independent, the BBC, The Times, the CBC, Reuters, and This Is London. Much is made of her traditionally masculine first name and her decision not to have children. (Quick, how many male authors have you seen get quizzed incessantly about their lack of offspring? I think it's about...let me do the math here...yeah, about zero. Ah, vive le double standard.)
It's amazing that these reports of "faintings" at Chuck Palahniuk readings never mention the fact that Palahniuk himself instructs the listeners to hold their breath for the duration of the story "Guts" (now available in the awful Haunted. "I'll tell it fast." As if we're supposed to believe the story is just so gory the world can't take it. We know you're hardcore, Chuck, but you're not that hardcore.
June 7, 2005
The shocking suicide of an Austin American Statesman reporter may have been triggered by the venomous response to a series he wrote on the pollution of Barton Springs.
Within seconds, the little man himself swaddles out with all the Keith Talent masculinity of a refined Chinese concubine, and proceeds to read the opening of Yellow Dog and then the homeless guy interlude; the second reading draws laughs, the first draws misery. The entire time, I'm merely formulating the perfect question; I had wasted two hours one weekend reading the fucking piece of shit new novel in a spacious Georgetown bookstore and was sniffing for blood.
Stupak: Thanks for the reading, Mr. Amis, and thanks for providing endless hours of entertainment and pleasure. Your most recent novel and, before that, your nonfiction Koba the Dread have received overwhelmingly negative reviews from most English critics; Yellow Dog received some of the harshest reviews I've ever seen, comparing the reading of the novel to discovering your favorite uncle masturbating in a schoolyard. In response to such overwhelming derision, you've uniformly claimed that your critics were either jealous of your success or too politically correct, dumb, or ill-educated to appreciate what you're doing. During periods of repose, do you ever wonder if maybe that you've simply lost the plot and that your condescension towards criticism is a sign of a mind that's become closed and outmoded, just like what happened to your father?
As you might imagine, what happens next is really, really good reading.
While a great deal of this article is outdated -- most comic book stores I've been to lately have embraced lighting, literary comics, and the possibility that women might want to have a look -- the basic premise is more difficult to shake off than I had originally thought. I wasn't offended by the Sin City movie, nor am I intimidated by the depiction of women in comics, but at times, he's right. The comic book world is more dominated by men with "giddy encyclopaedic knowledge of comic lore, their tired eyes, and soft, unthreatening, roly-poly demeanours" than, say, the rest of the literary world, which is pretty sexist, too. My favorite moment of BEA was at the future of graphic novels panel (Frank Miller, Harvey Pekar, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, Brad Meltzer, moderated by Chip Kidd) and an audience member said to the panel that if they were the future "the future is looking awfully male." Kidd became offended and said that his publisher Pantheon "publishes women like, uh, that Marjane Satrapi book and we'll be publishing Jessica Abel, and, uh..." But the industry is not "entirely hostile to women." So while I appreciate Kevin Maher being offended on behalf of all womankind, I think we can work around the Harry Knowleses of the world.
Later, going home on the Metro, I pulled it from my coat to find that some of the spine had crumbled away into my pocket. The ancient sticky tape holding it together had come off, leaving a residue of gum arabic to which the crumbled flecks had become attached like loose tobacco.
Opening up the book I fanned the pages under my nose and appreciated the bouquet, you might say, the same way a native of that country appreciates wine. It was a kind of distillation of England, a post-war, more hopeful England where wider access to classic literature seemed to echo a general shift in the status quo, away from elitism towards greater equal opportunity. No imprint before or since has been more representative of this than the Penguin Classic.
Harland Miller shares his love for the Penguin Paperback. (As someone currently obsessed with the Modern Library editions from the 1950s, the only era in which they were horribly ugly, I understand.)
If war breaks out in Benelux, J. K. Rowling is to blame.
Nobel Prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn lamented the state of politics and government in a rare televised interview Sunday, saying it would be many years before the country has anything resembling democracy.
Man, why is he so cynical? Oh. Oh, yeah.
So apparently Don Swaim interviewed every author ever on Book Beat, his CBS radio show. The recordings of his interviews with writers like John Banville, Oscar Hijuelos, Ian McEwan and John Updike are now available on the Wired for Books page. (Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the link.)
An Austin TV station looks at the Inside Books Project, a worthy Texas charity that sends free books and educational materials to the state's prisoners. If you're in Austin, you can donate books to the project at 12th Street Books or Monkey Wrench Books.
I'm very disappointed that none of the answers from this "Sex Advice from Women's Magazine Editors" are as crazy as the sex advice you normally get from women's magazines.
June 6, 2005
Last March, US poet laureate Ted Kooser hosted John Prine for a "literary evening" at the Library of Congress, the first such invitation for a songwriter.
Your flag decal won't get you
Into heaven any more
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you
Into heaven any more
(And neither will your stupid magnetic yellow ribbon, OK?)
I went to college with one of Prine's second cousins. My friend had only met him once, at a family funeral. During the part where the family files past the grave to throw a handful of earth on the coffin, Prine evidently stopped, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small bottle of whiskey, said "Well, shit," and tossed it into the grave. See why I love him?
George from Bookninja considers Oprah's new book club selection:
Oprah's back! Meedly meedly meedly nnneeeeowwowowow! (That's the sound of publishers doing excellent air guitar solos while kneeling on their desks - with whammy bar at end)
And that's just the headline. I'd develop a crush on George, but I've had my heart broken by one too many Canadians.
At a Nato summit in Prague, Donald Rumsfeld was once forced to sit though a performance of modern dance and poetry. Asked for his reaction afterwards, he shrugged: “I’m from Chicago.”
To be fair, if I was forced to endure even, like, five minutes of modern dance, I wouldn't be able to bust out with a weird geographical non sequitur, because I would be lying on the floor with blood pouring from my wrists. De gustibus et cetera.
A woman has been arrested for allegedly sending hundreds of harassing and hostile e-mails to best-selling mystery writer Randy Wayne White, authorities said.
Cyberstalking: Don't play that game.
Reuters profiles Serpent's Tail, one of Bookslut's favorite publishers.
I'd heard how racy and sex-obsessed the genre is, but it seems to me the race is entered and exited at exactly the same points each time. Chick-lit heroines talk about sex, and occasionally they have it, yet it’s never because they want it, never because they have to have it or they’ll die, even though it’s wrong and there will be hell to pay. Nor is there no hell at all to pay — the kind of sex you just wanted and took, then zipped up or fell unconscious. Nor is it married sex: predictable, satisfying and scheduled. No, chick-lit sex is some sort of subtext for societal temperature-taking. Brr!
For example: in Karen McCullah Lutz's The Bachelorette Party, a nineteen-year-old boy lifts his shirt to prove that he is a model for Abercrombie & Fitch. These are the thoughts (saucy but never sick) of our thirty-year-old heroine (who's cute but not too beautiful): "Washboard abs, goddammit. My favorite kind."
Okay, who doesn't like washboard abs? And what kind of original expression is washboard abs? It's not literature; nor is it pornography, which is unoriginal but at least it's hard and wet, not safe lunchroom gossip lust.
She finishes by putting my rage about chick lit into a coherent statement:
Instead, its message is chick lit to the core: dishonest, even dangerous. It tells women that the yearning in their soul can be filled by the love and acceptance of a man. First of all, to have the yearning in your soul answered is death. Secondly, definitely not by a man! He could wake up one day in love with somebody else, and take all your answers with him! Thirdly, these books are telling us to accept ourselves as girls, just as we are. That's not enough... No literary movement before this one has ever made me angry.
Hot damn, I love Lisa Carver. (Her other book, The Lisa Diaries, is worth tracking down, too.)
New to comics? Or maybe you just feel like you've read everything worth reading in the medium? Nick Abadzis has an excellent list of recommended writers and artists to read.
Man, I want to read this book.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, the debut novel by a British woman who was born in a refugee camp following the end of the Second World War, has won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction.
Has anyone checked it out yet? I'm curious.
The curious case of Harry Potter, the tabloid newspaper and the disappearing gun. Another dramatic chapter in the life of the world's most famous boy wizard unfolded yesterday when armed police were called to a reported shootout over an attempt to sell a stolen copy of the new JK Rowling novel.
One day I woke up and found that my preganancy test was POSITIVE. I was so excited, I rushed out and spent loads of money on maternity clothes, but they didn't fit me till much later. Not many women realise you don't get FAT the moment you get pregnant. Before long I began to suffer from terrible morning sickness. This is when you are sick in the morning. It took me some time to work out what was going on because Jamie's FOOD used to make me feel sick anyway.
At first I only told my parents, my 100 best friends and Hello! that I was pregnant and I was deeply HURT that the tabloid newspapers found about it and told the REST of the world before I could. But that's the price of being married to Jamie!
John Falk is interviewed at Suicide Girls about his book Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace. (You can read the interview I did with Falk here.)
Most of the time I didn’t believe in depression. I just thought it was a character flaw. I was having panic attacks to the point where I couldn’t go outside. I would read books about war correspondents and I thought they had these exciting lives which was the opposite of what I was doing. So when the medicine worked all of a sudden I could move. I thought I had to make up for lost time and see life at its most intense. You’re supposed to go to therapy but I felt I didn’t have anything to analyze because I hadn’t lived! I figured I could fill the emptiness inside me with learning something over there.
"Only two kinds of people wear cowboy hats: cowboys and assholes," he said. "I hope I'm the former."
The BBC wonders if lit festivals help authors' sales at all.
At the Boston Globe, Katherine A. Powers looks at a handful of "not quite cult books, but curious works of genius, gems lost in the sand," including Anthony Burgess' The Long Day Wanes and Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman (reviewed in Bookslut by Randy Schaub). Powers could have also included Wheat That Springeth Green and Morte d'Urban, two brilliant novels by her father, the great Catholic writer J. F. Powers.
Tomorrow is the hundredth anniversary of Norway's independence from Sweden. I'm betting the celebration involves salmon. The Independent looks at the past and present of Norwegian culture and literature. Ibsen is mentioned, of course, but so are contemporary Norwegian authors Lars Saabye Christensen (The Half Brother), Karin Fossum (Don't Look Back), and Linn Ullmann (Grace). I read an incredible Norwegian novel a few years ago, called Lillelord, by Johan Borgen, which I highly recommend. It's apparently the first book in a trilogy, but I have no idea whether the other two books are even available in the States, or in English at all. Anyone know?
The blogging for the Book Standard didn't work out due to technical difficulties one day and utter exhaustion on my part the next. So to briefly sum up (you can read detailed accounts elsewhere): I chickened out and did not take an opportunity to meet Mike Wallace; the first day there I got called a "smartypants" on a panel because I admitted I read real books (I know. At Book Expo, not at, say, a time warp that put me back into junior high school. It just about made me lose faith in the publishing industry all together.), I had dinner sitting next to Frank Miller, later that night I sat across from Harvey Pekar, I missed Mr. Michael Schaub a whole lot but had a good time making up reasons why he wasn't there (birthing cattle came up only once), and I got to annoy Dennis Loy Johnson by constantly coming by the Melville House Booth to sit and chat. Oh yeah, and there were some books. Although they'll all be ignored so that I can finally finish Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, which I accidently left on my kitchen table while in New York. Now I have some catching up to do.
June 2, 2005
UPDATE: Damien Weaver reviewed Snow White and Russian Red for Bookslut in April. He also interviewed Paloff as part of a translator's roundtable article, which you can find in the next issue of this very magazine. How the hell did I forget to mention that? Oh yeah. The whole sick thing.
Which of these high school students do you think will be more successful? Brittany Hunsicker:
Then she began to recite from "The Buffalo Tree," a novel set in a juvenile detention center and narrated by a tough, 12-year-old boy incarcerated there. What she read was a scene set in a communal shower, where another adolescent boy is sexually aroused.
"I am in the 11th grade," Miss Hunsicker said. "I had to read this junk."
Or Mary Isamoyer:
Several students spoke with more reasonable passion about the value of the novel, and one high school senior, Mary Isamoyer, offered to replace the missing library copies of "The Buffalo Tree" with her own.
"Do not insult our intelligence by keeping this book from us," she said.
Poor Mary, cursed with perspective, intelligence and logic. She'll have to settle for going to college and having a fulfilling career while lucky Brittany gets to tote her seven bitter children to Bible study class. Teenagers, it's not too late to learn a lesson: Don't question authority. That's the key to happiness. Trust me.
Cutler, who reportedly received a $300,000 advance from her Disney-owned publisher, Hyperion, said she no longer relies on male companions to pay rent on her new apartment in New York's Greenwich Village, although she'd like to.
"I am still like: Why am I paying my rent like an idiot?'" Cutler said in a recent interview. "I think a guy should do it."
People paid her for sex? What the fuck?
Elizabeth Kostova got a two million dollar advance from Little, Brown for her Dracula-themed debut novel, The Historian. The AP notes that it's "a rare windfall for a first-time novelist, for whom an advance of $25,000 to $200,000 would be more typical."
I actually wrote a Dracula novel too, but publishers have so far expressed no interest in putting out The Deathening. Whatever. Their loss.
Classic American author Ernest Hemingway's beloved house in Cuba joined former homes of U.S. presidents and King Island in Alaska on an annual list issued on Thursday of "America's Most Endangered Historic Places."
Are you left feeling dazed and confused by the monosyllabic grunts and the Americanised slang that passes for adolescent language?
A newspaper in Wales, the country that brought you 87-letter words and made "w" a vowel, translates teenage into square. Check out their definition of "emo":
A teenage boy prone to become over-emotional.
Ha! Can you believe that they really OK, on second thought, that's actually pretty accurate.
An eBay seller is offering an autographed copy of Mark Felt's The FBI Pyramid: From The Inside, reports the AP. (At the time the AP story was filed, the high bid was $202.50; it's now over $1,000, and there's five days left on the auction.) There's plenty more Deep Throat-related merchandise being offered on eBay, including a University of Idaho yearbook from when Felt was an undergraduate there, and a piece of toast with an uncanny likeness of Felt.
Newsday looks at "book doctors."
There are 172 reasons why this is the worst headline ever. Can you find them all?
Sickness has grounded me in Texas, at least temporarily. But I am with all of you who are in New York in spirit. Eat a hot dog and say "fuck" for me.
June 1, 2005
That's all for me. I have a plane to catch to New York for this whole Book Expo thing. Unfortunately there'll only be silence here, as Mike will be joining me and I forgot to find a guest blogger, but I will be blogging over at the Book Standard's website. So if I make an ass of myself declaring my love to Mike Wallace, you'll know. (There's a long list of authors attending Book Expo this year, but once I saw Mike Wallace's name, I could care less about anyone else. I'll be stalking him throughout the weekend.) See you on Monday.
(Minnesota) Gov. Tim Pawlenty has vetoed a bill that would have established a state poet laureate.
A Republican who doesn't support the arts? If only you could see the look of surprise on my face. (It's like this.)
Librarian Patrick Coleman is disappointed:
"But the cynical side of me laughs when I hear the governor saying that choosing a poet laureate is going too far," he said. "We have a state muffin, for crying out loud."
Candace Bushnell's former manager is suing the Sex and the City author, claiming she failed to honor an oral promise to pay him 10 percent of her earnings from the show. But if he didn't get it in writing, doesn't that make him I don't know the worst fucking manager in the history of time?
I was on a panel about historical fiction at the Sydney Writers' Festival a couple years ago — I don't know why I was on it, but I was. A very scholarly, upstanding, Australian writer was beating up this poor German guy who had written a fictionalization of the Holocaust. I remember she said, "We must avoid easy entertainments." And I was just sitting there thinking, Lady, entertaining is hard. Anybody can bore something up, but making some of this stuff entertaining is the hardest thing there is.
Just days before the release of his first book, gay author and attorney Rich Merritt announced today that he was fired three months ago by his Atlanta employer after providing details of the book to a supervisor.
"Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star" is scheduled for release June 7 by Kensington Books.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The critic's antagonists are multiple. Penny-pinching publishers. Readers with short attention spans and diminishing interest in serious cultural criticism. Obfuscating TV networks and Hollywood studios. Actors with short fuses and long tentacles of clout. Society's growing segmentation. The celebration of the multiple voice instead of the lone, powerful voice. Web-based reviews of everything from hotels to books...
Actually, the death of the critic is greatly exaggerated -- there still are publications that showcase reviews and readers who seek them out, read them, think about them and even act upon them.
Actually, do you know which publication still has piss poor critics and often ends up just syndicating reviews from other newspapers? The fucking Chicago Tribune. Oh, the irony.
This is the conclusion of a study into sex differences in reading habits, which found that, while women read the works of both sexes, men stick to books written by men. And the boys can no longer use ignorance as an excuse.
'Men clearly now know that there are some great books by women - such as Andrea Levy's Small Island - they really ought to have read and ought to consider "great" (or at least good) writing,' the report said. 'They recognise the titles and they've read the reviews. They may even have bought, or been given the books, and start reading them. But they probably won't finish them.'