July 29, 2005
Living in New York makes you younger and older at the same time. It makes you younger because everyone who lives here is a drunk, and everyone stays out late, and everybody goes to shows, and everybody cares about rock bands, and movies, and generally things in America that only young people are interested in. It makes you a little bit older in the sense that everyone is jaded and has a cynical view of the world and is very distrustful.
Concerned about patrons' privacy, the Denver Public Library this week inserted itself into the national political debate over the USA Patriot Act.
On Monday, the library strung, between its east pillars, white plastic tape with large letters reading: "Privacy Line - Do Not Cross." Smaller text read, "Stop Secret Searches - ACLU - ReformthePatriotAct.org."
Now this is a city with balls.
So you think you've read the worst lead in the history of journalism, huh? Think again.
Librarian Snow Wildsmith wants to go from "bookish" to "Hey, take a lookish!"
I am never going to stop laughing at this. I might eventually require medication.
"I don't know if I'm a good poet. Even when people tell you are good, you still don't really believe it," Powell said. "It's like kissing -- a person will tell you you're a good kisser while you're kissing them but there is never any way to tell."
Guerilla poets invade an Indiana Wal-Mart.
Oh, Miranda Mary Piker,
How could anybody like her,
Such a priggish and revolting little kid.
So we said, ‘Why don't we fix her
In the Spotty-Powder mixer
Then we’re bound to like her better than we did.’
"I wrote this whole thing on my dad's computer in his bedroom," says the shy and intelligent author, now 20, over a $5 cup of coffee at the Drake Hotel in midtown Manhattan. "Every five minutes my sister was coming in to check her IM, and I was, like, 'I'm trying to write a book here!'"
Edmund Kern: Pope Benedict XVI should clear up his ambiguous statements about the Harry Potter books. Did the former Cardinal Ratzinger actually suggest that Rowling's novels "subvert Christianity in the soul"?
It's not really news when the first lady/gentleman of a state makes a stop at a library. That's pretty much all they're supposed to do. But Christie Vilsack, wife of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, seems to be going above and beyond. She has her own book club, aimed at young adults, and plans to have visited "about 450 of the state's 543 libraries" by the end of the year. Gov. Vilsack, a Democrat, is rumored to be a possible vice presidential nominee in 2006 if his friend Sen. Hillary Clinton gets the nomination.
(UPDATE: The next election is, of course, in 2008. I guess I was subconsciously hoping it would be earlier. Thanks to Hugh for the correction.)
Even the book’s publisher is distancing itself, with a proviso, “factual accuracy does not mean unopinionated or unbiased. Mr. Klein’s interpretation of what he reports is unabashedly his opinion.” For a book with the word “Truth” in the title, this statement implies that the target audience is drooling morons.
San Francisco artist Rosemary Mans makes greeting cards from damaged books. Someone ended up with a holiday greeting from America's favorite WASP.
Some fetch much more, like the card made from a John Updike novel inscribed Merry Christmas Mary, John Updike.
"I left Mary on the floor," Mans said. "I cut out Updike's signature and Merry Christmas and a picture of him from the dust jacket. I took the three images and made a collage. It sold for $12."
Also making the list were Mark Haddon, Khaled Hosseini, Harper Lee and John Steinbeck. Wow. British book clubs are much different than American book clubs, huh? Any English people want to trade citizenships? Come to the States and get your free universal health care! (Americans, sssshhhhhh...what they don't know can't hurt them.)
Other than the occasional Little Lit or volume of Bone, comic books for kids are in scarce supply. Well, the publisher that brought Harry Potter to the US is here to rescue us. The new imprint is called Graphix, and it will be featuring the work of Chynna Clugston and Christine Norrie, comic book adaptations of The Babysitter's Club and the works of Stanislaw Lem (?!), and a line of Goosebumps books by Scott Morse. All in all, it's a comic book imprint I wish had been around when I was a kid.
Publishers are so desperate, they're giving book deals to people they meet in bars.
The lengths to which the Soviet authorities were ready to go in their efforts to block publication of Boris Pasternak's epic novel about 20th-century Russia, Doctor Zhivago, was revealed by a letter published yesterday.
"We're poised to make history here. What we're doing could revolutionize the book publishing industry." No, it's not the new Harry Potter. Nor is it Dan Brown's next book. It's a book that feeds on the weak and the vulnerable, a book that could perhaps kill them if they believe in it. So way to revolutionize the book publishing industry, guys! You're right. The publishing industry didn't quite weed out the gene pool quite enough until you came along.
July 28, 2005
Dan McKay of Fargo, N.D., has won the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad prose.
As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.
Australia has launched its Books Alive 2005 literacy program, which includes a "Great Reads Guide" to 50 suggested books. (The guide doesn't seem to be online quite yet.) But some are upset that only 30 of the books on the list were written by Australian authors.
Sherlock Holmes has been getting more press lately than Katie Holmes. (See how I did that, with the same last name? Can you believe I don't get paid for this? No you cannot.) David Pirie explores the reasons that Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his famous hero, and Adrian Mather interviews Pirie about his BBC2 show on Doyle and Holmes, which aired last night.
David J. Foster tosses some easy softballs at Ben Shapiro, the anti-porn/pro-censorship author of Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting our Future. (Shapiro was born in 1984, appropriately enough.)
I believe that movies of the 1930s-1960s made under the Hays Code are better artistically as well as morally. The Hays Code, which was voluntarily adopted by Hollywood after the American public protested at oversexualization of the film industry, stated that "No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it." This meant more than subtlety in sexual matters - it meant upholding traditional moral standards in film....
...I call for local regulation of pornography, obscenity and indecency. Censorship is a dirty word today, but it was the dominant mode of life in this country for the bulk of 200 years.
Yeah, it was just like slavery. Ah, for the good old days.
Being a Jersey girl means there are certain things that are simply a part of your life, said author Mary Jane Clark.
Like acid-washed denim jackets?
The great bookstore Atomic Books will soon be shipping the first book from their publishing arm.
If you're not reading everything released by Small Beer Press, especially their recent output of Maureen McHugh's Mothers and Other Monsters, Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners, and Jennifer Stevenson's Trash Sex Magic, there is something wrong with you. (The August reading series will be a sort of Small Beer Press expo-lite, as two of the readers that night are published by SBP.) Valley Advocate loves them, too, and gives them a glowy profile.
Like most creative-writing-class escapees, Foer writes in patterns of dreamy-fantastical list-making ("Oskar Schell-- Inventor, Jewelry Designer, Jewelry Fabricator, Amateur Entomologist, Francophile, Vegan, Origamist...") that here constitute the most pathological version yet of the salient LittleBlue SmurfBoy™ trait--the endless running of fingertips over Stuff I Really Really Like. Foer's infantilism might be as harmlessly engaging as Anderson's if only his when-you-wish-upon-a-star monkeyshines didn't alight on the World Trade Center. Using Ground Zero as a locus for SmurfBoy's first toddle toward naptime without Mom--oof! Queasy-making.
Jonathan Safran Foer is KILLING MASCULINITY!
I genuinely am sort of an emotionally stunted man-child, so if I just write to the top of my intelligence, it sounds like a teenager. I don't have to... I remember reading an interview with [Brian Michael] Bendis where he talks about going to the mall and listening to kids, and that just sounds sort of creepy, like a pedophile thing, to me. I don't do that. I like being around teenagers. It's good for drama; they feel everything much more intensely than we do, their lives are much more interesting than ours. They're mutants. They have these weird bodies that are rebelling against them and changing every day. Teenagers always equal good drama.
And as you can imagine, every single fucking person in attendance is young, hot, sexually ambiguous, and dressed much hipper than I'll ever be able to pull off. Hooray, Bookslut! Man, I miss the days when you could show up to a literary event here in Chicago and be surrounded by young, sexy slackers, who are just as likely to fuck you as they are to punch you in a drunken rage.
I always imagined that Bookslut had the sexiest audience, but now I know it's true. This guy is right. You guys were hot on Tuesday night.
July 27, 2005
A disgruntled Harry Potter fan has released a "corrected" version of J.K Rowling's latest installment in the series, The Half-Blood Prince, prompting a storm of curiosity and support from many fans who disliked the direction of the story in the book. It has also, not surprisingly, prompted a storm of legal activity from Rowling's publishers.
"Whenever an author puts a work out into the universe, it is no longer their exclusive property anymore," said Mary Sue Pembroke, who is credited as the author of the modified book. "Harry Potter belongs to all of us, not just Rowling. She took some liberties with the story in this latest book that really weren't faithful to the logic of the narrative. My version is, I think it fair to say, much more faithful to the true Harry Potter mythos." (Link from Mobylives.)
It's the romantic entanglements that are really pissing her off, and it's rather predictible who she'd rather have Harry pair off with. (No, it's not Spock.) (Lord almighty, yes, I got the joke. I haven't gotten so many e-mails from a post in my blogging career. Yes, the site is satire. I scored high on reading comprehension tests. Stop e-mailing.)
Romance writers gather in Reno.
(Debbie) Macomber is the keynote speaker at the convention, which features workshops on how to use firefighter lingo, how to pick book-cover art, using swords and sword fights in a story line and how to make your villain a sociopath or psychopath.
I had been worried about turnout for last night's event. For a while, I was more relaxed about it. The reading series turned up in just about every major (and minor) news outlet in Chicago. But then the temperature dropped, it started to rain, and I noticed there was a Cubs game. Not that we would lose many readers to the Cubs game itself, but it's really hard to convince yourself to get on the Red Line when you know the fans are going to be on it. The room started to fill fairly early, and when I came back from being downstairs for only a few minutes and the room was now packed, I figured we were okay. We did a quick headcount, and we had 73 guests.
That just left us with the problem of the missing authors. It took me an hour and twenty minutes to get to the Hopleaf from my apartment, so I knew others would be having the same problem. At the time the reading was to start, Daphne Kalotay was the only author there. Shalom Auslander and Andrew Winston had both called, stuck in the same horrible traffic, although it's amazing Shalom got there at all, what with a delayed flight from New York. There were other problems as well: a microphone that didn't work, confusion with the bar about what we were and were not allowed to have in the upstairs room, and the initial confusion about where to place a reader in an almost perfectly square room. We did our best to overcome, and by 8:00, only thirty minutes behind schedule, the last of our writers appeared.
Daphne Kalotay bravely agreed to go first. (Well, after a brief introduction by me in which I forgot all that I was going to say which made it even shorter. I had already had my first martini by then.) She read from her short story "Prom Season," (from the collection Calamity and Other Stories) which was sweet and funny in unexpected places. Next came local author Andrew Winston, who read the priest-is-the-houseguest-of-his-closeted-gay-nephew-and-his-"roommate" bit from his novel Looped. Shalom Auslander, who is a rock star, finished the night with readings from two stories ("because I'm in love with myself," he explained), "Revelations from the Lost Book of Stan" and "Someone Up There Likes You," both from Beware of God. I was simultaneously disappointed and thrilled to hear that the Women & Children First table ran out of Auslander's book, and sales were good for the other two as well.
I started the reading series for purely selfish reasons: I wanted to hear these authors that I love read. The excellent turnout was just a bonus. I hope every one had a good time, and there should be pictures (if any of them are worth looking at) later today.
Now, on to August.
August 23rd, 7:30 pm
Hopleaf, Second Floor
5148 N Clark St
Alice Hoffman considers the books of her summers.
You can't say "turd" in the newspaper. Apparently.
In a kind of counterpoint to David Kipen's column (look below), Adam Langer details the "seven deadly sins" of book reviewers, including "The Philip-Roth-Is-Nathan-Zuckerman Fundamental Error" and "The Fact-Checker-With-Too-Much-Time-On-His-Hands Critique." Adam gets a hug too.
George Saunders has a new short story in The New Yorker.
David Kipen, I could hug you. Seriously! Come to Austin and get your hug, David! The San Francisco Chronicle book critic has been receiving threats and insults from readers upset at his skeptical Harry Potter column. He takes on three myths of book reviewing:
Myth No. 1: Critics shouldn't reveal anything about a book's plot.
Myth No. 2: Any critic who disagrees with you must not have read the book.
Myth No. 3: All critics are frustrated writers.
(About the last myth, Kipen notes with sad, sad accuracy: "It might be more accurate to say that all writers are frustrated writers.")
July 26, 2005
Chicago readers! Don't forget that tonight is the first installment of the Bookslut Reading Series. It's at 7:30 at the Hopleaf in Andersonville (Foster & Clark). Shalom Auslander, Daphne Kalotay, and Andrew Winston will be reading. There is a cash bar and the Hopleaf's kitchen will be open (the best mussels in the city), the authors' books on sale, so bring cash or your ATM card. How can you resist? Tomorrow we'll have a full report on the happenings as well as the lineup for next month's reading. See you there.
The first New York Times Bookstore will open later this year in Lexington, Kentucky. (Hartford, Connecticut, and New York are next.)
I will be in Chicago, IL and St. Louis, MO during the last week of September touring in support of my new book -- which, it should be noted, contains passages about Jesus dressed in drag, murder, sex, the word fuck, suicide, the Loch Ness Monster, Elvis as a false idol, homosexuality, homosexual sex, Islam, Iranians, Starbucks coffee and teen sex -- and would love to be invited out to speak to the kids of Blue Valley during that time to see if, by hearing my words, they go out and kill people, dress in drag, idolize Elvis, engage in homosexual sex, drink Starbucks coffee irresponsibly or any of the other sins of my writing. Hell, I'll read from Marquez, too, just to see what happens. Please, you cowardly fucks, invite me to your town.
A public service announcement: If you are American, and use British spellings like "favour" and "realise," and if you ever, ever use the word "bloody" as an intensifier, then you are worse than Hitler and fuck you.
(Is there something about the heat wave that makes people deaf to irony? If you're among the people who wrote to tell me to go fuck myself, then first of all, OK, and second, of course I don't really think that Americans who say "bloody" are worse than Hitler. I actually think they're smarter than Einstein, more virtuous than Jesus and cooler than Lou Reed. So if you could do me a bloody favour and stop sending me hate mail, I would be honoured, OK?)
The Boston Globe has a short profile of John Porcellino, author of the new graphic novel The Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man.
You can now get your Chicken Soup for the Soul in magazine form, and Elizabeth Spiers finds it's just as horrifying as it sounds.
If the ad sales are any indication—Bush's Baked Beans, Singer sewing machines, Country Crock mashed potatoes—the magazine's psychographic target market would appear to be the Greatest Generation June Cleavers who make casseroles from canned soup products, do their own housecleaning, thank you very much, watch Oprah on TV but don't buy the magazine and secretly think Martha might have had it coming. The magazine is generally tonally and topically consistent in catering to this demographic, but there are enough strange aberrations to make the reader wonder if part of the Memphis-based publication's editorial production is being outsourced to an indie mag in Soho or Palo Alto.
Maybe now Jane can stop sucking.
Arthur Japin's In Lucia's Eyes, which has a tragic cover, was inspired by a sentence in the memoirs of Casanova and the death of Netherlands politician Pim Fortuyn. Japin talks to the BBC about the hidden politics in his book about an 18th-century courtesan.
In a weird article that begins with Nicole Brown Simpson's near-decapitation, and ends with The Godfather Returns author Mark Winegardner totally losing his shit, Kimberly Miller profiles the Florida State creative writing program. Winegardner, the program's former director, sounds ready to storm the U.S. News and World Report offices with an aluminum baseball bat if FSU's program isn't given good placement in the magazine's next grad-school ranking issue.
"I would bet my soul if U.S. News and World Report did a similar ranking today we would be in the top five," Winegardner said. "If we weren't number one or number two it would be a travesty."
Hey, if the FSU creative writing program is anything like their football team, then...all the students are probably in jail. But any program with Robert Olen Butler can't be bad, right? Right.
This Houston Chronicle story about Terry McMillan has the best subhead in the history of American journalism:
The AP looks at self-publishing the benefits (possibly higher royalties, more control over the process) and the drawbacks (no one will ever read your fucking book). (Go to bugmenot.com for registration.)
A Melbourne university student says the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has questioned him because he borrowed library books about terrorism and suicide bombings.
Rupert Thomson is interviewed about his new book Divided Kingdom, which I picked up solely because of the delightful cover, at Three Monkeys Online. The book is science fiction-ish, a dystopian novel that imagines a world in which Britain is divided into fourths based on the medieval belief in humours.
"Divided Kingdom is far more concerned with the past than the future," explains the British born author, "far more concerned with history than with science. This was an inevitable consequence of becoming interested in the medieval humours. I never intended the book to be futuristic; I wouldn't have been comfortable with the idea of science fiction. I liked the fact that a government involved in a piece of radical social engineering might look to the past for its inspiration. There was something so believable, or even human, about that - we always seem to think that things are worse now than they used to be - but it was also perverse. The idea that a government could reject progress so utterly seemed to contain within it the seeds of something unpredictable and quite possibly malignant..."
July 25, 2005
That's Meghan O'Rourke at Slate, who finds Khaled Hosseini's novel to be a little too tidy.
Poetry is like Celine Dion CDs and Thomas Kinkade paintings and white zinfandel. Lots of people love them. I do not. And never will.
Some Australians are taking on postmodernism.
The Weekend Australian revealed how postmodernism had infiltrated schools, often under the term Critical Literacy, raising fears that the secondary-school syllabus had been heavily politicised by the same theories that radicalised the universities in the late 1980s. The English critic Frank Kermode has argued that these theories encourage "an indifference to, and even a hostility towards, literature".
Kermode is presumably referring to the little-known classic of postmodernist theory, Jean-François Lyotard's Fuck Literature.
"The purpose of this game is to replace the fighting element (of typical games) with writing," he said. "The key to building status in this game would be to challenge someone to a writing duel."
And with the help of Hot Coffee, you can unlock a scene in which you have sex with John Updike.
This is a book that began with a question from a marketing manager that went something like, "Wouldn't it be great if we could publish one book that would appeal to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s?"
OK, the question went something like that, but with more jargon. Publishers probably don't call these products "books" anymore.
Jonathan Safran Foer has written a libretto for an opera.
Originally, Foer’s libretto was to be set seven times, to seven different scores by seven different composers. “But the more we thought about it,” Foer told the Los Angeles Times, “the more we thought it would be really boring."
I can't imagine!
In his final "Bad Sex" column ("I was getting to the point where I was going to have to start fabricating stories, and everyone knows there's no tolerance for truth-bending in the online media."), Neal Pollack explains how AOL ruined his love life.
Early one evening, I signed on and went to my usual spot, which was called something like "Book Chat" or "Smart People Seek Smart People." There, waiting, sat "Googol." Her profile mentioned that she was "infinitely wise."
Hey! So was I!
Robert E. Howard wrote a letter to H.P. Lovecraft detailing a "brief panic" in San Antonio, when a few people apparently thought the city was being attacked with tear gas. Express-News columnist Paula Allen thinks Howard was exaggerating, or altogether fabricating, the details of the story. Howard wrote to Lovecraft:
It was not until later that I learned the source. Three miles from the city, the soldiers of Fort Sam Houston had been experimenting with a smoke screen laden with tear gas. A shift of the wind had blown it down on the city. There was a near-riot. ... Firmly rooted in the average Texan's mind is the conviction that anything can come up out of Mexico, and in such a case, San Antonio would be one of the first objectives.
If you're thinking of visiting there, I grew up in San Antonio, and I can assure you that I have never been exposed to tear gas. I did get evacuated from a Butchies show at Emo's in Austin because of an anthrax scare (it wasn't anthrax). But that's as close as I've come to inhaling dangerous substances. Or so says my lawyer.
Irvine Welsh's forthcoming novel is a romance, reports The Scotsman.
And Welsh, whose most famous book, Trainspotting, was once criticised by the novelist Alexander McCall Smith as a classic example of Scottish "miserablism", will also largely do away with the sex, drugs and violence that have defined his work to date.
But the humour and swearing, which caused people to walk out when Welsh used the 'C' word in a book reading in Washington four years ago, will remain.
What kind of stupid cunt goes to an Irvine Welsh reading and gets shocked by profanity? Jesus. Also Welsh-related: Leith resident Adrian Turpin takes exception to Welsh's charge that the Edinburgh suburb has become "yuppified."
Redheads are passionate, fiery, strong-willed, maybe a little dangerous, maybe a little bad. They loom disproportionately large on the cultural landscape.
Fritz Lanham likes the "infectious joy" of Marion Roach's The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair. Well, you know the old saying: "People with red hair are sexually attractive!" Wait, that's not it. "If you have red hair, then sex with you is probably enjoyable!" Something like that. I can't remember.
Lisa Selin Davis needs to get her priorities straight.
It is, of course, impossible for me to understand preferring cheap beer to books, since I don't like the stuff. I'd like to like it, but I don't.
There actually was an ode to Saul Bellow, but it was cut. I read The Adventures of Augie March as research. But I ended up using Carl Sandburg as a muse because I found his writing to be more classical and antiquated, and kind of silly, and that lends itself to lyric writing. I think Augie March is the great American novel, far more compelling than even Moby Dick, but I found it intimidating to manage his writing musically. It’s so complete and so literary. Sandburg’s more lyrical.
For his upcoming Delaware album, Stevens will attempt to channel the spirit and energy of Wilmington native Judge Reinhold.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
Bring up how some people talk about being "color-blind" and ayo fires back: "That's like saying people don't look at women's breasts!"
You won't actually be served a Chicago red hot at the Poetry Hot Dog Cart in Millennium Park.
But those who pay a visit to the cart will be able to order a poem off the menu with two "relishes" on the side -- choices include "gloom," "schmaltz" and "corn" -- to be delivered by a real, live poet.
Although I live 1,000 miles from Chicago, I can somehow actually see Jessa rolling her eyes at this. This is evidently something you can only find amusing if you've had 17 Old Styles for breakfast.
Though Roth was a genuine working-class kid from a real slum, he was, in his own eyes, a degenerate — the kept man of an effete bourgeoise. Communism was for Roth (as it was, ironically, for many Jews) in part a rebuke to anti-Semitic notions about Jews and money.
Peter Watts has joined authors like Cory Doctorow and Kelly Link with making his books Starfish and Maelstrom available for free downloading.
You can now watch the trailer for V for Vendetta online. We're now taking bets for just how bad it's going to be.
Looks like the next Harry Potter has already been written.
The protagonist of Leddick's second novel (after My Worst Date) is Harry Potter, who danced in the corps de ballet for the Metropolitan Opera Company in the 1950s (as did Leddick himself). The story is related mainly in flashback by a present-day Potter -- now a doctor, husband and father -- who begins and ends the novel at the deathbed of an ex-lover from the Met. Leddick's well-turned phrases and apt apercus never answer the question that drives his novel: What could have turned the youthful Harry's passionate, exclusive, quite open early sexual interest in men into Dr. Potter's dutiful, heterosexual domesticity?
July 22, 2005
The Chicagoist takes the Sun-Times to task for their article about the emotional scarring the male employees of the newspaper have suffered at the hands of the "real women" Dove ad that is currently up in downtown Chicago.
You, Richard Roeper, have no excuse.
Rich, we feel betrayed. We love you. You’re the guy we look to when we need someone to cut through the bullshit. You give out an annual GOOF (Gloriously Overexposed Overhyped Fool) award purposely to stick it to those who take advantage of the media’s desire for the fake and the glossy. But given carte blanche with your column, you use it to make a plea for "more fantasy babes." It's hypocrtical, at best. And if what we've all heard about you is true, your whole “confirmed bachelor” shtick is starting to seem less and less like a choice you made than one that was made for you.
Ouch. It's a good thing Roger Ebert didn't join in the chorus. Everyone in this city has a good trashy Ebert story.
I've a huge Beth Lisick fan from way back, if by "way back" you mean "about two months ago." But I still love her. Her latest book, Everybody into the Pool, is reviewed at Las Vegas City Life by Jarret Keene, who appears to have just coined the term "alterna-MILF." (Awesome.) She's also profiled at the Las Vegas Sun. Both pieces give well-deserved props (Is that what the kids are saying? Oh, it's what the kids were saying ten years ago? Okay.) to the great Manic D Press.
Al-Ahram Weekly has a rundown of recent books from the Middle East.
The Chicago Sun Times announces the new column "Chicago Lit," which will profile local authors, bookstores, happenings, and other such hometown pride.
Perhaps the most inappropriate blurb for an ad on the Underground ever.
Rule #2: Don't Thank A Diety.
I don't know what is up with people who have found God, but they seem really insecure about God's continued approval, like He is their quasi-abusive boyfriend or neglectful Dad or something, so they have to keep thanking Him every five seconds. Klosterman thanks God for helping him to write a shortish, go-nowhere, cutesy book about a brief road trip he took to rock stars' death sites. This is kind of like R. Kelly thanking God for helping him to write a song called "Sex Weed," except less hilarious.
July 21, 2005
I didn't stab her in the eye with my wand. I WANTED to. I talked about doing so VERY FUCKING LOUDLY. I was going to eviscerate her mother with the cover of my brand-new copy.
A Harry Potter fan loses it in the scariest way possible. (Via Bookish.)
Debra, literary novels often involve a woman in a terrible situation, about to make choices which will devastate her life. Nonetheless, the heroine plunges ahead....While there is something to be said for a writer who can evoke negative emotions, such a work isn't profound. Watching car crashes will have the same effect.
Presenting: The worst advice column ever written.
A few days ago, I posted about the Book Babes column on Harry Potter, which was also apparently the Book Babes column on Primo Levi, but nevermind. I should have read it a little more closely, though. Bookslut reader Barbara Egel points out this line from the column that I somehow missed:
The six-hour play is based on Philip Pullman's futuristic adaptation for children of Dante's Paradise Lost.
I am speechless, but Barbara asks some very apt questions:
So Dante wrote Paradise Lost, huh? How come I've never seen it in the original Italian? Wasn't one harrowing representation of sin and redemption enough? Did Dante really have to repeat the same themes in his sophomore effort rather than to truly grow as a writer? Did his publisher get on his case to make Satan kinda bad-boy hot in the second book since Hugh Grant had optioned it already, and the growling monster of the Inferno would all have to be CGI?
Those who have seen it say it is his best work since his "Midnight's Children" took the literary world by storm in 1981. Kirkus Reviews called it "a magical-realist masterpiece that equals, and arguably surpasses, the achievements of 'Midnight's Children,' 'Shame,' and 'The Moor's Last Sigh.' " Even his rivals on the British literary scene believe it outshines anything he has done previously.
I'm not sure I can wait six weeks for this. Jesus.
The Eisners were awarded at Comic-Con. Brian K. Vaughan won two awards, one for best writer and the other for Best New Series for Ex Machina. Volume five of Y: The Last Man was just released, and it is so, so good. I was a little worried about the fate of the series after volume four did almost nothing for me. I shouldn't have worried. Vaughan is one of the best comic book writers working, and his shiny new award agrees.
New York Magazine asks Lorrie Moore a few questions.
I think of the revolution in marriage very much like the industrial revolution. It opened up some new opportunities for many people. It also created havoc in some peoples' lives. But the point is that it was not reversible, there was no way to go back to turn everyone into self-sufficient farmers. So we had to reform the factories, and we had to deal with the reality we faced. I would say that the revolution in marriage is the same. There is no way to force men and women to get married and stay married. There is no way to force women to make the kinds of accommodations they used to make, to enter a shotgun marriage or to stay in a marriage they find unsatisfying.
The Emerging Writers forum presents a conversation with reading series directors, including the lovely and talented Claire Zulkey who runs Chicago's Funny Ha-Ha with Chicago author John Green. (If you have never been to Funny Ha-Ha, you might get your last chance on August 10th at the Hideout, as Green is moving to New York. It's a great show, and maybe a huge turnout will convince Claire to continue the series in Green's absence.)
(And speaking of Reading Series, don't forget about Bookslut's first reading series, coming July 26th to the Hopleaf.)
While you may normally think of a book club as an informal group of pretentious thirty-somethings sitting around their local coffee shop discussing Joyce's "Ulysses," some book groups are turning to their local libraries' Web sites.
Replace "pretentious" with "wizened," "thirty" with "ninety," "coffee shop" with "abandoned community center" and "Joyce's 'Ulysses'" with "Wister's 'The Virginian'" and that's exactly what I think of when I think of book clubs. Just kidding!
Actually, no, I'm not.
"I'm just trying to be the voice of reason," he quotes a friend as telling him. "I don't understand why you would want to produce a nonfiction book that will be unfavorably compared to Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity.' " His answer: "Well, perhaps if I specifically mention that possibility, it won't happen."
July 20, 2005
I've used this blog to urge everyone to read Scott Heim's novel Mysterious Skin, and go see the new movie adaptation, which is becoming one of the best-reviewed films of the year. If you live in Australia, though, you might not get the chance to see it. Some Australian conservatives are trying to ban the film, which deals with child sexual abuse, and was directed by the controversial (and brilliant) filmmaker Gregg Araki. Australia's National Nine News reports that Araki is stunned by the development.
"I have always thought of Australia as a very sort of progressive, sophisticated, cosmopolitan place. So to run into this roadblock is surprising," Araki said.
It's especially bad news for Heim's Australian fans. (Particularly a very nice person named Huiwen from Perth, who wrote me to say she "absolutely adored" the book, and can't wait for the film to open in Australia.) But Heim does have some good news, which he shares on his blog HarperCollins has bought his third novel, We Disappear. Sweet. I love this guy. Go buy his books.
Jessa talks comic books at The Book Standard. Book reviewers of the world, for the love of God, pay attention:
“They’re not just for kids anymore” is not an original, interesting, clever or even remotely intelligent opening statement. You’re recycling a decades-old stereotype, akin to declaring “Novels: They’re not just for ladies of leisure anymore” in a review of a “real” book.
This week's Guardian Digested Read: The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank.
I'm now going out with Seth, and I realise I'm kind of jealous of his ex. I don't think we'll get married, so nothing's really changed. And then for no apparent reason I decide I like myself and my job. I have hit the Wonder Spot. The End.
The Washington Post presents the Cheeseball Awards for Magazine Excellence. They explain:
Us also called in not just one but two handwriting experts to analyze an autograph that Aniston recently gave to a fan in Chicago, which showed that Jen is "very private" and that love is important to her.
This is the kind of no-stone-left-unturned reporting that ought to win awards. But the high-minded, highbrow folks who bestow awards would rather eat worms than give one to the cheeseballs.
Probably more kids would read if all libraries had names like "Filthy McNasty's."
In this database of favorite words, no one has submitted mine yet: clavicle.
Here’s the thing: My father uses my poems to sell timeshare. He sits at those cheap metal folding tables that seem to be a staple in every timeshare office and says, “Let me show you a poem my daughter wrote.” My father may be the first person who called me a poet.
This is not a novel promoting social justice. It’s a novel that attempts to hold a mirror up to a troubled time. And at the same time unambiguously celebrate the very things we do hold dear. One of them—it’s not simply a matter of “nice red wine”—one of them is rationality. Henry lives by a certain kind of compassionate and rational code of life. Maybe that’s a luxury, too. To live without religion.
Books risk becoming the equivalent of pot roast in a world full of ethnic foods. There will always be a place for pot roast, but it sure isn't the place it occupied 30 years ago.
In fact, one suspects that the PR release of this "confession" (and the news that, while he was writing the book, Irving did at last find out who his father was) is designed to forestall the criticism such a dreadful, though clearly heartfelt, mess like this deserves.
July 19, 2005
Really, more people should be jailed for reading Maxim magazine.
"How's your book going?" has become my least favourite question. I used to think writers didn't like talking about their works-in-progress because they were afraid people would steal their brilliant ideas. Now I know the truth. Writers hate talking about their books because they're sick to death of them. That and the fact that, on any given day, they secretly suspect that their books might stink.
And let's face it, most books do stink.
Mr. Kadare, don't be acting like you're the one true dissident, cuz Renata Dumitrascu is gonna out you as just a fraud. (Sorry, I had to dumb down this really very interesting column at Mobylives in order to match the fact that all I've been reading today is trashy comics. [Not that comics are trashy, just the ones I've chosen to read today.]) My brain is not working on the higher levels today.
I'm off to Milan in the morning, where coffee tastes like a delicacy, and frankly I can't wait. Excessive exposure to these jazz-soaked surroundings, where every branch looks like the one before, has given me Groundhog Day delirium, and I have had enough.
Jesus. I didn't think you could say that in The Independent. Oh, wait jazz-soaked. I totally thought it was something else. Sorry. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)
I would put the story in the Life and Arts section, perhaps below the Jumble and just to the right of Hagar the Horrible. But that's just me.
That's an impressive leap, Margo, from Harry Potter to the Holocaust!
Yeah. You got me.
Boy, it's good to be a girl. Particularly when there are fun summer chick-lit books such as Gigi Levangie Grazer's "The Starter Wife" (Simon & Schuster; $24), in which a Hollywood wife learns a hard lesson about the politics of marriage.
Yep. It's good to be a girl.
The London (Canada) Free Press has a weirdly rambling article about teenagers and literature. And once again:
Television's impact on reading is obvious in the evolution of the wildly popular graphic novels and Japanese manga, genres particularly popular with young boys...
Books, yes, but are they literature?
The article comes down on the "no" side. And then it turns into an advertisement for Annick Press, a publisher of "fine quality books." Annick publishes such titles as 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents and What a Goat!, which just make Maus and Persepolis look like frivolous crap.
I also think it's extraordinary the way in which we get morally selective in our outrages. When there was a rumor that someone at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Koran down the lavatory, the pages in The Guardian almost caught fire with outrage, but only months before the Taliban had set fire to a mosque and destroyed 300 ancient Korans.
July 18, 2005
Conservatives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, have drafted a list of over 70 books they'd like to see "purged" (their word) from the city's public school libraries. Among the books "that have absolute vile and gratuitous sexual premises" are Love in the Time of Cholera, Beloved, Bless Me, Ultima, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. There are some white writers included too, for the sake of appearance, I'm guessing. (Thanks to Leila for the link.)
Sounds like a sitcom to me!
EXT. OUTSIDE A HARDWARE STORE DAY
JESUS: I just need to get pick up a dual auger bit, Mary, I promise. I'll be in and out in two minutes.
MARY: I've heard that before!
STUDIO AUDIENCE: Woooooooooooooo!
JESUS: Who keeps saying that?
And it kind of plays out like that for 21 minutes or so.
Is Alan Dershowitz a plagiarist? The attorney and writer threatened to sue the University of California for publishing a book Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah that makes that claim. Jennifer Howard covers the controversy for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Slate tries to uncover the real Ron L. Hubbard.
Hubbard always imagined himself a great man of history. "All men are your slaves," he once wrote in a diary entry unearthed during a 1984 lawsuit. He reportedly once claimed to have written a manuscript that contained such brutal truths that anyone who read it went insane or committed suicide. He fancied himself a nuclear physicist, never mind his lack of training, and posited that fallout from Cold War nuclear tests were interfering with Scientology therapies. (Hubbard even wrote a book titled All About Radiation—a swell read, according to one reviewer on Amazon who says, "I understand radiation better and feel like I could survive an atomic explosion somewhere on the planet, if it wasn't, of course, really close to me.")
A blank space appearing on page 50 of Shorewood High's annual literary magazine, Imprints, was once filled with a poem about a teenager's first sexual experience.
The 13-line verse was abruptly pulled from this year's magazine after parental complaints about a profane word in its title.
So high schools are still worried about profanity? That's quaint. I went to a Catholic high school, and in my first year, I took a speech course taught by a certifiably insane priest with a bizarre mid-Atlantic accent and a flair for the melodramatic. The first thing he said to us, on the first day of class, was: "I have two rules. Don't fuck with Father, and don't bullshit Father."
And yet I survived. As for the priest, everyone sort of fucked with him anyway. I later heard he was arrested in Corpus Christi for pot. I have not been able to confirm this, however.
FB: It seems inevitable that one day many locales on Mars will be named after you, Mr. Bradbury. Does that give you a little thrill?
RB: Right now it’s enough that I have a crater on the moon named after one of my books. The Dandelion Crater. That’s good enough for me.
Kate Kellaway gets it: If you want to get kids to read, stop condescending to them.
Prescription is pointless, but recommendation is a good thing. Children need to be introduced to art, film and literature - and then make up their own minds.
Kellaway notes that she read parts of Lolita when she was 13, and it did her no harm in the long run.
BanComicSans.com: the source for all anti-comic sans propaganda.
Geoff Dyer, Hari Kunzru, Louis De Bernières, and others report back from Port Eliot's literary festival.
We ought to know them better, these small, determined nations. Literature is a fine way in – if only the monoglot Anglophone world would translate it. Well, Latvian writing is featured in the forthcoming Edinburgh Review, and I brought back a bulging bag of bilingual books and journals in English that will soon find their way onto the SPL's shelves. If our literature-finding group has its way, fiction and poetry by Lithuanians and Latvians will infiltrate our lists and websites, shift our perceptions.
He continues, "We are a divided people, but let us celebrate what we have in common. We don't all worship the same god. Some of us do not believe in a god at all. But the good news is that, thanks to me, we all now believe in the Apocalypse. You're welcome."
One of my first writing jobs was with the Salina Journal. It is a flimsy little daily newspaper, as you would expect from a small town in central Kansas. But the editorial page was surprisingly liberal. Editor George Pyle might have been one of the most despised men in the region. I was a contributing editor during my senior year in high school, and then in college I was dismayed to hear he had resigned. I don't think I had heard anything else about George Pyle's career until the other day I go to Salon and see his mug there. His new book is the call to farmers and consumers Raising Less Corn More Hell, and I want to read it now.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle profiles Sarah Vowell, who was raised there.
Vowell said she has also gotten some "weird random dispatches" from readers, like, "'Hey, did your dad ever write an episode of 'Dragnet'?'"
I don't know who Bill Tammeus is, but there might be some medication he has forgotten to take.
Religious publishers continue to produce books even more quickly than Midwestern rabbits have been delivering offspring this year. That's saying something. Here are some recent ones (books, not bunnies) worth your time.
July 15, 2005
Some Harry Potter release parties tonight will feature live owls, reports the Denver Post. Colorado-based nonprofit groups such as the Raptor Education Foundation and HawkQuest (couldn't they have picked a less Renaissance Faire-y name?) are providing the birds.
Newsweek asks: "What strange obsession drives the authors of grisly true-crime books?"
Maybe it's a strange obsession with huge fucking piles of money.
The Moscow Times looks at the American Book Club.
A significant portion of the club's membership is Russian. Yet I felt that Russian guests must have a very odd feeling at these meetings, for the idea of a book club is little known in this country; Russians are more prone to be united by their passion for writing than by their love of reading. Moreover, the very concept of a social gathering of this kind is distinctly American.
Hollywood actor Owen Wilson is to star as a comic book writer living in a fantasy world in a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
This is not related to books, but my new hero is whoever wrote this Washington Post headline, leading a story about one of Karl Rove's new defenders:
The British-Kuwaiti director Sulayman al-Bassam will stage a pan-Arab version of William Shakespeare's "Richard III" at the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works" festival taking place in Stratford-upon-Avon, England next year.
It's Harry Potter day today, so I think I'm going to make one last early morning trip to the bookstore before the kneebiters start lining up. God be with all bookstore employees today.
July 14, 2005
Representative Jim McDermott, D-WA, has introduced a bill (HR 3174) that if passed would require the Army to reopen the investigation into the death of a World War II Italian prisoner who was lynched at Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington.
McDermott became interested in the case after reading Jack Hamann's On American Soil, about the lynching of Private Guglielmo Olivotto and the subsequent court martial.
I haven't said enough about how much I enjoyed On American Soil, which is both fascinating and beautifully written. It's great that Rep. McDermott thought so, too. I hope Jack Hamann is feeling good about this; it's rare, and extremely exciting, when a writer makes a difference so directly and so dramatically.
Well, it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. Honestly, it all boiled down to the fact that it didn't make sense to write anything else that was autobiographical. Mostly because, as I joked in the book, according to my publisher I hadn't done enough to warrant another one. So this was a way to put together material that doesn't fall too far from my tree, so to speak. I'm still a central character in it, and it still takes place in the movie business, but the book is a pseudo-attempt to convince readers that I'm actually going through everything that's in it. And that's basically it.
Johnny Temple, publisher of the everything-they-do-is-worth-reading Akashic Books, has a new biweekly column at The Book Standard. Nice choice, guys. His first column is about why being in a punk rock band helps you be a better indie publisher.
I used to work on Liverpool Street station at night, humping mailbags on and off trains, at the time of the IRA threat in the 70s. We were told, often, about parcel bombs. Stay alert. Alert to what? The alien with the rucksack? The tourist? Your fellow labourers, that bunch of many-languaged freelances with the dubious paperwork? Nothing happened, beyond the boredom that is always twinned with terror. The future, JG Ballard reckons, is a cocktail of those elements: the ennui of edge-land architecture, airport roads the same everywhere, and highly-visible tanks patrolling the perimeter fence. If an English cricket team ventures to Pakistan it will be accorded, so the relevant diplomat assures us, the highest level of security: "head of state."That is to say, public roads in Karachi will be entirely cleared between five-star hotel and stadium. The city of the spectacle is deserted, crowds under curfew, so that the sport of the people can be performed, at a time suitable to the television networks, in a massively guarded redoubt.
Comicscode interviews comic book "power couple" Matt Madden (the upcoming 99 Ways to Tell a Story) and Jessica Abel (Artbabe) about how they inspire one another, seeing their works translated, and what's coming up next.
Mahmoud Darwish is one of the world's great poets, though he's largely ignored by the American media in part because he's a recluse, and in part because he's, well, not American. But he's mentioned in an AP story about artistic freedom in Palestine.
July 13, 2005
Newsday talks to Richard Louv about his new book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, which I'm eager to read.
I believe most literary fiction, the sort produced by Viking or Farrar Straus, is duller than commercial fiction and harder to read. I believe that much of this literary fiction is merely about relationships, or quirky people, and that these topics get very tiresome very fast. Who really cares whether quirky characters bicker, even if that bickering is perfectly depicted in the pages of literary fiction? The author might have a good ear, but he's boring as hell to everyone except the "refined."
Oh, burn! Take that, literary fiction! All dull and hard to read and shit! This was posted on the website of prolific genre author Ed Gorman, who sometimes writes under the name Daniel Ransom.
Maybe that is why American literature is on a suicide path. It's being refined out of existence by the snobs and elites and the effete.
Hate Harry Potter? You're not alone.
The nomination process for the Quills awards is now online. You can start voting on August 15.
"I haven't really figured out how to write about Gus," Lisick muses, twirling her coffee around. "I don't identify with anything 'alterna-mom'-ish. I tried to write a book of funny stories without resorting to things typically associated with women, like 'men' or 'shopping.' I don't want to write about my period or how mad I get when men don't put the toilet seat down -- guess what, it really doesn't bother me that much when men don't put the toilet seat down."
July 12, 2005
Irvine Welsh is upset about the yuppie invasion of Leith.
A new coffee shop at a University of Texas library will be called Prufrock's. Austinist is unhappy, claiming, correctly, that there were more deserving names Nineteen Eighty Pour, Sophie's Chai, Me Drink Coffee One Day. On the plus side, the Eliot reference should make the coffee shop popular among Anglophiles, peach-eating mermaids and anti-Semites. You'll love the Ezra Pound Cake!
God damn it, Dalkey. Quit having the 100 books for $500. Especially right after I bought myself a pair of ridiculous priced boots for my birthday and am out of money. However, if you're the type of person to have $500 lying around in pocket change, I recommend you start your list of the 100 with Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. (Yesterday I sat on my birthday couch, eating birthday nachos, reading my birthday Chernobyl book. I understand if other people choose to celebrate their birthdays in other ways.) However, Dalkey, I do appreciate your $4 hardback sale. I might be out of money, but I can live on ramen for a week in order to buy copies a bunch of these books.
A Vail, Arizona, high school is replacing textbooks with laptop computers.
1. Do you think Vail's economy is largely dependent on would-be skiers who have hired an incompetent travel agent? Why or why not?
2. Where will Empire High School's freshman boys draw cartoon genitals when all the textbooks are gone? Will they just carve the cartoon genitals on the computer itself, perhaps using a Dremel tool?
3. If you were over the age of 60, to which newspaper would you send an indignant letter to the editor, complaining about this new development? Explain.
Can't decide which comic book to read? The lovely and amazing website gurl.com (if you know a tween or teen girl, you should buy them a copy of Deal With It, the book based on the gurl.com website, immediately) has the Comic Book Selector all ready for you. They recommended me 32 Stories by Adrian Tomine, one of the first comics I ever read and loved.
The trial for Georgia comics retailer Gordon Lee will begin on September 12th, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Lee faces two counts of the felony charge "Distribution of Material Depicting Nudity or Sexual Conduct," and five counts of the misdemeanor charge "Distribution of Material Harmful to Minors." The incident in question was the distribution of a Free Comic Book Day giveaway from Alternative Comics to a minor during a community Halloween event.
CBLDF will be doing some aggressive fundraising leading up to the trial, so why don't you go ahead and help them out?
Ibn El-Amin Pasha has been convicted of murdering the daughter of poet Amiri Baraka.
If you were accidentally allowed to buy the new Harry Potter before its release date, you better not talk about it.
Elizabeth Kostova: A literary star is born.
The most enduring monsters, she says, are those who "are partly human, like Dracula and Frankenstein. Those monsters are close to us and to what we could become. They're scarier than Godzilla or the Blob."
Although it is implausible, it would have been cool if right after she said that, the Blob appeared out of nowhere and consumed her. "When I started researching The Historian 46 years ago, I came acroOOOOOH GOD NO! WHAT ARE THE ODDS? AAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEE..."
Doug Moe recommends reading John Schulian's Twilight Of The Long-Ball Gods: Dispatches From The Disappearing Heart Of Baseball instead of watching tonight's All-Star Game.
July 11, 2005
There are several ways a magazine can convince its subscribers to resubscribe each year. There are those hysterical wraps they put on covers, yelling THIS IS YOUR LAST ISSUE EVER, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RENEW! There are the letters with no return address that trick you into opening them. Some magazines will call you at home. Or there's the out and out harassment method, like that employed by Wired Magazine.
"Our objective is to clear your bill quickly and fairly," it said. "Your payment will reinstate your subscription."
A more assertive letter from North Shore, headed "Request for Payment," arrived last month. "You must realize that we want you to resolve your account in the amount of $12," it said.
Then, the other day, a third North Shore letter arrived, headed "Account Status: Delinquent."
"Your account appears as delinquent on our client's files," it warned. "This professional collection agency continues collection activity on your debtor account."
When the current generation of Harry Potter readers has grown up, it will look back on the Harry Potter phenomenon with a mixed thrill of intense nostalgia, embarrassment and dismay.
The New Yorker has an interesting profile of Roald Dahl. Apparently Ursula K. LeGuin didn't like Dahl, and Dahl didn't like the Jews.
Emmy Awards may not be enough to keep "Reading Rainbow" around. The children's program, co-produced by NET Television, is facing possible extinction if Congress does not restore $102.4 million cut from public broadcasting.
You just made a big mistake, Congress. You made LeVar Burton angry.
Novelist James Hynes, the brilliant author of Kings of Infinite Space who Bookslut interviewed last year, finally got around to reading Anna Karenina. (I haven't read the book, as I am waiting for Zadie Smith to write a rock opera based on it.)
I bought a new copy, a World's Classic from Oxford, a stout little hardcover. But the print in that one was too small even for bifocals, and finally I invested in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation from Penguin -- it's Oprah-rific! -- and a brand new pair of reading glasses. And just last month I settled into my sofa, worked out the proper distance to hold the damn book from my geriatric new glasses, and started reading.
The Christian book industry is booming, reports the Denver Post.
Precise reasons for this jump in interest are hard to pin down, although the phenomenon coincides with the rise of evangelical Christianity and general anxiety over terrorism and the economy.
So this is why even the convenience stores near my house are selling The Purpose-Driven Life. Thanks a lot, bin Laden.
I'm not entirely sure why, but Chicago started being left off of book tours recently. I don't know if it's a lack of venues, the decision of publishers to pretend like Chicago does not exist, or perhaps a string of bad turn outs for book related events, or maybe a combination of some of these. Maybe what was needed, I thought, was someone bossy enough to cajole, harass, and pester the publishers into bringing authors into Chicago.
Well, I volunteered.
Announcing the debut of Bookslut's Reading Series. To celebrate, I asked three of my favorite debut writers of the year to come and read on July 26: Shalom Auslander (Beware of God), Daphne Kalotay (Calamity and Other Stories), and Andrew Winston (Looped). And if you don't want to make up your mind on whether the books are worth buying ahead of time or not, Women & Children First graciously agreed to attend each event and sell the authors' books. Authors will be around afterwards to sign.
For now, the series will be monthly, and we've already got two exciting writers for August. (You'll find out soon.) We'll be adding content to the reading series page, like Q&As with the author, pictures from the events, etc. Keep checking back. Big thanks to the Hopleaf, who will be hosting each event, Women & Children First for selling the books, Kate for helping with the organization, and the publicists, publishers, and editors who agreed to help get their writers out here. I hope to see all of you in Chicago (and the surrounding areas) on July 26. Don't worry, we certainly won't let you forget it's coming.
Life and art collided horrifically in London on Thursday, raising questions for a major American publisher about its ambitious release plans for a highly touted novel.
The same day that four terrorist bombs plunged England into 9/11 mode, "Incendiary," about a gory terrorist bombing of London's Arsenal soccer stadium, went on sale there.
July 8, 2005
I think that might just be the most offensive thing I have heard all year. Your trashy chick lit novel didn't get reviewed by the New York Times, so you're going to compare your circumstance to a fucking rape victim? Holy fucking shit.
Secondly, clueless girl, do your research. What you're calling for, in your best Martin Luther King Jr. impression -- because, again, not like that is not horribly offensive as well -- already existed. It was the Women's Review of Books. It was not wildly successful like you claim a women's book review would be. In fact, it's on hiatus because twelve people read it.
And just so we clear this all up: Chick lit is not reviewed in the New York Times for the same reason that Nora Ephron movies do not win Best Picture Oscars. It's because they both suck. Now, I'm not saying the New York Times Book Review is not sexist. It is. So are the Academy Awards. But for this particular complaint, it is not relevant.
Sorry, I'm feeling surly today. I get pissy around my birthday.
I've been trying to word this post for a half hour, because it's extremely hard to describe how fucking much I loved Ander Monson's short story collection (or possibly novel, I'm still not sure), Other Electricities. I'll just say: Read it. It's the most beautiful work of fiction I've read in a long time. The book, from the amazing Kentucky-based indie press Sarabande, is reviewed in the New York Press and the Grand Rapids Press, and Monson gets some love from Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore on NPR.
This book is essential.
I'm thinking of moving to Pennsylvania until next November just so I can vote against Rick Santorum.
"What happened in America so that mothers and fathers who leave their children in the care of someone else -- or worse yet, home alone after school between three and six in the afternoon -- find themselves more affirmed by society? Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism," Santorum writes.
"Sadly the propaganda campaign launched in the 1960s has taken root," said Santorum. "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."
Jennifer Howard's latest piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education deals with libel and flatulence.
Vanity press publisher Martha Ivery, aka Kelly O'Donnell, has been indicted on 17 counts of federal fraud after allegedly scamming over a dozen authors. That's pretty bad, but at least she didn't, say, exploit tragedy for her financial benefit.
Clients worked with both O'Donnell and Ivery without being told they were the same person. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Ivery told writers that O'Donnell died in the World Trade Center and O'Donnell said Ivery died in the attacks, according to A.C. Crispin, a science fiction writer who co-founded the scam-busting Writer Beware Web site, which is run by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
Jesus. Let's hope the jury is composed entirely of Manhattanites and frustrated authors.
The colonial seaside town of Parati hosts FLIP, as the festival is known by its Portuguese acronym. This year, it will host 36 authors from 11 countries and 25 publishing houses after receiving more than 12,000 visitors last year.
Rushdie's speaking tomorrow at the festival; Orhan Pamuk (Snow) is scheduled to speak today. My hometown, Austin, has a book festival too, though mostly we get the authors of books about chili and football. (Rushdie's speaking at the Texas Book Festival "Literary Gala" this year, but freelance journalists with five-figure debts are, sad to say, priced out.)
First, Miller is in jail not because she refused to divulge the name of a Deep Throat, who saw the constitutional order of the nation imperiled and so became a confidential source to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate reporting.
Thank Fucking God someone said it. Let her ass stay in jail.
Environmentalists are urging Harry Potter fans to buy the new book through Canada. It seems another bid to convince Scholastic to print the books on recycled paper has failed, but Raincoast will be offering the more "environmentally sound" option. (However, the Canadian books are uglier. It's a tough choice, unless you detest the Potter books. Then you can just go back to reading books with, you know. Merit.)
"It's a book for Italian people of my age," he says. "When I was in New York 30 years ago, I saw a shop with a sign that said it was selling 'Shoes for Spanish-Speaking Fat Ladies.' There was a special market for them! So I thought of my book in this way."
So I guess Eco can't be too surprised if sales are lackluster. (I classify The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana a little differently: the first Eco book I could finish without giving up all hope that the book would ever end. It's actually quite good.)
July 7, 2005
Author David Plotz has a dispatch from Tavistock Square in London.
The natural state of the English is a kind of gloomy diligence, which is why they do so well in hard times. In 1940, Londoners went dutifully on with their business while the Luftwaffe bombed the hell out of them. Today, most of them are doing the same. I was in Washington for 9/11, and the whole city went into a panic. Offices emptied, stores shut, downtown D.C. became a ghost town. But in London today, everyone still has a cell phone clutched to their ear. The delivery vans are still racing about, seeking shortcuts around all the street closures. The Starbucks is packed.
Warren Ellis keeps us updated on the bombings in London.
I'd remind my foreign readers that, although it's been a while, this sort of thing is not something we're unused to over here. There's not going to be a lot of freaking out from the generations that remember explosives in litterbins and bomb threat drills in office blocks. It was part of the fabric of life for a very long time.
Oh, here we go; footage of Blair being lifted out of Gleneagles by a military chopper.
See, if Paddy Ashdown had become Prime Minister, he'd be in camo gear, carrying a machine gun and clambering into an Apache, proclaiming that he was off to personally hunt down and kill Osama. I think the country really missed an opportunity there.
The July issue of Bookslut is up, and it is large. We have 28 original features, reviews and columns, thus easily outpacing our archrival, The Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia, which doesn't even come close to that output, and almost never publishes reflections on Judy Blume's Wifey. What I'm saying is that we come out way ahead.
This month, we've got interviews with Ingrid Hill, Kevin Sampsell, Edwin John Wintle, Lee Gutkind and David Markson ("I can always reread Ulysses. But there's simply no impulse toward anything else, and certainly not toward the latest generation. They all seem like they shouldn't have driver's licenses, even. You do become aware of the names, of course. Who are they, Lethem, Foer, Eggers? Are they mostly named Jonathan?") Colleen Mondor profiles Oni Press, publishers of some of the most exciting and innovative comic books around. Susie Bright joins Melissa Fischer for a special installment of Judging a Book by its Cover, and Gordon McAlpin returns with a new Stripped Books featuring Neil Gaiman at the Nebula Awards.
We've got reviews of the latest books from Sarah Vowell, Tom Bissell, Marjane Satrapi, Chuck Klosterman and more. In columns, our Banned Bookslut looks at Harry Potter book burnings; Small, but Perfectly Formed discusses his (very justified) love for Persephone Books; and the Comicbookslut offers suggestions for comics newbies. (And of course there is more.)
You could basically spend all day reading it. And you should. Hear that, The Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia? We're gunning for you.
July 6, 2005
Books to stack on the bedside table this fall: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" ...
OK, that makes sense. I'm not really into that, but a lot of people love those books. No surprise there.
Sure! I love those thick 18th-century American history books that come around every year. You know, the ones like Oliver Wolcott: The Great Statesman Who You Have Never Heard Of and that kind of thing. I could definitely see where you'd have this on your bedside table. I'm sure the next item in this list will be in the same vein as these two obvious bestsellers. Why wouldn't it?
Whoa! That's not like the first two! Why, we've been...misdirected!
Thirtysomething men interested in teenage girls? Color me surprised!
Americans have discovered Middle Eastern literature, kind of.
As they've watched sales for Middle Eastern books climb, publishers have eagerly taken on more and works of fiction and nonfiction to feed a new American curiosity. Readers appear to want books filled with dramas of family or friendship - they want strong emotions to carry them along as they learn about customs and history.
The Psychiatric Times quick, someone buy Tom Cruise a gift subscription looks at "literature as a basic science of psychiatry."
Jeff VanderMeer interviews Lucius Shepard for Rain Taxi.
When I heard that Julian Barnes would be publishing a book about Arthur Conan Doyle, there was a lot of eye-rolling. I am dead tired with all of the Sherlock Holmes books lately, from A Slight Trick of the Mind to The Italian Secretary and right back to The Final Solution. Come up with your own characters, people! But at least Barnes's Arthur & George has Doyle as the main figure, with no Holmes in sight. Either way, a new Barnes book is always worth celebrating in my household. He's interviewed at the Guardian about why he doesn't read his own reviews, the Booker rumors already swirling, and the still touchy subject of Martin Amis.
July 5, 2005
The Guardian interviews Sheila Jeffreys about her new book Beauty & Misogyny. She's one of these lovely ladies who accuses heterosexual women of "betraying the cause." This new book focuses on the evils of lipstick, breast implants, and skin care products. Way to focus your energy on issues that really matter to women.
The elderly Japanese people of the future will be so desperately lonely for companionship that they'll purchase slightly creepy android replicas of the drug-addled but brilliant sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick. Why the Japanese, and why Phillip K. Dick? It's a long story, and I'm not sure I fully understood it all when the android's makers explained it to me. I think I probably read the wrong books growing up as a kid, or maybe I now watch the wrong TV shows.
I tried to convince the PKD android guys that if they were going to be in the business of making robotic replicas of famous, drugged-out writers, they should also consider offering a Hunter S. Thompson model. That way, at least the Japanese would have a choice of companions. I know if I were Japanese, I'd collect both models and watch them fight over a half gram of mescaline.
Warren Ellis is interviewed at the Londonist. Friend of Bookslut Mike Atherton asks Ellis why he set his new series in Los Angeles.
Possibly because I don't drive, and am therefore stared at like a freak when I walk around West Hollywood. San Francisco feels like home. LA feels like the moon. The general confusion and strandedness that Jones generally experiences is very much sourced in my LA visits. I can't find my way around the bloody place. I have a pedestrian's sense of direction. The cabbies are useless. I can't go anywhere in LA without the kindness of friends. It's like being confined to a wheelchair in a city of nothing but staircases
The Guardian finds that the UK literacy program may be missing the people most in need.
In celebration of the release of Kelly Link's new collection Magic for Beginners, you can now download a free online version of her previous book Stranger Things Happen. (Both, by the way, are very much worth reading.)
July 1, 2005
At least this article about anonymous book reviewing by Quinn Dalton wears its self interest on its sleeve: Dalton received a nasty anonymous review from Kirkus with the release of her book Bulletproof Girl.
I found myself wondering about the reviewer's point of view, as I often do when reading reviews of other books. Given the "domestic" comment, was my reviewer male or female? What other books had this reviewer praised or disliked? What was his or her professional background? But of course, since Kirkus publishes unsigned reviews, I couldn't begin to answer any of these questions. To not be able to place the review in any kind of context in connection to the reviewer was both frustrating to me and a disservice to the people who use these reviews to make buying decisions for their customers.
My question, however, is what she would have done with this information. Her concern was that this one Kirkus review (since other pre-pub review publications passed on reviewing BG) would scare off readers at Amazon and Barnes and Noble's websites. So if she had found out the identity of the reviewer, would she have posted what she knew of the reviewer on the Amazon.com reader reviews? And really, is there anything less attractive than, say, Caleb Carr foaming at the mouth while he accuses his female critics of spending too much time watching Sex & the City to understand the depths of his work? Sometimes it's best to shrug it off, anonymous review or not.