September 30, 2005
The Book Standard catches us up on the details of the Georgia comic book shop in trouble for accidentally allowing a minor to walk out of the store with an "adult" comic from Free Comic Book Day. The Alternative Comics sampler contained a scene in a story by Nick Bertozzi concerning Picasso watching a nude model. The oddest thing about this case? The owner could have been in just as much trouble had the kid not been a minor.
The proprietor of Legends was arrested six days after the incident on a number of charges, including two counts of distribution of material depicting nudity and sexual conduct – a felony that is based on an infrequently-used Georgia statute requiring any book containing nudity to be placed in an envelope with a warning about its adult content.
(This is another good time to once again ask all of you to consider becoming members of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.)
September 29, 2005
Although an ad campaign in Women's Wear Daily praises Editor in Chief Brandon Holley — who landed from Elle Girl — for being "so Jane," Pratt the editor has been in the office only once since the sudden announcement that she was exiting.
Talk of a smooth and orderly transition seems to have evaporated. As Pratt's former staff figures that out, they are fleeing.
Couldn't have happened to a worse fucking magazine.
September 28, 2005
You are Mike-less today because the fella is currently on a plane pointed to Chicago. He will be co-hosting tonight's Chicago Reading Series. So come on over, tell Mike hi, and stay for readings by Luis Urrea, Lisa Davis, Ander Monson, and Kirby Gann.
Personally, I’d like to see some books banned that I don’t find on any of these banned books lists. Here’s some books that should not only be banned from libraries and schools, but eliminated from existence entirely in a Fahrenheit 451-style pyre:
On Writing – Stephen King
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones – Julia Goldberg
Art of the Novel – E.M. Forster
The Art of Fiction – John Gardner
Poetics – Aristotle
The Art of Fiction – David Lodge
"I learned about sex from 'Betty and Veronica,' economics from 'Donald Duck,' and philosophy from 'Peanuts,'" Spiegelman said. "I should have been prepared when aliens took over the government."
A report on Art Spiegelman's history of comics lecture.
Her recipe for revolution is this: women should walk out of their marriages, if necessary leaving their children behind. Only then will they become whole creatures. Anyway, as she points out: "Bringing up children is not a real occupation, because children come up just the same, brought or not."
Quite right, Germaine, they will. (Note to women who abandon their sons: at least tell them before you leave to stay away from Germaine Greer.)
September 27, 2005
Michael Chabon writes in to correct yesterday's Washington Post article about the National Book Festival on the Mall.
It makes me sound all fiery and righteous, but alas, the Washington Post had it wrong. I was neither invited to, nor declined to participate in, this year's National Book Festival. I was invited a couple of years back — I think it was the 2003 model, but I might be mistaken about that — and at that time I did decline the invitation, more or less for the reasons cited in the Post article.
He adds that the Post reporter, Bill Thompson, "very generously called me, first thing this morning, to apologize for the mistake," and the Post plans to print a correction.
Xeni Jardin: You authors are saps to resist Googling.
As one author told me, "fear of obscurity, not digital indexing, is what keeps most authors awake at night."
Technology that makes it easier to find, buy and read books is good for everyone — even the authors suing Google.
Chris Crutcher writes about censorship for The Book Standard.
Our schools are filled with kids who have been treated badly all their lives. They don’t tell anyone, because there is shame in being treated badly. Many—girls and boys—have been sexually mistreated. Still others struggle in fear with sexual identity. They respond with eating disorders, cutting, suicidal thought or action. I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received from kids who found a friend in one of my books, a character who speaks to them. And if I get those letters, think of the letters Walter Dean Myers, or Lois Lowry, or Judy Blume get, thanking us for letting them know, through literature, that they are not alone.
Chris Crutcher could become the Judy Blume of the millennial generation. (Or whatever they're calling the kids these days. The sad ones with the emo shirts and long bangs.) His books are challenged and banned at the same rate Blume's once were (and still are, unfortunately). Most recently, his novel Whale Talk, about racial prejudice in a small town, was censored in Limestone County, Alabama, and he was prohibited from speaking to students at local Clements High School. Crutcher spoke to 500 high school students in Moulton, Alabama, yesterday, telling them "There are people who think we are better off not talking about those things. I think we are better off talking about them." The author links to stories about the Limestone County censorship on his website, where he also offers a Banned Books Week press kit. Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom has excellent coverage of the various attempts to ban Crutcher's books.
Steph Smith points out that three of the ten most challenged books from last year "were cited for LGBT themes — the highest number in a decade." They include Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland's King & King. There's a lot more, of course, on the list of the 100 most challenged books of the last decade: Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite comes in at No. 2.
The New Yorker looks at the books riders leave on the subway.
She also found several diaries. One began, “Hi, it’s me, and I’m here to tell you we had stinking weather so far in Montauk.” Most of the textbooks were math books. From a high-school student who volunteers at the store she learned that on the last day of school kids tend to leave their textbooks wherever they feel like it.
September 26, 2005
The Dallas Morning News has a profile of Naomi Shihab Nye (Words Under the Words), one of my favorite poets, and perhaps the best writer to come out of my hometown of San Antonio. (Go to Bugmenot.com if you're prompted for a user name and password.)
"We must remind ourselves that fanaticism of any kind is dangerous," she writes in the introduction. "We must work every way we can toward wider expression and dialogue. We must keep reading poetry with renewed vigor, for courage and hope. Poetry, the most intimate form of expression, gives us a deeper sense of reality than headlines and news stories ever could."
Ruminator Magazine, which featured articles and reviews by well-known authors and critics, announced that its upcoming issue will be its last.
The sad thing is, you just know that magazines like The Journal of Healing Crystals and Stapler Fancy ("Get your first look at the 2006 magazine tension springs!") are doing just fine.
The Scotsman looks at Tolkien vs. Lewis.
Vivid and economical, filled with presentiment, this scene begins a memorable book, surely the best work of fiction about the civil rights movement since Ernest J. Gaines's The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
Crazy-ass vocabulary words from around the globe.
Looking beautiful after having a disease.
A dealer in stolen cats.
The gift shop at California's Manzanar National Historical Site, a former internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, is selling a book called In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror by conservative journalist Michelle Malkin.
"If we had our druthers, we would not want the book at the site because it dishonors the memory of the people who were interned there," said Ken Inouye, national president of the Japanese American Citizens League.
"We certainly respect the First Amendment," Inouye said. "But in this case, we have a government agency carrying that kind of book."
"In this day and age, censorship is very dangerous," said Marjorie Matsushita Sperling, who spent seven months at the (Heart) Mountain camp in Wyoming and who declines to criticize the Park Service for carrying the book.
NG: I always loved, most of all with doing comics, the fact that I knew I was in the gutter. I kind of miss that, even these days, whenever people come up and inform me, oh, you do graphic novels. No. I wrote comic books, for heaven's sake. They're creepy and I was down in the gutter and you despised me. 'No, no, we love you! We want to give you awards! You write graphic novels!' We like it here in the gutter!
JW: We've been co-opted by the man.
I don't suppose I have to tell you that my expectations were a bit on the high side. What still astounds me is how spectacularly wrong it all went. And this wasn't your standard sexual miscalculation. The old whip-cream-up-the-cooter-begets-monster-yeast-infection. The I'm-feeling-crazy-tonight-are-you-feeling-crazy-baby-back-sprain-mambo. The let's-do-it-in-a-public-place-Oh-Hi-Officer-deluxe. To which I say (and have said): Ho ho ho. No harm, no foul. Kids.
Steve Almond has had some bad sex.
The Washington Post reports from this year's National Book Festival on the Mall, making note of at least two authors (Sharon Olds and Michael Chabon) who refused to participate on ideological grounds. Chabon "opposes the war and considers the Bush presidency 'illegitimate,'" according to the Post, but I think he was just secretly afraid of getting mowed down by a drunk-driving member of the Bush family. That is, you must admit, a concern.
Let me make it clear who is talking here. I am a slightly batty 70-year-old woman who likes to bash away for all she's worth on her laptop about nothing very much. And much the same thing goes for my narrator, Frances, who is Hattie's grandmother and now has a lot of time on her hands since her husband was jailed two years ago for drug smuggling.
September 23, 2005
When you go into the trains of Bombay, it’s like an Arabian Nights of stories. Everybody is telling the most incredible stories, real, unreal, surreal. So all you have to do is go to Bombay and listen and you’ll find. People are also more open about telling stories and listening to stories in Bombay than in the great cities of the West. There isn’t any reticence about saying things that could be construed as either offensive or illegal.
One of Canada's most prestigious literary awards has a new name and a sweeter pot as part of a sponsorship deal its founder says ensures the prize will last “far into the future.”
Sweeter pot? Sounds better than the quarter bag of Oaxacan dirt weed that the Pulitzer winners get. You've got to love Canada.
“Yeah, a monkey on Mr Snugfit in the 3.30 at Chepstow . . . a pony on Chelsea for the title . . . and 50 guineas on Julian Barnes’s wonderfully elegant exploration of a little-known chapter in the life of Conan Doyle, Arthur and . . . oh what a giveaway.”
Ain't no party like a book industry party! The Book Standard held their very first annual Bestseller Awards last night in New York. The biggest shock of the night came in the "Antiques & Collectibles" category. Like everyone else, I was expecting David MacDonald's 2005 Brookman Stamp Price Guide to take home the trophy, but it went to that conniving fuck Kenneth Bressett's Guide Book of United States Coins 2005. Jesus. Who do you have to blow, right? Someone just tell me who.
The Washington Blade has a rundown of the season's new gay-themed books.
So is there any day of the year when Scotland doesn't have a book festival? Also, when can I move there?
Oprah has decided to open her book club to contemporary authors, noting that she likes to "sit and talk to authors about their work. It's kind of hard to do that when they're dead." (It's actually not that hard, unless you expect them to talk back.) Her new pick: James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, which I loved.
But in many cases, writers strategically use acknowledgments to burnish their own image or further their careers -- which can be easy to do, because acknowledgments, unlike virtually all other elements of a book, aren't fact-checked and sometimes not even edited. "There is a weird, perhaps subconscious, name-dropping going on," says Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins. "Some writers are almost being competitive, dropping as many upmarket literary names as possible to prove their pedigree."
September 22, 2005
Photojournalism is naturally suited for something like a war zone, more than drawing is because it captures the instantaneous aspect of it. But what makes drawing interesting is exactly what photography doesn’t have, which is this length. You spend a long time making things, it can take an hour or more sometimes. It was like I was having a longer dialogue. It allowed me to really absorb the details of a particular scene in a way that photography can’t. Our eyes glaze over. We’ve seen so many photographs of so many soldiers in Iraq, and we don’t really notice the details. In a drawing, you can get this kind of deeper sense of mood and atmosphere.
If you're looking for a literary movie to see this weekend and can't stand the thought of watching that precocious moppet Elijah Wood doing his best Jonathan Safran Foer impression, might I recommend A History of Violence? David Cronenberg's new film is (loosely) based on John Wagner's graphic novel of the same name. You can learn everything you want to know from the Comic Book Movies website.
Framing fairy tales with platitudes about obedience (those efforts continue today in the anthologies of children's literature produced by William J. Bennett) and settling them in the nursery could not strip them entirely of their power to shock and enthrall. If the Grimms took pains to eliminate raunchy folk humor from the narratives, they insisted on keeping the violence, in some cases intensifying it and surrounding its effects with an intoxicating verbal shimmer.
In the course of a long tour of the site, including two female wards, I was shown the chapel - high Victorian with painted tiles. It is quite well attended, I was surprised to hear, and there are also Muslim services. And Jewish? I asked. "We have a rabbi, but we don't have to call on him very often." "Why not?" "There are hardly any Jewish murderers." My preliminary thoughts about nature and nurture, organic versus psychological, were immediately thrown. Were we now saying that certain kinds of mental sickness can be controlled by culture and religion?
The Scotsman talks to Ian Rankin about the upcoming final book in his Rebus series.
First up is the long-awaited The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. Those with strong visual imaginations will doubtless be pleased to learn that O'Reilly (as he frequently refers to himself) didn't get laid until he was twenty. . . .
But we did learn what turns on O'Reilly: "When I was in junior high, we thought girls looked sexy in pink mohair sweaters, long tight skirts and little white ankle socks." Us too.
Yep. This is the man you want teaching your kids about sex.
Also at The Stranger: Annie Wagner reports on the gaying of HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu. Tell me about it. I once spent two hours in a gay bar getting hit on by Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young. The guy just can't take a hint.
At least one South Australian Parliament member is upset about Andy Griffiths' The Bad Book, which, reports The Australian, includes depictions of a "child running across a busy road with his eyes shut and a boy setting fire to his own head."
"On one page of the book a child says to his mother: 'Mummy can I run across this very busy six-lane highway with my eyes shut?' to which the mother replies: 'Well, I don't know'," she said.
"The child later runs across the road with a picture of him getting hit by a car.
That sounds pretty funny to me, but maybe it's because I don't like children. Nevertheless, on his website, Griffiths features an eloquent defense of the book from a Christian children's librarian, who notes that "preventing children’s access to ‘badness’ in literature does not aid their moral development."
September 21, 2005
Is everyone ready for their television watching reading assignment? Good. Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman will be figuring into the plot of this season of Lost (which starts its second season tonight). Even the good folks at Dalkey are somewhat in the dark about what role the book will play, but isn't that confusion just part of Lost's charm? Well, that and Naveen Andrews. Good God.
Novelist and Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman has released his first animated campaign commercial. It is pretty much the best thing you will ever see.
When I first read the headline "Jessa Crispin Hits an Atomic Eightball," I thought she was finally going to share her recipe for her signature cocktail, which is made with Tito's vodka, Tabasco sauce, pure uncut cocaine, and a secret ingredient I've never been able to figure out.
But it's even better. She talks to Rachel Whang, co-owner of Bookslut favorite Atomic Books, about the Baltimore bookstore's new publishing project. They've just released Lulu Eightball, which looks great indeed, and their store was just named "Best Independent Bookstore" by the Baltimore City Paper. These folks are unbelievably cool. Go show them love.
The Bad Librarian encourages you all to read some poetry.
While reading the vaguely poem-like, thesaurus-hewn, online spew of chalky chicks and dour dudes is occasionally titillating, a good poem is so much more than that: it is a moment taken from the vastness of the world and shined to its perfect uniqueness in an expression of artful divinity, (Whoah, I totally made that shit up). Poetry, perhaps more than any other form, lets us learn not just from the workings of the intellect, but from the interior of the collective conscience.
The Bad Librarian, remember, is fucking insane.
The A.V. Club looks at "the outer limits of fan fiction."
As if I needed any more reason to love Virginia Quarterly Review. (Seriously, subscribe, motherfuckers.) VQR's fall issue will contain new work by Art Spiegelman called "Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*."
Three authors filed suit against Google yesterday contending that the company's program to create searchable digital copies of the contents of several university libraries constituted "massive copyright infringement."
Then why do I feel resistant to these forms of social scolding, even if in my heart of hearts, I gravitate more to their views of sexuality than to the porn sensibility? Possibly because both of these books also put me in mind of the Sadeian insight that dictating what people should do in bed, even in the name of virtue, is actually the height of perversity.
More on Slate's debate about porn.
Sharon Olds writes a letter to Laura Bush.
But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.
What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.
Sure, Traister admits tongue-in-cheek that the book's publication gave her an excuse to broach the topic of passionless, underwhelming men, but the embarrassing thing is that she apparently needed to publicly validate herself in writing this article: "see, I'm single because men are apathetic and listless, not because I can't form a meaningful romantic relationship."
September 20, 2005
This week Laura Kipnis (Against Love), Wendy Shalit (A Return to Modesty), and Meghan O'Rourke congregate on Slate all week long to discuss Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Kipnis (a Bookslut favorite) takes the first shot:
Let's start with Pornified. I must confess that this book made me very cranky. Not about the rise of porn, but about the decline of cultural criticism: Paul's analysis is as compartmentalized and shallow as the sex lives of her subjects. She has her nose pressed so firmly against porn culture that she's utterly blinkered about the rest of society, or history, or politics; it's as if sexuality occupied some autonomous world of its own. (Like a porn set.)
The next time I see an "Islamofascist" child molester surfing kiddie porn on library computers, I personally won't hesitate to inform competent authority. Really.
Is your library a LIBRARY OF TERROR?
Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, author of The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, has died at 96.
You can read Chris Ware's first installment of "Building Stories" from the New York Times Magazine online in PDF format.
Everyone in the world seems to be raving about Benjamin Kunkel's Indecision. The New York Times has practically wet itself over the book and seems to have signed a deal that requires them to mention the book at least once a day.
Yesterday, I attended a symposium about the portrayal of women in the media. (Hang on, we'll get back to Indecision in a minute.) Blah blah blah, feminist issues don't make the news, blah blah blah. The only problem was no one really said what the real issue is: We need to put more women through journalism school. (Well, that and the fact that they played "One of Us" by Joan Osborne followed up by "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue during the "networking" part of the morning. That too was a problem.)
But reading this Salon piece on Indecision, I realized the issue might be less obvious than that. Maybe, just maybe, when women do become writers, they need to be encouraged not to start looking for the key to their love lives in interviews with authors who did not write He's Just Not That Into You. Maybe you shouldn't ask the hot new novelist, "What happened to actively, and ardently, loving a woman?" Please take your issues elsewhere, lady. We're trying to be feminists over here. Oh, and thank you. Now I'm back to having zero interest in reading the book.
An Iraqi journalist and photographer working for The New York Times in Basra was found dead early Monday after being abducted from his home by a group of armed men wearing masks and claiming to be police officers, relatives and witnesses said.
Oddly, the cover of the paperback, omits the name of the novel altogether. "Big publicity and marketing campaigns for big authors are to be expected," said Michael Cader, the editor of two industry publications, Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Lunch. But "a paperback cover that has the author's name in huge letters and neglects to include the book's title at all is very unexpected, and very unusual."
Even more controversial, but understandable, is Picador's decision to replace the text of the book with a novel that doesn't totally suck.
Ian McEwan gives away free books.
The guys were a different proposition. They frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. "Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks mate, but no." Only one sensitive male soul was tempted.
September 19, 2005
(Warning: The first link below has a completely innocuous, but nevertheless graphic, illustration of a naked boy, taken from a children's sex-education book. If you work in an office with reactionaries who lack common sense and perspective, you might want to wait until you're home to check it out.)
Short Term Memory Loss, a great blog out of the UK, considers the recent uproars in the States about book banning, and reminds his countrymen (and the rest of us) about Clause 28 of the 1987 Local Government Act.
My point is this: for all Britain’s sneering at the “Wild West” USA, its “dumb” president and its nutty Christian right, it happened here, and in pretty much exactly the same way: a small group of (largely but not exclusively Christian) people took offence at a number of books (books, people, not movies, not magazines, not video games, books) and persuaded the government of the time to implement legislation that made “the promotion” of homosexuality, which was taken to mean any supportive statement by educators, illegal.
Shit. Chalk this up to American egotism, but I thought we were the only country with an influential group of Christian-right nutcases. It's both comforting and scary to know we're not alone. That's not to say the UK is as bad off as the States the crypto-Fascists and homophobes in Britain might win the occasional battle; in the States, they control every branch of government.
Rick Moody worries that, at 44, he's outgrown rock.
Can it be that rock and roll is in historical disarray? Can it be that no one (excepting the brilliant Nels Cline, currently playing with Wilco) has done anything interesting with the electric guitar since Sonic Youth recorded Daydream Nation? Can it be that only women (I’m thinking of Sleater-Kinney, for example) are able to rock these days? Maybe white boys with amplifiers have just used up the garage and used up the Marshall Stack, and they need to find the next thing, which, I can assure them is not hip hop.
I love Rick Moody, but: no, no and no. Check out Austin's Okkervil River, one of my favorite bands. (If you haven't seen them, catch them on their latest tour, which will stop in pretty much every city in the world.) Daydream Nation really is a great album. But Black Sheep Boy is better. (I'm not taking that back, so don't ask. This band is the real thing and more.)
Toothpaste for Dinner creator Drew might be the funniest person in America (other candidates: Chris Onstad of Achewood and Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl). His new book, Toothpaste for Dinner, has just been released by F&W Publications you can order a signed copy at his website for the regular retail price. Need more convincing? Check these out. The guy's a genius.
As I gathered my stuff to go, a woman was jerking off a horse into a giant condom. Then the horse came into the condom, and the woman dumped the horse semen over her head.
"That's it," I said. "We're done."
Some writers achieve great popularity and then disappear forever. The bestseller lists of the past fifty years are, with a few lively exceptions, a somber graveyard of dead books. Yet permanence is not a wilful proposition. No one can write a book aspiring to immortality, for it would then court both ridicule and certain mortality.
“We’re still struggling with developing a literary and intellectual appreciation in our culture in this country,” Castillo said. “We can appreciate getting a nice house and a two-car garage but we don’t appreciate the value of reading in our homes and reading with our children.
“Mexican-Americans or those people who call themselves Hispanic want to forget the past and say we are part of the system. This is very sad because when their kids grow up, they realize it’s not that easy to assimilate.”
CJ: Considering what you discovered about your father after he passed away [he had led a secret life as a cross-dresser], how did you feel seeing Jose showboating in lady’s lingerie on The Surreal Life?
JC: He did that to show off. He’s 41. He’s in great shape. He likes controversy. If they’re talking about it, it’s great.
Can Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, save America from an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-leftist oppression?
Periodically, White's obtuse objects of desire break his heart, but it soon mends itself. After all, he learned at the age of 11 how 'to lick his own penis by lying nude on my back and throwing my legs over my head in the first stage of a backward somersault'. Overweight and arthritic he may now be, but he is still his own best friend.
Furthermore, publishers claim that Waterstone's charges them thousands of pounds and demands steep discounts in return for displaying their books in a prominent place in its stores or including them in promotions.
So publishers fear that they will be squeezed even more if Waterstone's increases its market share through the purchase of Ottakar's. Some predict that small publishing houses could go out of business if the take-over goes ahead.
September 16, 2005
It looks like the movie version of Everything is Illuminated might just be better than the book. Boris Fishman explains what changed in the adaptation process.
Denise Sudell was horrified by the graphic novel Capote in Kansas. The book is a fictionalized account of Truman Capote's time spent researching In Cold Blood, which is also the subject of two movies coming out within the next year. But perhaps comic writer Ande Parks took the "fictionalized" part a bit too far, resulting in a book full of stereotypes. Sudell investigates what's true and what's not in Capote for the Sequential Tart.
Adopt a Library. Urge your favorite branch to join in this ALA program, which seeks to assist libraries damaged or destroyed by Katrina.
Some high school libraries in the Texas Metroplex area are selling coffee. Sort of.
Mary Patrick, a co-owner of Directors Coffee Service in Garland, which sells coffee and supplies to Irving and Mesquite high schools, said the coffee that students are drinking on campus is a far cry from the double shot of espresso they can buy in coffee shops.
The "cappuccino" isn't true caffeine-laden cappuccino, she said. "It's kind of like an enhanced hot chocolate."
Probably a good idea. The "marijuana" I sell to local high school students? Oregano and pencil shavings.
Elijah Wood and Jonathan Safran Foer: you can barely tell them apart.
Wood: A scar under his eyebrow; a rad tattoo of the number 9 in Elvish
Foer: Has scars only of the internal kind, but they’ve made him the writer he is.
Jessa Crispin urges the authors of the world to shed their technophobia and take advantage of this "Internet" thing.
1. Hire a web designer.
Jeanette Winterson, who has a very nicely designed website, put it best when she said, "It helps if the site doesn’t look like a scroll-down information sheet for a VD clinic." The only thing worse than no web presence is an ugly web presence. Your nephew showed you how to use Frontpage one time? Well, hire your nephew. Don’t do it yourself. And if you have an animated .gif of a waving flag, no one will ever visit your site ever again.
Well if he’d named it Satanic Verses: The Clown—that would have been a great title. Satanic Verses: The Clown. Think about it. If you put “The Clown” on any of his books: Midnight’s Clown… All of a sudden his entire oeuvre changes. And that, young fellow, is what they pay me the big bucks for.
Meet Laurie Taylor. The founder of PPMC (Parents Protecting the Minds of Children) has tried to ban over 50 books from Fayetteville, Arkansas, schools in the past, and like kudzu insane, crypto-Fascist kudzu she shows no sign of going away.
Now meet her enemies. Taylor apparently didn't count on the students and teachers of Fayetteville high schools being so well-read, well-spoken, and much much smarter than her. Surprise!
"Books are the epitome of life," said Fayetteville High School senior Monica Ramos, speaking in favor of keeping the books on library shelves where students can get them. . . .
Reed Faitak, a senior, said removal of the books would be "depriving students of an education about the world around them," noting it is "hateful and intolerant to portray these books as pornographic."
And happily, Taylor was handed a significant defeat yesterday:
The Fayetteville School Board rescinded its earlier action to restrict access to three challenged library books and authorized the creation of a committee to review the district's book selection policy during a special meeting Thursday.
In a 4-3 vote, the board took back its action in May that placed "It's Perfectly Normal," "It's So Amazing" and "A Teenage Guy's Guide to Survival" on restricted shelves in parent libraries in the schools where the books are housed.
Taylor has posted two lists of books she finds offensive at the PPMC website. It includes works by Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Sapphire, Alex Sanchez and Eric Jerome Dickey (see a pattern?). Also included is what looks to be the entire canon of Francesca Lia Block, who deserves a Purple Heart for being the favorite target of every overprotective parent in the country.
(Very special thanks to Leila at Bookshelves of Doom for the links, and for confirming my opinion that librarians are the coolest people in the world.)
Thunder's Mouth Press is publishing a lost play by Jack Kerouac, with the perhaps overly on-the-nose title of Beat Generation. Syntax of Things points to two other Kerouac links: a story about the popularity of Kerouac in Italy from the Lowell Sun, and a collection of cover art from various editions of On the Road. (I used to have this one, though this Chinese one is unquestionably the best.)
September 15, 2005
Poetry magazine explains why they run so many bad reviews.
Any honest glance at literary history will reveal just how rare good poetry is. If a critic gets ten books sent to him for review, and he finds six or seven of them are excellent, then he is either the luckiest poetry reviewer on the planet, or he has no taste. We believe that it is important to publish these negative reviews along with the positive ones (though we would never print what we considered an ad hominem attack). Not only does it give some ballast and context to the critical praise, it also is a gesture toward treating poetry as a public art in the same way that films or novels are, both of which are routinely and fiercely argued over in the mainstream media. It is a service to serious readers.
(Via The Literary Saloon.)
I see a growing conservatism in reaction to this. There is a whole group in America saying we need to put the brakes on it, that this is antithetical to family life. Young children need to be taught how to love at an early age and (not) grow up just to become consumers of material things.
"Antithetical to family life," huh? What do you think of that, Mrs. Kerik?
I bet a certain someone that I couldn't get an Internet publication to run a piece with the phrases "International Baccalaureate" and "Fuck me in the mouth, pimp." You owe me fifty bucks, Great-Grandma!
Seriously. I want my fucking money.
In moments such as these, Nabokov is nothing less than a poet of desire. He is not writing about sex, but about the tumultuous feelings that illuminate our clumsy acts of love. These are what sweep us along — despite the bleatings of our conscience. Big ideas, witty observations and tricky plotlines are all fine and well. But the engine of any great book is desire. And by that standard, Lolita is a Mack truck.
In fact, reading Faulkner in the land of Oprah drives home a point likely to get obscured in our difficulty-obsessed, postmodernist culture: that as radical as Faulkner's experiments with the representation of consciousness are—and they're far more radical than any contemporary novel I've read over the past five years—they are ultimately undertaken in the service of telling a story of great immediacy.
In a third day of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Roberts admitted that he was not "up to speed" on First Amendment precedents.
The First Amendment? Is that the one about quartering troops, or the one where Congress can't give itself an immediate pay raise? I wouldn't worry about it, though. It's not like he's about to become the most powerful judge in the entire fucking world or anything.
Flak Magazine considers the decline of Playboy "from sophisticated to smut, from the New Yorker to Jugs." I remember reading a Playboy that featured "Downtown" Julie Brown (remember her?) and it scarred me for life. Or maybe that was the interview with Matt Drudge they ran that issue. I don't know. I did a lot of drugs then.
Proceedings quickly became acrimonious Tuesday morning, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) openly challenged Robert's claim that he "had not made up his mind" on Logan v. Wayne. "With all due respect, I find it frankly unbelievable that, in 30 years of public service, you could not have formed an opinion on this matter," Kennedy said. "So I would again ask that you simply answer the question: who would win in a fight, Wolverine or Batman?"
Seemingly nonplussed, Roberts demurred, saying, "while I’m happy to talk about the individual strengths and weaknesses of each, I don’t think I should get into the application of their powers in a mano a mano confrontation."
Jennifer Howard reports on the firing of William Germano, the Routledge vice president who many consider the most important person in the history of cultural studies publishing. Germano is apparently the casualty of "corporate restructuring" at Taylor & Francis, the UK-based company that owns Routledge. I personally blame Catherine E. Hare and Julie McLeod, authors of the Taylor & Francis book Developing a Records Management Programme in the Electronic Environment. They always had it in for Germano and everyone knows it. Great book, though. Real page-turner.
Chris Ware explains what his comic in the New York Times will be.
Attention Chicagoans! I have been informed that tickets are going fast for the Shalom Auslander/Ira Glass event in April. Yes, that's some serious planning ahead you'll have to do, but you should reserve your tickets now, otherwise heartbreak will surely follow. And while you're there, check out the rest of their schedule, which includes Robert Pinsky next week, Cynthia Ozick, Aleksandar Hemon & Jonathan Lethem, and Jonathan Ames, Neal Pollack & Amy Sohn in a program entitled "Hot & Bothered: An Evening in Bed." (And who doesn't want to spend an evening in bed with this man? Just try to resist him. You know you'll fail.)
"I think the US is in a terrible state of denial," he says firmly. "Worse than that, we seem to be caught in a kind of Gotterdammerung response: we'd rather have the world go down in flames than change our lifestyle or admit we're wrong. Even here in California, 50% of cars on the freeway are SUVs, and they're political statements: they say, we're going to take the rest of the world down with us because we don't give a damn. Essentially they're Republican vehicles: when you see an SUV go by, you know the driver voted for Bush. I do think the world has larger global warming problems, but if the US were actually engaged in dealing with them, there'd be a sense that the worst abuser had seen the light and the whole world was on the same page."
Boston's Weekly Dig talks to FOUND Magazine editor Davy Rothbart, whose short story collection, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, was released last month (and is reviewed in The Boston Phoenix). From the Dig:
“(Judy Blume) was super-kind and generous, and got me drunk, too,” he says. “She and her husband are wine connoisseurs, and you could say the wine was flowing.”
As for boozing with Arthur Miller: “He’s more of a crack and meth type of guy,” Rothbart says. “No, no! I actually did meet him once in person in Ann Arbor, but we never got drunk. Or smoked a blunt, unfortunately.”
September 14, 2005
But with so much going on in her own life, she has not had a chance to see what she thinks of the (2005 Booker) nominees.
"I haven't read any of the books so it would be foolish to express a preference.
"But if I was really pushed to bet on somebody, it would be Zadie Smith. I think it's her time."
What? It's her time? She's like 15 years old. Zoe, what the hell?
"It's very hard to write. I'm afraid all the time. Some black crow is sitting on my right shoulder saying, 'this is no good' or 'what do you think you're trying to do here?'
"It's the raven," she says, invoking the mascot of another writer who once lived in the Bronx and who might, in a pinch, have called himself gloomy.
"Sometimes I wish he'd go back to Poe."
Does Agatha Christie get the respect she deserves?
"We're not suggesting that Agatha Christie is Shakespeare but she's a good book to read as a class project or summer reading," says Ms Harward. "She's an author worthy of recognition by her nation."
The official in charge of European Union expansion accused Turkey of provocation on Tuesday, saying it was no coincidence that the trial of a Turkish novelist would clash with a EU summit.
If Sassy felt, as Kim Gordon has said, "like it was written by your hip older sister," Jane felt like it was being written by your "groovy" middle-aged aunt, the one who's wearing high-end daisy dukes this summer and boring you with tales of stressful manicures, all the while assuring you how full and exciting her life is.
Yes, it's another article about the demise of Sassy and the inherent shittiness of Jane. But we will continue to write these articles until someone gives us another good fucking magazine. Get to it!
It's like a logic puzzle as written by Shalom Auslander.
Mike fucked Larry again. Mike has fucked Larry three times since June. Mike fucks everybody. Mike has fucked John, Craig and Allison in the past month alone. Larry never fucks anyone. Allison's also been getting fucked by our boss Phil, who also fucks everybody, but now Allison's tired of it.
The New York Observer looks at the changes being made at The Paris Review by Philip Gourevitch. The new editor moved the office to Tribeca and moved poetry editor Richard Howard to the unemployment line.
In the aftermath of Mr. Howard’s departure, something had to be done with the extensive backlog of poems (possibly even five years’ worth, according to one person who saw the list) that were awaiting publication. So the controversial decision was made not to publish most of the backlog and pay kill fees to the affected poets.
September 13, 2005
International PEN urges everyone to write letters to Turkish leaders and ambassadors, protesting the upcoming prosecution of novelist Orhan Pamuk. (From the homepage, scroll down to the "Writers in Prison" section and click on the link next to "Turkey.") Here's some contact information:
Prime Minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan
Fax: +90 312 417 0476
Minister of Justice
TC Adalet Bakanligi
Fax: + 90 312 417 3954
Ambassador O. Faruk Logoglu
2525 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 612-6700
Fax: (202) 612-6744
HE Akin Alptuna
43 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PA
Phone: 020 7201 7043/44
Fax: 020 7393 9213
Ambassador Aydemir Erman
197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa ON K1N 8L9
Phone: (613) 789-4044
Thanks very much to Paul for help with this. If you know of any other way people can register their protest against the unethical prosecution of Pamuk, please let me know.
"Dear Booker Committee: I wholeheartedly recommend that you deprive Zadie Smith's new novel, On Beauty, of your esteemed award." Stephen Metcalf aruges that Zadie Smith, a very talented young writer, will never get any better if people keep encouraging her.
Turkey has been condemned by Kazuo Ishiguro, the novelist, and fellow Man Booker prize nominees over a threat to imprison one of its leading writers for highlighting his country’s role in the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Mark Doten interviews Rick Moody at the Huffington Post.
I had my Hollywood moment. It's not that I would turn down an opportunity to be adapted (there are a couple of stories by me optioned at the moment), but I don't need it. It's just icing on the cake. As I said in 1997, movies are a particularly good billboard for a book. Movies need fiction and literature more than vice versa, because literature is where most of the genuine takes place. I don't want more fame, power, or influence. I sort of get uncomfortable with that kind of thing. I just want to be able to keep writing.
From now on, whatever you check out of the Seattle Central Library will play in color-coded streams across six big plasma screens on the library's fifth floor.
But it's anonymous, and there's an hour delay between the time your book is checked out and the time it displays on the big-ass screens, so fear not about privacy. Artist George Legrady calls the project "Making Visible the Invisible."
Everything is so much cooler in Seattle.
The first major Katrina book deal has been announced. Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge will be published early next year by William Morrow.
Peter Carlson checks out the new Men's Vogue.
Men's Vogue? The very name is a truly moronic oxymoron, like holy war or garlic mouthwash.
But the Globe production captures very little of the horror or the humor in Shakespeare’s compelling and curiously abstract play. Now that I’ve heard the play in Original Pronunciation, next time I look forward to seeing it.
I don't understand the comic book world. I do not get their undying love for cheesy Craig Thompson. I mean, the appeal for the 15-year-old girls is obvious, but people who try to tell me Blankets is one of the greatest graphic novels ever written just might get smacked on the head. When finally all of the awards Blankets was eligible for were over, I was relieved. Now maybe something good can win. Then he released a sketchbook, and it's happening all over again. Last year he beat out Joe Sacco's The Fixer for an award, this year his Carnet de Voyage got nominated for the best graphic novel Ignatz and David B's Epileptic did not. (Was it not eligible? That's the only thing that makes sense to me. But David B was nominated this year in another category for the same book.)
The nominees are:
OUTSTANDING GRAPHIC NOVEL
Bighead, Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf Productions)
Carnet de Voyage, Craig Thompson (Top Shelf Productions)
Cinema Panopticum, Thomas Ott (L'Association, Fantagraphics)
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
Why Are You Doing This?, Jason (Fantagraphics Books)
The Children's Book Council has links to book-related Katrina relief efforts.
September 12, 2005
Clive Thompson looks at books based on video games, and is fascinated, though not really in a good way.
These novels are in no danger of winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Some have the distinct whiff of having been hacked out in a single weekend. Others strain under the weight of hilariously bloated corporate synergy: When you read Resident Evil: Apocalypse, you're reading a novel based on a movie that itself was based on a game. The Rosetta stone of modern media!
I'm working on one myself, tentatively titled Gauntlet: Does Anyone Remember That Game? I Totally Kicked Ass with the Archer but I Was Never Any Good with the Valkyrie.
Thomas H. Benton mourns the decline of secondhand bookstores.
Information Today lists Katrina relief programs being implemented by library and information professionals.
A federal judge ruled on Friday that the government cannot continue to bar the representatives of a nonprofit organization from speaking out about the sweeping powers that the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act gives investigators seeking library records.
Booker nominees, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Sebastian Barry, are speaking out against Turkey's planned prosecution of novelist Orhan Pamuk. John Banville:
“It will be a disgrace if Pamuk is jailed, and Turkey should realise the damage that will be done to its reputation if it goes ahead with this injustice,” he said.
The AP has a profile of The Neighborhood Story Project, based at New Orleans' John McDonogh High School. Bookslut interviewed the program's co-founder, Abram Shalom Himelstein (now blogging for the Houston Chronicle) last year. Thousands of student books were destroyed by Katrina; Himelstein's friend, Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash, is trying to find a way to get the books reprinted for free. In the meantime, Soft Skull is preselling the books on its website. It's hard to think of a more worthy purchase. (Thanks to Callie for the link.)
3) You must work in or allude to that time you accidentally accepted money for sex in every answer. Each time this happens, a new aspect or fact or opinion of that incident must be revealed.
Even the greatest poets can't express tragedy in a way that is larger than their immediate circumstances. The best way to deal with it is to fry eggs for refugees.
Columbia Journalism Review reports on the state of New Orleans Times Picayune, now holed up in the journalism building at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Jeanette Winterson gives some advice to authors who might be a little afraid of putting up a website: "It helps if the site doesn’t look like a scroll-down information sheet for a VD clinic."
Salon.com is serializing Cory Doctorow's new novella "Themepunks" over the next ten weeks.
Vikram Seth (he of the giant A Suitable Boy) talks to the Guardian about his new book (out in the US in November) Two Lives. It's a nonfiction story about his Jewish aunt who escaped
Germany in 1939 and his dentist uncle who lost his arm in the Medical Corps.
'When you write about people who did not make any great impression on the history of the world,' he says, 'people who "rest in unvisited graves", as George Eliot said, then you are free to dwell on those parts of their lives that a conventional biographer cannot. In Shanti's case, as important as what happened in the war were the last 10 years of his life, his eighties, when he was a widower and grief-stricken and failing and quite manipulative and so on.'
Leon knew he was only there to make up the numbers. "Gosh," he said to himself, "I must be the middle-class drop-out on The Paper who is living in a squat to avoid paying council tax."
"Don't you mean the rates?" said Terry. "This is 1977."
"I'm only a caricature," he replied. "Why should I bother about accuracy?"
An Indian court has ordered a leading Bengali poet to stand trial on charges of defiling a Hindu goddess.
The court in India's West Bengal state was ruling on a lawsuit filed against Sunil Gangopadhyay by an ex-policeman.
In an article in Bengal's biggest newspaper this year, Mr Gangopadhyay was quoted as saying he was "sexually aroused" by an idol of Saraswati.
September 9, 2005
The Babysitters Club in comic book form! (I kind of missed out on that whole Babysitters Club thing as a kid, instead reading Sweet Valley Twins and the "new" adventures of Nancy Drew. I've always hated children, even when I was one. But I hear some people are excited about this.)
Last night I went to Picador's 10th anniversary celebration at the Harold Washington Library, with readings by Jeffrey Eugenides, Stuart Dybek, and James McManus. The readings were good -- I was really only there for McManus -- and then they opened the floor to questions from the audience. Now, I usually leave around this point, as the questions are never any good. The only people to stand up seem to be struggling writers who want inspiration or the author's agent's phone number. However, I was trapped in the middle of the aisle as I didn't know there would be a Q&A, and I had no easy escape plan.
Then suddenly it got interesting when some asshole stood up and asked the authors how they felt to know that books are completely irrelevant. (I'd like someone to show up at his job, probably in some anonymous cubicle, and ask him how it feels to know that if he disappeared tomorrow the company would never even notice.) The problem is the authors agreed with him! Yes, that new fangled invention the television is much more interesting than anything we do. Nobody loves us, blah blah blah. This being told to an audience of about 150 who showed up at fucking six p.m. on a Wednesday.
Eugenides, who up until this point I found charming and funny, then went on to blame the Internet and the iPod for killing reading. People would rather watch porn they downloaded than read or something, I imagine. I was getting itchy to jump up and yell at him, but I kept quiet. But honestly, what was with the fatalism? And does Eugenides really think that people come home from work after being on the computer all day long and then jump back on the computer to surf around? Everyone who has a website knows that the stats die almost completely down after the work day is over. The Internet is boring. Blame television if you want. God knows I've wasted good reading time watching Lost or House. (Hugh Laurie is so dreamy.) All three of these writers make livings from their books. There are obviously readers out there for them. (Dybek stayed out of this conversation.) Listening to them talk made me feel I had walked in on my grandfather talking about these kids these days and their rock and roll. It didn't help when McManus started talking about blogs with a giant eye roll.
But I stayed in my seat and quietly seethed. I didn't want to be like the asshole who started all of this. But it was a very disappointing night. (But happy birthday, Picador! We love you.)
September 8, 2005
How will he be remembered in the future, though? Last summer, I taught at a camp made up largely of North Carolina teenagers. One morning, a guest speaker asked, "Who here knows who Jesse Helms is?" There were more than 100 kids in the room. Not a single hand went up. Soon, I realized, Jesse Helms will be viewed as a historical figure rather than a current-day threat. His memory will be lost to the next generation.
(Thanks to Michael for the link.)
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun -- for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax -- This won't hurt."
(Via Number One Hit Song.)
The American Library Association has set up a webpage dealing with Hurricane Katrina's effects on Gulf Coast libraries and their staffers and friends. In addition to news updates, you can find information on donating to the Louisiana Library Association Disaster Relief Fund and the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. There's also a list of recommended YA books for young readers trying to cope with the aftermath of Katrina, and information about a housing database for displaced library workers and their families.
Her 1915 utopian novel Herland depicts a colony of women "of Aryan stock, once in contact with the best civilization," isolated from the rest of the world but surrounded by the indigenous people of South America. The women reproduce through parthenogenesis, giving birth only to girls. The result is, of course, a pure and perfect society: "You see," says the castaway male narrator, "they had no wars. They had no kings, and no priests, and no aristocracies. They were sisters, and as they grew, they grew together; not by competition, but by united action." See what can be accomplished if you just get rid of the biological group that most offends your sensibilities?
Like a lot of you, I spent a good part of yesterday exploring the Chin Music Press website, after reading Colleen Mondor's great article about the Seattle-based publishing house. Chin Music has been working on a book about New Orleans for a while, similar to their much-praised first release, Kuhaku & Other Accounts from Japan (which looks absolutely incredible). They're looking for writers from the New Orleans area who might be interested in contributing to the book. If you're interested, go check out their website and drop them a line.
"Britain and America are like a couple who are irreversibly divorced, but who kind of fancy each other still. There is something in each other's political and literary bloodstreams that bonded them together." Simon Schama discusses his new book Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, which discusses the slaves who fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War in exchange for freedom.
I suppose I could be wrong, as my American ears are not finely attuned to the nuances of British humor, but I think there might be a small chance that perhaps Nigel Reynolds is being just a little bit less than sincere here. Possibly.
The nation can rest easy. We can put our feet up. After long years of polls and votes in which the public has had to strain the sinews to chose its favourite book, film, painting, Briton, pop song, poem and nursery rhyme, Lord Bragg, the uncrowned tsar of British culture, is going to tell us what is best.
The veteran broadcaster, novelist and pundit is to host a new television series next year - The Twelve Books that Changed the World.
Bragg's list includes a soccer rule book, a patent specification, a speech, and no fiction (unless you count Shakespeare and you shouldn't).
The Boston Phoenix presents Project Censored's 10 biggest stories ignored by the mainstream media in the past year.
There you are, the fateful action, the ruinous bump of love and sex, the brave new world and old Europe. It’s like George W. Bush having sex with Virginia Woolf, and Mrs. Woolf clinging to the notion of being the author and keeping control of it all. Or it’s Paris Hilton with the Marquis de Sade, when Paris comes so fast she rolls over in the required stupor and tells Sade not to be sad. Or it’s like the clash of David’s ichthyology and Susan’s very brimming and disturbing aliveness in Bringing Up Baby (1938) — yet another variant title for Lolita.
Guy Delisle's new comic book Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea almost never saw publication, thanks to a confidentiality agreement he had to sign. But now he's living in Burma and considering writing his next book about that.
But time marches forward, trampling the young and famous, and Mr. Beek, no doubt, now wants to be Serious. He sounds as if he's smoked 28 cigarettes before each chapter and reads every single line as though it is Very Important.
Yahoo, the Internet search company, provided information last year that helped authorities in China convict a Chinese journalist for leaking state secrets to a foreign Web site, court documents show.
Boston's Weekly Dig has a fall book preview ("a little sex, a little death"). They're clearly looking forward to Greg Behrendt's latest, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy.
Greg Behrendt: Hey, honey, thanks to the wild and inexplicable success of my first book He’s Just Not That Into You, I’m going to chill out for a while, maybe get my old band, Satan’s Douche, back together.
Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt: But my darling, times are hard — people are hurting in the world. Look at poor Jennifer Aniston, crying herself to sleep every night. Women need us to show them what clingy and pathetic lives they lead.
GB: Maybe you’re right. If we can help even one girl find the ball-less yes-man she deserves, then we’ve made this cold planet a little warmer. Let’s do it for Jennifer!
ARB: And anyway, it’s not like your next facelift is going to pay for itself.
September 7, 2005
I’m not really sure what to call it. It started out as a kids’ book, but then suddenly became about genocide. So much for the marketing tie-ins! But I’m glad they’re talking about it in the massage parlors. It just goes to show you that phone marketing really does work.
Bookslut's own Colleen Mondor has been working with families taking refuge at Southern University. They, and those at other nearby shelters, will need your help in the coming months as the kids start being tutored for the new year. Colleen has set up two Amazon.com wishlists of books and games for the children, and we hope that you'll be generous. If you want to donate used books, or anything else, you can e-mail Colleen and get the appropriate contact information.
Welcome to all of you who managed to find us through the recently published newspaper article about book blogs! I say "managed" because the newspaper actually refused to print the name of this website, instead referring to it as Jessa's "high-profile blog with a risqué name ("book" plus a vulgar term for a woman of loose morals)." We can't print the name of the newspaper in question, but the first two words are the name of a religion with several thousand adherents, and the third word is the name of both a 19th-century ironclad battleship and a tropical reptile of the family Varanidae. At any rate: Welcome! You're just in time for our 40th damn issue!
It is, of course, a good one. Colleen Mondor takes a look at Chin Music Press, and Melissa Fischer looks at the covers of books that have recently been adapted into movies. Our resident mopey white suburban guy lists 50 rock novels that you may or may not want to read. (Thanks to the readers of Bookslut and Largehearted Boy for sending ideas in, says the mopey white suburban guy.) Interviews? We've got your interviews! Read what Susanna Clarke, Aimee Bender and Mary Doria Russell had to say to Bookslut.
We have reviews of the latest books from Beth Lisick, Rick Moody, Tod Goldberg, Cory Doctorow, Dan Chiasson and more. Clayton Moore, our Mystery Strumpet, looks at psycho killers (qu'est-ce que c'est?) in books. Girl, Interrupting Eryn Loeb looks at Francesca Lia Block's new book. And this issue marks the triumphant return of Sanford May, who writes our Big in Japan column. In this one, he considers the work of Koji Suzuki.
All this, and no profanity! So read with a clear conscience. (I'm just kidding. There actually is profanity. Fucking tons of it.) As always, thanks for reading, and remember to come to the Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago on September 28. You can hear four great authors read from their work, and buy me and Jessa drinks! It promises to be a great time. I'll see all you Chicagolandians there.
Etgar Keret, author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories is interviewed at Tikkun.
His books are the most stolen volumes from Israeli bookstores, and he’s the most widely read writer in prisons. “A lot is to do with their attention spans,” Keret says of his fans behind bars. “They like my stories because they’re short.” His pithy sentences and blunt prose rarely propel his cameo tales beyond a few pages—a feature of his writing Keret traces to his asthma. “When you are having an attack and say to somebody, ‘I love you very much,’ you could, instead of ‘very much,’ say, ‘Call an ambulance.’ You don’t have time to bullshit.”
Ms. Hinton said she was a tomboy, happiest at her grandmother's farm, where her aunt had a horse. She longed for her own horse, and escaped into reading and writing books. (She wrote two unpublished books before "The Outsiders.") "When I was writing she'd come into my room, grab my hair and throw me in front of the TV," Ms. Hinton said of her mother. "She'd say, 'You're part of this family - now act like it.' I hate TV now."
(Thanks to LadySankofa for the link.)
JK Rowling unveiled a portrait of herself at the UK's National Portrait Gallery. She is pictured "eating a boiled egg and toast soldiers." Though I'm guessing she could probably afford a more elaborate breakfast. Like an omelette made with beluga caviar, California condor and the Hope Diamond.
Ann Beattie has a new short story, "Coping Stones," in the New Yorker.
September 6, 2005
"I'm just a university professor," I said. My voice came out in a squeak.
"Of course you are. And we take people like you out of here in leg irons every day."
Alan Wolfe and Tyler Cowen discuss the new Barbara Ehrenreich book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream over at Slate. "The main thing I learned is how not to look for a job."
At the moment, however, I feel that thinking about what sets New Orleans apart is, while understandable, not the right thing to do. The reason is that if a mask is falling away, then the attempt to localize what we see is also an attempt to be distant from it. That is a comfortable approach to take, but it is also the wrong approach. It is comfortable to acknowledge brutal poverty and cheap violence in New Orleans, rather than to acknowledge brutal poverty and cheap violence in the United States. And it is comfortable to think that there must be something different about the people of New Orleans because they were so willing to live right on the edge of mortality; they must have some strange penchant for denial.
First Book is providing books to children affected by Hurricane Katrina. Every $5 donated to First Book will be matched with 1 book that will go to children in the devastated areas.
The Los Angeles Times wonders what will become of New Orleans' culture.
In "Streetcar," Williams depicted New Orleans as a kind of spiritual and artistic battlefield where Stanley's brutalism squared off with Blanche's borderline-crazy romanticism. "I don't want realism," Blanche exclaims, nearing a breakdown. "I want magic!" In the end, it's no contest.
But deep down, most of us are Blanche DuBois, still wanting to believe there are a few magical places left in America.
New Orleans author Abram Shalom Himelstein (creator of What the Hell Am I Doing Here?, organizer of the Neighborhood Story Project, interviewed in Bookslut last year) is writing about New Orleanians in exile for the Houston Chronicle.
It's true that I am delirious, but I'm pretty sure that George Bush made nature the enemy in one of his speeches. Not everything is either ally or enemy. Lying in bed this morning, not sleeping, I worried that George Bush might get wind of the butterfly effect -- the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can create a hurricane in the Gulf. His response would be to invade China to kill all the enemy butterflies.
Something will be there when the flood recedes. We know that. It will be those people now standing in the water, and on those rooftops - many black, many poor. Homeless. Overlooked. And it will be New Orleans - though its memory may be shortened, its self-gaze and eccentricity scoured out so that what's left is a city more like other cities, less insular, less self-regarding, but possibly more self-knowing after today. A city on firmer ground.
Hollywood cynics maintain that the better the book, the worse the film, but the real equation is not so simple. Certainly some of the very best books make the worst films (Louis de Bernières’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), while equally good or better books languish eternally in production purgatory (Donna Tartt ’s The Secret History). Some dire books make marvellous films (Peter Benchley’s Jaws), and very occasionally good books make even better films (the works of Roddy Doyle). Perhaps the oddest sub-category is that of entirely obscure books that become film classics (who has read Red Alert by Peter George, the book that was adapted into Dr Strangelove?).
Drawn & Quarterly are publishing some of the most interesting books of the fall: Steve Mumford's Baghdad Journal, Guy Delisle's Pyongyang, Yoshihiro Tatsumi's The Push Man and Other Stories. After last year, where a change in distribution meant they couldn't publish books for a good part of the year, it feels like something of a rebirth. Chris Oliveros, head of D&Q, is interviewed about the fall line up at the Hour.
"Why, if a fellow wanted ta get away clean, Peter-me-lad, all they'd have ter do would be ta deny they ever even knowed Jesus. Uh-oh. I shouldn't eh told yeh that."
In a fascinating article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jennifer Howard looks at the controversy surrounding University of Maryland literature professor Vincent Carretta, whose new book Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man suggests that the famous freed slave and abolitionist's memoir, The Interesting Narrative, might be more historical fiction than straight autobiography.
The Globe and Mail looks at the visual art of Douglas Coupland, including the "faux hornet's nests" fashioned from chewed-up pages of books (such as the Gideon Bible) and American one-dollar bills.
Quickly, he honed his procedure. "You take the book, and you remove the pages and soak them in a Tupperware container and then you chew the pages one at a time. I always did it when I was watching TV."
Each nest took about a week of chewing. Some of the pages had to be chewed two or three times, depending on the durability of the paper, the money even more. ("Those bills are really built to last.")
I think a lot of people just knit when they're watching TV, but whatever.
Ann Marlowe explains why Candace Bushnell's new book Lipstick Jungle is at least a smidge better than the other chick lit books out there right now. (Even if it is sort of like comparing being flayed vs. being set on fire. Either way, you're not coming out as a better person in the end.)
But better them than the hapless, passive heroines of more skilled writers like Ann Beattie, Tama Janowitz and Melissa Bank, characters who depend on men not only for their emotional well-being but for their jobs and their rent. "It's so easy to solve your problems when you're a successful woman and you have your own money," Wendy tells Nico near the end of the book, and she's right, at least about many of the problems female characters face in chick lit. And I was ready to forgive Bushnell her tin ear when she has Victory Ford pick up the $1,000 check for her first date with Lyne at Cipriani, just to show him that she's not interested in him for his money. It might be the first time I've read such a scene in a novel.
In the book, you have a strange clown fantasy, care to explain that at all?
I just wondered, do clowns do EVERYTHING with that big red nose on?
Vanessa Davis is interviewed about her new graphic novel Spaniel Rage at the Gothamist.
In response to Tim Clare's "Everyone Does Not Have a Novel Inside Them":
Once I was called upon by the fiction editor of the publisher I worked at to write a vitriolic rejection letter for a particularly egregiously offensive manuscript.
I duly went and composed six dense pages of shattering deconstruction of the manuscript, starting with its poor spelling and uncertain grammar and ending by taking issues with its theory of homosexuality.
Then I presented it to the fiction editor who frowned and said: "You know, I appreciate this, but I gotta tell you, it's not cruel enough."
I said. "Oh, come on, have some heart. One of those poor girl is a depressive, says so in the cover letter. What if she gets the letter and kills herself?"
The fiction editor hesitated a little, then she said firmly: "No. Some people have got to be stopped."
When the celebrated French author Michel Houellebecq launched his latest novel in circumstances of extraordinary secrecy last week, he enraged some of France's most eminent literary critics by witholding copies from them to stave off bad reviews.
Now they appear to have struck back by circulating an embarrassing rap album featuring the tuneless voice of the controversial author in an apparent effort to dent his reputation as the bête noire of contemporary French writing.
Which is why you should never hire junior high school students as literature critics.
September 2, 2005
You can donate to the American Red Cross at Amazon, and there's information on donating to the Canadian Red Cross at Chapters/Indigo. The American Library Association is tracking Katrina's effect on the region's libraries. And the Louisiana Library Association Disaster Relief Fund has started accepting monetary donations to rebuild and restore libraries in south Louisiana. (Very special thanks to Alicia Korenman for the library links.)
The Palm Beach Post has a short rundown of New Orleans authors. Flak Magazine reprints an interview with Letters from New Orleans author Rob Walker with a chilling ending. I've been thinking of the great New Orleans writer Abram Shalom Himelstein (What the Hell Am I Doing Here?), who Bookslut interviewed last year about the city he loves:
Mostly I want to celebrate New Orleans as the most open city I've ever been to. That's why I live here. I'm just agitating for more. This is a very open and inviting city. I mean, you can see people's sexual fantasies played out on Mardi Gras. We'll invite you into our houses for food. It's way more open. But I think it's less open than it has been, and I think that's because the world's pretty frightening. And I don't want to discount the realness of the crap out there, but I think the best way to counter that crap is to know each other better and work with each other more.
Abram is evidently safe in Houston.
The Seattle Times looks at Bumbershoot's literary lineup. Eggers! Vowell! Eggers and Vowell! Vowell and Eggers! And a poetry slam, because there is evidently a federal law requiring all book-related events to include at least one poetry slam.
A University of Nebraska English professor is upset at being quoted out of context on the reality show Tommy Lee Goes to College. The professor had described childbirth as "beautiful and enduring," but producers spliced it to make it sound like she was talking about Lee's penis. Which, in fairness, might well be beautiful and enduring. I don't know.
Turkey's decision to charge Orhan Pamuk with "denigrating Turkish identity" could hurt the country's chances of becoming an EU member, reports The Indepedent.
The Turkish government, already under pressure to recognise EU member Cyprus, is pushing for a date to begin full membership talks and can ill afford a new row over freedom of speech.
Orhan Pamuk, the internationally acclaimed author of My Name is Red, could face up to three years in prison for comments made in a Swiss interview when he condemned the mass killing of Armenians in the aftermath of the First World War.
Several online retailers are selling the spoiler message on T-shirts for $18 to $25. A few online blogs and threads are encouraging buyers to wear the shirts "to the malls and bookstores to make kids cry."
Classy. If you really must, you can find the shirts by doing a Google search for "Harry Potter spoiler shirt."
Google Print, the project that will launch a thousand neverending lawsuits, is asking for submissions from non-English language publishers in Europe.
"Now that Bradbury has officially been accepted into the halls of Literature, can we lesser life forms please have him back?" Bryan Curtis makes a case for the trashier output of Ray Bradbury.
September 1, 2005
Mimi Smartypants is sick of Dr. Seuss.
The Lorax. Oh, shut up you fucking Lorax. I read this book to Nora every single day and she still wants more. She cluck-clucks over the glop in the Humming-Fish pond, she sighs with despair over the smoggy sky, she scolds, "No! You do not do that!" at the sight of axes felling Truffula Trees. Should I just order her Greenpeace sweatshirt now? I'm down with the environment and all, but repeated readings of The Lorax have made me want to go shoot a panda, load it in my Navigator and drive it to a national park, and then set fire to its corpse with gasoline.
(Thanks to Leela for the link.)
Thanks to everyone who wrote me with the answers to the questions I posed yesterday. The Chicken Man, I have learned, was Philip Testa, a Philadelphia mafia boss. I had always pictured some half-chicken, half-man creature when I heard that song, but this explanation makes much more sense. (I wonder if Testa was upset that he ended up with "Chicken Man" as a nickname. He was probably hoping for "The Death Angel" or "The Machete" or something.)
The AP runs down the fall movie lineup, which includes adaptations of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead, Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Jennifer Weiner's In Her Shoes, JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, CS Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Steve Martin's Shopgirl. Also look for the film adaptation of this blog, starring various Gyllenhaals as Jessa and me. I got millions for selling the rights. (Jessa is so regretting drunkenly signing over power of attorney to me.)
Art Spiegelman greeted the Lafayette College's Class of 2009 to orientation with: "They chose someone very disoriented to help orient you." His book In the Shadow of No Towers was a controversial choice for the freshman class, but Spiegelman handled the more irate attendees to his lecture very well. "You have to be willing to poke at and analyze what's being done to you."
The Guardian has a page where you can read reviews and excerpts from all of the books long-listed for the Booker.
Librarian of Congress James Billington has included Nirvana's 1991 album "Nevermind" on the National Recording Registry, a mechanism Congress created in 2000 to preserve the nation's unique and important recordings.
Texas' gubernatorial candidates, including novelist Kinky Friedman, revealed their 2004 tax returns.
(Friedman's) $56,494 in itemized deductions includes $35,000 in gambling losses last year. Another part of his return outlines miscellaneous income including $35,000 in gambling winnings.
Friedman already has publicly discussed his penchant for the casinos. He told of his luck in early August when he won $45,612 playing a slot machine at Harrah's in New Orleans.
An acclaimed Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, has been charged with the "public denigrating of Turkish identity" and faces a possible prison sentence of three years, his publisher said Wednesday.