October 31, 2005
The first person to put "The Boondocks" in print was a college student named Jayson Blair, who was then editor of The Diamondback, the campus paper at the University of Maryland. Mr. McGruder proudly recalled persuading Mr. Blair to pay him $30 per strip, $17 more than his fellow cartoonists were receiving at the time. Years later, Mr. Blair, hired by this paper and then resigned after fabricating stories, would be lampooned in the strip he help put on the map. "You can actually look at Jayson Blair and say, 'Wow, you set black people back,'" Mr. McGruder said, shaking his head. "A lot of people are accused of that, but he actually did it."
As a writer with no graphic design experience, I had no idea how someone would come up with a book cover involving these themes. My book was so deeply personal to me, in the way that all books are deeply personal to their authors, that I toyed with the idea of asking the editors to just leave it blank like the White Album, or like the early edition of George Orwell’s 1984, which was kept simple, as were many books that were published in the first half of the twentieth century.
Also: Maud wonders why the Austin American-Statesman has apparently never heard of James Hynes' brilliant Kings of Infinite Space. Maybe because they're too busy being the Republican party's little bitch. Or preparing some hard-hitting report on Austin's best onion rings or something.
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp has written a poem.
'Trashed on Cider' isn't destined for the printed page - it will be mounted, in brushed-steel letters, on the 30ft-high wall of The Forge, a huge new student campus in the city.
Alison Rowat defends Amazon.
On-line book selling, by broadening the customer base, makes it easier to sell serious literature. But true book lovers are not supposed to deal in such sordid matters as customer bases and sales. They want a personal relationship with their favourite authors, and having a small independent bookseller as a go-between is so much more intimate than dealing with that faceless creature called the internet.
It's a charming notion; pity it is as dated as ration books.
Some readers - particularly fans of Ftrain, or Mr. Ford's other work for The Morning News - knew all along that he was Gary Benchley. Others, including an editor at this paper who invited Mr. Benchley to consider writing for The New York Times, did not.
He asked if they should fuck the deer.
I'm wondering exactly when Judy Miller is going to start regretting going to jail for this crazy deer-fucking bastard.
Jennifer Weiner tries to use the feminist angle to defend chick lit.
"I don't particularly like being angry about stuff. I'd rather hang out with my daughter and write my little books. But I could not stay silent. It bothers me as a feminist that these are other women throwing stones; we're all women and we're all writers. And there is a literary divide that bodes poorly for you if you have the misfortune to be popular."
I'm sorry, I didn't realize that I was a bad feminist for pointing out that chick lit treats women like they're stupid. Once again, Weiner appears to be confusing attacks on chick lit with attacks on women in general. I like women. I like books by women, especially this year. I'm pretty sure my dislike of chick lit is in no way tied to my feminist ideals, and shame on Weiner for implying it is.
Jon Friedman has written a love letter to Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly. It's been a while since I lived in Austin and saw Evan around at things. It's nice to have my crush renewed on a foggy Monday morning.
"You know you are famous when you discover you have become a comic book character," Nelson Mandela joked at the launch of a comic series about his life.
My favorite thing about this article is that Leah Garchik seems shocked that Mike Wallace is a grumpy bastard. Next time she'll scandalize us with the news that Oprah is actually a really nice person.
October 28, 2005
The Boston Globe called "The Apprentice" an "alluring novel of intrigue" while the New York Times Book Review said Libby's "storytelling skill neatly mixes conspiratorial murmurs with a boy's emotional turmoil."
When asked by Larry King in 2002 if he was a novelist working part-time for the vice president, Libby said: "I'm a great fan of the vice president. I think he's one of the smartest, most honorable people I've ever met. So, I'd like to consider myself fully on his team, but there's always a novel kicking around in the back somewhere."
Northwestern University's library has turned down an offer of two books on Africa from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, serving a life sentence in Colorado.
Artist Laurie Anderson (remember "O Superman"?) talks about writing a poem for NASA.
"They wanted me to do a much sexier project – to bounce from one satellite to another – light up the dark side of the moon sort of thing," explains Anderson from her home in Manhattan. Thinking back to her 2003 appointment, she remembers: "Their faces dropped when I told them I was going to write a poem. Think epic."
Berman described his sense of humor this way, “You don't want to err on the side of Weird Al Yankovic. The idea of being weird is as quaint as a gaslight lamp, of course. Like calling mental institutions Laughing Academies. I suppose that's an example of humor obscuring truth. I use it more like psychological realism. I don’t take pleasure in Ingmar Bergman movies or bleak music that aggressively exterminates hope, like Nico albums. All humor falls between Weird Al and Nico.”
Lisa Selin Davis has tales of woe and joy from the road on the First Fiction Tour over at Miss Grace's Salon. Mike and I were happy to host Lisa at the Bookslut Reading Series in September for her book Belly, and I'm hoping she had a better time here than she did in, say, St. Louis.
Photographer Kent Rogowski offers some modern day fantasty romance cover art, utilizing irons, vacuum cleaners, and the occasional pumpkin.
Fantagraphics reveals details and sample artwork of their Mome anthology?/lit mag?/periodical? volumes two and three. I just finished reading volume two, and if they keep this up, it'll become one of the best whatevertheyare series out there. (Hey, Fanta: How about a Mome subscription service? Then I can file them alongside my Virginia Quarterly Reviews on my favorite-things-to-come-in-the-mail shelf.) David B. of the goddamn brilliant Epileptic will be including a 30-page story in volume three. Now I'm impatient.
The Utne Independent Press Awards nominees are in.
I mean, the average French people clearly are neither racist nor anti-Semitic but they have this strong guilt towards the Jews from the Second World War and a strong guilt towards the Arabs because of the Algerian War, so every time they come to do something about Jews and Arabs, they always feel guilty.
I can give you a very simple example, if two kids are quarreling in the streets, and one hits the other, the one who hits would be punished. But if an Arab kid hits a Jewish kid they will say, "You have to understand there is history, they've been suffering so much," so it's not fair.
Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
Read that question again and answer truthfully.
This Fantasy Novelist's Exam is especially important on the eve of NaNoWriMo.
Prominent Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, who risks prison over remarks about the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, could face a new trial for degrading the Turkish army in a newspaper interview, Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.
October 27, 2005
If you're the type of guy who buys books just to look smart and appealing to the ladies, Jessa has some valuable advice for you.
Surfing for porn in your local wi-fi hot spot not getting you phone numbers? Try placing a copy of On Beauty by Zadie Smith next to your laptop (with a bookmark about a third of the way through the book) in a casual "I am doing important work related research now, but I as soon as I finish, I have a date with Zadie and her wonderful way with words" kind of way. This says, "I am a sensitive man who is comfortable enough with his sexuality to read a book by a girl in public."
Actor Daniel Radcliffe, best known for his role as Harry Potter, wants the boy wizard to die at the end of the seventh book. He also wants Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. But he'll probably just have to settle for his piles and piles and piles of money. Poor kid.
How come we never get headlines like this in the States?
Besides a collection of short stories, Eugenides is writing his third novel, which he described as “very different” from his first two. “It's about a big debutante party. It's more naturalistic and, I think, the structure is more heavily dramatized than Middlesex.” Three years into this project, he's weary of being chided for being a slow writer.
The need to tell young women how to behave often comes over middle-aged men—it's an itch right up there with buying a flashy new car.
`Richards felt a coolness creep into his testicles.' -- Stephen King, The Running Man
I am in love with Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books, which features all kinds of authors writing about the albums that have changed their lives (in a sincere way, not a Natalie Portman in Garden State way). All the titles I've read are great, particularly John Niven's The Band's Music from Big Pink and Joe Pernice's The Smiths' Meat Is Murder. And they're about to publish Scram editor Kim Cooper's contribution to the series, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which pretty much has to be great.
Anyway, if you're a writer, and interested in contributing to the series, you have until Monday, October 31, to email Continuum editorial director David Barker (at david at continuum-books dot com). And look for my contribution, a reflection on Weird Al Yankovic's Dare to Be Stupid, early next year. It is technically not a 33 1/3 book but more of something I wrote in longhand and photocopied at Kinko's. They put that comb binding on it, though, so it looks pretty professional.
Also, please do not tell Continuum that I am violating their copyright. Sssshhhh!
Nobody edits Michiko anymore, do they?
Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (best known in this apartment for The City of Lost Children) will be directing the adaption of Life of Pi. No word on whether regular Dominique Pinon will be playing the tiger.
Good Christ, if some anonymous helicopter had dropped a wallet containing two thousand bucks into my speedboat at the onset of my mystery novel, the last thing I'd do is turn it in at the police station. I think the first thing I'd do is yell "Fuckin' A, Frank! Did you see this?! Two-fuckin'-thousand! Ha ha! . . . "
Though recently published, "Even a Daughter" details a trip that Board took to Mongolia in the mid-'90s.
"One of the reasons I haven't been back [to Mongolia] is because I'm afraid I will find McDonald's there now, or some church with a steeple, or something like that. Up till now, Mongolia was protected from the West for two reasons. First, nobody wanted to go there. And the second reason is it's isolated. It's not easy to get to. And once you get there, it's not easy to get around."
October 26, 2005
John Crace, author of the Guardian's Digested Read, is publishing a collection of his favorites.
He cites the possible closure of the Berlin Senior Center -- a new one is being built in Grafton -- as another issue he'd work on. Carr said the closure might not have been considered if District 5 had different representation on the County Legislature.
"We haven't had any representation for residents below Hoosick in a long time," he said.
Whoooooo! Get the popcorn! This is going to be awesome!
Does Didion find herself having much faith in the future?
''Not at the moment, no. It's quite disorienting. Not that I ever had a lot of faith in the future, but I had a certain confidence in my immediate circumstances. There's a way in which people from California are always waiting for a natural disaster. So my view of the future has tended to the natural disaster." She pauses and gives a little nod. ''Haven't we been having a lot of them lately?"
October 25, 2005
It's pink, because it's for girls! Get it? Well, DO YA?!
Possessing a graphical style as unique and instantly recognizable as Edward Gorey's, Burns works in meticulous detail using heavy inks that seem to bring out the worst horrors of anyone or anything. He will individually trace each hideous hair of an emerging mustache above an adolescent lip, for example. Some of the most intensely high contrast comix every created, everything is made up of either pure white or jet black, and mostly the latter. Visually, it's one of the most stunning graphic novels yet published.
An IRS agent is accused of stealing $43 worth of comic books from a Las Vegas store. (Thanks to Jarret for the link.)
All right! Another candidate for Worst Lead of the Year!
It looks like something a person might say after splashing through the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean -- "Cthulhu."
The AP reports on the filming of the new movie Cthulhu, based on the work of HP Lovecraft. The screenplay was written by Grant Cogswell, the Seattle-based poet, activist, and subject of the new Phil Campbell book, Zioncheck for President (which is great).
A Turkish court has fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law that bans use of characters not in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said.
In other censorship news, Jessa has fined me $500 for writing "Go Astros!" on the blog yesterday. So I'd just like to say: Go White Sox! I'm cheering for the other guys, but I bet $20 on you! (Seriously. I bet $20 on you. Don't fuck it up, Sox.)
(Thanks to Hal for the link.)
Okay, so fuck the Mike Wallace memoir Between You and Me. I mean, I love the guy on the level that some people love Brad Pitt, but it's boring. But if you buy the memoir, you get a 90 minute DVD of Mike Wallace interview highlights, including some of the early interviews where he chain smoked through the whole thing (unfortunately not included on the DVD: the ads he did for cigarettes sponsoring the program). That's the good stuff, and evidently it doesn't translate onto paper. (If you live in Austin, the Ransom Center has all of the Mike Wallace Interviews episodes. Go down there with pitchforks and torches and force them to make the episodes available all year round, so that when I visit in February I can spend a day with my pretend boyfriend, Mr. Bulldog Wallace.)
Time.com has ten questions for Wallace, none of them being "Seriously. Why so orange? (We ask because we love.)"
The LA Times examines the strained relationship between galleries and comic book artists.
I had all kinds of ambivalence about how pretty I wanted to look, you know? If I look more beautiful, will more people buy the book? If I present myself without my "face" on (as women in the South call their makeup—which is such a telling way to talk about it), will that send a stronger message about the potential of women to be accepted for who they are, without their masks on?
I actually went to the photo session and said to the photographer, "Do me a favor, I want to take a roll before I get my hair and makeup done." And he was like, "Are you sure?" And I was like, "Yeah! I just want to be photographed the way I’d be photographed if I was a male author coming to be photographed." Nobody would do anything to foof me up; he would just take some pictures of me. If I was slightly braver, or a little bit more of a real feminist, I would’ve used those pictures. But when I saw the ones I ultimately ended up using I was like, "Ooooh, who’s she? I want to hear whatever she has to say."
It's always so disappointing to find a writer who talks so good in interviews (even if the stopping men from writing for ten years bit brought angry flashbacks of the book Cunt) but whose writing you can stand. I finally tried to read We Need to Talk About Kevin and got to about page 23. I couldn't find a graceful sentence in that whole book. But I love reading her columns and her interviews. Same with Soloway.
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes has become one of the most expensive books to make the New York Times bestseller list. The AP visits the Ohio town where creator Bill Watterson grew up, and tries, unsuccessfully, to track him down. It's been almost ten years since Watterson ended the comic strip.
October 24, 2005
The Sun-Times talks to John Updike about the Nobel Prize, the Boston Red Sox, and getting old(er).
Asked about contemporary writers he respects, Updike ducked the question a bit, claiming, "I'm a little at the mercy of the New Yorker," since he spends so much time working as a book reviewer for the magazine. "Recently, I read the new Doctorow novel, which is turning into a bestseller. I also read Salman Rushdie's new book. He's an interesting writer. Not quite a master yet, but he's getting there."
I think Rushdie was already a master 20 years ago, but I love the Rabbit books, so I guess I'm willing to defer to Updike here. Not about the Red Sox, though. Go Astros! Try not to get swept!
The American Library Association will hold its 2006 annual conference in New Orleans, as originally scheduled.
Some proponents of plans to place the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum in Waco say the facility would help banish the Branch Davidian stigma that has loomed over the city since 1993.
Ha ha ha! Good luck with that, Waco!
The insanely talented Drew has posted some of his articles on his website, Toothpaste for Dinner. (His book of the same name is available now, and is highly highly highly recommended.) I think my favorite article so far might be "back off hipster," which is just full of advice for young people who go to rock shows:
everyone nearby stared at me, so i picked up the half-full bottle of red stripe and held it out in front of me like a knife. i shouted at them: BACK OFF, HIPSTERS, AND DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT BLOWING THE SMOKE FROM YOUR EXPENSIVE CIGARETTES OVER HERE, OR I WILL MAKE FUN OF HOW YOU STILL LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS AND HOW YOU CLAIM THAT VINYL SOUNDS BETTER THAN CDS WHEN YOU DO NOT EVEN OWN A TURNTABLE!! . . .
they kept a respectable distance the rest of the show! i think the lesson here is that you should treat bothersome hipsters like you would any kind of dangerous criminal: by threatening them with physical and cultural violence!
Philip Pullman talks to the Oxford University Press blog about the upcoming film adaptation of Paradise Lost. (You should check out the new OUP edition of the book, which is beautiful, and which has an introduction by Pullman.)
All of that is to say, this memoir isn't really about being young and female in the Army. It's about being young and insecure in the world. It's about being an immature, needy woman who learned all the wrong lessons while at war.
Debra Dickerson read Kayla Williams's Love My Rifle More Than You and wondered why women in the military don't have a Jarhead or a The Things They Carried. Instead, women have Williams complaining about being smarter than her fellow GIs and sentence structure that leads Dickerson to state, "Williams writes like drunks walk."
WILL I MAKE MONEY OUT OF LITERARY FICTION?
No. Or not quickly, unless you are incredibly lucky. Fiction is not exactly fashionable right now and never really has been a big earner. Then again, if you are writing literary fiction, you probably do it fairly helplessly, because you love it. The fact that we do it for love is, sadly, well-known amongst publishers, editors and so forth and this means we will receive the bare minimum and still be quite happy in an odd kind of, blood-soaked way. Welcome to wonderful world of literary fiction.
American universities are buying the archives of British writers, and some UK authors and academics aren't happy.
The campaigners say American universities are targeting young British writers and offering between £50,000 and £300,000 for their notebooks, manuscripts and letters. . . .
It is understood that an academic from one American institution was flown to London this month with a specific brief to “nobble” (Kazuo) Ishiguro at the Booker prize dinner in London.
If "nobble" means what I think it means, then Ishiguro is one lucky dude. ("Nobble" does not mean what I think it means, however.)
Orhan Pamuk isn't backing down from his comments acknowledging the mass murder of Armenians and Kurds in Turkey, but says that he never used the word "genocide" to describe the massacres.
"Let me call you Delgadina," I whispered, for like most solipsists I preferred to invent my own names. I may have slept myself and a tiger may have written on the bathroom mirror - we magical realists can never be too sure of anything - and when I left her snoring in the morning she was still as pure as the night before.
Rob Walker is a total badass. He's the author of the "Consumed" column in the New York Times Magazine, which I always read before "Safire on Language" but after "Deborah Solomon Asks a Bunch of Surprisingly Hostile Questions to the Undersecretary of Transportation or Something." He's also the author of Letters from New Orleans, which is published by the reliably great Garrett County Press. Walker talks to Gothamist about the column, the book, New Orleans, and New York subway lines he hates (the F and the 4/5).
G.K. Darby, who runs Garrett County Press, thought it could work as a book. (We added in a few New Orleans-related pieces that I wrote for magazines.) He also lived in New Orleans, and happened to move away not long before Katrina; somebody asked him how he was dealing with Katrina and its aftermath from afar, and he said, "One drink at a time."
Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.
It finds one in every eight young people confessing to choosing a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title".
Everyone knows that Thomas Pynchon's books wouldn't even be in print if it weren't for 20-year-old guys at the campus coffee shop hoping to get laid by a Suicide Girl. Conspicuous public reading is a time-honored pick-up tradition. (Some books work better than others.)
Rachel Cooke talks to Anita Thompson about the last days of her husband, Hunter S. Thompson.
'Then there are his books. If you read his work now, it has a new sparkle. Perhaps because now we only have a finite amount of words. Imagine if, in some twisted world, he'd taken his words with him; if we picked up his books, and there were only empty pages; if every box in the basement held only blank manuscripts. So, obviously, he's still with us.' She takes a deep breath. 'Yes, we are luckier than some.'
October 21, 2005
The Grace Reading Series in New York now has a blog. That makes me feel a little bit better about never getting to see the readings. Congratulations to Elizabeth Merrick for getting the series and the blog off the ground.
An Edmonton man has been sentenced in what is believed to be the first case of cartoon child pornography to come before the courts of Canada.
Gordon Chin purchased online and downloaded off the Internet thousands of pages of explicit cartoons called anime [sic], or Japanese animation, which contain cute characters similar to Pokemon and Astro Boy.
The anime seized from Chin's south-side home include scenes of adults having sex with tied-up children and infants in diapers. In some cartoons, babies are raped with weapons.
I am so glad that I wasn't the only one confused by Ben Marcus's essay in Harper's "Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It." Jess Row at Slate doesn't really get it either. Harper's, on the other hand, really wants this essay to stir some sort of debate, as they keep e-mailing bloggers links to excerpts online, and then last week they mailed me a copy of the issue. Which I had already purchased. I now have two copies of an essay that once I finished I merely shrugged and picked up my Gourmet magazine. I know you're trying to be edgy and controversial, Harper's, but maybe next time you can try with an essay that says something interesting.
The Houston Press seems shocked -- shocked -- that a food writer from Esquire was given a tour of Houston completely for free, and that the taxpayers of Houston paid the bill. (Second item, by the way. I was confused by the dildo story at the top, too, but scroll down a bit.) Whoever wrote the article should know how badly writers tend to be paid, and that the free shit is the only part that makes the job worthwhile. It happens all of the time.
One of my favorite arguments in the book comes from Norman Ford, author of "When Did I Begin?" who says that ensoulment -- the moment the soul enters the body -- has to happen at least 14 days after conception, because before then identical twinning is possible, and if the zygote were ensouled before it split, each twin would end up with only half a soul. You wisely skirt the political issues at stake, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if the moment of ensoulment were to be discovered.
Well yeah, if it turned out to be two weeks, would we then have justification for guilt-free abortions? Would the religious right leave us alone for two weeks at least?
October 20, 2005
The woman writer must be able to do more than spin a sentence together; she must also give good photo. Zadie Smith's inside-flap author picture was by far the largest image among this year's Booker-shortlisted novels and the only one in colour. It is hard to see how it could not impact on readers' impressions of her work. The fabulously groomed mane and decidedly unfurled brow of the "highly promotable" woman writer, of which Smith's image is an iconic example, is not only guaranteed to stir up a tangy mixture of aspiration, desire and envy; it is also a distraction from the compact between reader and writer.
A Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant Wednesday for three U.S. soldiers, charging them with murder in the death of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso in Baghdad, Iraq.
Couso, who worked for Spain's Telecinco network, died at the Palestine Hotel on April 8, 2003, as U.S. forces advanced to take control of the city in April 2003.
Abigail Nussbaum schools us heathens on Pride and Prejudice, a book I absolutely could not finish.
I know remarkably few women who enjoy anal fisting. But there was a time in my life when I became quite accomplished at it. Not that I listed being fisted up the ass as a goal — I just had lots of fantasies about anal sex, and I told a woman I was seeing at the time about those fantasies.
Another day, another fisting reference. The nominees for best sex scene, which include Dorothy Allison's entry above, are ready for your vote at Nerve.
October 19, 2005
The new Absolute Watchmen hardback is a thing of beauty, although I'm not entirely sure it's worth $75. (Amazon has it for $45.) Douglas Wolk talks to Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons about the book's 20th anniversary.
Encyclopedia Brown may never have been made into a movie, but I remember the HBO series well. I was a little obsessed with Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. Also, MathNet. Anyone else remember that? God, I'm a geek.
I was working on Black Hole for a long time. And early on my daughters would come in to my studio, and there would be some page I was working on, and I would flip it over and be like, you know, this is just not really appropriate for kids. My daughter just turned 18, and I was joking with her about the fact that now she can legally read my book.
I'm about to make our second fisting reference in two days, so those with delicate sensibilities might want to find themselves a different blog to read. Last night's reading series started off with Beth Lisick reading a story from her new book Everybody Into the Pool about in laws, fisting workshops, and past life regression. Women and Children First sold out of her books last night, so if you didn't get a chance to buy one last night, please do so now, for your own good. It's a charming and hilarious book.
Beth made a hard act to follow, but Paula Kamen got up and read from the second chapter of her memoir/investigative journalism/history of chronic pain All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache, in which she takes a whole lot of drugs.
It was up to Peter Manseau -- who has been in high demand lately with appearances on The View, The Today Show, and Fresh Air -- to class the night up a bit. He read the passage in Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son of how his parents met, along with a few letters that his parents received after the announcement of their marriage. If you're in the cities that Peter is hitting for the rest of his book tour, you should really try to catch him. (He had some groupies last night at the reading, which is appropriate I suppose. The man is groupie-worthy.)
And now Bookslut rests! You can have your Tuesdays back in November and December, catch up on some Nip/Tuck, whatever. I have a vacation (my first in six, seven years!) and some baby visiting to do. We'll be back in January with something a little different. You'll be hearing more about it soon.
October 18, 2005
Tonight is the Bookslut Reading Series with Beth Lisick, Peter Manseau, and Paula Kamen. I'd also like to point out the generous in-kind contribution made by Ray's Bucktown Bed & Breakfast. I hope to see you Chicagoans at the Hopleaf tonight at 7:30.
Librarian Sanford Berman, who has been asking the Library of Congress to remove "Jewish Question," "Yellow Peril," and "delinquent women" as subject headings, is Nerve's Crush of the Week for requesting the addition of the subject heading "anal fisting."
Denis Horgan has found the perfect job. Now he just needs to get hired.
Say, how do I get a job at The New York Times?
What a great place to work! No rules. No editors. No standards. You can do whatever you want. I could be the next Jayson … oops, Judith ... Miller.
Apparently they don't have bosses at the Times. What a Shangri La. Like Jayson Blair, Judith Miller could get away with anything there.
The Rolling Stone cover with John Lennon and Yoko Ono has been named the best magazine cover of the last 40 years. Not surprisingly, Esquire, tied with Time and Life, had the most covers on the list. (Bring back your witty, beautiful covers, Esquire! I don't need another picture of Keira fucking Knightley trying to look tough. Stop trying to compete with GQ. Everyone knows they suck.)
Today sees the release of Charles Burns's amazing, fucked up, disturbing, beautiful Black Hole. It's finally finished and collected after ten years of being serialized by Fantagraphics. Charles Burns is profiled at the Baltimore City Paper.
"After I was done with the series I did in newspapers, I very consciously wanted to not censor myself in any way. There’s certain stuff you can’t put in a weekly newspaper—themes and ideas I didn’t touch on because they were too dark. I wanted to tell a story where I could pull it all out.” Still, Burns says, he’s “not remotely interested in gratuitous sex or violence.” He simply wanted the story to be “as horrific as I could make it.”
"A lot of people know more about Winsor McCay, the man, than I," Mr. Maresca said. "But few know Nemo better than I, panel for panel. I think McCay drew some of these pages in less time than it took me to restore them."
The New York Times writes about restoring Little Nemo in Slumberland.
October 17, 2005
One of the least pleasant side effects of electroconvulsive therapy is memory loss. Usually a few snippets will be missing at the end of treatment, but every once and a while, the loss is severe. Author Jonathan Cott, for example, lost 15 years of his life. He's interviewed at Salon.com about the depression that forced him to seek this treatment out and his new book On the Sea of Memory.
The Boston Globe profiles Americans' love for British fantasy, including Watership Down, Lord of the Rings and the works of C.S. Lewis.
October 14, 2005
Dylan Thomas was "actually a bit of a lightweight when it came to alcohol," according to a friend of his. Oh, man. Wales is not going to be happy about this.
I woke up this morning, turned on the tv, and there was Peter Manseau, talking about his book Vows. On Monday, he and his parents will be on The View, and if that's not enough for you people (and it shouldn't be, his book is quite good), he'll be Live in Person at the Bookslut Reading Series next Tuesday here in Chicago, along with Beth Lisick and Paula Kamen. (It occurred to me, after announcing the authors of our next reading, that having one author who trained to be a monk and whose father is a priest read with a woman writes about stealing $40 from a Catholic charity to afford an abortion might not be the most appropriate line-up. But it's certainly a more interesting one.) To hold you over, you can read another excerpt of his book.
A group of students came up with some proposals for the future of publishing, and we're supposed to be worried. No fiction, no poetry. The future is book "solely on the search for home; the books would circle around ideas of identity and exile." But come on. These are Canadians we're talking about. Everyone knows you don't have to listen to a word they say. (Hi, George!)
What the fuck? Did John Banville kill Boyd Tonkin's cat or something?
A troubled week for the Man Booker Prize - and not simply because the panel of judges, after surveying the treasure-laden mountain of this year's finest fiction, brought forth the prissy little mouse of John Banville's The Sea. That miracle of misjudgement will damage the standing of the award.
Bullcrit is what you call an opinion someone expresses about something — usually a work of art, but, really, it could be anything — about which that someone has no actual firsthand knowledge or experience. It’s kind of like gossip, except that it’s cheaper and comes from a more vain, more fearful and more desperate place in its perpetrators.
And Jessa Crispin has advice for indie bookstores hungry for that 18-to-34 demographic.
So what will make more people in general come into your bookstore, including, perhaps, a few young 'uns? Great events that are well advertised and consist of more than just a guy no one has heard of signing a few books. Selling alcohol at those events, which will trick people into thinking they like an author more than they actually do. (It's the new morning-after regret!)
And it will probably be more successful than my ill-fated "OMG Reading Is Kewl!" campaign of 2004.
October 13, 2005
If you see only one book-to-film adaptation this year, make it the feel-good movie of the decade: Shining. (Thanks to Randy for the link.)
In recent years, the words “bootylicious,” “bling-bling,” “hottie” and “phat” have all been added to the dictionary.
The introduction of these fad words devalues the English language in some ways. Now, I admit that I also use slang terms, but what message are we sending as a society by considering some of these informal terms as actual, acceptable words?
I bet the author of this article is just a fucking blast at parties. "I'm afraid I don't understand what a 'dutchie' is, and I do not care to learn. I refuse to pass it to you from any side."
October 12, 2005
The 2005 National Book Award Finalists have been announced.
Alan Burdick, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion
Leo Damrosch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves
John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander
Frank Bidart, Star Dust: Poems
Brendan Galvin, Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005
W.S. Merwin, Migration: New and Selected Poems
Vern Rutsala, The Moment’s Equation
Young People's Literature:
Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks
Adele Griffin, Where I Want to Be
Chris Lynch, Inexcusable
Walter Dean Myers, Autobiography of My Dead Brother
Deborah Wiles, Each Little Bird That Sings
Author Michael Peterson was found guilty of killing his wife in 2003, and he has now filed for appeal. His court case was the subject of the crazy-good documentary series The Staircase, now available on DVD.
The latest installment of Largehearted Boy's Book Notes is from Twins author Marcy Dermansky. (I really liked that book, more than I had expected to. Any time I read a book about sisters, I fear it's going to be of the vile In Her Shoes variety.)
"Well, you can tell this story about how my mother sentenced Joseph Brodsky to 15 days in custody for 'social parasitism,'" he offered. "I doubt that it's been told in English."
Seriously, go buy Phil Campbell's Zioncheck for President, the only political book I've read in years that didn't make me weep with frustration. You can still read the excerpt in The Stranger. Also, be sure to check out this interview with Campbell in Seattlest.
As for getting a New York publisher to accept this book, I have to admit that, had I known then what I know now about the publishing industry, I may not have attempted to write this. But what kept me writing and rewriting for three years was the fact that I never really looked at this as a 'Seattle book.' I focused on characters and personalities. I pursued larger ideas - idealism and madness, like the subtitle suggests. And almost everyone loves local politics, so it was really just a question of making Seattle's politics identifiable for non-Seattleites. In fact that was probably the most difficult problem in writing the book.
He does a great job, though. I know almost nothing about Seattle I can identify the Seahawks logo, and that's about it but Campbell does a great job explaining how the political game is played in the city. It doesn't feel like a local book; the themes are universal, and anyone who's ever invested emotional energy in politics, whether local or national, can relate. Again: What the fuck were you thinking, Stranger?
Tim Appelo considers "disaster lit."
Harper Collins is paying Anderson Cooper a million dollars for his memoir. Anyone remember when he was on Channel One? That horrible news show they made you watch in high school? (If you happened to go to high school in the early '90s.) It was kind of like MTV News, but dumbed down.
Still, good for him. Anyone want to buy my memoir? It's full of awkward silences!
Butchers are great because they sell you the duck, and they can also tell you how to cook it. If you go to a store, even a nice grocery shop like Whole Foods, you call them up and they have to patch you through to the resident butcher who is there three days a week until 5, and he's the only guy who knows how to do anything. For my next book I want to train to become a butcher.
"They're voted on by the public," (Jon) Stewart noted Tuesday night, "or will be when the public finds out about them."
It gets better.
Actor Matthew Modine, who presented the prize for the best religious/spiritual book, looked confused when asked by The Associated Press before the ceremony whether he had voted.
"Voted?" he asked.
Yes, the public votes for them.
"Really?" he said. "That's news to me."
John Walsh reports from the Booker Prize ceremony:
Previous prize winners (AS Byatt, Ben Okri) and former judges (John Carey, Lisa Jardine, Kenneth Baker) rubbed shoulders with ambassadors, politicians, actresses, broadcasters and the odd rock guitarist. Dinner was tuna carpaccio, pheasant and chocolate pudding.
And John Sutherland, chairman of the Booker committee, has some news for angry Julian Barnes adherents:
The simple answer is that Banville's is a deeply divisive novel - and in the end it came down (as it should) to the intensity with which opposing parties believed in, and were prepared to argue, for their corner. The Banvilleans, in the final analysis, (just) out argued the anti-Banvilleans - no blackmail was used, no manipulation, no grandstanding. Merely argument.
The bad blood and months of pointless argument comes across the pond this afternoon, when John Grisham announces the National Book Awards finalists. I am holding out hope for the indie presses this year, in particular Sarabande Books and Ander Monson's brilliant Other Electricities. Also, I am hoping Grisham dresses up like a clown or Hello Kitty or something. Just to lighten the mood.
October 11, 2005
Publisher's Weekly has more information about Neil Gaiman's upcoming work on the Marvel series The Eternals. Since you have to subscribe to access the article, I'll paste the most relevant material here:
The Eternals deals with familiar territory for Gaiman: a race of immortal, super-powered beings called the Eternals who had been worshipped as gods by humans before they drifted into obscurity and began living undercover. Complicating things for the Eternals are two other cosmic races, the Celestials and the evil Deviants...
Gaiman explains, "What drew me to it was not the god side of things, but the incredibly long-lived nature of things. I just loved the idea of seeing two people standing in a town square looking at a statue of themselves that was erected 1,000 years before."...
The book is the second part of a two-project deal Gaiman has with Marvel. Artist, format and release date are still under discussion.
A truck out on the street honks its horn and Vonnegut looks toward the restaurant's entrance. His eyes seem to water a little and his voice lowers almost to a whisper. "Where is home? I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again."
Ironically, it is performance poetry that is eating away at the universal characteristics of poetry. Voice has become, not something that is welded into lines of language on a once-blank page, but a fetishised thing of personal ownership - my voice, with my accent and all I have to say with this voice is to do with me, me, me. That's why the only way you can experience this language is if I personally perform it for you.
Somebody won the Booker? Really? That must have happened while I was busy cooing over the cutest baby in the history of babies, Jefferson David. You can trust my opinion. I hate babies, so I'm very objective. (But I do have photographic evidence. Don't make me post the motherfuckin pictures.) Anyway, John Banville, who was not too busy coming up with tasteless nicknames for a baby whose name is a little too close to the first president of the confederacy to accept an award, is interviewed at the BBC about his win.
Yesterday the Man Booker judges made possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest.
And this has been another installment of Tuesday Morning Batshit Crazy Hyperbole, brought to you by Premium saltines. You'd kill your own fucking mother for one of these crackers!
Philip Roth's next novel, Everyman, will be released by Houghton Mifflin in May, by which time Joyce Carol Oates will have released three more books, one having to do with boxing and two dealing with grief, death, and death-related grieving. We'll see who gets to Stockholm first. (Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis, I bet, or someone similarly obscure.)
"Like, am I the only one who ever had a contraceptive failure?" Barbara Ehrenreich discusses the difficulties of mothers finding work in corporate culture over at Nerve.
Walter Kirn is a great novelist, and I don't say that just because he looks like he could kick my ass. In books like She Needed Me and Thumbsucker, he proved a writer could be sensitive and funny at the same time most authors can't, and shouldn't try to. (I am not sure about this Thumbsucker movie. Keanu Reeves? Really?) His latest novel, Mission to America, is actually even better than his first two, and kept me up late a few nights last week. (That, and the promise of syndicated episodes of Family Feud. Oh, Richard Karn! You're so droll!)
But it was mostly the book. Kirn talks about Mission to America and the film adaptation of Thumbsucker with The Book Standard, and confirms my dude-crush on him thusly:
I think my greatest strength is that I look around at this world of ours and I see humor and astonishing unlikelihood all around. We really don’t have to invent much when it comes to writing about this world of ours. I think that my weakness probably is —- and maybe I don’t consider it a weakness -- that I’m not someone who has appetite for writing on a so-called “epic” scale. Turning out the big, definitive, comprehensive Great American Novel, is not on my to-do list. . . . I don’t think that we as a literary nation are great at writing huge sprawling tomes.
Consuming them—toggling for hours between the incommensurable functions of reading and looking—is taxing. The difficulty of graphic novels limits their potential audience, in contrast to the blissfully easeful, still all-conquering movies, but that is not a debility; rather, it gives them the opalescent sheen of avant-gardism.
As for the dizzying byways of shojo, kinky romance manga for girls, I throw up my hands in Caucasian senior-male bewilderment.
Oh, I get it. We're going with the "Those crazy kids" approach to comics this time. Fair enough. The kids are indeed crazy. But dear god, shouldn't the New Yorker know better? While the guy has a few (like, two or three) interesting things to say between his protests that "Comix are for kids!", mostly I feel like I did the time I came home to find my dad pawing through my comics. "I like this here Sandman, but what the hell is this?" he asked, holding up my copy of Kill Your Boyfriend. Schjeldahl's insight into comics appears to be limited to "That Joe Sacco, he's got talent."
Please, New Yorker. I know you think it's cute and all to hire a critic who has never read comic books to review some comics for you, but you know you would never do that with any other medium. I'd like to see you hire an opera reviewer to write, "The sets were lovely, but what the fuck was with all of that singing?"
Neil Strauss's The Game is selling very well, and it seems that Harper Collins UK has decided to play dirty in order to compete. Canongate (The Game's UK publisher) spent a lot of money promoting their book, and HC responded by publishing a two-year-old book with a similar name, similar cover, and identical subject matter. The Book Standard has the rest of the story.
In other words, the conversation with, or about, James Frey will likely not be about creation, or books or literature, but about destruction -- of Frey's and his friends' and family members' lives. There is something inherently creepy about a million-odd people discussing -- over a series of weeks, online and at home -- how and why James Frey became a drug addict.
I don't know. I've read interviews with James Frey. He seems like he could use a big Oprah hug and cry.
October 10, 2005
(W)e have actually covered National Book Awards dinners not only that, we've covered the readings by finalists that take place the day before the award ceremony. We are, in fact, that dull. I mean, we are that committed to wonderful programming.
Who is JT LeRoy? Stephen Beachy wonders whether the author actually exists, and wonders whether it matters at all.
LeRoy has written about the way prostitutes fulfill other people’s fantasies and about the way the literary world can seem like simply a different form of prostitution. In an early version of one of JT’s stories, he wrote that he sometimes felt like the emperor with no clothes. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that it’s the clothes that don’t have an emperor; it’s just a wig and sunglasses floating around a dizzying production of narrative.
It's great narrative, though. Whoever LeRoy is or isn't, he or she or they or whatever is writing beautiful prose. (Check out Bookslut's 2003 interview with LeRoy here.) But also check out Beachy's brilliant 1992 road novel The Whistling Song, which I read as a high school sophomore and have never forgotten. It's out of print, but easy to find used. Find it. LeRoy's latest is Harold's End, from Last Gasp.
I spent a lot of this weekend reading Phil Campbell's new Zioncheck for President: A True Story of Idealism and Madness in American Politics, released today by Nation Books. It's an absolutely remarkable book, smart and self-aware and oh God I hate to use this incredibly stupid phrase, but it's true laugh-out-loud funny. Zioncheck is kind of a memoir in triplicate, telling the stories of Grant Cogswell, writer, punk fan and candidate for the Seattle City Council; Campbell, a journalist hired by Cogswell as his campaign manager; and Marion Anthony Zioncheck, a progressive US Congressman from Seattle who killed himself in 1936.
Campbell's book is excerpted in The Stranger, the newsweekly that fired him a few years back. Check it out. It's one of the only political books I've read that never once comes off as sanctimonious or preachy. (How did he do that? Someone tell me before I write another book-banning post.) And unlike other books about progressivism (How We Can Take Back the White House, Assuming It's OK with the Republicans, Because We Don't Want to Start Any Fights or Anything, Random House, 2005), it's inspiring without being annoyingly Pollyannaish. Mostly, it's just a great story. And Campbell's a great writer. What the hell were you thinking, Stranger?
Detective Kimball called. There was someone out there doing American Psycho copycat killings and Aimee Light was missing. "You're stoned," said Jayne, but I knew I was really just another tricksy, unreliable narrator.
For those of you who think that “bookfair” sounds like a combination of favourite writers and toffee apples, I have to tell you that it is plastic pot plants, recycled air, joke food, crazed journalists, interview rooms with no windows, prison strip-lighting, and a minder who knocks on the door to say “time’s up”.
Ha ha! Yeah. That's actually really accurate. Take my word for it: the only literary events worth attending are the ones where alcohol is readily available.
Except, the penis was drawn unnaturally cylindrical, and had a big highlight down its length. Basically, it looked like a dong rather than a flesh-and-blood cock. So Kelli and I had the humbling task of asking the artist to redraw his own penis.
(It's a disturbing little anthology, well worth your time. But after all of the STDs, cum shots, and interruptions by mothers, you might want to take a shower.)
Alex Duval Smith reports on the delay in awarding the literature Nobel. Some wonder if committee members are divided about whether to honor Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk.
'If the Pamuk row is real, the academy's reluctance is not based on a fear of being political, or controversial,' said Svante Weyler of Nordstedts publishers, 'but on concern that literature must not be overshadowed by politics.'
Others believe a split in the academy over Pamuk could be based on a long-entrenched principle of avoiding fashions and fads. Pamuk is widely acclaimed but, at the age of 53, is considered on the young side.
The favorite still seems to be Syrian poet Adonis.
The Morning News' Non-Expert suggests picks for a book club.
Don’t think you’re alone—no one reads contemporary fiction anymore. Why should they when there are so many more entertaining, vituperative (and shorter-winded) things to read about contemporary fiction instead?
Daphne Merkin loves the movie Capote.
We surely all know by now that journalists are a bad bunch—a "morally indefensible" species of con-artist always looking to sell someone out—if only because the best of them (Janet Malcolm and Joan Didion) are always ratting on themselves. The truth is that by today's scoop-obsessed and elasticized journalistic standards, Capote comes off looking better than most. At least he had the decency to be sufficiently conflicted about the devil's bargain he struck in pursuit of his story to still be summoning up the ghost of Perry Smith.
Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke are discussing fairy tales and mythology in this Salon.com interview.
Killing the Buddha co-editor Peter Manseau has a new nonfiction book out, Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son. He outlines the book and tells the story of how the priest and nun almost got a monk for a son in the New York Times. (Also, Peter will be participating in the October Reading Series, held Tuesday the 18th.)
Breeder columnist Jen Crispin lived up to her title this weekend, giving birth to 9 pound 3 ounce Jefferson David Crispin Schnepp. She's got a wishlist, just in case you feel like celebrating with her. And today, I will only answer e-mail that is addressed to "Aunty Jes."
October 7, 2005
The New Orleans Bookfair will go on as scheduled: Saturday, October 29, at Barrister's Gallery (1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans). This year's participants will include Verso, Soft Skull, Last Gasp, Get Lost Travel Books, Garrett County Press and Fiction Collective Two. (Don't forget you can pre-order the Neighborhood Story Project books from Soft Skull.)
In Canada, networks actually compete for the right to broadcast literary award ceremonies. (And CTV just beat out CBC for the Giller Prize show.) Do they even bother videotaping the National Book Awards here in the States? Maybe just one guy with an early-model camcorder? I have the feeling even C-SPAN 2 wouldn't touch that.
Swedish-born philanthropist Sigrid Rausing has bought Granta, the century old literary journal renowned for discovering new writers like poet Sylvia Plath and A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh.
So basically this means that if you're an aspiring writer, you might want to start kissing some Swedish ass now. Practice phrases like "These small cocktail meatballs are actually not unpalatable!" And "Although this furniture is of poor quality, it is surprisingly inexpensive!" And "Norwegians? Fucking peninsula hogs." Also, learn to say these things in Swedish.
October 6, 2005
Kurt Vonnegut in USA Today:
"What do you want to talk about? Politics? Our president is a complete twit. I'll talk about the death of the novel. I'll talk about anything you want."
(Thanks to Donald for the link.)
A textbook advocating "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in high-school science classes was written originally as a biblically based creationist text, a philosophy professor testified yesterday in a federal trial over the teaching of evolution.
Radar reveals the secrets of the computer program used to write all chick-lit novels.
3. Romanticize a Homosexual
A flamboyant gay man must be featured centrally in the plot, playing the role of the Wise Cheerleader. Bette’s Wise Cheerleader is her uncle, rather than the customary best friend or neighbor, but this does not alter his essential role: to provide counsel and to flatter our heroine so we grasp how fabulous she is, even as her own words betray a character that is neurotically insecure.
One down, one to go. Really, this is good news for the IQs of all Chicagoans. I picked up one of them yesterday (they are indistinguishable in their crapiness) for a cover article about women who choose not to have children. Their reasoning for why women are doing this? Their dogs might get jealous. It's like reading The Onion, only it makes you weep when you realize they're not kidding. The writers there really are that stupid. Now if only we could finally kill off New City, too...
A former vicar turned author has been asked to leave a Truro secondary school because he used "inappropriate language" during a talk.
Teachers told GP Taylor, who wrote best seller Shadowmancer, to stop his talk at Penair School after using words such as "bum" and "ass" to 12-year-olds.
Robert McCrum recounts the strange history of the Nobel Prize for literature, noting the Prize's most famous omissions and snubs (Greene, Borges, Nabokov, Joyce). He also gives us all a reason to love Roger Straus:
Trimming its sails to multicultural winds does not prevent the committee from making maverick choices. In 1997, for instance, Italian playwright Dario Fo won, leading the influential Roger Straus — then head of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has published more Nobel laureates than any other house in the U.S. — to declare: "This is a joke."
You may have noticed that The Third Policeman made its first appearance on Lost last night. I guess that means fans better start reading it now. (Also mentioned on the show last night: The Turn of the Screw. People much more obsessed than I am -- okay, maybe just a smidge more obsessed than I am -- have already been finding clues in the Henry James book.)
October 5, 2005
Largehearted Boy's latest installment of Book Notes features Laila Lalami.
Laila Lalami, author of the new Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, asks why the poor and disenfranchised are excluded from contemporary American literature. I think it's just because poor people aren't very interesting. I talked to one the other day and I was all like "Do you have a PlayStation?" and he was like "No" and I was all like "Whatever."
Seriously, though, it's a great essay, and it raises a great question: Will the aftermath of Katrina bring the literature of poverty into the spotlight? For the sake of the country's soul, God, I hope so. (If you're in Portland, go check out Laila's reading at Powell's on Burnside tonight.)
James J. Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, says in a new book that military authorities knowingly created an atmosphere in which guards would feel free to abuse prisoners.
It looks we'll have to wait until next week to find out which obscure European will take home the literature Nobel.
Jeffrey Eugenides has a short story in The New Yorker.
Let me ask you a question. Of all the magazines that you could be reading right now, how many feature an article about anthropology that tangentially relates to Hall and Oates? That's right: 16. (If you don't include She Only Comes Out at Night, the H&O fanzine I publish out of my mom's basement.) But how many of those 16 magazines have articles that mention Barbie dry-humping Ken? That takes us down to about 4. But we're the only one that's absolutely free. So go check out Bookslut's brand new issue. It is nice.
Barbara J. King, anthropologist and unrepentant H&O fan, is divided but mostly pleased by Steven Mithen's book about the evolution of music. Melissa Fischer confirms her hypothesis that Barbie is a slut, and Colleen Mondor talks with Capote in Kansas author Ande Parks. All that, plus interviews with Matt Madden, Alexander McCall Smith, Ruth Gruber and Stephen T. Asma.
We're proud to introduce two new columnists this issue. Cesar Torres takes over Fear Factor, and looks at horror comics. And James Stegall kicks off Stacks with an ode to the free rack. In other columns, the Hollywood Madam goes to see Everything Is Illuminated and says it's "worth the ticket price, if you're not creeped out by Elijah Wood's dead blue eyes." (I am.) Girl, Interrupting considers when girl power isn't. And Jen, our beloved Breeder, has a column written two days before her baby's due date. (That is dedication.) If reviews are your deal, our writers take on the latest by Walter Mosley, James Frey, Simone Muench, Christian Bauman and more.
Also: This issue is kind of bittersweet, because it has the great Karin Kross' last column for Bookslut. Oh man we will miss her. (But you'll still find some of her reviews here.) Karin's been writing for us for over three years. She's pretty much the best.
So go read! In the words of Hall and Oates: "Go on and go free / Maybe you're too close to see / I can feel your body move / But does it mean that much to me?" Yes. Yes, it does. Thanks for reading and enjoy.
October 4, 2005
The San Francisco Chronicle looks at Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," which turns 50 this year.
Jessa looks at graphic literature for the Sun-Times.
Today's librarians aren't all old women with glasses and their hair pulled back in buns, reports the AP. Also, today's police officers aren't all fat Irish guys who swing their night sticks jauntily about while giving shiny pennies to street urchins and telling them to stay out of trouble. And today's newspaper reporters don't have cards that say "PRESS" stuck in the bands of their fedoras, and almost never say "What a scoop!"
Government censors in the 1930s feared that banning books about lesbianism would prompt interest in the subject, National Archive records show.
(Thanks to Christien for the link.)
The Moscow Times reports that Fascist and anti-Semitic propaganda is gaining popularity in Russia.
Among books, perhaps the most popular are a series written by Yury Mukhin, the editor of the newspaper Duel, that argues the Holocaust did not happen. The books are published by Yauza-Eksmo Press.
It was unclear who was behind the publishing house, with a spokesman for Eksmo, one of the country's largest book publishers and the publisher of the Russian translation of the Harry Potter books, saying his company had no connection with Yauza-Eksmo Press.
When a reporter telephoned the Eksmo bookstore, however, a sales clerk offered a 20-page catalog of books published by Yauza-Eksmo Press.
But don't get too smug, America.
"We're not going to burn books but we're going to cut them up," he said.
This moment of sensitivity and logic is brought to you by Jim Cabaniss of The Woodlands, Texas, and his fellow crypto-Fascist Montgomery County American Veterans in Domestic Defense (AVIDD). They're upset about the "written and pictorial pornography" in Montgomery County public libraries. The Conroe Courier doesn't say which books AVIDD objects to, but this post on the group's website (scroll down) offers a clue:
One who habitually uses egregious four-letter words expose evidence of an abridged vocabulary and an inferiority complex while falsely exposing a fictitious air of pompousness.
Uh...I see. Why does a veterans' group care about "pornography" in libraries, anyway? The Courier quotes Cabaniss:
"One reason we want to do it is we've found that veteran's groups can take action without a lot of criticism. Who's going to criticize a veteran's organization?" he asked.
So how do you guys want to do this? Alphabetically? Or should we have some kind of take-a-number thing?
For McCubbin, publishing it had some unexpected results. "I used to be pretty open about my life and sexuality," she says. "The only challenge came later, when people started telling me how much they liked my story. It kind of freaked me out at first, thinking, 'Wow, all these people have seen drawings of my boobies.' I hadn't taken that into consideration."
But if reader votes were book sales, the Quills would hardly rank as a blockbuster. According to comScore Networks Inc., which tracks the Internet, the Quills site has attracted so little Web traffic, fewer than the threshold of 25,000 "unique" visits per week, that it can't even offer an exact number; the Web site for the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the old guard National Book Awards, has attracted comparable traffic in recent weeks, comScore said.
Vitamin - Kraftwerk (Tour De France)
When the pirates are knocking about the ocean the biggest danger is not sea monsters with terrible gaping maws, but scurvy. Scurvy is a horrible disease, leading to spongy gums, joint pain, and livid spots on the skin. Luckily it can be easily prevented with an adequate intake of vitamins. Of course, Kraftwerk themselves don’t need vitamins at all, they just eat nuts and bolts.
The Reader's Digest is trying to reach a younger audience. I'm sure the 60-year-olds of America will embrace them.
It's time for your daily Neil Gaiman interview. Today there are two. He's interviewed along with Dave McKean about their movie MirrorMask over at Nerve.
What I'm hoping that the you of today, the eleven- and twelve-year-old girls, the fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds, maybe they'll fantasize about strange beardy men with rubber masks in the same way that your generation fantasized about the incredible, peculiar bulge in David Bowie's trousers.
October 3, 2005
William Bennett, hero to conservatives and editor of the insufferably preachy and self-satisfied Book of Virtues:
Wednesday, on his phone-in radio show Morning in America, Bennett was asked by a caller if Americans would be better able to fund Social Security if abortion hadn't been legalized, because there would be more people paying into the system. In a response that's since been characterized as "alarming" and "blatantly racist," he said, "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down."
Renee Zellweger will try out her British accent yet again when she plays Beatrix Potter in an upcoming movie. She'll probably gain five pounds for the role and then be hailed as some kind of conquering hero of the dramatic arts. No word on who will play Squirrel Nutkin, but Owen Wilson might be available. He's so hot right now.
An Episcopalian school in Austin returned a $3 million donation rather than comply with a parent's request to censor the gay-themed Annie Proulx short story "Brokeback Mountain" (recently adapted into a film). St. Andrew's Episcopal School made the unbelievably gutsy decision despite pressure from rich guys like Cary McNair, whose daddy owns the Houston Texans, and Ben Crenshaw, a professional golfer. It might be 134 degrees in the summer, but God, I love this fucking city. (Thanks to Rodney for the link.)
Elijah Wood didn't read Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated before acting in Liev Schreiber's film adaptation of the novel. (Foer makes his acting debut in the movie, as "Leaf Blower.") There are four paragraphs about Wood's eyes. His "famously large and expressive blue eyes."
The new movie Capote hasn't opened in Austin yet, but I am planning to celebrate this news by renting Murder by Death, in which Capote gives a hilariously bad, but still somehow entertaining, performance. I am also planning to be lots more fey.
Some Colombian admirers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez are pushing to restore the author's childhood home in Aracataca, a national monument that has seen better days.
The Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded this week. According to the AP, the frontrunners include Adonis, the Syrian poet, and US novelist Joyce Carol Oates. Laila Lalami (Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits) is sick of being disappointed every year when Adonis doesn't win, which is how I feel about Philip Roth. But maybe this is the year! (It's not. They're going to give it to some obscure Estonian pamphleteer or something, I guarantee it.)
MR. ISMAN: While Grendel is quite a bright young, um, pupil, we just don't have enough room in the honors class for him, and we believe he will be adequately served by the standard seventh-grade track.
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: Braaak! Gnarsh!
August Wilson, who chronicled the African-American experience in the 20th century in a series of plays that will stand as a landmark in the history of black culture, of American literature and of Broadway theater, died yesterday at a hospital in Seattle. He was 60 and lived in Seattle.
William J. Broad looks at cryptozoology, and reflects on the recent observation by biologists of a living giant squid. Broad talks to Richard Ellis, author of The Search for the Giant Squid, about the discovery.
This post is presented in honor of the birthday of my brother, Randy, the smartest dude I know, who loved Ellis' book and is probably still freaking out about this discovery. (Nerrrrrd!) Randy is a great guy, who invented several fun games for me to play as a kid, including "Which Abandoned Refrigerator Has Pixy Sticks?" and "Maybe That Stranger Has Candy!" and "Dodgetruck," which he taught me how to play on San Antonio's surprisingly busy Bandera Road.
Just kidding. He's cool. Happy birthday, man, and don't freebase anything I wouldn't freebase!
Please don't get the wrong idea about me. People think that PUAs are predators; but I'm actually an Averagely Frustrated Chump (AFC). I love women - especially women who are a bit stoned or pissed - but I am in fear of them so I have to turn myself into something they want. And if you believe that, you're probably the sort of babe who falls for my patter in bars.
Someone should really give authors some blow jobs. Evidently they're in short supply.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to the Bookslut Reading Series last Wednesday, which Jessa, for reasons that probably now escape her, asked me to guest host. I filled the room with more awkward pauses and staring at the floor than your first date, but the authors did such a great job, no one seemed to care. (Or did they? I'm so insecure. Someone validate me.)
The very cool Kirby Gann started off the night, reading from his latest novel, Our Napoleon in Rags, and charming everybody. Lisa Selin Davis followed, musing about Rock Star: INXS and offering to sing Radiohead's "Creep" (unfortunately, she didn't) before reading a beautiful passage from her novel, Belly. Ander Monson, who is now one of my favorite people in the history of the world, read my favorite story from Other Electricities ("We Are Going to See the Oracle of Apollo in Tapiola, Michigan") and the title poem from his collection Vacationland. Closing things out was Chicago author Luis Alberto Urrea, reading a wonderful story, "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," from his collection Six Kinds of Sky. They were all unbelievably engaging readers even the bartender was listening intently to all of them and extremely kind folks. Big thanks to all of them, and to everyone at The Hopleaf (which offers, by my drunken count, over 17,000 varieties of Belgian ale) and Women & Children First, who sold the authors' books at the event. And thanks to Jessa, who let my girlfriend and me stay with her and provided all kinds of hospitality, for which I am planning to repay her by turning in my articles on time for the next issue. (Though not really.)
(On a somewhat unrelated note, thanks to The Modernist, The Darkroom, Matthew Shultz and Saturday Looks Good to Me, for putting on the best show of the year. Best show of the year. I am in love with all of you.)
Next month's reading features Paula Kamen, Beth Lisick and Peter Manseau, as well as an emcee who knows what the fuck she's doing. Go check it out, say hi to Jessa and the authors, and try the La Fin du Monde ale. And to everyone who came out Wednesday, thanks again. You rock.
"Why do you feel this daily urge to place these comestibles in your mouth and chew and swallow?" "I just have to do it." Mythology is one of those things... "I can not do it," he said, sounding rather like a heroin addict explaining that he can go a week without if necessary. I could do stuff that isn't mythic, but I love mythic stuff. I love playing with gods, I love playing with myths. A lot of it has to do with that they're the basic places stories come from. They're the clay that you make the bricks out of. I just like digging around in the clay. I think the thing I was happiest about with Anansi Boys was, I got to do a story that was about stories, about storytelling, about the power of myths, and about how we create our own stories. I felt like I'd managed to do it in such a way where someone could read the entire book and never notice what it had been about—just enjoyed spending time with Fat Charlie and all these characters.
Bruce Sterling talks about the legacy of JG Ballard at Ballardian.com.
Ballard was the first science-fiction writer I ever read who really blew my mind. I was reading a lot of basic Andre Norton ’space-squid’ nonsense at the time – I must have been 13 or 14 – then I read The Crystal World. And the assumptions behind The Crystal World were so radically different and ontologically disturbing compared to common pulp-derived SF. If you just look at the mechanisms of the suspension of disbelief in The Crystal World, it’s like, okay, time is vibrating on itself and this has caused the growth of a leprous crystal…whatever. There’s never any kind of fooforah about how the scientist in his lab is going to understand this phenomenon, and reverse it, and save humanity. It’s not even a question of anybody needing to understand what’s going on in any kind of instrumental way. On the contrary, the whole structure of the thing is just this kind of ecstatic surreal acceptance.