January 31, 2006
I think demonstrations across the country could be very useful on this famous Tuesday. Just say no. We've had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We'll help you raise the money for a library, and you won't even ever have to read a book. We're not cruel. We just want to get rid of you and let you be an ex-president with his own library, which you can fill up with friends of yours who can neither read nor write, but they'll be well served and well paid, we hope, by corporate America, which will love you forever.
(Thanks to Carl for the link.)
The Academy Award nominees for best adapted screenplay include four scripts based on books, and one based on a short story.
-Munich, screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas
Otherwise, it looks like that movie Crash got a million nominations, one for original screenplay. As a public service, I reprint the script for Crash in its entirety here:
Man: I had an experience today that reminded me that racism is still very much a problem in this country.
Woman: Yes. Racism is bad.
Man: It's very bad.
Woman: Yes, it is. Very, very bad.
There. I just saved you ten bucks and two hours. Now you can go rent Me and You and Everyone We Know, which didn't get nominated despite the fact that it's twenty million times better than Crash and doesn't have wooden performances by Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle.
There are remembrances of Wendy Wasserstein at the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Seattle Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, The Telegraph and the BBC.
A new 40-second video of Jill Carroll aired Monday on Arab TV station Al Jazeera. The video, broadcast without audio, pictures Ms. Carroll wearing a white headscarf and weeping. Al Jazeera's newscaster says on the video that Carroll is appealing to the US military and the Iraqi Interior Ministry to release all Iraqi women prisoners, and that this "would help in winning her release."
Attention WTTW Channel 11 Chicago Tonight viewers! I am not that orange in real life!
That is all.
Art Spiegelman used to design Garbage Pail Kids? Seriously?
JM Coetzee on being translated:
Are my books easy or hard to translate? Sentence by sentence, my prose is generally lucid, in the sense that the syntactic relations among words, and the logical force of constructions, are as clear as I can make them.
On the other hand, I sometimes use words with the full freight of their history behind them, and that freight is not easily carried across to another language. My English does not happen to be embedded in any particular sociolinguistic landscape, which relieves the translator of one vexatious burden; on the other hand, I do tend to be allusive, and not always to signal the presence of allusion.
Russia's Public Chamber is considering banning racist and nationalist books.
But Tankred Golenpolsky, the founder of Jewish International Paper, a Moscow publication that has campaigned against anti-Semitic books, said society should protest books, not ban them. He said a ban on certain books could be the start of a creeping process that resulted in the creation of a state censorship committee.
Bernard-Henri Lévy responds to Garrison Keillor's negative review of American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.
"Was the reviewer Francophobic? Was he looking down at me because I was French?" he said. "Maybe I will respond more fully later. But overall, I thought the review was well-written. And at least now I know that this book has the ability to provoke this sort of Francophobia and American populism - that's great. If somebody says, 'He's a Frenchman - what does he know?' that to me is a symptom of Francophobia."
Every time I think of Garrison Keillor, I think of his doppelganger on that one episode of The Simpsons:
Well, sir, it has been an uneventful week in Badger Falls...where the women are robust, the men are pink-cheeked, and the children are pink-cheeked and robust.
At the Apple Biscuit cafe, where the smiles are free, don't you know, Sven Inqvist studied the menu, and finally he ordered the same thing he has every day.
Stupid essayist! Be more funny!
Kirkus busts a plagiarist. It turns out Harriet Ziefert's not-forthcoming-anymore A Snake Is Totally Tail is "strikingly similar" to a 1983 book by Judi Barrett called aspiring plagiarists, take note here The Snake Is Totally Tail. Très subtle!
In 11 of the 12 instances in which an animal is mentioned in both books, the language is duplicated word for word, for instance: “A crab is conspicuously claws,” “a duck is quantities of quack” and “a porcupine is piles of prickles.”
Journalists are probably now looking through publisher Blue Apple's backlist with a fine tooth comb, and raising questions about suspicious-looking titles such as Green Eggs and Lamb, The Hat-Wearing Cat and The Magical Boy Wizard Who...Ah, Fuck It, Here's a Photocopy of the Last Harry Potter Book.
January 30, 2006
One county, one book, one white-hot cauldron of moral outrage.
On Monday, Friendswood [Texas] Mayor Kim Brizendine issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 31 Galveston County Reads Day for “all citizens, teens to seniors.”
On Friday, he issued a press release that expressed concern about the content of the book.
Brizendine said he regretted endorsing the novel. He also said the Friendswood library board would be reviewing the placement of the book in the library.
The book in question is the novel that shocked North America and Europe with its sheer, unapologetic perversion and immorality: Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. That's right: The one that your great-aunt's book club read a year and a half ago.
Two Friendswood city council members, John LeCour and Chris Peden, are upset that the book contains the word "fuck," and that a character in the novel questions the existence of a god. Peden's logic is particularly...something:
“A lot of liberal do-gooders say we should take the book in its entirety,” he said. “That’s like saying a man is a great deacon at his church, a great Little League coach, a great provider for his family, but he beats his wife. That is not a good man.
“The firestorm is all the liberal pacifists who are trying to make us out to be book burning, goose-stepping Nazis. That’s not the case at all. There are plenty of books without profanity we could promote.”
OK, wait. I'm confused. The dog beats his wife? Or...the autistic kid? He's married? Do they even have Little League baseball in Britain?
It's stories like this that make me think Texas Gov. Rick Perry's asinine "I'm Proud of Texas, How 'Bout You?" campaign (seriously) is not going to go quite as well as he hopes.
Thanks to Leila for the link.
Tim Adams wonders what the appeal of the "misery memoir" is, and has some kind words for Jonathan Franzen:
[Oprah Winfrey] therefore dispatched Franzen with a film crew to his home town to sit and look mournful where his father's ashes were scattered and to invade the family home that he had vowed not to return to. Franzen went along with it for a while, assuming versions of the emotions that the cameraman expected Oprah - and America - might want, emotions that he had spent eight years trying to craft into the subtleties of his fiction. Eventually he withdrew from the charade, throwing away, it seemed, his bestseller in the process. The collected wrath of the media came down on him for being so 'spoilt' and 'ungrateful' and 'elitist'. Oprah denounced him as 'clearly having issues'.
Looking back, Franzen's story is one of the few occasions in recent years when an advocate of real life, complex and nuanced and difficult, has stood up against 'real life', manufactured and marketed and manipulative. He was, it is clear, fighting a losing battle.
Children from northeast Mississippi suggest plots for the final Harry Potter book. Ninety-seven percent of the entries ended with Harry Potter swooping into the young author's house on a Quidditch broom and taking them the fuck away from northeast Mississippi.
I ran through my whole list of rhetorical devices, from alliteration to zeugma, and could find nothing that quite fit the Moreno Stratagem. Oxymoron came close, but a subterranean level of common sense or humor is discernible in "jumbo shrimp" or "adult male" that is not evident in "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim."
And then I found it. Anesis: a figure of addition that occurs when a concluding sentence, clause or phrase is added to a statement that purposely diminishes the effect of what has been previously stated. A neat example of the device is the 1925 Rodgers and Hart lyric, "We'll have Manhattan … the Bronx and Staten Island too."
Playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who celebrated women confronting feminism, careers, love and motherhood in such works as "The Heidi Chronicles" and "The Sisters Rosensweig," died Monday. She was 55.
If you speak German, you might want to check out this interview with Salman Rushdie. The Literary Saloon, which must not be authored by a product of the American public school system, translates a few of the passages concerning John Updike's weirdly rambling negative review of Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown:
Ich habe die Kritik gelesen und mich sehr geärgert. John Updike sollte nicht über politische Dinge schreiben; er ist besser, wenn es um Sex in den Suburbs geht.
(I read the review and was very annoyed by it. John Updike shouldn't write about political matters; he's better when the subject is sex in the suburbs.)
Oh, burn, rabbit boy! John, you may respond in the European language of your choice.
Jarret Keene interviews Richard Burgin, "a horror writer with a brain."
"Let's shut the door, they're saying, and let's not hear anybody else, and let's not stop being English," Kureishi summarizes indignantly. "The whole debate is about what can be said. Are Muslims allowed to say that they hate gays? Are they allowed to say that they hate the West? Are they allowed to say that you should blow people up in response to what went on in Iraq? What are the limits of what can be said? And that to me, as a writer, is obviously fascinating."
SHOCKING NEWS: Nobody reads poetry anymore! For the love of god, SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!
Nowadays, Waters, who turns 40 this year, is justly celebrated for what she calls "lesbo Victorian romps". They're dark books but not ghost stories, and we discuss the paucity of women working in this genre. "At school, no other girls I knew read them," she says. "I was back home for Christmas, rooting around in my parents' attic, and I found one of my old projects. It was called 'Witchcraft And Torture In The Middle Ages' and I remember being torn between the two topics, so I combined them. There were all these intricate diagrams of horrible shackles and thumbscrews. I did feel different at that age. I knew I wasn't girlie."
(Via Maud Newton.)
Lennie's childhood was fraught with violence and hardship, yet he remains the tenderest soul. "Destroy the box," he chanted. I thought about the prison I had created for myself, the high profile woman of letters. I needed to sublimate my ego, though obviously not to the extent of not writing about myself.
The book list for The Morning News Tournament of Books has been announced.
And how do I feel now that the author of an investigative story in L.A. Weekly believes that Nasdijj is a fraud and actually a white writer named Timothy Barrus? Vindicated? Well, sure. I dream of leaving "I told you so" messages on many voice mails, although unlike James Frey's publisher, who initially supported his lies and moral evasions about his exaggerated memoir, A Million Little Pieces, Nasdijj's publisher dropped him because of personality conflicts even before the L.A. Weekly story came out. Of course, Frey has sold millions of books and will probably sell a few million more. Nasdijj hasn't sold millions of books, and he will probably fade into obscurity.
To date, the City of Literature’s only achievements have been securing the Man Booker Prize ceremony for Edinburgh last August and sending out an e-bulletin from its website. . . .
Novelist AL Kennedy added: “It hasn’t done anything for me. If it was going to do anything, I would much rather it focused on new writers and on language skills.”
He has never called his work autobiography, but memoir, a term whose standard definition (an account based on the writer's knowledge of people, places and things) doesn't explicitly demand rigorous adherence to fact. "His life is in his books," is the phrase his publishers use. And - as he mentions following an exchange I initiate for the first, and I hope the last, time in my life: "Just how many undertakers have you actually had sex with?" "One" - real characters from his past have been duplicated, or merged with others.
See? It's not a crime.
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo might be elected mayor of Milan.
The man known for his scathing attacks on the rich and powerful has run a controversial and colourful campaign, pledging to rid Milan of the "money-grabbing bastards who have run this city for decades". London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, who visited Milan last week, is one of his supporters.
Bernard-Henri Lévy (American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville) takes knocks from John Allemang at The Globe and Mail and Garrison Keillor at The New York Times. Here's Keillor:
In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.
"Maybe this is false bravado," she said. "In some ways for me, this is like having a manageable disease. It's like diabetes. It doesn't mean it's not going to come get me in the end."
Ivins, never married, said she's divided charitable bequests in her will between the American Civil Liberties Union, which she credits with defending the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, and her cherished [Texas] Observer.
Ivins is one of Texas' great writers all her books are worth reading, but definitely check out Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? and Nothin' But Good Times Ahead, both of which should be required reading in all Texas history classes.
January 27, 2006
Displaying the kind of editorial tact they're legendary for, National Review offers this headline for their story on the possible Nasdijj hoax: "Honest Injun?"
Reuters reports on the Upton Sinclair/Sacco and Vanzetti controversy.
Hey, who knew? Bridge to Terabithia is being adapted into a film (again), starring Zooey Deschanel as the teacher. Unfortunately, due to high production costs, the film won't be shot in Terabithia. I hear they're looking at Canada.
Maureen Dowd really Turns Me On sometimes. James Frey has a Bony Little Butt, indeed. Joel Stein is apologetic for the book, a little, because I think Joel Stein would do it if he had the chance. I know a little something about Literary Ambition, and I can see it in Stein's eyes. Did he snort coke off his coworkers' tits at Entertainment Weekly? Oh, I'm not being fair to Joel Stein. If you read this, Joel, I live in L.A. Buy me Lunch.
Poetry is the new Prozac, says The Independent.
One study, published a couple of years ago in the journal Psychological Reports, suggested that writing poetry boosted levels of secretory immunoglobin A. Another, undertaken by a consultant at Bristol Royal Infirmary, concluded that poetry enabled seven per cent of mental health patients to be weaned off their anti-depressants.
The American Library Association announced its Stonewall Book Awards, given to books dealing with LGBT themes and issues. This year's winners: Babyji by Abha Dawesar and The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the ’70s in San Francisco by Joshua Gamson.
The latest target of the self-appointed memoir police appears to be Augusten Burroughs.
Whether your ailment is physical or psychological, there will be a memoir to suit. You're no oil painting? Try Ugly, Constance Briscoe's account of how her mother hated her looks and everything else about her (the author, incidentally, looks rather fetching in her jacket photograph). Behavioural difficulties? Joe by Michael Blastland recounts the pain (and occasional pleasures) of living with an autistic son. Eating disorder? The Invisible Girl is Peter Barham's memoir of his dead anorexic daughter. Disability? White on Black by Ruben Gallego details a Russian man with cerebral palsy. Grim home life? Dragonslippers is Rosalind Penfold's diary of a decade in which she endured physical, mental and sexual abuse as a wife. (Or, failing that, there's also A Secret Madness in which Elaine Bass recalls marriage to a man with compulsive obsessive disorder.) Drugs? Out of Time by James Fountain tells how a lemonade and LSD cocktail sent him into a psychiatric unit. That's just January's crop.
Man. The Smoking Gun really has their work cut out for them.
Some genius at Step Inside Design magazine decided to use pictures of kittens to illustrate an article about women designers. The response was not positive.
“Congratulations on degrading your well-written, well-researched articles with a cover that portrays these hard-working, intelligent, and creative women as a bunch of adorable, cuddly and nonthreatening housepets,” one reader wrote in a letter to the editor.
My parents have not yet had the decency to die. This makes my work difficult and slow. I am writing a memoir.
It may or may not be true that I started the entire Bookslut Reading Series as an excuse to meet Shalom Auslander, but with his new column at Nextbook, he completely justifies the whole thing. (You should have read Beware of God by now. If not, what the hell is wrong with you?)
I was really surprised how well the reading series went last night. I mean, I'm always surprised when I have to host something and I don't catch something on fire and no one dies. (I'm clumsy.) But it wasn't just the everyone-leaving-with-their-lives thing that surprised me, it was that these three women who wrote very different books managed to play off of one another and the night kind of came full circle.
Following the rule that one should always have a Texan start things off, Christine Wicker didn't exactly read from Not in Kansas Anymore but rather riffed on how she got started writing about religion for the Dallas Morning News and how she noticed a growing number of Christians referring to magic in their daily lives, whether through "blessings" or a belief in angels. She also talked about Zora Neale Hurston and William James, finding out there was a "magical community," and how you can tell if someone is a wizard.
Erica Rand's book Ellis Island Snowglobe was unexpectedly funny, and that came across in her reading of "the part everyone who reviewed the book hates." It's not hard to see why someone would be offended, what with her describing the Statue of Liberty as a gorgeous butch, but no one at the reading stormed out. She too described how the idea of the book came up, with a hot date to Ellis Island where she discovered the woman she was dating had rather Puritanical blood. "I never expected to be sleeping with someone who came over on the Mayflower," Rand admitted.
And then it came back to magic with Kathie Klarreich's reading from Madame Dread, her book about her ten years living as a journalist in Haiti. She was dating a vodou drummer at the time, and she casually admitted to having been "mounted" by spirits at least once. She explained how to break into journalism -- be in the right war zone at the right time -- and her decision to stay in Haiti to cover the turmoil instead of running back to California to be with her dog.
Thanks again to everyone who came. The next reading will be Thursday, February 16 at 7:30. The authors will be:
Revelations at Alternet's Radical Publishers Roundtable: Barnes & Noble is not necessarily the devil, and independent media is not necessarily any more receptive to indie publishers than, say, the New York Times.
There would also be a strong correlation between the books that are being reviewed in the New York Times Book Review and what's being reviewed in The Nation. It's not just The Nation; I'm just using it as an example. So it's not as if there's a place where you can go where the radical and progressive books are being reviewed. They're just not being reviewed anywhere. Or they're being reviewed on websites and magazines like Clamor or the International Socialist Review.
Hillary Frey, writing about the Oprah v. Frey showdown yesterday, gets it right:
As the audience clapped when Oprah spit out a real zinger ("It's a lie!"; "I think you presented a false person"), it was hard to avoid thinking that Frey was being put on display not to set the record straight, but for a public flogging. More than once Oprah emphasized that this experience has "embarrassed" her. Her revenge: shaming another person in front of a live studio audience. Who knew that Oprah was an "eye for an eye" kind of lady?
Does anyone give a shit that Oprah got "embarrassed"? That's like hearing that Bill Gates stubbed his toe. Oh, you poor fucking baby. Your life must be so hard.
(Thanks to Leela for the link.)
January 26, 2006
Continuum has just announced their list of the 21 forthcoming books in the 33 1/3 series (see below for my fanboy encomium about the line of books). Included are tributes to Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister, Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights, Nick Drake's Pink Moon, and The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs all essential, beautiful albums you should own. Apparently, they passed on my tribute to Weird Al Yankovic's Dare to Be Stupid. They say it's because the manuscript was only 250 words, 237 of which were "very," but I think it's because they're snobs. Snobs, all of them!
Seriously, though, please read these books.
Lou Reed will be signing copies of Lou Reed's New York at the Gallery at Hermes on February 4. When you're getting your book signed you should ask how he feels about being played by a member of Weezer in the upcoming Factory movie and see if he punches you in the nose. The hospital bills would so be worth the story you'll be able to tell at every party for the rest of your life.
Novelists and screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, expected to get an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, are profiled by the Arizona Daily Star. It'd be nice to see some nominations for Gregg Araki, who adapted Scott Heim's brilliant, brilliant novel Mysterious Skin into a critically acclaimed film (which Araki also directed). Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday.
Everyone in America owes Kathy Glick-Weil a big thank you.
A matter of principle -- and law -- made Newton Free Library's director, Kathy Glick-Weil, insist that FBI agents cool their heels in their pursuit of an alleged terrorist threat.
Glick-Weil said yesterday she had no choice but to prevent the FBI from seizing library computers last week, because they came without a search warrant.
Meet venture capitalist Tom Perkins! Or don't.
For his next big breakthrough, Perkins hopes to rival his ex-wife, best-selling author Danielle Steel, as a romance novelist. His first book, "Sex and the Single Zillionaire," was just published.
From The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, which I pick up when I'm in the mood for something frivolous and light:
A 58-year-old right-handed man complained of being driven to write poetry. For 5 years, he experienced words as "continuously rhyming in his head" and felt the need to write them down and show his writings to others.
(Via Choriamb, who has been posting pictures of haggis this week, thus making me think that vegetarianism might not be such a bad idea after all.)
Brian Michael Bendis is on today's installment of Nerve's Radical Artist list. Bendis wrote Alias, which had my favorite comics main character ever. Then he ruined her in Pulse and gave her shiny, manageable hair and a cleaner vocabulary. Bastard.
Also on the list: Sayid from Lost. Pay attention Lost writers and let the motherfucker say things on the show other than "Fire!" You're pissing me off with the stingy Sayid moments.
Chabon’s own comic, Michael Chabon Presents The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, published by Dark Horse and on which Vaughan was a collaborator, was recently cancelled—though it will be modified and re-launched later this year.
“The audience may never be there, numerically,” says Chabon. “There may never again be a mass audience for comics as there once was, 50, 60 years ago, when comic books that were successful were routinely selling in the millions."
Oh, honey. It's not that the audience is not there. It's that the Escapist comic was horrifically awful.
Those are the things that I admire, this curiosity to confront something dangerously different, and just curiosity period. And then using yourself up, burning yourself out, to the very last of the candle. . . . I want to burn down. But I want to be a good beeswax candle. You know? The very best.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, James Frey is going to be on Oprah. Whatever. For a televised interview that might actually be entertaining, check out Kinky Friedman, author and Texas gubernatorial candidate, on the Jay Leno show tonight. (Bookslut interviewed the Kinkster last month.)
For some reason I felt like it wasn’t serious work. It comes a lot easier than some of the other stuff I’m trying to do. Sometimes I felt like making work for “Girl Stories” was like holding your head over the toilet and going, “Blehhhh! There you go! Comics!”
According to Salon's gossip column, people may soon forget about James Frey and move on to Augusten Burroughs. The Smoking Gun has implied they may start investigating the truth behind Running with Scissors next.
Why do they always use the crazy picture of Gabriel García Márquez? The "I'm going to eat your children with a special sauce made out of rabbit skulls" picture? Anyway, turns out he's not writing anymore. Maybe because he's gone crazy.
The San Diego City Beat has a well-deserved love letter to editor David Barker and Continuum Publishing, whose 33 1/3 series of books about legendary record albums is as addictive as crack (and probably cheaper).
Reading someone else deeply examine why they love a song or album that you, too, adore goes beyond nostalgia and reverence. When done well, the 33 1/3 books take a visceral love for a certain piece of music and make it palpable.
All the ones I've read are great, but I personally recommend Joe Pernice's The Smiths' Meat Is Murder, Neutral Milk Hotel's Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and Colin Meloy's The Replacements' Let It Be. (Cooper is editor and publisher of the awesome magazine Scram, and Pernice and Meloy are both rockers themselves Pernice with the Pernice Brothers, and Meloy with The Decemberists.)
Also in the City Beat: Michael Chabon discusses the state of the comic book revolution. (It's over, and comic books won.)
And more importantly, says Chabon, even when comics are about superheroes, they aren’t any less artistic. “Even though I think I’ve been guilty of it, to a certain extent, I really want to not appear to be endorsing the view that comics are any less an art form when they’re about Superman than when they’re about two guys eating donuts in Oakland. The medium is the medium, and art is art.”
(Both of these links via Largehearted Boy, who deserves a huge hug for posting that Son Volt show in Hartford the other day.)
Columnists for The Mirror discuss the worst books they read last year. Paul Routledge is my new hero:
And now I'm going to cheat a little bit, too, by choosing The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown as my second-worst book. I haven't read it, and won't buy it or read it because it is so obviously tripe. I don't know who buys these airport blockbusters, but they need to go back to school.
Bowing to a parent's complaint, [Absecon, N.J.] school officials have stricken a book from an elementary school's Black History Month reading list because it contains a racial slur.
January 25, 2006
"It's opinionated and full of prejudices that inevitably deteriorate into dime store psychology," she wrote in a letter published by Italian news agencies.
Who'd have thought a movie about a teenage girl having lots of kinky sex would be successful?
On an unrelated note, I think I just figured out a way to get teenage boys interested in literature and foreign film.
Residents of Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar have accused the US military of seizing a popular young poet from a mosque and holding him without charge.
Yet another defeat for "Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools," the pro-censorship Kansas group. The Blue Valley School Board voted to keep three disputed books on class reading lists. Surviving this latest challenge were Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life and Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline. A group of Blue Valley students called Students Speak Out opposed the ban. Have the Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools ever actually won one of these battles? They're like the Washington Generals of censorship.
What do children's fantasy books have in common with college basketball? I am not sure. But I'm pretty sure Bob Knight is Voldemort.
Amarillo accountant Bob Berger told the Panhandle Press Association Monday that he wouldn't be alive today were it not for having read every 'Dummies' book ever published.
Get ready for A Couple of Whiny Bitches v. Frey. If this suit isn't thrown out within fifteen seconds of being filed, I despair for America's legal system.
The latest thump on the controversial best-seller "A Million Little Pieces" is a Seattle federal court lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of consumers for the "lost time" they spent reading the book. . . .
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Seattle Attorney Mike Myers lists as plaintiffs two Seattle residents, Shera Paglinawan and Stuart Oswald, who each received or purchased the book "before news of the book's falsity was disseminated."
You know, I never thought tort reform was a good idea. Until now.
Nerve.com has unveiled the first ten in their list of fifty "radical artists." Authors on that first ten include Damali Ayo (How to Rent a Negro) and sexy Chris Mooney (The Republican War on Science).
Alan J. Green, a former Louisiana judge who knew James Frey at the Hazelden rehab clinic, says the author's depiction of life at the treatment center was "pretty accurate."
Hilary Spurling won the Whitbread Book of the Year award for Matisse the Master, beating out the bookies' favorite, Ali Smith's The Accidental. Spurling describes herself as "gob-smacked" by the victory. I assume that "gob-smacked" is a British word meaning "completely surprised," but maybe Spurling just likes making up words. Which would explain why she described Matisse's Deux fillettes, fond jaune et rouge as "a scroptastic work, bursting with a confluvious spirit and an irrepressible sense of resplondance." What does that even mean? Ali got robbed.
Keep an eye out for one of the coolest projects I've heard about this year: Stories Care Forgot: An Anthology of New Orleans Zines, which will be published by Last Gasp. Edited by Ethan Clark, creator of the zine Chihuahua and Pitbull, the book anthologizes selections from zines such as I Hate This Part of Texas, Rocket Queen and Chainbreaker. Author proceeds will be donated to The New Orleans Community Bike Project and The People's Hurricane Relief Fund. There's a book tour planned for the South and West some of the dates are tentative, but if they make it to your neck of the woods, go. I'm planning to see them at Monkeywrench Books in Austin on March 3, if they're able to make it down here.
January 24, 2006
I should probably read Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash. I do, after all, cause my accountant great emotional pain when I meet with her. "Can't you actually do something that earns you money?" she asks as she totals up my check stubs because I'm too terrified to see the total to do it myself. I expect a longer lecture from her about my trip to Ireland than I got from my father. But anyway, this interview with author Liz Perle should be a good start.
Well, as I said, it's this very schizophrenic feeling about money, where they feel ashamed to ask for it, where they feel that it's a handout in some way -- because someone else has the pay stub. But the fact of the matter is that frequently the person wouldn't have that pay stub without your hard work. And until you can look at that without guilt or embarrassment, you're not gonna be paid for what you do.
Do you ever read a book just because you hate it? You probably started out reading it thinking it would have redeeming qualities, but then you realized it was so offensively awful that your burning hatred actually sustained you through page after page? Even though you were occasionally tempted to claw out your own eyes, you just couldn't stop reading in fear that you were going to miss the ultimate awful horrible moment?
Yeah, I'm kind of going through that right now.
Comics 212 explains why it has been so difficult to track down copies of Alan Moore's masterpiece, From Hell. (And whichever one of you motherfuckers borrowed my copy and never returned it, well, may rabid hamsters feast on your soul.)
"You know I read Lovecraft to all our sons when they were small. Friends and strangers," - he is laughing - "would say, oh my God, what are you doing, don't read them that stuff, you're doing them immense psychological harm! But, ah, they recall it very fondly."
The Independent profiles American-British author Russell Hoban (Riddley Walker). Hoban is best known for his children's books about a badger named Frances (this was my favorite, but they're all pretty goddamn cute). He also wrote Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which Jim Henson adapted into my favorite Christmas special ever. Man, I loved that otter! And the badger, too. Frances, come live with me, you can have as much bread and jam as you would like.
I guess you could say I wasn't a very...tough kid.
The American Library Association announced its children's book awards. Winning the Newbury Medal was Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, while Norton Juster and Chris Raschka won the Caldecott Prize for The Hello, Goodbye Window. At Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor offers her own awards, citing Naomi Shihab Nye's Going, Going for "Best Social Commentary" and Cecil Castellucci's Boy Proof as "Best Coming of Age/Finding Yourself Tale."
January 23, 2006
Jonathan Baskin wonders: Has America forgotten Harold Brodkey?
While Pynchon, Gaddis, and DeLillo were busy chronicling the capacious comedy of culture, Brodkey staged, in relentless, repetitive fragments, the tragic theater of self. To the degree he was successful, he advanced the "program" not just of high modernism but of fiction in general. Perhaps more than any writer since Joyce, he held the torchlight of language to the inner workings of human consciousness.
I just bought Kathryn Davis' The Thin Place on Jessa's recommendation, since she was right about Paradise and Lanark and Here Come the Warm Jets. You can read her review of The Thin Place in the Chicago Sun-Times, but you'll just have to ask her in person about the Eno album.
The Oxford University Press blog has a chilling excerpt from Ray Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.
At the Chronicle of Higher Education, David Glenn explains what happened to the Smithsonian Institution Press, which last year became an imprint of HarperCollins, leaving almost 900 books in publishing limbo.
Also at the Chronicle: Jeffrey R. Young looks at the Open Content Alliance, which is backed by Yahoo! and Microsoft, and is scanning only books that are not protected under copyright.
Peter Anderson, whose blog Pete Lit I enjoy, has a new short story, "Ectoplasm," in Storyglossia. The new issue also has stories by Amy Greene, Toshiya A. Kamei, Staci Leigh O'Brien, D. E. Fredd and Linda Ellis.
10. Crazy Richard’s Chunky Peanut Butter, ca. 2003.
11. Muir Glen tomato sauce, expiration date: June 2004.
12. Tofu steak, ca. 2004. This was brought over by an ex-girlfriend and then never eaten and then never thrown away for sentimental reasons.
Joe Sacco has another report from Iraq in the Guardian this week. (Warning: massive fuck-off PDF file.)
The Beast's "50 Most Loathsome People in America" list includes authors Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Friedman. (Coming in at No. 13: God.)
(Via Backwards City.)
At an American Library Association meeting in San Antonio yesterday, author Andrei Codrescu (New Orleans, Mon Amour) slammed the ALA council for not condemning the imprisonment of librarians in Cuba. Codrescu grew up in Communist Romania.
Later, in the Q&A, Codrescu was asked if "people paid to overthow the Cuban government" deserve the support he professed. He didn't engage the question but said wryly, "I think people should overthrow all governments." Gorman, referencing the "Radical, Militant Librarian" FBI email that ALA has turned into a slogan, quipped that he could see the headline: "Anarchist Addresses Pinko Commie Librarians."
Avi Steinberg writes about teaching poetry in prison.
A book by an obscure American historian has shot into US best-seller lists after the elusive leader of al-Qa'ida endorsed it in an audio message aired last week.
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum had languished below 200,000 on Amazon's top-seller list but stormed to 21 yesterday, with the online retailer struggling to meet demand.
The book is published by Common Courage Press.
Bernard-Henri Lévy, who really does have the best hair of all the rock star intellectuals currently around, is interviewed in Salon. His new book is American Vertigo, but we can also recommend War, Evil, and the End of History, reviewed by John Detrixhe here.
Debbie Taylor heaps some very gentle scorn on "lit lite."
Lit lite is the kind of book beloved of the reading group: sufficiently approachable and gripping to engage everyone, yet still offering something - some stylistic quirk, some moral dilemma, some social issue - for members to discuss when they meet.
Taylor cites Life of Pi, Small Island and On Beauty as examples of "lit lite," and Christine Brooke-Rose's Thru as a "slow read," as in "slow food," which is apparently a good thing. I guess another way of putting this would be, Martel and Levy and Smith are like popular food items that many people enjoy, but if you are someone who likes it when people say "Enjoying that orange? Let me tell you a two hour-long story about the grove it came from, which will somehow end up with me lecturing you against eating farm-raised shrimp," you will probably enjoy the Brooke-Rose book more.
The Turkish government has declined to approve charges against the country's most prominent author, leaving the decision to a local court that could drop the case, a government official said Sunday.
January 20, 2006
Anyone want to be an “expert literary witness”?
And speaking of Colleen Mondor: Publishers want to publish her book, a novel about flying small planes in Alaska but only if she lies and claims it's a memoir.
But when I wrote this book I didn't intend for it to be considered truth, I wasn't looking for truth. I just wanted to tell an honest story and sometimes that contains a true moment, but a true story - no. I can't swear to that and I can't write that.
How did the James Frey debacle happen? That's fucking how. In the meantime, I hope some publisher gets as lucky as Bookslut did, and signs Colleen on. (And look, publishers, I'd hurry if I were you. Colleen's an extremely rare talent; she won't be unsigned for long.)
The great lit mag Barrelhouse is having a pop culture essay contest.
At the Powell's blog, Alexis urges Oprah to start picking children's books for her club.
If only children's literature had an advocate as commanding and steadfast as Oprah. Imagine what it would be like if all of the millions of readers Oprah inspired were children? Children everywhere with their noses in books…wouldn't it be beautiful? And these children would grow up enamored of books, in love with reading. . . .
There are passionate booksellers, librarians, teachers, and, of course, parents, all over the country who have an effect, every day, on the reading habits of individual children. What we need now is a loud, insistent voice that can reach from coast to coast and across classes, to demand that children learn to read, to really read. Are you listening, Oprah?
Alexis suggests the work of John Bellairs, which is awesome I didn't know anybody else remembered that guy. Or how about Michael Chabon's Summerland, one of the most intelligent YA novels of recent times? Or Walter Dean Myers' recent Autobiography of My Dead Brother, which our own Colleen Mondor loved?
David Foster Wallace on recording the audio version of his new book:
"Most poetry is written to ride on the breath, and getting to hear the poet read it is kind of a revelation and makes the poetry more alive. But with certain literary narrative writers like me, we want the writing to sound like a brain voice, like the sound of the voice inside of the head, and the brain voice is faster, is absent any breath, and it holds together grammatically rather than sonically."
If you're writing a sequel to a beloved children's book, the first thing you want to do is make sure the title can't be interpreted in any sexual, obscene way.
The title of the sequel to Peter Pan - JM Barrie's children's literary classic - has been revealed.
The new book, called Peter Pan in Scarlet, will reveal what happened to the boy who never grew up.
And the second thing you want to do...ah, fuck it.
John Freeman interviews EL Doctorow.
Here is a non-book-related public service announcement for all you Austin readers. If you are looking for something to do tonight, you should stop by Beerland at about midnight for the Just Guns CD release party. Their new album, Secrets/Spotlights, is out and you can buy it at Waterloo or End of an Ear, and hear some of it on their MySpace page. They are my favorite local band, and they are also very nice guys who will probably give you a big smile and thank you for coming to their show. The Austin American-Statesman, in their first accurate statement of the decade, calls them "a zippy mixture of country punk and Raspberries-style power pop." Go see them! There will be beer.
You have until Monday to enter Largehearted Boy's Robert Pollard fan fiction contest.
Catholic group Opus Dei has called for the film version of The Da Vinci Code novel to be given an adult rating.
The organisation says children should be protected from what it calls "insidious" lies about Catholicism.
Boyd Tonkin presents the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist. Among the finalists: Imre Kértesz (Fatelessness), Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore), and Dubravka Ugresic (The Ministry of Pain).
I’ve always been frustrated with the fact that people don’t realize how sexy — not necessarily in a sex-filled way, but sexy in a dirty, malicious, craven way — politics is. How come it is that when we see corruption and deceit on Desperate Housewives, that’s entertainment, but we refuse to see the absurdity and the entertainment value when it happens in politics?
I know that lots of people disagree with me, but I think that one idea of 'chick lit' is that it reinforces certain stereotypes or ideas about the world. It's sort of predictable rather than being more complex. . . . I tell people that I don't think my book is 'chick lit,' but that's an assessment for other people to make.
"I have never felt that her sexuality is an issue in her work," said Peter Jay, Duffy's former publisher. "She has largely managed to transcend the issue by virtue of writing good poems as opposed to gender studies."
As a writing teacher, I'm always getting questions from students like, "Can I write about this if it's going to embarrass my stepbrother or my mother or whoever?" And I say, yeah, you have to go there. You're sort of signing up for that embarrassment when you write.
"There is an incredible opportunity to mix the fun and the serious, the shallow and the profound and politics and entertainment," she said. "The common thread is that they have to do with women, whether they're on television or at a podium or I'm exploring the culture of hyper mommyhood and expensive strollers. It's not all feminism politics all the time. It's about how women get along with men and how they get along in the world."
Oh, Rebecca Traister. Is that what you're doing on VH-1 commentator shows? Bringing feminism to the masses by commenting on Brad Pitt's hair color? Keep fighting the good fight.
A British security guard has been sentenced to prison for stealing copies of the new Harry Potter book, trying to blackmail the book's publisher, and firing a starting pistol at a newspaper reporter. The perfect crime! Except for trying to extort Bloomsbury and shooting at the journalist and getting caught. But otherwise: The perfect crime!
January 19, 2006
Newcity Chicago talks to Andy Greenwald, whose new novel Miss Misery I am very much looking forward to reading. He's on a book tour go here for dates and will be in my hometown of Austin on Jan. 30, at BookPeople. Go see him, Austinites! The book looks great. (Via Largehearted Boy.)
When pressed politely, he names Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Thomas Hardy among his favorite classical authors; Julian Barnes ("His latest novel, Arthur & George, is just amazing"), Nick Hornby ("I like him better as an essayist than a novelist"), and George MacDonald Fraser rate high on his list of contemporary writers.
The British writer Christopher Hitchens, one of the most reliable allies of the US administration's conduct of the war on terror, has joined a lawsuit seeking a ban on a domestic spy programme authorised by President George Bush.
Mike O'Brien thought he had it all. A semi-retired Internet millionaire, Mike had a beautiful wife and a relaxing life - until he discovered that his wife was part of possibly the greatest, and oldest, conspiracy in history. Dan Merchant and B. Scott Taylor's satiric, sharp novel tells the story of how stay-at-home wives communicate and collaborate to control the lives of married men. This hilarious romp details the wives' "Point System" (Leaves the toilet seat up: -100 points; Lets his mother-in-law visit for a month: +500 points), includes a quiz to determine if your wife is part of the conspiracy (Does your wife spend more than five hours a week at Starbucks?), and answers burning questions like, if men are the superior sex, why do they lose every argument with their stay-at-home wives?
Yes, seriously. It's a real book.
OH HOLY SHIT, A HUGE TALKING AARDVARK IS COMING TO PITTSBURGH, RUN NOW, SAVE YOURSELVES
Maud Newton misses Mark Twain. Me too.
Yeah, nobody reads. Unless you're a loser.
I bet Oprah misses Franzen.
The publisher and the translator of a new English-language edition of "Night," Elie Wiesel's harrowing account of life in the Nazi death camps, said yesterday that the new edition corrects several small factual errors in the previous translation, including a reference to the author's age when he entered the camps.
Some of Oprah's past picks are being questioned, too: It turns out that the heart is not a lonely hunter, she hasn't come undone, we weren't the Mulvaneys, and Wally Lamb does not know this much is true.
Frey: That night I injected heroin, crack, and horse tranquilizers into my eyeball.
Bystander: Want a Yoo-Hoo?
Oh my god, Drawn & Quarterly is restoring my childhood to me. They will be reprinting the Moomins! Five volumes of it! Hurry hurry hurry, Drawn & Quarterly! Moomins!
When I was in Dublin, I was allowed to hold a signed copy of Finnegans Wake on sale for 16,000 Euro. But only for a second, as I tend to break things. I felt all tingly at the time, but it seems I was holding one of Joyce's lesser books, at least in terms of money. A 1922 first edition of Ulysses will now cost you £100,000. That I doubt they would let me hold.
January 18, 2006
Fourteen years after her death, Angela Carter is making a comeback, reports The Independent.
On Friday, this most theatrical of writers hits the stage of the Lyric, Hammersmith, with an adaptation of Nights at the Circus. In July, Vintage will reissue six of her works with new introductions and in June the South Bank Centre will hold a day of talks on her legacy. 2006 will, it seems, be the year to get Carter. All very nice, but why now?
You'd think JT had somehow faked his literary talent instead of simply masking his true identity. I mean, what difference does it make if JT is a girl or a boy? Why should we care whether he's the victim of abuse or merely a person whose writing about being abused is good enough that we could easily believe it was inspired by true experiences? It's not like he managed to convince one of the world's most respected science journals to print a pack of lies based on faked research. JT writes fiction. He doesn't need to do real-life research to back up his stories. Therefore it's no betrayal when it turns out he didn't.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
Again, there's no denying the truth of Wiesel's experience. But he has his own problems with credibility, which Winfrey might wish to note. Not with the facts of his own life but with broader issues of historical truth and historical memory, which touch upon matters far more substantial than the number of hours James Frey spent behind bars.
For example, Wiesel does not believe that Gypsies and gays should be remembered alongside Jewish victims of the Holocaust, although hundreds of thousands of them perished. He has frowned upon the use of the term "genocide" in reference to the Armenian holocaust.
(Thanks to Carl for the link.)
The invaluable poetry blog Choriamb posts links to a profile of National Book Critics Circle award finalist Richard Siken, and a fascinating interview with the young poet. Bookslut reviewed Siken's book, Crush, last year.
The complete list of finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards:
Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk
Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild by Ellen Meloy
Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Moorehead
Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War by Anthony Shadid
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson by Jonathan Coe
Still Looking: Essays on American Art by John Updike
Unnatural Wonders by Arthur C. Danto
Gather at the River: Notes From the Post-Millennial South by Hal Crowther
The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin by William Logan
What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles by Eliot Weinberger
It's great to see some recognition for Richard Siken, who's a great young poet, and for Eliot Weinberger's book from the great New Directions press. As for memoirs: Joan Didion has a new book? Why didn't anyone tell me?
Hostage American reporter Jill Carroll appeared in a silent 20-second video aired Tuesday by Al-Jazeera television, which said her abductors gave the United States 72 hours to free female prisoners in Iraq or she would be killed.
Don't you just love it when an author gets a great website? The new website for Julian Barnes's Arthur and George has games, a chance to win signed copies of his book, an excerpt, a photo gallery of both Arthur and George, and more.
Flak Magazine asks: In the wake of the James Frey controversy, who came out on top?
Winner: Judge Alito
Even the most liberal of Capitol Hill insiders were perplexed as to why he appeared to be doing so well after several days of providing boring, evasive answers to Senate Judiciary Committee questioning. Here's why: This news about Frey makes Sammy Boy seem credible. No matter what your political allegiances, Alito doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would make up a story about some stripper doing a line of coke off his dick.
Man. If his wife freaked out about the Concerned Whites of Princeton thing, I can only imagine how she'd react to that line of questioning.
January 17, 2006
It looks like it's going to be a pretty good year for new literature, but the book I'm most looking forward to is Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Published by the great Chin Music Press, profiled last year in Bookslut, the book will be in stores next month though Chin Music is taking pre-orders (with free shipping! Yeah!) right now. Profits from the book will go to Rebuilding Together, a great charity helping to preserve low-income neighborhoods in Orleans Parish. It's hard to think of a cause more worthy, and more sorely needed, than this one.
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? features contributions from David Rutledge, Dar Wolnik, Jason Berry, and, most exciting for me, the great Colleen Mondor, author, blogger and invaluable Bookslut contributor. Chin Music has also launched a blog, Voices of New Orleans, and it's a good one. Go support them they're a great indie press doing great things for the people of New Orleans, remembering the victims that President Bush has tried his best to forget.
And since we're on the subject, do yourself a favor and check out New Orleans, Mon Amour, a great collection of essays from Andrei Codrescu, released this month from the great Algonquin Books. It is impossible not to like Codrescu. Literally. Scientists have tested this, and the results are unequivocal. It's also worth noting that the Neighborhood Story Project books are available from Soft Skull, yet another great indie publisher. Bookslut interviewed Abram Shalom Himelstein, coordinator of the project, in 2004.
The Morning News needs your help determining nominees for The 2006 Tournament of Books. Nominate something good, people.
Egypt's Nobel prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz is seeking the endorsement of Sunni Islam's highest authority before re-releasing a novel that was condemned as blasphemous when first serialized nearly half a century ago, friends said.
Since finishing up Kathryn Davis's The Thin Place, I have left half finished books all over my apartment. Everything I started to read paled in comparison, and I started to get itchy, thinking I would never again find a book worth reading. (I go through this every time I read Elizabeth Bowen, too.) Then I picked up Gina Frangello's My Sister's Continent. Holy shit, people. I should have picked it up immediately after reading The Thin Place, because it's like that book's sister. But while Davis's book is all cut glass and beautiful, Frangello's is dark and sticky. Yesterday I realized I was trying to hold my breath through one of the sex scenes (although technically there was no sex in the scene, just an unfortunate use of freshly boiled tea). I just knew when I came across the Kathy Acker fragment "If you can't be it, fuck it," this book would be mine forever.
There is an interview with Frangello at Chiasmus Press, the publisher of My Sister's Continent. And Frangello will be reading (with Kathryn Davis! It's my dream come true!) at the February 16th Bookslut Reading Series. I'm hoping to convince her to read something deliciously dirty as the idea of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy reading this stuff out loud just thrills me.
The idea of a DVD magazine full of odd little films still sounds great. But maybe it's the kind of idea that should be executed by somebody other than the editors of self-consciously weird literary magazines.
I really haven't had enough caffeine to process this interview with Women Who Make the World Worse writer Kate O'Beirne, but I will say this: both of the women in this conversation are wrong. The truth is somewhere in the middle of all of the posturing. (Except for when they agree that this Linda Hirshman American Prospect piece is one of the best articles on feminism written in a long, long time. That bit is true.)
Douglas Coupland is helping design a park in Toronto.
Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson wrote a song, “Cherry Lips,” about the author; [Billy] Corgan wrote a song for [Leroy's band] Thistle; and those who have heralded his written work include [Lou] Reed, Bono and Tom Waits. Representatives for each of these artists declined comment.
In retrospect, we all should've known when we heard Thistle's first single, "I Am Not Really a Dude and Apparently My Name Is Laura."
January 16, 2006
Gary Taylor Googles himself (at some point in the future, people will not giggle when they hear that expression) and discovers that he's been credited for coining the word "Nixonism." (Although he didn't actually invent it.)
It's just that "Gary Taylor" turns up way too many people. Most of them aren't me. Actually, most of them are more interesting than me: the eclectic bohemian male vocalist, the Aussie biologist, the Texas wrestling coach, the Ohio CEO, the midget driver.
When I Google myself (at some point in the future, people will not giggle when they hear that expression), I get an accounting professor at Shasta College and 20,000 German dudes.
(Via Bookninja, who's been unfairly spurned by the OED: "My best neologism is still "douché" -- what you say when conceding defeat to an asshole.")
Tao Lin interviews Dennis DiClaudio, Shya Scanlon and Todd Zuniga. Only Tao could come up with a question like this:
In emails someone was talking about fucking famous people and Todd Zuniga said you could put your own dick in your own ass and then you'd have fucked a famous person, and he was talking to you, Dennis DiClaudio. Please draw a photo using letters and symbols found on your keyboard depicting you fucking your own ass.
Keep an eye out for Tao's award-winning book of poetry, you are a little bit happier than i am, which will be released in the fall. Noah Cicero, whose excellent novel Burning Babies will hopefully be coming out soon, posts his thoughts on Tao on his blog, Get Published or Die Tryin.
Celebrate MLK Day by reading about a bunch of white guys who co-opted African-American culture. (Just kidding, beatniks. Kinda.)
Bookslut is in love with Persephone Books, the UK press and bookstore profiled today in the Ottawa Citizen. Persephone Books likes Bookslut as a friend but isn't ready for that kind of commitment, and isn't really sure that we're the one anyway. Persephone Books will come around when we stand under their window with a stereo blasting "In Your Eyes."
NPR's All Things Considered interviews Paul Auster.
Phoebe Maltz reads over your shoulder. You've been warned.
More fun than the National Book Critics whateverthefuck awards are the Henry Miller awards for best sex scene of the month. Almost $2,000 for one scene! If you publish one book a month, you could live on that. In Oklahoma. (Have you noticed the U-Haul trucks for Oklahoma? They have one design for every state, and for the Oklahoma truck they have a big fuck-off tornado on the side? "Move to Oklahoma, where Mother Nature has a better chance of killing you!" I know Oklahoma doesn't have a lot to recommend it, but wouldn't "We have red dirt!" be a better draw than certain death? Wait. Somewhere I got off track...)
Hot Water by Kathryn Jordan
Another Woman's Lipstick by Elise D'Haene and Stacey Donovan
House of Many Gods by Kiana Davenport
Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love by Dan Rhodes
Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird
The AP profiles Linda Carroll, daughter of author Paula Fox, mother of musician/actor Courtney Love, and author of the new memoir Her Mother's Daughter. The Los Angeles Times also profiles Carroll, and Newsday (negatively) reviews her memoir.
Attention kiddies: when you get caught smuggling tons of marijuana into the United States, don't go using the "I was only doing it to write about drugs. I'm a journalist" excuse. They're not going to buy it.
At that time there were all these unusual defenses going on. Vietnam vets had the post-traumatic stress syndrome defense. They came back from Vietnam such action junkies that the only thing they could find that would fill that need was smuggling pot. The other group on trial up there was the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a bunch of white Rastas from Florida. Their defense was they were bringing it back as sacrament for the church. And this all in front of this same federal judge up in Maine, who was a very good judge actually. Judge Edward T. Ginoux. And that was my defense. I was a writer and I was just doing this to gather material.
Either way, this interview with Richard Stratton about watching football with Norman Mailer, smuggling dates in from Iraq, and why explaining to a judge that "I'm from Texas" will get you out of a lot of things, has convinced me to read the guy's book, Altered States of America.
Jessa Crispin feels the same way about contemporary fiction that I do about restaurants and movie theaters: There are too many goddamn kids.
Most of these books feel like cheap tricks performed for the sake of conning an audience of would-be buyers: "This book is about awkward teens. I was an awkward teen. Gee, this book must be for me!"
This is known as the Jimmy Eat World school of literary marketing. (What? That reference is outdated? Already? I am old.)
The New Yorker reviews Taylor Branch's At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, the third and final book in Branch's biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Baltimore Sun and the LA Times both profile Branch.
Clare Morrall, author of the Booker shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour (hardback on sale at Amazon for $7), is interviewed at the Telegraph about her new book Natural Flights of the Human Mind.
The National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists have been announced. Does anyone care? Three words: No cash prizes.
Jonathan Coe and Doris Kearns Goodwin are among the biography nominees, and John Updike got a nod for criticism. The most important thing to remember about these awards is that many of the blah blah blah no cash prizes nobody cares.
(UPDATE: Just to be clear, I'm joking. I don't care about the prize money associated with book awards, unless some of it is somehow earmarked for me. The NBCC gets some deserving books some much-needed publicity, and like any group with "book" in the name, it's not easy for them to get the kind of funding that, say, Columbia University and the Pulitzer board gets.)
(UPDATE TWO: I wouldn't say no to some of that sweet, sweet book award money, though. Anyone? Columbia? Help me out, dudes.)
A new website called iBookWatch.com lists the top 10,000 bestselling books at Amazon, and it's searchable by author, title, publisher and sales rank. A Million Little Pieces was still No. 1 as of Saturday, with The Burning (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 6) coming in at No. 10,000. (Don't laugh. Someone has to guard Ga'hoole. I don't see you signing up.) For a depressing timekiller, enter the name of your favorite indie publisher and watch the site shrug in confusion. (A search for the great Manic D Press, which in a better world would have 30 books on the list, only brings up Patty Duke's Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness.)
Thanks to Troy for the link.
January 13, 2006
Just for fun, I ran a few of my own titles through the machine. This year's novel, which you will hear much more about soon, is entitled How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous. This, Lulu reckons, has a 10.2% chance of success. My earlier novel, Passionate Affairs, written under the name Anne Moore, had a 41.4% chance in theory, but in practice didn't make it.
This is pretty fun. My forthcoming novel, Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza gets a 20.1% chance of success. Take that, Allen! (Incidentally, I think How and Why Lisa's Dad Got to Be Famous is a pretty great title.)
Those New York Review Books bastards have another irresistible sale. They wait to unveil these on the day I get paid, to ensure I will give them as much money as possible. Goddammit! Why do all their books look so fucking good?
I hate you, NYRB. I hate you so much.
The CBC lists the top ten literary hoaxes.
I never wanted to be settled or happy. I wanted interest instead of happiness. I wanted lots of different experiences. I had a hunger and a thirst and a greed for knowledge. I also never wanted to be happy because then people could take something away from you. I didn't want to be sad; I just didn't want to owe someone anything, ever.
Are you a college student in Chicago with too much time on your hands? Someone obsessive-compulsive about things like comma placement and proper AP style? If you are, Bookslut needs you.
Bookslut recently lost Kate, intern extraordinaire, who was a genius and a snappy dresser, to a "real" job in New York City. It's all been downhill from there for us. But if you're willing to donate a few hours a week in exchange for books, tea, and connections, please e-mail me.
Cox quickly made a name for herself as Wonkette, though her willingness to print salacious and undersourced rumors about Capitol Hill types meant that it wasn't always a name you could quote in this newspaper. Slate.com media critic Jack Shafer once described her as a "heaving puke." The aforementioned Washington Post columnist Richard Leiby called her a "foulmouthed, inaccurate, opinionated little vixen."
Hey, you think 2006 will be the year that embittered, jealous men will finally learn to accept smart women with opinions? No? All right. 2007, then! I can't wait. Anyway, for all you Austinites, Cox will be at BookPeople on Monday, Jan. 16, as part of the Texas Monthly Author Series.
The town of Aracataca, Colombia, might change its name to Aracataca-Macondo, in honor of native son Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude which was set in the fictitious village of Macondo.
A 23-year-old maintenance man from Southeast Washington was arrested last night and charged in the robbery and slaying of New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum, police said.
The Los Angeles Times hired Amy Tan as literary editor of the newspaper's Sunday magazine. Tan is best known as author of The Joy Luck Club, but I'll always think of her as the writer who was mean to Lisa Simpson:
Lisa: Miss Tan, I loved "The Joy Luck Club". It really showed me how the mother-daughter bond can triumph over adversity.
Amy: No, that's not what I meant at all. You couldn't have gotten it more wrong.
Amy: Please just sit down; I'm embarrassed for both of us.
The final part of the strategy to move into the entertainment world is to put books on sale later this year, either through a partnership with an existing publishing house or by printing books itself.
Unless this means I can add hazelnut syrup to my copy of The Kite Runner, or whatever the fuck people are buying by the crate now, I remain unimpressed.
Sister Helen is scathing about politicians and judges who use the Bible to justify executions. "I call it Christianity-lite. It's not real Christianity. Truly it is blasphemy. Jesus Christ is being held hostage by these people: his whole message is being perverted."
January 12, 2006
[Jane] Smiley, who wrote the best seller "A Thousand Acres," is no fan of dust-jacket photos. "My first book-jacket photo -- I was 20, and [the photographer] made me look 45. I look prematurely embittered and mean," she says. "I hate having my picture taken."
A day after deciding to return a banned book to Carroll County high school libraries, the superintendent has also decided to return a second novel, Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth-Grade Basket Case, to high schools, but not middle schools.
The words of the prophets are written on the (Shanghai) subway walls.
I'm a little confused. Why is this story about a woman taking a class about Jonathan Swift going to get nine weeks of copy? I love Swift as much as the next person (except for this lady), but is this a story? Oh, Chicago Tribune. Running original reviews by Chicago freelancers of interesting books still remains beyond your grasp, but a nine week long story about a dead Irish satirist, well, that makes perfect sense.
The world of children's literature is evidently a lot more exciting than I thought:
It's that time of year again, when children's-book lovers get a gambler's gleam in their eyes, weighing the chances for their favorites, and feverishly checking rumors about dark-horse candidates.
I think we've all been there! In 1998, I held up a liquor store just to get the money to bet on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly for the Caldecott Medal. (It lost the medal to Rapunzel, and eventually I had to admit that I had a problem.)
Lucius Cook, a friend of Bookslut and a cool guy, writes in:
What I find amusing about the current shitstorm over Frey is that no one ever noticed that, in the darkest depths of his vomit-flecked, drug-addled, priest-slaying criminal career, he found the time to write a David Schwimmer "vehicle," the all-but-forgotten 1997 romcom Kissing A Fool.
Presumably no one ever got a refund for seeing that.
The new issue of failbetter has interviews with Billy Collins and Mary Gaitskill, and poems by Collins and Sasha Frere-Jones.
When will The Smoking Gun get around to investigating E.T.'s memoir?
My finger won’t glow, my skin is gray, my ass feels like it had a scientific convention inside it, and my bulbous eyes are swollen shut. I open them and I look around and I’m in some kind of Hospital or Lab. I’m covered in a colorful mixture of malt liquor, peanut butter, chocolate, and formaldehyde. There’s a pair of kids standing next to me. Blonde girl. Cute. Lispy. Boy. Brown hair. Whiny. Earnest, but kind of a pussy.
Circle Jerk at the Square Dance also recommends "Tuesdays With Royalties, by Mitch Albom" for fans of "100% true memoirs."
Austin, Tex: I have yet to start the new novel, "Arthur and George" by British writer Julian Barnes. I have read nothing but high praise about it, but was taken aback by Kakutani's scathing review of it in the New York Times earlier this week. Have you read it, and if so, what's your opinion?
Michael Dirda: I have a review in this Sunday's book world. I enjoyed it a great deal, but don't think it a major work or anything like that. I don't read other people's reviews of books I write about, so don't know what Kakutani said. Maybe she doesn't really like to read.
(Thanks to Erin for the link.)
January 11, 2006
Random House will refund readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.
Yeah. That's a precedent you want to set.
Jesus. Has everyone gone crazy?
Will the rush of books about Katrina and New Orleans actually help the city? Not really, reports Karla Starr. (The article mentions Tom Piazza's Why New Orleans Matters, which I'm looking forward to reading, assuming my mom will lend me her copy. Speaking of: Happy birthday, Mom! I promise my constant use of profanity is not your fault.)
Elissa Minor Rust (The Prisoner Pear) considers the plight of short fiction at the Powell's blog (which is addictive). She also recommends checking out Kevin Canty's A Stranger in This World. Take her advice; like everything Canty does, it's excellent.
Do you ever get the feeling that your boss thinks he's better than you? I get that feeling. Every day.
James Frey will appear on Larry King Live tonight. If anyone can get to the bottom of this controversy, it's that senile, insane guy with the suspenders. He won't let us down.
The larger questions of the hoax of JT Leroy and the unmasking of James Frey will probably consume cultural critics for some time. What JT Leroy's creators were selling was not just the books and stories, some of which were fine and moving in their own right. What they were selling was an imprimatur of authenticity based on their supposed author's biography. This is why the tales of the traumatized waif's life got so much attention -- because it was supposedly real. Still, I am not convinced, as some are, that the hoax says something deeply disturbing about the way the reading public values the artist over the art, the biography over the work. Is that a surprise, and does it really matter?
That's the smartest thing anyone's said about the Frey/LeRoy controversies so far. (Via Number One Hit Song, who just got out of jury duty: "The case I was questioned for was rape, sodomy, and first-degree burglary. Just like the title of my favorite Pogues album.")
The Guardian has a handy guide to the life and work of Orhan Pamuk.
How will the James Frey and JT LeRoy controversies affect planned film adaptations of the authors' books?
It's the best news for the San Diego metropolitan area since the Chargers won the AFC West in 2004: Anne Rice is leaving La Jolla.
"She still loves La Jolla very, very much," Adams said. "I think she just wants a simpler, maybe warmer climate. She had been used to the heat of New Orleans for so many years, and she found La Jolla cold."
Too cold? La Jolla? Isn't that like moving away from Death Valley because it's too rainy?
Are the Narnia books only appropriate for children? Is that Irish lion supposed to be Jesus? What Friends alum starred in films with Bruce Willis?
Rather, Hollywood has done something even more depressing: It's revealed the "Chronicles of Narnia" books to be what they actually are: a rather lean slice of delightfully wrought but fairly simpleminded, largely hobbled fantasy for the imagination-deprived single-digit set.
In a profile of Canadian singer Alanis Morissette, The Independent has some bad news for the publishing world.
She's about to sign a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster for a long-planned self-help book. The Little Book Of Alanis (joke - she won't reveal the title) will cover "all the stuff I'm obsessed or passionate about, everything from body image to women's issues; anecdotes, stories, philosophies. I want to write a book that people can reach for when they are having a rough moment and it will give them solace or peace or feel like it's OK. My intent is to share different tools that have worked for me."
Man. If it weren't for Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, I would be so pissed off at you, Canada.
This is the airport book for those who fly intellectual class, a Blink for readers who are too smart to make snap judgments about surgery-obsessives who sleep naked with boys and dangle babies out windows. The On in On Michael Jackson is like the one in Aristotle's On Interpretation: a Welcome mat for the high-minded, the Trespassers Will Be Dumbfounded sign for the mouth-breathing masses.
A Maryland school district superintendent will return Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things to high school library shelves but the book will still be censored in Carroll County middle schools. One high school librarian isn't entirely pleased, though:
While Bonnie Kreamer, a librarian at Winters Mill High, said she was "ecstatic" about Ecker's decision, she is alarmed about another banned book.
"I think people have forgotten that there were two books banned [this school year] from our shelves," she said. "I'm still concerned that there has been no decision on [Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth Grade Basket Case by Dan Elish]."
January 10, 2006
Jim Hanas points out that despite the media uproar over the James Frey and JT LeRoy controversies, many American writers have been "less than honest about their work and themselves."
Whitman’s “Song of Myself” was not actually about himself, but about a blond neighbor boy named Todd.
People use such phrases to avoid using others whose meaning would be problematically over-apparent. "Ethnic cleansing" and "final solution" were ways of avoiding the word "genocide", and to say "extraordinary rendition" is to reveal one's squeamishness about saying "the export of torture".
The new advertising campaign for Audible, which provides downloadable audiobooks and other content, bears the message "Don't Read," which the company and its ad agency consider "a satirical homage to the American Library Association's 'Read' public service announcement posters."
The ALA considers the campaign to be a trademark infringement, and have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Audible (who should be ashamed of themselves).
Jennifer Howard reports from the MLA convention.
Laura Miller on l'affaire Frey:
The Smoking Gun story, however, is most remarkable for its capacity to harm Frey's reputation among two entirely different readerships. The sulky, disaffected young fans who admire Frey for the authenticity of his "in-your-face" macho posturing and "searing" descriptions of bodily fluids will surely be disillusioned to see their bad boy hero characterized by a childhood acquaintance as a "reasonably popular guy in high school" and described by the police as "polite and cooperative at all times."
The other, bigger audience of readers who came to "A Million Little Pieces" via Oprah Winfrey's book club may be willing to wink indulgently at Frey's phony swagger -- boys, as these ladies know full well, will be boys.
(Thanks to Leela for the link.)
"Truthiness" might be word of the year, at least according to the American Dialect Society, but...
Tom Cruise became the first public figure in the contest's 16 years to be noted for his influence on public discourse. The group coined the term "Cruiselex" to describe such expressions as "jump the couch" and "Cruisazy."
Levi Asher considers Art Spiegelman's Rego Park.
Ledger said he was not surprised a Utah cinema had banned Brokeback Mountain, which depicts a lifelong love affair between two Montana cowboys.
"I heard a while ago that West Virginia was going to ban it. But that's a state that was lynching people only 25 years ago, so that's to be expected," Ledger said.
"Personally, I don't think the movie is (controversial) but I think maybe the Mormons in Utah do. I think it's hilarious and very immature of a society."
Guys don't read relationship advice books! This news will throw the whole publishing industry into a tailspin.
Adams seems to have found a cushy niche in this category. Among its popular selections: "The List: 7 Ways to Tell if He's Going to Marry You — in 30 Days or Less!" The publishing company has yet to print a guide for men. And it's not likely.
"We've basically drawn the conclusion that there isn't much of a point to it," Krebs says. "That doesn't mean men don't need books in that category, because I'm sure they do. But...I just don't think it would work."
Oh, but there are relationship books on the shelves for the gents. A cursory search through online booksellers yields the following gem: "Make Every Girl Want You: How to Have Sex With Hot Girls (Without Even Dating Them!)"
The Washington Post remembers Maj. William F. Hecker III, an English professor at West Point and editor of Private Perry And Mister Poe: The West Point Poems, 1831, who was killed in Iraq last week.
Mark Schurmann: Literature isn't just for the upper-class and the college-educated.
I believe that it's society's outcasts who will continue to treasure and reproduce literature. There are thousands of inmates in America's penal system who receive high school and college diplomas through correspondence. There are thousands of homeless who have no access to TV or the Internet, but who can find a discarded copy of "Crime and Punishment" in a trash can.
We are heading for the private grounds of the Peddie School, where Watkins teaches First and Second World War history, and as the snow-streaked fields, monster shopping malls and deliberately-aged lecturers' homes buzz by, he laughs: "I hope you're not too traumatised by New Jersey. It can have that effect on people. It certainly did on me when I first arrived."
January 09, 2006
Sen. Ted Kennedy is writing a children's book. The guy's bloated...with ideas!
Didn't like that? How about: Ted Kennedy is thristy...for quality children's literature! Or maybe: Ted Kennedy has a problem...with alcohol! Wait. That last one didn't really work. Let me think about this and get back to you guys.
I've been reluctant to sign on to this "50 Books Challenge" thing, mostly because I don't want people to find out that I don't actually read books so much as watch sitcoms about fat boorish guys who are married to hot women. (I also like the one with Charlie Sheen and Ducky. Pure hilarity!)
But I started off this year by reading Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever, and I can't pass up the chance to recommend it. It's a nearly perfect collection of short stories and a novella, all dealing in some way with the world of science and nature. "The Behavior of the Hawkweeds" is a stunning, and stunningly sad, tale of betrayal and redemption, centering on 19th-century monk and scientist Gregor Mendel, as well as a 20th-century genetics professor and his increasingly disillusioned wife. In "The Littoral Zone," Barrett examines the causes and effects of infidelity, and the title novella is a beautiful and devastating look at the typhus epidemic among Irish immigrants to Canada in 1847.
Check it out, particularly if you have any interest in the natural sciences. (You don't need to be an expert to enjoy the book, though; take it from someone who failed college biology. Twice.) And thanks to Bookslut contributor Colleen Mondor, who recommended Barrett's work. I'm just going to start reading whatever Colleen tells me to, before everyone in the world realizes how fucking smart she is, and everything she recommends becomes insanely popular.
You know, it's true: Mr. Pibb plus Red Vines really does equal crazy delicious.
While you're waiting for Little Nemo in Slumberland to go into its second printing, you could temper your anxiety with Winsor McCay's Daydreams & Nightmares, published by Fantagraphics. The Boston Globe profiles the increasing interest in McCay's work.
As we unlocked the convent's garden door, we were ambushed on all sides by armed men. Altatriste bade me flee while his sword ran red with rivers of blood. I hurried past the dying Don Vicente straight on to the blade of Altatriste's greatest enemy, Gualterio Malatesta.
As events become more torrid
So the rhyme becomes more florid
In order to find another five million people who have not already read the Da Vinci Code, they're going to have to start passing the damn things out to newborn babies along with the free formula samples.
I run a very tight ship over here at Bookslut Headquarters. One thing I do not allow is dissent. Michael Schaub and I were both hired to write reviews of Ali Smith's The Accidental, and his was published first at the San Francisco Gate. The problem is Mike did not clear his opinion with me before publication. We cannot have one review from a Bookslut team member ("employee" just sounds so crass) that is positive and one from the boss that is lukewarm! People will be confused! "But I thought Bookslut loved The Accidental," they will say. People's sense of reality will come crashing down around them.
So I'm sorry, Mike, but after my review runs in the Chicago Reader, I'm just going to have to let you go. Now go clean out your locker.
Since I've already been fired by Jessa (see this post) for my positive review of Ali Smith's The Accidental, I might as well link to these stories about the Scottish novelist: two in The Herald, and one in The Times. At any rate, I have to go clean out my locker, which is inconveniently located a thousand miles away in Chicago. Look for my tell-all memoir about my former boss, What's The Matter With Jessa?, later this year. (Among the exciting revelations: She was never addicted to crack, and is actually a dude.)
This interview with Whitbread First Novel award winner Tash Aw (The Harmony Silk Factory) is mostly notable for this magical headline:
Man. It must suck to have such an easily punnable name. I bet this never happens to Rattawut Lapcharoensap.
I killed all those children while addicted to crack, and weed, and heroin. That was very hard to do because I couldn't see very well due to the massive quantities of blood that were streaming from the always-open wound in my forehead, which was given to me by my childhood rabbi after he sodomized me at a strip club that we owned together. Also, I'm a transgendered prostitute who writes poetry, my mother was a whore, and my father was a sailor from Athens who was murdered by the original members of the Black Gangster Disciples after he tried to steal a shipment of amphetamines from them. I'm on the top ten wanted list in 37 states, and in the top five in the other 13. I've never met a woman who didn't want to fuck me.
Neal Pollack confesses: He is James Frey who is J.T. LeRoy.
The Sydney Morning Herald considers "second novel syndrome."
Peter Carey still fears it after two Booker Prizes and 20 years. Harper Lee feared it so badly she gave up. Zadie Smith had it, but crashed through. In March the world will discover whether DBC Pierre, the 2003 Booker winner with Vernon God Little, is suffering from it.
Poor DBC Pierre. All that pressure after writing a terrible book that everyone hated. Can his sophomore effort manage to be as globally reviled and forgettable? Stay tuned!
Warren St. John on JT Leroy:
Along the way Mr. Leroy gained the friendship and trust of celebrities and noted writers, who supported his career financially and offered him emotional support when he declared that he was infected with H.I.V. . . .
But the young man in the wig and sunglasses, it turns out, is not a man at all. The public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop's half sister, who is in her mid-20's. . . .
The unmasking of Ms. Knoop adds to a mounting circumstantial case that Laura Albert is the person who writes as JT Leroy. Pressure to admit the ruse has been building on Ms. Albert since October, when New York magazine published an article that advanced a theory that she was the author of JT Leroy's books.
Brown University's library boasts an unusual anatomy book. Tanned and polished to a smooth golden brown, its cover looks and feels no different from any other fine leather.
But here's its secret: the book is bound in human skin.
January 06, 2006
Trevor Corson, author of The Secret Life of Lobsters, thinks lobsters are a bunch of assholes and should be killed. Not even particularly for eating, you can kill them for sport, too. (I'm paraphrasing.) When David Foster Wallace first published his unbearably silly* lobster essay in Gourmet magazine, Corson had a bit of a one-sided feud with the man. That essay has been collected into Wallace's new book Consider the Lobster, and in honor of that occasion, Corson offers "How to Kill a Lobster (With Pictures!)."
* It wasn't unbearably silly because of the whole consider-where-your-food-comes-from bit. I'm all for that. It was silly that a man writing about the ethics of food is just now getting around to thinking about this in the middle of the essay. And instead of, say, researching the topic, he just rambles on and on about his theories. And taking a stand on lobsters while factory farming continues unabated? Way to pick something that actually matters.
Bookslut's own SpecFic Floozy Adrienne Martini remembers Andre Norton at the Baltimore City Paper.
The clearest sign that the life of genre writer Andre Norton hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves is the fact that many of the millions of people who have read her books probably assume that she was a he.
Boyd Tonkin explains why Whitbread no longer wants to sponsor the book awards that bear (or used to bear) their name:
As for the health clubs-to-chain restaurants giant, it seems that a well-managed and universally admired package of book prizes no longer fits the profile of the group that now boasts of its "strategic investment in Pizza Hut". Beneath the thin crust of artistic altruism there lurks the deep, deep pan of corporate strategy.
The Book Standard lists the 200 bestselling books of 2005. The book with the funny pictures of the cats is on there, as is the one about how French women are slender. Also: Rachael Ray, somehow.
Also at the Book Standard: Stephen King calls Kate Atkinson's Case Histories "not just the best novel I read this year, but the best mystery of the decade" but then, unfortunately for the talented Atkinson, admits to enjoying the Black Eyed Peas. (Seriously, I don't want to hear it. "My Humps" negates anything good they might have done. Even if they all saved a bunch of orphans and kittens from drowning. It's like a girl telling you she thinks you're attractive, and then saying she also finds Henry Kissinger really hot.)
Where was I? Oh yeah. Stephen King. He does give props to the brilliant Austin band Spoon (Buy Gimme Fiction! Now!), so that's something. (But Stephen, if you really want to hear a Texas band that will blow you away, check out Okkervil River's latest LP, Black Sheep Boy. That goes for everyone else, too. It's amazing.)
January 05, 2006
"It gives me insight into my work," Bohjalian says. "It's as if you had a group of really passionate English majors deconstructing your text for you."
Wow. Listening to English majors deconstruct things? That is pretty much exactly my worst nightmare.
Paul de Zardain tries to track down Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul.
- O'Keeffe Has the Luck of the Irish
- O'Keeffe Hoping for a Pot of Gold at the End of this Rainbow
- The Story Prize Kisses O'Keeffe, Him Being Irish and All
- O'Keeffe is a Drunken Member of the IRA, Also a Writer
You might want to write those down, just in case you have to write another story about him.
Canadian poet Irving Layton has died at 93.
"Who knew only men could foretell the future?" Those pesky little "what's going to happen in 2006" lists? Yeah, they're all written by men. Rachel Sklar asked a few women to have some vision quests of their own and make some predictions. Lynn Harris (author of Miss Media, the only book on iUniverse worth reading, ever) obviously can see into the future:
* CNN's new format: "Anderson Cooper 24/7."
* Also at the Times: the Styles section goes daily, replacing Science, Metro, and National.
* Going out on limb here: A.J. Jacobs tries something, writes book.
Sony introduces the newest e-book that nobody's going to buy.
John Warner can see into the future.
2005 story: Philip Roth is a genius
Trend direction: rising
Probable excerpt from 2006 story: Philip Roth not only released his brilliant new novel (Everyman) this year, but he has achieved the ability of telekinesis as well. “It’s true,” Roth reported. I can move things with my mind, even heavy objects, like the Library of America volumes of my collected works.” Roth, however, remains as modest as ever about his abilities as the foremost chronicler of the American psyche. “Sure, I’m proud of the book, but it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to bend iron bars into the shape of a question mark.”
January 04, 2006
The Book Standard reports that authors are discovering MySpace. That's understandable it's the perfect place to let people know which bands you think are "kewl" and which jokes cause you to roll on the floor, laughing your ass off. I don't know what America did without it. (Via the unusually hot Largehearted Boy.)
(I have a MySpace page, but I'm getting close to 30, and it's starting to make me feel like the creepy old guy hanging around the X-Box section at Media Play, going up to teenagers and saying "So, you like games, huh?")
What are your New Year's Reading Resolutions?
It's 2006, and Bookslut has a brand new look! At least I think it does. Due to a freak New Year's Day accident involving a bottle of champagne and a Styx CD, I have become temporarily colorblind. Everything looks kind of bluish-green to me, and I can't get "Come Sail Away" out of my head. I guess it's possible that the site still looks the same, but do me a favor and pretend it doesn't. (I could just ask the webmaster, but he was at the same party, and can now only speak in Serbo-Croatian. It was a weird party.)
Regardless, the 44th issue of Bookslut is a great way to start off your new year. We have interviews with former Poetry editor Joseph Parisi and author David Ebenbach. Colleen Mondor walks around Seattle with Alaskan writer Seth Kantner, and also considers comic books and thunder lizards. Barbara J. King explains the connection between King Kong and Heart of Darkness, and Melissa Fischer judges brainy books by their covers.
Our columnists return this month in a very sexy manner (just like their editor). Liz Miller, our Hollywood Madam, goes to see Brokeback Mountain and finds that size doesn't matter. Bookslut in Training columnist Colleen Mondor checks out SF for kiddies. Magazine Whore Melissa Fischer immerses herself in teen women's magazines, but probably doesn't get weird looks from the guy at the 7-Eleven like I do (like I'm the only guy in the world looking for Jonathan Taylor Thomas pictures. I mean come on). And our reviewers boldly, and sexily, take on the latest books from Alison Lurie, John Gregory Dunne, Fanny Howe, Kaylie Jones, Donna Seaman, Christopher Grimes, Guy Delisle, and more.
(All you Chicagoland readers, take note: The Bookslut Reading Series returns later this month January 26 at the Hopleaf. And all you Austin readers, take note: We're not having a reading series here, but if you go to Barfly's, you can get really strong drinks for like three bucks. And the jukebox is great. It totally has "Hot for Teacher" and "911 Is a Joke.")
So there you have it. Have a great New Year, unless you're Chinese, in which case you should wait until January 29 and then have a great New Year. Thanks for reading Bookslut. And stay sexy.
The Golden Dagger awards are now the Duncan Lawrie Dagger awards, and books not written in English are no longer eligible to win the UK's oldest book award. Paul Blezard, one of the judges for the awards, is pissed:
“There is a crime novel to be written set in the [Crime Writers’ Association],” he said. “There seem to be a number of cobwebby rooms with strange things going on. I think it is appalling. Last year there seemed to be a preponderance of Scandinavians. Perhaps they think that British authors need help.”
Oh, this should be fun.
An Italian judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove that Jesus Christ existed.
Expected to play a part in the trial is Christ's little-known 1989 appearance on The Morton Downey Jr. Show, which I'm sure he (Jesus, not Downey) later regretted.
Best Novel: The Accidental by Ali Smith
First Novel: Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
Biography: Matisse the Master by Hilary Spurling
Poetry: Cold Calls by Christopher Logue
Children's Book: The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
Batman: Suck it! (Sings “Batman” theme and is slowly winded by his singing.)
Joker: Kill them! (Clowns attack Batman and shoot him in the spine.)
Batman: My spine!
January 03, 2006
Anyone who knows me or who has read my book will not be surprised to learn that I've spent much of today watching college football bowl games. If you're not in that relatively small demographic, you might rightly ask, "Why should I care?" Permit me to humbly suggest the answer could change your life — even if you hate football, and every other sport, for that matter. It's also as good a way as any to introduce myself, since the question "Why do I care?" has propelled my entire literary career.
Larry David is afraid Brokeback Mountain will make him gay.
If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half- to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time?
I'm a very susceptible person, easily influenced, a natural-born follower with no sales-resistance. When I walk into a store, clerks wrestle one another trying to get to me first. My wife won't let me watch infomercials because of all the junk I've ordered that's now piled up in the garage.
Also, straight men are a bunch of fucking pussies.
David Mehegan previews the books of 2006, including new ones from Philip Roth, Paul Auster, Jay McInerney, AM Homes and Carlos Fuentes.
So you had a couple of women who were grudgingly permitted to enter the canon, but for the most part even what they dealt with was, the scope of it was always a little suspect, as if the lives of two girls growing up would not be as interesting as the lives of two boys growing up.
The above is from an interview I did with Kathryn Davis about a year ago. You can now read an excerpt from her absolutely amazing new novel The Thin Place -- a book with three 12-year-old girls as the main characters -- online.
The English like queues, losing at sport and nostalgia. All classic Jungian signs of anger. Indeed, left to themselves, the English are destined to be remembered as little more than a cul-de-sac in history. Much like this book.
Had some bad sex lately? You're not alone. In fact, the latest sex anthologies are full of it.
While Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ this season, Russians are more preoccupied with Satan.
Yes, those godless communists continued their holiday tradition of the ritual slaughter and consumption of freedom loving American babies...
From taxi drivers to doctors, millions of Russians have been glued to TV screens for two weeks watching the country's first adaptation of "The Master and Margarita" -- Mikhail Bulgakov's cult novel exploring whether the world is ruled by good or evil.
I was disturbed by the changing of the character's name from Pussy to Kitty in the book to film adaptation of Breakfast on Pluto. I know some people are afraid of the word pussy -- although really I advocate throwing it into every sentence you can. But did the people who would be offended by such a thing really think, well, a movie about a gay transvestite who becomes a prostitute and solicits Bryan Ferry is one thing, but a gay transvestite who becomes a prostitute and solicits Bryan Ferry named Pussy is quite another! Besides, Ireland has a rich history of transvestites named Pussy. (I'm going to keep quiet on where I come by my Irish transvestite information.) All is forgiven, however, for the casting of super dreamy Gavin Friday. Sony Classics has more information on the book, just in case you missed it when it was released a few years ago.
January 02, 2006
I don't care that it's only January 2, this might well be the funniest book-related story of the year.
A mother in Dallas is one of several parents complaining about a new interactive book for toddlers in which Sesame Street character Elmo asks "Who wants to die?" according to a Local 6 News report.
The thing is, "Who wants to die?" tested better in focus groups than "Who wants to have a rainbow party?" and "If you really loved me, you'd let me try anal." I mean, let's try to have a little perspective about this, huh?
Film journalist Brian Pendreigh said: "It is a complicated novel that reminds me of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now . . .
"There are two main roles one is Samarin, the Russian soldier, I presume that is the role that Johnny Depp would play. The other is Matula which could be played by Russell Crowe or perhaps Christopher Walken. The female character Anna Petrovna would be ideal for Keira Knightley."
Knightley has already been signed to play Jessa Crispin, one of last year's sexiest geeks, in the film adaptation of this blog. Jessa tells me that my part hasn't been cast yet, but apparently they're looking at Eddie Deezen. I need a new editor.
Tomorrow I am going to start my detox. This, though, won't involve giving up booze, steaming vegetables or running round the park crossly at dawn, but something altogether more difficult. I have pledged instead to refine my reading habits, turning myself from a greedy omnivore who snuffles around dustbins looking for left-overs when she's not even hungry, into an aesthetic and disciplined reader who snacks only on the best quality, high-fibre fare. Over the next 12 months I am resolved to effect a personal transformation from a dumpling of a print consumer who crams herself with anything she can get her hands on, into a discerning connoisseur with sharp literary cheekbones and not a spare ounce of fat. Ladies and Gentleman, I am, finally, going to learn to say "no".
Will you be rejoining the 50 Books Challenge in 2006?
While waiting for Breakfast on Pluto to start, the great Neil Jordan movie based on the Patrick McCabe book, I flipped through my day planner and went over the list of books I read in 2005. Some of my random thoughts:
- For an atheist, I sure did read a lot of spiritual memoirs.
- For the first year ever, I think, the ratio of male authors to female authors was just about even.
- I still feel bad about giving up on The Brothers Karamazov.
- I do not feel bad about giving up on Europe Central, National Book Award or no.
- I read more (or at least finished more) short story collections this year than any year before. I have managed to read Beware of God perhaps half a dozen times since its publication, just from the joy of calling up friends and reading them "Holocaust Tips for Kids."
- Thinking I could not geek out in front of an author more than when I met Neil Gaiman, I then met Henry Rollins at BEA.
- The ratio of good books to bad books read was way up this year.
And is it too early to say I think I've discovered the best book of 2006? I know we're only two days in, but Kathryn Davis's The Thin Place just might keep the top spot for the rest of the year.