March 31, 2006
I mentioned how much I'm enjoying Frank Portman's King Dork yesterday on the blog it's one of the funniest, most touching novels I've read in a while. I'm not the only one who thinks so at Chasing Ray, Bookslut's Colleen Mondor says the book "just might be the kind of life changing reading experience that discontented teenagers all over America have been waiting for." And Leila Roy from Bookshelves of Doom says: "This book is a future cult classic. Not might be. IS."
We are accustomed to repeating the cliche, and to believing, that “our most precious resource is our children.” But we have plenty of children to go around, God knows, and as with Doritos, we can always make more. The true scarcity we face is of practicing adults, of people who know how marginal, how fragile, how finite their lives and their stories and their ambitions really are, but who find value in this knowledge, and even a sense of strange comfort, because they know their condition is universal, is shared. You bring your little story to the workshop, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t; and then you’re gone, and it’s time for somebody else to have the floor.
It seems unfair to pit husband against wife for a literary award, even if the prize is a chicken. Of course, that wasn’t my first thought when I heard which two books I would be judging. My first thought was, “Oh good. I’m going to have to gouge out my eyes after this.”
It’s not so much which book I liked more as which book I hated less.
March 30, 2006
How did I get through middle and high school without King Dork? I'm reading Frank Portman's debut YA novel right now (OK, not right now), and as much as I'm enjoying it, I'm a little sad it wasn't around when I was a dorky, awkward, depressed teenager. But even though I'm now a dorky, awkward, depressed adult, I'm still blown away by this book, which has the kind of compassion, intelligence and humor that's all too rare in YA fiction any kind of fiction. We'll be covering King Dork more in the coming weeks, but for now, check out this profile of Portman (you might know him better as Dr. Frank of legendary punk band The Mr. T Experience) in The East Bay Express:
Portman, in other words, can riff on the philosophical implications of the cult surrounding The Catcher in the Rye without getting all wonky and pretentious. His characters act like actual teenagers, down to their most entertaining activity: inventing fake bands, song titles, album covers, and live-show concepts, painstakingly documented in spiral notebooks. King Dork and his best friend spend much of the book crafting the trajectories of imaginary outfits like Beat Noir-ay, Baby Batter, Plasma Nukes, and Tennis with Guitars.
I haven't read a book this fun in a long time. God, I want to be Frank Portman.
But ultimately, Saturday kicks Garner’s ass for three non-gender-based reasons: 1) I wasn’t bored out of my skull, 2) I didn’t want to punch any/all of the main characters in the mouth, and 3) It manages to be both escapist and necessary, both personally familiar and yet completely foreign, both deeply emotional and yet almost surgically clean, and by the end of Henry Perowne’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I already wanted to go back and live through it again.
So eight contenders remain: The History of Love, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Never Let Me Go, Home Land, No Country for Old Men, The Accidental, Beasts of No Nation and Saturday. Whoooooo come on The Accidental! Make me proud. (You've read it, right? Read it.)
Print novels are not threatened by web-based fictions. They are threatened by their own economics. In this age of light and the ubiquity of digital communications, they are cumbersome, wasteful, expensive to transport and market, largely unavailable throughout the world. I drew my students toward the digital world to protect them from print’s uneasy future, not to fight against the book, which I love (it is my own art form, after all). But literary hypermedia will not kill off print literature any more than photography killed off painting. Blogs invite sloppy writing. But many quality writers are turning to it as a new art form, and as the great ones float to the top, they will receive the same respect as that given quality print works.
The New York Press lists "the 50 most loathsome New Yorkers," including James Frey, Jonathan Safran Foer and Judith Miller.
So when George W. was seeking a consensus for a war he so desperately needed, this presumably sober and judicious senior writer for a presumably liberal newspaper began beating the war drums so loud they could be heard in Baghdad. Miller became an administration lapdog, echoing the now-debunked WMDs. Thousands have died, and one day (probably soon) this country will slink out a la Vietnam with its tail between its legs. Meanwhile, Judy Miller keeps protesting her innocence as being complicit in mass murder. The Times has declared her toxic—a small penalty compared to those shot, burned, widowed and made homeless by her Bush brown-nosing.
American reporter Jill Carroll was set free Thursday, nearly three months after she was kidnapped in an ambush that killed her translator, and said she had been treated well.
March 29, 2006
The FBI spied on anti-war protesters who gathered at Denver's now-defunct Breakdown Books in 2003. Feel safer yet?
The Scotsman reports on BBC America's British-American Dictionary, which provides US fans of UK television shows with translations for Briticisms like "div," "scrumpy" and "bog standard." The dictionary has been popular among fans of transatlantic hits like The Office and Footballers' Wive$. (Seriously, it's spelled with a dollar sign. Which confuses me. Isn't this show British? Wouldn't it make more sense to call it Footba££ers' Wives? Or Football€rs' Wiv€s if they decide to go with the whole euro thing? I don't get it.)
SFBG: What do you find exciting in African American humor and literature right now?
PB: Me and my sister went to a stand-up club not too far from my house, and it was a bunch of guys who are always on these Def Jam shows, and they all told the exact same jokes. And that was a little depressing. It was all this very homophobic, "my gay cousin" stuff, and then everyone had a retarded cousin. That wasn't too encouraging, and it wasn't very funny.
I don't read much contemporary writing, but I think Colson Whitehead and Percival Everett are excellent writers — and obviously Dave Chappelle is funny.
The New York Observer reviews Ned Vizzini's new novel, It's Kind of a Funny Story. I loved Ned's Be More Chill, and his review of Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies appeared in last month's issue of Bookslut.
Want to know about Shalom Auslander's sex fantasies? Of course you do. You can read all about them in an essay at Nerve.
Ten plus years into our marriage, I am proud to say, O. and I continue to have a wonderful, varied sex life, the result of hard work, open communication and above all, honesty — not just with one another, but honesty with ourselves, in here (I'm pointing to my head), and in here (now I'm pointing to my heart).
(If you're in Chicago, you won't want to miss his appearance on Monday.)
So I hadn't heard of Harry and the Potters before yesterday, but tons of you have and you love them. The Boston-based band has songs with titles like "Save Ginny Weasley," "Cornelius Fudge is an Ass," and my personal favorite, "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock!" You can check out some of their songs on the band's MySpace page, and listen to some live sets here. MTV profiled the band a while back:
"There are many purposes of the band," older brother Paul, the other Potter, said. "One is to encourage reading, definitely. We play a lot of libraries and bookstores and things like that. The other is to kind of open kids up to some new musical ideas through somebody they're already familiar with, [like] Harry. We took these qualities we saw in Harry — he's got a problem with authority, he has a do-it-yourself mentality ... we took all these qualities that we think define a good punk rocker that Harry shares, and we exploit them and play off them in our shows and in our music. If Harry did have a band, this is what they would sound like — or at least, we think so."
Rock. Thanks to Delia, David, Melanie and Matthew for the links.
VS Naipaul talks shit about Dickens, Hardy, Joyce and every writer not named "VS Naipaul." (He likes Twain, though.)
Jonathan Freedland explains why some writers use pen names.
Ian Rankin found himself in a similar spot in the early 1990s, when he was bursting with ideas, but with a publisher wary of putting out more than one book a year. Along came Jack Harvey - named for Jack, Rankin's first son, and Harvey, his wife's maiden name. The marketing folk were pleased, reckoning that a name beginning with H could only be good, since it planted the book in the middle of the shelf, where the shopper's eye would easily find it. Rankin himself confesses to a more mischievous thought: "Maybe fans of Jack Higgins would be tricked into buying my titles instead of his."
So Round 1 continues at The Morning News Tournament of Books today, with Zadie Smith's On Beauty taking on Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation. I'd say that Smith is kind of like the UConn to Iweala's George Mason, but that (a) is absurdly reductionist, and (b) telegraphs the outcome. So hopefully you guys don't watch a lot of college basketball. Author and scientist Karl Iagnemma (On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction) judges this round, and Tournament commissioner Kevin Guilfoile (Cast of Shadows) submits color commentary on "the first hair-dryer-in-the-tub shocker of the tournament."
A chisel-jawed man with flowing chestnut-brown locks, rippling muscles and a penchant for "endless parties" stares from the cover of the latest comic book. This is not Superman or one of the traditional superheroes, but St Francis of Assisi, the pious 13th century monk who became the Roman Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment. This is sainthood: comic book style.
Stanislaw Lem, one of my favorite writers, is remembered at the Guardian, the Washington Post, New York Times, the BBC, etc. But really, I would recommend taking a look around his website instead and read some interviews with the man. (If you're looking for a Lem book to start with, I'd avoid Solaris, as the American edition was not directly translated. Instead it went from Polish to French to English. Even Lem asked that English readers avoid it until a proper translation is done. I'd maybe start with an Ijon Tichy novel, or perhaps just start at the beginning.)
March 28, 2006
Anyone in Iowa City care to explain this one?
The North Liberty Community Library will close at 6 p.m. Thursday because of the Harry and the Potters concert.
The concert is free and open to the public. Harry and the Potters is a band made up of two brothers who dress like Harry Potter and play indie rock/punk songs about the book series.
The Combination is all about how unforgettable and important a place like the Sixth Ward can be for the people who lived there. If you’re wondering why they stayed, why so many people are fighting so hard to go back, then all the answers are in this book. It is because the Sixth Ward is home and even though it isn’t perfect, the people who live there are working on it. They love their neighborhood and they want to keep working on saving it.
Among the losers is a holiday card that announces on its face, "Christmas just wouldn't be the same without peanut brittle." Then, inside: "Or Jesus."
And the drawing of a couple cuddling on a living room couch with a friendly bearded man, wearing a robe, sandals and a turban. The woman blurts: "Honey, this Afghan your mom gave us is really warm!"
Then there's a questionable get-well card with a big happy face on the front. On the inside, it reads, "Hi! Welcome back from your coma!"
Stephen Wright's The Amalgamation Polka is reviewed at The Christian Science Monitor. I haven't read this yet, though it was kind of staring at me last night, taunting me, until my dog put his head on it and went to sleep. But you should seriously, seriously check out Wright's Going Native, one of my favorite contemporary novels and the last time I mentioned Wright, I got tons of emails recommending his M31 and Meditations in Green, too. I want to be this dude when I grow up.
Musician, writer and publisher Henry Rollins wants to be a "low-budget Mark Twain."
Michael Powell, the owner of legendary indie bookstore Powell's Books in Portland, will transfer control of the business to his daughter, Emily Powell. The Oregonian says that the handover will take a few years to be completed, and notes that union leaders "had nothing but good things to say about the transition to a family member." Powell's employees are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union the union and Powell's management have had a sometimes contentious relationship in the past few years. Emily Powell, 27, has worked as a pastry chef and as a "real estate market analyst," which sounds complicated.
I confess: I like to shop. A lot.
It's not just that I like to look good -- though who doesn't. It's that I enjoy the process: the browsing and bargaining, whether at a boutique or a fruit stand. I savor the socializing and the feeling of discovery that comes from talking to sales clerks (even the bitchy ones), scouting out discounts, scoping out the bags of fellow shoppers. Like speaking French or doing shots, shopping is a skill -- one that I have honed with dedication.
I hate shopping. I hate talking to sales clerks, I hate trying shit on, and I usually have to have one drink for each hour shopping just to make it through. This makes me wonder about my femininity. (Also the fact that I just gave the drooling, squirming, babbling baby on my lap a Sharpie to play with...)
But ever notice how Salon, who has run some important pro-choice journalism about Miffy, second trimester abortions, and violence against clinics, seems stuck in this cycle of feminine stereotypes? Rebecca Traister's dating fears, their "women's blog" covering hot topics like Lifetime TV and whether Gordon Ramsay was being sexist when he said women are worse cooks than men. It's enough to make me want to pull out my stompy boots for a day.
March 27, 2006
PBS will broadcast American Experience: Eugene O'Neill tonight. The Houston Chronicle says that American Experience "surpasses itself with this moving and enlightening tribute to America's greatest dramatist."
The state of Georgia is set to establish the Bible as a textbook for use in public schools.
The US Supreme Court allows it as long as it's presented objectively, and not taught as fact. But the Georgia legislature's unprecedented decision to wade into what is usually a school district initiative has created concerns.
For example, the bill's use of terms such as Old and New Testament reflect a Protestant bias, some critics say. After all, Catholics and Jews have different interpretations and names for the tome. "To pick one is to suggest that is the right Bible, which is a school district making a faith statement," says Judith Schaeffer, a lawyer for People For the American Way, which works to maintain the separation of church and state.
I have no problem with the Bible being taught as literature in public schools, but I just get this sinking feeling that this is going to lead to "Verses in the Bible What Talk About How Gays Are Going to Hell" electives. (Particularly if Georgians elect this guy in November.)
The Bakersfield City School District Educational Foundation recently released the children's book Freight Train Running: A Biography of Buck Owens as a fundraiser for the foundation's grant program. (Go here for information on purchasing the book.) Owens, the country music legend and cohost of Hee Haw, died Saturday in Bakersfield.
In Broward County, for example, Richard Wright's Native Son competes with Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Miami-Dade recommends Girl, Interrupted but not The Bell Jar.
Not surprisingly, the College Board's 101 Great Books, suggested for college-bound students, include very few of the contemporary works that populate district lists. Willa Cather, Ralph Ellison, James Agee, Herman Melville and Thomas Pynchon all make the cut, but not the perennial favorites of school districts like Amy Tan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand.
I was assigned some pretty great books in high school Lolita, Song of Solomon, Rabbit Is Rich but I will never really forgive the teachers who assigned me Anthem and Ender's Game. We also had to read Less Than Zero in health class (I am serious); the idea being, I guess, that it would save us from the ravages of drug abuse. I could have lived without that one, too.
Also, in high school, I had a music history teacher who told us, with a straight face, that "The Rolling Stones were America's answer to the Beatles." Seriously! That has nothing to do with books, but 12 years later, it still amuses me. Ah, high school! I fucking hated high school.
One lover, Keith McDermott, was White’s in with gay celebrities. Keith had affairs with Tennessee Williams’s lover and Tab Hunter and Robert Wilson. White “had drunken sex with Wilson, too. Once we even called Keith and had a telephonic three-way.”
I am unbearably depressed about this.
A 13-year-old boy from Wisconsin has translated 20 children's books from Icelandic to English.
Deborah Solomon interviews magazine editor Bonnie Fuller, author of the new The Joys of Much Too Much: Go for the Big Life The Great Career, The Perfect Guy, and Everything Else You've Ever Wanted. Fuller uses the word "mommyhood" in apparent seriousness, which can't be a good sign.
Q: But we can't have everything. We're in a moment of postfeminist Realpolitik, when women are realizing that juggling a job and family life requires some sacrifices. It's impossible to do everything well all the time.
A: I'm not suggesting that you do. In fact, I say it's O.K. — your house doesn't have to be clean. You don't have to have clean floors. Your drawers don't have to perfect, and dishes can pile up in the sink. That's part of my philosophy.
Q: What philosophy is this? The philosophy of Dishevelism?
HA HA HA HA HA oh man I love Deborah Solomon. Especially her reaction to Fuller urging young women to go into celebrity journalism: "Oh, no. I hope that is not an expanding field."
If you haven't seen Art Spiegelman's history of comics talk, you can read Culture Pulp's recreation comic strip "Art Spiegelman vs. the World."
H. Allen Orr considers Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.
In “Breaking the Spell,” Dennett tentatively proposes another theory that, like Wilson’s, involves natural selection with a twist. Under Wilson’s theory, the beneficiaries of natural selection are groups of human beings. Under Dennett’s, the beneficiaries are religious “memes.” A meme, a term introduced by Richard Dawkins, is any idea or practice — any thought, song, or ritual — that can replicate from one brain to another. . . . Dawkins often thought of memes as mental viruses, selfish parasites on human minds; Dennett, by contrast, emphasizes that they can be benign, or even good for their hosts.
The scientific study of memes began in 1867, when Gregor Mendel published lists of "The Four Joseph Anton Bruckner Compositions Which I Find the Most Pleasing" and "The Last Four Plant Hybridization Papers I Perused With Great Interest," and then asked four other scientists to do the same. (They did not.)
I'm not sure why Mendel wrote those lists in that weird old-fashioned English, since he clearly spoke German. It doesn't really make sense. But there you go.
March 24, 2006
CNN looks at the changing literary landscape of China.
I'm so behind on everything, on all of my online reading, that I'm just now noticing the Rupert Thomson essay at the Boston Review. The Boston Review had to e-mail me themselves to point it out. I excitedly e-mailed a friend about it, and she responded, "Yeah, I read it. Where have you been?" The answer is sleeping on my ex-boyfriend's floor, but that's a long story.
Also missed: Bookforum's review of A.M. Homes's This Book Will Save Your Life, a book I quite enjoyed when I read it last month (I'm glad I wasn't the only one confused but weirdly delighted about Homes's newfound optimism), and Virginia Quarterly Review has put up selections from their new issue on evolution vs. intelligent design. (I started reading my copy last night: articles on Darwin, Little Nemo, and a short story by Francine Prose? I want to make out with the entire issue.)
I think he partly idealized me to protect me from the part of him that was so devaluing of women. But I was sort of a conflict for him. He wasn't sure how to reconcile the part of him that wanted me to see the world as my oyster with the part of him that really wanted me to take care of him. He made a genuine struggle with feminism. He did try to appreciate it. His own needs, his own wish for nurture and care, probably made it harder. But I think intellectually, he got the hang of it.
Help 3:AM magzine compile their list of "the 50 least influential people in publishing."
Diary of a Stock Mistress may be no more, as the stock mistress has been made redundant. She has some theories as to why, besides the fact that the shop isn't making money.
The building in which my bookshop sits is and always has been entirely managed by chaps with names beginning with J. First there were the Johns, then there was Jake. He was succeeded by Joe, the Man from Bordersland who's now in charge of my shop. Then the project expanded to take in the two-year-old, name of Justin, closely followed by a startlingly literal Antipodean, name of Johnny. I didn't stand a chance.
Walter Mosley is interviewed at Alternet about his new nonfiction book Life Out of Context: Which Includes a Proposal for the Non-Violent Takeover of the House of Representatives.
The Judson ISD school board in Converse, Texas, reinstated Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to the Judson High AP English curriculum, overruling superintendent Ed Lyman's decision to censor the book.
Judson senior Robbie Cimmino, who read the book in class last year, said the sexual content in the book was being taken out of context. If anything, he said, the book is a cautionary tale that teaches students to respect their bodies and respect the rights of others.
"It made me stop. It made me think. It made me reflect," he said. "If I had not had a chance to read this book, I feel I would've been cheated out of an opportunity to learn and grow."
I am still approximately six months behind on my New Yorker subscription, and I haven't even looked through several of the most recent issues. But luckily Salon pointed out the Calvin Trillin essay in the latest issue. Trillin has long been one of my favorite writers, specifically food writers. (Although I just realized I only have one book by him on my shelf, because I keep pressing The Tummy Trilogy on people and never seeing it again.)
In 2001, I was working at a nonprofit and we invited Calvin Trillin to give the speech at our annual fundraiser in November. In September we got word that his wife had died. We called, saying we understood, we would be finding a replacement, but he waved off our protests. He would come to Texas and give the speech as scheduled. And he did. And he was funny and charming and I was much too nervous to go and introduce myself. (Also, my boss at the time was very insistent that "the help" not go near "the celebrity.")
The essay in the New Yorker is about his wife Alice, who died of heart failure on September 11, 2001. The essay is not online, you'll actually have to make a trip to the bookstore and pick up a copy, but the New Yorker has made available an essay Alice wrote about her bout with lung cancer.
"I like the idea of anything coming into a poem," she adds, "whether it's a comic book, cartoon or video game. I'm especially interested in ideas about narrative and enchantment. My generation was hugely influenced by TV, which became a household fixture as I was growing up. And now my children are influenced by the Internet. I'm intrigued by the Internet's effect on narrative and consciousness. The Internet doesn't follow a straight sequence. It makes narrative bloom."
March 23, 2006
Largehearted Boy has a new installment of Note Books (in which musicians discuss the literature they dig) featuring and just typing this name fills me with incredible levels of indie-pop dork glee the great Franklin Bruno, the singer/songwriter behind Nothing Painted Blue. Go buy everything Franklin Bruno has ever done, including his book, Elvis Costello's Armed Forces, and the Nothing Painted Blue album Placeholders.
See, this is why everybody in my office has Largehearted Boy set as their homepage.
Like many forty-year-olds, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test carries a wad of fat around its midriff that could be pruned without harming the body. . . . But as I recall reading the book when it was still green, when Kesey and acid and Owsley and The Grateful Dead and psychedelia were still au courant, it hummed along with remarkable economy.
Another author might have sneered when asked to lay bare his methodology. Brown, on the other hand, appears eager to reveal every one of the secrets of the pulp novelist: "All my novels are set in 24 hours"; "All of my novels use the concept of a simple hero pulled out of his familiar world"; "I intend to make Robert Langdon my primary character for years to come." . . . "I named the protagonist Robert Langdon," Brown writes of his Da Vinci and Angels & Demons hero. "I thought it was a fantastic name. It sounds very 'New England' and I like last names with two syllables. . ."
Yep! That's what's behind the curtain! Seventeen trillion copies of "I like last names with two syllables."
The Traveler: Christ! You’re not listenin’ to me! Look, look, just tell me, tell me this — does this place have a name?
Old Woman: Indeed it does, sir. Chicago!
The Traveler: Well, that fuckin’ took long enough.
Violence is certainly part of what ties this collection together. Many of the stories build to a climax that's often physical and aggressive. These moments are when the characters resort to a kind of primal state, and in those moments, when they really resort to almost base instincts, I think you get a very raw, nearly naked view of who they are. Those moments don't let them hide anything, because there's a purity of their emotions when they descend to that level. One of the things about a cracked mirror is that it provides you with a different view, and I think that's what I try to accomplish with the violence in the stories.
The latest Guardian Book Club podcast is a conversation between Kazuo Ishiguro and John Mullan about Never Let Me Go.
Elizabeth Merrick -- author, publisher, Bookslut guest blogger, rock star -- has some openings for her upcoming writing workshops. Writing workshops tend to suck, but I happen to know several people who have taken Elizabeth's and they all rave about them. They usually fill up quickly, so if you're in New York, you should sign up now.
The Harvard Crimson profiles undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan, author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.
Finally, the “popular” girls she befriends literally call themselves the “Haute Bitchez” — and at one point, they talk about fucking a guy so hard on Prom Night that he needs to take Viagra afterwards.
Only vaguely discomforting but discomforting nevertheless. Sure enough, as Viswanathan obsessively references contemporary singers/shows and prods her readers to think about what it means to grow up too fast and what it feels like to be a cliché, it becomes clear that she’s following proudly in the tradition of Ivy League literary wunderkinds like Nick McDonell, Natalie Krinsky, and Liz Wurtzel ’89. Just like them, Viswanathan is compulsively concerned with authenticity and the anxiety of alienation.
Some parents of Malibu (Calif.) High School students are unhappy with the selection of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones for a "campuswide reading event for grades 9-12." A committee of students selected the book.
Parent Cathy Egner predicted, "There will be kids who will be haunted for the rest of their lives by the things they will be exposed to for the first time in this book. Why do we have to think that we are so politically correct that we have to deal with these issues now, at this stage in their lives?" . . .
"Kids always do what they think makes them look mature, and that may be why they picked this book" said parent Cindy Dorn. "I don't want my son to read about a rape and a murder."
Jesus. This is post-Columbine America. These kids probably have to walk through metal detectors to get to class. Don't you think they're familiar with these concepts by now? At any rate, the students might get the last laugh regardless:
The principal said the school plans to send parents a letter describing the book and the assignment, and give parents an option to have their children read a different book at the parents' option. Although that book hasn't been selected, teachers said another student preference was George Orwell's "1984."
God doesn't want me to write this book—doesn't like the way He comes out looking, and He's unhappy with the portrayal of his Chosen People—so He is doing everything in His power to distract me. Like porn.
Ed Lyman, the superintendent of the Judson school district in Converse, Texas, has removed Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale from the AP English curriculum at Judson High, despite a committee's recommendation that the book should stay. The Judson school board will apparently decide whether to overrule Lyman's ban at its meeting today. The San Antonio Express-News has more:
"The tone of the book does not support, in my opinion, the effort by our state Legislature to encourage abstinence outside the bonds of marriage," said Lyman, who came to Judson less than a year ago from Ingleside, where he also was superintendent. . . .
The Handmaid's Tale "is about rights being taken away," said Jacque Middleton, chairman of the Judson High School English department. "Eerily, we are feeling the same thing. Our rights and our students' rights have been taken away."
Author Neil Gaiman is getting a tribute album, because he's that cool.
I think I read about three books in the Babysitter's Club series. After all, I hate children. (Except for my nephew, who is too young to read this anyway.) But if I was missing out on anything, Tiff at BSC Headquarters will fill me in. She is rereading the series and blogging insights like, "You know, for being “the best friends you’ll ever have” and for being “so different it is amazing,” the BSC can be ultra-mega bitches to any outsiders." (Thanks to Jenny for the link.)
Having the Bookslut Reading Series at the Museum of Contemporary Art threw me a little bit. For one thing, it was very well lit. Everyone could see everyone else. More specifically, everyone could see me very well as I hosted the event, probably down to every last pore. Also, not enough alcohol. I'm used to having these things in a smoky, barely lit bar. One half of a beer really isn't enough to get me to stand in front of a large group and speak, especially while worrying about my pores.
But I was thrilled to see the large space fill up, especially because I really loved the writers we had for the evening. Marisha Pessl read from Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a book that isn't out until August but already has tremendous buzz. This was her first reading for the book, ever, which made me weirdly happy. Calamity is getting all sorts of comparisons to Donna Tartt and Dave Eggers, and I can't say I disagree. Once you get into the book, it's tremendously difficult to put down, and the ending is just killer.
Jeffrey Moore finished off the night with two readings from his novel The Memory Artists, which has not been optioned by Brad Pitt. I regret the error. Brad Pitt wanted to, but the options had already been sold. The two readings were from the perspectives of the mother and son, the mother with worsening Alzheimer's, the son with hypermnesia coupled with synesthesia. Then Jeffrey risked the awkwardness of opening the floor up to questions, answering questions on the correct pronunciation of Montreal, the autobiographical connection to Memory Artists, and what Brad Pitt is "really like." Kidding on the last one.
We're currently polishing up the line up for our April Reading Series, and we'll have something on announce on Monday. Until then, thanks to everyone who came out, and we hope to see you next time at the Hopleaf.
Achtung meine Herren und Damen and all ye mofos out there: Get yer asses down to the L-I-B-R-A-R-Y lickety-split and meet two of the coolest people in the country. Who's that? A librarian and a rapper, that's who. So bring yer favorite ho, or whomever, and go. When? On April 1, at 10 a.m. No April foolin', hi ho. And where? Read on, ye mofo.
Ah, Nebraska! When you're not delighting us with Willa Cather, college football, and sad skinny emo boys, you're...uh...actually, I'm not really sure what the hell's going on here. Maybe there's something in the corn. (Thanks to Leila for the link.)
March 22, 2006
New Orleans residents whose libraries were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina are rushing to replace their cookbooks.
According to the booksellers, the most popular replacement cookbooks are not new, trendy offerings but classics such as the "Joy of Cooking," along with several local books with recipes from home cooks such as "River Road Recipes," a 1959 collection gathered by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, and "The Plantation Cookbook," compiled by the Junior League of New Orleans.
At the Kitchen Witch store, which sells both new and used cookbooks, some customers "zoom right in on the 'Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook,'" LaMancusa said. "Everybody had that -- that and 'Joy.' They recognize the cover from across the room, run to it and hug it to their chests. Sometimes the husbands roll their eyes and say, 'Her favorite book.'"
"Just as many men come in here and hold onto it for dear life," LaMancusa's partner, Debbie Lindsey, added.
Premier League footballers choose their favorite books. Charlton Athletic's Darren Bent likes Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, while Brad Friedel of Blackburn picks Mrs. Frisby And The Rats of NIMH.
This is what lends Wright's writing a kind of giddy ecstasy, even as his verdict on human nature and social-political reality, especially when it comes to these United States, is relentlessly negative: the idea that "the world and the things of the world were connected by a melody of their own," which might be Buddhist theology and might be, I don't know, string theory.
Every time a newspaper prints a headline like "Thrillin' to Trillin," a baby angel dies.
March 21, 2006
Tonight is the Bookslut Reading Series at the MCA in Chicago! It is at 6:30 this time, so remember to duck out of work early. The guests will be Jeffrey Moore, author of The Memory Artists, and Marisha Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, both of which come highly recommended. Tonight's reading is part of the Literary Gangs of Chicago in conjunction with Weep. For the love of all that is holy, check it out.
It's Round 1 of The Morning News Tournament of Books. Choire Sicha judges between Nicole Krauss' The History of Love and Dave Bergen's The Time in Between. (The surprise winner: Wichita State by 7.) Kevin Guilfoile is there with color commentary.
A South Dakota teacher uses Billy Joel songs to teach poetry.
"They'd say, 'Who is that terrible musician?'" Sportelli says with a hearty laugh. "Then I'd convert them." . . .
She also assigned poetry homework. "They had to find a song, any song (other than "You're Only Human,"), and make it part of their poetry packet with their written presentations, and they'd do an oral presentation, play the song, and tell where they heard it and why it's important to them."
Gore Vidal said there is no poetry in America, only carefully deformed prose. I deform my poetry to give the appearance of being larger fictions. I have sat in rooms with poets of fantastic reputation. With my eyes closed, I could not distinguish it as poetry, but rather as wonderful experimental writing. If I didn’t actually see it arranged as stanzas, I would consider it excellent prose. They’re not exclusive for me, but fuel one another.
Lisa Kunik talks to Kate Braverman.
At Salon, Steve Paulson interviews Edward O. Wilson, editor of the new From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books.
Darwin departed England a devout Bible literalist. After failing his effort to become a doctor, he had in fact trained as a minister at Cambridge University. As he says in his autobiography, he would even pull out the Bible to settle some argument with other members of the ship's crew. But then as the trip went on, for reasons Darwin really never disclosed but I don't think had to do with the idea of evolution, he gradually dropped his Christian beliefs. Becoming a man of the world and much more aware of other cultures and religious beliefs, he realized that the stories of the Bible were basically no different than the stories of these other religions.
But what really turned him against religion was the doctrine of damnation. He said if the Bible is true, you must be redeemed in Christ and be a believer in order to go to heaven. And others will be condemned. And that includes my brothers and all my best friends. And he said that is a damnable doctrine. Those are his words.
A public school superintendent in Converse, Texas, wants The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood's acclaimed novel, removed from a high school AP class. (Go to BugMeNot.com for a user name and password. Also try to ignore the fact that the article calls the book The Handmaiden's Tale. It will just give you a headache if you think about it too much.)
Novels keep us at a distance. I get the sufferings and tribulations of childhood much more immediately from Mary McCarthy's autobiography than I do from a novel about the problems of growing up. A memoir is less mediated, and more like a patient/doctor relationship: The writer is on the couch talking; you, the doctor, are reading with passion and interest, and listening, as good doctors must listen, and at the same time putting it through the mill - as any good doctor would - of your own consciousness, memory, and experience.
March 20, 2006
If you're under 21 and like writing and music, you could have an essay published in the forthcoming 33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Volume One. You'd be in good company the 33 1/3 series has published books by Franklin Bruno, Joe Pernice, and Colin Meloy of The Decemberists.
Eric Foner reviews Raymond Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, which really could end up being the history book of the year.
Berman is better known - or more comfortable being thought of, anyway - as a poet. In 1999, he issued a well-received volume called "Actual Air." In the tradition of John Ashbery, it is a high-low mix of postmodern imagery and pop effluvia - trying to find meaning and beauty in our cluttered heads and distracted hearts.
The article also recounts this weekend's Shane MacGowan/Pogues show in New York, which is too depressing to think about, and way too depressing to read about.
Margo Hammond interviews poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
To be honest, I liked the US more in the 1960s than now. When I came, I had never seen protests before. In America, I saw demonstrations against racism, against war. I saw Martin Luther King, marching together with Dr. Benjamin Spock. I heard a young Joan Baez singing We Shall Overcome. This song has been a secret anthem of my soul. I saw great freedom here. Great compassion. Now when I tell my students about that time, unfortunately, they look at me like I'm talking about the history of another country. In Russia, the same thing is happening: Young people don't know history, not even recent history. They don't read books. We shouldn't be indifferent to this. The US and Russia, mighty nuclear states, are responsible for the spiritual life of our people.
His rediscovery is the latest in a line of literary good deeds by the Dalkey Archive Press, which is becoming a major force on the global literary scene. Based in Normal, Illinois, the nonprofit publishing house has been unearthing lost treasures for two decades. Founded by American critic John O'Brien, the Dalkey Archive takes its name from a 1964 novel of that title by the late, hard-drinking Irish writer Flann O'Brien (no kin), one of the firm's early reprints. The surviving O'Brien and his team have since uncovered more than 300 new and out-of-print literary classics.
Dalkey also published National Book Critics Circle Award winner Voices from Chernobyl, and will release Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, which I'm particularly looking forward to, this summer. The folks at Dalkey Archive are like idols to us. Though not as much as those small golden calves that Jessa and I keep in our closets.
A Columbia English major wonders whether literature matters.
It’s difficult to feel that books matter when most Americans don’t read even one book a year, when writers struggle to get published and noticed under the avalanche of celebrity biographies and diet books, and when nearly all of the book gifts I’ve given to friends have yet to be read.
But now I’m beginning to think that the relative irrelevance of books isn’t necessarily a problem. Would I like more people to read the books I love? Of course. ... But I don’t think reading a book validates its existence or makes it better—it just makes it more widely read.
Julia Keller looks at the work of Alice Munro, Jonathan Safran Foer, Anne Tyler and John Haskell, and wonders "What happens when people simply go away?"
The worst is the emotional limbo brought about by a peculiar vanishing, by the wiping-away of a soul with no warning, leaving no trace. The worst is when a life is not demonstrably over but also not provably ongoing, when a disembodied person becomes the very embodiment of loss.
What America learned from 9/11 -- what other nations already knew, from their own dread acquaintance with terrorism and the anguish left in its wake -- is that people can just disappear, can vaporize, can put on a hat and coat and leave in the morning and never come back, can turn a corner and fade from sight forever.
The "human right" of free speech is a non-starter. It is not an absolute to be claimed for any and every position. It will prevail when we accord it. The rules are ours to make, and modify for different situations. The rules will be as good as we are; or as bad.
If you live in or around Chicago, and you do not go to tomorrow night's Bookslut Reading Series at a special time and location you are a sucker. Can you really live with that? Bookslut is proud to present Jeffrey Moore, author of The Memory Artists, and Marisha Pessl, author of the forthcoming Special Topics in Calamity Physics, at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, tomorrow night, March 21, at 6:30 pm. The reading is part of the Literary Gangs of Chicago in conjunction with Weep. Jeffrey and Marisha are amazing writers; you really need to go see this one. (They're also paying their own travel expenses; please consider donating at the reading, or through PayPal on the reading series homepage.)
The great Kathie Klarreich, author of Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Vodou and Civil Strife in Haiti, writes about going back to the country she loves. (Thanks to Carl for the link.)
"I have no idea whether anyone will have any desire to read it," says Tussing, who has the angular cheekbones and slim slouch of a certain sort of Gen-X hipster. "Will people who don't know me at all grab the book off the shelf to read it? That would be lovely, but I didn't think about the audience when I was writing. You're building the book for yourself, and it becomes your companion. If people hate it, then that's great — at least they have an opinion about it."
And maybe what all this further boils down to is the fact that Morrissey is interview-proof. Don't bother. He's not an asshole and he's not the Dalai Lama, but you could interview him for a thousand years and you'd learn nothing. And this is just fine. Interviewing Morrissey pinpoints the bankruptcy of interviewing as a form of expression: if you don't believe in it, it can't happen. I don't much believe in interviews, and I don't think Morrissey does either. I believe that the only way to learn about an artist is to examine their work. Be realistic: people paint the flowers, not the stem of the plant. People are remembered by their flowers and seeds, not their mulch. Fuck interviews.
The Mobile Register talks to Bret Lott, editor of The Southern Review.
The Washington Post profiles Marc Emery, a Vancouver, B.C., bookstore owner and marijuana legalization activist. The US is trying to extradite the Canadian citizen for allegedly selling marijuana seeds to Americans. If extradited and convicted, he could get life in prison.
Emery's life is the limelight. For 17 years, he ran a used-book store in Ontario, and publicly challenged a business fee, his town's bid for the 1991 Pan American Games, its Sunday shopping laws and pornography laws. In 1990 he flouted the prohibition against selling High Times magazine, then banned as "illicit drug literature." He helped win that battle, getting the law overturned, and found his calling in the marijuana movement.
One of the more frightening aspects of Emery's arrest is how blatantly the US government telegraphed its true intentions:
Emery is "one of the attorney general's most wanted international drug trafficking targets," the DEA in Washington crowed on July 29, 2005, announcing an extradition request for Emery and two employees. Emery's bust, the DEA said, was "a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade but also to the marijuana legalization movement."
So bin Laden's still at large, but we are totally on top of this "Canadians engaging in free speech and peaceful protest" thing. Great! I think we'll all sleep a little better tonight.
After that, as I discovered later, Onion and Sparky, using all the technological knowledge a pair of spods with a Computer Bookshops credit account have at their fingertips, hacked into the frequency used by the LongPen, and started to control the machine's robotic arm. The next dedication, which should have read "To Doris, on her birthday, best wishes" actually read "I'm going to kill you, fatty" -- all in Ms Atwood's fair hand. One read: "Good luck on getting past page 27, you ignorant troglodyte."
Why can't things like this really happen? (Thanks very much to Jon for the link.)
March 17, 2006
(Yes. By the quokka. It subsists on Patrick White and Peter Carey novels. Do not cross it.)
Karen Joy Fowler has a nice remembrance of Octavia Butler at Salon, but then weirdly tacks this on:
Last week, Dave Itzkoff, the new science fiction reviewer for the New York Times, created a stir on s.f. chat lists and blogs when he posted the titles of his 10 favorite books of science fiction. Since this list was never represented as more than an idiosyncratic selection of personal favorites, it's probably unfair to object. People must be allowed to like the books they like (however clear it is that the books we like are superior books) and I think (at least I think I think) it's better, even for reviewers, to be honest instead of politic about what they like.
And yet, with Butler's death still quite recent, quite raw, readers couldn't help noticing that the list is, among other things equally shocking but less to the point here, exclusively white, straight and male -- as the field of science fiction is not. If the New York Times ever asked the women of science fiction for our idiosyncratic, personal favorites, our lists would look quite different from Itzkoff's. No doubt they would also look quite different from each other's. Still, I think there are few among us who would not have included Octavia Butler in our top 10.
She should have stopped after the first paragraph, and she should have gotten rid of that "at least I think I think" hedge. Does anyone really think book criticism needs to get less honest? That's like complaining that your electric bill isn't high enough. But at least Fowler is way more calm and measured about the situation than most of Itzkoff's critics on the blog circuit, many of whom are reacting to the list (of personal favorites, remember) with almost comical levels of unfettered geek rage.
I think a lot of this has to do with Itzkoff's employer when you start a blog, you apparently have to promise to never say anything nice about The New York Times. God, the Book Review could print the cure for cancer, and people would still bitch about how they don't cover enough fiction. It's totally legitimate to criticize the Times, but personally attacking a writer's integrity because you're jealous of the size of his readership seems I don't want to go out on a limb here wrong. And falsely accusing someone of racism and misogyny because he likes different things from you is worse than shameful.
I guess the SF world is a lot more contentious than I thought. But there's one thing I think we can all agree on: Science fiction is not real literature, and everyone who enjoys it is a virgin. (Kidding! Kidding! I swear.)
Jazz pianist and Scientologist Chick Corea's new album is a "tone poem" based on L. Ron Hubbard's novel The Ultimate Adventure. (I am guessing the ultimate adventure has something to do with overcoming Potential Trouble Sources and becoming a Theta Clear or something.) Modern jazz and Scientology? Wow! It sure is my lucky day! Hey, maybe a debt collector will come by my house and force me to drink Clamato while watching Crash. Then I could fucking die happy.
Stereotypes, on the other hand, are ''democratic," possessing a respect for the wisdom of the past. The common understanding is that men are aggressive while women are caring; women are ''faithful or at least unadventurous" in sex relative to men; they are ''soft," ''sensitive," and ''indirect"; they cry and complain more. Of these clichés, ''not one has been disproven" by social science, Mansfield writes.
Hm. Maybe the social scientists should come study my relationships.
A cute thing happened on the way to court-martial Monday. Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis shot Sgt. Jennifer Scala, a witness in a military prosecution of alleged Abu Ghraib guard misconduct. The uniformed Scala was photographed leaving the military tribunal carrying a book by Inga Muscio, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, whose title epithet was clearly visible in the photo, which ran on page A3 of the newspaper yesterday.
The New Yorker is making excuses for why they didn't get as many nominations as expected for the National Magazine Awards. But if it is true that someone sent in the wrong issues for consideration, some poor intern is about to get fired.
March 16, 2006
Washington, D.C., residents are debating whether to raze or renovate the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which has fallen into disrepair. It's the only Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building in D.C.
SF author Bruce Sterling (Visionary in Residence, The Zenith Angle) gave the closing speech at this year's SXSW Interactive conference. SXSW is a special time of year here in Austin, much like the return of the swallows of Capistrano. Except instead of swallows, it's cocaine-addicted music industry executives from LA. On the plus side, Tullycraft is playing Saturday, so maybe the constant traffic jam that is central Austin right now is all worth it. (Via Largehearted Boy.)
College basketball books are selling well thanks to March Madness, reports Kimberly Maul particularly Will Blythe’s Duke-bashing To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever and John Feinstein's Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. (Feinstein also wrote The Last Amateurs, which is great.) If you're not a sports fan you can put your hands down now "March Madness" refers to the NCAA basketball tournament, which consists of 64 teams, 61 of which are from North Carolina.
I just finished my brackets last night. I even have the requisite 15-over-2 pick (Winthrop over Tennessee, which I will start to regret in about three hours.)
In a field, book-jacket design, where edge, zip and instant impact are sine qua non, Kidd is second to none. Can he draw? Presumably, yet the mark of his pen or pencil rarely figures into his work. His tool is the digital computer, with its ever more ingenious graphics programs. In the ever-expanding electronic archives of scannable photographic imagery, he is a hunter-gatherer.
Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books would like to introduce a new word into your vocabulary.
napoli (not to be confused with the proper noun, which indicates the Italian city)
Inflected Form(s): napolied
1. To brutalize and rape, sodomize as bad as you can possibly make it, a young, religious virgin woman who was saving herself for marriage.
2. To hella rape somebody.
Etymology: From State Senator Bill Napoli's (R-SD) description of an acceptable rape that would merit an exemption from South Dakota's abortion ban.
Example of usage: "Did you hear? Laura's dad totally napolied her, but according to Utah law, she still has to obtain his permission before getting an abortion."
Does your favorite neo-nazi have a birthday coming up? The Telegraph can help you find that perfect gift!
Whitney Matheson, in Austin for SXSW, went comic book shopping with Patton Oswalt at my favorite comic book store in the whole wide world, Austin Books.
The National Magazine Awards have announced their nominations, and hooray for Virginia Quarterly Review, who was nominated for general excellence, essays, reviews & criticism, and fiction. In fact, they have more nominations than Harper's, the New Yorker, National Geographic, and Oprah. I'm so glad that finally someone other than me has noticed that VQR is the best fucking magazine on the planet right now.
Vertical, who just wrapped up publishing the eight volume series Buddha by Osamu Tezuka (if you haven't been reading it, you're missing out), has announced they will be publishing Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito next.
The New Yorker looks at a series of books about the Haymarket Riot. It seems the people involved were not the little AOL logo men, like the Chicago sculpture would have you believe. Seriously, every time I walk past that thing I expect free CD-ROMs to fly at my head.
I've been in a bad mood for the last, well, to be perfectly honest, 27 years, but for the sake of this blog post we'll say last few months. And then you know what I found? Dan Rhodes's Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love is finally seeing a US release. I devoured the whole thing yesterday on the train, trying hard not to laugh or cry audibly. And somehow that made everything at least slightly better. It's just as good as his book Anthropology, which is saying a lot. His website declares that there will be no new books until 2007 at the earliest, but luckily Rhodes has a list of recommendations to help prevent another several months of a bad mood.
March 15, 2006
I also typed my papers, back when they didn’t make you do that in high school. Everyone else handwrote them; me, I’d left that behind, which meant saying sayonara to the stupid schoolmarms and cranky nuns of elementary school, for whom the Palmer handwriting method was a method of redemption, and saying aloha to my new heroes: Hemingway, the Beats, James Joyce. I was convinced they must have engaged in the grimly honest work of taking a typed—but flawed—page out of the typewriter, marking on it with a pencil, then retyping it, and now I was doing the same.
Michael Erard on the typewriter that taught him to take chances with words.
Leslie Morgan Steiner, an advertising executive at the Washington Post, believes women are at war not because they really have a beef with moms who make different choices, but because they are insecure about their own decisions regarding work and family.
OH MY GOD DO YOU REALLY THINK SO?? What a unique concept, I'm sure no one has thought of that before. Definitely worth writing yet another motherfucking book about.
Kalder then undertakes a haphazard tour of the empty, dreary and practically unheard of - even in Russia - republics of Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia. Sticking faithfully to the spirit of the declarations, he seeks out all that is dull and decaying, and embarks on a series of obscure quests. These include a search for Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK47 and Udmurtia's most famous son, a journey to a city dedicated to chess, and an attempt to remain in his hotel room for the entirety of one leg of his journey on the basis that "I figured no travel writer had ever done it before" (in the event, he lasted about two hours).
I really need to find a copy of Lost Cosmonaut immediately.
"60 Minutes" without Mike Wallace? It's almost like "Oprah" without Oprah. But yesterday Wallace, 87, confirmed that this season on the Sunday-night CBS News program will be his last.
You're right, this has nothing to do with books. But if I'm not blogging as much it's because I'm calling CBS every ten minutes to lobby for a DVD collection of his best interviews. That, and crying.
March 14, 2006
Author Anthony Bianco talks about writing The Bully of Bentonville: How the High Cost of Wal-Mart's Everyday Low Prices is Hurting America.
The word "bully" was a "carefully considered word," he said.
...In October of 2003, he wrote a cover story about Wal-Mart, carefully examining its impact on American society. The response was overwhelming. Overwhelmingly angry. One reader asked him "How dare you attack America, are you a traitor?" he said. A retired colonel told Bianco his article put U.S. troops overseas at risk.
Won't somebody please think of the troops? They don't need body armor, or a commander in chief even slightly more intelligent than a brain-damaged rabbit. They need Bangladeshi sweatshops and institutionalized misogyny. Just try to stop hating America long enough to realize that, OK, hippies?
The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame will induct authors Frank Herbert (Dune) and Anne McCaffrey (Dragonsong of the Dragonriders of Dragonland and Their Dragons) in a June ceremony to be hosted by Neil Gaiman.
One of the things I hate most about this book is that it is all about me. Much like anyone with too much time on his or her hands, I feel as though I am the most important person on earth and everything I do is relevant. I say the most charming and inspired things when no one is around. I think I might have something to say and that everyone in the entire world wants to know about it. Almost everything people do is artistic. That doesn't make it art. I may be being too hard on myself but that is the reality of my world and I'm letting you know how aware of it I really am.
Because of "weather conditions" (evidently the pilot didn't want to land in hurricaine-strong winds or something, pussy), my flight out of Austin was delayed for three hours. Then I stumbled home to find a tower of packages that ruined my manicure when I opened them. (Ha, just kidding. I got one manicure once and felt so wrong about it that I'll never get another.) But these are the books waiting for me that made it all okay:
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box by Elizabeth Bishop
Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love by Dan Rhodes
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
Confessions of a Memory Eater by Pagan Kennedy
The Afterlife by Donald Antrim
Struwwelpeter by Bob Staake
Of course, I also got a copy of The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Novel by Ruth Francisco, which... EW. I'm sure that's exactly what the world needs, yet another person speaking for Jackie.
March 13, 2006
Mystery novelist/gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman drank some Guinness while riding in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Dallas, which is technically against the law in Texas. (Here's a picture.) Friedman explained himself thusly:
"Guinness is the drink that kept the Irish from taking over the world. It would be unthinkable not to have a Guinness during a St. Patrick's Day parade. In fact, it would be spiritually wrong," Friedman said in a statement issued by spokeswoman Laura Stromberg.
(Via Political Wire.)
Rob Walker, who I idolize, is guest blogging at Powell's this week.
Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.
(Via Backwards City.)
Walter Kirn's new novel, The Unbinding, is being serialized at Slate. Oh man I love Walter Kirn. (Thanks to Leela for the link.)
Moby Lives Radio has an interview with Doug Preston.
New Yorker writer Doug Preston was arrested and charged as an accessory to murder. His Italian co–author, meanwhile, is being accused by a rogue Italian judge of something worse. The writers' phones have been tapped, their offices broken into, accusations of murder and satanism are flying — we talk to Preston about the bizarre and dangerous situation that has developed in the attempt to suppress his book.
Definitely an essential listen.
Everyone should go read Edna O'Brien's remembrances of Samuel Beckett.
Another warning to this year's winner: if like me, you were not well known before, once the prize is awarded in June, you certainly will be. People will recognise you at parties. This may sound swell, save that I myself am crap at parties, and prefer to hunker in corners anonymously with the catering staff. Moreover, other people will be much nicer - more solicitous, deferential and complimentary (at least to your face). This also may sound swell. But it actually feels creepy.
Today I am flying from Austin back to Chicago. (I meant to go to AWP, I really did. I even got all of the way to the convention center one day, but then I heard a margarita calling my name so I left again. Oh, Austin, you destroy even the ambition to spend a token thirty minutes in a convention center. It's amazing I ever built up the kinetic energy required to move.) My choice of airplane reading material? Ken Dornstein's The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky. About Pan Am flight 103. I should probably read something else, but I'm halfway through and it's just so good. Go check out Dornstein's website, it's very convincing.
Q: The first line of this play is "I saw a dead man on a subway once." Where'd it come from?
A: That line has been in my head for several years, and then I just decided to write it down and see what happens. I found the line strangely haunting ... to the point where I thought back many years to times when I'd take the subway with my father and wondered if I'd ever seen anything that inspired this. I'd seen sleeping men, but I'd never seen anyone I might have thought was dead.
Fans of Jack Kerouac want a postage stamp honoring the writer.
Recent inductees in the literary arts category include Robert Penn Warren, James Baldwin, Zora [Neale] Hurston, Thomas Wolfe, and Ayn Rand. Candidates currently under consideration: Isaac Asimov, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry W. Longfellow, E.E. Cummings, Louis L'Amour, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Carlos Castaneda, Gertrude Stein, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I think it would be funny if all the proceeds from the Ayn Rand stamp went to charity. Or if when you licked the Carlos Castaneda stamp, you felt an undeniable urge to drink orange juice and watch The Wall.
My favorite thing about the article in the New York Times about Alan Moore's scathing opinion of the V for Vendetta film adaptation was the giant one-page ad for the movie on the opposite page. The creator might hate it, but look! We have Natalie Portman, and she's even hot bald! Second favorite thing? No mention of the snake god. So thank you, Dave Itzkoff, for not doing the usual "Alan Moore is so fucking crazy!" profile.
That didn't work, so Nick Cave turned it into his 1989 novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, which one reviewer described as Faulkner crossed with Whistle Down the Wind. While he wrote - it took five years - his tiny room was filled with religious and pornographic images and a wig of a young girl's hair.
Ever wanted to read a (predictibly long) list of every naughty thing Nick Cave has ever done? That's essentially what this profile in the Independent is all about.
Corinne bathed in the warm glow of her own portentousness. From now on there would not be a single feeling or thought - however banal - that she would not indulge at length over several dozen pages at a time.
Russell felt overwhelmed by remorse. The events of September 11 made him want to tell Corinne he had had an affair. Corinne read his email. Was this the excuse she needed to have an affair with Luke? Only a great deal of introspective angst would tell.
March 10, 2006
A headline from The Scotsman:
Hey, does anyone want to go to Scotland? And never ever ever fucking leave?
Game of Shadows, the forthcoming book which claims that San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has used performance-enhancing steroids for years, is already a bestseller. Meanwhile, The Onion covers the controversy with a story headlined "Barry Bonds Took Steroids, Reports Everyone Who Has Ever Watched Baseball."
[Albert's] cover — the one indication of brilliance in the entire farcical business — has been blown for good, and if that stops a few weepy nineteen-year-olds from filling their blogs, or, worse still, their début novels, with first-person reports of the sun shadows that ripped into their flesh, so much the better. As for Asia Argento, she gets off lightly, for the simple reason that there is no such thing as a cinematic hoax. Even the worst movies are made in good faith, and, if you start condemning public figures for pretending to be something they’re not, what do you do about actors? Who’s going to tell Vin Diesel?
Boyd Tonkin and Jonathan Brown list the ten worst autobiographies. In a bit of juxtaposition that will just thrill Bookslut's more conservative readers, the list includes Hillary Clinton's Living History, Jane Fonda's My Life So Far, and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Slate thinks the notion that boys won't read books about girls is all a big lie.
They are not trying to direct boys toward a list of masculine titles—in fact, they're refreshingly skeptical about assigned reading in the first place. Instead, their aim is to enliven the standard fare for both genders. What they have discovered is that many boys like so-called "girl" books, but for different reasons than girls do.
Chicago superstar Claire Zulkey (she was on Anderson Cooper! He was nice to her! God damn it.) interviews Salon and New York Times book reviewer Laura Miller at Mediabistro.
The American Library Association has released their list of the ten most challenged books of 2005. Robie Harris owns the No. 1 and No. 10 spots with It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health and It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, respectively. The list also includes standbys Judy Blume (Forever), Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War) and Chris Crutcher (Whale Talk). I am just kind of surprised that kids read The Chocolate War anymore. I thought it was a relic of my Reagan-era childhood, like lawn darts and Garbage Pail Kids. And tight-rolling the cuffs of your Cavaricci jeans.
(Thanks to Leila for the link.)
March 9, 2006
3AM: If we went back in time and handed 18 year old Lisa Carver a copy of Drugs Are Nice, how do you think she would have responded, that she would end up being a famous writer?
LC: She would not have been at all surprised that she ended up a famous writer. I completely expected to be known for exactly what I am known for ... as some sort of persona, doing a lot of different things not exactly well, but with spirit, and loudly. Eighteen-year-old Lisa would have been horrified, though, at the control, dignity, and... what's it called when you can hold back a bit? Timing? Cadence? In Drugs Are Nice, I wanted only explosions back then, and jokes, and shock. I felt that conclusions and patience both were death.
Humorist Roy Blount Jr. is the new president of the Authors Guild.
"Nick told me to just fix the Google thing and the rest would be easy," Blount, who was elected to a two-year term, said Wednesday. "Sounds like a job for a humorist. Google wants to give away `snippets' of authors' work. Maybe we could work something out there.
"But what constitutes a snippet? We might begin by stipulating that no snippet shall be as large as a full witticism. Then we might measure how many snippets there are in, for instance, `A Million Little Pieces,'" he said, referring to James Frey's discredited memoir.
The Winnipeg Public Library takes a stand for free speech and against religious Fascism.
The New Republic profiles one of the president's favorite writers, Michael Crichton.
Global warming -- or, specifically, the massive hoax by scientists and environmentalists that it allegedly represents and the resulting sexual conquests of nubile women that inevitably flow from the uncovering of this conspiracy -- is the topic of State of Fear, Crichton's latest best-seller. So Crichton's ravings on the subject might be excusable as just a bad case of authorial self-promotion -- were it not for the fact that he can now count among his millions of readers the president of the United States.
The finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards have been announced.
In a spelling bee. But still:
LIBRARIANS VS. NUNS!
(Thanks to my dad for the link.)
Lakshmi Chaudhry read Sex and the Seasoned Woman and is now horrified at the idea of having to still be having sex in her 50s.
I battled self-loathing in my teens, figured out the orgasm thing in my twenties and spent my thirties mastering intimacy in my marriage. And if I get lucky, the coming year will bring with it the next great challenge of my sexual life: a baby. After decades spent scaling this particular mountain, who can blame me for relishing the prospect of being, finally, over the hill? Time to hang up the heels and bring out the chocolate.
This seems like the kind of thing you should bring up with your therapist rather than the audience of your book review. It was difficult enough getting through the celibacy chapter in an otherwise excellent The New Single Woman (not a self-help book bought out of desperation after a breakup, I swear, but instead an actually interesting study on the growing number of women who remain single either their whole lives or after a divorce) without envisioning my future with twenty cats, a collection of cardigans and telling all of my friends (over tea, of course) through gritted teeth that I release all of my sexual energy through knitting now. So can this little trend go away now, please? You're scaring me.
At the San Antonio Current, John DeFore discusses Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman.
Her first novel-length work, La Perdida has an unusual style for comix: Unlike most of her fellow North American graphic novelists, Abel doesn't use humor, irony or traditional comic book genres. Instead, she has created something all too rare in the medium: a realistic drama for adults told in a straightforward manner. The approach makes sense for a book which spends so much time exploring the nature of authenticity. "In gringolandia you have irony for everything," says one Mexican character, "so you can look at it and know what to think."
The Willamette Week profiles Kate Bornstein, transsexual activist and author of the forthcoming Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Teen Suicide, out in May from Seven Stories Press.
Rod Smith has a fascinating profile of Minneapolis artist and bookplate designer Serik Kulmaeshkenov, who is visually impaired.
The upside of the downtime is that he's been drawing for pleasure, packing larger sheets with richly detailed phantasmagorias in which every leaf and line is alive. And, somewhere in his modest soul, the seed of greater ambition has sprouted, thanks to Mikhail Bulgakov's magisterial black comedy, The Master and Margarita.
"It's my favorite book. My dream is to illustrate a nice edition of it," he says, gliding into the kitchen to make coffee. Like the rest of Kulmeshkenov's s apartment, it's spotless.
There's a magazine smackdown going on, with The Nation shaming Harpers for an article it recently ran written by an AIDS denialist, and Columbia Journalism Review trying to keep up with all of the details.
When I beat Luigi's Mansion for the Nintendo GameCube, my geisha did a celebratory Sarugaku dance: incredibly elegant, inspiring, and dangerous.
I enjoyed her performance almost as much as the game's ending, where Mario and Luigi jump up and down once they are reunited. Tons of Japanese names scroll down the screen as the game designers are given credit. I ask my geisha if she recognizes any of the names. She giggles and begs me to please take a shower.
March 8, 2006
Austin readers: The great Neal Pollack performs Friday at 5:30 at The Velvet Spade, at the Post Road Magazine party. Austinist also previews a Friday night reading at Club DeVille, and a Thursday evening poetry reading at Big Red Sun.
The success of Brokeback Mountain is paving the way for other gay-themed literary adaptations, says The Book Standard. Reporter Gregg Goldstein discusses planned adaptations of The Front Runner, The Mayor of Castro Street, and The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story.
But in a world where women still face economic disadvantage at many turns, it is, ironically, the harsh financial realities of 21st century publishing that are contributing to the breakthrough of writers such as Monica Ali, of Brick Lane fame, and much-touted newcomers such as the Orange-recognised author Naomi Alderman.
Publishers have been forced to understand two things. Women writers can deliver big returns. And it is women readers, not least in the proliferating numbers of overwhelmingly female book clubs, who are the driving force of fiction buying.
Bookslut loves Hissycat, who we are lucky enough to have as a contributor.
Deadspin interviews Sam Walker, author of the new Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe.
Etgar Keret, whose short story collection The Nimrod Flipout is one of the books I'm most excited about reading this year, has the short story "Actually, I've Had Some Phenomenal Hard-Ons Lately" at Nerve.
Douglas Wolk reviews the new Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle & Sebastian Anthology, and oh man I want that. I love Belle & Sebastian, and though I tell people that it's because of their sweet, sad lyrics, it's really because I am basically a girl. You should get the new album, and also Paul Whitelaw's cool biography of the band. At Pitchfork, B&S guitarist Stevie Jackson talks about what it's like to be the subject of a rock biography.
(Jessa will tell you that Belle & Sebastian is a little twee for her tastes, but don't believe her. She actually spends every night listening to Sufjan Stevens, reading Blankets over and over again, and clutching a stuffed panda, saying softly to herself "No one must know." It's kind of weird.)
Thanks to Paul for the Salon link.
Minor Tweaks: Suggested titles for Alan Greenspan's forthcoming memoir, for which he has been paid approximately ten hundred zillion dollars.
Norman Mailer is interviewed at Nerve.
About sixty years ago, I got into a correspondence with this woman. When you're an author, people can send a letter to your publisher to get it to you. So we wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally, I said, "If you're serious and you're coming to New York, take a room at this hotel, and I'll come there, and when you open the door I want you to be stark naked." And it came to pass. That's the nearest I ever came to online dating.
Strangely enough, that is exactly the way Mike conducts all of his dating. (Except instead of saying "and it came to pass," Mike just says "and then we had sexual intercourse, if you know what I mean.")
Nick Antosca's first novel, Fires, will be released this winter by the great Impetus Press. Tao Lin, whose this emotion was a little e-book was just released by Bear Parade, interviews Nick (his roommate) at Reader of Depressing Books. Tao is also author of the forthcoming BED and you are a little bit happier than i am.
The Independent interviews Tahar Ben Jelloun, author of This Blinding Absence of Light, about being a North African writer in France.
"The British seem to assimilate more easily," he says. "Rushdie was born in India, but English literature is a universal concept. France considers itself a universal culture too. In reality, that means Swiss and Belgian authors and even Samuel Beckett are considered French literature. With the ex-colonies, though, it's all guilt. The wogs get put somewhere else."
Salon has an extensive profile of Laura Albert, the woman who became JT LeRoy. It's more sympathetic than you might think.
(The most disturbing part to me is the implication that Albert took on a male persona because she knew a boy hustler would get more attention and cred than a girl. Seeing how much press LeRoy got compared to someone like Michelle Tea, it seems true.)
Also, Mike, as for what's the matter with Lawrence, Kansas: They do a lot of drugs there. It's like Austin, but with winter.
WHEREAS: zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam...
Seriously, what's the matter with Kansas? Jessa, please explain.
The News and Observer wonders how to give translators all of the credit that they deserve.
Dalkey god Chad Post reports from the London Book Fair.
Someone has to do something about the ExCeL situation. It's near impossible to get full-on drunk because of the train situation. I had two drinks with the always impressive Riky Stock of the German Book Office (featured on Brit TV today, because of her great work, and love of "Lost"...) and then had to ride the tube for one hour and 20 minutes to get to my next drink! Really, how is anyone going to get full-on drunk under these conditions? And we all know, though only a few of us will admit, that this is the number one side effect of book fairs.
Now you know why I can always be found trailing Chad at Book Expo.
March 7, 2006
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, adapted for frat boys.
The hyena kills the tiger, but soon discovers it was only a retarded Adrian Brody in a tiger suit.
At last Pi beaches the lifeboat. There he finds—half buried in the sand—the Statue of Liberty!
The latest installment of Largehearted Boy's Book Notes features Bookslut favorite Jessica Abel, author of La Perdida.
The new issue of Bookslut is up! You might not be aware of how much work goes into every issue of Bookslut. God knows I don't. I pretty much just write these announcements; Jessa does all the work. Maybe I'll ask her this afternoon, when she will be arriving in Austin. Yeah! Austin! The city where Bookslut was born, kind of. She will be here for a few days, hopefully, assuming my cats do not try to rip her throat out, and I do not run out of crack. (Did you know that about Jessa? She loves crack. Just loves it.)
So while she won't be blogging, at least for the next couple hours, you can amuse yourself by checking out the best 46th issue of any publication since the 46th issue of Ranger Rick which basically we just can't compete with. But did Ranger Rick ever feature an interview with Jonathan Ames? We think not. We've also got interviews with Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond, Said Hyder Akbar, and Anna Rabinowitz. Also: Melissa Fischer looks at the covers of food books, Barbara J. King considers Daniel Dennett, and Jennifer Shahade discusses pick-up artists.
In columns, our Mystery Strumpet looks at writing instruction books. The Gutterslut has a rundown of art books. And our Bookslut in Training considers the aftermath of Harry Potter. We've got reviews of the latest from Ali Smith, Ana Marie Cox, WS Merwin, Chris Bachelder, Dirk Jamison, James Marcus, Jessica Abel, Justine Hardy, Karen Solie and more.
So you know what? Suck it, Ranger Rick! We are forever, you wildlife-loving bitches. Enjoy the new issue, thanks for reading, and say hi to me and Jessa if you see us in Austin. I'll be the one with the white-boy 'fro and the ill-fitting glasses. Jessa? She'll be the one with the crack.
The Morning News has released the list of judges for this year's Tournament of Books, which includes Jessa Crispin, Maud Newton, Dale Peck and teenage prog-rocker (yeah!) Nell James. And even better: brackets! (PDF file here.) I love brackets. If you ever see me somewhere and I am drunk, ask me what I was thinking last year betting $20 on Gonzaga to win the NCAA championship. (Answer: I wasn't. Thinking.) Also, there are Rooster t-shirts.
But here's the really cool part: You can place a bet on the action, with all the money going to Donors Choose, a charity for public schools. This year's nominees include Never Let Me Go, Anansi Boys, Home Land, Veronica and, happily, The Accidental. The last one didn't come out in the States until this year, but as the tournament commissioners note:
For instance, the TMN/Powells.com ToB constitution explicitly states “only books published in the U.S. between January 1 and December 1, 2005 will be eligible.” The Accidental wasn’t published until January 2006, but hell, the Brits have been talking about it for so long it feels like it was published in 1987. We included it just because we wanted to, constitution be damned. Welcome to the post-Bush/Cheney world, bitches.
March Madness for people like us! You've got to love it.
March 6, 2006
Early reviews of the book have not been kind — “self-indulgently infantile,” scolded Publishers Weekly — but he isn’t surprised. “I’m not expecting the American literary community to welcome me with open arms,” he says. “To them I’m just some schmuck kid who wrote some book.”
I'd welcome him with open arms...if you know what I mean!
I mean sexually. I was basically trying to say that I want to have sex with him. Why? Because he wasn't in Crash.
Hey, we're not the only literary blog to be pissed off that the Best Picture award went to a stupid, shallow work of moral cowardice. Backwards City and the Virginia Quarterly Review blog both (correctly, I think) blame homophobia for the failure of Brokeback Mountain or Capote to win, and Pete at Babies Are Fireproof gives as good a description of Crash as I've read: "...it was offensively (and righteously) stupid crap, the kind that will be remembered not as the vaguely progressive criticism of our era that it proclaims itself to be, but as aesthetic distillation of the times's most shallow impulses."
Has any movie this bad ever won Best Picture before? I can think of a few that came close, but none quite as terrible as this year's winner. I mean, this movie was written and directed by a creator of Walker, Texas Ranger. And Walker, Texas Ranger was actually better.
I'm sorry. I'll get back to books at some point. Possibly May.
Did you ever have to learn about the imaginary number in math class? If I remember correctly, it's defined as the square root of negative one. (I know this is an oversimplification, and please don't write to tell me why because that would bore me so much it would make me cry tears of blood.) Anyway, that's the only logical way I can describe the number of people I know who enjoyed DBC Pierre's first book, Vernon God Little, which somehow won the Booker Prize in 2003. (It's like the Crash of literature.) He has a new one out, reports The Sunday Times, called Ludmila's Broken English. Unlike his first novel, this one doesn't take place in Texas, and on behalf of Texas, Mr. Pierre: Thank you so fucking much.
Artist Jenny Holzer designed a high-tech, literary-themed work of art as part of the 9/11 memorial at 7 World Trade Center.
Already, thousands of moving, ghostly-white words of text have been programmed by Ms. Holzer evoking the history of New York; they will scroll across a glowing, 65-foot-wide, 14-foot-high wall in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center. Though the artwork resides in the lobby, it is already visible several blocks away. . . .
The artwork — a continuing stream of poetry and prose written by dozens of different authors, from Elizabeth Bishop and Allen Ginsberg to Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman — will move along a screen made of acid-etched, diffused, translucent glass illuminated by whitish light.
We have a president staunchly committed to acquiring unprecedented amounts of power and using it in ways that conflict with the Constitution of the United States, international law, and the common understanding of morality. In short, although the president has sworn to uphold the Constitution, he is doing just the opposite. He is dismantling the Constitution of the United States. Primarily, his apparent purpose is to gather even more power -- power unchecked by judicial or congressional scrutiny -- to a presidency already bloated with power.
The Chronicle of Higher Education:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously this morning that the federal government can withhold federal funds from colleges that bar or restrict military recruiting on their campuses.
In an 21-page opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court rejected arguments that colleges have a First Amendment right to exclude recruiters whose hiring practices conflict with their own antidiscrimination policies.
B&W: Can you tell us one of your jokes?
RLS: Here's my best: What do you get when you cross a dog with a frog?
RLS: You get a dog that can lick himself from across the room.
B&W: . . .
RLS: That's why I'm not doing joke books anymore.
(Thanks to Erica from Austinist for the link.)
The Observer considers erotica.
But the best of the titles means that a new kind of graphic literature, written from a woman's point of view, is reaching a mainstream readership. Whereas previous generations might have been uneasy about the distinctions between erotica and pornography, for many of these authors the debate is redundant. They argue that good erotic fiction explores women's fantasies and shows them to be acceptable - what's so wrong with that?
A British prisoner is angry that he's not allowed to read magic books while in jail. The prison authorities are afraid he'll use them to plan an escape.
The Boston Globe loves The Economist, The Atlantic, and The New Republic. I do, too. In theory. But I'm about six months behind on all three of those magazines, and they're all in a stack next to my chair. But you know what I read this weekend? Lucky. Cover to cover. I can feel my IQ dropping every day.
Two Missouri libraries moved And Tango Makes Three, a children's book about two male penguins who care for each other and raise a baby (penguin) together, from the children's section to the nonfiction section "after parents complained it promoted homosexuality." Great. My wait is over. (Via Bookshelves of Doom.)
The National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced Friday.
Fiction: The March by EL Doctorow
Nonfiction: Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Keith Gessen
Biography: American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Autobiography: Them by Francine du Plessix Gray
Poetry: Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert
Criticism: The Undiscovered Country by William Logan
No matter what you've heard, Truman Capote didn't write To Kill a Mockingbird.
Reese is a very, very nice girl. A nice Southern sorority debutante with a nice marriage and nice children and nice morals. Nice. Upstanding. Proper. Acts like a decent lady. This reeks of some kind of subterranean, 1950s social conditioning to me. Maybe I'm paranoid, but what with abortions slowly becoming illegal across the bleak states, I have a queasy suspicion that if, say, "Klute" had come out this year, with Jane Fonda playing the intelligent, sassy, empowered hooker, not only would she not have been nominated, but, really, the film would have never been made.
Oh, Cintra Wilson. Without you, I'm not sure I could even watch the Oscars anymore. (Also, her book is good.)
While it's difficult to think of anything being funny ever again after seeing Crash win, John Warner is volunteering to help his fellow writers out by providing ideas for the next gimmick nonfiction. Reading it will stop the hurting... for a second. Then back to the despair.
My Year with Ants: One Man’s Journey to the Center of the Tiniest Kingdom
This will be the tale of someone who decides to spend a year living in a burrow with 300,000 carpenter ants. (Requires being able to communicate by making clicking noises with your mandibles.)
...you know what's really interesting? After I directed "The Heart," I was contacted by this production company for directing his film, so I interviewed to direct "A Million Little Pieces." Wouldn't that be like very strange? I'm like queen of the hoax! But this book, to me, when I read it, I thought this is not sincere. It sounded sugarcoated, so I was not very interested in this book. At the same time, I don't understand what the big fuss is about somebody lying about their life, because I lie the whole time about my life. We all do. We try to make ourselves look better than we are. Even when we tell the horrible things about ourselves, we're still trying to make ourselves look good.
Novelists Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry won the Best Adapted Screenplay award at the Oscars last night for Brokeback Mountain, based on the story by Annie Proulx (Bookslut interview here). In his acceptance speech, McMurtry gave props to bookstore owners:
And finally I'm going to thank all the booksellers of the world. Remember, "Brokeback Mountain" was a book before it was a movie. From the humblest paperback exchange to the masters of the great bookshops of the world, all are contributors to the survival of the culture of the book. A wonderful culture, which we mustn't lose. Thank you.
McMurtry was disappointed that Brokeback Mountain lost the Best Picture award to I can't believe I have to actually type this Crash, saying that maybe "Americans don't want cowboys to be gay."
Jermaine Jackson won't publish Legacy: Surviving the Best and the Worst, says the book's ghostwriter, Stacy Brown. Michael Jackson, Jermaine's brother, was apparently angry that the book claimed that Michael has "a thing for young children" which is the first time, of course, that anyone has ever suggested that.
Brown said he stopped considering Jermaine and the other Jacksons friends after the experience made him realize "how out of touch, unreal, unrealistic and dysfunctional" the family is.
Yes. That is quite the shocker.
The New York Times profiles David Hodgson, who's written about 55 strategy guides for video games. Some purists scoff at the books, but:
Others, however, swear by them. Beverly McClain, 60, a retired clerical worker in Wichita, Kan., said: "Many gamers insist that the only way to play a game is to figure it all out for yourself. I say, buffalo chips."
Ms. McClain says she plays video games about five hours a night. As her taste in entertainment shifted from reading books to playing the games, she said, her purchases at bookstores also changed. She said she brought home about a dozen strategy guides last year, more than the number of novels she bought.
I'm skeptical. I spent over $25 on a strategy guide for the board game Hungry Hungry Hippos, only to find it was just the sentence "Try to get as many of those marble things as you can" followed by 150 blank pages.
March 3, 2006
Austin folks: You should really, really come to Monkeywrench Books at 7 pm tonight to see Ethan Clarke and friends present Stories Care Forgot: An Anthology of New Orleans Zines. Monkeywrench is at 110 E. North Loop (at Avenue F), near The Parlor, where you can totally go for pizza and beer afterwards. You should also make time to go to Staple!: The Independent Media Expo, which is tomorrow from 10 am to 6 pm at the Red Oak Ballroom at Northcross Mall. The Austin Chronicle and Austinist have more. And, you know, say hi if you see me at either one.
Ben Macintyre rewrites the endings of sad books to make them happy, and the endings of happy books to make them sad.
Pride and Prejudice could be rendered less saccharine by introducing the scene where Darcy explains to Elizabeth that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune still in want of a wife is obviously gay, so he is moving to Tangiers to live with Wickham.
I didn't do much at Comic Con other than hide in my friend Anne's Vertical booth, where they were promoting the final installment of their excellent Buddha series. It looks like kids' stuff, but as she explained to a librarian while I drank my Publisher's Weekly cocktail that tasted like cherry cough drops, there's some nudity, etc. But in case that librarian looking for graphic novels is reading the blog today, Sequential Tart has an excellent list of comics for kids and teens.
Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL and author of With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose, is considering a run for the US Senate from Pennsylvania (currently held by Rick Santorum). The presumptive Democratic nominee is Bob Casey Jr., who is anti-choice.
PHONE COMPANY: Please stay on the line while we connect you to an operator.
PHONE COMPANY: Hello, you have reached the Arkham Phone Company. Our goal is to make your phone service the best ...
(CTHULHU hangs up. CTHULHU quietly weeps.)
The oddest book title of the year, according to Bookseller magazine: People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves To Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It.
Kimberly Maul looks at the literary adaptations that will play a role in this year's Academy Awards. Also be sure to read our own Liz Miller's take on the Best Adapted Screenplay nominees. It should be pretty interesting if Brokeback Mountain wins, you can witness a possibly historic turning point for gay-themed cinema and literature. And if Crash wins, you can witness the death of art.
Stephen Bayley considers "good bad books."
Good bad books are not the same as books that are merely bad. Good bad is more subtle. A good bad book is one that achieves a surprisingly exhilarating effect despite flaws of style and construction, which disqualify it as (what Updike calls) "literature." Significantly, good bad books translate very well into film, perhaps suggesting that cinema is an intellectually and artistically undemanding medium. "The Guns of Navarone," "The Graduate" and "Jaws," for example, were feeble literature but made magnificent movies.
The Vatican's "chief exorcist" says the Harry Potter books could turn kids into Satanists.
Nominees for the Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize:
Fatelessness by Imre Kertz
Mercedes-Benz by Pawel Huelle
The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic
The Door by Magda Szab
This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
If you need other reasons to read Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys -- other than the fact that it got rave reviews, ended up on a lot of best-of lists last year, and is in fact a book by Neil Gaiman -- let some Polish actors convince you. Gaiman's Polish publisher has created an ad for the book, and it's kind of great in a I-have-no-idea-what's-going-on kind of way. But I haven't had my tea yet this morning so everything sort of feels that way right now.
Want to have dinner with Susan Orlean? It'll cost you $10,000. But she'll charm the money right out of your bank account.
Minus an industry-standard 15 percent agent's fee, that's still a $8,500 paycheck awaiting her for a 90 minute lecture. $8,500. And yes, I paid for her nonfat cafe au lait, despite being a cheap bastard. But I was the one thrusting cash at the barista, unasked, before she could even find her wallet. That's just a part of her magic, an infectious warmth and excitement and ability to engage any audience that, while talking to her at the counter, I forgot to get a receipt. My broke ass will never see that money again.
Congratulations to Gina Frangello, author of My Sister's Continent, who gave birth to Giovanni Fenton Frangello-Walthour. Also, thank you for reinforcing my desire to never have children. Her c-section story is terrifying.
Small Beer Press is having a blow out sale on their stock. For $59 you can get nine of their books, and really, everything they release is worth reading. You can also save money when you pre-order one of their upcoming 2006 releases.
March 2, 2006
What if instead of dying on the cross Jesus had lived to sire an army of holy warriors bent on forging a New Covenant? Preposterous, right? The random particles of this implausible premise collide in Covenant, a Christian action comic book reminiscent of another popular fiction on Christ.
Caitlynn Donovan, a sophomore at Lawrence North, said she would rather have teachers deciding what she reads in class, not parents of classmates.
"I don't think one parent should have the ability to affect the way that I learn," she said. "If they have such a problem, censor their child, not me. This is my education."
The Backwards City Review just released their third issue, which you should check out, probably immediately.
Jessa explains how certain books catch her eye.
Publishers go to a lot of trouble to attract the eye of a reviewer. There are those annoying pieces of paper that are tossed out unread when the book arrives, the press releases, the occasional package of cookies. (Actually, the cookies work; keep sending those.)
I actually wrote a publisher last week, suggesting they start sending out packs of cigarettes and 40-ounce bottles of Mickey's with their promotional books. But I guess fancypants Harvard University Press is too good to write me back.
Likewise, a book that retails a historical experience now alien to modern readers has fallen into its own worthwhile category: educational. Young women today have no experience with sanitary belts. They likely never will. Born in 1975, I would never have known that such a thing existed had it not been for reading about it in "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."
Traister is absolutely right that this is a big deal. And it's going to be a big deal next month when Yearling releases The One in the Middle is the North American Red Squirrel (which was updated after last year's sad extinction of the green kangaroo).
Thanks to Leela for the link.
The answers the teenagers gave for the character who would make the best boy or girlfriend are out of bounds to grown-ups, being - no prizes for guessing this one - Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger and Lyra (from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy).
Yeah, and the...uh...what was I talking about? I forgot. I just got lost in Hermione's bloodshot little eyes.
British readers love happy endings, apparently. But...
Whatever their age or gender, almost a quarter of people feel that a happy conclusion lifts their spirits and “puts them in a good mood” long after they have put down the book.
Yeah, nothing says "happy ending" like a novel about a man falsely accused of rape. Particularly when that man gets (spoiler!) killed at the end of the book. What placed third? Old Yeller? Johnny Got His Gun? Schindler's List?
The San Antonio Current interviews David Foster Wallace.
Marketing writers as people is like a low-budget reality TV — or celeb-reality. It’s, well, it’s a very shrewd use of publishing’s very limited advertising dollars. But there is stuff about it, particularly in the case of people — they are regular civilians, they are not beautiful people; if they have any personal background they were exceptionally deprived, or they were just exceptionally nerdy; much of their daily life consists of sitting alone reading and writing. The amount of distortion that’s required to make those lives interesting? It seems silly to me.
The Village Voice has suspended senior associate editor Nick Sylvester for fabricating material in his report on Neil Strauss' book The Game. In a statement to the newspaper's readers, Sylvester admits that an encounter with three writers in a New York bar "did not happen as I reported, or at all."
Authors including Will Self and Ian McEwan have protested against the organisers of the London Book Fair being involved in the arms trade.
March 1, 2006
The best part is, you can actually see the lime in Hermione Granger's beer.
Syntax of Things offers links to two trailers for the upcoming film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (movie site here), based on the book by JT LeRoy. Directed by Asia Argento, who also stars, the movie features performances by Peter Fonda, Marilyn Manson, Lydia Lunch, and Winona Ryder as a psychologist. (I know! Too easy.)
"I think of her as the human embodiment of Wal-Mart," said Kevvy Schlaucher, a 25-year-old engineer from Calgary, Canada, who used to watch the show with his mother. "The Oprah Empire is everywhere. She makes sure you don't get out of the system. I think she's got more influence now than George W. Bush does."
LA Weekly presents a roundtable discussion about literature and pop music, featuring Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and the great John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.
DARNIELLE: ...I wish the music world would just embrace its entirely literary nature. Nobody’s worse with the “you gotta feel it!” junk than rock people. The problem is music from rock forward is construed as being “about sex,” which is at least partly correct. But there’s also this complicating notion that sex is “about youth,” or at least for youth. This problem does not exist in the literary world. Not to say that sex appeal doesn’t help sell books: It does, of course it does; but the whole culture of literature, across the magazine spectrum from NYROB to Granta to The Baffler to McSweeney’s, is less heavily reliant on this particular region of smoke and mirrors. I also wish the pop world shared the literary world’s open lust for verbiage. Once a year you’ll read an essay somewhere about how analyzing a song will kill it. Yaaaarrrrgghhhhhh. Hulk smash.
Hey, you know who I love? To a perhaps unhealthy degree? John Darnielle.
So everyone has a Tivo by now, right? Because I know that there's a new episode of Lost tonight (about Claire! and her abduction!), but there's also dinner with Gina Mallet and the Reading Series. But it's not like it was a new Sayid episode or a new Locke episode. You can live a few hours without Claire. Then run home after the reading and watch it on the Tivo. Or just come home with me and we can all watch it in my living room. Because seriously, it's Gina Mallet, and her book Last Chance to Eat is fantastic. If you're interested in the dinner, call the Hopleaf -- (773) 334-9851 -- I think they open at 3 pm today, and make your reservation.
The Czech Republic donated over $100,000 to help rebuild an Alabama library. The least we could do is take our hipster expats back.
Garrison Keillor: Impeach Bush. Right on.
The peaceful lagoon that is the White House is designed for the comfort of a vulnerable man. Perfectly understandable, but not what is needed now. The U.S. Constitution provides a simple ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.
Jeffrey Brown has illustrated a music video for Death Cab for Cutie. Warning: If you watch this video you will immediately become so emo you will be unable to maintain an erection for a week. But don't worry, you can still cuddle.
I don't really read biographies, but after reading this review I'm really interested in A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin. I think it's just the hidden Kansan in me. I have a soft spot for Midwestern crazies. (Talk to me about John Brown and watch my eyes light up.)
My sister once dated a man who said Pinochet's regime was "not that bad." Yeah, there's really nothing to say after that. Photojournalist and long time Pinochet critic Carlos Reyes-Manzo has published his first book of poetry, Oranges in Time of Moon. He talks to the Guardian about why writing poetry is a political act.
The recent violence surrounding the publication in the West of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed illustrate the danger of Islamic "totalitarianism", Salman Rushdie and a group of other writers have said in a statement.
HBO will be producing a feature-length documentary about the death of journalist Daniel Pearl. No release date has been set, so if you're interested in the subject, you might start with the book Who Killed Daniel Pearl? by Bernard Henri Levy.