April 28, 2006
I think my tenaciousness surprised me—I stuck with this thing, all these years, to do it really thoroughly. It took me a long time to do that. I come from this culture where everyone desires instant results, instant fame, instant fortune—and I was one of those. The biggest thing in my past that I'm most proud of is having developed my empathy to a great degree, to the extent that I can go to that place and feel another's pain, woes, and I can put it in my writing.
AM Homes and Jonathan Safran Foer are interviewed at The Portland Mercury.
The Morning News presents the “Sloppy Seconds With Opal Mehta” Contest!
The winner of the TMN “Sloppy Seconds With Opal Mehta” Contest will have his or her story published on The Morning News, and will also receive a TMN T-shirt and mug to remind them of this, the moment ethics in writing died.
On your marks...get set...internalize!
Kaavya Viswanathan blames her "photographic memory" for her plagiarism, but bad news from Slate it doesn't exist.
"There's no point being a miserablist," Mitchell explains, with a rather sweet smile. "You won't live as long and you won't enjoy it as much. I don't want to read 300 pages about someone who has hated their life and dies miserably. Cool, postured misery is easy. I want to write books that I love writing and, God willing, that readers will love reading."
Four Boston homophobes are suing the city of Lexington after a public school teacher read the children's book King & King, about two princes who fall in love with each other, to a second-grade class. Hey, it takes a village to raise an intolerant little bigot, and Lexington isn't playing ball. That's bad news for the religious right, and good news for America.
Without any doubt, my two favorite graphic novels of the year have been Renee French's The Ticking and Julie Doucet's My Most Secret Desire (a reworking and update/reprint of a 1995 book). There hasn't been much press about Doucet's new book yet, but this older article from Village Voice is still a great introduction to Doucet's dark work.
Think of Doucet as a wide-eyed boho ingenue with rickety English, adrift in a dangerous world—Kathy Acker meets That Girl.
As for The Ticking, it's satisfying to see the book get a respectable amount of attention, at least within the comic book world. French is interviewed at Newsarama. She explains the initial inspiration for The Ticking.
So I was sitting in a dilapidated bathroom that was in the basement of some restaurant in a hotel, and there was wallpaper that was ripped a little bit. I always have had this fear of what’s underneath something else, and I like to scare myself, so I’ll do things like imagine what if I peeled back that wallpaper and there was, for example, skin underneath it on the wall. That led to me going back to the hotel room and making sketches of peeled back wallpaper with some sort of skin or some sort of things that would couldn’t identify underneath – maybe a fold in skin, and lots of little doors in the wall that you could open up and there would be something that would be both subtle and terrifying.
If you're going to argue that worthy women are being shut out of literary awards, can you come up with a better example than Zadie Smith? Because you're just killing your own credibility. (Smith more deserving of the Booker than Banville? You must be off your rocker.)
In a stunning about-face only predicted by everyone in the fucking world, the publishers of Kaatya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Blah Blah Blah have recalled all copies of the plagiarized book from bookstores. Viswanathan lifted several passages from two YA novels by Megan McCafferty, whose publishers issued this eye-rollingly exaggerated statement:
"We are pleased that this matter has been resolved in an appropriate and timely fashion," said Crown Publishers, which publishes Ms. McCafferty's books, in a statement. "We are extremely proud of our author, Megan McCafferty, and her grace under pressure throughout this ordeal."
Yes, she truly is a survivor. Makes the folks who lived through all those mine accidents look like a bunch of pussies.
Seriously: ordeal? Since when does getting plagiarized by a teenage kid consitute an ordeal? I didn't go all psycho when my car stereo got stolen. Where's my Medal of Valor? (In fairness, I later realized that my stereo hadn't been stolen, but unintentionally internalized. I felt better after that.)
It all comes back to Eat Pray Love. I was reading this interview with my friend (and Girly author) Elizabeth Merrick, chuckling to myself over the loopy way she talks and thinks (loopy as in circular, not crazy), and when she's asked which book of the last year has been the most important to her, Eat Pray Love is just the obvious answer.
I have witnessed firsthand the shocking reluctance of the literary establishment to let in the spiritual, the sensual, the sexual, and Elizabeth Gilbert is this genius at opening the door very politely and then writing the hell out of whatever she’s onto. I love her writing, the integrity and the humor to her. This book so intelligently, exquisitely brings this content of women’s lives into the realm of respectable adults, takes it out of the self help aisle.
Amen. I really need to get another copy so that I can force onto more people.
The Guardian podcast has Will Self reading his short story "The North London Book of the Dead."
April 27, 2006
Does blogging help you become a better writer? No.
Most blogging is sheer exhibitionism, either the self-absorbed ramblings of an individual blogger or the corporate site that exists for the sole purpose of making money. (If anyone sees a disturbing parallel between blogging and column writing, kindly keep it to yourself.)
This doesn't mean blogs have to be badly written. It just means that most are.
The judge who acquitted Dan Brown of plagiarism charges hid a secret code in his ruling.
The first clue that a puzzle exists lies in the typeface of the ruling. Most of the document is printed in regular roman letters, the way one would expect. But some letters in the first 13½ pages appear in boldface italics, jarringly, in the midst of all the normal words. Thus, in the first paragraph of the decision, which refers to Mr. Leigh and Mr. Baigent, the "s" in the word "claimants" is italicized and boldfaced.
If you pluck all the italicized letters out of the text, you find that the first 10 spell "Smithy Code," an apparent play on "Da Vinci Code." But the next series of letters, some 30 or so, are a jumble, and this is the mystery that needs to be solved to break the code.
This is how you start a positive review of Elliott Yamin?
Yo, baby, Elliott
So check it out, dawg
So check it out, man
Check it out
Did not like the arrangement
120 Questions for George Saunders continues.
36. Quick: Favorite song of the nineties?
“Forsooth Though We Dally, World War I is Yet Twenty-Five Years In the Future.”
Did Kirkus anticipate the Kaatya Viswanathan story? Two months ago, they reviewed the young author's novel:
But the plot is far-fetched (Harvard is concerned about an applicant's love life?), predictable and often seems plucked from a teen movie.
Once Viswanathan, currently a Harvard sophomore, figures out how to integrate her lively voice into a more original story, she'll be on her way.
(Thanks to Colleen for the link.)
One of the toughest things about leaving a job and writing a book is that nobody quite takes the move seriously. . . .
People talk about doing such things when they’re kids. They boast that they will do them in college. But then everyone goes into pre-law or pre-med or pre-professional something. Nobody goes into pre-posterous. No one starts planning trips to Mars, housebreaking lions or casting hexes. And nobody writes books fulltime.
I’m not even certain guys like John Updike really write fulltime. I think if you followed him around one day, you’d find that, after hours, he’s secretly in some dive, earning meal money by dancing round a pole. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m thinking.
Admit it. That image aroused you a little, didn't it?
Pro-gun economist John R. Lott Jr. is suing Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics, for defamation. Lott accuses Levitt of "spread(ing) lies about the quality and integrity of his work." Also at The Chronicle of Higher Education: Jennifer Howard considers the resurgence of interest in Big Papa.
As a bit of shameless self-promotion, I thought I'd let you know I have an essay in this month's issue of Jane. (Liv Tyler on the cover.) I haven't seen it yet, but I've gotten e-mails about it, so I'm guessing some people have it now. I'll have to eventually get out of my pajamas today and track down a copy.
The CBC profiles David Mitchell:
Of his own favourites, Mitchell gives a nod to Pink Floyd (“Of course”) and Yes (“I’m afraid so”), but the band he gave his full adolescent allegiance to was Rush. “I only say this to you because you are Canadian, but the band was the first inkling I had that Canada might be a cool place. Rush spoke to bookish kids like myself. The music involved a whole lot of human organs — not just the testicles, but the mind, too. There were literary references to Kubla Khan and Cervantes. It was brilliant. I’m happy to cite Neil Peart as an early influence.”
(Via George Murray from Bookninja, who's a rebel and a runner, a signal turning green, a restless young romantic...)
Nextbook has the latest installment of Shalom Auslander's First Person Ambivalent column.
God has 72 names, one of which is Shalom; in a crueler mood, they might have named me Rock Of Salvation Auslander, or He Who Was Is And Always Will Be Auslander. I have a difficult enough time at the DMV as it is: "No, not Sharon Alexander. Shalom Auslander." I had a difficult time in yeshiva as well. There it was the writing down of my regrettably sacred name, and not its pronunciation, that presented a problem. Studying and writing primarily in Hebrew and Yiddish as we did, everything I put my name on—quizzes, book reports, Highlights—became instantly holy. These once insignificant scraps of paper (and one time my brown paper lunch bag) could never again be mistreated, for now they contained upon them the very name of God Himself (and also, in the case of that brown paper lunch bag, a smiley face and a note from my mother reminding me to eat the fruit). It was forbidden to let them touch the floor, it was forbidden to throw them away, it was forbidden to place anything on top of them.
"Name of the Creator!" Rabbi Brier would shout in horror, pointing at the McGraw-Hill American History lying anti-Semitically on top of my Talmud test. "Name of the Creator!"
Philip Weiss makes a great point about the Kaavya Viswanathan story the best and most thoughtful coverage of the scandal has come from The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper. It's not a good sign for the mainstream non-student media that they're getting out-reported by David Zhou, the Crimson writer and Harvard student who broke the story, and continues to do the best job covering it. I'm shocked by how good the Crimson's coverage has been I worked for my university newspaper, and the only stories we broke were on the order of "Local band releases album" and "Improv comedy group delights some, annoys most." I guess I thought all college papers were more about smoking pot in the darkroom than actual newsgathering and reportage. Apparently not.
Speaking of talented college kids: University of Wisconsin freshman Josh Cohen has some of the sharpest, most accurate commentary on the scandal so far:
The story line buries the questions. After Ms. Viswanathan appears on Oprah, will anyone be suspicious of that beaming smile newly gracing the pages of the New York Times? Do we really want “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” to be our generation’s “The Sun Also Rises?”
Apparently, the author’s mother called her sudden literary star to ask whether she preferred white or pink rose petals at her book party. If Ms. Viswanathan is really a writer she will go into a Kafka-like reclusion and give this mother the Philip Roth treatment.
Book packaging is not a new phenomenon. It involves getting a book concept together, thus saving the publisher the trouble of finding writers, illustrators, editors, etc. Then a finished concept is sold to a publisher as a fait accompli. 17th Street is currently the most successful packager in the world when it comes to teen literature and the targeting of "Generation Y."
Hey, if you've emailed me in the past week or so, I will respond soon! I promise. I apologize for the server crash, which I caused by signing Jessa up for the surprisingly active Tony Danza Superfans listserv. And then exacerbated by inadvertantly starting an Angels in the Outfield-related flame war. So welcome back, Jessa! And I'm sorry about the movie cameras in your apartment; I kind of promised Tony they could film She's Out of Control II there. I really owe you a solid.
Thanks very much to Jordan Davis for helping out the past week. I'd offer to buy him a drink the next time I'm in New York, but poets don't really drink, do they? Ha ha! I'm kidding. The whiskey and Dilaudin's on me next time, man. Thanks.
30 years ago I was 5 and didn't have much of a feminist consciousness. Or, rather, I had the same feminist consciousness: I liked to wear high heel shoes I couldn't walk in, with a face full of makeup I couldn't quite apply, making everyone in the neighborhood act out scenes from CHiPs with me and I always had to the be the kidnapped hitchhiker on rollerskates, and I got pissed if you took any of that away from me and I still do today.
Hello, hello, hello. I am, as predicted, back with a hangover and a sunburn, but with the added bonus of so many mosquito bites that I look like I have some sort of pox. And I am full of new information, like don't read Shirley Jackson on your vacation. She fucks with your world view. Also! If you take your books to a rainforest, they will probably need to be weighted down with bricks for a week after your return to save the covers. (Although my Graham Greene with the fancy French Flaps was fine. Oh, how I love a good French Flap.) Also! Tequila smoothies will reduce you to reading your friend's New York magazine, as you can't follow anything else. (We found a place on the beach that made "margaritas" with equal parts strawberry ooze mixed with ice and tequila. I had three.)
So a mighty thanks to Jordan for taking over while I was gone. And an apology to anyone who tried to get ahold of anyone at Bookslut over the past week, as the day I left town the e-mail system stopped working. God does not like it when I go on vacations, or at least my server doesn't. I'll try to remain focused on Literary News today and not retreat to my living room couch to read my Entertainment Weekly. We'll see how long I can resist.
April 26, 2006
It's been a great week -- thanks to Jessa and Michael for having me. National Poetry Month is basically over, thank God, and we poets can get back to squabbling amongst ourselves over contest deadlines and fees, which aging authority figures to emulate and which deceased luminaries to overvalue, blah blah blah.
If you need me, I'll be busy trying to keep this from turning into a fake Million Dollar Homepage, and getting ready for the Rae Armantrout episode of The Million Poems Show, May 10, 6 p.m., at the Bowery Poetry Club, NYC. Talk to you later.
The Book Standard talks to Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series of YA novels, about her new mission: "To put the blowjob back in literature." (Seriously.)
But for this particular story, I really feel like the blowjob just hasn't had enough coverage in literature. I was like, "Damn it, I'm going to put that in, because we girls need to talk about it. I did that on purpose because I do feel like there has been a lot of talk lately about adolescent girls doing the whole blowjob-at-parties thing, and I feel like they're not getting the point. You've got to get something back, because it's great if you're going to do that for him, but what's he going to do for you? So I feel like that is something that older women think about, that I don't know necessarily if girls are. That's my calling—to put the blowjob back in literature. It just hasn't had enough exposure.
You've got to love the headline, too: "Heads Up: 'Princess Diaries' Author Has a New Calling—Not Suitable For Children!" This is why I love The Book Standard.
The second issue of The Tiny... yes it's called The Tiny, what? I usually hate anything that even has a whiff of what could be called a knowing quality, except when said quality reminds me of The Larry Sanders Show, as it does in "On Location: South Beach" by Dan Hoy:
"And then so he said, 'If you can't distinguish
between a joke and a managerial command
make no mistake you will be fired.' And then
he said, 'I'm not joking.' Can you imagine?
My cousin's vaguely autistic. How's he
supposed to interpret the tone of that?"
Russell Baker considers Stephen Miller's Conversation: A History of a Declining Art in the NYRB:
The lifting of restraints on coarse speech, for example, is usually viewed as a gain for free expression, yet good as this may be for freedom, it may be crippling to expression. To illustrate, imagine that an eminent and powerful statesman—say Vice President Cheney —wishes to respond offensively when greeted by a senator who irritates him. Think of the glorious variety of cruelly stinging words the American language places at his disposal. Which shall he select? Poor Cheney, thrust suddenly into this very situation last year, experienced total language failure which left him powerless to say anything but "Go fuck yourself."
Not a point I ever expected to take from Russell Baker, but point taken.
It's easy to lampoon high school, but to set in motion an intricate and engrossing plot involving elaborate conspiracies, The Catcher in the Rye, "at least half a dozen mysteries, plus dead people, naked people, fake people, teen sex, weird sex, drugs, ESP, Satanism, books, blood, Bubblegum, guitars, monks, faith, love..." is a feat, and it's one Portman engineers with the gleeful flourish of a born storyteller.
"The dead. / borrow so little from / the past," goes one of the book's more profound lines, "as if they were alive." A little later: "It / was my duty to keep / the . . . piano . . . filled with roses."
Who doesn't love a good modified book?
The Seattle Times looks at the changing face of high school reading lists. A new hero of mine is Tami Nesting, a former English teacher in Washington state:
In the past, advocates for teaching the great works of Western civilization insisted the classics were essential to develop citizens in a democracy. Nesting remembers hearing in college the argument that you must read "Hamlet" to be a completely realized person.
"You know, you don't," she said. "There's no one book you need to read to become a human being."
Allen Barra considers Edmund White. This is weird:
Straight novelists in America must, I'm convinced, secretly envy their gay counterparts. Gayness, in the hands of the right sensibility, provides a ready-made perspective from which to cast a wry eye at the world.
The Virginia Quarterly Review reprints an essay by the late Jane Jacobs.
The credential is not a passport to a job, as naive graduates sometimes suppose. It is more basic and necessary: a passport to consideration for a job. A degree can also be a passport out of an underclass, or a safety strap to prevent its holder from sinking into an underclass.
Tell it like it is.
Virginia Hamilton's YA mainstay The House of Dies Drear has survived an odd challenge in Virginia, where a parent "said the book lacked a moral foundation and endorsed lying, deceit, scaring other people and taking the law into one’s hands," reports the Daily News-Record. I can almost see parents getting upset about Gossipy Lipstick Blowjob Girls or whatever almost but The House of Dies Drear? Didn't we all read that in fifth grade and live to tell the tale? Or are there a bunch of Dies Drear vigilante gangs running around Virginia? I guess it's possible.
Two good reasons to at least check out the new New York Quarterly on the newsstand. One) a long, gorgeous, self-critical interview with Franz Wright, in which among other things he touches on his dust-up with William Logan:
You get these self-ordained parasites in every generation, and without fail they are crude and pedantic mediocrities. Lasting and reasable criticism is usually written in a spirit of reverence and love; and that does not mean blind to its subject's faults. The critics we go back to and read over time have usually been preoccupied with writing in an inviting and illuminating way about poetry they love. Anyway, it is difficult for me to imagine a sadder destiny than someone like Logan's. This is the only way he can get any notice in the literary world (whatever that is), and I recently contributed to that in a rather ridiculous way myself, and for that I am sorry. But I got a poem out of it. I'm calling it "Attack of the Blog People."
Wait, does William Logan have a blog? That would rule!
Two) a poem by Amber Tamblyn:
Not asking for eternity in the lunchboxes of future children but,
when you're fucking me.
No more imagining.
I deserve to watch your lips stumble.
Well so much for that Netflix queue.
8. What movie do you wish you could live in?
The film adaptation of "The Big Book of People Praising George, Seeing Only the Best In Him, and Overpaying Him, and Overpaying Him On Time For Once," the title of which Hollywood has changed to "Savage Desperate Lust Vendetta Handjob."
Remember to join the George Saunders Army! It's like the Salvation Army, only gays can join, and you won't have to harass people in front of Target with your annoying goddamn bell.
Also: I don't know how I missed this, but Saunders' website has an MP3 of Tony Danza Tony fucking Danza reading "The Barber's Unhappiness" live at The Mint in LA (go here and scroll to the bottom). I am obsessed with Tony Danza for reasons that I cannot quite explain, but for now, I'll just say this: The dude has a regular feature on his talk show called "Extravadanza" (formerly "Danza Prize Bonanza"). If that doesn't make you love him, I give up. I fucking give up.
Ali Smith, author of The Accidental and god among mortals, is the first author ever to be shortlisted for the UK's three most prestigious book awards The Booker, The Whitbread and The Orange. The complete Orange shortlist:
-The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
-Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
-On Beauty by Zadie Smith
-The Accidental by Ali Smith
-The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
-Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
It's a strong, strong list, but only one of the finalists has won a (theoretical) rooster. I'm just saying. It's moments like this that make me proud to be Scottish. (And by "Scottish," I mean "German-Italian, but I own a Proclaimers CD.")
A Random House vice president rejected a sort-of-apology from How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life author Kaavya Viswanathan, who is accused of plagiarizing parts of her novel from two books by Megan McCafferty.
In her statement on Monday, Viswanathan said, “When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, ‘Sloppy Firsts’ and ‘Second Helpings,’ which spoke to me in a way few other books did.”
But when The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. asked Viswanathan about the inspiration for her book last week—before the similar passages were reported—she responded, “Nothing I read gave me the inspiration.”
Lisa Daniels of the Today Show picks up the Kaavya Viswanathan story; Publishers Weekly's Charlotte Abbott gets the heel-grinding moment, says "It doesn't sound good to me."
So, what is this Drew Gardner poem "Chicks Dig War" of which I and many others have been speaking?
Women are excellent teachers
of the bitter lesson that being
anti-war does not get a man laid.
More video from the Flarf Festival coming throughout the day over at my blog. End of public service announcement.
Among rock musicians to publish poetry, David Berman enjoys more respect and (mainly) serious attention from poets than most. If that's something you can enjoy. (Sorry, Mr. Tweedy, Mr. Corgan. Dude's got an MFA.) Anyway, nice to see him up onstage and finishing his set.
Elsewhere in the Sun, Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books (Maud Newton noticed the LA Times piece yesterday) is described as an account of "a bibliophile's worst nightmare." What'd Keats say? "Heard melodies are sweet, blah blah blah sweeter."
Eric Ormsby looks at the new Aliki Barnstone translation of The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy in The New York Sun. If you've read Coetzee, you know Cavafy -- his poem supplies the title Waiting for the Barbarians. For some reason Ormsby is more interested in the poems about the decay of nations than the sweet, self-punishing sensual ones; to each his own, I guess:
And the Alexandrians thronged to the celebration,
Enthusiastic and cheering
In Greek and Egyptian and some in Hebrew,
Charmed by the beautiful spectacle -
Though they knew, of course, what it all was worth,
What hollow words were these kingdoms.
Sadly, they appear to be crotchets about felled elms. Nothing like his early masterpieces, such as "An Eighteenth-Century Calvinistic Hymn":
Thank God my Afflictions are such
That I cannot lie down on my Bed,
And if I but take to my Couch
I incessantly Vomit and Bleed.
I am not too sure of my Worth,
Indeed it is tall as a Palm;
But what Fruits can it ever bring forth
When Leprosy sits at the Helm?
Thought Torment's the Soul's Goal's Rewards
The contrary's Proof of my Guilt,
While Dancing, Backgammon and Cards,
Are among the worst Symptoms I've felt.
Oh! I bless the good Lord for my Boils
For my mental and bodily pains,
For without them my Faith all congeals
And I'm doomed to HELL'S NE'ER-ENDING FLAMES.
April 25, 2006
On April 15, Portland mayor Tom Potter committed a little concrete poetry, changing one letter in the city's name for the day.
Event organizer Dan Rapahel's Bop Grit Storm Cafe was one of my first bowls of word salad, lo I don't want to say how long ago. Some of it still sounds great -- "the meat of a car" -- "bedrooms too warm for breakfast / popping under the weight of parcel post." Some of it is still "peacock combat of genetic glossolalia / methedrine sign language" too. What can you do.
Could swear I pointed to Bat City Review, but it appears not: "Is that a muskrat or a wheelbarrow / pushing itself across Sixteenth?" asks Matthew Gavin Frank, and really that's the kind of question that a literary journal ought to pose.
Perhaps Field Notes can't make a movement where there's little concentrated activist juice. But something about this book feels as though it might. For a friend of mine, Kolbert's New Yorker series was an awakening--the first time, she said, she really understood what was happening and why we must act. Let's hope this powerful, clear and important book is not just lightly compared to Silent Spring. Let's hope it is this era's galvanizing text.
"A cartoon depicting a person engaged in a sex act with a giant hamster doesn't belong in a San Bernardino County library. And our tax dollars shouldn't be used to pay for it either, " he said.
Soft Skull, one of the country's great indie presses, is offering a 2006 fiction subscription a hundred dollars gets you 12 books, including Nick Mamatas' Under My Roof, Delia Falconer's The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers and Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart. They're also offering a similar poetry subscription program, featuring, among others, Bookslut contributor Daniel Nester's God Save My Queen.
After ten years, a book club in Boston is 251 pages through Finnegans Wake's 628:
Because of its density, Joyceans recommend reading it aloud and in a group with diverse backgrounds and knowledge, in order to get the most out of it. The sentence rhythms sometimes mimic songs, for one thing, and while a scholar might identify a Sanskrit word an avid fisherman would be the one to recognize the name of an obscure trout fly, an enthusiastic gardener an exotic plant.
Ah. So how diverse is the group?
There are usually four or five people at a meeting, says Jespersen, ''but we've had as many as 10." The group is currently all male, mostly in their 40s, but has included a few women.
Truman Capote's ball: You are there!
Wait. That doesn't sound good.
The return of Poetry Northwest is hailed for all the right reasons in the Portland Tribune:
You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of literary magazines that include a bit of what the poets call “T&A.”
Let's see: Fence...
Another character, having already lost her husband to brain cancer, commits suicide after her back pain becomes too much to bear. "Old age isn't a battle," the protagonist thinks to himself after calling a former colleague who is dying in a hospice. "Old age is a massacre."
"This book came out of what was all around me, which was something I never expected — that my friends would die," Mr. Roth said.
The internet is filthy with poem-a-day sites, but how many poet-a-week sites do you know? Yesterday through Friday, James Grinwis is the featured poet at No Tell Motel.
“You want to bet on that hand, you want to?”
One hand said.
Pressing the escape button, Maury
found himself ensconced in the belly of a submersible.
Those who want to destabilize the health care system and those
who seek to preserve it appeared on the monitor
with a handful of martinis.
Kaavya Viswanathan, the 19-year-old author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, acknowledged "there are similarities" between passages in her novel and two novels by YA author Megan McCafferty, but says it was unintentional. The Harvard Crimson, which broke the story, prints the text of Viswanathan's apology, and reports that McCafferty's publisher, Random House, is "certain that some literal copying actually occurred."
A show of Patti Smith's art opens at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
Say what you like about its airy grandeur, CBGB it is not. But if Smith seems an unlikely headliner for Glasgow International, the city's second festival of contemporary art, you need to look beyond the music of her Horses album of 1975, to the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe. That's a better indication of Smith's grounding in the New York art scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her music was an extension of her poetry, which was, in turn, an extension of her art.
If there was ever anyone who wanted to be famous more than Patti Smith did, hide me from that person. Oh wait, there were a few people. Ah well, everybody's forgotten about them all, right?
According to Business Week, "blooks are blooming."
To translate -- books based on blogs are gonna be huge. Because there are a lot of blogs. And everybody with a blog wants to write a book. So a company selling bloggers back their words with a perfect binding could do pretty well.
I'm going to get right on that as soon as I forget how colonialism works.
On second thought, why not bring the ratio of writers to readers up over one. I mean, besides for the trees' sake.
Raytheon CEO William Swanson said Monday that he is not guilty of plagiarism because he has never claimed to be the original author of the 33 rules in his popular booklet Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management.
Many of Swanson's "rules" appear to be lifted from WJ King's 1944 textbook, The Unwritten Laws of Engineering including, amusingly, this:
King: "Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements."
Swanson: "Be extremely careful in the accuracy of your statements."
Matt Dillon talks to the San Francisco Chronicle about his forthcoming adaptation of Charles Bukowski's 1975 novel, Factotum:
In a scene that had even the festival's blase audience agog, the character realizes he's caught crabs from his lover (Lili Taylor) just as he's supposed to leave for work. Ever resourceful, she applies ointment to his private parts and then systematically bandages them up.
"When I read the scene in the script, I thought, 'Interesting -- how are we going to shoot this?' " Dillon recalled. "I was really lucky to have Lili because I had to have trust in the other actor that we could play with it." After her handiwork, "I looked like I was wearing a diaper for a sumo wrestler."
I hear some people like that. Bukowski, that is.
The National Book Critics Circle has a blog.
April 24, 2006
The Academy of Arts and Sciences (the one that publishes Daedalus) has announced its 226th class of Fellows, which includes the following authors:
Alda, Alan: Actor, Writer, Director, Beverly Hills, California
Bernstein, Charles: Donald T. Regan Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
Clinton, William Jefferson: Former President of the United States; Founder, William J. Clinton Foundation, New York
Dove, Rita: Commonwealth Professor of English, University of Virginia
Gupta, Anil K.: Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh
Lessig, Lawrence: Professor of Law, Stanford University
Lopate, Phillip: John Crawford Adams Professor of English, Hofstra University
Moretti, Franco: The Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Director, Center for the Study of the Novel, Stanford University
Remnick, David: Editor, The New Yorker
Taruskin, Richard: Class of 1955 Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
Vogel, Paula: Adele Kellenberg Seaver Professor of Creative Writing, Brown University
Voigt, Ellen Bryant: Poet, Marshfield, Vermont
Waldrop, Rosmarie: Poet, Novelist, Translator, Providence, Rhode Island
A side note: I am having trouble with both my phone and email, so if you've tried to contact me in the past few days, I probably haven't actually gotten your message. Hopefully, I will eventually figure out what I did wrong, but in the meantime, you might want to resend any emails that I haven't responded to. Very sorry about this.
Louisiana State University Press was caught with next-to-no inventory when Claudia Emerson's poetry collection Late Wife won the Pulitzer last week.
Spectator: Do you believe, like Orwell, that the misuse of language is a larger societal problem, or are you less caustic?
GS: I believe that’s true and believe that’s really evident right now. You know, you listen to Cheney or Rumsfeld talk, you can see that there’s something funny going on there. Or, for that matter, Michael Moore. I think that propaganda, even inadvertent propaganda, reveals itself in syntax instantly. I was traveling around and I hadn’t watched TV in four or five days and I turned it on and it was kind of unbelievable how fulla shit it was. Even if the grammar isn’t bad, the tone is just... “George Clooney coming undone!” Who the hell is saying that? What does that mean, you know? Language is the canary in the coal mine, it tells us a lot of subtext.
It seems like whole days have passed since I mentioned an impending poetry reading in New York City, so here goes:
An old joke, repurposed:
What's the difference between Harold Bloom and God?
The Guardian sighs, shakes its head sadly, and writes about "fratire."
In the book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, the author introduces himself bluntly. "My name is Tucker Max," he writes, "and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead."
He includes a series of autobiographical tales to illustrate these character traits. One story, The Pee Blame, has him wetting the bed and blaming it on his drunken conquest. He suppresses his laughter as she loads the sheets into the washing machine and writes him out a cheque for a new mattress.
You've heard this before, but gangway -- here comes convergence:
For publishers confronting declining newspaper circulation in most parts of the world, the devices offer the tantalizing promise of reaching more readers while saving on printing and distribution costs. But after some highly publicized e-book machines failed to take off in the late 1990's, those long-held hopes have remained elusive.
The difference this time, developers and supporters say, is that the screens on the new hardware are made to reflect rather than transmit light, making them more like paper. The devices weigh about 13 ounces (light enough to be held in one hand while reading) and can be updated in Wi-Fi hot spots or through Internet connections (although they cannot be used to surf the Web yet). Their touch screens are also capable of doubling as notebooks to jot down information or to download books. Pages are turned with the touch of a button.
Book release parties "are decidedly not what they once were," and thank God.
"When you finish a book — not that I have a lot of experience finishing them — it's such a Herculean effort that you feel that you deserve everything," [author/socialite Fran] Lebowitz said. "It's like coal mining. The only people I feel sorrier for are coal miners. And they never have parties, they sometimes don't live through the day. But I'm sure if you ask them each day when they come out of the mine if they think they'd want people passing around canapés, they'd say yes."
And people say New Yorkers are out of touch. Imagine!
Though many people have tried to insist that Shakespeare must have been a secret guild of theatricals, or the Earl of Oxford, or Sir Walter Raleigh, or some other person of education and rank ("How about the theory that Shakespeare is really Cliff Robertson?" joked a friend of mine), there is no doubt the man existed. Those who are still skeptical may be the same people who, generally pessimistic about human ability, insist that the pyramids were built by space aliens, or that Joyce Carol Oates is really a committee of middle-aged men. Or else they are the same elitists who think things like the roots of rock 'n' roll are actually white.
I believe that Joyce Carol Oates built the pyramids and invented rock 'n' roll, because she is an alien. You want proof? It's all on the backs of speed limit signs. Prove me wrong.
It's tough being 13 and having no real voice of my own. Sometimes I feel like I'm a 35-year-old man who's trying too hard to be knowing.
"Did you know Lorena Bobbitt had an agent in Culver City?" he asked, with a look of wonder. "An agent! You cut off some guy's wangerino and then you go to Hollywood and think you have a motion picture deal. This is America at its most insane."
There are not a lot of writers who are cool enough to use the word "wangerino" and get away with it. Talese is one. I am not.
The Mel Gibson-produced documentary Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man is slated for theatrical release June 21, Pitchfork reports.
I'm Your Man was directed by Lian Lunson, whose previous claims to fame include a PBS documentary about Willie Nelson and work on the companion CD to The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's other movie about a Jew with a fanatical cult following.
Sour grapes or real trouble at the Columbia School of the Arts?:
A short list of documentable facts—I’ll begin with the smaller issues and proceed to the larger ones—would include master’s theses that are routinely passed despite the fact that the level of writing exhibited in them is remedial at best and virtually illiterate at worst, tenure-track hires of close personal friends of the chair who have, quite literally, not a single publication credit to their names and who are hired over candidates with two and three books—resulting in a situation in which students often have more experience and more publications than their instructors, and an institutional culture in which those who have done nothing for 10 or 15 years hire others like themselves in order to make their own lack of accomplishment less visible and, for the same reason, discriminate against those who are active in their fields.
The author, U Chicago prof Mark Slouka (recently denied tenure at Columbia), mentions that the program has "let slip away the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham and American Academy of Arts and Letters novelist Maureen Howard."
We had dinner with them twice a week
for 23 years and now we've heard
(nobody called, we just heard) that she's living
with her aroma therapist and he has a thing for
Specifically, it's redheaded teenage
boys having sex with fox terriers in
restaurant basements while he, dressed in a sailor suit,
watches from a dark corner
This would make casual sex very hard to come by,
I would think, but maybe it's more of a scene
than I know
David Zhou of The Harvard Crimson reports that Kaavya Viswanathan's popular YA novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life "contains several passages that are strikingly similar" to the Megan McCafferty books Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. The suspect passages are detailed here.
When The Crimson reached Viswanathan on her cell phone Saturday night and informed her of the similarities between “Opal Mehta” and “Sloppy Firsts,” the sophomore said, “No comment. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Check it, Camille Paglia is still flogging Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World's Best Poems. This time, she's charming her international anglophone audience:
There is one, perhaps surprising, Canadian selection. Not Leonard Cohen nor Irving Layton nor Al Purdy, but balladeer Joni Mitchell, for Woodstock, which most people regard as a song. Paglia says it's "an anthem for my conflicted generation . . . an important modern poem, possibly the most popular and influential poem composed in English since Sylvia Plath's Daddy."
There are no modern British poets included. "No one made the cut," she says. "The Brits were really offended."
Maybe you can help me. I'm trying to figure out what August Kleinzahler was thinking, opening his LRB review of Roy Fisher's new collection this way:
In a 1979 review of Roy Fisher’s collection of poems The Thing about Joe Sullivan, probably the most likeable collection by a not always likeable poet, John Ash wrote: ‘In a better world, he would be as widely known and highly praised as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.’ This would be a very strange world, and not necessarily a better one. Fisher has never aspired to the sort of readership that Heaney and Hughes enjoy; it’s not clear he has aspired to much of a readership at all. Astringent in tone, the voice denuded of personality and with all the warmth of a lens, exploratory, restless, difficult: it is poetry almost entirely without charm. On first learning that his work was being read outside a small circle of poet friends, Fisher froze up for an extended period of time, as he would periodically throughout his writing life.
As I read this, I hear Bill Cosby saying, "Got to use the negative psychology on the kids."
April 21, 2006
So you may have noticed all the repeated words in the poems I've been quoting here. I'm not saying repetition is the only way to get poetry readers' attention, but maybe I am. It's probably all the flarfy Google-TM-sculpting... (100% increase in revenues? What the --)
The milk will be good until October 7th.
That guy nursing the hangover will be good starting tomorrow.
The little boy will be good from now until Christmas and then he will be bad again.
The little girl, lifting the dollhouse over her head and hurling it to the ground, will not be good no matter what.
Charlie says it's all good as he lights a joint the size of a telescope and charts his inner constellations.
UPDATE: The site's back: $12 for issue 4.3.
Bob Holman recalls his poetry Chicago:
Theory as to why Slam developed in Chicago: because bareknuckle Sandburgian poets refused to allow scene takeover by Performance Artists (yaccch! e’en the redundancy of those words makes me yaccch) as did NY/SF because: the poets were already doing it.
Literary history as she is spoke, f'reals.
Next my wife told me that we had to find and buy a house within two months, because her brother would be moving in with us. She also informed me that the house had to have a good-size garage so that their band, Eux Autres, would have a practice space. Ever since high school I've wanted a girlfriend who sang, and my wife does, in fact, sing, but I guess I imagined that this girl would be a mellow and sensitive songstress like Emmylou Harris, strumming a guitar quietly. My wife plays the drums.
You remember Bobby? That weird kid in high school who went out of his way to wear plaid pants, day-glo sneakers, a green mohawk, maybe a little goth makeup, and sucked on a pacifier all day? Bobby spent more time planning his anti-conformity outfit (because, “you know, he just does his own thing, he’s such an individual“) every morning than Jenny the Cheerleader dedicated to her hair. But then he always bitched and moaned about how Pam the Prom Queen ignored him. Some self-published authors are the same way. They act like idiots and then wonder why they face such disdain.
Rake's Progress has a hilariously accurate list of stock characters from Annie Proulx's fiction. I can't decide which is my favorite: "Tall and plain housewife slowly dying of loneliness and Weltschmerz" or "He Who Alone Must Ride Fences, Endlessly, Silently."
A: I won't play "Show your credentials." Here are my credentials!
B: Neither will I. Here are mine! Also, despite your credentials, you're an asshole!
A: That's ad hominem, you sellout bastard!
B: Everyone's a sellout in this world, so that's not worth mentioning. By the way, you're a sellout too! Radical chic! And you drink!
Lee Martin's novel The Bright Forever was a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year check out the Book Notes submission he did for Largehearted Boy last year, which includes songs from Lucinda Williams, Neko Case and the Drive By Truckers.
"I've got poetry-reading tonight at Concordia University in Montreal," said Karen Mulhallen, a Ryerson University professor, fearing she wouldn't have time to prepare for the 7 p.m. reading.
"I've got poetry-reading." It's ok, it's curable.
Read an excerpt from Michael Gray's forthcoming The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia at the 33 1/3 blog. I feel like I have been subconsciously waiting for this book since I was 13 and heard John Wesley Harding for the first time. Rock.
Q: What have been the biggest success stories from Open City, the magazine and the press?
A: For the books, a big one is David Berman, whose first book was also Open City's first book — Actual Air. It's sold somewhere around 15,000 copies, and we keep having to reprint. A lot of people identify us with that book — to the point that I've heard people call us "Open Air." And then there's Sam Lipstye, whose story collection Venus Drive has a similar kind of cultish fandom behind it. It also happens to be one of my favorite story collections of all time, which is a really nice thing to feel about a book I published.
As for the man who wrote "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," he says good-naturedly, "Look, it's in the title, right? I really hope and pray and wish that it can be worked out."
Talking from his home in California yesterday, Mr. Chabon added, "Of course, I don't know anything about how these things are done and it's not my job to make those kinds of decisions, but I think it would be great for the movie and it would be great for the city, too," just as the film of "Wonder Boys" was.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
In a story dated 4/20, The Book Standard reports that Snoop Dogg's debut novel will be published in October.
Double-threat Bob Hicok has worthy poems and a short story in the new Boulevard:
"God that's weird," Karen said.
"Excuse me?" replied the man two stools over, the only other person in the diner. He looked at the Leprechaun tattoo on the inside of her wrist.
She hadn't been talking to him but answered, "A fungus," and pointed at the paper. "In Oregon. They say it's eighteen hundred football fields big, whatever that means. That it's been growing since 6,000 B.C. and no one knew it." She swung around to face him, grinned and added, "That's like a horror movie, this thing getting bigger, spreading out, taking over. Wouldn't you like to touch it?"
It took her a second to realize why he turned away and made a cave of his body over his breakfast. Fuck, she thought, I did it again.
Salman Rushdie opposes a unilateral withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Lawrenceville, Georgia, residents debate whether Harry Potter should be banned from Gwinnett County public school libraries. Next on the agenda: Should the local radio station be allowed to play the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together"?
At Thursday’s hearing, [Laura] Mallory spoke against the books along with four other parents and students. One of them was Stacy Thomas, a mother of five, who said reading the “Harry Potter” series made her daughter turn to witchcraft, ultimately causing their Christian family to lose friends, finances and their reputation.
Her daughter, Jordan Fusch, 15, testified that she began experimenting with tarot cards, curses and seances after reading the books.
“As a former witch, I can tell you that witchcraft is not fantasy. ... I felt I could not escape the clutches of witchcraft,” Fusch said. “It has taken several years of counseling to get to where I was before witchcraft and reading ‘Harry Potter’ books.”
Wow. That is...something. John Sugg, a Christian fan of the Harry Potter books, calls Laura Mallory, who initiated the challenge, "the fault line running through the spiritual foundation of America."
Replace Potter with “Christian” books, Mallory says. One suggestion is Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series. . . .
I wouldn’t stop my children from reading LaHaye’s science fiction novels, although the violence in them borders on pornography. Definitely, put them on the school library shelves. But I’d show my children the passage in Matthew where Jesus warns that no man knows when he’ll return, and that includes LaHaye. I’d counsel that the Jesus I know would not, as LaHaye depicts, return to become the greatest and most sadistic mass murderer in the world’s history.
Let's see, what recent books have I forgotten to press into your hands?
Two grains of sand in my hand: not in some
woman's pale hand first; they are nothing like these words I use to
order coffee or to attempt to pray. They are these geese, dividing
the sky into a kind of non-abstract grid, or even like the blessed
wallpaper designer growing inappropriately blissed-out, giddy
from drawing over and over again so many of the same same bird.
The NYC book party for Joanna's publisher is 6 pm tonight at Teachers & Writers, 5 Union Square West. If you've never been to an event at T&W's Center for Imaginative Writing (my old workplace) this is your next to last chance -- they're moving up to the Penn Station neighborhood.
Aphorisms. What is it about aphorisms?
Everything gets clearer and clearer -- then you realize you don't have to understand.
Maine in 1845 did not have limes as a possibility.
But everything was green. The beam industry,
the pew industry, all these did well.
Sina Queyras's new collection Lemon Hound... I want to say something about the Virginia Woolf/Gertrude Stein-obsession but every time I go back to the book to pull a quote I jump up and down with excitement. Not easy on the A train:
Yes in the pantry while the poker game peaked. Yes in stilettos. Yes in flats. Yes in pink plastic. Yes you do. Yes I will. Yes while there's still time. Yes while I can. Yes whenever possible. Yes I'll be a top. Yes I'll be your bottom. Yes I'll whomp your ass. Yes after shopping. Yes with chocolate. Yes now. Yes here. Yes even alone.
Q: What about this sex tape scandal that just blew over?
Amann: It’s not so much that he had phone sex with an underling, which is unfortunate. It’s that he had bad phone sex. When we looked at his actual technique, it was horrible. It shows how out of touch he is with reality, to think that using words like modus operandi is a good phone sex technique. So we dedicate an entire part of the book to giving him pointers.
April 20, 2006
Poet, lyricist, novelist, publisher, singer, and inventor of the torn-t-shirt, Richard Hell speaks to Minnesota Public Radio.
Here's a project for another time when I have time: Figure out why Poets & Writers magazine makes me nervous. I'm guessing it's the magazine-magazine teaser words: coveted, spark, industry. Or maybe it's the magazine-magazine constructions: "But more than the story of one man's life, this memoir is the story of a nation." Yikes. No, I've got it -- it's the subliminal encouragement to remain insecure in perpetuity: final, prizes, how to, deadlines, challenge, classic.
The anxiety comes straight through the screen, right? Ah, what's so stressful about a little hypercompetitiveness.
I think that once you've written a couple of film scripts you can never write a novel again. Also I just never had any desire to write another one. It's just not something that I've wanted to do. Writing one in the first place was just this perverse idea at the time. Someone said I should write a novel and I went, “Oh, okay.” It was that type of thing and I wrote one and I don't have any ambitions to be an author really. For me I just really want to be a songwriter. That's what I'm primarily interested in.
Mr. Nabokov is not saying that what happens to Lolita is excusable because it is no worse than the general mores of our society. So insensitive a judgment would be impossible for a man who can write with his intense sensitivity. He is saying the opposite — and saying it clearly to all who have ears to hear. He is saying that Lolita's fate is indeed fearful and horrible; and that the world ravaged by relativism which he describes is just as horrible. He is not excusing outrage; he is painting a specific outrage as the symbol of an outrageous society.
A couple days late to remember the centennial of the San Francisco fire, but good to keep in mind always ne'ertheless:
What Rescuers Learned
- Right after an earthquake, nobody's in charge. You self-start, or nothing happens.
- Collect tools!
- If you can smell gas, turn it off.
- After an earthquake, further building collapse is not the main danger. Fire is.
- When you see a fire starting, do ANYTHING to stop it, right now.
Roth's writing looks uncompromisingly straightforward but is subtle and clever. Consider the sentence describing Every-man's idea of the suicide of a member of his class, in unbearable arthritic pain. He imagines her swallowing the pills, "slowly swallowing them with her last glass of water, with the last glass of water ever". Her last glass, and then the last glass. The end of a person, the end of the world.
I am pretty desperate to read this book, to the point where I am considering sneaking into the Houghton Mifflin offices, dressed like a Fuller Brush man or something. But then they'll probably say "What? This is an office, not a house. And do they even have Fuller Brush men anymore, anyway?" And I'll have to throw down one of those ninja smoke bombs and disappear in the ensuing confusion.
Or I could just buy it. But two and a half weeks seems long to wait for this. Oh man, I love Philip Roth.
Elsewhere in The Economist (what, I only read it for the articles):
Not everything in the “blogosphere” is poetry, not every audio “podcast” is a symphony, not every video “vlog” would do well at Sundance, and not every entry on Wikipedia, the free and collaborative online encyclopedia, is 100% correct, concedes Mr Michalski. But exactly the same could be said about newspapers, radio, television and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
So there. Uh, where is there, exactly.
Of man's first disobedience (and spec screenplay)...: Paradise Lost is in development.
The Economist on Muriel Spark:
Fate had taken Ms Spark to Africa in 1937, to a miserable marriage from which she escaped six years later. But Africa also gave her the material for a short story, “The Seraph and the Zambesi”, with which she won the Observer's Christmas short story competition in 1951. After this, gradually, she became famous.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Economist, where even the obituaries will provoke snort-laughs.
I have never been able to see how a conflict - which in this case resulted in the eloquent northerners making the slave-owning southerners the most beautiful losers of all-time - can have forged a nation. So many books and movies have come out of America that seek to foist this opinion upon us. . . .
What is it about this war? The high number of deaths per soldier? The needless slaughter? Perhaps it was the "civil" bit. It was American against American. Perhaps that is what appeals to them. It was exclusively theirs. No one else was involved. Is this something to be proud of?
If I hadn't already written about his other books and just about everybody in his family business of balancing elegy and comedy, I'd be pitching a review of Anselm Berrigan's Some Notes on My Programming.
Here's the thumbnail: He gets all the shitty crazy real vocabulary of unidealized life into one place, and then he tickles it.
contracts are meant to be signed then read wake up and check birdy's collarAlternate take: He's the fusion of New York School and Beat poetry William Logan warned you about.
has he chewed through it? opened up his back? give vet hundreds for another
chew toy blood test rapid cycling on the window sill wracked by construction
but he still loves he doesn't know the syringe full of nasty-ass meds
is for his calamity he just knows I'm gonna jam it into his beak
One more try: His accounts of what the heart does when someone dies will get to you, ready or not.Hop ride on back of 18-wheel Evergreen
giant truck heading west near Canal
hold on tight as you can
when it zooms through Holland Tunnel
Wear holy shit poker face
while staring at driver
of car behind you
Hope glasses don't fall off
I'd be walking down the street interviewing myself—questions felt, unspoken answers articulated with measure lifted from interviews I'd read—& I'd read the tonalities into my voices in my head. This was, and is, how I communicate with myself much of the time. Uninterrupted consciousness began at four, when I started reading. I was prepared for Ted's death, without a word to its possibility having ever been plainly spoken in my direction. I don't care to explain that, other than to say it wasn't special, and that I was probably so prepared because he himself was, and I received that through his general calm, being what I mainly felt in his presence other than the times he'd get mad if the fifth sandwich or the right kind of pastry wasn't coming. When Kate was killed I went blank for about a year-and-a-half, a state I couldn't recognize until three or four years after having moved out of it.
Plus, you can hold the cover over your face and use it as a Halloween mask. Highly recommended.
Boston's Weekly Dig talks to Jonathan Safran Foer.
My life has really changed in the last year or two. Once I got married, my creative output cut way back. And having a kid, it cut back even more. It’s very satisfying in so many ways. I have diarrhea under my fingernails. It’s all I do.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard wants the nation's schools to stop teaching postmodern approaches to literature.
Here we go again. A Lexington, Massachusetts, parent is upset that a second-grade teacher read the children's book King & King to her son's class. The book is about two princes who fall in love with each other. Also there's a kitty. Real hardcore, immoral, adults-only stuff.
Speaking of Failbetter (haven't read the new issue yet), that poem "The Blue Terrance" by Terrance Hayes on poets.org yesterday isn't the same poem as the one with the same name in last spring's Failbetter -- I like the Failbetter one better:
I believe all the stories
of who I was: a hardback book, a tent behind the house
of a grandmother who was not my grandmother, the smell of beer,
which is a smell like sweat. They say I climbed to the roof
with a box of light bulbs beneath my arm.
The publishing industry is likely to watch the progress of Mr. Frazier's new book closely because at the time he signed the deal four years ago, his advance was considered extraordinary for a literary writer who had only written one previous book, although it was a huge best seller. With just a one-page outline of the planned work, he sold the second novel in an auction, and in so doing left behind the editor, Elisabeth Schmitz of Grove/Atlantic, who had discovered and nurtured him to success.
However, it is necessarily true, that after even a limited experience with poetry, postcards, one begins to know in advance, at least with a part of one's consciousness, that the results will not be satisfying, even though many other benefits may indeed arrive ("accidental aspects")—positions, appointments, the love of beautiful women, all things falling off the shoulder like a shawl made of ice.
It's not just me and New Pages -- Jonathan Lethem said that "As a teenager and aspiring writer I always told myself I wanted to be to novel-writing what Kenneth Koch was to poetry," and the perpetually-in-our-prayers Village Voice named it one of the top 25 of 2005. Just sayin'.
Nick Antosca, author of the forthcoming novel Fires, has a new short story at Yankee Pot Roast.
The new issue of failbetter is online, and includes an interview with Anne Tyler, and this is the exciting part a short story/novel excerpt from Bookslut contributor and Chasing Ray founder Colleen Mondor.
Getting ready to host the opening event of the Flarf Festival 8 pm tonight at the Medicine Show Theater, 52nd between 10 & 11, NYC:
Huge zit on the left side of the emcee's nose: check.
Except when it's about the annual New Year's Day reading at the Poetry Project, I get tremors when the already intimidating words marathon and poetry reading appear next to each other: Six actors in Columbus, Ohio intend to read Shakespeare aloud for at least 100 hours to set a world record for the marathon poetry reading.
The winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize in history, David Oshinsky's Polio: An American Story, was the second straight history Pulitzer for Oxford University Press. (Last year's winner was David Hackett Fischer's Washington's Crossing.) The Houston Chronicle profiles Oshinksy, and the Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas Tower was lit Monday night in honor of the professor's victory.
So the question on everyone's mind (and by "everyone's," I mean "my") is whether OUP can threepeat, and whether using the word "threepeat" immediately sacrifices any bit of literary credibility you might have left. (Yes and yes.) OUP just published Raymond Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, which has been getting incredible reviews. If Arsenault wins, expect his publishers to celebrate Oxford-style (a keg of Natty Light and a blunt the size of Eugen Sandow's forearm).
Chicago blogger Don Baiocchi examines response books like Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat and Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too, both responses to the book French Women Don't Get Fat. Don comments:
The point of all these books is basically: American women, you're all fatties. Apparently, every non-American woman is holding the key to eating healthy in her size 2 jeans. The answer seems pretty obvious, ladies: move...to another section of the bookstore before you cry or hit someone.
Katherine Rushton interviews, sort of, actor and musician David Hasselhoff, whose autobiography is released in September.
There our "interview" is in fact a monologue, as Hasselhoff recounts at break-neck speed his experiences as Michael Knight's real life alter-ego. By his own admission he's "not that good at structure" ("I'm kinda ADD"), and so one heroic tale veers off into another, abruptly interspersed with shouted impersonations of the characters he meets.
I am guessing that the book kind of reads like The Year of Magical Thinking combined with a light beer commercial from the mid-'80s, but hey, anything's possible! Except for this book being good. (Thanks to Jon for the link.)
And, yes, in retrospect what seems crazy is how “threatening” these images were to the American government — which subpoenaed both the Klaws and Bettie in the federal 1955 hearings on juvenile delinquency, regardless of the fact that the FBI ruled their bondage images weren’t obscene by any legal definition. Largely because of how chaste the images truly are, but also because of how silly Page’s performances are. But part of why they are still so sexy — and perhaps what was so threatening — is how unfazed she is by the supposedly transgressive behavior in which she’s participating; she’s clearly enjoying herself, and not taking it too seriously.
April 19, 2006
Last year I decided to read the poems in every literary journal I could find.
What I found: It's exceptional for a journal to get one poem out of three across to any given reader.
I'm going to be rereading more than half the poems in the first number of Brigid Hughes' post-Paris venture, A Public Space. Helps that they got work from such pros as Michael Palmer, Matthea Harvey, and Peter Gizzi. The piece that I would put in an anthology if I did that kind of thing is Katia Kapovich's "Tutor," a prosey account of teaching English to a "Russian kid with the Down syndrome."
He had zero English, and his RussianThe pleasures here are partly in what Big Republican Internet Bookseller calls "statistically improbable phrases" -- slurping tea Russian style, voluptuous cooing, colorless eyes without eyelashes, perpetual chocolate -- and partly in the timing and timbre of the punchline:
was not without problems either. Never mind
syntax, spelling, and punctuation, he wrote
in a telegraphic style. Now he set about learning English:
The sky is blue. the grass is green. The paper is white.
I felt bad that our studies never advanced much beyond
those simplistic statements. Blessed, on the other hand,
with a perfect ear, he learned to pronounce them
without a trace of Russian accent, much better than I ever could.
The next thing I knew, he was dating an American girl.
"Anton, my goodness, how did that happen?"
He looked at me seriously. "I told her, 'Look! The sky is blue!
The grass is green! The paper is white! What is your name?'"
If there's a new clichéd form in recent American poetry, it's the skinny-poem-several-lines-in-a-row-beginning-with-not then-suddenly-the-poet-lets-us-know-kablow! this-is-what-I-wanted-to-tell-you-about poem. Trust me, if you're at a reading and you hear the word not at the beginning of a poem, it's perfectly fine to shout "Not!" à la Wayne's World, in fact, it's considered impolite not to do so.
Not the barren eagle
nor the salt fish kitten,
not the gash or the limp,
not the golden cake on the rim
of a gale, not hopeless and feverish,
not the strip of blue salted bing cherry
under her tongue (where I kissed it)...
I've mentioned that I fucking love Walter Kirn before, right? No? I fucking love Walter Kirn.
If unborn children really had rights, the infant daughter of the actress Katie Holmes and the temporarily-humanoid immortal starseed that styles itself 'Tom Cruise' would have been delivered by a lawyer. Breaking the absolute silence of the delivery room, the lawyer, on the infant's behalf, would have sued for spiritual guardianship and demanded that all profits earned from sale of the child's story and image-- including 'virtual' profits in the form of publicity for its parents -- be deposited in a trust account to fund its lifelong psychotherapy needs. It would also be stipulated that such therapy could not be interfered with or curtailed by 'Cruise' or his religious representatives.
(Via The Beiderbecke Affair.)
If you're in New York and you're free Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (COFF loser!) come say hello at the first Flarf Festival: Inappropriate Exploration in 21st Century Art, at the Medicine Show Theater, 52nd between 10 & 11. (I'm the emcee.)
Three nights. Three. Whole. Nights. Oh, you'll be hearing about it again.
Stay Free! talks to Leslie Savan, author of Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and, Like, Whatever, which I need to go buy soon. It looks fascinating.
Stay Free!: You write that street talk once rarely made it into print. And that it's only been relatively recently that the gap between written and spoken language has narrowed. Obviously, electronic media and marketing are a large part of that, but why do you think marketers were reluctant to use street talk in, say, the 1930s?
Leslie Savan: Because it was associated with lower classes and advertisers wanted to reach higher classes. Of course, now advertising plays to "the street" because that's where it's at. This goes back to the idea of covert prestige. When corporations use black street language it comes from the same desire to be cool, masculine, and tough. This is deliberate. Companies pay big money to look like outsiders.
(Via Number One Hit Song.)
Author Malachy McCourt (A Monk Swimming), the brother of Teacher Man author Frank McCourt, is running for governor of New York as a Green Party candidate. (Here's his campaign website, such as it is.) He joins fellow author Sander Hicks, the founder of Soft Skull Press, who's running as a Green for US Senate from New York.
Speaking of readings, some fairly reliable poets are reading in New York tonight:
- Sarah Manguso is part of a group event the Poetry Society is throwing at Baruch at 7:30; a few other people on that bill have done good work too, but Sarah's the only one Dave "I Hate Poetry" Eggers has blurbed.
- Joe Elliott -- no not the Def Leppard guy -- reads tonight at the Poetry Project 8 p.m. at St. Mark's Church, 10th & 2nd.
Speaking of Wilbur, here's his take on the ritual of the reading:
At poetry readings, you have to be willing to let a few things go by you, to be puzzled and frustrated from time to time, and to tolerate that as part of the poetry-reading experience.
That's sane. A hard sell, but sane. The part I don't get is the compulsion even some of the best poets have to announce that they'll "just read two more." No wonder everybody thinks readings go on too long. (I mean, they do, but...)
More on the Harry Potter challenge in Gwinnett County, Georgia:
The mother of four said she was opposed to the messages of the books, which describe a young wizard’s adventures in a school of magic. She said she had done much of her research online, reading a variety of Christian message boards and Harry Potter fan sites.
“Their thinking has changed. They’re designed to think that witches and witchcraft and wizards and all this is just normal. And that it’s OK. And that it’s even good. I strongly disagree with that. I don’t think it’s OK, and I don’t think it’s good at all,” [Laura] Mallory said.
Mallory suggested that the public school libraries replace the Harry Potter books with either The Chronicles of Narnia or the Left Behind: The Kids series, I guess because it's hard to find copies of The Malleus Maleficarum and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion with good library binding.
(On a related note, The Guardian lists the top 10 books on witch persecutions. I don't really understand what people have against witches. The ones I've met have all been sweet, gentle people who just want to celebrate the solstice and listen to their Dar Williams CDs in peace. I think they're less about riding broomsticks and turning people into newts and more about selling patchouli oil at their herb stores. What the hell's wrong with that?)
The Guardian presents the 50 best film adaptations of all time. There's no Mysterious Skin or Wonder Boys, but happily, props are given to Kes and Goodfellas (the only film adapted from a work of nonfiction to make the cut). And once again, I'm reminded that I'm one of like 17 people in the world who really hated the movie Fight Club. Is it just me? (It is. I know.)
Richard Wilbur has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation.
Publisher Judith Regan is finally moving her business to LA.
"New York is like a bad relationship that you can't get out of, because you still think the sex is good," the head of ReganMedia said. "Well, I think the sex is pretty good in L.A. too!"
God, what did LA do to deserve this? Oh yeah. Crash. Well...good luck! And don't make her angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
Is there a Howl for our own time, a cultural creation that explains, excites, antagonizes, and polarizes a wide swath of America?
At least one critic sees a poem with that potential:
In a poetry-sphere flooded with wishy-washy antiquated responses to the political moment, Gardner’s "Chicks Dig War" should be notorious.
That was fast -- found one. This is part of a poem by Julie Lechevsky from her new book-with-a-staple:
Sometimes you meet a love quackA little harsh, maybe, but I hear some people like that.
stuck deep in adolescence,
who wants from girls some version of their past,
a middle-inning set-up man
who wants to be the closer,
a "nice guy" who can't even finish last.
I cannot keep a denim butt from hoping,commitment is a medical term,
and yet I can't be friends with everyone.
I love you, the sound bite of a loser.
Thanks, Jessa. I'll try not to scratch the car.
So, yes, it is National Poetry Month, thanks for asking. Most poets are counting the days until they can go back to resenting the lack of attention (twelve -- twelve days). I myself don't see it, the lack. I think poetry's the dark horse of American letters.
For starters, most poems are short. You don't like the poem your favorite magazine or literary journal printed to break up space on the page? Fine, here's your 42 seconds back. Which brings me to my second point: Most poems don't do anything, but the ones that do -- bananas. If I find any like that this week, I'll let you know.
Besides, most short stories give me hives.
April 18, 2006
That's it for me for a week. I'm leaving for "vacation," which usually means doing the exact same amount of work, just in another state or country. Also, drunk. I'm heading to an island with our usual guest blogger Elizabeth Merrick, but never fear. I met Jordan Davis -- poet, critic, editor, blogger, talk show host -- while I was drunk on tequila and he was eating ribs (I think I ate some of his ribs... sorry about that). He's a Friend of Friends of Bookslut like feature writer Daniel Nester and former poetry columnist Dale Smith. I decided to ask him to guest blog even though he chickened out of attending a party next to a meth lab. (Meth mouth guy only bothered us once at that party, asking my friend for his lighter so that he could light his joint.) It is poetry month after all. (Isn't it? I have no fucking idea.)
I'll let Jordan tell you all sorts of intimate details of his life when he starts blogging tomorrow. But you're in good hands. I'll be back next Thursday, sunburned and hungover. (Your reading assignment for while I'm gone: Renee French's The Ticking. I'm smitten with this book.)
More on Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, from the Albany Times Union:
The story of how little has been done is well known, as the U.S. government under President Bush has fled all international efforts to reign in carbon dioxide emissions. "If you parse through it all," Kolbert said. "This is the administration's line, 'We'll just sit here and wait for something to happen.'
Kolbert also notes that relatively little was accomplished under the Clinton-Gore administration, despite some strong rhetoric.
I live in Austin. It was over 100 degrees yesterday and will be again today. The utilities have timed the rolling blackouts to ensure that no traffic light I encounter, at any time of the day, will actually be working. Basically, being outside here is like hugging a very fat man for a long time, and also the fat man is on fire. To paraphrase Hank Hill: This is Texas. It's 110 degrees in the shade, and if it gets one degree hotter, I'm going to kick Michael Crichton's ass.
I kill all plants. Every plant I have ever had under my care met a horrible end. I'm beginning to think the jade plant I bought for my living room is plastic, as it has not yet curled up and died. But I love books about gardening and farming. (Can you imagine if I had a farm? I would somehow manage to create the devastation of an entire state's crops, just by walking on the land.) William Alexander, however, is a good gardener, if obsessive. He talks to the New York Times about his book The $64 Tomato and how he managed to spend over $16,000 creating a garden in his yard.
A self-help bookstore in Chicago (yes, unfortunately those things really do exist) is in danger of closing. Let the funny headlines begin.
Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change is interviewed at AlterNet.
People don't like to confront problems they don't have a clear answer to. And the answers here -- to the extent there are answers -- are very, very complicated. They're very hard. We know what causes people to be overweight, and we can't even stop that! And with global warming it's not as simple as "eat less, lose weight." It's "do a million things." As the mayor of Burlington, Vt., said to me, there's not one thing we have to do; there are hundreds and hundreds of things we have to do. And we have to do them on a global scale.
After the interview with Susan, I met Jay McInerney. The novelist was on his Dutch tour. I introduced myself.
"I'm Sean Wilsey. We've actually met before, at a dinner."
"Oh, yeah ..." he said, noncommittally.
I said yeah.
He turned away and looked out the window.
The Herald Sun reports on The 9/11 Report, a Graphic Adaptation. Hill & Wang, an imprint of FSG, is publishing Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon's comic book adaptation of the 9/11 Commission's report in the hopes of widening the audience for it. The book will be published in September. (Link from Comics Reporter.)
Charles Webb, who based the characters played by Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross on himself and his partner, has told the Times that the couple are "two months in arrears on our rent and defaulting on our bank loans".
When colleges pick books for the incoming freshman class to read, some students get In the Shadow of No Towers, some get Mountains Beyond Mountains. Even others get The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom by David Kupelian, a book about those damn evil gays. Inside Higher Education has the story of the controversy over Ohio State University's nomination process for the freshman common book.
"Now I can only say that I lost because all three of us sucked," Rapp said sardonically in a phone interview yesterday from a New York restaurant. "There is so little support for American theater and the American playwright. It's a shame they couldn't give an award to one of us."
Ah, drama: The one form of writing less lucrative than poetry.
The FBI wants to go through the archive of late journalist Jack Anderson and "remove any item they deem confidential or top secret," reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
April 17, 2006
General Nonfiction: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins
Biography: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Poetry: Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
History: Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky
Best wishes to everyone affected by the Iowa City tornados. Illiterati, EarthGoat and Circle Jerk at the Square Dance all have firsthand accounts, and Babies Are Fireproof has pictures of the devastation.
Carolyn Nizzi Warmbold read all 79 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (Number 80 will be announced today.)
At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lawrence Douglas considers intentionalism, fiction writing, and learning to love or at least tolerate comparisons to Kingsley Amis.
The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Caitlin Flanagan.
She looks as if she couldn't bench-press 15 pounds, but there's a steely core in there. You can tell she's not budging on any of her stands, no matter how much they tick people off. As she puts it, "What interests me is that (my critics) seem really engaged about my articles. These people read them and react. In some respects this must be a good thing. I must have said it in a way that crystallizes their oppositional feelings."
Some of her detractors might be surprised to know that she's a died-in-the-wool Democrat, a pro-choice Catholic and a Berkeley baby who grew up on Bret Harte Road, ate ice cream at Edy's, hung out at Cragmont Park and attended Holy Names High School.
A Gwinnett County, Georgia, parent wants to remove the Harry Potter books from the county's public school libraries. Why? I'm glad you asked:
On the forms, she wrote that she objected to the series’ “evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and teaching children all of this.”
She wrote she had not read the series because it is long, and she is a working mother of four.
I don't know which is my favorite part: the fact that she didn't read the series "because it is long," or the reference to "evil blood sacrifice." (Is there good blood sacrifice?) Atlanta Journal-Constitution readers react to the controversy, and thankfully bring some perspective to the issue:
"I am a Christian. I feel that Christian rights are being abolished in this country. Everyone talks about our views being pushed on them. But what about our beliefs? Don't we have any rights at all?"
— Posted by "red" on the message board
I have heard the Constitution has something to say about free expression and nonestablishment of religion, but I haven't read it, because it is long. (Thanks to Leila and Tim for the links.)
Ali Smith is profiled at The Sunday Times and The Scotsman. Smith is apparently quite well known in the UK, which once again makes me feel bad about the books America chooses to send to the bestseller lists. The British are reading Ali Smith and we've got My Dying Professor Sure Taught Me a Great Deal and Although the Dog Did Not Behave, Still I Loved Him and thirty thousand books with "Templar" in the title.
On the other hand, Smith's The Accidental recently won The Morning News Tournament of Books, which is kind of like winning the Pulitzer, if the Pulitzer came with a rooster instead of a plaque and money. Which it should. Columbia University, are you listening? That's what the people want.
David Mitchell is interviewed at the Book Standard about Black Swan Green, a book I keep putting off reading. I'm about to go on vacation to Puerto Rico, and it doesn't seem like appropriate rum-drinking, beach-sitting, pigeon-pea-eating reading material. I'll probably just take a stack of Shirley Jackson paperbacks with me. But I did just finish number9dream this weekend. That's how far behind I am.
Critics may call her work fearless, but she doesn’t see herself that way at all. “The problem with having an active imagination is that you end up living in fear,” she says. “Basically, I’m terrified all the time. When I was a child, I thought when you were 9, you died. I’m very aware of the fragility of things now, as I watch my parents get older and I have this little girl who I just adore.”
Renee French is one of those comic book writers I would never recommend to anyone. It would be like asking my sister to sit down and watch Eraserhead. I love that movie, but I'm pretty sure she would puke. (Doesn't help that she recently had a baby.) Her books are... odd. But lovely. And then back to odd. The book that I don't feel weird about recommending, however, is her latest, The Ticking. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, and I think it's her best work. She is interviewed at the Comics Reporter about why she does her best thinking in the shower ("maybe it's the soap"), why she dislikes dialogue in comics, and how her mind is like astronomy.
If you're looking at some very faint object in the sky, in order to see it -- this is really corny -- in order to see it better it's best to look to the side. Right next to it. And then it comes in clear. It's something about the structure of the eye and how it works. It's really like that for me. I make notes in my notebook about, say, something that scares me. It will sit there a really long time, and then I'll have a dream or I'll be walking down the street and I'll see something that reminds me of it, and there will be a story that goes with it.
4. The Modernist tradition, inspired by Le Corbusier, flirted uneasily with science and functionalism. For instance, you might think that numbering my paragraphs was both scientific and functional: it isn't. It's just pretentious.
April 15, 2006
April 14, 2006
"To me, a novel is made up; it is a fiction. But it's the paradox of being unreal and real at the same time that interests me. F Scott Fitzgerald talked about the importance of being able to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time. It's a very child-like way to be as well. Even as grown-ups we go to a magic show and we can be impressed by the illusion and we don't want to know how the trick is done. That's what novels are like."
A federal judge smacked down a Reno high school for trying to prohibit one of its students from reading a "profane" poem at a statewide poetry recitation contest. The poem, WH Auden's "The More Loving One," contained the words and listen, if you are sensitive about profanity, then stop reading right now "hell" and "damn."
"Defendants (Coral Academy) apparently consider the poem inappropriate because it contains language that conflicts with the school's policies against students general use of profanity," [Judge Brian] Sandoval wrote. "However, when spoken in the context of a poem at a school-authorized, off-campus competition and written by a nationally recognized poet, the court finds that the language sought to be censured cannot even remotely cause a disruption of the educational mission."
To be fair, I can see where "hell" and "damn" would shock the people of Reno, Nevada. When you're driving down the street, minding your own business, looking out the window at a drunk businessman having oral sex with a transvestite heroin dealer, and Sophie B. Hawkins' "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" comes on the radio, it's all you can do to not swerve off the road in abject shock.
Although swerving off the road when "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" comes on the radio, which I guess is not too often anymore, is actually a totally appropriate reaction, now that I think about it, especially if it results in the radio breaking or your ears filling up with blood. Either way you win.
ANDY KAUFMAN MAY have been a wearer of masks - wrestler, busboy, comedian - but his essentially humanoid nature was never in doubt. This was not universally the case with Stanislaw Lem, the Polish writer who died on March 27 at age 84.
When in doubt, reporters, start with something that has no relevance to the article that follows whatsoever. Really, James Parker should get some sort of an award.
Alternet has an interview with Robert Atkins, one of the editors of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression.
I think the world, during the Gore-Bush election were so shocked to see that we really don't have this "one man, one vote" principle to which we pay lip service -- that someone could win and still receive a minority of the votes. This extends to so many areas of public life. We're trained on this idea that we have complete freedom of speech, freedom of press. Anyone who suggests that this isn't the case is looked upon traitorously. It's an ironic embodiment of the fact that we really haven't perfected those important goals.
Read an excerpt of the book here.
The book, which is shelved next to Charlie Brown and other comic books, contains some X-rated cartoons depicting graphic sexual acts, including sex with animals.
April 13, 2006
I'll say this: the laundry room scene is way more touching with "Fluff" playing over it. You'd almost think Rosemary and Terri Gionnoffrio are going to start to make out or something. They are looking at each other very tenderly. But no, now Rosemary is making out with Guy again.
Christ, how long is this song? OK, now it's over.
The Morning News Tournament of Books comes to a close, as the match between Home Land and The Accidental is decided. The winner, gracious in victory, offers to donate several flocks of chickens. Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner have commentary not just about the books, but also about Kate & Allie and Luther Vandross' "One Shining Moment." You surely do not want to miss this.
April 12, 2006
Frank Portman's King Dork is the best novel I've ever read about high school. (And it's not just about high school, of course, but that kind of thematic reductionism makes for a snappier open sentence, so.) Kurt Vonnegut said that "high school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of," which is true as far as it goes, but I prefer Portman's take, delivered at the beginning of his novel: "High school is the penalty for transgressions yet to be specified." Goddammit, you can say that again. The most shocking thing about King Dork is that it's Portman's debut novel; he writes with a natural grace and a charming, unique sense of humor that most authors never achieve, even after several books.
King Dork was officially released yesterday, and it's in the midst of a blog tour, organized by Andrew Krucoff. Portman and his novel have made stops at Gawker and Stereogum, and today he's at Largehearted Boy later this week, he'll be at Brooklyn Vegan and the Jane Magazine Guest Blog. Also stay tuned for an interview with Portman in Bookslut, coming soon. In the meantime, check out this hilarious trailer for the book, and go buy everything you can find from Portman's legendary punk band, The Mr. T Experience.
It's got the best description of A Separate Peace ever written ("...about this irritating guy who keeps trying to make this other irritating guy fall and break his leg until he finally does and ends up dying.") It's got an (imaginary) album called Margaret? It's God. Please Shut Up. And it finally confirms the suspicion we've all had that there's something odd and sinister about high school teachers' collective obsession with The Catcher in the Rye. I love this book as much as I hated high school, and that's some of the highest praise I can possibly give.
Gina Piccalo profiles Caitlin Flanagan, author of To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.
A profile in this month's Elle is a case in point of the impasse between Flanagan and her critics. In writer Laurie Abraham's telling of their interview, Abraham arrived at Flanagan's house flustered; back home, her daughter's pet gerbil had just died. Flanagan at first sympathized. Then after their chat turned heated over the question of what's lost when a mother works, she reminded Abraham: "The gerbil's dead and you're here."
"You could hear me gasp on the tape," Abraham said in an interview.
When reminded of the exchange, Flanagan gazed into the middle distance and mused, "Yeah, that was funny."
A California teenager checks out a manga book from a public library, and is shocked to find out it contains sexual content. How would you headline that story? Obviously, you'd have to go with: "Good grief, Charlie Brown! Family stunned by porn comics at library." I mean, that just writes itself, you know?
There are two kinds of brilliant books: the kind you admire, and the kind you pull over your head like a quilt while the outside world slips away. Improbably, The Accidental manages to be both.