May 31, 2006
The Book Standard: Anderson Cooper Almost Comes Out on Top. Heh.
Keith Phipps recommends books he hasn't finished, and one he hasn't started yet.
Margaret Atwood seems to be having fun in Hay, so why did she invent the remote autographing thing? Is the weather really that great in Canada this time of the year? Actually I guess it probably is.
This is a great name for a blog or for anything: Sean Kilpatrick's Anorexic Chlorine Sex Toy Museum. Sean interviews Tao Lin, who is the author of the forthcoming BED, and who I think I had a dream about last night. Though in the dream his name was Chris; he was someone I knew in college.
Abebooks.com unveils a line of "not-books," including Whoops. I Was Wrong by George W. Bush, and Making Marriage Work by Henry VIII.
Geoffrey M. Schmidt on the absence of "minority and fringe literature" in that recent New York Times "Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years" list.
Among the one dozen old White folks (11 males, one female) is a lone minority representative. [Toni] Morrison, of course, belongs on these lists as much as anyone else. She is a tremendous writer, and Beloved is a monumentally influential novel. It is not so much surprising that Morrison's work earned this honor as it is disappointing what Morrison has come to represent in the literary world: a token. . . .
. . . And, perhaps, the people who created these lists are most afraid to mention or give credit to out-of-the box authors like Phillip K. Dick, Frank Miller, Norman Mailer, or Michael Chabon (even though the last two were winners of the Pulitzer Prize, which seems to have been the template from which each of these author's brushes were stroked.) A cynic might argue this is because, just as minority authors have been represented by Morrison, revolutionary authors have been represented in one, singular work: A Confederacy of Dunces, which, not surprisingly, was a Pulitzer Prize winner, as well.
Morrison isn't the only minority on the list, actually Edward P. Jones, who is black, was included for The Known World. And John Updike, of course, is Japanese-American. Wait...he's not? OK. But still, Edward P. Jones.
That doesn't really take away from Schmidt's point, though. Which is why Bookslut is launching our own list: The Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years That Will Not Bore the Living Shit out of You. Send your submissions to whiteliberalguilt at gmail dot com.
The Times: Russians send Paulo Coelho to Siberia.
I see. How much do you guys want to keep him there?
I think of "There Will Never Be Another You" as a kid brother to "Golden Days." "Golden Days" came at a time when the war mongers were threatening the total, awful, absolute, double-scary end of the world, and little peace-ladies were wailing,oh don't let it be the absolute, total, worse than we can ever imagine end of the world!!! The rhetorical din was awful. I kept imagining different ways we could just politely edge our ways out of the conversation -- wear a tee shirt, perhaps, that said on one side, YOU CAN KILL ME, and on the other BUT YOU CAN'T IMPRESS ME.
This new book is very much like that, since we're forced to listen to several sides of a very unpleasant argument. People who hold our lives in their hands are not going to be inclined to let us forget that. So, again, I tried to figure out ways we could just sneak out of the playground where the bullies -- on EVERY SIDE -- are holding forth.
He went on: "I think I felt I could understand the animosity and hatred which an Islamic believer would have for our system. Nobody's trying to see it from that point of view. I guess I have stuck my neck out here in a number of ways, but that's what writers are for, maybe."
While adults of all ages have endured the economic and social changes brought by post-industrialization, today's young adults are the first to experience its full weight as they try to start their adult lives. But the challenges facing young adults also reflect the failure of public policy to address the changing realities of building a life in the 21st century. Government no longer has our back. As young adults today are working to get into the middle class, they're being hit by a one-two punch: The economy no longer generates widespread opportunity, and our public policies haven't picked up any of the slack.
Exactly what you need to be reading at 8 o'clock in the morning to start your day off right, I know.
Art Spiegelman is interviewed at CBC Radio about his Harper's article being banned in Canada. (It's in part 2.) Thanks to Matt for the link.
May 30, 2006
"I don't play games myself. Never. But I will watch people playing, especially if they're good. . . . Games I do find interesting," he says, "for what they say about us, about what we wish for, about the programming. But let it stop there: don't listen to this rubbish about them actually being good for you, helping with hand-eye co-ordination or whatever. They're games. They prepare you for nothing."
I don't know. I would have never figured out how to properly activate my car's smokescreen and oil slick capabilities if it weren't for all those hours I spent playing Spy Hunter.
Why the fuck did The New York Times edit a quote from General Tommy Franks?
Julian Baggini, author of What's It All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, explains why The Simpsons is "the most insightful and philosophical cultural product of our time," and why Matt Groening is "the true heir of Plato, Aristotle and Kant." No argument here.
It is, quite simply, one of the greatest cultural artefacts of our age. So great, in fact, that it not only reflects and plays with philosophical ideas, it actually does real philosophy, and does it well.
How can a comic cartoon do this? Precisely because it is a comic cartoon, the form best suited to illuminate our age.
The most important lesson I've learned in this life is from Homer Simpson: "Just squeeze your rage into a bitter little ball, and release it at an approprate time. Like that day I hit the referee with a whiskey bottle. Remember that? When daddy hit the referee?" Awesome. (Via Bookninja.)
Bill Clinton was among the guests at a party for Toni Morrison.
Largehearted Boy and George Singleton might well be my two favorite Southerners, so I'm counting this as the best thing I've seen on the Internet in a very very very long time. Singleton, the best Southern short story writer since Flannery O'Connor, contributes a Book Notes column for his new story collection, Drowning in Gruel. It turns out Singleton likes Tom Waits, The Pogues, The Clash and Neil Young, so, you know: love. I love him. Read all his books (These People Are Us, Why Dogs Chase Cars, Novel, The Half-Mammals of Dixie). (Via another badass Southerner, Jeff of Syntax of Things.)
(UPDATE: Thanks to Boris and William, who pointed out, very gently and nicely, that the author I am referring to here is George Singleton, not George Saunders, which I originally wrote. Wow. That really is the stupidest mistake ever. Apologies all around.)
Libby Purves on literary payola:
That W H Smith’s “book of the week” title, which attracts you as if it had won a prize, has been bought and paid for. The publisher handed over £50,000. Waterstone’s Book of the Week accolade is £10,000, less for ecstatic mini-reviews. Borders charges for “fiction buyer’s favourite”. Smaller sums buy other levels of prominence; only some local staff “picks” are related to actual content. It is not uncommon for a catalogue to recommend a title warmly before the compiler has even seen it. . . .
. . . Seventy per cent of promotional budgets go on furtive payments to bookshops. The message to the author is: “Nobody would read you if we didn’t pay, so shut up grumbling.” To the reader the message is: “You are a fool pig, guaranteed to go for the shiniest swill-bucket.” To the newspapers who publish bestseller charts it is simply: “Gotcha!”
In 2006, the novelist has become a cross between a commercial traveller and an itinerant preacher. The cultural historians of the future will surely pick over the larger meaning of this festival fever, but one thing is indisputable: in just over a generation the novel has gone public in the most astounding way. In the process, the genre has sold out and become big business, the preferred medium of self-advancement and self-promotion for Blair's children, and almost unrecognisable to fiction-lovers raised on the literary names of the Forties and Fifties.
Appended to the article are lists of the "20 all-time great Booker winners" and "10 who were pipped to the post," which is a British expression that probably means something obscene. (OK, I checked. It doesn't.)
Joyce Carol Oates addressed the graduating seniors of Mount Holyoke College, telling them:
"Very few writers of distinction in fact were outstanding as undergraduates," she said, noting William Faulkner received a D in freshman English; Cormac McCarthy was asked to leave the University of Tennessee because of his poor grades; and Stephen King had dozens of short stories rejected before his first publication.
The graduation marked the moment at which 503 of the 590 graduates suddenly realized that they weren't in fact lesbians, though they'd always have a special place in their hearts for that woman they met at the consciousness-raising group.
The Village Voice looks at the indie presses of Brooklyn, the city that all your friends are moving to tomorrow. Included in the profile are two of my personal favorites, Akashic and Soft Skull. (Via The Morning News.)
The Boston Globe reviews Mark Monmonier's From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame. I'm pretty sensitive to the offensive place names debate, and have been ever since I first learned of the existence of Michael Schaub Is A Stupid Cocksucker, Idaho (since renamed "Boise").
Jeff Pearlman, author of Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, on life as a literary prostitute.
Talk to nearly any author, and he'll have tales of family-written Amazon reviews (been there), shameless self-promotions (done that), bookstore rearranging (see above), annoying mass e-mails (countless) and pleas to appear on (fill in name of favorite Midwestern town with population of less than 10,000) morning AM radio show.
This might well be true I did see Philip Roth in front of Borders the other day, wearing a "Everyone's Buying Everyman!" sandwich board but this sort of makes me think of the guy at the party who brings up what he assumes is a shared experience, but actually isn't. Like: "I mean, we've all acted in a gay porn movie to get enough money for meth at one point in our lives, right? Am I right?" And everyone sort of shifts uncomfortably and pretends that someone on the other side of the room is calling them over.
Still, I hope the guy's book does well it's got to be hard to sell a book about someone as obscure and ignored by the mass media as Barry fucking Bonds.
Karen Armstrong is interviewed at Salon about her new book The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, how the Axial Age brought about today's dominant religions, and the place where religion and science meet.
I don't think you need to believe in an external god to obey the Golden Rule. In the Axial Age, when people started to concentrate too much on what they're transcending to -- that is, God -- and neglected what they're transcending from -- their greed, pompous egotism, cruelty -- then they lost the plot, religiously. That's why God is a difficult religious concept. I think God is often used by religious people to give egotism a sacred seal of divine approval, rather than to take you beyond the ego.
As for scientists, they can explain a tremendous amount. But they can't talk about meaning so much. If your child dies, or you witness a terrible natural catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina, you want to have a scientific explanation of it. But that's not all human beings need. We are beings who fall very easily into despair because we're meaning-seeking creatures. And if things don't add up in some way, we can become crippled by our despondency.
Canada's largest retail bookseller has removed all copies of the June issue of Harper's Magazine from its 260 stores, claiming an article by New York cartoonist Art Spiegelman could foment protests similar to those that occurred this year in reaction to the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
Indigo Books and Music took the action this week when its executives noticed that the 10-page Harper's article, titled Drawing Blood, reproduced all 12 cartoons first published last September by Jyllands-Posten (The Morning Newspaper).
Thereby proving you don't have to be a racist homophobe in the Midwest to completely misinterpret something and pull it off of the shelves. (Notice they say they noticed the illustrations, not read the motherfucking article, which states: "It's a matter of demystifying the cartoons and maybe even robbing them of some of their venom. I believe that open discourse ultimately serves understanding and that repressing images gives them too much power." That was in the SECOND PARAGRAPH.)
Fuck you, X-Men 3.
Alice Munro has a new short story, "Dimension," at The New Yorker.
May 26, 2006
Check out what Seattlest has to say about Pauls Toutonghi, Bookslut contributor and author of the new novel Red Weather. Pauls will be at the next Bookslut Reading on June 27 at the Hopleaf in Chicago, with fellow Bookslut contributors and authors Ned Vizzini (It's Kind of a Funny Story, Be More Chill) and Daniel Nester (God Save My Queen, God Save My Queen II). All of these dudes are ridiculously attractive, which just proves that reading (and writing for) Bookslut is guaranteed to increase your sex appeal a thousandfold.
Leslie Pinney's attempt to censor nine books from an Illinois school district's reading list has failed.
Best zine name ever: MAN WHY YOU EVEN GOT TO DO A THING. Roast Beef is my hero. I told my girlfriend this, and she said, "I know. That worries me."
Annie Reid, doing her Friday guest blogging thing at Maud Newton's site, points to three language-related t-shirts. These two are cute, but this one actually makes me really sad. Seriously. The orange looks so depressed. I identify with him. I know that says something bad about my current emotional state, but there you have it. It's one of those...years. Decades.
Carey says he would be willing to talk about his divorce but legally, "I'm not even free to talk about that," adding that questions about an author's work and life should be beside the point anyway. "Journalists seem to believe, or their whole training leads them to believe, that there's a real story," he says. "They've gotta get it. And all my technique is to get as far away from my life, to be other people, to be not myself."
May 25, 2006
The musical Lestat, based on the vampire novels by Anne Rice, is closing after fewer than 40 performances. Who saw that coming? Oh, yeah: Everybody. Literally everybody in the entire world.
Bookforum, whose editor wears pink socks, interviews Gary Groth about Fantagraphics' 30th anniversary.
Well, alternative work is the niche. We just see it as good cartooning, and it so happened that most of what mainstream comics publishers were doing was lousy cartooning. So it's alternative in the sense that it's an alternative to so much of this shoddy work-for-hire stuff that's being pumped out by the companies.
Bookninja informs us that today is Towel Day, which evidently has something to do with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Ninja George Murray says he recently saw the newest film adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide and "found it mildly embarrassing. Then I remembered that, at some point, I must have grown up."
I am sick to death of this How Opal Blah Blah Blah story, but Ed Park makes a convincing argument at the Village Voice that the book is only readable now that the scandal has happened.
Forbidden, silenced, the novel now becomes readable, as gripping as a mystery. The bizarre tonal changes suddenly make sense: The whole thing isn't a cloying fantasy of having it all, but the nightmare of answered prayers. Paragraphs dripping with entitlement conceal not only purloined prose, but also clues that sound, chillingly, like a cry for help.
Waterproof versions of the New Testament and the Kama Sutra. (Well, not really the Kama Sutra. It's actually a book of sex positions compiled by Cosmopolitan magazine. But still.)
AG: Didn't President Bush visit Gandhi's grave?
AR: He visited Gandhi's grave, and first his dogs visited Gandhi's grave. Then, you know, Gandhians were, like, wanting to purify it. And I said, "Look, I don't mind the dogs. I mind Bush much [more] than the dogs."
Slate has a gallery of pulp covers for classic works of literature. I want a poster of that Jane Eyre cover up on my wall immediately.
Gina Frangello has a very thought provoking essay on what makes up a literary community. And though the free events and festivals and such are nice, if there's not some serious money in the community, it all falls apart. (This is why Dalkey Archive Press is no longer located in Chicago.) I feel very lucky that we're able to keep the Reading Series free, and I have to admit that if I see a literary event with a cover charge I suddenly become ambivalent about going. (But I'm broke, so that's my excuse.) But read her essay. Chicago is lucky to have her here in our community.
The line up for Chicago's Printers Row Book Fair has been announced. (And I'm chairing a panel this year... should be interesting.) With authors like Dan Beachy-Quick, Anna-Lisa Cox, Gina Frangello, Nikki Giovanni, Kevin Guilfoile, and Studs Terkel, it looks like a good year.
I can't tell you what a relief it was to get back to our home base for the reading series last night. The Hopleaf might be one of my favorite places in Chicago, and the readings always go more smoothly there. I promise never to leave them again.
The night started off with Michelle Tea, reading from Rose of No Man's Land. She read from the last section of the book when the two characters, high on speed, terrorize a Chinese restaurant. My eight-month-old nephew, attending his first Bookslut Reading Series, squealed with delight at Tea's reading. Tea has been one of my favorite writers for years and years, and it was an honor to have her read at our anniversary.
It was especially great to have her read the same night as Elizabeth Merrick, as her characters from Girly, because, as Elizabeth put it, their characters were probably hanging out last night, smoking pot and watching the Lost finale. She read from the section with the character Vagina Popcorn (you have to read the book to find out why she's named that) and said "vagina" more frequently than any other book reading ever, I think. I'm thrilled we broke that record at our reading.
The night ended with Gary Amdahl, who read from his collection of short stories Visigoth. The title story follows a hockey player who peaked in his freshman year dating a feminist woman. The entire collection is hilarious, and it was funny to see how his story fit very well with the rest of the girly evening.
Next month is Nepotism Month here at Bookslut, with Daniel Nester, Ned Vizzini, and Pauls Toutonghi. All three are Bookslut contributors as well as being fantastic writers, and I have even slept on the floor of one of their houses. Just want to come clean about my favoritism. See you then.
NPR reports on the success of The Third Policeman (Bookslut review here) following its brief appearance on Lost. The novel is published by the Dalkey Archive, one of the best publishers in the world. Oh, how I love the Dalkey Archive.
Last night's episode featured another book click here to find out which one and its Amazon rank has already moved up 13,000 places. I'm looking forward to next season, when the Bookslut blog will play an integral role in the plot. Sawyer calls Jessa "freckles" and I steal Charlie's heroin. It's gonna be great.
Somehow, the San Antonio Current became one of the best alternative newsweeklies in the country the minute I moved out of San Antonio. There might be a connection, but it is almost certainly unhealthy for my self-esteem to make it. Anyway, it's the Current's second annual (Mostly) Texas Books Issue, and I'm almost tempted to drive down to San Antonio just to get a print copy. And maybe get some breakfast tacos at Las Palapas, which really needs to open a location in Austin.
Manga and anime are "catching on," says The Boston Globe. At this rate, expect the newspaper to do an article about how the kids love text messaging in, say, 2013.
The list of things I care about more than The Da Vinci Code is extensive, and includes both facilities that manufacture spiral bevel gears and the history of agriculture in North Dakota, but this headline, leading yet another story about Christians who are upset with the book, is just excellent:
After I stopped screaming, I was absolutely devastated, I thought the chances that they would even try to save him were very, very slim. I have to say, when I saw him win the Kentucky Derby I was crying because Barbaro was demonstrating all that racing has to offer, and when I saw the Preakness I was crying because he was demonstrating all that can be taken away.
Artistic interpretations of literary figures. Howard Chaykin's rendering of Philip Roth's go-to character, Nathan Zuckerman, reminds me of that tall guy from Everybody Loves Raymond. Weird. (Via The Morning News.)
May 24, 2006
Gilbert Sorrentino is remembered at the Los Angeles Times.
Want to know what the most popular books in the Houston Public Library are? Of course not. Why would you? But this is pretty funny:
Among the least popular resources was FEMA's publication, Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness. The book is one of more than 3,000 titles that have not been circulated during the past two years. . . .
Among the resources that have not been circulated during the past two years in Houston: pop singer Ashlee Simpson's autobiography, two Shakespearean plays, a New York City guidebook, a photo book called After 9/11 and dozens of piano music books.
Slate is celebrating summer by celebrating pulp fiction. You've got your standard "What ____ is reading at the beach this summer!" article (and thank you, Slate, for making me picture Joyce Carol Oates at the beach, if you'll excuse me I have to go scrub out my brain now) along with appreciations for lesbian pulp novels and the history of pulp.
The Hernando County (Florida) School Board wants to censor ten books from a high school library. The board's hit list includes Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One. Already banned ("at least temporarily," says the St. Pete Times) by the school district are Judy Blume's Deenie and Mary Rodgers' Freaky Friday, neither of which have been heretofore known to cause Satanic murder sprees I think. I am no sociologist, I admit. (Via Bookshelves of Doom.)
Don't forget that tonight is the May Bookslut Reading Series, also our fourth anniversary. Michelle Tea, Elizabeth Merrick, and Gary Amdahl are going to be there (i.e., the cool kids), so you should, too. All three authors are also available for signing after. I'll see you there.
May 23, 2006
Scientists have named a dinosaur after the Harry Potter books. Say hello to Dracorex hogwartsia, and goodbye to the dignity of science.
A Chicago area school board member wants to censor seven books from the district's curriculum. The hit list includes the usual suspects (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Beloved, Slaughterhouse-Five) as well as some surprising targets (Freakonomics, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World).
You've got to watch out for those botany books. It's a gateway science. Pretty soon, the students will be experimenting with harder shit, like immunopathology and aerobiology. Won't somebody please all together now think of the children?
As a writer you have to immerse yourself completely or you won’t produce anything that works, let alone anything that is powerful and alive. There are no half measures. Rainer Maria Rilke put it beautifully in a book called Letters on Cezanne: "It seems to me that the ‘ultimate intuitions and insights’ will only approach one who lives in his work and remains there, and whoever considers them from afar gains no power over them." I think that says it all, especially the part about remaining there.
Fans routinely stress their identification with the heroines of chick lit, suggesting that the novels are popular not because they are escapist "froth" but because they tap into contemporary women's struggles and fears. . . .
In short, the concerns of the women in chick lit are not [Doris] Lessing's, but they are those of a new generation of women.
A new generation of white women. White, young, heterosexual women. From big cities or suburbs. Who like shoes and have gay male best friends. It's a really small generation. As for the lad lit article, the author, thankfully, doesn't buy it:
Here, then, is a summary of guy-lit novels:
I may be 30, but I act 15. I am adrift in New York. I'm too clever by half for my own good. I live on puns and snide, sarcastic asides. I don't look too deeply into myself or anyone else — everyone else is boring or a phony anyway. . . . I hang out with my equally disconnected friends in many of the city's bars. I drink a lot, take recreational drugs, don't care about much except being clever. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, and while I am eager to have sex, which I do often given the zillions of available women in New York, the sex is not especially fulfilling, and emotions rarely enter the picture. I am deeply shallow. And I know it.
I leave for a couple days, and I miss stuff like this:
Durham Police are investigating a sex slavery sect operating in a north-eastern suburban town, whose members model their sado-masochistic relationships on a series of 1960s science fiction novels.
And yes, in case you want to start your own sex slavery sect, the article lists the books.
A lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of author Studs Terkel and others seeks to stop AT&T from giving customer phone records to the National Security Agency without a court order.
The plaintiffs, who also include a doctor and a state lawmaker, said they rely on confidentiality in their work and are worried their clients will be less likely to phone them if they think the government collects lists of the numbers they are calling.
I'm not very interested in writing sex scenes. But I am interested in sexuality, and how that plays out in the lives of a country of people — what it means. It's not that I am against sex in books, but the urgency was not to arouse people but to make them think, to make them celebrate the idea of sexuality. I don't want to be exotic about this, but I don't want to write erotica either.
Over at KGB Bar Lit, Tom Bissell (God Lives in St. Petersburg) imagines the life of his father around the time of Vietnam, an excerpt from an upcoming book, a work of "very very speculative nonfiction."
To sort of illustrate my level of brain power the last couple days, I offer this: it took me two days to read an issue of the Oprah magazine. I had passed a newsstand in my braindead state, saw it, and realized, "Yes, that is exactly what I can handle right now." If anyone wants to know where to find a really great $60 t-shirt, I can now tell them.
But then last night I optimistically picked up a book and immediately became hooked. Carolyn See's There Will Never Be Another You is a lithe but flinty book, and I am crazy about it. She is interviewed over on her website.
Every once in a while anxiety in a country or any kind of community just goes hog wild. Remember in the Shakespearean tragedies, there'd always be a scene at the beginning where two characters come on the stage and say things like "I don't like the way things are going! A two-headed sheep was born the other night at the next farm over, and the sun came up in the West yesterday!" And then the tragedy unfolds. The whole world convulses, from top to bottom. My own personal osses, the crazy-making"war on terror," seemed a part of the same awful thing -- like the whole world had acute appendicitis. I wrote about three sets of good people caught in this convulsion of fear -- of "terror."
The Guardian has a two part feature on the future of the independent bookstore.
May 22, 2006
The Comics Reporter points out that Virginia Quarterly Review has made their Windsor McCay essay from the Spring 2006 issue available online. It's a great essay, but I suggest subscribing and reading it in magazine format or your eyes will go numb.
And speaking of magazines and comics, art spiegelman's essay in Harper's about the Muhammad cartoons is an absolute must-read. Get thee to a newsstand and purchase. (Or sit on the floor of your local Borders and read it there, it's up to you.)
This is a love story, though that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had lost everything to my ex-wife, who is called the Plaintiff and definitely not Alison.
Ada Calhoun tries to figure out why U.S. Army Specialist Jennifer Scala was carrying a copy of Cunt by Inga Muscio on her way to testify at the court martial trial Sgt. Michael J. Smith, accused of torture.
Vigilante justice is Muscio's ideal punishment for rapists. She suggests women gather into groups and burn huge severed-penis effigies on a rapist's front lawn, pack his car full of rotten fish heads and pelt him with bloody tampons. She offers no "innocent until proven guilty" caveat and admits no grey areas. Instead, there is this almost erotic description of torture:
"Wouldn't you just hate like the devil to be pilloried, smeared with dogshit, forced to kneel in front of a high-powered microphone on a raised platform and apologize to the ten thousand women who solemnly marched by you?" Muscio writes. "Boy, that would be an unpleasant day that you might not forget right away, huh." She calls this practice "Cuntlovin' Public Retaliation," and it is one of the extra-important terms the book renders in bold.
Dear lord I hate that book. So, by the way, does Mike.
The great thing about lists is not only are they the anti-content, they allow everyone else to fill up space without having to create any content either. And when the listmaker is the New York Times, well, publications can coast for weeks on competing lists, half assed analysis, and "inside looks" at the judging process that don't actually tell you anything.
The latest in this trend? Slate thinks the New York Times is biased against short books. OH MY GOD WHO CARES? (Also, because it's Slate, we get the obligatory "But is Beloved actually any good?" story, like they've done with other classic works of art in the past, never managing to say anything interesting.)
All of the weirdness and craziness of BEA can be distilled into one sentence: I met Leonard Cohen. The rest of it? Who the fuck cares? I met Leonard Cohen. (Also I ate some pork tacos that were so spicy my ears rang, so that part was pretty memorable, too. That's what I'm taking home from Book Expo this year: Leonard motherfucking Cohen and delicious pork tacos.)
May 19, 2006
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is angry about Douglas Brinkley's new book, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"Nagin denounced the book without reading it," Brinkley said Thursday. "If he had ignored it, I don't think it would have become an issue. People love the food fight -- it was suddenly the Tulane professor from Uptown versus the mayor. It got framed as a square off.
"It only made my sales jack up," Brinkley said. "My publisher is very happy with Mr. Nagin." . . .
"I could see the venom coming out of him," Nagin told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, describing Brinkley's appearance on a local television show.
(Via Political Wire.)
I love Leonard Cohen. So does Prince Charles.
Toni Morrison, 75, is retiring from Princeton University.
The Guardian has an excerpt from Gary Younge's Stranger in a Strange Land: Encounters in the Disunited States, which I can't wait to read.
In Salt Lake City, the main town in the most conservative state in the union, I would wait for the mayor in a Hispanic biker bar, watching slides beamed onto the wall of scantily clad women writhing around on motorcycles. In Mississippi, three elderly people threatened to shoot me when I asked directions. A few months later, in the same state, a policeman would threaten to jail me for "giving him a look".
Rebecca Traister considers the Stupid Girl phenomenon. She kicks off her investigation with a visit to heh Barnes & Noble.
"Gossip Girl" and its sisters seem to be filling out the time-honored "brain candy" category. Less pure but more readable than the Sweet Valley High novels of my youth, they're far cleaner than the vampirism of Anne Rice or the incest of V.C. Andrews. If those books didn't warp the kids who read them, I don't think we have to worry about the impact that "Gossip Girl" paperbacks are going to have on a generation that, it's worth remembering, spent their youth in midnight lines, waiting to get their paws on 800-page tomes about wizardry. Anyone who presumes that "Gossip Girl" is opening their wide eyes to the mercenary capitalism of high school has clearly never considered the differences between Cleansweep and Nimbus2000 broomsticks.
Kilmer-Purcell thinks the media cared much more than readers about Frey's transgressions. “I learned on my tour that just about every reporter/journalist has a book moldering in their desk that they can't get published. Most people are insanely jealous of his success, me included. It's the American way,” he reveals, departing from an earlier official “public statement” about Frey. Still, he's glad he waited until the scandal had died down, and is scathing in his indictment of authors who didn't.
“I could've owned Page Six. Hell, I could have finally gotten a New York Times Op-Ed piece published—but I didn't. While I may be a publicity hound, I'm not a whore. I'd never chide another writer. As far as I'm concerned, any author can write any damn thing s/he feels like,” Kilmer-Purcell states. “I thought Mary Karr was a sanctimonious bitch for writing the New York Times Op-Ed piece that she did. A writer shouldn't impose their regiment on other writers. If the bitch ever preaches to me, I'll cut her,” he concludes.
I think I love this guy.
Jim Hanas wonders why more young people don't seem to be familiar with Gay Talese.
The majority of the audience was closer to the author’s age than to my own, which I thought was a shame. Along with the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsy and the filmmaker Errol Morris, Talese is someone who doesn’t write fiction but who has nonetheless shaped my ideas about writing and story. I’ve often thought that magazine writing would have gone in a much different (and better) direction if my generation had learned the lessons of Talese, rather than those of Thompson and Wolfe.
May 18, 2006
You have to listen to this recording from Stanley Kunitz's 90th birthday celebration at the 92nd Street Y. (Andrew, thanks.)
"This fearless little machine saved me from unspoken hours of exasperated head-scratching and eyestrain, as well as years of agonizing self-doubt over my decision to devote my life to teaching," said professor John Rebson, who had already read through three drafts of Samoskevich's sprawling, 38,000-word dissertation, titled A Hermeneutical Exploration Of Onomatopoeia In The Works Of William Carlos Williams As It May Or May Not Relate To Post-Agrarian Appalachia. "It was an incredible act of bravery. This laptop sacrificed itself in order to put an end to Jill's senseless rambling."
Douglass C. Perry looks at the influence of literature and mythology on video games. It's a fascinating article, but old news for those of us who grew up playing The Legend of Zelda Fitzgerald. (Hint: When you get to the Paris airport, press the "B" button to unlock the secret liquor cabinet!)
Are you a teenager? If so, the authors of Archie Comics hate you.
Trendspotting with Jughead: Well, somebody had to go punk, right? In 1983's "The Punk," a mohawked Jughead puts an iron chain around his neck and demands to be called "Captain Thrash," but just when Archie's ready to save his pal from his "convention for weirdos," Betty reveals that Jughead's only doing undercover work for the school paper. Whew!
The fast food industry is fighting back against Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation and Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food.
The nation's largest fast-food chain [McDonald's] is also funding TCS Daily, an arm of the Washington lobbying and public-relations firm DCI Group, that is making more pointed attacks against Mr. Schlosser and his work. Last week, TCS Daily launched a Web site called Fast Talk Nation that called his theories "rhetoric" and argued that he wants to decriminalize marijuana, based on excerpts from one of his other books, "Reefer Madness," about sex, drugs and cheap labor in the American black market.
Ignore the obvious disconnect here what the fuck do the guy's beliefs on marijuana laws have to do with his investigations of the fast food industry? and consider this: Without marijuana users, no one would buy fast food or work at the restaurants. Have you ever been to Taco Bell at two in the morning? It's like a fucking NORML convention. There's more stoners there than in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."
An author's devotees don't spend hours in line in the cold for the end-product of that signed book. They arrive in droves to be in the presence of a literary idol, to press their palm together with that of their hero in a handshake. Excitement stems not from a personalized note, but from the possession of a book that, for a moment, a nearly-deified author has held in their very own hands. Part of the magic of books lies in their physicality: the weight of the paper, the swell of the ink on the page, the heft of the volume. But this all seemed to have been shoved aside in the quest for (allegedly) improved technology.
The New Yorker reprints Dana Goodyear's beautiful profile of Stanley Kunitz.
“The prevailing concept of the garden is that each tier constitutes a stanza,” Kunitz said. “There’s a difference in the color values in each tier. But there’s always a cross-reference—a color always finds an answer or response in the next tier. And then, of course, there is the seasonal evolution. The garden is in bloom until the killing frost. The tiers advance—the late garden is on the upper tiers. It keeps renewing itself. There still is some bloom in the end, as, for example, in the asters.”
The Los Angeles Times considers "big-screen adaptations of bestsellers that worked — both critically and commercially." The list includes The Bridges of Madison County, based on Robert James Waller's book. Wait, not "book." What's the word I'm looking for? Oh, right: "unforgivable crime against literature and, indeed, all that is good and holy." I guess that's more of a phrase than a word. You get the idea, though.
Bill Clinton has agreed to write a book for Knopf, in a deal that one source estimates is worth $5 million, reports The New York Times.
[Attorney Robert] Barnett said that Mr. Clinton would give specific guidance about "how we as citizens who aren't in government can make a difference."
The book is three words: "Move to Canada."
May 17, 2006
Austin folks: There's a benefit for the Inside Books Project tonight at Red’s Scoot Inn (1308 East 4th Street, at Navasota) at 9 pm, with music by Black Molly, Tito and the Man and DJ Supafly. Red's is a cool little bar on the east side, but for me, it will always be the place where my girlfriend got into a fight (and won) with an annoying drunk hipster at a Fiery Furnaces show. Seriously. It was pretty hot.
But back to the benefit. For seven dollars, you get drinks (courtesy of Tito's Vodka and Paula's Texas Orange Liqueur), food (courtesy of the Crown and Anchor and Wednesday Night Dinners) and a chance to help out one of Austin's coolest charities. The Inside Books Project, founded in 1998, provides free books for Texas prisoners. If you can't make it tonight, they're always accepting volunteers and donations. I hope to see some of you there.
The Willamette Week's Karla Starr interviews Gay Talese:
KS: I hate to ask you about James Frey, but I'll do it, anyway.
GT: I hate to go on the road knocking him — but I will. James Frey is insignificant. So many other people — like Jayson Blair, the New York Times liar; this Harvard novelist [Kaavya Viswanathan] who plagiarized a book — there are always these short-cutters, liars, exaggerators. They've always been there, and they always will be. I'm just glad they got caught; so many don't get caught.
Random House will start using more recycled paper to print books in the coming years, reports The Book Standard. But will they stop shipping books to retailers in ivory crates lined with snow leopard hides? Only time will tell.
At The Guardian, DJ Taylor wonders if there's any room for book reviewers anymore.
In the 21st century - the age of the reading group, the website and the chatroom - the reviewer can sometimes look like a threatened species. The other day a marketing guru informed readers of the Bookseller that the professional critic's influence was on the wane. Among the reasons he produced were that critical language has become debased - every paperback jacket comes drenched with superlatives - and that the relationship between readers and newspapers, formerly a matter of implicit trust, is now much more neutral.
Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who called some 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns," is guilty of "plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and fabrication of scholarly work," according to a university committee.
Michael Chabon visits Stanford. The campus daily reports:
Prompted by Peterson’s questions, Chabon continued to talk about how pre-conceived notions of genres had affected his career as a writer. He cited Raymond Carver, the famous mystery writer, as an early influence. He also cited the comic book lore that became intensely tied to “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” in which the main character, Sam Clay, aspires to great literary fame but works as a comic book writer.
I think there's some confusion between the names Carver and Chandler here, but it's kind of fun to imagine Raymond Carver as a mystery writer. Who killed the vicar? Was it the blind guy drawing the picture of the cathedral? The baker who keeps calling the grieving mom? The father who's trying hard to quit smoking? The inquest only revealed that the murder was committed in a terse, minimalist way. Robert Altman still plans to make it into a crappy movie.
(Link via Largehearted Boy.)
From page 217 of McCafferty’s novel: “But then he tapped me on the shoulder, and said something so random that I was like: ‘Are you totally high?’ and he always answered, ‘There are polar bears in my nose.’”
From page 142 of Viswanathan’s novel: “But then he tapped me for a few dollars, before saying something totally random, like, ‘I think I’ve read passages from this book before somewhere else.’ and I’d answer, ‘I have no idea what you are talking about.’”
Elijah J. Brubaker is posting drawings and commentary on fifty superheroes. So far his list includes Red Tornado ("sounds like a daquiri or a euphomism for 'that time of the month'"), Cyclops ("Zombies and robots have more personality than cyclops"), and Martian Manhunter ("I refuse to believe people dress like this on mars"). (Link from Comics Reporter.)
David Bodanis won the Aventis Prize for science writing for his book Electric Universe. Bodanis is donating his award money to the family of David Kelly, the British scientist who died in 2003, an apparent suicide.
Michael Baigent will carry a cross for the rest of his life. The sign on it reads, "The man who sued Dan Brown - and lost."
Because going to court in a plagiarism case is just like being Jesus. Good lord, people.
There's always a dead guy who becomes hot all of a sudden with a number of books published on him all at once. This time it's Spinoza. Laura Miller looks at two of the books, Betraying Spinoza and The Courtier and the Heretic.
May 16, 2006
Jessa Crispin on the indie-vs.-chain bookstore debate:
Insisting that book-buyers’ retailer decision must, or should, be one-or-the-other is hardly realistic. Of course, it does keep the debate alive — infinitely and uselessly.
CS: What about Simon Cowell?
JD: I’d do him in a heartbeat.
CS: What about George Bush?
JD: NO! What’s wrong with you?
CS: Bill Clinton.
CS: Have you done him?
JD: I’m not tellin’.
At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lennard J. Davis wonders what value, if any, teaching racist books can have in a college environment.
David L. Ulin says and he's absolutely right that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is "one of the best writers of his generation."
This is a subjective era, when every story is fluid, every truth — political, personal, cultural, historical — is up for grabs. We're no longer certain even of the line between fact and fiction, actual and imaginary. For Kaufman, this is a defining issue. From John Malkovich to Susan Orlean to (yes) Charlie Kaufman, his films are full of real people in unreal situations, which raises fundamental questions about the nature of reality itself.
Companies like Starbucks, Google and Boeing are sponsoring author readings at their headquarters for employees, reports The New York Times.
"It is easier to get people through the eye of a needle into the kingdom of heaven than it is to get people into a bookstore at 7 o'clock at night," said Suzanne Balaban, publicity director of Scribner, a unit of Simon & Schuster that recently started a program to bring authors into companies. "So we have to constantly reinvent what we do."
You want to know how to get people to come to author readings? Make sure the authors don't suck, and have them in a venue where people can drink. Take, for example, next week's installment of the Bookslut Reading Series at the Hopleaf in Chicago, at 7:30 pm, where Michelle Tea (Rose of No Man's Land), Elizabeth Merrick (Girly) and Gary Amdahl (Visigoth) will be reading from their work. They're all great writers, and you can buy them, and yourself, beer.
Or you can go to your local chain bookstore and drink awful chai while listening to some mystery writer read from his latest paperback about a vicar poisoned by arsenic in his tea. Your call.
[UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I stated that the Bookslut reading was "tomorrow." It is actually on May 24, a week from tomorrow. You might think this means I am an idiot who does not know what day it is, and sadly, you would be right. Sorry.]
If you live in New York, go see Jessica Abel, author of La Perdida, tonight at Mo Pitkins at 7 pm. It's part of the Grace Reading Series, and it's free. So you really have no excuse, unless you are currently hospitalized, and even then, they make those IV stands with wheels on them for a reason.
It is to Houellebecq’s discredit, or at least to his novel’s disadvantage, that his thoroughgoing contempt for, and strident impatience with, humanity in its traditional occupations and sentiments prevents him from creating characters whose conflicts and aspirations the reader can care about. The usual Houellebecq hero, whose monopoly on self-expression sucks up most of the narrative’s oxygen, presents himself in one of two guises: a desolate loner consumed by boredom and apathy, or a galvanized male porn star. In neither role does he ask for, nor does he receive, much sympathy.
The poetry of an anonymous NBC staffer.
I cannot wait to watch Kevin announce our fabulous schedule for the fall,
Let's begin our rise to the top right now, it is time for CBS, ABC, and FBC to hit the wall.
We should be so proud of our team, to the execs, we raise our glass,
Time to celebrate the pilots, let's go kick some ass!
Every time I read something like this, which is more often than you'd think, it reminds me of this.
Stanley Kunitz, the former US poet laureate who died Sunday at 100, is remembered at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. The Academy of American Poets has a profile of Kunitz, and links to some of his interviews and poems.
So the inevitable question: How much of the book is ripped from your diaries?
I think the experience of being in a world where there are all these layers of social structures and clubs that no one's ever gonna let you be in, that's definitely from my experience. But as far as specific incidents go, it's fictional. My actual life? I was in my room reading about hobbits and reading Dune and playing fantasy games. It wouldn't make a good novel.
Why haven't you heard any more about Margaret Atwood's remote autographing device, the LongPen?
The company maintains it will relieve authors of the soul-crushing burden of flying business class hither and yon, promoting their books and signing them, a vital consideration since, "From the author's point of view, time spent touring is usually time spent not writing."
Although this will surprise some writers for whom time spent not writing is most of the time, and they cherish it since it's a time when they kick their dogs a lot less.
A group of "concerned citizens" in Nampa, Idaho, is demanding that the town's public library remove eight books from its shelves, including The Joy of Sex and The Joy of Gay Sex. Does The Joy of Sex still have those illustrations of the gross unshaved hippies in the throes of pot-addled sex? Because if so, I say: Yes. Censor the hell out of that disgusting shit.
Not really. But seriously, if you live in Idaho, shouldn't you be entitled to at least some joy in your life? Besides watching Napoleon Dynamite for the 87th time? And why are "concerned citizens" never concerned about anything important? I am full of questions today.
Slate is going to blog the Bible.
May 15, 2006
Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner whose expressive verse, social commitment and generosity to young writers spanned three-quarters of a century, has died. He was 100.
The New York Times dedicated their Sunday Travel section to literary traveling, which means that instead of reading about places that you can't afford to visit, you can read about literary places that you can't afford to visit. Nevertheless, you can take this chance to read about Mark Twain's Hawaii, Jorge Luis Borges' Buenos Aires (OK, we get it, every fucking newspaper and magazine on the planet, Buenos Aires is cool), and everybody's literary New York. Also, Sarah Lyall visits Hay-on-Wye, Wales, before the town's famous literary festival, and a bunch of writers are asked to name "what books most made them want to light out for the territory." It's mostly just what you'd expect, with the exception of:
"The Colbert Report"
"Lord of the Rings." I always wanted to travel to Middle Earth. And now wherever I go, I am always on the lookout for Hobbits.
The shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing includes Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and founder of the literary blog MoorishGirl. Lalami was nominated for her short story "The Fanatic."
William Boyd presents "a short history of the short story."
Austinist: I'm now picturing it as kind of a combination of a revival and one of those lecture circuit lectures that they used to have back in the day.
Suzan-Lori Parks: I'm thinking of incorporating some snake handling next year, so...
A: No way, really?
S-LP: No! But I do have a strange fondness for snakes. I mean, in my mind it'll be snake handling. That's where I'm going. I'm going out. Snake handling. That's the next thing.
Tyler Cowen asks: How important are indie bookstores, anyway?
I confess I am not inclined to grant culture-changing status to the indies too quickly.
Our attachment to independent bookshops is, in part, affectation—a self-conscious desire to belong a particular community (or to seem to). Patronizing indies helps us think we are more literary or more offbeat than is often the case. There are similar phenomena in the world of indie music fans ("Top 40 has to be bad") and indie cinema, which rebels against stars and big-budget special effects. In each case the indie label is a deliberate marketing ploy to segregate, often artificially, one part of the market from the rest.
John R. MacArthur hates Ted Kennedy's new book, America Back on Track, and Patricia T. O'Conner isn't exactly thrilled with Kennedy's other new one, a children's book called I can't believe I have to type this My Senator And Me: A Dog's Eye View Of Washington, D.C.
In an open letter to the president of Boston College, author Steve Almond (The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, Which Brings Me to You) announces he's quitting his job as an English professor at the school.
I am doing so -- after five years at BC, and with tremendous regret -- as a direct result of your decision to invite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the commencement speaker at this year's graduation.
Many members of the faculty and student body already have voiced their objection to the invitation, arguing that Rice's actions as secretary of state are inconsistent with the broader humanistic values of the university and the Catholic and Jesuit traditions from which those values derive.
But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq. My concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.
How does a Catholic school invite someone like Rice, anyway? Here's some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about war:
2313: Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.
2315: ...The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.
Good for Steve Almond; shame on Father Leahy. Remember when the Catholic clergy in Boston used to be honorable and principled?
Ha ha ha! I'm kidding, of course.
I am crazy excited about the new Mark Bowden book Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam. The Atlantic article was so good. (We're all about magazines today: go pick up the new issue of the Atlantic with the "Life After Roe" cover article. It's a must read.) Salon didn't like Bowden's book so much, but what do they know? Their main complaint appears to be "Yes, but what about Iran NOW?", which is not the book he wrote. Can't we just read a book about a moment of history without expecting the author to draw a diagram about how we're supposed to relate this to today's situation?
And speaking of magazines, just what exactly happened to Budget Living? Besides the fact that it wasn't really "budget" anymore and the prices of everything listed in the magazine started creeping up more and more, just like Lucky? (Remember when Lucky used to include items from H&M, Target, and Payless and other cheaper places? Yeah, those were the good old days.) Well, it seems that too many people were reading Budget Living. Wrap your head around that.
Hallelujah, there's a new issue of New York Review of Magazines online. I can now spend the day reading about the fall of Radar, about why wedding magazines are the enemy, and a review of the recently relaunched Seed. (I love Seed magazine.) Forget "work" and my "to do list." (Or even working on the stack of magazines I haven't read yet.) I am going to read about shiny, glossy bundles of love.
Gary Shteyngart: ...So I went to Prague with my girlfriend at the time and that became The Russian Debutante’s Hand Job…
Austinist: You call it that. That’s not the actual name of the book though…
GS: I love making fun of the whole thing. You know it’s really interesting there are some people who love the first book [The Russian Debutante's Handbook] so much that they hate the second book because the tone is so different.
A: I refuse to read the first book because I just assume it sucks. Just kidding…
GS: I think you’re right to do so.
The problems with book parties are numerous: they're expensive, the wine is bad these days, and no one gets into fist fights anymore.
Bookslut needs some reviewers in the following areas: history, poetry, small press fiction, science, sociology. If you're interested in becoming a regular reviewer for Bookslut and have a particular interest in any of the above categories, please e-mail for more information.
May 12, 2006
But Cheney saves her harshest words for Bush's 2004 opponents, calling Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry a "son of a bitch" and his running mate, John Edwards, a "total slime" for discussing her sexual orientation during nationally televised debates during the campaign. . . .
Sitting in the studio audience when Edwards mentioned her sexual orientation, Cheney said she looked at the vice-presidential candidate and mouthed the words "Go F*** Yourself" a phrase her father had earlier employed against Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.
Amazon customer tags for the book include "hypocrite," "sellout," "self-loathing," and "conservative puppet," all of which are accurate, but none of which go quite far enough.
British readers selected Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City as their favorite gay/lesbian novel. Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain," which isn't a novel, made the top ten list. But no Giovanni's Room, which is kind of sad.
We should do this in America, you know? And call it "Reading Is Gay." I think that would be funny.
I tend to be big on [writers] I can get through a chapter while I’m using the bathroom. That’s very convenient. Bukowski and David Sedaris. I have a Hemingway short-stories book that is very handy to keep in the loo.
Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt, on chick-lit, genre fiction and the Viswanathan affair:
The thing that makes genre fiction so appealing is the exact same thing that can make it such a bore: it's predictable. If the recent rash of novels classified as chick lit were laid end to end, you would have the literary equivalent of a tract-house development.
Sure, some of the houses are beige and others are cream, but they all have the same two-car garage, great room and marble counters in the kitchen. That's why people buy them.
Kathleen Rooney at the Contemporary Poetry Review looks at rock musicians who write poetry. Some are good, and some are Paul McCartney:
I want to smell
your underarm odor
I want to drink
your ice cream soda [...]
Want to stroke
your furry kitten
Don’t be shy
you won’t be bitten.
And then there's Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins:
A single bulb lights this room
It’s dark in here all the time
If the ceiling had only captured my dreams and nightmares alike
what stories it could show.
Sadly, Rooney writes, Corgan's book "goes swiftly downhill from there." (Via Choriamb.)
The California state senate passed a bill requiring schools to teach students about "the historical contributions of homosexuals in the United States," reports the Los Angeles Times.
If passed [by the state assembly], the textbook bill could have national implications. California is a huge portion of the textbook market, where it often sets trends, and many publishers put out a specific edition for the state that others can also use.
Textbooks meeting the bill's requirements would not be incorporated into California classrooms until 2012. Social science courses would then include "an age-appropriate study" of the "role and contributions" that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have made to the "economic political and social development" of California and the United States.
Leila at Bookshelves of Doom has updates on two book challenges Harry Potter will stay in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and an attempt to ban The Chocolate War in a Salmon, Idaho, high school proved unsuccessful. A Lutheran minister, Timothy Gordish, had attempted to censor Robert Cormier's YA classic because it "violates civil rights by denying religious freedom." Gordish is listed as a "signatory" on a proclamation issued by a group called "Alliance for the Separation of School and State," where he's described as "A Lutheran Minister, Republican, and military chaplain." The text of the proclamation? "I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education."
May 11, 2006
I somehow missed this audio interview with David Mitchell up at the Agony Column.
When a kid has a question about the universe, many fathers shrug, or tell him to look it up and stop being a nuisance. That was never my dad.
Portman applies other techniques learned from writing rock songs. "There are certain things that tie a song together, where you'll have something in the first verse that'll be echoed in the third verse, but after you've heard the bridge, it has a slightly different impact the third time around," he explains. "I tried to do that myself; everything has at least one echo somewhere else in a flipped-over, turned inside-out sort of way. It's literal, it's structural, it's maybe even symbolic, and the tighter you make it, the cooler it is. I don't have a fancy literary way of conceiving it, 'cause I just think of it in terms of coolness."
You know who else likes it? Carla Tortelli.
Wayne Alan Brenner, whose work is always worth reading, reviews some graphic literature. Also at The Austin Chronicle: Darcie Stevens profiles the best indie rock label in the world, Misra Records. This has nothing to do with literature, but the word "book" is in the subheadline, so I figure it counts.
JK Rowling has trouble finding paper, so her fans bought it for her. I wonder if that could work for me. Hey, you know what's really hard to find around here? Scotch, kine bud and hundred dollar bills. I mean, I've looked everywhere!
(Seriously, though: I joke, but recreational drugs are no laughing matter. Remember, kids: Don't do drugs unless they are fun and awesome.)
You have until midnight tomorrow to enter The Morning News' "Sloppy Seconds With Opal Mehta" Contest. You might get extra points if you plagiarize from Kaavya Viswanathan. Meta-Mehta!
The one thing that I really wasn’t into [in alternative comics at the time] was the autobiographical stuff. It was all about the miserable, lonely single male — I won’t say white — [sotto voce ] but they were all white. They were just depressed, angst-ridden… yeah, it was kinda irritating. I always saw the K Chronicles as the guy you meet in a bar, and he tells you some weird story, and you don’t know whether it’s true — whether to believe it or not. Something happens, and then you go “It’d be really funny if THIS happened, or THAT happened.”
"Our mantra is to publish self-help that women aren't embarrassed to buy," says Bergstrom, who eschews the term chick lit.
In 2004, she hit the jackpot with "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys." Co-written by comic Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo during Behrendt's stint as a writer-consultant on "Sex and the City," the book has sold 1.2 million copies, according to Nielsen Book-Scan.
"At $25.95, it costs less than a manicure-pedicure -- and you'll feel better in the long run," says Bergstrom.
That's it. I'm going in for a sex change operation. I'm obviously failing at this whole "being female" thing.
Salon.com has an interview with Ann Fessler, author of the book The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. The author of the piece seems to think this book is incredibly unique and without precedent, but Rickie Solinger's great book Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade is also worth tracking down.
The New York Times thinks they know which books were the best of the last 25 years, at least when it comes to the Americans. But is it at all surprising that the list makes me want to lie down and take a nap? Delillo, Roth, Updike, McCarthy... All that white man fiction that I find so dull. It amazes me that Beloved made the top choice -- not that I don't think it's worthy, just that with the list of all the runners-up, it seems so out of place. I know it's boring to complain about what someone deems the best of whatever arbitrary parameters they come up with, so I'll stop now. But seriously, that list has no imagination whatsoever.
The New York Times Book Review asked several "writers, critics, editors and other literary sages" (listed here) to name the best American work of fiction of the last 25 years. Toni Morrison's Beloved was the winner, followed by Don DeLillo's Underworld, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels, and Philip Roth's American Pastoral.
Weirdly, Morrison is the only woman on the list except for Marilynne Robinson, whose Housekeeping published 26 years ago is mentioned as having received multiple votes. A. O. Scott contributes an essay about the contest, and mentions the Loch Ness Monster four sentences in. It's that kind of essay.
Me and my wife are Buddhists, and one of the things they teach is that it’s only your limited point of view that makes things holy or unholy. For me, pop culture is both a holy and unholy manifestation of Americanism. I love it. Walking around Times Square is a rush. It’s beautiful. And commercials are gorgeous, so I don’t really have anything against them, though in the final analysis I tend to veer a little bit suspicious. Maybe I’m a really judgmental person trying hard not to be.
May 10, 2006
Writers Sasha Frere-Jones and Jessica Hopper have accused musician Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields, et al.) of racism because "(h)e doesn't like hip-hop, and on those occasions when he's publicly discussed his personal music tastes, he has criticized black artists," says John Cook in Slate. Frere-Jones called Merritt a "cracker," and Hopper misquoted the musician as saying he loved the racist movie Song of the South. (Merritt actually called the movie "terrible," and Hopper later apologized on her blog.) Hopper responds by saying, as near as I can tell, that she only called Merritt a racist a few times, which apparently lets her off the hook nicely. Frere-Jones responds on his blog, but doesn't address the "cracker" comment, which is worrisome.
And disappointing. Frere-Jones is one of my favorite music writers, and I can't figure out why he'd use a word that is, at best, mean-spirited, and at worst, blatantly classist. As for Hopper, who writes "I resent being called a journalist. I'm not and never have been," well, at least she got something right.
(Via Number One Hit Song.)
Chip Kidd, Peter Straub, David Sedaris and Malachy McCourt have all appeared on the soap opera One Life to Live.
Mr. Kidd appeared in one scene, a release party for a book whose jacket he designed. On the show, the book was written by one of the main characters, Marcie Walsh, played by Kathy Brier. Marcie, a part-time receptionist for the obstetrician Dr. Conklin at Llanview Hospital, fell in love with the prescription-drug-addicted Alonzo Holden, whom she infected with a rare disease she caught after being thrown in a dumpster during a rally for Middle East peace. Al died, but his spirit survived to inhabit another man, Michael McBain, with whom Marcie fell in love and who encouraged her to write a mystery novel, called The Killing Club.
Then it gets complicated.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
Nuestro Himno, therefore, by infiltrating one of the safest symbols of US national identity with Spanish syllables, crossed a line, inadvertently announcing something that many Americans have dreaded for years: the fact that their country is on its way to becoming a bilingual nation.
As for me, I agree with Moe Szyslak of The Simpsons:
You know what really aggravazes me? It's them immigants. They wants all the benefits of living in Springfield, but they ain't even bother to learn themselves the language.
Damn right! Tancredo for president!
(I'm kidding. I swear.)
Terry Zwigoff is interviewed at Nerve about Art School Confidential, his latest collaboration with comic book writer Daniel Clowes. He also discusses his friendship with R. Crumb and adapting graphic novels into movies.
It's like the difference between documentaries and features. There's some overlap, but it's really not the same thing. Film is images connecting to other images. It's more about motion, and montage. In a comic, the reader controls the world. If you get to page six in a comic, and you want to go back to page one, you can just go back and take your time. I always get asked if I sit down and study Dan's comics when I make a film. I don't. I almost intentionally try to avoid looking at the comics when I'm making the film.
Hooray for the Virginia Quarterly Review, which won the National Magazine Award for general excellence in its circulation range. Their accomplishment should not be at all diminished by the fact that Time Magazine also won a general excellence award.
So in his estimation, does civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century have a chance of surviving? "Yes, I think there is a chance to be alive, but I would say for sure we will not have a First-World lifestyle, such as we have now, in 50 years from now if we carry on as we are," Diamond says.
May 9, 2006
Christopher Hitchens on "Holland's shameful treatment" of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.
Iraq is the cradle of the written word. No wonder Bush invaded it.
The Times looks at celebrity autobiographies.
The stand-out classic of the genre is Being Jordan, the autobiography of Katie Price, glamour model, reality television contestant and miracle of cosmetic surgery. When not dwelling on the physical attributes and inadequacies of her former boyfriends, Price sings a hymn of praise to her own breasts. Indeed, the book is a perfect reflection of those breasts: artificial, overinflated and fantastically popular.
Alison Summers talks to The Guardian about the "emotional terrorism" (yikes) of her ex-husband, novelist Peter Carey. Summers claims Carey's latest book, Theft: A Love Story, is a thinly veiled account of their apparently acrimonious divorce. My brother, Bookslut contributor Randy Schaub, wonders whether Carey's customers are entitled to a refund:
If the people who bought his new novel find out that it IS in fact partly autobiographical, should they be able to return the book since it isn't technically a work of complete fiction?
There's only one way to find out, and it's called Schaub v. Knopf. Now all I need to do is find a lawyer willing to file an obviously frivolous lawsuit. That'll be hard.
If you live in Modesto, California, and want to pay $250 to see an ex-nun bellydance at a library, well, too bad.
Jennifer Howard looks at the Samuel Beckett collections at Trinity College, the University of Texas, and the University of Reading.
The book is basically a laundry list of the rights we take for granted today: our sex lives, our equal marriages, the fact that we can manage the size of our family to what we want and what we can support. These are all fairly new concepts to Americans, and they came about because of the pro-choice movement. The American public has not been presented with an accurate portrait of that movement. The other side was constantly claiming values, as if what pro-choicers were fighting for was vice.
The Guardian podcast has the 78 minute discussion on blasphemy and art between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens from the Hay Festival. You really, really have to listen to it.
The James Beard journalism awards have been announced.
At The Morning News, Jason Feifer looks at what might be Kaavya Viswanathan's most lasting legacy.
Yes, her destruction has given us another date with schadenfreude — not the concept, mind you, but the word itself. . . .
The one thing we haven’t done, however, is fully bring the word into our daily language. If that’s out of a lack of familiarity, Kaavya Viswanathan may have done wonders to fix it. This word shouldn’t be considered on loan from Germany, it should be used commonly and widely, fully integrated into the way we express ourselves. We’d be more honest that way.
I want to see Anthony Bourdain and Peter Singer in a cage match. Hedonism vs. ethics. In Bourdain's new book Nasty Bits, he admits that if there were only one of something left on the planet, say a baby eel, he would eat it and enjoy it. Vegetarian Singer, whose new book is called The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, would donate half of his salary to the save the baby eels foundation. (Singer is interviewed at Salon about his new book.)
At different points in my life, I have agreed with both authors. I was a vegetarian for eight years until Jessica came into my life and slowly swayed me away from my lifestyle with meatloafs and macaroni & cheese with a bacon crust. (Jessica once declared she had no morals whatsoever when it came to food. "Everything is better the younger it is: duckling, veal, whatever. If someone told me fetal pig was delicious, I would eat fetal pig.") After I started eating meat again, I became a total hedonist, saying that at the end of the day, it was the taste that mattered, not the ethics. Now I'm somewhere in the middle, conscious of staying away from factory farming and ranching, joining my CSAs, and trying to make sure I know where everything comes from.
So I love that there's a new trend in publishing: the food ethics books. Between Singer's The Way We Eat and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, as well as Bourdain's book and his travel/eating show, I'll have happy food reading for the month.
Balked a bit at some of Molly's "sexier" thoughts, which read like male fantasy. You can do better than this, Jim.
Tonight at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art Daniel Raeburn, author of Chris Ware, will be discussing, well, Chris Ware. (Going on at the same time at the museum: 8 Minute Dating! So come for the comic book goodness, stay for the degredation of your self esteem.) The Sun-Times profiles Ware and his solo show currently up at the MCA.
May 8, 2006
A headline from the Courier Post:
I celebrate myself and EAT YOUR BRAINS, YOUR DELICIOUS BRAAAAIIIINS
Frank Portman's King Dork is reviewed at The Buffalo News and The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and Larry Livermore posts his Punk Planet column about the book on his blog. Be sure to check out the Bookslut interview with Portman in our next issue.
The New York Times published their summer movie preview yesterday, and it includes this (scroll down):
"ROMEO AND JULIET: SEALED WITH A KISS" The play becomes an animated film for children, directed by the former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink.
I was kind of surprised. Nothing against Nibbelink, who also directed the best, most realistic Western of all time, but how the hell is he planning to pull this off? "Maybe Juliet will have a wisecracking cat companion," said my girlfriend. "Maybe it'll have songs by Randy Newman," I said. We both laughed.
But it's much, much worse than that.
Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss is a fully animated feature fantasy about two star-crossed seals from warring families that fall in love against their parents' wishes. When Juliet's father gives her hand in marriage to the monstrous elephant seal Prince, Juliet must fake her death in order to be reunited with Romeo. But the plan goes afoul and it's a desperate race to the end. With the help of their friends Friar Lawrence and Kissy, the kissing fish, the day is saved and the young lovers are reunited.
I never thought I'd say this about anything, but this movie might actually be improved by Randy Newman songs.
Slate considers the linguistic origins of the phrases "baby-daddy" and "baby-mama."
Cynthia Crossen lists her favorite books of the last ten years at the Wall Street Journal. She's got some John Banville, some Jonathan Coe, Ann Patchett, and then... Wally Lamb? Seriously? But it's her introduction that is truly baffling. Of the 71 books she read last year, she would only recommend three of them. (One of them is Zadie Smith, but we're moving on.) Crossen needs some book recommendations! Hell, there are about fifteen books I read last year that I think everyone on the planet should be reading, and another fifteen books this year, and we're only in May. I want to send her a big box of books and tell her to stop reading Wally Lamb. There is good literature out there, Cynthia Crossen. You just need a bookshelf intervention.
USA Today on Douglas Brinkley's new The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast:
...Brinkley has written a big gumbo of a book. I like gumbo, a stew that includes okra, roux, rice, onions, peppers and usually chicken or seafood. The best gumbo I ever ate was in pre-Katrina New Orleans. But I prefer books with fewer ingredients.
Seriously, USA Today, what the fuck?
Chunk's writing shows promise, but he will probably get torn apart in workshop.
The San Francisco Chronicle profiles children's author Beverly Cleary.
"I haven't been very enthusiastic about the commercialization of children's literature," she says. "Kids should borrow books from the library and not necessarily be buying them." . . .
Cleary says she understands the impact tie-ins such as dolls, stuffed animals and other toys can have on books sales, but is "not interested in making kids into consumers."
In a completely unrelated story, Bloomsbury will release Harry Potter and the Mystical Cauldron of Please Buy All This Plastic Crap I Licensed So I Can Afford a Seventeenth Mansion late next year.
A school in Medicine Hat, Alberta, removed the Peter McPhee book Runner from its curriculum because one of the characters is a goth. Last month, three members of a Medicine Hat family were killed in their home; the suspects apparently identified with the goth subculture.
Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the death by starvation of Bobby Sands, the Irish political prisoner who was essentially killed by Margaret Thatcher. At The Nation, Denis O'Hearn, author of Nothing But an Unfinished Song: The Life and Times of Bobby Sands, remembers the young hero with a moving essay.
The US government remembers Bobby Sands. At Guantánamo, when more than a hundred prisoners went on hunger strike to demand their rights in late 2005, the US authorities were thinking about May 1981. They knew that they could not afford to let a single prisoner die on hunger strike. They force-fed the prisoners for hours, reportedly on a special "feeding chair" with thick tubes that they stuck down the prisoners' noses, without anesthetic. A report by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Commission on Human Rights found that the Guantanamo doctors "violated the [prisoners'] right to health, as well as international ethics for health professionals." The report indicated that the doctors and prison authorities might be guilty of torture. All to avoid creating another Bobby Sands at Guantanamo. All to avoid more of those damning editorials and protests.
I've tried to use this kind of non-linear reading in Fate. Thus you'll get words or objects that seem to glow like little hyperlinks, inviting you to another part of the book. Like "Vigintillion" or "screamer" or "A. Humorist." After a first, linear reading of the book, the reader is tempted, nay compelled, to go back and start reading it in a completely non-linear way, "clicking" backwards and forwards, and in doing so, realizing that they are accruing information at a much faster rate that way. And, you know, long after finishing the book, there are dozens of other little links that i wish i could go back and put in there simply by changing a word or phrase here or there. I'll have to do a George Lucas and fix it up several years from now. Anyway, I guess this was the purpose of having several separate threads of reality going on in the book, so that I could create a complex environment of "links," pages of text full of "wormholes."
This week's Guardian Digested Read: Wicked! by Jilly Cooper.
"Oh Gawd," drawled Cosmo Supah-Doopah, to his chums Tarquin and Xavier. "The head's only gorn and made us do Shakespeare with the proles. How fraffly orful."
"We think it's great," drooled Milly and Dulcie, the Bagley Babes, their bosoms heaving in anticipation. "The lower orders are well lush." The production was a triumph, with Paris a sensation as Romeo. "I must offer him a scholarship," Hengist thought, as his fingers gently twanged Janna's suspender-belt. Janna's head was in a whirl. She wanted Hengist, yet felt guilty about betraying his wife, Sally. If only she could fancy Bagley's moody history teacher, Emlyn; but he only had eyes for Hengist's daughter, Orianna.
The Sun-Times profiles Chicago publisher Ivan R. Dee.
"Of course I was born and raised here. I like Chicago's straightforwardness. I find the bulls---quotient here is low, compared to New York. I've always liked that about the city, and that extends to the way people treat other people, the way the government operates, the way the newspapers write," he said.
May 5, 2006
Sandip Roy thanks Kaavya Viswanathan for demonstrating that Indian-Americans "can fail, that we can screw up spectacularly and live to tell the tale."
Jhumpa Lahiri writes her first book. It wins a Pulitzer. Arundhati Roy writes her first book and wins the Booker. Salman Rushdie wins the Booker of Bookers. When an Indian kid writes a good essay in school and brings it home, his fond aunt doesn't say, "Well done." She says, "Mark my words, my little nephew will win the Nobel Prize one day."
What was wrong with aiming first for the neighborhood Rotary Club essay competition?
King Dork author Frank Portman is profiled at USA Today, and Publishers Weekly reports that the book is "generating buzz among a number of film producers eager to snap up the title." Also: You have until May 10 to enter the King Dork Band Name Contest. Do it. No excuses.
The band names are one of my favorite parts of King Dork, actually. My girlfriend has six fake bands, all of which have great names. But I can't tell you what they are, because if someone appropriated one of them, she would kill me. I think I can safely say that one of her fake bands is made up entirely of veterinary technicians, and another has the word "gelatinous" in the name. My own fake band, The Very Special Episodes, has yet to write or record a song, but when we do, rest assured your ass will be rocked. I have another fake band, Captain Late, named after the best basketball player ever. But I'm thinking of making that a one-man-band kind of thing, like those indie rock guys that record solo records under a band name, and you're like, "Hey, you don't need a band name, you are just one dude."
Anyway. If you're in the Bay Area, go see one of Frank's readings/performances next week. You will not regret it.
Mimi Smartypants imagines a conversation between two yeshiva students in her neighborhood.
YBIMN #1: You know it. Somebody get Potok on the line! New title: The Chosen...For The Best-Dressed List!
YBIMN #2: He died in 2002 but in a non-literal way I totally understand what you mean!
Because of what's happening in publishing, because people are sick of the sameness of the kinds of writers that corporate publishers are putting out, there's this explosion in indie publishing that's galvanizing and building up steam. People see that this is a good way to get your work out there. There's a real appetite, a real genuine audience of people who don't want to read predictable rehashes of the same kind of film, or the same kind of voice and story. My commitment to that hasn't changed.
The fourth birthday is always a particularly special one. It marks the age at which you can legally purchase alcohol (Louisiana), marry your cousin (Kansas), and be executed by the state (Texas). So you can understand why we're excited to introduce the 48th issue of Bookslut, which marks, kind of, our fourth birthday. This calls for celebration, you know? At 4:44 today, you should drink four shots of tequila, take four bong hits whatever feels right to you. But before that, check out the new issue, which probably will not make much sense to you once you're drunk and high. Or maybe it will. I don't know you. I don't fucking know you, OK?
But back to the new issue. This month, we're proud to feature interviews with authors AM Homes, Kathryn Davis and Karen Finley. Melissa Fischer has to restrain herself from eating the new Penguin Graphic Classics. Liz Miller reports from the 2006 Alternative Press Expo. And Barbara J. King takes a look at Allegra Goodman's world of science.
In columns, our Bookslut in Training watches the (girl) detectives. The Hollywood Madam considers the film adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. And our Mystery Strumpet reveals that he thinks about stealing a lot ("I mean, a whole lot"). We've also got reviews of the latest from AM Homes, William Browning Spencer, Brian Turner, Delia Falconer, Paul Martin, James McManus, Joshua Marie Wilkinson and more.
Thanks to all our writers and readers for the past four years. And very special thanks to Jessa Crispin, the founder, editor and publisher of Bookslut, for being a great editor and a great friend.
Whoa. That was too sincere. I'm going to lose all my ironic smart-ass cred. Let's try that again. Happy birthday to Bookslut, the hottest four-year-old on the planet!
OK. That was actually worse, but for different reasons. Just go read the magazine. Don't mind me. Thanks for reading, everybody.
Book 7: Ass-Master Demigods of Dune
All the world is excited for Alan Moore's new book Lost Girls. The Oregonian has a profile. Moore is the cover subject of Publisher's Weekly, and he's interviewed at Cinescape. Top Shelf will now let you pre-order a signed, limited edition version of Lost Girls for $150. It's bound to sell out, so if you're interested, you better move some money from your savings to your checking account now.
His previous novel, The Plot Against America, reportedly sold ten times as many copies in hardcover as the books which preceded it. Grateful but chagrined, Roth refuses to let this fact buoy him. "Well, it doesn't change my opinion of the cultural facts," he says, brow furrowing. "If it's this book or Joan Didion's book that strikes the fancy of people, it doesn't change the fact that reading is not a source of sustenance or pleasure for a group that used to read for both."
Film tie-in covers might be glossy and glittering and force a surge in sales, but they are truly the Ivana Trumps of the book jacket world. For proof, you need only glance at the motion picture tie-in for Captain Corelli's Mandolin - a truly saccharine, fog-focus number showing Nicholas Cage eating Penelope Cruz's face on the banks of the Med. It wasn't long before the book's original, and iconic, paperback cover showing a Greek-ceramic-like white and blue illustration, was back in the top slot.
Jessa Crispin is sick of people telling her to get in touch with her femininity.
Here is what I have learned from these books about being a woman: Turning 30 might cause a nervous breakdown; my vagina needs a name; having a baby is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing that could ever happen to me; I should try yoga/interpretive dance/pilates/spiritual meditation to get at the heart of how being a female hurts me. Oh, and we’re all concerned about aging. Very concerned.
Stuart Klawans at The Nation writes about the Kaavya Viswanathan controversy, calling it "a story about clichés and stereotypes passing from one subliterary commercial product to another."
There’s actually – I’ve never read any of his work – this guy James Patterson, who’s like the number one selling thriller author, and apparently in his new book there’s a line, ‘He looked like something out of a Dan Clowes graphic novel.’ But then the description is ‘pimply faced, greasy haired freak.’ That was kind of shocking. I learned about it from my publisher’s mother, who is 85 years old and reading the book. That means something, I don’t know what.
(Thanks to Lucius for the link.)
Twelve years ago, Entertainment Weekly noticed that Bret Easton Ellis plagiarized...Bret Easton Ellis. (Thanks to Jaime for the link.)
The President of Wesley is coming under new charges of plagiarism.
Miller's 468-word "Statement of Management Philosophy," which says it was prepared and developed by Miller, is identical to a section in the "Betterment" document called "Samford University's Management Philosophy," except for removal of the word "Baptist" (Wesley is a Methodist school) and one reference to the school's Christian values; replacement of the word "university" with "college" and several other word changes.
You couldn't come up with 468 original words? I know some days it's tough, but come on.
A few months ago, we linked to an Austin American-Statesman story about St. Andrew's Episcopal School, which returned a $3 million donation to parent Cary McNair after he demanded the school remove the Annie Proulx short story "Brokeback Mountain" from the curriculum. (You might know McNair as the son of the owner of the worst team in the NFL. Evidently, being a complete loser runs in the family.)
Austinist reports that another literary controversy has erupted at the high school, this one centered around Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things, assigned to a senior English class by teacher Kimberly Horne. A graduating senior, offended by the book's depiction of pedophilia, started boycotting Horne's class rather than, you know, do her homework. The student's stupid little protest has evidently created a chilling effect at the school:
Recently, a large group of St. Andrew’s students – on their own – came up with a potential solution for restoring some state of relative tranquility and coexistence to their school’s campus. In early March of this year, a few students supported their English teacher by printing bumper stickers saying “I Love Ms. Horne.” But while demand for these stickers has increased, even among ex-students, the division remains and the young school’s future still looks just as bleak.
I love Ms. Horne, too. It's nice to see Christians acting like Christians, even when homophobes like McNair and self-righteous teenagers like the kid in question miss the point entirely.
May 4, 2006
Worldhum.com is counting down the 30 best travel books ever written.
May 3, 2006
Some Manteca, California, parents of high school students are challenging Mark Mathabane's autobiography Kaffir Boy because of its depiction of sexual abuse under South African apartheid. Zachary K. Johnson reports:
Students don't have to read the chapter containing the controversial paragraphs, and its details are not discussed in class, she said.
The passage in question uses the words "penis" and "anus" to describe a scene in which a young Mathabane witnesses other hungry young boys preparing to prostitute themselves for handouts of food from a group of men. Mathabane runs.
(Via Bookshelves of Doom.)
She is telling us about somebody who propositioned her yesterday. "He just walked up to me on the Street, offered me six hundred dollars to go to Reno and do the thing."
"You’re not the only one he approached," Deadeye says.
The passage in Less Than Zero reads:
"Some guy propositioned me today," Rip is saying, walking into the living room. "He just came up to me in Flip and offered me six hundred dollars to go to Laguna with him for the weekend."
"I’m sure you’re not the only guy he approached," Trent says, coming out into the living room and opening the door that leads to the Jacuzzi.
Ryan wonders whether the phrasing was "flagrantly taken by Ellis, with the assumption that no one would notice" or "less-flagrantly used as subtle references in order to denote mirrored landscapes." Ellis is a huge Didion fan, so it may just be a subtle homage.
In fairness, though, who hasn't been offered six hundred dollars to go away with some guy for the weekend? It's happened to me twice already just as I was writing this post. I said no, because what's six hundred dollars? This is 2006. That's a half tank of gas. That's one day's rent in Manhattan.
Log into your PayPal account now — at Amazon, you can get a used copy of the now-recalled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, the debut novel from former wunderkind Kaavya Viswanathan, for $495.
One day, decades from now, a copy of this book is going to surface on Antiques Roadshow (which, because it is the future, will be beamed directly into your brain, also, flying cars), and some old guy is going to be very happy. "I can't believe it!" he'll say, and then the Roadshow guy will ruin it by telling him how much it would be worth if there wasn't a small coffee stain on the dust jacket.
Seriously, though: Holy God that is a lot of money.
However, the standard literary diagnosis of The Kite Runner does not, in my opinion, go deep enough. I’ll be blunt. It is simply not believable to me that such a novel could have been written in its entirety by someone who knew no English prior to moving to the United States in 1980 at age 15. . . .
. . . When all is said and done, I suspect that something like the following happened. Hosseini originally submitted 30 or so pages, which were dazzling. He then, I speculate, went on to demonstrate little prospect of transforming that fragment into a coherent 368 pages.
In short, I’m saying that The Kite Runner, for all its virtues, is as much novelization as novel.
Karla Starr has coffee with Benjamin Kunkel, and somehow works in the best simile I have ever read ("...like a pair of bunny-costume-clad drunks throwing pizzas at my grandmother." You'll have to read the article for the context). The accompanying photograph makes Kunkel look a lot like Britt Daniel of Spoon.
MR. KING Are there similarities between your new novel, "The Great Gatsby" and "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald?
MR. KENNEY Not so much "similarities." They're actually identical.
MR. KING I see.
MR. KENNEY Except for my name as author.
(Via The Morning News.)
And now she's traveling the country flacking her book, flirting with Stephen Colbert (OK, I admit I'm jealous), creating straw women and writing about her martyrdom at the hands of feminists, all the while bragging about how she's an at-home mom: Well, I don't know how she does it. Except with a lot of self-delusion. And a lot of self-dramatization. Her reference to herself in Time as "the beaten wife of the Democratic Party" is an analogy that beaten wives everywhere are sure to appreciate. . . .
When it comes to the culture war, Flanagan reminds me of the Republican chickenhawks who never went to war themselves -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld chief among them -- but recommend it for other people. For someone who glorifies full-time at-home mothers, Flanagan has spent amazingly little time being one.
The list of books Kaavya Viswanathan might have plagiarized from now includes Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries and Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. (Thanks to Simon for the tip.) Viswanathan's former publisher, Little, Brown, announced yesterday that they've cancelled her contract, and will not re-release the book at the center of the controversy. Be sure to check out the Amazon customer tags for Viswanathan's book, which include "plagiarism," "should be kicked out of harvard," and my personal favorite, "could this be the moment at last when publishers stop buying books from boring harvard prodigies and start buying zombie books."
Novelist, short story writer and total badass George Singleton plays a practical joke on his friend Ron Rash, using book blogger Jeff Bryant as a weapon.
It went down like this: Once Rash finished reading and the Q&A session was winding down, after all the serious questions had been answered and there seemed to be a hint of levity in the room, I raised my hand. Now I'm not much of a question guy at public events, but I had an assignment. Not knowing Ron and how he might react, I'd let George know that he was responsible for any hospital bills if things turned out ugly. Well, Rash pointed at me and I said, "Ron, a friend of mine from South Carolina wants to know if you ever considered changing your name to Rembrandt."
Singleton is the author of the amazing short story collection These People Are Us, and his latest, Drowning in Gruel, comes out in June. Rash's The World Made Straight was released last month. Jeff Bryant hasn't written a book, as far as I know, but he should. The dude's good.
The story of a young comics creator who could not muster the strength to break the grip of a prominent industry figure's hand on her left breast has been circulating through the comics community and formed the basis of a new "empowerment" fund announced April 7 by Friends of Lulu. The fund is intended to give victims of sexual assault or harassment in a comics-industry context the strength to fight back legally if not physically. But the very case that inspired the fund -- an alleged incident in a hot tub at the November 2005 Mid-Ohio Con -- hints strongly at some of the pitfalls Friends of Lulu may run into with such an undertaking.
I evidently have not been paying attention, because the aggressor in this case is the current leader of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Sorry about the delays on the new issue. I'm still having e-mail problems and server problems. But hopefully there will be something up today.
In other news, Bookslut is four! Hug your favorite Bookslut contributor today.
May 2, 2006
Kimberly Maul talks to Augusten Burroughs about Milli Vanilli. Kind of.
By definition, if a character appears in my book, he or she must not exist in real life. (And conversely, when I see a particularly intriguing person in real life, I always think, "Well, darn! Now I can't put such a character in a book.") All of my pleasure in writing comes from inventing another world — a believable world, I hope, so that readers think it's true, but an entirely imaginary one.
Brian McGrory wonders why Kaavya Viswanathan is getting crucified, while Raytheon CEO William Swanson, whose plagiarism was even more blatant and inexplicable, is getting off without even a slap on the wrist.
But for whatever bad reason, maybe sexism, maybe ageism, maybe racism, maybe good old-fashioned elitism, Swanson appears to be walking away scot-free. . . .
If you have two plagiarists, one an impressionable teenager caught in the vortex of high-powered agents, editors, and a relatively newfangled literary production company helping to shape the plot of her work, and the other a supposedly seasoned CEO of a Fortune 500 company striving for the kind of fame he doesn't deserve, which should be called to greater account?
Typical Boston Globe liberal propaganda. I'll tell you the reason: Viswanathan earned half a million dollars for her book, but even the most successful chief executives are forced to sell churros on Coney Island to make ends meet. Right?
The New York Times reports that parts of Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life seem to be plagiarized from chick-lit writer Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret? Here is an explanatory graphic, in case the strictly textual version isn't fucking depressing enough.
When I said my two favorite graphic novels of the year were Julie Doucet's My Most Secret Desire and Renee French's The Ticking, I had not yet read Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist. So now it's three favorite graphic novels of the year. Fate is one of six new releases by brand new publisher First Second, and while it's the only one I've read yet, I already feel indebted to them for this beautiful book. Eddie Campbell is periodically blogging over at First Second's website. Go see.
May 1, 2006
OV: What is the worst thing a professor, agent, editor or reviewer has ever said about your fiction?
TG: The worst review I’ve ever received came via Publishers Weekly. They called my first novel “smarmy and self-congratulatory,” which was a mitzvah, since they could have just as easily walked over to my house and kicked me in the nuts.
Duke has been mentioned as the possible setting for "Charlotte Simmons," partially because the fictional Dupont University includes the Gothic architecture that marks Duke and also because Wolfe's daughter attended Duke.
In the book, athletes at Dupont are depicted as lumbering, thuggish "herpes pustules" who get all the women and get away with everything.
I am sorry for making you read the words "herpes pustules" this early in the morning.
In the opening paragraph, Carey describes how the central character's son was "stolen" from him, how he was "eviscerated by divorce lawyers" and how his work was stolen from him because it was branded "marital assets".
Carey - who has two teenage sons, Charley and Sam, who live with Ms Summers - refers to the character's ex as "The Plaintiff", and she is portrayed as money-grabbing and vindictive.
The "plaintiff" was a term he used to refer to his own wife during their break-up. Carey, for his part, denies the work is autobiographical.
This week marks the 120th anniversary of the Haymarket Riot here in Chicago. James Green is interviewed on NPR about his new book Death in the Haymarket. You can also read an excerpt from his book on the NPR website and read a Q&A with professor Jonathan Cutler about the legacy of Haymarket.
Haymarket resonates today more than it has at any other time in recent years. The original Haymarket affair of 1886 was part and parcel of a massive, national May Day rally and strike led, by and large, by America's immigrant workers. Today, precisely 120 years later, the May 1, 2006 Immigrant General Strike -- also known as the "Day without Immigrants" and the "Great American Boycott" -- looks set to inherit and reinvigorate the legacy of Haymarket. Then, as now, employers launched an aggressive drive to undermine wages and living standards. In 1886 workers from around the world responded with an aggressive campaign of their own: an international movement for less work and more pay.
(It's currently a toss up over which book I actually care less about: Everyman, John Updike's The Terrorist, and Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt. I'll just add them to the list of Books I Might Read This Year if I Get Around to Reading Every Other Book I Own Before Then and Every Bookstore, Including Amazon, Has Run Out of Stock.)
The Columbia Journalism Review catches up with Gay Talese about his book A Writer's Life, a memoir (do you think his wife jumps every time she hears him call it that?) of sorts where he revisits a selection of the stories he's written. Talese explains why he's written so few books:
He’s “demonstrating concerns for readers in not burdening them with bad writing. More writers should be doing what you’re doing — not writing... It would be a good thing for the writers’ reputations, for the publishers’ production costs, and for the reading standards of the general public. There should be a National Book Award given annually to certain writers for not writing.”