June 30, 2006
3:AM Magazine keeps up with Tom McCarthy, "the figure-cum-spearhead of the fabled Offbeat Generation," and author of Remainder and Tintin and the Secret of Literature. Also worth mentioning is Offbeat Generation novelist/poet Travis Jeppesen, whose book Victims I loved. His latest book, Poems I Wrote While Watching TV, is reviewed by Susan Tomaselli at 3:AM.
Jennifer Howard in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
Over 100 British libraries are being threatened with closure, reports The Christian Science Monitor.
Stealing maps is, perhaps, the nerdiest crime possible even more so when the thief in question is named "E. Forbes Smiley III." Yeah, this guy's going to do well in prison.
The Japanese, always on the cutting edge of technology, are really into pencils now. It's all because of Basho.
Maggie: If you think Bryan would help us stage a Potter intervention, you're nuts. They'd be much more likely to overcome us, tie us to a sofa, and read aloud until our eyes glazed over.
Me: No no, by "group intervention" I meant you and I could get intervention for both of them at the same time. I figure we could get better rates that way.
Maggie: Bulk-rate Harry Potter intervention ... now there's a potential gold mine.
Me: Hey, yeah. We could stage a fake convention called MuggleCon or ConWeasley or somesuch, and people would urge their Potter-addled loved-ones to get all dressed up and go. And then, after everyone arrives, we would seal the doors and have a bunch of specialists would come in and intervene the shit out of everyone. PROFIT!
If the happiness experts are to be trusted, we should take time every day to count our blessings. What better way to spend a holiday, then, than wallowing in the misery of others? Weird though it sounds, perhaps it's time to chuck out the chick-lit and the Chardonnay and curl up with a piña colada and a nice copy of I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
Well, it's been a good six months, are you ready for your next Truman Capote biopic? Don't worry, it's much different than the Philip Seymour Hoffman version. Yes, it covers the exact same time period, but this one has Sandra Bullock! As Harper Lee! Aren't you so excited you feel you could start puking and never stop?!
Everyone is hating on Art Spiegelman these days. First Ted Rall, now the entire conservative movement. His essay for Harper's "Drawing Blood" is still provoking angry responses. I just love that this op-ed for the Conservative Voice basically accuses him of being too nice.
Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and Jason Furman ("scholar") have been discussing whether or not Wal-Mart is good for Americans. Ehrenreich worked there as an employee for her book, and Furman, uh, shopped there once. And thought about it. Or something. It's not really an even match.
What is with that Kevin Trudeau guy and inappropriate quotation marks? First it was Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About, and now it's More Natural "Cures" Revealed: Previously Censored Brand Name Products That Cure Disease. Oh, and also he's a convicted felon who "warns against deodorants, celibacy and farm-raised fish." But it's the quotation mark thing that pisses me off the most. They should send the guy back to prison for that.
June 29, 2006
It looks like Sienna Miller and Peter Sarsgaard will star in the film adaptation of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, my favorite novel. (I know in my heart it's not as good as Kavalier & Clay, but whatever, it's been my sentimental favorite for over ten years, and I am a huge sap.) Chabon's wife, author Ayelet Waldman, is co-producing the movie, which will be directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball).
Nothing in a novel dates as quickly as the sex scenes. In 1960, 200,000 copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover were sold in Britain on the first day the ban was lifted -- in part because of the treasures therein implied by Mervyn Griffith-Jones, prosecuting counsel, in his famous question to the jury: "Is this a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?"
To which I say: yes. Make the missus and the footman and the scullery maid read it but spare me, please.
Calvin Trillin is rooting for Chris Dodd to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination because "his name has enormous rhyming potential." (Trillin writes the political poems for The Nation.) He's less excited about the prospect of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich getting the nod.
Poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen is interviewed at PBS.
LEONARD COHEN: . . . I always thought of myself as a competent, minor poet. I know who I'm up against.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know who you're up against?
LEONARD COHEN: Yes, you're up against Dante, and Shakespeare, Isaiah, King David, Homer, you know. So I've always thought that I, you know, do my job OK.
The Lord of the Rings musical will close early in Canada. The show's producer blames the critics, and the mayor of Toronto blames the critics and, uh, September 11.
"The first act of The Lord of the Rings is the best theatre I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of theatre," [Toronto Mayor David] Miller said, suggesting the London critics should be heard.
But the mayor and other Toronto officials said that a general decline in U.S. tourism is also to blame.
"We know post-Sept. 11 it is very hard to get Americans to travel in huge numbers," Mr. Miller said. "That is affecting our ability on the big theatre productions and other tourism matters."
Uh, yeah. It's all bin Laden's fault. It has nothing to do with the fact that there are only 17 people in the world who think a Lord of the Rings musical is a good idea, and 13 of those people are currently confined in state-run hospitals.
My favorite moments in the Ted Rall interview Mike linked to:
When asked which Fantagraphics artists he likes, he replies, "Of those people, Adrian Tomine [Optic Nerve] speaks to me most."
"I love Richard Linklater, he’s one of my favorite directors... Do I like Richard Linklater because he likes me? Or do I like him because of the way I am?"
Well, now you know how to get a good review from Ted Rall.
Glenn W. LaFantasie, author of Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates, has an interesting short essay about the Civil War generation at the Oxford University Press blog.
EconoCulture talks to Ted Rall about Art Spiegelman ("he has a terrible influence on cartooning"), Chris Ware ("he’s a miserable writer"), and Condoleeza Rice ("She wants to act white. She wants to help white people oppress black people"), among other things.
E.T. the Extraterrestrial was written by William Kotzwinkle, who has twice won the National Magazine Award for Fiction, and it is irredeemably bad. A reviewer of novelizations, Justin Olivetti, offers this helpful summary: "It turns out that E.T., the 10,000 year-old alien, develops a disturbing crush on Elliot's mother and stalks her at every opportunity." Allow me to quote Page 134:
"[E.T.] crept down the hall to Mary's room and peeked in. The willow-creature was asleep, and he watched her for a long time. She was a goddess, the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. … Mary, said his old heart. Then upon paddle feet, he tiptoed over to her bed and gazed more closely."
This Salon piece about New England literature makes me so bored I nearly drifted into a coma. I mean, Ethan Frome? (I'm convinced that Edith Wharton never wrote Ethan Frome, instead it was created by a community of pissed off high school English teachers as a torture device.) The whole essay makes me feel like I'm back in high school. Too bad Tom Bissell couldn't write every essay.
(My patience is running thin on the total lack of imagination expressed these days. Yes, NYTBR, of course Philip Roth is the greatest living American writer. Yes, Salon, of course New England only produced Hawthorne and Robert Frost and Melville. Yes, John Banville, there has never been a female Irish writer ever. What's the point of these lists if all they do is list the same books as everyone else, just in a different order?)
June 28, 2006
Kirkus features 30 new graphic literature titles you should be reading.
Grady Hendrix wonders whether the movie novelization is done for.
Adding to their troubles, novelizations have been supplanted by big-selling tie-ins — original novels based on existing properties such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CSI, or Halo — and the Internet. In a DVD world, the idea of using a book to relive the pleasures of a film is practically counterintuitive. And fans who want to participate more fully in the world of a movie can find guides, encyclopedias, and video games that allow them to wallow in the background details.
Look, if you can read the book versions of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! or New York Minute or Home Alone 2 and not be moved to tears, then you're a soulless bastard who might as well just give up on being able to appreciate art. There. I said what we were all thinking. (Via Powell's, whose blogger Brockman is in justifiable mourning over the breakup of Portland's favorite daughters.)
Novelist Nick Brooks presents the top ten literary murderers in The Guardian. Making the list are Francie Brady (The Butcher Boy), Humbert Humbert (Lolita) and Patrick Bateman (American Psycho). (Via Backwards City.)
Richmond's Style Weekly profiles Ted Genoways, editor of the great Virginia Quarterly Review (the new issue of which comes out on July 1). I always assume that literary editors are going to resemble me doughy and pasty, like an undercooked croissant with glasses. But Genoways is a tough-looking dude who looks like he could kick your ass. It'd be funny if he picked fights with other literary journalists, just for the hell of it. "Hey, Louis Menand? It's go time, bitch."
That would be so cool. He seems like a really nice guy, though.
A Springdale, Arkansas, substitute teacher might be disciplined after playing a recording of a poem containing the word "fuck" to a class of eighth-graders.
The poem’s author, Eirik Ott — who goes by the stage name Big Poppa E — makes no excuses for the teacher. "The person who played the audio recording was an idiot, and [she] deserves to be chastised," said Ott, who has performed twice on HBO’s Def Poetry. "Whenever I perform in schools, I excise the curses and the sexual references."
Choriamb has extensive background on the story.
In for 2006: Library boards making incredibly stupid decisions, then reversing themselves after the inevitable public outcry. Remember the Porter County (Indiana) board banning homeless kids from borrowing books, then suddenly doing an about-face when they realized "Library board bastards hate homeless children" didn't make for the best headline? Yeah. That was pretty funny, in an "Even Satan himself could not be this evil" kind of way.
Add the Gwinnett County (Georgia) library board to the list. They decided to cut the $3,000 earmarked for Spanish language adult fiction from their budget, after some patrons complained that having the books constituted catering to undocumented immigrants. The board overturned the decision on Monday, after receiving "letters and e-mails from as far away as California and New Zealand from writers, professors and editors."
I guess you've got to give these people credit for eventually doing the right thing, but how the hell do they find these board members to begin with? "I couldn't help but notice you just stole that six-year-old girl's lollipop and stomped on that litter of cute kittens. Congratulations! You're our new board chairman! Here's a large check."
Representatives from DC Comics, Fantagraphics, First Second Books, Powell's Books, and The Beguiling answered questions from Ian Brill of Publishers Weekly about the future of comic book publishing. Gerry Donaghy from Powell's sums it up nicely:
This also engenders another issue: the New York book publishing world is never, ever going to take the chances that the indie presses are. If you look at where all the legal challenges are happening to comics, it's happening to independent publishers and independent retailers. If a publisher is worried about being able to sell to Wal-Mart or Target, they're going to bypass anything that even smacks of risk. I've just seen one of the most beautiful works of art that I've ever laid eyes on (Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie) that Pantheon wouldn't touch with a 20-foot pole held by 20 lawyers. The people with the most to lose, in this case Top Shelf, are the ones taking the biggest risks.
The Miami-Dade County school district must keep a series of banned children's books until arguments in a legal challenge can be heard next month, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
AVC: Is there anything else you want to talk about?
AS: Hmm. I don't know. Paella?
AVC: Do you have a paella recipe?
AS: I don't.
The night before the reading series, I got a call from Ned Vizzini saying that he had a family emergency and would not be able to make the reading. But don't worry, Vizzini fans, he's rescheduled for the August 31st reading.
Last night was the first time our reading series was advertised in the Latvian community newsletter, and it was a whole other audience for us. They were there to see Pauls Toutonghi (maybe some of them were there to see Daniel Nester, I didn't actually take a poll) and hear him read from his fine debut novel Red Weather. It's a coming of age story about the son of Soviet Latvian immigrants, and Pauls apologized in advance for the accent he was going to read it in. It was a fine, Count Chocula-rific accent, Pauls.
Daniel Nester read the first poetry of our reading series. (There are approximately 28 poetry reading series in Chicago, I have no interest in trying to compete with them. In fact, Daniel read at the Myopic series while in town.) He read a few poems from his new collection The History of My World Tonight, a book I am currently smitten with. He also felt compelled to fit into our series format and read some prose, so he read his essay about footlicking and dating in New York.
We missed Ned, and hope everything works out for him soon, but we had a great evening. Thanks again to everyone who came. (Thanks to Chris for the brownies she brought!) Next month we're doing another nonfiction night with J.C. Hallman (The Devil is a Gentleman), Hillary Carlip (Queen of the Oddballs), and David A Karp (Is It Me or My Meds?). The reading will be Thursday, July 20. Hope to see you there.
Elgin, Illinois, police confiscated a cat and 23 birds from the home of children's author and librarian Charlotte Towner Graeber, saying the writer "failed to provide her pets with an acceptable living environment." Graeber's home "was red-tagged, making occupancy unlawful," reports The Courier News.
Colleen Mondor: Why Harry Potter must live.
Some of us still need happy endings, you see.
Good does win sometimes, it does beat the bad guys, it does come out on top. And I can't help but think that if Rowling kills off Harry it won't be because it's best for the story but because she has a message she wants to get across and she will use him to do it. In fact, I can't help but think that she will be taking the easy way out and letting down her fans in the process if all the dire predictions about Harry come to pass.
June 27, 2006
Hey, all you Chicagoland folks: Tonight is a Bookslut Reading you will not want to miss. You will feel so bad if you miss it; your parents will disown you, and no one will ever want to have sex with you ever again. There is a study that confirms this, though I can't find it right now. Trust me.
Daniel Nester, author of God Save My Queen: A Tribute and God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On (both published by the great Soft Skull Press), will be there. You can read an interview with Daniel here; he talks about Freddie Mercury and Sharon Olds, which should be all the convincing you need to go to the damn reading. But you can also read his work for Bookslut, which is gold, all gold.
Also at the reading will be Pauls Toutonghi, author of the new, critically acclaimed Red Weather. Check out Pauls' story "They Rise, They Rise!" here, and read an excerpt from Red Weather here. (Thanks to Olena for that last link, by the way.) Pauls is interviewed at OnMilwaukee.com and profiled at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and his novel is reviewed at the Miami Herald and NPR. Pauls is also a Bookslut writer; you can read his work for us here.
So go. It's at the Hopleaf, which has more Belgian ales than Belgium, and besides, what else are you going to do? You can't buy foie gras. You can't take Ozzie Guillen to a gay bar. Actually, you can, but the Bookslut Reading is much more fun. Again: trust me.
So on one side, you have Caitlin Flanagan saying you're a horrible mother if you decide to get a job. On the other side, you have Linda Hirshman saying you're a traitor to your gender if you decide to stay home with your children (Hirshman's book is discussed at Slate and the LA Times). I am going to write a book saying that parents who want to work should work, and parents who want to stay home with their kids should stay home with their kids, and I will be hailed as a conquering hero of intellectual moderation. I'm going to call it Can We Please Talk About Something Else Besides People Who Have Kids Before I Sever Every Fucking Artery in My Body with This Butter Knife? Also Your Baby Isn't Cute, It Just Looks Like a Baby, They All Look Alike and Deep in Your Heart You Know This is True. Anyone interested? Random House? Anyone?
Harper Lee has written an article for Oprah Winfrey's magazine.
In a review of Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Salon's Allen Barra wonders why Brinkley goes easy on President Bush.
Brinkley's criticism of Bush -- "He should have showed he cared a bit more" -- is so compromised that the reader may be forgiven for wondering if he was afraid of coming to the obvious conclusion for fear of being accused of political bias by several of the TV hosts whose shows he has appeared on while plugging his book. It's hard to imagine that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, for instance, would have welcomed Brinkley with such open arms had he come down on Bush with the same force as he did on Chertoff, who is virtually invisible to the American people.
The Moving Violationist
By Lyle Brouse
An unrepentant illegal lane changer is handed the punishment of riding a slow-moving Rascal “scooter” to work every day. At first humiliated in his helmet and biking gloves, he soon discovers the discreet garage pleasures of scooter modding, and, spending weekends collecting trophies in geriatric race circuits, his old reckless driving habits threaten to undermine his budding talent…and his life.
The Morning News:
Sin is like air for you. You can’t and won’t stop sinning outright. But maybe, with apologies to Beckett, you can sin better? See, Dante believed Hell was divvied up very specifically. Certain sinners get certain punishments. You can tailor your sin so it goes down easier when they open the books on ol’ Jabba. Let’s face it, Purgatory is a long shot for you, let alone Heaven. Don’t abandon all hope. Just wait ‘til you hear the things you can get away with in the Inferno.
Two characters will die in the final Harry Potter book, but JK Rowling won't say whether one of them is Harry.
The New York Times profiles the writers behind Iron Balloons: Fiction from Jamaica's Calabash Writer's Workshop, published by one of my favorite indie presses, Akashic Books.
Patrick Ness wonders what the "new canon of wedding readings and poetry" for gay civil partnerships will look like.
Even if you were to concern yourself just with gay poets, the list is satisfyingly long. Langston Hughes, Frank O'Hara, Thom Gunn, Carol Ann Duffy, Gertrude Stein, Marilyn Hacker, May Swenson (whose weirdly wonderful "Symmetrical Companion" is just crying out to be used by a pair of intense lesbians). I leave out Sappho because, though among the greatest of all love poets, she tends to be a poet of yearning rather than of marriage. I also reluctantly leave out Catullus, but only because, try as I might, I can't seem to make "In truth, I am afraid of you and your penis" fit into a wedding vow.
The new issue of Professor Barnhardt's Journal features nine writers telling short stories in 20 words. My favorites are by Tod Goldberg and Duane Swierczynski, which, given the respective subject matters, probably says things about me that are not good.
June 26, 2006
Dear Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry:
I don't know if you heard, but organic produce has mainstreamed. There's a Whole Foods grocery store/amusement park in every major city, an organics section at the grocery store near my parents' house in rural Kansas, and free range eggs in convenience stores. People who eat organics no longer need to have white boy dreads and wear "crystal deodorant."
But you'd never guess that reading your book Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. I like how it starts, warning people about the dangers of corn syrup (although Michael Pollan did it with more humor in The Omnivore's Dilemma) and your cost breakdown to prove that eating organic isn't that much more expensive if you do it right is interesting. But then you start with the recipes.
I mean, does there really need to be such a thing as an organic cookbook? You just replace "conventionally" grown potatoes with organic ones, maybe some heirloom varietals, and move on with your day. I'm just afraid that people will read your book, decide if they go organic they'll turn into an unwashed hippie and run away. You seriously not only suggest that people eat brown rice (there is no reason any human being should ever eat brown rice -- ever) but that they watch the depressing documentary Life and Debt while eating the brown rice. After the recipe comes the "food for thought" "Be mindful of the Mexican and other immigrant agricultural workers who cross the border and toil in our fields to provide the United States with a bountiful food supply." If you don't want your readership to fucking kill themselves over dinner, you should at least give them some good food to eat.
It's like a panel of meat lovers wrote this as a stereotype of what vegetarians would like. It's just so easy, like when you talk about authentic Latin American food and then offer a recipe for portobella mushroom quesadillas as an example and suggest the cook listen to something called "Love Songs of the Tropics" to set the mood. And I'm sorry, there's just no way in hell you can serve your friends something with "nut cheese" and expect them to ever come over for dinner again.
You look like hip people in your author photos. You have a foreword by Eric Schlosser. How about you pulp all of these books and try again?
World Hum has completed their countdown of the 30 best travel books, including Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu, Evelyn Waugh's When the Going Was Good, and my personal favorite on the list, The Soccer War by Ryszard Kapuscinski.
Suppose, I say, we were to publish an errata column with this interview, what would she hope to see in it? 'There have been so many stories,' she says. The 'houseful of adoring handmaidens' (she wishes that were true). And the 'sex for saucepans' story. (In her impecunious twenties, she was reported to have regularly swapped sex for saucepans with married women from the home counties.) That made her laugh, but it upset her, too: 'It made it sound as though I was some sort of gay prostitute.' At least it gave 'sexpot' a new meaning, I suggest. 'These things are entertaining, but I have to block them out,' she replies.
The citizens of Aracataca, Colombia, failed to pass a proposition to change the town's name to Aracataca-Macondo in honor of native son Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Macondo is the name of the town in the author's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Woody Allen presents selections from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Diet Book.
As we know, for centuries Rome regarded the Open Hot Turkey Sandwich as the height of licentiousness; many sandwiches were forced to stay closed and only reopened after the Reformation. Fourteenth-century religious paintings first depicted scenes of damnation in which the overweight wandered Hell, condemned to salads and yogurt. The Spaniards were particularly cruel, and during the Inquisition a man could be put to death for stuffing an avocado with crabmeat.
The New York Times reviews Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, which is starting to look like a cinch to win every nonfiction book award ever (in an alternate universe where graphic literature is respected by whoever the hell chooses the winners of book awards). In reality, it'll probably go to Orville Hickman Browning: A Very Long Biography of the Secretary of the Interior Who Changed the World or The Life of Pyotr Nikolaevich Lebedev: The Somewhat Obscure Physicist Who Changed the World or some other 1,200-page book that nobody will ever actually read.
NPR looks at Leo Allen's quest to read 100 books in one year. Allen recommends The Master and Margarita and The Baron in the Trees, but he wasn't impressed by Ben Bova's Colony ("horribly written") or Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife ("awful").
Will we see you in a year saying, "Oh, I had drinks with Rachael Ray, and actually, she's all right"?
Yeah, right. "After the hot-tub incident, I've changed my mind." You know, listen, like I said, I could be wrong. Unlikely. But maybe she's nice to puppies.
Sure, sure -- you haven't seen her kicking any old people lately.
Actually, that would be cool. If I ever saw her getting trashed on Old Crow, pistol-whipping a vegan after a bar crawl, I would think, "That's an interesting woman. I would like to know her.
I love Anthony Bourdain. (But my interview was better. Yes I'm petty.)
Laura Miller reviews Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors and has her DNA analyzed to determine if she has any dark family secrets hiding in her genes.
I started reading Baby Proof this weekend and got about 100 pages in. It's really hard to describe which part of the book was more annoying: the fact that she kept italicizing words for emphasis (so and so really wanted chocolate, but for the sake of the children or whatever), the fact that the whole first section read like she read one article about childfree women and used that instead of actually creating a character, or just the general unlikeability of everyone in the book. It did, however, accomplish exactly what I wanted and break my streak. I am now happily reading a book.
Speaking of libraries... remember that Chicago fire? No, not that one, the one that took out a chunk of the gay and lesbian section at the Boystown library? Turns out it wasn't a hate crime at all, just an unfortunately localized accidental fire.
The library system in this suburban Atlanta county says no mas — it won't buy any more thrillers, romance novels or other works of adult fiction in Spanish.
The decision has angered Latino leaders and thrust Gwinnett County — where one in six residents is Latino — into the nation's immigration debate.
Libraries! What the fuck is your problem lately? You're supposed to be fighting the dumbasses who want to censor books, not ban homeless kids from checking out books or deciding our national language for us. Stop freaking out, we need you.
Pitchfork has a summer reading list, which includes Frank Portman's King Dork, Andrew Beaujon's Body Piercing Saved My Life, and Jim Greer's Guided by Voices: A Brief History. This fall, Marc Woodworth's book about GBV's Bee Thousand will be released by Continuum, in case you're already drafting your autumn reading list. And you can probably add the seventeen books Joyce Carol Oates will probably release between now and September. (Via Largehearted Boy.)
June 23, 2006
Amazon opens an online grocery store. As of this morning, the "top sellers" list is dominated by diapers and condoms. Still, it's probably the least embarrassing way to purchase "Boy Butter Personal Lubricant."
The hospital — which was bequeathed the rights to the Peter Pan books by their author, J. M. Barrie — said that the creators of the comic book must obtain its permission before publication. The Lost Girls, which shows Wendy in erotic trysts and being observed by paedophiles, is the latest work by Alan Moore, the British graphic novelist behind V for Vendetta.
Mystery novelist and independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (Bookslut interview here) has qualified for the ballot in Texas. A recent poll shows Friedman in second place in the governor's race, lagging behind incumbent (and moron) Rick Perry, a Republican, but leading independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Democratic nominee Chris Bell (campaign motto: "I've never heard of you either").
Also in that list of unlikely author bloggers we have Alasdair Gray. Bookmark now, motherfuckers.
Q. 4. You are just 25 years old and this is your third book. What's it like to be an established author so young and are there other authors your age you think are exciting?
— Lisa Aldiss, New York, N.Y.
Putting out three books by the age of 25 has been a strange and surprisingly long trip. I am ten years into this, so for me it doesn't feel as if I'm young at all. I look at it as something to be proud of but not presumptuous about — there are many young authors out there. Some of the ones I respect and admire are Tao Lin and Nick Antosca, who are here in New York writing poetry and short stories respectively. I've always admired Marty Beckerman for his iconoclasm and attitude.
Check out Ned's books, and listen to his recommendations Tao, Nick and Marty really are three of the best young writers around.
Two Comedy Central author moments you may have missed: personal hero Calvin Trillin on the Daily Show, and guy who made my friend's husband declare he could never eat again thanks to The Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan on the Colbert Report.
As an exercise in the formal bounds of pure comics, Lost Girls is remarkable, as good as anything Moore has done in his career. (One of my favourite moments: a husband and wife trapped in a frozen, loveless, sexless relationship, conduct a stiff conversation, laced with unconscious puns and wordplay, moving into positions that cause their shadows appear to copulate wildly, finding the physical passion that the people are denied.)
I want, I want, I want.
By the way, I had a really great time in St. Louis, so thanks to everyone for food recommendations and such. Next time I'd like to stay longer so that I can actually get to some of them. And blah blah blah, thanks to Washington University for bringing me down there. It was a very interesting thing, reading about evolution while sitting in front of the hippo tank at the St. Louis zoo.
Tom Bissell (God Lives in St. Petersburg, Chasing the Sea) adds his thoughts on literature for Central Asia at Salon's Literary Guide to the World. Now I love him even more because he lists some of my favorite books: Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward and Chingiz Aitmatov's The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years.
June 22, 2006
The Virginia Quarterly Review now has several articles from their upcoming summer issue online. There's an excellent web exclusive interview with Alice Munro, plus several appreciations and a literary history of the great Canadian author. Elsewhere in the magazine, Brock Clarke says that the critics who keep predicting the death of the novel are missing the point, and Floyd Skloot has an incredibly moving review of three recent memoirs. So, you know, subscribe already. There's not a better magazine in the world; there probably never has been.
NPR has a profile of Christopher Hitchens, probably the best living English-language essayist.
But he's best known for focusing his unforgiving pen on the likes of Henry Kissinger ("war criminal, liar without conscience, pseudo-scholar, pseudo-academic, pitiless sponsor of dictators abroad"); Mother Teresa ("friend of poverty, enemy of the poor, fundamentalist fanatic"); and Bill Clinton ("a man who was in politics for therapy who wasted eight years of America's time").
If you're on a sex offender registry, it's probably not a good idea to write, and publish, "an erotic short story about two 16-year-olds."
BooksFromScotland.com has a sweet deal going buy one Canongate Classic and get another one for half price. Canongate is one of the best publishers in the world, and their Classics line features authors like Alasdair Gray, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Grassic Gibbon. And Jessa will kill me if I don't point out that this is a good chance to pick up one of her favorite novels ever, Alasdair Gray's Lanark.
This year's Bumbershoot festival in Seattle will feature an impressive lineup of writers, including Chuck Palahniuk, Mary Gaitskill, Michelle Tea, Alison Bechdel, Charles D'Ambrosio, Gary Shteyngart, George Saunders and Sara Gruen.
Gothamist's Rachel Kramer Bussel interviews Kate Bornstein, author of Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.
What one message would you like people to take away from the book?
Do anything you feel you need to do to stay alive, anything. Fuck legality, fuck morality. The only thing that makes that work is “Don’t be mean.” There are all kinds of ways to deal with people who don’t want you to do things, but if you’re not being mean to anybody, my god, do whatever you need to do to make life worth living. That’s the important thing.
Richard and Judy unveiled their summer reading list earlier this week, and it includes two books that Bookslut's own Colleen Mondor loved Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian (Colleen's reviews are here and here).
LAist talks to Eileen Ybarra, a YA librarian at the city's central library.
I became a librarian to help people foster a sense of self-empowerment within them. I also was attracted to librarianship because of the sense of freedom, exploration and intellectual curiosity that is possible through using the library. With teens that process is a lot more fun and interesting. They tend to be enthusiastic about their interests and are still open to learning and knowledge.
The AP reports on the Nampa, Idaho, controversy about The Joy of Gay Sex and other explicit books in the city's public library. The library's solution: Put the books on high shelves so kids can't reach them. Unless they have, you know, a chair or something.
Board Trustee Bruce Skaug offered a motion to remove "The Joy of Gay Sex" from the library but it was not seconded.
"I'd rather my 9-year-old take up smoking than see the pictures in this book," Skaug said.
Really, Bruce? Really?
"A very unlikely love story" involving a lesbian writer and a male mystery novelist.
The ACLU is suing the Miami-Dade County school district in order to prevent them from censoring a children's book about Cuba.
The Porter County (Indiana) library system board of directors, apparently realizing that they'd rather not spend their afterlife roasting in hell, has lifted their ban on lending books to homeless children living in shelters. Here's my new candidate for library hero of the year:
Eleven-year-old Taylor Knoblock led the charge, taking his brother, Jacob, 9, and sister, Rachel, 6, and a wagon with him.
"I read in the paper that the public library wouldn’t let kids from the homeless shelter check out books anymore," Taylor said. "I didn’t like that idea, so I started to collect books for Spring Valley [homeless shelter] to have their own library." . . .
"I feel sad for people that don’t have the same stuff as I do," said Taylor, who by early afternoon had collected about 50 books and 20 videotapes.
Taylor, you rock.
June 21, 2006
Kaplan is worse than a bad writer or thinker. He is a dangerous writer made ever more dangerous by the fact that he is taken seriously. Even his most hostile reviews have treated him as though his arguments are still within the pale. His worldview is, in many ways, that of the current administration, and shared by many Americans. These are people for whom the wider world means only acrimony to be dismissed and obstacles to be knocked over. People who care not for “exquisite subtleties” when it comes to matters of force and occupation. People who do not think in human terms, except insofar as those terms reflect their own beliefs, which are supremely correct.
The summer issue of the VQR is coming out soon, and will feature a symposium on Alice Munro, which is yet another reason you need to subscribe yesterday. (Link via World Hum.)
The Gwinnett County (Georgia) library board won't spend any more money to buy Spanish language adult fiction, reports the AP.
Spending the $3,000 that had been earmarked for those Spanish reading materials next fiscal year, which starts July 1, would have only led to readers of other foreign languages to request the same treatment, the board’s chairman argued. However, one board member says the move came after some residents objected to using taxpayers’ dollars for patrons who might be illegal immigrants.
The $3,000 will instead be allocated to the county's "cross-burnin' fund."
A Penn State biologist has developed a new way to date books. Apparently the old method of taking them to dinner and a movie isn't cool anymore.
These newcomers are unknown even to most gay men, who are too busy going to the gym and cruising on the Net to read. Whereas being cultured was once the entrance fee for being gay, now the gay community has dumbed down like the rest of the population.
Slate has a photo gallery of people reading to celebrate the summer solstice.
Today and tomorrow I'm doing this St. Louis thing (anyone know good restaurants in St. Louis? E-mail me.) but tomorrow evening at 7 you can see me doing my best Oompa Loompa impression on Chicago Tonight on PBS. Last time my face matched the orange bookshelves behind my head, but my neck was still whitewhitewhite. (I'm Scot-Irish, there's nothing I can do about that.) So once again, I am offering my humiliation for your pleasure as I talk about books on your television. Hooray.
An employment agency's typo on a letter sent to hundreds of businesses ruined the reputation of a former newspaper editor seeking a public relations job, according to a defamation lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
Nerve talks to John Updike about, among other things, oral sex.
But the head getting close to the genitals is, in a way, more intimate than letting the genitals do it on their own. Our sensory organs, including the brain, are right down there, and if it happens less frequently in couples as the relationship ages and evolves, it's because it's an act of worship, really. You are worshipping the other person's genitals. That may be a kind of ardor that cannot be sustained forever.
June 20, 2006
Do a good thing today and donate some money or books to the Dewey Donation System, benefiting the Harrison County Library system in Mississippi.
There's something really irritating about discovering that books you love are out of print. Even though used bookstores, and sites like Abebooks, Alibris and Powell's have made it pretty easy to find them, it sucks that the publishing industry has given up on some great work from some great authors, while books like M is for Murder and N is for No, Seriously, Murder and O is for Oh My God Someone Just Got Murdered are readily available at every chain bookstore in the land. You might say that there's a good economic reason for this, to which I respond: I failed economics, bitches. So take that!
Anyway, the last two fiction books I read are now out of print, and it pains me, because they're both so unique and so beautiful. Both are by Mary Robison, a University of Florida professor whose stories have been appearing in The New Yorker for almost 30 years. I first heard of Robison a few years ago, when Why Did I Ever was first published, and newspapers and magazines, in one of their rare fits of good taste, paid attention. I read it then, and was pretty sure I loved it, though I remember being more confused than anything else. (This was 2002, when I was unemployed and depressed, so pretty much everything confused me. Syndicated reruns of 3rd Rock from the Sun confused me. I was drinking a lot then.)
I don't know why it took me so long to read more of her work, but it wasn't until this month that I picked up Oh!, a novel, and Believe Them, a collection of short stories. Both were originally published in the '80s, which I kept forgetting while reading them there's something timely and urgent about both, though it's a relaxed, conversational kind of urgency. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, and maybe it is, but Robison is one of the few living authors who realizes that even at its most mundane and placid, everyday life is still pretty surreal and stressful. She is not capable of being boring.
Oh! was my favorite of the two; it's hilarious and touching without ever turning sappy, or anything close to sappy. The characters are, by most definitions of the word, unlikable there's a misanthropic dad, a flighty son, and a bitter daughter who's a neglectful mother to her child. There are no real big events; the characters mostly trade barbs, watch TV and make periodic attempts at doing yard work. And yet it's impossible to stop reading; there's an emotional urgency behind every little thing they do. Oh! was adapted into a movie called Twister (not that one), which I kind of want to see, though I try to avoid any movie with Crispin Glover in it. (Sorry. Policy. Dude creeps me out.)
Believe Them is also incredible, though much sadder, and maybe a little more resigned. There's not a bad story in the collection, though there are some definite standouts "Again, Again, Again," which deals with a high school football coach and his almost gleefully sad family; "Adore Her," the story of a young man in love with someone who's not in love with him; and my personal favorite, "For Real," which follows a local TV clown coming to terms with her serious-minded, somewhat humorless German boyfriend. There are quiet epiphanies, but no obvious light bulbs flickering on above the characters' heads. Robison's characters are subtle, even when they're trying hard not to be. It's the most real kind of realism there is, and I'm not sure there's any American writer alive who can do it better.
In what might well be the worst PR move in the history of the world, the Porter County (Indiana) library system has decided to prohibit homeless children living in shelters from borrowing books.
Pauls Toutonghi's Red Weather is reviewed by Alan Cheuse at NPR. Pauls is also the subject of a nice profile/book review at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where Geeta Sharma-Jensen calls the novel "hilarious and touching, unpretentious yet incisive, instantly recognizable both geographically and emotionally." I really, really need to read this book. (Pauls, a Bookslut contributor, will be reading next week at the Bookslut Reading at the Hopleaf in Chicago, with Ned Vizzini and Daniel Nester, both of whom I love. Why don't I live in Chicago? Someone remind me.)
Alternet reviews two books about scavenging: Perishable, Dirk Jamison's memoir about growing up in a dumpster diving family and The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine by Steven Rinella, one man's ode to killing and eating anything that moves.
He shoots. He hooks. He snares. He nets. He hacks the heads off things. He guts. He flings fillets onto flames and freezes the rest to make elkburgers, pickled liver, snapping-turtle soup. He's a manly and literate man who happened upon a 1903 cookbook by Auguste Escoffier, the King of Chefs and Chef of Kings.
Okay, now I have to read Scavenger.
This is no mere catalog of facts, but a work of oceanic immersion. It has wit, opinion, style, and asks to be read, not just consulted. In addition to major essays on tough nuts like Masked and Anonymous, "Blind Willie McTell," and Renaldo and Clara are entries titled "frying an egg onstage, the prospect of"; "Molly Ringwald"; and "kelp."
Randy Jackson complained to the board about the books, which he feels are pornographic in nature, and too easily accessible by children and teens, “I believe that the library board did not have the best interests of the community in mind when they made their decision today.” . . .
Jackson checked out a copy of the book "The Joy of Gay Sex", and he says he has no plans to return it.
But let's look at the text of "Cathy's Book," which is coming out in September. In the original manuscript, according to the Times' article, someone (no doubt Cathy) applies a "killer coat of Clinique #11 'Black Violet' lipstick." Now that the deal has been cut, Cathy prefers "a killer coat of Lipslicks in 'Daring.'" Of course, this is only my opinion, but I don't know what "Lipslicks in 'Daring'" is. "Lipslicks in 'Daring'" makes no sense as English prose. Score one for authorial integrity. . . .
. . . Novelists who sell their characters to financial sponsors are like teacher's pets. Instinctively we know that their allegiance is divided. They say they want only to please us, the readers, but really, what with "eyecolor" and "Lipslicks," it's pretty clear that we aren't first on the list at all.
Apostrophe Cast is examining the subtle art of the author photo, with this awesome photo of Faulkner serving as the gold standard. I have some personal favorites, from Anthony Bourdain with a sword to Neil Gaiman as hottest man on the planet, but nothing beats this shot of Somerset Maugham. I mean, lord almighty. Especially since he aged into this: craggy and delicious. (Should I mention I have a picture of Somerset Maugham as old and disapproving hanging in my living room? I have a thing for craggy: Maugham, Mike Wallace, John Hurt... I should really be in therapy, I think.)
I still can't find a novel to read. I'm still reading Balthus and now Goya, too. But I want a novel. Maybe there's a gas leak in my apartment that is keeping me just stupid enough not to get into a novel. I am thisclose to picking up Emily Griffin's Baby Proof, because maybe it's just bad enough that everything else will seem like James fucking Joyce after it. Lower my standards a bit. I'm only going to be in St. Louis for 24 hours this week, but I'm packing eight books, hoping something will catch on the plane. Bah.
In a move that maybe sounded like a good idea at the time, Slate is celebrating its 10th anniversary by asking people what they don't like about it, and then publishing the results. The problem is Michael Wolff is dead on.
Slate, like Fox News, is part of the opinion media where even a negative reaction is a positive reaction. To me, the Slate people are insufferable in ways that are quite similar to the ways the Fox people are insufferable—at Fox, they like to be the toughest guys in the barroom; at Slate, the most overachieving guys in the classroom—demonstrating, perhaps, that affect rather than ideology is the culture's most irritating force.
Remember their coverage of Watchmen's anniversary? Or their takedown of Kitchen Confidential by that adorable asshole Jeffrey Steingarten? Or even their review of the show House by How We Die author Sherwin Nuland?
Slate! We Kill Joy!
Jennifer Howard reports from the Association of American University Presses conference in New Orleans.
June 19, 2006
The subject of my letter is the ill-conceived and out-of-scale flotilla of skyscrapers you propose to build on a series of sites between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn, in your partnership with a developer named Bruce Ratner and his firm, Forest City Ratner Companies. . . .
. . . It's a nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives and, I'd think, to your legacy. Your reputation, in this case, is the Trojan horse in a war to bring a commercially ambitious, but aesthetically — and socially — disastrous new development to Brooklyn.
Scottish authors collaborate with Scottish musicians for an album coming out this September on Chemikal Underground Records.
Among the highlights are collaborations between Teenage Fanclub's singer and guitarist Norman Blake and John Burnside, Sons and Daughters and writer-turned comedian AL Kennedy, Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt and Ian Rankin, and Fife's own King Creosote and The Cutting Room author Louise Welsh.
Folk singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan and No Fireworks novelist Rodge Glass will also make an appearance. Elsewhere, The Trashcan Sinatras and Whitbread winner Ali Smith will join forces.
Will you marry me, Scotland?
"Summer reading" features are almost always incredibly lame, but here's a good one: Abraham Verghese (The Tennis Partner) recommends four books at NPR, including Charles D'Ambrosio's The Dead Fish Museum.
At The Boston Globe, Dushko Petrovich considers two recently released books from Yale University Press: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art and Writings on Art, both by Mark Rothko. I've become obsessed with the artist after visiting the Rothko Chapel last month, which I recommend everybody do as soon as humanly possible. (Yeah, it's in Houston, but I swear it's totally worth it.) I need to read these books now. Dammit.
Gold stars for the robot boys at Continuum Publishing: The 33 1/3 blog has an excerpt from Marc Woodworth's forthcoming book about the Guided by Voices album Bee Thousand. (Although they rejected my manuscript for a book based on this mix tape I made once that was just Bread's "Baby I'm-A Want You" repeated twenty-four times, I still recommend the 33 1/3 books.) Continuum is also behind the new Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, which I'm looking forward to reading. Or at least using to settle arguments about who the Phantom of the Opera and Casanova are supposed to symbolize in "Desolation Row." (Correct answer: Paul Lynde and Sargent Shriver. Look it up.)
In truth, I had no idea what I wanted to study, so for the first few years I took everything that came my way. I enjoyed pillaging and astrology, but the thing that ultimately stuck was comparative literature. There wasn’t much of it to compare back then, no more than a handful of epic poems and one novel about a lady detective, but that’s part of what I liked about it. The field was new, and full of possibilities, but try telling that to my parents. . . .
Dad followed his “I’m so disappointed” speech with a lecture on career opportunities. “You’re going to study literature and get a job doing what?” he said. “Literaturizing?”
In a review of Noam Chomsky's new Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Peter Beaumont says the linguistics professor/hero to the far, far, far left might be overstating his case.
Thus on page 129, comparing a somewhat belated US conversion to the case for democracy in Iraq after the failure to find WMD, Chomsky claims: 'Professions of benign intent by leaders should be dismissed by any rational observer. They are near universal and predictable, and hence carry virtually no information. The worst monsters - Hitler, Stalin, Japanese fascists, Suharto, Saddam Hussein and many others - have produced moving flights of rhetoric about their nobility of purpose.'
Which leads to a question: is that really what you see, Mr Chomsky, from the window of your library at MIT? Is it the stench of the gulag wafting over the Charles River? Do you walk in fear of persecution and murder for expressing your dissident views? Or do you make a damn good living out of it? The faults of the Bush administration will not be changed by books such as Failed States. They will be swept away by ordinary, decent Americans in the world's greatest - if flawed and selfish - democracy going to the polls.
This pretty much captures my uneasiness about Chomsky. What's the old expression? "You catch more flies with honey than with a three hour long lecture about how the flies are stupid braindead drones who don't realize that they are worse than Nazis and should stop watching reality TV and start reading Anton Pannekoek in the original Dutch before it's too late you bastards." Or something like that.
The bookstore guy is named Fred. And he is perhaps less stimulating than the authors intend him to be. "At the moment I'm reading some postmodern, edgy first novels by a couple of guys who teach creative writing at N.Y.U.," Fred tells Dora. But she starts falling for him anyway. After all, he takes her dancing and whisks her around the floor while quoting a couple of lovely lines by Billy Collins. And Dora has always wanted to be whisked. . . .
. . . But this is an essentially good-natured novel about other novels, literary enough to have its heroine thinking of Maurice Sendak during a sex scene. ("Let the wild rumpus begin.") And living up to the aphorism from "Flaubert's Parrot" that scene invokes: "Books make sense of life."
So here's an experiment. Go up to someone you find attractive in a coffee house, bookstore or bar, and tell them that you're reading "some postmodern, edgy first novels by a couple of guys who teach creative writing at N.Y.U." and see what happens. I guarantee that you'll be going home alone and masturbating to a Maurice Sendak book.
It is time for us to sit down, as a culture, and have an honest talk about Garrison Keillor. It's no use trying to ignore him anymore: He is upon us.
As someone who has been trapped in my father's car, forced to listen to hours of Prairie Home Companion until I wanted to scream the word "FUCK" just to break the nicenice tone of the show, I really don't want to have this conversation about Keillor. I just want him to go away.
Keillor has, through three decades of canny self-marketing, turned himself into a kind of EveryMidwesterner. When he started as a writer and radio host in the early 1970s, America's major regions had all been thoroughly mythologized—there was Faulkner's Mississippi, Steinbeck's California, and everybody else's New York. But the Midwest was, relatively speaking, a blank slate. Like Faulkner, Keillor invented a fictional territory—a mythical Minnesota hamlet called Lake Wobegon, "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve"—and dedicated his career to exploring it. (Wobegon is a little like Yoknapatawpha County, but Midwestern—i.e., with all the murder, rape, class warfare, and incest translated into gardening, ice fishing, and gentle boyish hijinks.)
Except for that if you live in the Midwest for more than five seconds, you know that is bullshit. It's like those fucking tv shows where the big city man moves to the small town and knows True Joy and Happiness... Okay, enough of that. Let's just relive that wonderful August Kleinzahler essay from Poetry magazine. Or Christopher Hitchens's more recent take down: "Every now and again you come across the real thing: a case of full-blown, corn-fed, white-bread American nativist bloviation." That's better.
Just before I turned 67, I placed an advert in the New York Review of Books saying I was looking for a man I would like to have sex with and that Trollope worked for me. If this feels familiar, then it's because this was the start of my previous book, A Round-Heeled Woman, to which I will be making extensive reference, along with John Updike and Mark Twain, throughout this current volume.
June 16, 2006
Aw, thanks guys. We love you, too.
"Yoga's the one thing I've drawn the line at—I do my boxing and I don't know if yoga and boxing can go together."
Marilyn French is interviewed about the anniversary of her feminist novel (my skin just crawled a little typing that) The Women's Room at the Guardian. How does French feel about the state of publishing today?
"They have fired everyone over a certain age. I was told by one publisher - a woman whom I respect - that she adored my work. Then she told me to go off and write something more like Bridget Jones's Diary." My eyebrows hit the roof. "I am totally serious."
My mother has a son named Shalom whom she loves dearly, but he isn't me, or more accurately, I'm not him. He is married with many properly Day-Eight-With-A-Rabbi circumcised children, none of this Doctor-in-the-Delivery-Room narishkeit. He lives next door to her, in a proper Yiddishe community, and he keeps the Sabbath and he calls it Shabbos, and he phones her before Shabbos and wishes her a good Shabbos and he meets her in synagogue on Shabbos and they walk home together on Shabbos, and he phones her after Shabbos and wishes her a good week and he calls it a gut vuch, and all the myriad conditions of her love are blissfully met (he also wrote a book, this son, and it was also called Beware of God, but it wasn't short stories, it was mussar, chastisement, rebuke. "I loved it," his mother said). She has been the victim of some cosmic bait-and-switch, and she has spent most of my life looking for the receipt. "This," she says as she pats her pockets and looks through her coat, "is not what I purchased."
June 15, 2006
No longer just for indie bands and tales of teen angst, the networking Web site MySpace.com is the latest outlet for authors to hook up with editors, sell books and seek solace when they're lonely. . . .
The four launched a competition on the site this week, inviting budding writers to submit samples of their own memoirs, with the winner guaranteed a reading of their manuscript by editors at three major publishers.
Man, I have a MySpace page, and nobody's offered me a book deal. On the plus side, though, a heavy metal band from Pittsburgh just asked me to be their friend. Thanks, guys! That sounds really interesting, and I'll be sure to check out your DENY DENY DENY DENY OH MY GOD DENY
The Pitch profiles Gregg Motley, a recovering pornography addict who is now the spokesman for the pro-censorship group Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools (ClassKC).
Like the other parents in ClassKC, Motley is blunt when it comes to the books that ClassKC deems too vulgar, too sexual or too violent.
"Most of it's bad literature," he says. . . .
Motley wants ClassKC members in churches, rallying people in the pews. He talks about reaching the conservative Christian voting block and harnessing their political power. He's encouraging them to build partnerships with organizations such as the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. ClassKC also networks with similar organizations in Virginia, Texas, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Illinois. They have received the support of groups such as the conservative Christian nonprofit the Alliance Defense Fund, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum.
NPR talks to Donald Hall, the new US poet laureate, and Hall reads from three of his poems. He's also profiled by Arthur Allen at the Poetry Foundation. The Academy of American Poets has a biographical sketch and bibliography of Hall, and reprints one of Hall's most famous works, the 1989 essay "Death to the Death of Poetry."
The Associated Press:
A Stanford University professor on Monday sued James Joyce's estate for refusing to give her permission to use copyrighted material about the "Ulysses" author and his daughter on her Web site.
...[Professor Carol] Shloss accused Joyce's grandson, Stephen James Joyce, and estate trustee, Sean Sweeney, of destroying papers, improperly withholding access to copyrighted materials and intimidating academics to protect the Joyce family name.
And as for the girl on the Tube, with her nose buried in her novel, she is on the same quest. The reason women devour so much fiction is that it is the only place where they can find a certain idea of masculinity. It is a spirit that has been regulated out of the workplace and banished from the classroom.
Women turn to fiction, I would guess, because it is the last reservation for men who are neither violent thugs nor politically correct weeds, where a girl can still get her bodice ripped without the bodice ripper being locked up.
Oh God please make it stop.
Thanks to everyone for the book recommendations, by the way. I still haven't found anything to read, but I do now have a list to take to the bookstore this afternoon. (I'm killing time reading a big fuck-off biography of Balthus, which is great, but I'm not going to be able to take it on the train with me.)
Oh good. It's Chicago Tribune's annual display of crazy, their 50 favorite magazines. Remember the year they declared Wooden Boat their favorite? That was a good year. But damn... this year their top ten is full of really good magazines. (Except for their inexplicable love for Blender. The fuck?) The Economist, Gourmet, Atlantic, Esquire, Wired. Nothing fantastically out of left field like Zembla or VQR, but still solid publications. God damn it, Chicago Tribune. Now I have to wait another year for the crazy to return. And, with Vogue Knitting hitting #50 this year, I'm pretty sure it will.
The Miami-Dade School Board voted to ban the children's book A Visit to Cuba from the county's public schools.
It became the target of controversy earlier this year when the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary student complained about the book's rosy portrayal of life in Fidel Castro's Cuba.
"The Cuban people have been paying a dear price for 47 years for the reality to be known," said Juan Amador Rodriguez, a former political prisoner in Cuba who filed the original complaint, which was denied, and subsequent appeals. "A 32-page book cannot silence that."
It's heartwarming when people flee a dictatorship so they can come to America and start banning books.
Chicago police are investigating a fire in a Chicago Public Library branch on the North Side that damaged about 100 books, most of them in the gay and lesbian collection.
Over at Salon, Tom Bissell introduces a literary Vietnam, John Banville recommends some (really predictible) Irish literature, and Stephen Amidon really loves American desert fiction as part of the Literary Guide to the World.
June 14, 2006
I still don't know what to do about this five-book streak. The last five books I've read have been amazing, better than great, and now I'm reluctant to start a new one. It has become kind of a problem. I wrote about the first two yesterday: Kathryn Davis' The Thin Place and Mary Gaitskill's Veronica. I still urge you to stop whatever you're doing and go buy these books. Unless what you are doing is performing CPR on a dying person, in which case, it's kind of fucked up that you're reading a blog while doing that. But, you know, by all means, continue. Then go buy the books later.
At any rate, number three: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore. Like the first two books, my girlfriend recommended it to me. Which makes me think I should just get her to figure out which book I'll read next, except that she'd probably charge me an exorbitant rate, and then try to sabotage me. ("You know what's good, Mike? The novelization of Scary Movie 3. It retains the delicate psychological realism of the source material! Now give me three hundred dollars.") We have a playful relationship, she and I.
I'd read, and loved, all of Lorrie Moore's published short stories. The first one was "People Like That Are the Only People Here," which actually might be the perfect short story (see also: Reginald McKnight's "The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas," a close second). And then everything in Birds of America, everything in Like Life, and everything in Self-Help. I developed this huge literary crush on her, but I never read her novels. Now I'm wondering what I was waiting for. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? is an excellent novel; like everything she's done, it's at once sad and sweet and funny and angry.
Set both in early '90s Paris and early '70s upstate New York, Moore's novel is told from the point of view of Berie Carr, who grew up in the immediate aftermath of the Woodstock generation, and would later marry a scientist who may or may not be the right person for her. The young Berie works at a truly terrible theme park; the slightly older version wanders around Paris, wondering if she can, or wants to, come to terms with her marriage. Moore has a rare gift she's able to make you identify with anyone, from any era, and you never actually realize what she's doing, or how she's doing it, until the book is over. When the young Berie worries that her breasts aren't developing quickly enough, I kept thinking, "Yes! That is exactly what that feels like!" And then: "Wait. What just happened?" Moore's characters are so identifiable, so real, because they're so amazingly human. It sounds obvious, but it's rare. Most fictional characters make mistakes, but they're seldom the right kind of mistakes. And Moore knows that the consequences of mistakes aren't always predictable; in real life, in fact, they almost never are. It's hard to explain, but if you read the novel, you'll understand. Read it. Seriously. To convince you, here's a short passage from a conversation between Berie and her husband:
"I feel disconnected these days, in the house, in town. The neighbors say, 'Hello, how are you?,' and sometimes I say, 'Oh, I'm feeling a little empty today. How about you?'"
"You should get a puppy," he says sleepily.
"Yeah. It's not like the cat. A puppy you can take for walks around the neighborhood, and people will stop and smile and say, 'Ooooh, look What's wrong with your puppy?'"
"What is wrong with my puppy?"
"Worms, I think. I don't know. You should have taken him to the vet's weeks ago."
In honor of the World Cup, World Hum lists three great books about soccer: Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World, Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, and Joe McGinniss' The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. (Don't forget to check out World Hum's list of the top 30 travel books of all time, too.)
"A college based on the teachings of philosopher-author Ayn Rand" might be established in North Carolina or Maine. And you thought you went to school with a bunch of assholes.
The Telegraph notes that American writers aren't very good at capturing British vocabulary and speech patterns, and vice versa.
The idea of English life in The Da Vinci Code is hilarious enough. "I was knighted," the villainous Sir Leigh Teabing explains as he prepares to skip customs and immigration on landing in Britain. "Membership [sic] has its privileges."
But it's his speech that really nails the ludicrousness. "Just because I am returning to the Queen's realm does not mean I intend to subject my palate to bangers and mash for the rest of my days. I'm planning to buy a splendid villa in Devon..."
Good God, that is bad. My personal pet peeve is authors trying to capture the Texas accent and speech pattern in print, and ending up with sentences like "Y'all ain't goin' nowhere, yew hear?" Every time I read something like that, I think, "This doesn't sound like the people I grew up around. It sounds like Foghorn Leghorn in the throes of Broca's aphasia."
Yet complain he now does: “We seem to have become practically as theocentric at the higher levels of the administration as these people we’re waging war against. It makes me kind of uncomfortable. I don’t mean this to turn into an anti-W rant, but in the Christianity I was taught, humility was one of the seven cardinal virtues. I’ve seen precious little of that from W.”
I reminded Buckley that he once described himself, in an article for Washington Monthly ahead of the 2004 presidential election, as “a loyal but dispirited Republican who’ll probably hold his nose on election day and pull the Republican lever”. But Buckley did not vote a second time for Bush – or not for W, anyway. He exercised his right to write a different name on the ballot paper. His choice was not an official candidate. Buckley voted for George Herbert Bush.
Most poetry "sucks elk balls," says Michael Brodeur at Boston's Weekly Dig:
People like to compare poetry and wine, but bad wine still gets you drunk. We’ve heard it all before: sexually charged slammers who find the sublime not in getting eaten out on the subway, but in telling us all about it for 20 minutes; coy MFA douches penning self-serious slo-mo dramatizations of their dads shaving, unwittingly trying to crawl up into Jorie Graham’s hair; Angelou’s greeting-card bullshit; Collins’s yard-gazing garbage. ... Here’s the shorthand: One side enjoys stories, things that make sense, and humming like idiots at readings when they like a certain line (“Hmm!”); the other side hates the aforementioned side and, hence, hates stories, sense and hums of approval. Big deal. It’s like a couple arguing loudly in the food court so that people will watch them.
Brodeur likes Wave Books, though, which he calls "one of the best little presses for poets at the top of a given game — or the end of a given rope, whichever works better."
On the newest Salon podcast, Laura Miller talks to Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) about his work, and how some fans reacted to the casting of Jim Carrey in the film adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
"There were people it could have been -- let's say, notorious anti-Semites who make long, Aramaic movies about Jesus and funnel their money to their dad's Holocaust-denying churches. Not to name names."
If I go on a killing spree, it will be Giuliana DePandi's fault.
Selections from her new book "Think Like a Guy: How to Get a Guy by Thinking Like One":
"Guys want you to be sexy, mysterious, and different from all the other girls they've dated. Don't give him any reason to think otherwise. When your period comes up, use it as an opportunity to play the elusive card... So unless your physical ailment is something cool or flattering ("I have a wicked hangover from drinking beers at the football game" is a good one, skip the truth, brush him off, and watch his interest grow." (page 63)
"Here's the quick fix: Lie. Yes, I know that honesty is supposed to be the best policy, but the person who made that up was already married, so they weren't considering the whole 'dying alone' factor. You need a man." (page 31)
"Guys also show affection by putting up with you. We're women, so by nature we spend one week every month being moody, short-tempered, and needy. This means that guys spend two weeks a month dealing with us. That's right: two weeks. Four days before (stocking up on chocolate and Midol, accepting the fact that he's about to go a whole week without great sex, dreading the verbal attacks), the actual week of, and three days after (apologizing to all his friends for your behavior, making sure he's back on your 'good side'." (page 95)
"The first time you sleep over, wake up early and sneak out without saying good-bye or leaving a note." (page 9)
Excuse me, I'm going to go burn this book now so it doesn't fall into the hands of some vulnerable young woman who might believe this crap.
Donald Hall will be named America's poet laureate today. Hall's poetry collections include Without, Life Work, and most recently, White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006. He's also the author of the critically acclaimed memoir The Best Day The Worst Day, about his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon (Let Evening Come), who died in 1995.
June 13, 2006
I'm having a similar problem to the one Jessa talked about earlier today. The last five books I've read have been amazing, which is an unusual streak that I am reluctant to break. They've all been by female authors, too, which makes me think I should just stop reading books by dudes. And I'm not just saying that to sound enlightened and sensitive to all our female readers that's only about 60 percent of my motivation. 65 percent, tops. The point is, I am psyched about this five-book streak, which I'm hoping can take me through the summer books being pretty much the only things that can make me forget it's 148 degrees outside. And that's making me reluctant to start anything else.
It all started with Kathryn Davis, whose The Thin Place I read at the urging of Jessa and my girlfriend, both of whom loved it. It's the kind of novel you want to read slowly, and the kind you want to reread as soon as you've finished it. Davis is the kind of author who can pull off just about anything there's a chapter told from the point of view of a pack of dogs, and it doesn't seem even slightly gimmicky or forced. Davis writes with the highest levels of intellectual and emotional honesty imaginable; I have a suspicion she might well be the smartest person in America. She's definitely one of the most gifted writers. Jessa's review of the novel in the Sun-Times says it better than I could: "The Thin Place is a bright, shimmering book, and the variety of voices come together like a globe cut from glass in the sun, separating the light into tiny rainbows and then reconstructing them into pure white light." Read it, and then read Donna Seaman's interview with Davis, which I think is one of the best features Bookslut has ever published.
After The Thin Place, I read Mary Gaitskill's Veronica, which my girlfriend recommended pretty highly. It's about friendship and music and sickness (and if you are the kind of person who thinks those things are all pretty much the same, you have to read this novel) and a thousand other things all at once, but it's never muddled; it's written with an incredible grace and a sad kind of nostalgia. A good part of the book takes place in the '80s, which usually provides authors with an excuse to unload all the Pac-Man/John Hughes/Max Headroom pop-culture references they've been saving up for years. But Gaitskill makes the setting timeless, even when she writes about the early stages of the AIDS crisis in New York it's pinned down in history, but it also rises above the time and place. Veronica might destroy you emotionally, but if you're of a certain mindset the lapsed Catholic mindset, say you'll probably think you deserve it. I'm a little shocked it didn't win a major book award; along with Ander Monson's Other Electricities, I think it's one of the best works of fiction of 2005.
I'll write about the third book tomorrow. It takes place in upstate New York and opens with a vaguely unhappy couple eating brains.
BOOK FAN #3: I'm writing a novel myself. I was wondering if I might email it to you sometime, to see what you think of it.
FEMALE AUTHOR: Well, I get a lot of those kinds of requests. I don't really have time to read them all...
BOOK FAN #3: Your email address is on your web site, right?
FEMALE AUTHOR (wincing): Yes, but...
BOOK FAN #3: Good. I'll send you my manuscript this week.
This is extremely cool: The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia is now available. I can't wait to read this; it actually makes the time I spent in college trying to memorize all the words to "Foot of Pride" worth it. (Although now that I think about it, that was reward enough. It's a great song. Lou Reed has a live cover of it somewhere, which is also amazing.)
Bookslut contributor Daniel Nester, who is awesome and who will soon be reading in a place where beer may be purchased, goes to a yoga retreat to see Robert Bly and Li-Young Lee read. Lee is one of my favorite poets (check out Rose and The City in Which I Love You), and as for Bly...I want to like Bly, but it's hard to get past the Iron John thing. Remember that? The book that caused men to go to the forest, whine about their fathers and drum naked in the early '90s? Man, that was a trend that couldn't die soon enough. Still, Nester's article makes me want to read Bly's poetry, which I didn't think anything could do. I mean, I really fucking hated those drums, you know?
The state of New York is buying over 400 acres of forest from the estate of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The land, which the state will pay more than $3 million for, will become part of the Harvey Mountain State Forest.
I am beginning to get pissed off by my inability to find a good book to read. It's been two weeks. That is a really, really long time for me. Every morning there are new books that hold all of this promise, and yet an hour later I am ready to throw away all of my books and take up knitting. I blame the publishing industry for inflicting the following trends on us:
Quirky short story collections
When writers can't think of anything interesting or meaningful to say, they seem to just throw wacky shit into the story. We get girls raised by wolves, tiny men put in cages by giants, fortune-telling girls who do handstands on sharks for the amusement of large audiences. And we're supposed to look at these stories and say, "Ah yes, the metaphors are profound, and the author is so inventive." But these stories are not actually saying anything. (Authors that may seem like they're included in this category but really aren't: Shalom Auslander and Dan Rhodes. I swear to god they're the only ones doing this right at the moment.)
Men's Fear of Aging, and the female equivalent, the Weight Loss Memoir
Shouldn't we have burned out on the fear of aging shit about thirty years ago? Can't we all just read Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, admit there's nothing new to say on the matter and move on? And every single weight loss memoir can be summed up thusly: "I learned how to finally love and accept myself, and I started exercising and stopped emotionally eating, and what do you know, I lost some weight and now I have a boyfriend." Next time just do a Jenny Craig commercial and save the trees.
Anything to do with the Knights Templar or Mary Magdalene
The books come with a thick stench of desperation.
Coming of Age bullshit
Yes, yes, yes, it's hard to be a teen. And some people do it right (King Dork). But I got a book in the mail that is summed up with "Everyone remembers age thirteen. For Alison Glass, it was the year she moved to Weston, Connecticut, with her bohemian parents and her horse, Jazz." If that's where we are on the list of kids-who-had-it-rough-growing-up, girls in Connecticut who have horses, maybe we should abandon the genre all together and start writing about adults again.
I get cranky when I start ten books, have to abandon them and still have nothing to read. I'm going to have to invent some sort of divining rod to find a book worth reading at the bookstore.
A way to reinvent—that’s what I’m trying to write about now. From a bit of a comical perspective. I’m trying to write about a man reinventing himself, because I think there’s room for reinvention in America. I don’t believe that there are no second acts in American lives, as F. Scott Fitzgerald says. There’s room for reinvention all over the place. But you’ve got to be pretty good at the first iteration of what you do to have the opportunity to reinvent yourself in the second.
Ned will be at the Bookslut Reading Series at the Hopleaf in Chicago on Tuesday, June 27, at 7:30 pm.
Laura Mallory, the Georgia mother who lost her bid to have the Harry Potter books banned from her children's school district, is appealing the local school board's decision to the state. An AP story about the controversy mentions that Mallory is a "former missionary," which sounds about right. Only when you've looked into the eyes of an indigent Third World child, dying of starvation and of a disease his government keeps ignoring, can you fully understand why we must ban the books about the little magic kids with owls and kitties.
King Dork author and personal hero of mine Frank Portman is profiled at The San Francisco Chronicle. (If you live in the Bay Area, catch his acoustic show tomorrow night at The Rickshaw Stop.) Check out Colleen Mondor's excellent reflection on King Dork (which she calls "the new teenage classic") in our current issue, and come back next month for our interview with Portman. And yeah, I realize this is the 900th time I've mentioned this book on the blog, but I can't help it. It's the best rock novel ever written, and I've been waiting 28 years. Besides, he's the only guy in history (I think) who's written a song about Naomi Wolf ("Naomi," from Alcatraz), which has to count for something:
You look sweet walking down the street
But no one's even slowing down
They can't decide, should they offer you a ride
Or the head of Helen Gurley Brown
At The Guardian, Frank Cottrell Boyce has nice things to say about AM Homes' This Book Will Save Your Life, which I loved, and Jessa loved, and Bookslut's Angela Stubbs loved. (See Bookslut's interview with AM Homes in last month's issue.)
"Sure, we talk about all sorts of racy things during our book meetings," she explains. "I think that because we are all so busy we feel the need to cram as much socializing as possible into each meeting. We generally end up talking about everything from sex and relationships to world events, and then we tie in our own personal anecdotes to segue back to the book we chose to read for that month."
The book that night at Cottage?
"Night," by Elie Wiesel, a memoir describing his Holocaust experiences.
The president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, urges companies to hire English majors for their "ability to think critically, to analyze, to evaluate and to do research." My girlfriend is a Southwestern graduate, actually, and I'll never understand why she chose to study biology instead of English. I mean, anyone can pick up a book and instantly become an expert in flow cytometry or Darwinian fitness, but it takes a strict four-year program in literature to learn how to make a bong out of an apple.
Stephen Hawking and his daughter are writing a children's book.
It seems strange to separate the sex and drugs from rock 'n roll. Do you think the Christian rockers miss that stuff?
I have a unique perspective because I grew up outside D.C. The music scene here was heavily influenced by bands that didn't drink, smoke or do drugs. I don't think they missed out on anything, or piggybacked on the valiant drug taking efforts of other bands. One thing I found, though, is that a lot of Christian groups drank a lot more than you'd expect. They were just much more careful about people seeing them.
NPR talks to Sharon Weinberger about her new book, Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld, and to John Updike about his new novel, Terrorist.
Stephen Amidon has convinced me that I need to read Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke, about "the 2001 killings of pot activist Tom Crosslin and his lover, Rollie Rohm, by FBI and police snipers on their Michigan farm." (We already loved Amidon anyway for his book Human Capital.)
MBToolBox has an interview with Rachel Donadio about her job as an editor at the New York Times Book Review.
June 12, 2006
In his one moment of half-passion, Atticus turns to his children and tells them, "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash." To Kill a Mockingbird is a nostalgic evocation of Southern manners that, in the character of Atticus Finch, is teaching us to reject those Southern manners. They contain within them a fidelity to a principle of familial alikeness that Lee, in the end, as measured by the considerable difference between Aunt Alexandra's and Atticus' definition of the word "trash," would like us to find disgusting. To call this crude, quietist, or sentimental is an injustice, it seems to me.
Roast Beef Kazenzakis' zine, MAN WHY YOU EVEN GOT TO DO A THING, is now available for purchase at the Achewood store. Included: "An Idea about Charles Dickens," "A poem about car crashes, with a true life graphic" and "Recipes For The Poor and Untalented Dude on the Go."
When turning down a request for permission from an academic whose work was going to be published by Purdue, he said that he objected to the name for the university’s sports teams: the Boilermakers. (He considered it vulgar.) Michael Groden, a scholar at the University of Western Ontario, spent seven years creating a multimedia version of “Ulysses,” only to have Stephen block the project, in 2003, with a demand for a permissions fee of one and a half million dollars. (Before Stephen controlled the Joyce estate, such fees were nominal.) Groden’s sin was to have praised Danis Rose’s edition of “Ulysses” as “confident and controversial,” in a reader’s report for Rose’s publisher; he had also helped the National Library of Ireland to evaluate some Joyce drafts prior to acquiring them. “You should consider a new career as a garbage collector in New York City, because you’ll never quote a Joyce text again,” Stephen told Groden.
I hope this posts late, very late, on a Friday afternoon.
New York Magazine profiles puzzle demigod Will Shortz, who began editing the New York Times crossword in 1993.
He cut down on the use of antique words and began instituting deceptive, allusive clues. (His all-time favorite clue: For SPIRAL STAIRCASE, the phrase “It might turn into a different story.”) He also pioneered the use of “product” words like MEMOREX or XEROX. A flood of letters ensued, many praising him, some furious. One letter he reads aloud during the documentary actually calls for his execution.
In case the stories about plagiarism and book packagers convinced you that young adult publishing was getting just a little too ethical, here's something to brighten your day: an article about product placement in a forthcoming YA novel called Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233 (which reporter Motoko Rich calls "surprisingly lyrical").
Cover Girl, which is owned by the consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, has neither paid the publisher nor the book's authors, Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, for the privilege of having their makeup showcased in the novel. But Procter will promote the book on Beinggirl.com, a Web site directed at adolescent girls that has games, advice on handling puberty and, yes, makeup tips.
I'm surprised Cover Girl didn't strike some kind of similar deal with the Rainbow Party guy. Talk about your synergy.
The Yomiuri Shimbun:
As the 15-year statute of limitations on the murder of "The Satanic Verses" translator Hitoshi Igarashi nears its July 11 deadline, the police are no closer to solving the case, only saying they believe the murder was committed by a foreigner.
We're sharing coffee and biscuits and talking about other writers he admires, and how he came to writing himself. He's not sure whether to describe himself as "working class" but he has worked as an engineer and a technical writer and didn't really discover contemporary writing until he read Stuart Dybek and realised that you could read something "in your world with people speaking with the same diction". After that he read Raymond Carver, probably his most direct literary ancestor.
Saunders is also interviewed in this month's Bookslut.
June 9, 2006
John Sutherland on book dedications:
If there were a Lucozade prize for the sweetest dedication of the season Zadie Smith would win, hands down. On Beauty's dedication to Nick Laird ("for my dear Laird"- as in "laird and master") fizzes over to the acknowledgements page: "Most of all, I thank my husband, whose poetry I steal to make my prose look pretty. It's Nick who knows that 'time is how you spend your love', and that's why this book is dedicated to him, as is my life."
That is really sweet, but it's kind of like watching a couple have a "I love you more"/"No, I love you more" debate in public. Still, you know, good for them. One day they will have ridiculously attractive children.
An excerpt from Steven Seagal's authorized biography.
... and although he would later describe it as an "error in judgment," Steven decided to let the Dalai Lama's third call go to voicemail and continued to rock Brandi's delicate world atop the St. Louis Arch.
"This is what awesome feels like," he assured her.
The movie adaptation of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh will be filmed in Pittsburgh after all. (Via Largehearted Boy, who counts the novel as one of his favorites, which is yet another reason I love the dude.)
Related: Michael Chabon explains why he throws away some of his children's artwork.
I will be haunted by the memory of the way my younger daughter looks at me, when she chances upon a crumpled sheet of paper in the recycling bin, bearing the picture, the very portrait, of five minutes stolen from the headlong rush of their little hour in my care: she looks betrayed.
“I don’t know how that got in there,” I tell her. “That was clearly a mistake. What a great dog.”
“It’s a girl kung fu master.”
“Of course,” I say. Then when she isn’t looking, I throw it away again.
Dave Eggers waxes cosmopolitan and superior on soccer, which, if you are American, you are evidently too stupid to understand (unless you are an American named "Dave Eggers").
Then again, do we really want — or can we even conceive of — an America where soccer enjoys wide popularity or even respect? If you were soccer, the sport of kings, would you want the adulation of a people who elected Bush and Cheney, not once but twice? You would not. You would rather return to your roots, Communist or otherwise, and fight fascism with your feet.
And what better way to fight fascism than with a long series of scoreless ties? Seriously, I like soccer OK, but this article still makes me want to lock myself in my room, repeating to myself "Just three more months until real football, just three more months until real football..."
The question is: "How do we get kids to stop reading forever?" Here is the answer.
The AP has a report on the Ann Coulter-9/11 widows controversy and includes a kind of greatest-hits list of her increasingly weird statements.
-"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building," The New York Observer quoted her as saying on Aug. 20, 2002. She clarified those remarks with RightWingNews.com: "Of course I regret it. I should have added, 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.'"
-"You want to be careful not to become just a blowhard," she said in The Washington Post on October 16, 1998.
A group of filmmakers in India burned Dan Brown in effigy yesterday. Do you think the effigy had that stupid black mock turtleneck he always wears? Seriously, the dude's worth 87 billion dollars and he can't afford another shirt? Dude, it is not 1978.
If there's one thing that my pharmacist father and I agree on, it's that pharmaceutical companies are evil. (And really, there are maybe two other things that I can think of, like Brazil is one of the best movies ever made and my sister's baby sure is cute.) So I'll be sure to get him a copy of The Body Hunters: How the Drug Industry Tests Its Products On the World's Poorest Patients so we'll have something to talk about next time he visits. Author Sonia Shah is interviewed at Alternet, and really, if you have any hope for the future of mankind today, maybe you should wait until it's gone again to read this. It's depressing.
It was probably the trial I covered in Zambia [involving a drug to combat cryptosporidium, a diarrhea-causing infection]. It was stark, children dying, little kids dying. But from what I can tell if these kids had received antiretroviral therapy they could have survived. But they were put into a trial for a drug that never benefited them or their families or siblings because the drug was so completely targeted for other populations, almost a luxury drug for fighting an infection that in Western children means a day of diarrhea. It is so mild in kids who are healthy that lots of people don't even notice it.
So for such a minor condition they tested the drug on people who were so, so sick. And in the end, 12 kids died.
I try to be optimistic about book-to-film adaptations. Sean Penn is directing the adaptation of Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild, which was one of those books you can't stop reading for sleep, food, work, or anything. I want to like this movie. Penn is getting actors like William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden. Okay, good. Vince Vaughn is in it... Whatever, we can work with it. The lead is played by Emile Hirsch, that kid from the movie about the porn star who lives next door. There goes all of my optimism.
More fuss over the New York Times's book review habits: They asked John Dean, Richard Nixon's counsel who has disbarred for his actions, to review Deep Throat's book, A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being 'Deep Throat.' A few people -- surprise, surprise -- think this may have been a bad choice.
June 8, 2006
Entertainment Weekly PopWatch has exclusive excerpts from Alan Greenspan's forthcoming memoir.
On his difficult childhood: "The creation of wealth had not been as dramatic as predictions anticipated, and the overconcentration of capital in construction and marketing created a debt load too onerous to overcome even with substantial retail gains. In short, my lemonade stand failed."
Chip Kidd (Book One: Work: 1986-2006), guest blogging at Powell's, points out that you shouldn't let the marketing guys start designing book covers. Otherwise, you'll end up with a series of crappy-looking legal advice books with a yellow lab on the cover.
Nearly a quarter of a million dollars, and they end up with a dog that's going to help you with legal advice about your divorce?
"Gee Astrid, she wants the beach condo too. What do I do?"
"What the fuck does that mean? Astrid! She's out to destroy me! Everything I've worked for!"
Borders laid off 90 employees from its Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters.
Poets read their work on Minneapolis-St. Paul buses during rush hour yesterday, apparently on the theory that if there's one thing that public transportation needs, it's crazy people ranting loudly about things that make little to no sense. Minnesota Public Radio talks to one of the poets, who goes by the name "Karma the Oddest Goddess." Who sponsored this program? A car dealership? A bicycling group? The Society to Make Sure Nobody Ever Gets on Another Fucking Bus Ever Again?
According to a poll conducted by The Book Magazine, JK Rowling is the UK's greatest living writer. And according to a poll conducted by a British veterinary charity, Winnie the Pooh is the country's favorite animal character. I am biting my tongue so hard right now that my mouth has completely filled up with blood.
If you've been having too much sex lately, you can instantly cut back by becoming a fan boy! New York Daily News shows you how!
It's always funny when you meet an author and they are exactly like you pictured in your head. I went to a Michael Pollan signing, and he looked like you would expect a man who has been on NPR as much as he has to look: thin, glasses, like any English professor you've ever had. Also, unfailingly polite and nice. (As opposed to when you meet an author and they are nothing like you expect and it throws you completely. Anthony Bourdain, for example, did not punch me in the face when we met.)
Anyway, Michael Pollan, a nice guy, was rather critical of Whole Foods Market in his latest book Omnivore's Dilemma, and it wasn't just because you can't buy a couple of apples without having to give your money to some white guy with dreads, face tattoos, and stretched ear lobes. Whole Foods guy John Mackey responds to Pollan's criticisms about things like becoming the Wal-Mart of organic food.
June 7, 2006
Jonathan Lethem has a short essay at Said The Gramophone. Last year, Will Robinson Sheff of Okkervil River, who is one of my very favorite songwriters, contributed a reflection on Tim Hardin to the site. It is all very beautiful stuff. (Via Syntax of Things.)
Melville House will publish two books by Tao Lin, Bed and Eeeee Eee Eeee, next spring. Tao's collection of short fiction, Today The Sky is Blue and White with Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today, comes out this summer from Future Tense. I am pretty sure that Tao is my favorite young writer now; his poems and stories make me feel less anxious and insane, and "anxious and insane" is basically how I feel most of the time now. Or maybe not most of the time, maybe just some of the time, but that doesn't really matter, you should still read his work.
I wasn’t writing the whole time. At one point I wanted to give it up. I didn’t see any point in writing anymore. M31 was a debacle and I never got over the failure of Going Native. . . .
. . .(T)he sale of Going Native depressed me, and at one point, I wanted to give up writing altogether. Writing is an act of communication and that act isn’t completed until someone else reads the book. And if that act isn’t completed, then the work is unfinished. So there was a long stretch of time where I didn’t write at all. And I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life. My marriage came apart. It hasn’t been a pleasant past several years.
Wright's latest novel is The Amalgamation Polka, and it is probably better than whatever book you are reading right now.
In closing, just in case there's a lull in your next dinner party, here's an icebreaker: "Okay everyone, e-books suck and no one reads them. Discuss!" Anyone who'd like to do so here is more than welcome. Come on, peaches, sell me on the new digibooks. I dare you.
Of course this may all be part of the New York Times’ plan. Print contrarian reviews just to get talked about. If everyone loves a novel, find the one person in the world who hates the book and hire her to review it. Ask someone not connected to the SF community to cover the genre and wait for the fur to fly. . . .
But by taking this approach, they might be killing their credibility. Instead of the Paper of Record, they become the Asshole in the Corner Who Just Happens to Have The Loudest Voice.
Be sure to check out Jessa's guest appearances this month at the Jane Magazine blog, by the way. Here is an excerpt:
It's the law of the Internet: You say something online, someone will write you hate mail for it. You could start your blog by saying, "I like birds. They are fluffy." Someone will e-mail you, "you bitch birds suck they killd my muther."
Slate finds the true meaning of the self-help break up book.
Where breakup books excel, however, is in detailing breakups worse than yours. In Love Hangover: Tips for Christian Singles, for example, the author describes being dumped by a pastor who explained only, "God told me to do this."
THAT IS THE BEST BREAK UP LINE I HAVE EVER HEARD. I am definitely going to start using that.
An odd thing happened. It arrived, wrapped in plastic, and there it sat, wrapped in plastic. For weeks, months. I had read a few raised-nostril reviews of The Complete New Yorker that lauded its scope, refinement, and handsome presentation, but criticized its search engine, the awkwardness of inserting a different disk for each decade, the misspellings in the synopses (dismaying, given the magazine’s reputation for meticulousness), and the inability to cut-and-paste. But it wasn’t underwhelmed reviews that deterred me from cracking open the package, and I discovered through comparing notes that others shared my paralysis. Wherever literati types gathered to namedrop and glance over each other’s shoulders, unopened sets of The Complete New Yorker seemed to loom in the background, like the slab from 2001.
I guess that's appropriate, since that's how every New Yorker stays in my apartment: unread, in a stack, but going to be read. Any day now.
Man, it's about time someone stood up to the real villains: Widows of 9/11 victims.
Syndicated columnist and author Ann Coulter appeared on the Today Show on Tuesday, promoting a new book. Host Matt Lauer asked her to explain certain remarks in the book aimed at activist 9/11 widows, including her charge that they were nothing but celebrity-seeking "broads" who are "enjoying" their husbands' deaths.
Tough but fair.
June 6, 2006
I wanted to say something about the Umberto Eco quote that was used earlier from "The Name of the Rose." That book fascinated me because in it these people are killed for trying to get out of this library a book about comedy, Aristotle's commentary on comedy. And what's interesting to me is one of the arguments they have in the book is that comedy is bad because nowhere in the New Testament does it say that Jesus laughed. It says Jesus wept, but never did he laugh.
But, I don't think you actually have to say it for us to imagine Jesus laughing. In the famous episode where there's a storm on the lake, and the fishermen are out there. And they see Jesus on the shore, and Jesus walks across the stormy waters to the boat. And St. Peter thinks, "I can do this. I can do this. He keeps telling us to have faith and we can do anything. I can do this." So he steps out of the boat and he walks for -- I don't know, it doesn't say -- a few feet, without sinking into the waves. But then he looks down, and he sees how stormy the seas are. He loses his faith and he begins to sink. And Jesus hot-foots it over and pulls him from the waves and says, "Oh you of little faith." I can't imagine Jesus wasn't suppressing a laugh. How hilarious must it have been to watch Peter -- like Wile E. Coyote -- take three steps on the water and then sink into the waves.
Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, wonders who is really to blame for the crimes against humanity at Haditha. At Slate, John Dickerson and Dahlia Lithwick argue that the Haditha murderers should be tried by the people of Iraq. I couldn't agree more. (Thanks to Carl for the first link.)
Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, writes about the pain of self-editing, and includes a deleted scene from his biography of the Southern author. Salon's Margot Mifflin has a glowing review of Shields' book.
Batwoman is a lesbian. What do you think?
"I applaud DC Comics for taking the bold step of introducing a voluptuous, beautiful, girl-kissing superheroine. I only hope DC's legion of chronic masturbators will accept her."
Jill Soloway, author of Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants and former co-writer/co-producer of Six Feet Under, has a review of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home at the Los Angeles Times. I have seen every episode of Six Feet Under except the last three, which I've been unable to watch because I think they actually might destroy me emotionally for good. Also, I'm afraid there's going to be another scene like the one where Ruth and her sister and their friends gather around the corpse of their friend and sing that awful Jane Siberry song, "Calling All Angels." I think it was supposed to be touching, but and I feel kind of bad saying this, but what the hell it made me laugh. I love the show, but that was honestly one of the worst scenes in the history of televison. I love Jill Soloway, though, and Alison Bechdel. Buy their books.
Shortly after Bookslut launched its first issue, way back in 1986 was it 1986? I don't remember exactly, but a Republican was in the White House, so let's say 1986 I made a bet with Jessa. "If Bookslut makes it to 49 issues," I said, "you have to buy me a professional basketball team. And not a crappy one, like the Charlotte Bobcats. A good one." (The Charlotte Bobcats wouldn't exist for another 18 years, but I somehow knew.) I'm not entirely sure Jessa heard me say this, because she was on the phone with someone else, and I kind of whispered it really quietly. But I'm holding her to it anyway. I am holding out for the Dallas Mavericks but will settle for the Detroit Pistons. It's issue number 49! And we are all pretty psyched.
This month, we're proud to feature interviews with some truly exciting authors. Jessa Crispin talks to Anthony Bourdain, the Lou Reed of the culinary arts, about traveling, Irish food, Graham Greene, and Chicago's recent foie gras ban (what?). Adrienne Martini has a chat with George Saunders about the joys of writing, teaching, and having Brad Pitt option your book (the last joy, unfortunately for us all, being theoretical). Daniel Nester interviews Hal Niedzviecki about what it means to be Special. Rachel Kramer Bussel corresponds with Hillary Carlip, and both Junior Mints and Carly Simon are mentioned. Angela Stubbs talks to Salvador Plascencia about McSweeney's, Los Angeles, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Colleen Mondor has a lovely profile of fantasy legend Charles de Lint, one of her all-time favorite authors.
Elsewhere in the magazine, the great Barbara J. King considers Karen Armstrong's latest book (and admits to being a Dixie Chicks fan, which hopefully will not land her in Guantanamo Bay). Liz Miller subjects herself to The Da Vinci Code, and finds therein a convincing case for snobbery. Eryn Loeb reflects on the New York Times' most regrettable decision since hiring Judy Miller. Colleen Mondor looks at YA books about high school, including one of my very favorite books ever, Frank Portman's King Dork. (I should note here that I've had to postpone my Frank Portman interview yet again, which I'd like to say was because of technical difficulties, but is actually because I am a complete idiot who...ah, I'll save that for my therapist. My apologies to Dr. Frank, and to, well, everybody.)
And that's not all. We've got even more great columns, and great reviews of books by authors including, but not limited to, Charles D'Ambrosio, Cathi Unsworth, Hillary Carlip, Paul Rusesabagina, Karla Kelsey and Steve Perkins.
So check it out. Like foie gras, the new issue is rich, delicious, and illegal in Chicago. (Well, I don't know about delicious. I mean, the new issue is, but foie gras? I've never had it.) As always, thanks for reading I'll be thinking of all of you as I start my new career as owner of the...Memphis Grizzlies? Jessa, what the fuck? That totally doesn't count.
Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is one of those books you can't believe exists. I've been familiar with her work through her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For for years and years. It's cute, funny, whatever. Fun Home, however, is sophisticated, gorgeous, and heartbreaking. It makes me wonder if I should have actually read Dykes more than a few sporadic glances. Bechdel is profiled at Seven Days.
"I'm actually kind of envious of myself, if that's possible," says Bechdel. "I'm used to feeling underrated and bitter, so I've had to do some gear-shifting. Now I'm worried about being overrated."
The Scottish film-maker Lynne Ramsay will write and direct the film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver's Orange Prize-winning novel set in the aftermath of a high school massacre. BBC Films is producing the project, expected to cost around $6m.
This makes me happy. If it's a movie I don't have to deal with the horrible prose.
The Chicago Reader was shut out of the AltWeekly Award nominations.
June 5, 2006
The Sunday Times on Irish noir.
Superficially, noir transplants so easily because there are precise similarities between America in the 1920s — when the style first surfaced in the writings of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett — and contemporary Ireland. For the Celtic tiger, read the Roaring Twenties and the economic boom that preceded the Wall Street crash. For mobsters such as Dillinger and Capone, read criminal gang bosses like John Gilligan. For prohibition-era speakeasies, read hedonistic nightclubs and drug dens.
The New York Times Book Review (and by the way, fuck you I liked the food issue) has a review of Bookslut contributor Pauls Toutonghi's Red Weather. You can see Pauls read (along with Ned Vizzini and Daniel Nester) at the Bookslut Reading Series on June 27, 7:30 pm, at the Hopleaf in Chicago.
Bookslut favorite and personal idol of mine Scott Heim (Mysterious Skin) lists 16 television moments that scared the hell out of him. My personal list would include the Tales from the Crypt episode "...And All Through the House," which ... actually, it still creeps me out, and I can't even bear to write about it. Nooooo! Please don't kill me, Benny from LA Law dressed up as Santa Claus! I'll do anything!
OK. I'm over it. I'm over it.
I love Wendy McClure (whose The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s was released last month), and here is why:
I don't know much about Brian Eno. I know that he is a highly innovative artist and a very important producer and also that in the 70's, he used to wear a lot of ostrich feathers. I would read later that with songs like "Thursday Afternoon," he was experimenting with what he called a "holographic" style, composed according to mathematical principles, in a series of repeated loops in which each component represents the whole. A whole that does not, technically speaking, rock.
I also love the bartender in this article, who refuses to turn the Brian Eno song off, because why would you want a Brian Eno song to be turned off? Every time that happens, an angel is forced to listen to Fall Out Boy until her head explodes. I sympathize with the patrons, though, since I've been forced to listen to "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground twice in a fucking row at a bar before and yeah, it's a great song, but it is not exactly music to drink beer to, or drink anything to, or do anything to except lie in your bed and stare at the ceiling while contemplating why and how everything went so wrong.
That's why I go to Barfly's, though, the best bar in Austin if you stay there for more than 30 minutes, you are guaranteed to hear "Hot for Teacher" at least twice, and if you're lucky, Willie Nelson singing "City of New Orleans" and David Allan Coe singing "You Never Even Call Me by My Name." I don't even think David Allan Coe is on the jukebox there, but it magically plays every hour or so in every bar in Texas. I think it's a state law; I'm not sure.
The Austin Chronicle, and its editor, Louis Black, are suing AT&T for providing phone records to the National Security Agency. Chicago author Studs Terkel is engaged in a separate, similar lawsuit against the telecommunications company.
Starting tomorrow, I'll be guest blogging at Jane Magazine. Maybe they thought because I read books I would class the place up a bit or something. But they may fire me once they realize I have no intention of blogging about Ashlee Simpson's plastic surgery. So enjoy it while you can!
"Fun Home" is a beautiful, assured piece of work, by far the best thing Bechdel has done in over two decades as a cartoonist. Her language and drawings are impressively sensitive to the details of her physical experience and to the trickier folds of her own self-consciousness; she dives over and over into the cloudy waters of her past, swimming deeper every time. A compulsive self-documenter, she nonetheless glossed over or omitted some of her life's crucial details as they were happening, and now she's gone back to reconstruct them.
The great Elizabeth Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe, The Prophet of Love) has a review of Richard White's Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long at The New Yorker. I kind of wish the review wasn't headlined "The Big Sleazy," but there you go.
Hey, remember that "Write a bizarrely inappropriate lead for a book review about Rwandan genocide" contest we were sponsoring? It's just been cancelled.
It is not a beach book. It is not funny like "Marley & Me" or intriguing like "Beach Road" or trendy like all the Whitey Bulger books now suddenly in print. It is, no doubt about it, totally incompatible with summer and sand and sea air laced with Coppertone and flimsy bathing suits and cups full of lemonade.
"Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" is exactly what you don't want to read on a summer day.
June 2, 2006
The problem is that Spiegelman's essay, with its acerbic descriptions of the offending cartoons, actually underlines why their publication is so wrong-headed. In his eyes, and in the eyes of many observers for whom religion is not a life-and-death affair, the cartoons are just pictures, and rather tame ones at that. What they don't get is that the pictures represent far more – and not just for Muslims.
Christians, too, are tired of being the target of deliberate insults in the media. We don't condone violence and most religious leaders have rightly condemned the outpouring of hatred and destruction in this affair. But, too often, such cartoons are little more than ignorant prejudice masked as social comment.
Oh, Chicago Tribune.
Cogito, ergo sum in Chicagoum. Translation: I think, therefore I am in Chicago. Anyone who harbors a passion for literary events, that is, ought to feel right at home here.
Yes, they should. But the events that they list -- readings at the library, poetry open mic nights, Printer's Row -- are mostly boring as hell. (They did talk to Quimby's, though, so a little credit is due.) What they didn't mention is a single one of Chicago's fantastic readings series (the Dollar Store reading series takes place tonight at the Hideout) or the Book Cellar's local author nights. But that's because it's the Tribune, the newspaper that makes you pay to list your literary events.
But despite the political persecution that poet and novelist Chris Abani suffered in Nigeria during the ’80s, he is not a hero, and the subjects in his books should not be read as heroes. They are humans. In fact, in some cases — as with the main character, Elvis, in his sprawling novel Graceland — the subject is arguably posthuman.
I don't really get the whole roller-derby thing, but this McSweeney's list of "roller-derby pseudonyms for literature majors" is pretty great. I am rooting for "Tess of the D'Urberkills," but have heard good things about "Maul Flanders."
I would be happy to eat fast food if I could have incredible sex for the rest of my life. I've never had any food as wonderful as great sex.
Random House couldn't afford to publish The Lost Orwell, which Boyd Tonkin calls a "treasure-trove" of "freshly discovered articles and letters" by the author, but they were happy to shell out over $650,000 (reportedly) for a book by...Chantelle. Yeah, me neither. Something to do with Big Brother. Britain's indie Timewell Press released the Orwell book in April, though, so all is not lost. Except for, you know, the soul of corporate publishing. (Thanks to Carl for the link.)
After you read the Kipnis interview, be sure to read this:
I'm not sure the feminist movement accomplished all its goals. People today have a backlash to the feminist movement. The [figure] who is remembered when you think of feminism, by people who haven't studied it, is the [un]shaved girl burning her bra, standing on campus screaming at everybody. That's definitely not a positive image. I think the feminist movement went a little too far.
This is from a man selling a book of dick, fart, and Chuck Norris jokes. (Is it any surprise that the interview is conducted by Rebecca Traister?)
I am very, very, very excited for Laura Kipnis's The Female Thing. It doesn't come out until October, but the Chicago Reader already has an excellent interview with her about what there's left to say about gender, the failings of feminism, and what she stands for.
Gosh. The notion that you could have more freedom or more gratification than what you think you’re entitled to, or what society says you’re entitled to, at all levels, in personal life and materially in terms of a more equitable distribution of wealth—I would like to stand for that. Some sense of more possibilities in freedom.
CM Taylor used to list War and Peace as the most essential book. Now older and wiser, it's How to Do Just About Anything. My parents gave me a copy of Everything one year for Christmas, and I believe my reaction was, "Oh... thanks?" Now of course I read it constantly.
The Digest's relentless cataloguing of our culture doesn't confine itself to quotidian experiences. It also pushes the limits of likelihood. Now nobody I know has ever seen any quicksand in this country, but so committed to a total rendering of human experience is the guide that we have this entry: Quicksand - what to do if you are trapped. Handy, I'm sure you'll agree. Especially since you'll no doubt have the book on you should you ever fall into quicksand - and be able to get it from your bag and read it.
Still, the advice contained within the quicksand entry is even more niche than the title suggests: "If you are wearing ... a cape, leave it on; it may increase your buoyancy." A cape? Who wears capes? Very few people, but that doesn't mean that the guide will ignore society's cape wearers, in the way that Tolstoy blanks the peasants. He didn't manage to shoehorn quicksand and capes into War and Peace, did he?
June 1, 2006
Homes says that she wanted to write about someone “who has everything and has nothing” and about the way money affects the way people live. She is insistent that the novel is not a send-up of a spiritual journey, even if it contains absurdist satirical elements in the Kurt Vonnegut mode. “I do believe that people can be effective in other people’s lives, and that it’s often easier to do something for other people than for yourself,” she says, ratifying her hero’s journey.
(And if you've read this novel and liked it, you should read Carolyn See's There Will Never Be Another You. Actually you should read it no matter what, but especially if you liked Homes.)
All I needed to know about Douglas Coupland's JPod was summed up early on in this Slate review:
"Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel," one of the characters announces in the very first sentence.
I would hate that book. But then the review continues.
There's a page that consists entirely of the words "ramen noodles." Others that reproduce famous spam e-mails for penile enlargement and the Nigerian oil scam. Obscure phrases from video games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater ("Grind the molten bucket") appear throughout, as well as Chinese characters representing "Cosmetic Surgery" and "Boredom." One of my favorite passages from the book is simply a string of numbers.
Good lord, this is a positive review. What's wrong with people?
I have this feeling that a lot of the reviews of John Updike's Terrorist were written before the galley copies were even printed. If you want book critics to roll their eyes at you, be an older white Christian guy and write about a younger multiracial Muslim guy. That's sure to bring out the "Updike should stick to writing about martini-drinking suburbanite WASPs, and not..." formulations. So I was happy to read Updike give the best possible answer to the "Don't you think this will offend some people?" question in this (excellent) interview with LA Weekly:
LA WEEKLY: To someone who grew up in a Muslim household, the observations in Terrorist were impressive at times, but at others I was upset that you left crucial details out, things that would humanize Islam and make it seem more pluralistic. Do you care what Muslims will eventually think of your work?
UPDIKE: I guess I didn’t think too much about that. The book is, by nature of the environment it takes place in, quite ethnic, so there’s something for everyone to be offended by, something for the Jews to be offended by, something for the Irish to dislike, and certainly there’s enough there for Arab-Americans to dislike.
Philip Roth is a sexist pig. (Again? Still? Whatever.)
And because Roth is such an astonishingly accomplished writer, because his work digs at the roots of our shared national history and then bumps its head on the topmost stars of our individual private ambition, because it rocks and sings, because it gets the surface details of sex and conversation and modern life exactly right even as it nails the murky depths, because it illuminates, the fact that Roth gives short shrift to half the human race is crushingly sad.
In the end, it doesn't matter much to me whether he's a sexist jerk because I don't like his books. But maybe it says something that Mike loves his books, and also keeps his girlfriend chained to the kitchen, demanding more and more cupcakes. (She does make delicious cupcakes.)
Lisa Crystal Carver (Drugs Are Nice) has an interview with Andrew Beaujon, author of Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock, at AlterNet.
Lisa Carver: Who's gonna read this book?
Andrew Beaujon: I don't have the foggiest idea.
LC: At first it seemed like the worst idea for a book I've ever heard. You know the Christians won't buy it; it won't even get in their bookstores. You're not a believer.
AB: There is a Christian underground starting, where people are chafing at the restrictions. But I've already had trouble with people interviewed for the book who used profanity -- they are upset that I quoted them ...
If you want to censor Toni Morrison, you're going to have to deal with Eva Marie Saint. The good news is, she's like 81, so it shouldn't be a problem.
The New Yorker reprints a 2001 interview with Alice Munro.
Newcity Chicago lists the 2006 Lit 50, "a celebration of the women and men who keep us hooked on books." Included are Li-Young Lee (yeah), Joe Meno (yeah!), Kevin Guilfoile (yeah!), and someone named Jessa who I think I've met once or twice:
Behind the Chicago wheel of the literary blogosphere, Crispin's bookslut.com anatomizes endless pools of novels, plus features author interviews and her own daily blog, which not only covers her musings on literature but on general pop culture as well, like the concisely written recent post that reads, "Fuck You, X-Men 3." Bookslut's reading series has also recently launched, with periodic events at Hopleaf.
Despite this success, as one of her characters might remark, there's nothing fancy about Ms Waters: she cheerfully confesses to stealing much of her best stuff from other novelists, admits to being an ardent Doctor Who fan, and discusses Lost with an enthusiasm most authors reserve for Philip Roth. Her partner Lucy (hidden behind a battered PD James paperback at the next table throughout the interview) works as a sub on a TV listings magazine, which, Waters says, is very handy, as they "always know what's on the telly". Good TV, she says, can teach you a lot about storytelling.
I will try to convey in pitiful blank verse what I want to declaim in sonnets and sestinas. I am permanently festooned by nymphet love.
So you're here to have sex with a 13-year-old girl?
From Coudal Partners, the best idea ever: book-band mash-ups. Some of the best, listed with the folks that came up with them:
Neutral Milk Hotel New Hampshire (Mike Everett-Lane)
Iron and Winesburg, Ohio (Dave Kieley)
Uncle Tupelo's Cabin (Austin Mayor)
What We Talk About When We Talk About Talk Talk (John Morrow)
The Son Volt Also Rises (Rick Alfaro)
Rabbit, Run D-M-C (Tim Carvell)
(Via The Morning News.)
(UPDATE: Shandy Casteel actually had a similar idea last year, it turns out; he included "The Son Volt Also Rises" in his list of literature-inspired band names that weren't meant to be in the October 2005 print edition of PLAYBACK:stl magazine. And it's been used as a headline by a few online music magazines. The point is: I fucking love Son Volt and I can't wait until 2007 for the new album.)
That is New Orleans and Louisiana, of course, as Codrescu knows all too well. But it is also the rest of the country, he notes; it is the way of life for all of America in the 21st century. “All the USA is the land of shopping-mall, credit-card dreamy dreams…” and the reader nods her head in agreement, looking at her neighbor’s two (count them two!) SUVs for a family of four. We all have played against the demands of tomorrow in our grasshopper habits of today, and New Orleans is where we have finally, just barely, begun to understand how unprepared for the real world all of us truly are.
In college, he majored in English and caught up with contemporary fiction. Nathanael West and Pynchon were favorites, along with Ishmael Reed, who wasn't taught at Harvard, "but I'd go to the library and check him out." He had an idea he was a writer, but hadn't done much about it: "In college, I wrote maybe three short stories."
"Teenage depression," he says, and laughs that upward-cracking laugh. He tried to get into a writing class. Got turned down.