August 31, 2006
You know chick-lit novels, those pastel bonbons that have turned your local Barnes & Noble into a gingerbread house of crap writing. Maybe you’ve even bought a book or two, anything from Candace Bushnell’s 4 Blondes, to one of Sophie Kinsella’s innumerable Shopaholic titles. A little harmless beach reading, you thought at the time. Doesn’t hurt anybody.
Well, I know chick lit. I used to read, edit and publish it, and I’m here to tell you: Chick lit does hurt people. Chick lit hurts America.
I'm not even going to touch this one.
Salon interviews Alissa Quart about her book Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child about the "Baby Genius Edutainment Complex," the problems of IQ tests and class issues, and, helpfully, a how-to guide for creating your own baby genius.
And training your kids to be experts at a young age may produce some emotional vulnerability but it also kind of works. I don't want my book to be a how-to book, but the facts are there. There was one expert who said you can achieve "expert" status after 10,000 hours of practice; well, when else are you going to get that time in?
August 30, 2006
The only book news you can find these days is about Jonathan Franzen's memoir (puke) and Lost Girls. At least the newspapers have a new angle to take, other than the "Oooh, so dirty" one they've been using: Yes! But how does it relate to JonBenet?
Just as his anti-fascist graphic novel of the 1980s, V for Vendetta, ran up against the reality of 9/11 when it was released as a movie, so too does The Lost Girls feel vaguely creepy in the shadow of child-murder cases such as JonBenét Ramsey.
What do you expect from USA Today, though?
I've always wanted to take a course at the Newberry Library, but time and money has always been an issue. But if they weren't, reading Ulysses for a second time might be appealing, or Gravity's Rainbow for the first. Other classes include reading Nietzsche, the architecture of Louis Sullivan, and how to "find your voice" and "tell your stories." If you have an extra $250 and 14 hours just lying about, you too can become an intellectual.
August 29, 2006
Diane Duane, who once got me alarmingly drunk, had a strange experience reprinting her backlist on Lulu.com. A reader reports their copy had arrived with Duane's cover and this as as the actual content:
As a former police officer, bodyguard, D.C. lobbyist, and radio talk show host, Steve tells the story of his fascinating life with a self-help approach that will certainly encourage the reader. From the pinnacle of success to absolute ruin and public scorn; from breaking his neck to coming back years later and winning a state racquetball championship; From running one of the most heated congressional campaigns in the country to losing almost everything in his life again, Steve holds nothing back in sharing the life lessons he has learned.
One of the life lessons I've learned: don't try to keep up with the Irish, even when they're ex-pats. Ow.
It turns out that my list of reasons I will give up on a book now includes "making the psychic girl a redhead." Not that the book was that great to begin with, but the writing was okay and I thought maybe the author could pull it together eventually. But trot out one of the more tired cliches in fantasy writing, and you leave me no choice.
Predictably I've got three children called Casimir, Mirabel and Pretentious.
Last night I freaked myself out watching a documentary on HBO about the Army of God. Remember them? They were fun. I've never really been at all skittish about terrorists on my planes or anything practical, but last night I was afraid of a radical pro-lifer coming through my window. I considered putting my chef's knife under my pillow. Anyway, this is my formal request for someone to write an update on the pro-life movement, which has been very, very quiet since the fake anthrax attacks. I know James Risen is busy writing about the CIA (he co-wrote the essential Wrath of Angels about the pro-life movement, which also scared the shit out of me), but maybe he can sneak in an article in Atlantic Monthly or something in between jobs. I just want to make sure it's because blowing shit up is suddenly really not cool, and not because they're still plotting the assassination of the Supreme Court.
It's no secret that I am a deeply cynical person. When I got an e-mail that there was a new imprint at Hyperion aimed at women called "Voice," the scorn rose to the surface rather quickly. Oh great, it's either going to be more books about working mothers vs. stay at home mommies or books about finding your power animal. I mean, come on. It's called VOICE. How 1992 Tori Amos is that?
Next month, Hyperion’s sales force will begin marketing five titles to booksellers, starting with “The Feminine Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine. In it, Ms. Bennetts argues that women who “opt out” of careers to raise children forfeit the financial, intellectual, emotional and even medical benefits of working outside the home.
Oh. Well. But they did give a book deal to that woman who wrote that horrible Must Love Dogs, so at least a little of my bile is justified. Also, this:
Amanda Urban, Ms. Bennetts’s agent, used the model of women’s magazines to suggest the imprint could take off. “Those magazines have to sell a hell of a lot more copies than book publishers do to exist, so clearly those markets exist,” Ms. Urban said.
Holy shit, don't use women's magazines as a model for anything. There's nothing good in them. (Except for Elle, which I subscribe to. Because I'm a dumb girl.)
August 28, 2006
Don't tell anyone, but I'm just now getting around to reading Christopher Priest's The Prestige. It's been on my shelves for god knows how long, but it took dreamy Christian Bale and dreamy Wolverine in a preview for the adaptation to get me off my ass to read the book. And yes, it's as good as everyone already said years ago. But quick, you only have until October 20 to read the novel so you can sniff and say, "Yes, but in the book _____ was handled in a vastly superior way."
When two guys named Breach and Stebner put my (now defunct) website together a few years ago, I was impressed with the complexity of it, of how there seemed to be hidden compartments and secret passageways that would open out in unexpected places. I felt that this kind of thinking about website design surely had to have an effect on the pedestrian, literal way comic book stories are being put together. I started thinking about how I might turn a comic book into something like that, a big funhouse hall of mirrors, full of surprises and puzzles and half hidden connections that reveal themselves at unexpected moments.
The Guardian website has excerpts from each of the books on their Guardin First Book Award longlist.
Not only is Dame Darcy's illustrated version of Jane Eyre all ready to go, but the Radical Brontes Festival in the UK has commissioned a graphic novel version of Wuthering Heights, adapted by poet Adam Strickson and artist Siku.
Kyoko Mori writes about Japanese literature for Salon's Literary Guide to the World.
August 25, 2006
Thus, I feel compelled to try to answer Sen. Clinton's question: Why should we believe Rumsfeld now?
Actually, it's simple. In poetry, truth can take many forms. But it's always in there somewhere, stuffed amid all the things we thought we knew that we knew — and now realize that we didn't. And it's not necessarily the truth we hoped to hear.
Believe whatever you want. At the end of the day, poetry is only words.
The book on Rumsfeld? He is what he is. What's happened has happened. It will take a long time to sort everything out. But, hey, feel that sun! Who's got the cocoa butter? It's August, the eater of poets. The days are growing shorter.
Rolling Stone covers Wednesday night's benefit for Dave Eggers' nonprofit group 826NYC, which featured Jon Stewart, David Byrne and Sufjan Stevens. (If you missed the show, but still want to help out the folks at 826NYC, you can send them a donation here.)
The First Amendment Project is sponsoring another character-naming auction, for readers who want to see their names in their favorite writers' fiction. Authors participating this time include Edward P. Jones, Lorrie Moore, Carl Hiaasen and Chris Ware.
A Waldenbooks manager in Mississippi probably won't go to jail for selling The Good Sex Bible, despite the best efforts of the American Family Association's attorneys. In other book-banning news, parents of students in New York's Webster Central School District have caught censorship fever after one parent challenged Alex Sanchez's gay-themed YA novel Rainbow Boys, another parent has requested the removal of 19 other books, including novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, EL Dcotorow and Chris Crutcher. (Thanks to Leila for the link.)
The Catholic Diocese of Duluth rescinded an invitation to Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) to speak at an October fundraiser. Prejean was uninvited after her name appeared in an advertisement urging the impeachment of President Bush.
. . . Prejean said the ad properly criticizes Bush's "reckless pursuit of war in Iraq, which has helped to destabilize the entire Middle East; his approval of torture; his zealous promotion of imprisonment and executions; his fiscal policies which make the wealthy people more wealthy and poor people poorer."
The ad also criticized Bush's stand against abortion and contraception. Prejean has since asked to have her name removed from the ad because she does not agree with its stand on abortion.
Prejean's name is no longer listed on the online version of the advertisement, but several other authors have endorsed it, including Malachy McCourt, Viggo Mortensen, Grace Paley, Francine Prose, Cristina Page, Harold Pinter, Douglas Rushkoff, Sapphire, Gary Soto, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Howard Zinn, Saul Williams, Philip Levine, Jonathan Kozol, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Eve Ensler, Ariel Dorfman, Chris Crutcher, Harvey Pekar, Studs Terkel, Lewis Lapham and Russell Banks.
Remember this quote? Of course you do. It's the creepiest thing you've ever read:
"What we normally don't consider pornography, a child may get sexually aroused by," he said. "The question to me is not whether the book has a good story line, but does it sexually stimulate young boys?"
That was in reference to the children's book Voyage of the Basset, which was recently challenged in a Davis County, Utah, library. You might be happy to hear that the book has survived the challenge, but you won't be any less unsettled by the way these would-be book banners think.
Yet, [Bush has] somehow found time to read not one, not five, not 20, but 60 books this year alone (via Crooks & Liars). According to US News & World Report, he's in a competition with Karl Rove to see who can read more books over the course of the year. Rove is trailing by 10 books, until November when Diebold will put him up by three. . . .
And if I were Karl Rove, I'd demand a recount on that book tally. On second thought, if I were Karl Rove, I'd be a dangerous villain who resembles a giant baby.
Mark Lawson wonders what the list of the ten most popular novels in Britain this week says about "the current state of the British mind and market."
So this year's holidaymakers are not taking away a suitcase of laughs: at least 80% of the top 10 reads are sombre and intense, depicting crises and miseries. [Ruth] Rendell's title - End in Tears - could serve as an umbrella summary for most of them.
The reason for this is probably to be found in the title of a recent non-fiction superseller: Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? All this fiction was written and purchased in the post-9/11 period, during which both authors and readers have been nervous of work that seems entirely trivial. Even at their lightest, these 10 books touch on the question of how we are to live our lives in dangerous times; on the balance between wider responsibility and personal pleasure.
The Independent has profiles of Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the new A Spot of Bother, and Vikram Chandra, whose Sacred Games will be released in the States next year.
Slate doesn't think that Forbes.com's article (no longer available online because they're pussies) telling men to marry secretaries or maids instead of successful women isn't sexist.
Also on Slate: could Snakes on a Plane really happen?
Every morning I wake up and thank god that a fearless publication like Slate exists.
Each of the past two years, I wrote a pilot for the Fox network. Neither got picked up, which is probably a sound indicator of my skills as a creator of television shows. I have also made a number of disastrous appearances on television over the past year. Both have taught me that I should avoid participating in the medium for the rest of my life.
Salon asks James Frey what he'd like to watch on television.
O.K., so this is it. I am telling you now. Our jihad declares this: no more English. Wait, I know. I am speaking English, but just this one last time. No more English, once I am done speaking. When done speaking, I will do that zipping thing one does with the lips, and after that: our glorious linguistic jihad begins! It is going to really kick ass. However, hang on. “Kick ass” does not please the Prophet. How do I know? I just do. From now on, we will say, like: Our new linguistic jihad is really going to “put the foot in the old rumpus.” Got it? Or “rumpamundo” is O.K. “Put the foot in the old rumpamundo.” Yes, yes, I like that.
Newspapers are desperate for readers, and this Economist article outlines how they're finally noticing this whole "Internet" thing.
In the late 1990s, the early years of the Wall Street Journal's website, one of the paper's journalists came up with the novel idea of posting online a 573-page document that backed up an article. “It wasn't the most compelling content,” remembers Neil Budde, its founding editor and now general manager of news at Yahoo!, an internet portal. But it was a start. Now newspapers have a better idea of what works online. This is not always traditional journalism as taught in journalism school. Brian Tierney, who became owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer after Knight Ridder sold it last year, noticed that a popular item on the paper's website has been a video of Mentos mints causing a 2-litre bottle of Diet Coke to explode into the air. “We should do more of that,” he says.
August 24, 2006
An excerpt from Jonathan Lethem's profile of Bob Dylan from Rolling Stone.
"I'd make this record no matter what was going on in the world," Dylan tells me. "I wrote these songs in not a meditative state at all, but more like in a trancelike, hypnotic state. This is how I feel? Why do I feel like that? And who's the me that feels this way? I couldn't tell you that, either. But I know that those songs are just in my genes and I couldn't stop them comin' out." This isn't to say Modern Times, or Dylan, seems oblivious to the present moment. The record is littered -- or should I say baited? -- with glinting references to world events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, though anyone seeking a moral, to paraphrase Mark Twain, should be shot.
Check out Michael Gray's Bob Dylan Encyclopedia if you get the chance; it is endlessly entertaining.
But I told you all that so I could tell you this: after one song (I think it was “Song for Lonely Giants,” but I’m not some crazy fanboy who went and stole the setlist after the show) a girl in the crowd yelled to the stage that it reminded her of The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. (Darnielle is a chatty, witty stage presence and likes to talk between songs.) Having just blogged about Calvino, I perked up my ears, in the desperate, reflexive manner of the content-starved daily blogger. This could be a blog post.
“I’ve never read Calvino,” he said. “But I keep meaning to.” And started strumming the next song.
So there’s your scoop: John Darnielle hasn’t read Italo Calvino. Alert the media. I blogged about it anyway.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
I still can’t decide what’s the biggest example of bad faith: hiding the truth for so long; revealing it as part of the prelaunch publicity for his autobiography, Peeling the Onion; or (sneakily?) laying the groundwork for these revelations with his 2003 book Crabwalk, his first to explore German suffering during the war. It’s baffling. If Grass had simply admitted everything when he published The Tin Drum back in 1959, this would have actually increased his moral stature; after all, he hadn’t committed any war crimes. In a way, such self-serving silence is less astonishing than the fact that his real war record had never before come to light — he’d admitted his SS role to the Americans when they arrested him in 1945. Had the teenage Gore Vidal been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, I’m betting somebody would have spilled the beans during the last half-century.
In "Won't somebody please think of the children?" news, a Webster (New York) high school pulled Alex Sanchez's gay-themed YA novel Rainbow Boys from a summer reading list because of complaints from parents, and a Gautier (Mississippi) Waldenbooks removed all of its books on relationships after a woman threatened to have the store's 22-year-old manager arrested for selling a book called The Good Sex Bible. (Borders, which owns Waldenbooks, says the relationships section will eventually be restocked.)
Nabokov began his novel thusly: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” In terms of literary quality that's light years ahead of Karr's “Ode to JonBenet” with the line “JonBenet, my love, my life,” but perverse obsession shines through in both. Let's not quibble! “Lolita,” for all its literary brilliance, is the story of a child molester. Humbert was as obsessed with 12-year-old Delores “Lolita” Hayes, as Karr apparently was with JonBenet. To be sure, Lolita was not murdered and so we don't see Humbert as the monster that we assume JonBenet's killer is.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the crossover appeal of YA fiction.
Lisa Santamaria is a college student who also enjoys YA fiction, particularly fantasy, which she said is often more imaginative than fantasy books written for older readers. Santamaria runs the children's department of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Willow Grove, where many adults come in and ask for books for themselves.
"Children's books have a more upbeat ending, and a lot of people are looking for that," Santamaria said.
"They want something a little more entertaining or fluffy, so they come to the kids' section, only to find out that these books are not necessarily fluffy at all. Like Harry Potter - it makes you think."
Probably the biggest problem with getting not-all-that-young adults reading YA fiction is the whole "If I am over 21 and hang out in the children's section of Barnes & Noble, everyone will think I am incredibly creepy" thing. I think that's also the same phenomenon that keeps the majority of people born before the Reagan administration from setting up MySpace pages.
It's a shame, though, because the quality of YA fiction seems to be getting better and better. There's King Dork, which I loved to an insane degree (and which was just nominated for a Quill award). And there's Looking for Alaska, which I haven't read, but which has been recommended to me by about 800 people. Both books seem to be doing pretty well, so either adults are buying them or kids today are a lot smarter than I thought. (I'm leaning against the latter, if only because I blame teenagers for the popularity of that horrible "Bad Day" song. Every time I hear that, I want to shove the singer's face into a deep fryer and say something like "I guess your day just got a little worse, bitch." But I digress.)
The Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle look at fall book releases, both noting that the season looks good for literary fiction. The next few months will see the publication of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, Edward P. Jones' All Aunt Hagar's Children, Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land and Isabel Allende's Inés of My Soul, among others.
LA Weekly: So you didn’t exactly set out to write a 9/11 novel.
Messud: I was confronted with this problem. In 2001, I was writing this novel set in New York in 2001. Even though I had to start it again, it was already so present in my mind, it wasn’t a novel set in 1999, it was set in 2001.
People have said, Oh, you’ve written a 9/11 novel, but I was trying to write an August 1914 novel. In August 1914, everybody was punting up and down the Thames River and eating strawberries and having picnics, and then, a few months later, they were in uniform and being sent out to the front — an absolute disjunction.
The Guardian First Book Award longlist has been announced:
Harbor by Lorraine Adams
Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan
Running for the Hills by Horatio Clare
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Waiting for the Night-Rowers by Roger Moulson
Lonesome George: The Lives and Loves of a Conservation Icon by Henry Nicholls
A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller by Jason Roberts
John Donne: The Reformed Soul by John Stubbs
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
The Guardian has portraits of the authors attending the Edinburgh book festival, including great shots of Will Self and Doris Lessing.
Poets & Writers wants to scare you about your possibilities of getting published in the future. All of it is true, but at the same time none of it is true. Everyone just calm the hell down.
August 23, 2006
Hey, do you want to be creeped out to an insane degree? Good:
"What we normally don't consider pornography, a child may get sexually aroused by," he said. "The question to me is not whether the book has a good story line, but does it sexually stimulate young boys?"
And really, isn't that the question we've all been asking ourselves? It's not? Oh. Oh, OK. Forget I said anything.
(Via Bookshelves of Doom.)
Jessa linked to this Salon interview with Michael Shermer earlier today, but I'm posting it again because you should really read it multiple times. Shermer is an incredible writer check out his great Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God and a hero to skeptics and secular humanists everywhere. My girlfriend just told me about his new book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, which I need to buy really soon. (My girlfriend and I named our dog Darwin, although he hasn't really shown any predilection toward studying evolutionary biology yet. He's more into chasing birds and sleeping.) But anyway: Michael Shermer is a complete badass. Go buy his books.
Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand talk songwriting at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
The Happy Little Bunny
Once there was a little bunny who had a little furry tail and a little shiny nose. But the electrodeath cloud of commerce strangled it and its foxhole was converted to a parking lot, a parking lot, a parking lot. Ample parking asphalted over bunny bones. Everyone everyone everyone get in.
When Patchett let the students ask questions, one of them asked how many times Patchett had cheated on her husband, implying that the book shows she is the type of person who would do that.
"I don't think that judging people harshly, especially if you have not walked in their shoes, is a good thing or a right thing to do," she replied.
Some students booed the question, but afterward, Patchett said the student should be admired for having the "gumption" to stand up and say what was on his mind. "It's all part of a dialogue," she said.
Q: You’ve talked in other interviews about how Asian-American literature — and I think this is true of a lot of ethnic literature when it first comes out — it sets a stereotype that’s almost as rigidly defined for itself as the one the dominant culture created for it. It’s different, but it has its own strict rules.
A: Of course the major publishers are owned and for the most part operated by people who aren’t Asian or Asian-American, and they look for certain things that they either think will sell or entertain themselves or make themselves feel better about themselves. So the most popular string of fiction in the United States when it comes to Asian-Americans has to do with Asian-American women who fall in love with white men, and vice versa, and of course that is marketable to a lot of white people.
Tang is also author of the opinion piece "Tell Shaq to Come Down to Chinatown" and the book The Texas Aggie Bonfire: Tradition and Tragedy at Texas A&M. He and I lived in College Station, Texas, at the same time, though I never met him. I wish I had.
Pitchfork: In some of the press materials for the album, I've seen Holy Ghost referred to as a "musical novel."
MF: It’s not a novel. I'd call it a rock opera. That's a pretentious enough term for it.
Pitchfork: How important are the sound of words to your lyrics vs. the meaning of the words?
MF: It's the difference between good lyrics and bad lyrics to me. Rock lyrics should have noisy words. You get to have a lot of double talk and excessive alliteration, and that kind of aligned in my mind to later 19th century or early 20th century writing, before the crystal-clear Ernest Hemingway and William Carlos Williams style. [Robert] Browning and [Algernon Charles] Swinburne and Kipling, those are the writers who are appropriate to steal from for rock lyrics because they're big and noisy and vulgar in a certain way like rock music is supposed to be. That's the costume rock music should be wearing.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette braved leg warmers, brightly-colored eye shadow and a sea of big hair to cover the open casting call for the film version of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh which will now feature Nick Nolte as Art Bechstein's father. (Via Largehearted Boy.)
Greg Cook visits the National Association for Poetry Therapy's annual conference in Boston.
So then there is this question: if art is used for therapy, political criticism and persuasion, or community improvement projects (as in a proposal to pipe Beethoven and Mozart into a Hartford, Connecticut, park to drive out drug dealers and prostitutes), does it diminish the art form? If people look for healing answers in poetry, does that prevent them from seeing that thing so central to the art form: its mystery?
For poet August Kleinzahler, the difference between poetry as a tool and poetry as an art is the level of complexity and formal achievement of the latter. Reached by phone in Austin, Texas, he is somewhat sympathetic to poetry therapy’s goals: “Whatever works—rubbing pig feces or listening to Fox talk radio or taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors—if that makes someone less suicidal or homicidal or miserable, great. . . . But it has nothing to do with art per se.”
Andrew O'Hagan's Booker-longlisted Be Near Me is reviewed at The Independent, The Telegraph and The Guardian (by Beyond Black author Hilary Mantel, who calls the novel "a nuanced, intense and complex treatment of a sad and simple story"). O'Hagan is profiled at The Inverness Courier, and he has an essay about miserable family memoirs at The Telegraph.
J.C. Hallman was interviewed on the Milt Rosenberg show on WGN about his book The Devil is a Gentleman: Exploring America's Religious Fringe, and the audio archive is finally available. (Read the Bookslut interview with Hallman here.)
In case anyone was wondering, I still think that Kathryn Davis's The Thin Place is the best book of the year. I spent the weekend at my sister's cabin in Michigan, among muskrats, deer, mice, wild turkeys, beavers, snakes, skunks, and other assorted creatures. A little different from my Chicago wildlife of housecat, silverfish, and the occasional rat seen from my window. I kept thinking, damn, this would be a good place to reread The Thin Place, but I hadn't thought that far ahead. Next time I visit her. Anyway, this radio show interview with Davis will hold me over until my next trip.
I even went door-to-door in Malibu. Although it was anxiety-producing to walk up to strangers' houses and say, "Hi, I'm here to tell you about Jesus." You were also supposed to tell people that you loved them. I remember telling that to a girl who actually liked me. And she took that the wrong way. I had to correct her. No, I don't mean it that way, I mean it in the agape way, the kind of love that C.S. Lewis talks about, the love for your fellow humans. I can't believe I did that. Although I guess in a way I'm doing the same thing, only now I do it through public lectures and books: "Hi, I'm here to tell you about Darwin."
August 22, 2006
The Banned Books Cafe blog reminds us that today is Ray Bradbury's 86th birthday, which is definitely cause for celebration. Buy someone you love a copy of Dandelion Wine or Something Wicked This Way Comes.
The British Library has purchased Samuel Taylor Coleridge's archive, which includes poems, letters, diaries, and several gallons of laudanum. (Dibs on that, by the way.)
"Let those who want to judge, pass judgment," Grass said last week in a typically sententious utterance. Very well, then, mein lieber Herr. The first judgment is that you kept quiet about your past until you could win the Nobel Prize for literature. The second judgment is that you are not as important to German or to literary history as you think you are. The third judgment is that you will be remembered neither as a war criminal nor as an anti-Nazi hero, but more as a bit of a bloody fool.
[Village Voice] Men are the stereotypical consumers and creators of pornography. Women are left out of the equation completely.
[Melinda Gebbie] That was my first and foremost consideration in my mind at all times. This was going to be pornography for women or it wasn't worth doing. Women like a sense of aesthetics in pornography. They don't like looking at females who are cold and abused and unhappy. That's what they see looking at them from just about every porn image.
The Manchester house where Elizabeth Gaskell (North and South, Cranford) lived has received an emergency repair grant from English Heritage. I have the sinking feeling that if the house were in America, it would already be a Linens 'n Things or Steak 'n Shake or something. Some kind of business with a fancifully rendered conjunction that is slangily clipped, thus indicating a certain kind of quirky casualness.
The CW network makes its second-worst decision ever. (The first: Naming their network "The CW." Hey, Newsweek called! They want their jocular abbreviation for that one section with the arrows that people stopped reading in 1993 back!)
A (very, very) small group of Clemson University students are upset that they're being treated like adults.
Several Clemson University students have joined a member of the Commission on Higher Education to say they did not like the book the school chose for a required freshman summer reading assignment.
The seven students, mostly freshman, joined commission member Ken Wingate and about 40 parents, grandparents and alumni Monday to talk about their concerns with "Truth & Beauty," by Ann Patchett.
The book, which was a best-seller, tells the story of Patchett and a friend, Lucy Grealy, who struggled with the effects of cancer throughout her life and later dealt with drug addiction. Wingate said it glamorizes "deviant and debasing" behavior and is unhappy with its sexual content.
How did Clemson end up with the kids who weren't smart enough to get into Bob Jones or Oral Roberts? Isn't there some kind of correspondence school for the sheltered and whiny?
Bloomberg's Carlos Caminada talks to some authors at the Parati International Literary Festival in Brazil. Jonathan Safran Foer, who is a vegetarian, says his next book "will probably be a look into the U.S. meat industry," while Ali Smith (The Accidental, which is all kinds of brilliant) reveals she's working on a book that "will recreate narratives from the Roman poet Ovid's 'Metamorphoses.'"
David Foster Wallace is still all about the footnotes; he uses them this time in a reflection on tennis star Roger Federer. At least I think he's a star. I stopped keeping up with tennis players when they stopped getting stabbed and busted for pot. But still: You will probably like this essay if you like Wallace, which I do, or if you like tennis, which I've got to say, I don't. (It is not a real sport unless people get hit by other people. I still hold this to be true.)
Nick Hornby: Read what you want and be nice.
And please, please stop patronising those who are reading a book - The Da Vinci Code, maybe - because they are enjoying it.
For a start, none of us knows what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction that books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing.
I don't mean we should all be reading chick-lit or thrillers (although if that's what you want to read, it's fine by me, because here's something else no one will ever tell you: if you don't read the classics, or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud.
I like Nick Hornby, but was anyone actually waiting for his permission to read whatever they want? I'd say: Read what you want and develop a thick skin. I like literary fiction, but it doesn't really ruin my day when Hornby makes a reference to "prose that draws attention to itself, rather than the world it describes." People aren't always going to like what you like. Get used to it. Grow up. This Kumbayah it's-all-good school of criticism doesn't help anybody; it patronizes half the readers in the world and irritates the shit out of the other half.
The Sunday Times talks to Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, about the pressures inherent in writing a follow-up to one of the most successful literary novels of the last 20 years. (Haddon's second published novel, A Spot of Bother, comes out next month.)
“But a one-off success is also scary, because I am, as yet, not proven. The one thing I’d like A Spot of Bother [his second adult novel, published next month] to do is make people think not that I am the writer of one good book, but that I am a good writer.” As the thought takes hold, his giggles cease and the smiley mouth droops with worry. “Of course, I know there have been quite a few people who have written one really good book, then slipped away somewhere and been forgotten. I really, really hope that’s not me.”
Elsewhere in The Times, John Sutherland reflects on the literary "one-shot wonders."
There is a distinguished cohort of one-shot wonders in literature: Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar) and JD Salinger (fitful follow-ups to The Catcher in the Rye such as Franny and Zooey don’t count). To what extent, one wonders, were they paralysed by “Haddon’s horror”? Or had they merely said it all?
Man, in what world is The Catcher in the Rye better than Franny and Zooey? Crazy talk. I can't stay mad at John Sutherland, though. His new book looks pretty good.
Novelist Joshilyn Jackson (Gods in Alabama) was arrested and jailed in Austell, Georgia, and we can all rest easy. Jackson's crime: having her maiden name on her Social Security card, and her married name on her driver's license. In other words, being a remorseless criminal monster out to destroy America. At The Outfit, Kevin Guilfoile (Cast of Shadows) explains why Jackson's arrest should make you think. And worry.
But let's think about what, I guess, we've already given up. Right now, we live in a country in which they've arrested a PTA mom for the quaintly Eastern Bloc reason that her papers were out of order. They jailed a soccer mom because of alleged irregularities in her documents and the arrest was not an error, but policy. Maybe that doesn't sound outrageous to you and if it doesn't that's okay. Write me an angry note about how I'm a chicken liberal who's always chattering on about how the sky is falling on civil rights or whatever. But trust me, because she's a better person than all of us together, if they want to arrest Joshilyn Jackson, they want to arrest you. Or they want to be able to arrest you if it turns out to be convenient.
(CLARIFICATION: On her blog, Joshilyn Jackson notes: "...BUT, the small fact that I DID NOT actually have my maiden name on my soc card and my married name on my drivers license has been forgotten. Not just by BookSlut. Friend after friend has said to me in casual conversation, 'I can't believe you got arrested just for not changing your name.' And I say BUT BUT BUT As soon as the SS office TOLD me that was the case, I went and FIXED it. Lawfully, Obediently. Long before they punitively canceled my driver's license. I complied. Like a good dumb dog. AND they arrested me anyway.")
At The Morning News, Elizabeth Kiem explains why the people tripping over themselves to condemn Günter Grass are missing the point.
For half a century Grass has demanded that Germans, both readers and writers, not redact from their histories the shadows of the past. This has been his message ever since he burst onto the scene with his Tin Drum, the story of a charlatan and escapist, a poster-child for the confusion between infantilism and innocence. “Grow up!” he cried, “or be lost in the fog of victimhood.” Now, nearing 80, he has opted for full disclosure himself, and his countrymen, won over by a long campaign on behalf of collective and “compulsive” memory, are crying foul.
The question is, will they come to recognize that Grass’s wrong is precisely why he is right? That his life’s work—fiction and non—rests upon not the suggestion, but the evidence, that humanity can trump history. That the creative is restorative. That redemption does not have to be sought to be granted.
The New York Times profiles cult favorite author Harry Crews, author of the classic A Feast of Snakes and the new An American Family. Crews' long out-of-print novel The Hawk Is Dying was recently adapted into a film starring Paul Giamatti.
“I had an ex-wife and I had an ex-kid and I had an ex-dog and I had an ex-house and I’m an ex-drunk,” Mr. Crews said in the telephone interview. “I’ve supported whores and dopers and drunks and bartenders. Thank God I don’t do that anymore. It’s a bummer of a way to spend your life.”
“Now I just keep wondering how this life’s going to wind down. It’s time to die, but I don’t feel like dying. I feel good all the time,” he said. “Except when I don’t.”
The Keep author Jennifer Egan discusses five books, "chosen not quite at random," from her shelves. If you're in New York, note that Egan will be reading tomorrow, August 23, with Lynne Tillman (American Genius) and Elizabeth Merrick, at Word for Word's Lunchtime Reading Series in the Bryant Park Reading Room (12:30 pm). Egan and Tillman are contributors to This Is Not Chick Lit, edited by Merrick and reviewed this weekend at the Los Angeles Times.
August 21, 2006
The fingers have continued to jab left and right, zeroing in on this or that obvious culprit. But it appears more likely that, rather than falling under the lead pipe of some dastardly lone slayer, Cody's died the death of a thousand cuts, from a thousand blades: disparate and even largely inadvertent but ineluctable. Telegraph Avenue ... slash. Parking ... slash. Chain stores ... slash slash. The remaining perps have thus far eluded detection: transformations in Cal's student body, for instance, and the ebbing of radical chic. Perhaps the hardest cut to endure is that books as we know them are fading, bit by bit, from ubiquity. We can no longer presume they'll always be here. Actual books, with covers and pages and bindings and type, are increasingly artifacts, relics -- old school, silverfish food, without hyperlinks. How long before that $24.95 best-seller, bought on Amazon yesterday, is displayed in a museum alongside rotary phones, cyclamates, and bustles? That's why the death of Cody's hurts: For all those who used to sneak-read as children under the covers with flashlights and books, it presages our own obsolescence.
The New Yorker has an excerpt from Richard Ford's forthcoming The Lay of the Land, which I can feel it is going to be great. (The excerpt is great, anyway.) There's also a short interview with Ford, and a reprint of a 2004 short story featuring Frank Bascombe, the character Ford follows in The Sportswriter, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land.
Kermit The Frog- The Rainbow Connection
The book’s quick discussion about this song and Kermit being psychically gifted is straight out of my own thoughts. This song creeps the shit out of me.
Many of the female characters in Vollmann's most important novels are prostitutes. I asked him why that was. "I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for prostitutes. Maybe next time I come to your country I will visit the prostitutes there." I asked him how he avoided suspicion when dealing with prostitutes and pimps. "The best way to deal with a prostitute is to be honest. They're used to people seeking out peculiar gratification. If you want stories from them, that's fine, as long as you're prepared to pay. Pimps I avoid, because all they do is cost me money. My book Whores for Gloria  incorporates real stories told by real prostitutes and I didn't feel I had the right or the competence to change those stories. But by the time of The Royal Family [his 2000 novel about prostitutes in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco], I had the ability to invent prostitutes, putting together different stories."
Jonathan Franzen is just like us. He too procrastinates because of "a Law & Order problem of significant dimensions." He talks to Time Magazine about his new memoir The Discomfort Zone.
The BBC remembers Federico García Lorca on the 70th anniversary of his murder by Falangist soldiers in Spain.
The Guardian profiles Joan Didion.
Who, I ask, were here formative influences? Her answer is surprising. 'Oh, Hemingway, really. Just Hemingway.' He seems to have fallen out of fashion, I say. 'Yes, but nobody writes sentences like Hemingway. And I was reading him when I was young and in love with the idea of being a writer.'
Did she read non-fiction back then? 'I was never that impressed with it,' she says, almost haughtily. 'I started reading Elizabeth Hardwick and Mary McCarthy partly because they were women, and because they wrote about perfectly ordinary things. I remember reading a Mary McCarthy essay on how novels were bourgeois learning experiences and how you could learn to make strawberry jam from reading Anna Karenina. Well, I'm not sure you can, but somehow I found that a very arresting thing to say. It kind of stuck in my head when I was learning to write.'
August 18, 2006
The phrase "chick lit" in the title refers to the kind of writing that Merrick says is all too prevalent - stories about "a white girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend" - a description she expresses in the introduction of her book.
She says chick lit is fluffy reading that's good for "sporadic pleasure," but there's so much of it that it obscures really good literature. That's why her anthology goes below the surface experiences and is "not chick lit."
Merrick's anthology, which includes stories from acclaimed writers like Cristina Henríquez, Francine Prose, Jennifer Egan and Curtis Sittenfeld, has even inspired a copycat book from a group of chick lit writers intent on in the words of the book's editor "debunk(ing) the Manolos and Cosmos stereotype by showcasing the breathtaking diversity of writers" in the genre. Naturally, the cover of the book features a drawing of...a red high-heeled shoe. It may or may not be a Manolo.
Mark Salzman's memoir Lost In Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia is too hot for a Brookfield, Connecticut, high school administrators backed off the decision to make the book a required summer reading assignment.
Most parents, said [school board chairman Jerry] Friedrich, didn't have a problem with the book's story but complained that the "language is filthy and it shouldn't be required." He said parents are trying to keep their children from using obscene language.
School board meetings are taped and shown on local cable television. Friedrich said a paragraph from the book was read at the board meeting, but because the language was "grotesque" the volume had to be turned off on the tape.
Thank God, you know? We were this close to a group of Connecticut teenagers using profanity. Which they probably didn't even know existed until they heard about this book.
Guernica: Is 'science fiction' a label you embrace or shy away from?
George Saunders: I'm happy with it. I didn't really read a lot of it when I was young. But I had a big moment with -- well, I watched a lot of Star Trek. I didn't really like it at the time but I think I absorbed it. And there was one moment in Star Wars, when the first one came out in 1560 or whenever it was, I remember being in the theater and there's that one scene where the ships fly over your head and you can see that they're all kind of junked up on the bottom. They're all scraped up and there's like rust and everything.
And something about that -- I can't really explain it but that moment -- was when in a certain way the genre science fiction just fell away from me, because I thought, "Oh yeah, no matter how advanced we get -- whether we have robotic cars or whatever -- we're still gonna fuck everything up with our human-ness." Like if we have holograms, we're gonna use them for porn. If you have a guy with a chip in his head, he's gonna be used for marketing. So that was a moment for me when I thought it's all science fiction. I mean, think about the concept of the i-pod. You know ten years ago that was unthinkable. So now we have these i-pods, and even old farts like me have i-pods. Yet, maybe I've got REO Speedwagon on there.
The New York Times twice declined to print the title of Bookslut contributor Jennifer Shahade's book, Chess Bitch: Women In The Ultimate Intellectual Sport, but had no problem printing the titles of Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, Bitchfest and Bitch Magazine. For the record, the Times has printed the name "Bookslut" before, but the Christian Science Monitor wasn't so brave, referring to this site as "a high-profile blog with a risqué name ("book" plus a vulgar term for a woman of loose morals)."
There is a great, questing soul alive everywhere in these stories, a soul trying to come to grips with the parameters of human experience amid the ravishing beauty of nature. Few prose writers can touch Cheever for the painterly precision of his descriptions, and the reward of them too -- his characters, locked in the struggles of suburban and familial angst, regularly experience moments of transcendence and rebirth in nature.
August 17, 2006
It is frustrating and disappointing to witness the active courting of a readership as generally unconcerned with literature as it is with wondering when “chick” became an acceptable epithet again. To be clear: it is not frustrating that Merrick wants to convert, illuminate, or even get a rise out of the pro-chick lit faction (whatever the hell that means); rather, it is frustrating that said faction’s dollars move the market in such a way that this volume should have to define itself against their goofy standards.
And also from The Austin Chronicle: Marc Savlov talks to Irvine Welsh, who will be at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on Sunday, August 20 the same day the HP Lovecraft Film Festival will be there. If you like creepy literature and cinema, and drinking beer while watching movies, this is totally your day.
Despair Inc. repeatedly outdoes itself in the extensiveness of its satire. Available only on their site, the book comes in three editions: the Manager, Executive, and Chairman. While descriptions of the first two are dense with comedy, they are at least believably priced ($24.95 and $39.95, respectively). But the Chairman edition sells for $1,195. The edition is letterpressed with a goatskin cover and is shipped in a humidor fitted with a light-sensitive voice-activator chip that, upon opening, proclaims a personalized "Welcome to the Chairman Edition" to the happy buyer. The joke is that it's not a joke. People have bought them. . . .
[CEO] Justin [Sewell] defines their origins without any lofty embellishments. "We were motivated because we were annoyed by our situation and by a catalog that distilled that positivism down to such an absurd level. What we make is a disposable novelty product that has no eternal value whatsoever." I wonder aloud if he's selling them a little short, and Justin and [CFO Walter] Stokes laugh. "We sell everybody short," Stokes says. "You want any 1999 calendars?"
We await with interest your account of your own part in these war crimes, but your memoirs will be treated by historians with suspicion, as no more reliable than those of other SS men — Adolf Eichmann's, for instance, which he wrote while awaiting his trial and execution.
No doubt the comparison shocks you. But Eichmann, like you, was an imposter. He, too, reinvented himself after the war rather than face up to his past. True: He was a senior officer, responsible for rounding up millions of Jews to be sent to death camps, while you were a young soldier. But you both tried to exculpate yourselves by pleading that you were only obeying orders.
The most striking difference is that he was found out 45 years ago, and paid for his crimes with his life. You got away with it.
All of us at Bookslut are unbelievably proud of Adrienne Martini, our Specfic Floozy columnist and author of the new Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, which you should go buy immediately. Adrienne's book has been widely reviewed already for starters, check out these pieces in the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Sun-Times. Adrienne was also the subject of a profile in the Austin American-Statesman, which says that she's "particularly good at mixing up emotional registers in a way that gets across her distinctive combination of weakness, strength and humor." Adrienne is brave and smart and just basically awesome, and we're incredibly proud of her. Read her book and regain your faith in the American memoir.
Pynchon outlined a novel yesterday that was vast in ambition with a veritable dictionary of national biography as the cast, down to cameo appearances by the scientist Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi and Groucho Marx.
But the author's description was so over the top that he seemed almost to be irreverently mocking the conventions of publicity even while apparently taking part. . . .
It was a teasing statement surely designed to entice the cult readership which saw his last work, Mason & Dixon, sell out an initial 175,000 print run in the US in around six weeks. Then, despite being criticised by some as incomprehensible and stretching to an intimidating 773 pages, the book was requisite reading for the literati in his home nation. In the words of his American publicist: "Reading Pynchon makes people feel smart."
Yeah. There you go.
Salman Rushdie and John Irving defend Günter Grass, who recently admitted he served in the Nazi Waffen SS during World War II. Meanwhile, Grass' publisher releases his memoir a few weeks earlier than planned.
"Let's be clear about this: there is no such thing as an important literary award." Tim Parks, award winning writer, talks to Nigel Beale about the foolishness of awards, and what happens when you talk trash about Rushdie's books. (Actually, he won't say specifically, which leads me to imagine all sorts of nasty things, like Rushdie showing up to his doorstep with a baseball bat and a hammer.)
I am unbearably excited about Dame Darcy's illustrated Jane Eyre, released next month. (Read the Bookslut interview with Dame Darcy here.) I've read Jane Eyre more times than any other book, except for maybe The Curious Little Kitten, but I was four then. Darcy explains why she was drawn to the book at Comic Book Resources:
"It's just so gothic and awesome. I really like how all this surreal weird stuff goes down, while the rest of the time is spent drinking tea and staring out the window - which I think is actually kind of cool. I enjoy doing that, too!"
The New York Public Library's Rose Main Reading Room is moving to a new classification system one that you don't need a super-secret decoder ring to understand.
If you're going to start a coup -- and, you know, god speed and all that, sounds like fun -- maybe don't give the mercenaries a fictional account of a failed coup for the playbook. It's just a thought.
August 16, 2006
George W. Bush writes a book report for his wife.
And maybe next time, Mrs. First Lady of Smartsville, you'll believe me when I say I think I'll read me a good book tonight. 'Cause "The Stranger" was cool, and even though it was in French, it read just like English. I mean, every word was in English, which makes me wonder why folks even bother learning other languages. Meantime, I can't wait to meet the author, so I can tell him how much his book rocked.
Americans are buying fewer novels and more nonfiction, reports Kristin Tillotson of the (Minneapolis-St. Paul) Star Tribune.
In this age of declining readership for all sorts of publications, any reading is good reading, right? Maybe. But does a de-emphasis of the literary novel -- still the form of entertainment that requires the most engagement and conjecture on the reader's part -- coincide with a devaluation of the imagination?
"Americans are pragmatic," said Minneapolis novelist and essayist Charles Baxter. "They like the sense that something has actually happened."
To me, this just proves that my countrymen have an insatiable thirst for knowledge that fiction just can't quench. No doubt about it: Americans are the smartest people in the world.
Instead of a pen, some writers attempt to increase their street cred by claiming to use a typewriter. Unless the writer is over sixty, this is a lie. After all, deliberately using an outmoded form of communication instantly makes you prestigious, and these writers know that. Personally, I like to do all my writing on the side of an abandoned cave. Anything more modern, and I feel it just dehumanizes my writing.
I still wonder whether we really should be welcoming these splendid new translations with open arms. I, for one, would be extremely wary of recommending a Loeb in an undergraduate class in which the students were expected to read the original Latin or Greek. The temptation to rely too heavily on the translation would be all the greater now that the translations are so much better than they used to be. That's perhaps why I enjoyed the 500th volume of the series, a splendid edition by D.R. Shackleton Bailey of Quintilian's Lesser Declamations, as much as I did. It is a reminder that the old Loeb style is not entirely dead, after all.
This new release is bound to set off a nationwide craze that will come to be known as "Quintilian's Lesser Decla-mania." Fistfights will break out in bookstores. It will be an ugly scene.
Seriously, though, I've seen some of the Loeb books, and they're beautifully done. I can't personally vouch for the quality of the translations, though despite three years of Latin in Catholic high school, the only thing I remember how to say is "Britain is an island." Which hasn't really proved useful. Yet.
Advice for would-be writers from Francine Prose, Wallace Stegner, Gail Godwin and more.
Maclean's asks writers for their summer reading recommendations. Seth (Wimbledon Green) likes Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, and The Hero's Walk author Anita Rau Badami recommends Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, recently longlisted for the Booker Prize.
Günter Grass' 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature will not be revoked, says the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, despite the novelist's admission that he served in the Nazi Waffen SS during World War II.
August 15, 2006
David Mitchell's Black Swan Green is the favorite to win the 2006 Man Booker Prize, though bookmakers also like the chances of Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story, Sarah Waters' The Night Watch and Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me. (I wish the O'Hagan book was available in the States; it looks fantastic. But apparently it doesn't come out here until next April. Drag.) The Guardian's Claire Armitstead is impressed by the strength of this year's longlist, while The Telegraph's Nigel Reynolds sees this year's contest as a Davids vs. Goliaths battle.
The world reacts to The Tin Drum author Günter Grass' revelation that he served in the Waffen SS during World War II. Lech Walesa suggests that the novelist is no longer worthy of his honorary citizenship of Gdańsk, Poland, where Grass was born. The Guardian's website asks whether Grass should give up his Nobel Prize for Literature. The Independent quotes Wolfgang Boernsen, a "cultural spokesman" for Germany's Christian Democratic Union party, as saying: "Günter Grass has spent his whole life setting high moral standards for politicians. It's about time he applied those standards to himself and renounced all his awards - including the Nobel Prize." Time Magazine's Nathan Thornburgh says that "it's worth considering that [Grass'] personal lies helped keep alive important national truths." And Spiegel Online has a rundown of the reactions from German newspapers.
Newsday considers the sophomore jinx.
Daniel Menaker, Random House Publishing Group executive editor in chief, says that, from the publisher's point of view, with a second novel, "you don't have the thrill. You can't say, this is a new voice, you have to listen. ... It's like the first job, the first girlfriend, the first time you've ever seen Paris. The second novel may be deeper, and even more fun. But it's not the same." The sophomore book, Menaker says, is like sophomore year in college or a marriage's second year: time to "face reality."
Unhappy tales of East meets West are found in the papers every day, so presumably the president was looking for more, but his aides will not tell us what he made of the story of a remorseless killer of Arabs. White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush "found it an interesting book and a quick read" and talked about it with aides. "I don't want to go too deep into it, but we discussed the origins of existentialism," said Snow.
If no decision is reached within the week, librarians may be forced to shelve it in the "phantom zone" between Jenny McCarthy’s book of marriage tips and novels in which a cat helps solve a mystery.
Sirens Magazine looks at some of the advice given by women's magazines. (I'm glad that Esquire has stopped running highlights from women's magazines in their "What They're Reading" section or whatever it's called. It made me embarrassed for my gender.)
1. “Run a marathon to get your testosterone flowing.” Do I really have to train for a marathon to have a better orgasm?
4. “Drink a tonic of milk and saffron.” Seriously?
6. “Use a vibrator.” Really? You don’t say.
"See, I think everyone should write a book - whether it's published or not is irrelevant," White says... "What the book has done for me, actually, is it has made me firstly a better person, it's given me greater understanding of myself, and so if I have a greater understanding of myself then I have a greater understanding of everything around me."
That statement is coming from Marco Pierre White, a man who has lived a life worth writing about: becoming one of the greatest British chefs of all time, making Gordon Ramsay cry, achieving three Michelin stars. Unfortunately, not only did White not write his "autobiography," he claims not to have read it. (I'm also hoping he didn't choose the cover art, because jesus.) So maybe he should change that to "everyone should hire someone to write a book."
I'm sort of sad this morning as last night I didn't have my gracious, lovely host for the weekend sneaking books about sex and S&M underneath my pillows. Every night I would head off to bed only to find some kinky somethingorother waiting for me. Thank you, Emily. My Elizabeth Bowen just wasn't doing it for me like My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up.
August 14, 2006
"You know we've had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. 'My God, my God—' I said to myself. 'It's the Children's Crusade.'" Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
If you think you would make a good matchup with me, I will fight you. That's right: let's you and me GET... IT... ON.
Again, people may think I'm joking. Honestly, I am not. This is not a joke fight, either; we really have to fight each other. I mean, afterward, sure, we head out for a few beers and heal our hurts, but the deal is this: a real fight. Real punches. Real blood. Here are my stats:
Craig "The Crippler" Davidson
Weight: 215 lbs.
Record: 0-0-0 (pro); 1-5-4 (unsanctioned)
Maupin's literary works have lent themselves to all kinds of artistic treatments. As a librettist, he collaborated with composer Jake Heggie on Anna Madrigal Remembers, a musical work based on Tales of the City. Perhaps the only choral chamber piece ever written for a transsexual character, the composition received its world premiere in 1999 in San Francisco.
“It's surprising,” Maupin admits. “Frankly, when I write a novel I'm not thinking about it appearing in any other form, so I'm always a little bit stunned when it happens. Jake simply said, ‘Give me two or three pages and I'll set it to music,' so that's what I did.”
Every time I read something about Maupin, I'm reminded of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer moves to Springfield's gay neighborhood. Shops in the district include Alternative Knifestyles, Sconewall Bakery, and wait for it Armistead's Mopeds. Heh.
There's an open casting call in Pittsburgh on Friday for the film version of Michael Chabon's novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that "(a)uditioners are asked, if possible, to outfit themselves as they might have in the early 1980s." Which, for me, would mean Superman Underoos and giraffe Grrranimals, but you might have better luck with moon boots and a "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt. (Via Largehearted Boy.)
The Tin Drum author Günter Grass has admitted that he was a member of the Waffen-SS, an elite fighting unit in Nazi Germany. Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, sharply criticized the United States earlier this year:
Grass quotes liberally from the blistering speech given last year by British playwright Harold Pinter in accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature: "The United States supported and, in many cases, engendered every right-wing military dictatorship in the world after World War II — Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and, of course, Chile ...
"Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place in those countries ... but you wouldn't know it. The crimes of the U.S. have been systematic, constant, vicious, and remorseless but very few people have actually talked about them.
"You have to hand it to America. It has exercised quite a clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's brilliant, even witty, a highly successful act of hypnosis. How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?"
It's a good question. I can't wait to see how Grass answers it.
Two love poems written in a 15-year-old girl’s school exercise book by the late poet laureate Ted Hughes have come to light after more than 50 years.
One of the poems was signed with the pseudonym "Eeple Jate Huckmwmer, Disciple of the Daemonic, Friend to George Daggitt." Seriously. (Via Choriamb.)
Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh is being accused of misogyny because of a passage in his new book, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. (Warning: If you have a weak stomach, you really don't want to read the rest of this post.)
At the session he read passages from his new work - The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs - including a lurid scene in which a man in his 20s has sex with an ancient woman, called a white witch, whose physical attributes are described in grotesque and lavish detail. These range from the "sagging corrugations" of her body to her "ludicrously extended clitoris" to the smell of the "slimy golden-brown fecal matter that lay saturating the incontinence pads below her".
In the book this character, Mary, has refused to give the young man, Skinner, her advice without the payment of "a good cock".
The official publishing house of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has printed a new book about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that has outraged conservatives in the church and elsewhere.
The book, "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11," written by David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology in California, accuses the Bush administration of carrying out the attacks as a pretext for expanding America's "demonic" imperial power.
August 11, 2006
During the break, I wandered by the line for the bathroom, and the women looked shell-shocked. “How’s it going?” I asked. Women nearly crumpled into piles on the floor. “Who are these people?” one woman holding an Alex Kotlowitz book asked me. Joanne had been quizzing the men about what their favorite books were, and the responses were interesting. “One said his favorite author is Donald Trump,” she told me. I guessed that had been a certain balding accountant, and I was right. “But he’s not even like a real accountant,” Joanne said, gripping my arm. “He’s in payroll.”
I'm not just saying this because she's my friend, but I have a feeling that however much Jessa got paid for this column, it was not nearly enough.
Two lists from McSweeney's: Philip K. Dick's Lost Submissions to Better Homes and Gardens and Small Businesses Poorly Named After Classic Literature.
TBS: What were some good stories that didn’t make it into the book?
TC: Oh, so many. There were some pretty sad ones that never made it. There was a 78-year-old doctor named Bob. He was the head of orthopedics in UCLA and he was a team doctor for the Dallas Cowboys for years. His accountant got him involved in a tax shelter that the government deemed illegal. . . . Also, the scariest people in jail, weren’t the bikers or murderers, it was the Republicans. And there were quite a few.
But not nearly enough.
Neal Pollack has the short story "Flushed" at Nerve.
When I was recently at a wedding and asked what my own novel, "Girly," was about, I gave the overview -- that it's epic, told in seven voices, about sexuality and spirituality and two intense sisters -- and the woman who asked, smirked, "So it's NOT CHICK LIT." She didn't know about the anthology, and isn't particularly literary, so I think it's just a sense that it's in the ether: What else could we be reading now?
The angry responses to the book keep pouring in, including this post at the Huffington Post.
I'd been largely unaware of how deep the animosity between the "chicks" and the "lits" had become. The only real notice I'd taken was Curtis Sittenfeld's exceptionally nasty review of Melissa Bank's "The Wonder Spot" in the NYTBR. Reading that left me reeling from the idea that someone whose first novel was a wonderfully reviewed bestseller could choose to metaphorically kneecap another writer, Tonya Harding style.
Have you noticed that the chick lit writers keep bringing up this particular review, which was really not that nasty? You get the sense that Sittenfeld was really rooting for the book to be good, unlike many reviews that appear in the New York Times, their reviewers extending their claws before even opening the book. Sometimes, folks, it's just a shitty book. There were much nastier reviews published, but the main complaint with the Sittenfeld review appears to be that Sittenfeld is a woman and a writer, so she should therefore not say anything bad about other women writers. Jennifer Weiner has tried this tactic before, calling women who bash chick lit bad feminists. But look how quickly they turn on Merrick and the authors of This is Not Chick Lit, calling them boring and depressing.
This controversy is going to be raging for a while, I imagine, as the anthology This is Chick Lit has yet to be released. Again, I'm completely biased, but fuck it.
Rachel Cusk is on the latest Guardian podcast discussing her novel In the Fold, if you're into that sort of thing. That novel made me want to rip out each page as I finished reading it and make some origami I was so bored.
An anonymous blogger who writes about her sex life was unmasked in England recently. The blog has been turned into the book Girl with a One Track Mind, but much of the press has not been friendly. Zoe Williams meets the blogger and discusses the bad press she's been getting.
The Sunday Times talked about Margolis's "seedy" dates and "shameless" conquests - that would not have been an acceptable way for a broadsheet to discuss a sexually active woman in the 1980s, or even the 1990s. The piece went on to call Margolis's "an erotic version of Bridget Jones", which is not simply a bit off, it is the exact opposite of the case. Bridget Jones is characterised by being basically asexual, far more preoccupied with calories than with sex, barely even mentioning men except where they are the source of despair or a mini-break. It is like calling someone the "erotic Mother Teresa". As hard as it is for Margolis, it is brilliant for the rest of us that busting her identity should turn this into such a talking point. Are we, after all, happy to return to a time when promiscuous women could be openly derided like this? Because if we are not, it is time we said so.
What Bly is not — what makes him sound somewhat antiquated today — is an ironist. Iron John was written before Seinfeld, before David Sedaris and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and reading it today reveals how much American culture has changed over the last decade and a half. The "men's movement" was briefly the subject of controversy among feminists and derision among conservatives, but what killed it, more than anything, was simply that it was too easy a target for satire. This may have been a necessary corrective in the short term — Bly himself, with his colorful vests and lute-strumming, was always a little ridiculous as a public figure — but along the way the seriousness of his argument was lost, and 16 years later his questions are still unanswered. Irony, and the fear of ridicule, have, in a way, made any serious discussion of men's emotional lives impossible.
See, I think A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was a pretty serious, and seriously great, discussion of men's emotional lives. (Or at least of the emotional life of the man who wrote it, but that's still more than you'll get from the ridiculous Bly book.) I'm all for taking men's emotions seriously, but I still find Iron John, and the naked men drum circles it somehow spawned, to be pretty hilarious. That's my emotion. Take it seriously, or I'll call you an ironist who is ruining America.
August 10, 2006
Bookslut is becoming too big for its britches, and is once again in need of an intern. If you are based in Chicago, have a couple hours to kill a week, and are better organized than I am (hint: that includes 98% of the population), e-mail me.
The Progressive Reading Series now has podcasts of several of their San Francisco readings, including events with Michelle Tea, Jonathan Franzen, and Aimee Bender.
Jess Row wants to bring back Robert Bly's Iron John. If you're not familiar with Iron John, it's very Jungian/Joseph Campbell in its call for rites of passage for men in this age of neverending adolescence.
By the way, this is a fun trick: Say the words "Iron John" in front of certain stompybooted feminists and watch them sputter. I had a friend once who gave me a three-minute lecture on how the heels I was wearing were designed by men so that if they wanted to rape me I wouldn't be able to run away. She found a copy of Iron John on my shelves and it was like your mother finding crack under your mattress. We're not friends so much anymore.
Laura Miller loves the new James Tiptree, Jr. biography. (Is it a sign that I'm getting boring in my old age that I don't hate Laura Miller's criticism anymore, or is she getting better? Or is it just that now there's Rebecca Traister in the world, Miller seems to benign? Either way, it's still going to be awkward if we're ever trapped in an elevator together.)
August 9, 2006
The Morning News asks some questions about the West profile of Joe Francis, the Girls Gone Wild douche. The profile includes an interview with a woman that Francis allegedly raped, a list of other women Francis has allegedly assaulted, and an allegation that Francis assaulted the writer of the profile.
Aren’t reporters supposed to be objective? How can someone who has been abused by her subject continue to write objectively, particularly when so much of the material also deals with abuse? Or, in fact, is there a greater duty in these extraordinary circumstances, when a reporter has been beaten up by her subject, to reveal as clearly, if not as luridly and convincingly—with obvious judgment and wisdom from experience—her attacker’s violence? In that case, should objectivity come second?
U.S. troops have arrested four Iraqi men in the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll, who was freed in March after 82 days in captivity, a U.S. spokesman said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the four, who were not identified, were arrested in Anbar province west of Baghdad but he did not say when. Another U.S. official, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said the arrests were made about a month ago.
Keith Knight writes about his San Diego Comic Con experiences in the new K Chronicles.
August 8, 2006
David Amsden has an essay, "My Father's Affairs," up at Nerve.
There are few things I enjoy about being a woman more than being told what exactly a woman is. Maybe ovarian cysts. Because it's never something obvious like, "Uh, there's a vagina involved," it's something to do with shoes or with breeding. According to Nora Ephron, whose new I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman is sure to go down in history as the most important work of feminist literature of the 21st century, is interviewed at Salon about why her movies aren't schmaltzy, and.... some other stuff. I don't know, it's hard to keep reading after she said that.
Behind Meg Ryan's gummy grin there has often been a scalding and improbably side-splitting realism. Not always -- but enough to support an argument that it's the hearts-and-flowers, frankly feminine energy of the work, and not the sometimes unpretty guts of it, that leaves it open to detractors. After all, it's about as easy for a movie made by a woman to get labeled schmaltzy as it is for a book by a woman to get labeled chick lit.
The article is written by Rebecca Traister, so you know it's quality.
August 7, 2006
Rather than think of something original to say about this story, I'm just going to steal this line from George Murray of Bookninja: "There are few things more discomforting than breathless grown men and women dressed as wizards delivering academic papers — inventive, discretely-placed sex toys included."
Fiction is for girls, apparently.
That is the kind of story that makes Toronto writer Russell Smith see red.
“It's become a self-fulfilling cycle,” he says. “If you are a young man and you pick up the book section, your primary impression of literature in English is going to be the kind of thing your mother's book club reads. . . . Literature has veered away from story to be about psychology; male writers are as responsible for that as women . . . but I do think men are interested in things, why things work, why things happen, and men look for more comedy in fiction. We are bored by the earnestness of contemporary fiction.” . . .
“Guys look for ideas,” says Smith. “Very intelligent men I talk to, none of them read fiction. It's girl stuff: hundreds and hundreds of pages of feelings. To think that no one perceives fiction as being about ideas is depressing.”
I agree that something about this story is depressing very, very depressing but it's not that we poor, mistreated guys are getting shut out of fiction. It's that some people actually think that writing about feelings is "girl stuff." Which leaves men, I guess, with those unreadable 900-page postmodern novels that only grad students ever buy. The thing is, it's really hard to write well about feelings, but it's actually pretty easy to ramble on forever about abstract ideas like the most boring stoner to ever write a term paper on Thomas Pynchon.
So, you know, if you're a dude, and you think fiction by women is "the kind of thing your mother's book club reads," why not just do us all a favor and stick to video games? Come on, men! Your gender needs you! To go somewhere else and shut the fuck up.
Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier made headlines by getting paid $8 million, 17 NFL teams, and the state of Delaware for his new novel, Thirteen Moons. Kirkus has the first review of the forthcoming novel, and they find that Frazier's big-ass paycheck was totally worth it.
One of the great Native American, and American stories, and a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers.
Frazier's $8 million advance is believed to be the biggest sum ever offered to an author since 1970, when a desperate nation offered Michael Crichton more than $9 million to never write, or even think about writing, another novel ever again.
Salon's Literary Guide to the World stops in China.
"Listen," Louis continued, "if you really want to save Wilbur, maybe you should think about being a little more aggressive. Send a shiver up their spines, so to speak. I'm thinking of a good, old-fashioned 'Watch Your Back' in the web, or maybe just 'Die' if that's too much for you to manage. Though Mr. Zuckerman might take that the wrong way, think you're encouraging killing the pig. Or—hey!—what about just a picture of the farmer with his head cut off? That would be sure to keep everyone away from the pigpen."
There's also a sense that I've transgressed a natural law. Comics are allowed to write novels, but novelists aren't allowed to spend their evenings in murky basements trying to make people laugh. Trident can be renewed at God knows what cost, depleted uranium can be dropped at will to seed cancers with impunity, American Chopper continues to run on TV, but no typist shall make with the funny. Who knew?
Nuclear weapons? Depleted uranium? Cancer? Comedy gold!
Seriously, though, I love Kennedy and would kill to see her act. You should go read her books now.
August 4, 2006
Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from Jennifer Egan's The Keep, which has gotten great reviews from The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, The New York Observer, The Los Angeles Times, and Bookslut. Egan is profiled at Newsday and The San Francisco Chronicle.
Eisenberg's stories pay honest witness to the complicities and confusions of modern American life. "I don't write didactic fiction, and I'm not a dogmatist," she says, and nothing so simple takes place in Twilight of the Superheroes. For Eisenberg, politics may be offstage, shaded by her own white curtains, but they are also deeply present in her precise, enigmatic stories.
John Higgs, author of I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary (which features a foreword by Leary's goddaughter, the actress Winona Ryder), lists the top 10 psychedelic non-fiction books at The Guardian.
The San Antonio Current remembers poet and activist Trinidad Sánchez Jr. Gemini Ink has a rundown of upcoming readings and tributes planned in honor of Sánchez, including two events tonight in San Antonio, and a memorial celebration on Sunday at the Ruta Maya Riverwalk Coffee House. Texas Public Radio features a remembrance of the poet from Ernie Villarreal, and has audio of Sánchez reading three of his poems, including his famous "Why Am I So Brown?," which you can read here. Rest in peace, Trino. (Thanks very much to Donna for the information.)
We live in an age when you can be considered a great novelist if all you do is spin out dazzling riffs of prose and essayistic pronouncements about the contemporary world without being much good at character and story (see: the reputation of Don DeLillo's "Underworld"). So, in a way, it's not hard to guess why Pessl feels the need to prove that she can shoot off as many fireworks as the potentates of the Fat Book Society. The trouble is, they don't really let girls in that club, and meanwhile "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" is an actual novel: Maybe Pessl hasn't perfected the finer points of characterization, but the people in her book feel real, and what happens to them is fascinating and surprising without being preposterous.
NPR reports on Lebanon's efforts to save the national library's collection of rare manuscripts.
It's not set in tablets of stone, but it is a reasonably good rule of thumb: Goldman, Friedman, Superman, Batman ... if a name ends in "—man," we're probably talking about either a Jew or a superhero.
You can pretty much just insert your own Mel Gibson joke here.
I'm not in Chicago today, I'm blogging from New York. But the Comics Reporter has a handy guide to Chicago if you're coming in for the comic book convention there this weekend, Wizard World. Say hi to the city for me, I miss it already.
Alan Moore is going to be appearing at every publication this month to talk about Lost Girls. (The original publication date was late July, now Top Shelf is saying August/September, whatever that means. I'm getting impatient. But you can still pre-order the book at a steep discount at Amazon.) Today he's at Nerve, talking about how easy it was to turn children's stories into pornography.
Wendy seems to be from a middle-class background, and there's something very feral and savage and lower class about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Then we started to think about how the various incidents in Peter Pan could be mapped onto this story we were developing. Obviously, Captain Hook is a very predatory presence, so to make him a sexual predator wasn't a huge leap. You've got his bete noire being the crocodile that swallowed an alarm clock, and he's trying to vicariously turn back his own sexual and physical clock by turning his attention toward children. And also, the crocodile is gaping jaws from beneath, a kind of vagina dentata idea.
The great Karla Starr of the Willamette Week rides around Portland with Tom Lutz, author of the new Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America.
Odds are, you know at least one person whose cheap apartment boasts more anarchist roommates than rooms, and for whom band practice is an all-day event. If not, you know someone who sells "art" during Last Thursday (crocheted garden-tool cozies, $5-$15) and uses the proceeds to buy treatment for their "glaucoma." I actually know a man who quit his job as a barista at Coffee People because he "couldn't handle all the corporate bullshit." (I am not making this up.) In short, our town's relationship with work is what one might call dysfunctional.
Call them slackers, hippies, loafers, bums, idlers or "that stoned guy on the porch" — either way, in Portland they're the only group of people who outnumber whites.
OK, that's it. I'm moving to Portland. Any city with a reputation for beer, bookstores and slacking is like my own personal Eden. (And incidentally, thanks so much to everyone who wrote me with suggestions for Oregon beers. Apparently Oregon has like 3,000 craft breweries, and I hope to visit at least two-thirds of them when I'm there later this month.)
The Guardian looks at two new web campaigns by publishers: Penguin's new blog, and HarperCollin's "browse inside" feature.
The New York Times looks at book trailers.
Workman’s video for "Stitch ’n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker," a how-to book about crocheting written by the knitting expert Debbie Stoller, is a takeoff on "West Side Story," complete with a rumble between a knitting gang and a crochet gang brandishing their lethal needles and accompanied by background music that is just different enough from Leonard Bernstein’s score to ward off lawsuits.
August 3, 2006
Sucks is here to stay. And what's more, it deserves its place in our lexicon, for a couple of reasons. First, it's impossible to intelligently maintain that sucks is still offensive. The word is now completely divorced from any past reference it may have made to a certain sex act. When I tell you that the new M. Night Shyamalan movie sucks (and man, does it suck), my mind in no way conjures up an image of a film reel somehow fellating an unnamed beneficiary.
Slate: Always there to fight the important fights.
Ms. Bechdel remained subdued during a visit that might have easily prompted an uncontained emotional reaction. “I had a lot of response earlier,” she said a few days later. “Years ago, I thought, I have to buy this house, I have to save it. But I just don’t feel that anymore.”
August 1, 2006
This is deeply sad:
Trinidad Sánchez Jr., a poet and activist who inspired audiences with his writing about culture and social issues, has died. He was 63.
Trino Sánchez was the first poet I ever saw read, at a coffee shop off St. Mary's Street in San Antonio. This was 15 years ago, but I still remember his incredible energy, the way he went from angry to funny to angry again, and the way the crowd stayed completely silent and rapt whenever he opened his mouth. San Antonio is home to some exceptional writers Naomi Shihab Nye, Sandra Cisneros, Jacques Barzun, Bryce Milligan, Wendy Barker, Angela de Hoyos but Sánchez was the moral and spiritual center of the city's literary scene. He's also remembered at the San Antonio Express-News. And he'll be missed we're poorer without him.
The appeal of Toby Young is completely lost on me. I read How to Lose Friends and Alienate People a few years ago, and I hated it so intensely that I'm pretty sure it caused me to have several small brain aneurysms. Young has a new book, and Heather Havrilesky at Salon reacts pretty much the way I did.
Because, in truth, there are scores of writers who, in lieu of a substantive story or a perspective on the human condition, write instead about the contents of their purses, or the sorry state of their careers, or the way that the sound of that school bus barreling up their street every morning at 8 a.m. makes them want to go back to Smithfield Elementary and take a baseball bat to Alan Lindquist's kneecaps. There are writers who can make something out of nothing, who can beguile us with their wit and their strange notions and the mundane little victories and losses of their day-to-day lives.
Toby Young is not one of those writers.
Wisconsin Republicans (and at least one Democrat) are demanding the dismissal of UW lecturer Kevin Barrett, co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth and co-editor of 9/11 and American Empire: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Speak Out. Barrett believes the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job," and that the official 9/11 report is "a sham and a cover-up."
Not only does sitting with your nose in a book positively influence others' opinion of you, it could actually - get this - lead to sex. A third of those surveyed said that they "would consider flirting with someone based on their choice of literature". It's finally official, people. Reading is hot.
The internet poll in question revealed that classics, biography and literary fiction are the hottest of the genres, but "erotic fiction, horror, self-help books and the dreaded chick-lit" are all stone-cold turn-offs. Which makes me think someone should publish the ultimate turn-off book, incorporating all those genres, with a title like Ten Steps to a More Designer Shoe-Obsessed You, or, Emmanuelle's Erotic Adventures in the Dread City of R'lyeh. Though now that I think about it, I would actually pay a premium for that book. Someone hurry up and write it.
The Denver Post should get some kind of award for publishing the 500,000th article about sexually explicit YA books this year. There are now only two newspapers in the world that have not run a variation of this story. One of them is in Serbia, I think, but I can't say for sure.
Christopher Hitchens (the brilliant Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere) explains why Mel Gibson is "sick to his empty core with Jew-hatred."
This is not just proved by his twistedly homoerotic spank-movie The Passion of the Christ, even though that ghastly production did focus obsessively on the one passage in the one of the four Gospels that tries to convict the Jewish people en masse of the hysterical charge of Christ-killing or "deicide." It is validated by his fealty to his earthly father, a crackpot who belongs to a Catholic splinter group of which our Mel is a member. . . .
. . . Let him keep the fortune he made from a pogrom movie, and let him by all means continue to sponsor his Latin Mass sectarian church in Malibu, where sinners are thick on the ground. But there was another touch of in vino veritas when he tearfully told the cops that "my life is f---ed," and this inadvertent truth ought to be remembered in all charity as the last words we ever want to hear from him.
This week's Guardian Digested Read: The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh.
Irvine never could resist getting Danny to think in italics. It gae him the chance to use at least three fucks and c-words per page and to show those soft London types how hard and lairy he really was. He didnae know why he hated Brian so much, but he was gonnae mess wi his heid anyways.
In its latest marketing effort, Philips Electronics is paying Hearst $2 million to eliminate the cards from the September issues of four Hearst titles -- Redbook, O At Home, Weekend and House Beautiful. Each magazine will instead run a two-page Philips ad with the line "Simplicity is not having subscription cards fall out of your magazine."