November 30, 2006
That's it from me for a while. I still have some last minute unpacking (do I really need to bring every book I managed to cram into my suitcase? Probably not...) and then a plane to catch. And then there's the question of airplane reading that has yet to be solved. I'm leaning towards Scarlett Thomas, though. Or maybe just sleeping pills and a glass of wine. That sounds most promising.
On Monday Elizabeth Merrick will be our guest blogger for one week. Elizabeth is a writer, an editor, a teacher (I hear nothing but raves about her writing workshops, which she's starting up again in December), and a dear, dear friend. You're in good hands.
Enjoy your December.
The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been announced.
"I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly. She slides one of her slender legs in between mine.
"Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair.
"She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I'm inside her, and everything is pure white as we're lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles."
There is so much I would bid on at this auction if I weren't about to leave the country. Kathryn Davis will write a short story about your pet. Michelle Tea will read your tarot cards. Being a sous chef at Prose Restaurant. Actually, no one bid on the Michelle Tea thing, it's mine.
November 29, 2006
Next year can we have someone not so bitter and angry judging the National Book Awards?
Prizes have a significant effect on a writer's earnings — even when they don't come with cash attached — so any discussion of book awards is also a discussion of how writers of serious fiction manage to survive.
Which is exactly why someone who thinks readers are all a bunch of idiots and Americans all heathens should not be determining one of the few prizes that come with money.
November 28, 2006
If I weren't so busy today, I would be reading this profile of Tom Stoppard.
(While you're there, might as well pick up a copy of Campbell's amazing Fate of the Artist. Won't regret it.)
Campbell died at her home in Los Angeles of complications from brain cancer, her publicist Linda Wharton Boyd said.
The Steven Johnson listed in the New York Times Notable Books is indeed a New York Times writer. Adjust your percentages accordingly.
November 27, 2006
Raina Bloom sent in this e-mail and became my favorite librarian ever:
What do you get when you cross a librarian with too much time on her hands with Bookslut?
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2006 statistics!
I used Newspapers in Proquest and ran a search for each name as an author, limiting the search to the New York Times, east coast late edition, 1980-present.
Of the 50 authors who are listed under fiction, 26 (52%) of them have written for the Times in the past 26 years. Of the 24 authors who haven't written for the Times, 13 (54%) are female.
Of the 51 authors who are listed under nonfiction (there's one book with two authors), 28 (54.9%) have written for the Times in the past 26 years. Of the 23 authors who haven't written for the Times, 6 (26%) are female.
There were two authors under nonfiction (Rich Cohen and Steven Johnson) who, because their names are so common, I couldn't determine if they were the person of the same name who had written for the NYT. To err on the side of caution, I counted them in the "not" column.
- Raina Bloom
I was excited about Deborah Blum's Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death for many reasons. She wrote Love at Goon Park, and if you have any feelings about monkeys being tortured for dubious scientific purposes, the book might make you slightly emotionally unstable. I'm also obsessed with any books about William James. Also, my apartment is haunted by a ghost I call Bruno. He bangs pots and throws spaghetti. He's kind of an asshole. I figured if William James might think there was a possibility of ghosts, then maybe I'm not crazy. Blum is interviewed on NPR's Talk of the Nation, and she's as fascinating to listen to as she is to read.
DC Comics has evidently forgotten that teenage girls love Sandman, not stupid bullshit Nancy Drew rip offs.
With Minx, though, DC has taken what, for it, is the unusual step of seeking outside help. It has joined with Alloy Marketing + Media to promote Minx. All told, DC, a unit of Time Warner, will spend $125,000 next year to push the line.
Do you remember Alloy? Yes, of course you do.
The New York Times has released their 100 Notable Books of 2006 and it's zzzzzzzzzz.... Oh, sorry, drifted off there for a second. No, really, it's the most boring list of books since they released their Notable Books of 2005. Because I was bored last night and avoiding work, I worked out some statistics. (I also had had two glasses of wine at this point, so feel free to correct me if I miscounted.)
94% of the year's notable books were released by conglomerate publishing
30% were produced by one division of Random House or another
50% of the year's notable fiction/poetry were written by women
26% of the year's notable nonfiction were written by women
1% are comic books
1% of the books seem to have caused incredulity even in the synopsis writer
20% of the list I would agree with
15% of the list made me shake my head/roll my eyes/snort
6% were written by tired, old authors whose best books are years behind them
2% do not seem to have been reviewed by the NYT (yet), which means they do not believe they can make mistakes and overlook a book. They can.
It'll come out eventually, but who wants to volunteer to check to see how many of the writers of these books have also written for the New York Times?
I hope that everyone had a good holiday. Or at least the Americans. I hope everyone else had a fantastic Thursday. Mine I spent reading dreamy dreamboat Andrew O'Hagan in the sun, drinking champagne, and then kicking two 10-year-old girls' asses at Nintendo. (Champagne is a performance enhancing drug, evidently.) But the sun has gone away again, probably for the rest of the winter, so we have a few announcements to get through.
I don't do well in the Chicago winter. When the sun does manage to come out, like on Thanksgiving, I'm ecstatic, but it's like getting a two line e-mail from your boyfriend after a week of silence. Maybe I should have higher standards. So I'm packing up and leaving for the month of December to go south. I'll be here the rest of the week, and then Elizabeth Merrick, author of Girly, editor of This is Not Chick Lit, and curator of the Grace Reading Series, will be here for a week. She will be followed by Jennifer Howard, former contributing editor to the Washington Post Book World and currently a staff writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Finally Ned Vizzini, author of Be More Chill and It's Kind of a Funny Story, will be joining us. The week between Christmas and New Year's while you're trapped with your family, then you're on your own. Everyone confused? Fantastic.
November 21, 2006
This week's Guardian Digested Read: In Search of Perfection: Reinventing Kitchen Classics by Heston Blumenthal.
Only pigs with an IQ of more than 140 should be considered when making sausages. I know there has been much debate about cultural relativism in pig IQ testing, but I've always found that asking a pig what spices it prefers to be cooked with sorts out the Gloucestershire Old Spots from the Tamworths. Maris Pipers make the best mash, but beware of potatoes grown at a depth of more than 14.72cms as they have too much dry matter.
The New Yorker now has Chris Ware's four different covers for the Thanksgiving issue, along with the strip "Leftovers" and an audio interview with Ware. All available here.
Last night I spent a couple hours over whiskey sours, trying to determine if we were all suddenly in the Poseidon Adventure or a slasher movie, who would die and who would live to the end. (I almost always died.) Next time, I should suggest that we make up our own London Review of Books personal ads. The New York Times writes about the strange ads that appear there, and the new book (They Call Me Naughty Lola) collecting some of the more memorable.
Mr. Rose knew that something unusual was going on, he said, when the very first ad he received, after starting the column in 1998, began: “67-year-old disaffiliated flâneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding towards pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet.”
Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee wants your impressions of Kurt Vonnegut for the biography he's writing. Personal stories, anecdotes, or even just reflections on reading Vonnegut's books. So e-mail him, or me, and I'll pass your stories along.
It's getting to that part of the year where I have to admit which books I'm just not going to read. Top of the list: the new Thomas Pynchon. I can't bring myself to care. There are many authors I'll probably just never read in my life, and he's one of them, unless there's some sort of desert island, Pynchon library scenario. Also on the list: that new Dave Eggers. No fucking way.
Books from 2007 are already calling to me: Tom Bissell! Ander Monson! Colm Toibin! Bookslut's resident anthropologist Barbara J. King! But there are still a couple books of note left to be published this year. Joanna Scott has a new short story collection out in December, Everybody Loves Somebody. (I spent a while entranced by the cover. It's so sweet and treacly, what with the roses and the big diamond ring and the white dress, but that bee is vaguely sinister. It suits the book very well.) Paul Hornschemeier's Let Us Be/Perfectly Clear is released tomorrow, I believe. Gerard Donovan's Julius Winsome just recently came out. Other than that, we're kind of in the wasteland of winter publishing, and your time is better spent looking for books you overlooked earlier in the year. Maybe this week I'll finally pick up Triangle.
November 20, 2006
Bookslut is looking for an ad salesperson to assist with the development of the website. This is a part-time, paying position. For more information, please e-mail email@example.com. You do not have to be in Chicago to apply.
It's like the most boring Page Six blind item ever. Name that poet!
I won't name names, but as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, we had this huge, giant figure of American poetry visit campus. He was late, shuffled on stage and had to use library books (because he'd forgotten to bring his own). All this could have been written off as charming and eccentric - but then he went on to mumble into the microphone, randomly leaf through the borrowed books and mumble some more.
I spent the weekend forced (long story) to read a boring, overly long science fiction trilogy, so I'm having difficulty rounding up enthusiasm for anything literary this morning. I need to bathe in some Kathy Acker today to get the other books out of my system.
A forensic artist has attempted to show us what Thomas Pynchon probably looks like today. As Entertainment Weekly says, "It's a little jarring seeing the bleary-eyed young author morph into Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World."
Three years ago, I entered my first Golden Testicles competition. What did I know about anything? I grew up on a ranch that was actually a farm, 50 miles from the nearest town, and 75 miles from the nearest woman born after 1950. All I had was my package.
Calvin Trillin's book about his wife, About Alice, is released next month. It originated as a New Yorker essay, one that caused everyone who read it to sit down and weep. He recently traveled to Akron to sample his friend's favorite hamburgers.
One of Trillin's favorite lines during his visit was that anyone who doesn't favor the hamburger of his youth is a sissy. After trying Swensons, Trillin said it was good but ``it's no Winstead's.''
November 17, 2006
In the short term, I’ve been reading a lot of early 20th-century pulp—Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, etc.—and I really think I’d like to riff off that somehow. Maybe a barbarian novel. Maybe about a really polite barbarian. Really weak in the arms. Soft-spoken. Friendly to forest animals. When, in a ruined temple, he confronts the inevitable Old God who lies sleeping a dreamless sleep for centuries and then awakens ravenous for flesh, the barbarian patiently explains to the Old God that he demonstrates all the classic symptoms of hypoglycemia and he should really have his blood-sugar levels checked. That kind of thing.
I'm a little bit behind, but Powell's has had some good author bloggers lately, including Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, and Jess Walter, author of The Zero. One gives advice on what to pair with oxtail soup, the other discusses which bands' song titles can be coopted into short story titles. I'll let you guess which author does what.
Judith Regan is trying really hard not to go to hell for this OJ Simpson thing, starting with a justification on the Drudge Report.
I never lost my desire for his conviction. And if Marcia Clark couldn’t do it. I sure wanted to try.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's wife on Thursday presented the initial three volumes of the first full collection of his works to be published in Russia, a country still struggling with the legacy of the oppressive era he documented.
But don't get too optimistic.
Both links from Artsjournal.
November 16, 2006
Around that period, I met with a British producer, Jeremy Thomas, who is a real independent producer, one of the last independents. And he was interested in a fictional adaptation. And I was on a book tour in Austin, and I met Rick Linklater, and we started talking about a fictional adaptation, and we thought it was an interesting idea. But I didn't sign over the rights to the book for another two years. Rick and I would meet every now and then, and we'd talk about it. We had this idea of taking the title of the book and some of the themes and just situating the whole thing in the lives of characters in a little town. But it wasn't until there was enough of an idea there, until Rick was guaranteed total creative control and there was financing that was going to be completely outside the Hollywood system, that I agreed to sign over the rights to the book.
Barack Obama: Cock Blocker. (Seriously, he almost goes ahead and uses the word.)
NPR interviews William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism author Robert D Richardson.
I spent a great deal of yesterday going through Claudia Roden's cookbooks in preparation for an interview (to be available in the next issue). I love her The Food of Italy, because the first pages immediately contain information on how to properly gut an eel, the best way to make chicken livers, and what to do if you can't find fresh tongue. The Real Food of Italy. (If I want to seduce a boy, I make him calf liver from Roden's cookbook; that way if he wrinkles his nose or makes a grumpy sound, I know immediately not to waste my time.)
Before I clear out my bookmarks of information about Roden, I thought I'd post some here, just in case someone else is obsessed with food.
How Roden began accumulating recipes for her masterwork, The Book of Middle Eastern Food
Roden answers questions from online readers
A recipe for apple cake
Claudia Roden's Istanbul
Novel: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
Nonfiction: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
Poetry: Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey
YA: Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
Haven't read a one. Sorry.
November 15, 2006
I consider myself to be a charming person, but I know that I am unbearable.
He says being published left him with big questions about where he could go next when other people spend their whole lives trying to get where he was. "That's not to say it was a curse. I mean, Dickens wrote his first book when he was in his early twenties," says Vizzini. "But you can get published young, flame out, and never get it back."
Metacritic has a list of 2006's best reviewed books, including Kathryn Davis's The Thin Place and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Not on the list: Jess Walter's The Zero. The book seems to have been slightly ignored, or it was until the National Book Award nomination. I, however, am crazy about it. You can listen to Walter read an excerpt from it on the Harper Collins website.
November 14, 2006
The Chronicle has the reason behind the cancellation of the Dalkey move:
"A major grant we were expecting didn't come through," Mr. O'Brien told The Chronicle in an e-mail message. "That bad news taxed our resources in terms of relocating across country while also continuing to do what we normally do."
I appeared on Da Ali G Show at the height of its fame. Days later I encountered a group of young men in hoodies in a dodgy part of London. "Respec'," one shouted. "The word's respect," I snapped back. Sadly, that's something that is missing in Britain these days. Even the Thames Water Authority has had its name changed to Thames Water. Everything's getting worse. Moan moan, grumble grumble. My son Owen goes to school and even his teachers talk evasive management double-speak. Politicians, accountants, advertisers - shoot them all, that's what I say. Is there any hope for us? None whatsoever. Only Telegraph readers over the age of 80 care any more. I said, ONLY TELEGRAPH READERS OVER THE AGE OF 80 CARE ANY MORE.
Nelson DeMille on The Da Vinci Code in the New York Times:
“I said, ‘This is ridiculous! It makes no sense,’ ” he recalled. “And, well, we all know what happened with that.”
Nelson DeMille on The Da Vinci Code on The Da Vinci Code's book jacket:
"Dan Brown has to be one of the best, smartest, and most accomplished writers in the country. The Da Vinci Code is many notches above the intelligent thriller; this is pure genius."
It's a food day for some reason around here. Maybe it's the smell of a pumpkin roasting in my oven that's inspiring me. The New Yorker has an audio interview of Heat author Bill Buford interviewing Matt Dellinger about communicating with turkeys.
Food writer Alan Richman (Fork it Over) has created a stir with a recent -- and particularly dimwitted -- article for GQ about New Orleans' restaurant scene. New Orleans has some transcendent restaurants, but Richman evidently missed all of them on his recent trip. Not only that, he made some just unbelievable comments:
You’ve heard about the cuisine, of course, but you’ve probably heard wrong. Meals are rarely accompanied by washboard thumping and zydeco bands...
Supposedly, Creoles can be found in and around New Orleans. I have never met one and suspect they are a faerie folk, like leprechauns, rather than an indigenous race...
The Times-Picayune fires back, as did the website Appetites in an entry called "Alan Richman is a Penis, I am Immature, and This is Long." Now Richman responds to the criticism at Appetites.
In this excerpt from How I Learned to Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Cooks, Gabrielle Hamilton admits she thought she could run a restaurant just because she could throw a good dinner party. Even though I can throw a good dinner party, too, even in my abysmally small kitchen, I know I could never work in a restaurant because this weekend I set my stovetop on fire. Making oatmeal. I still have no idea how exactly it happened, but I just moved the pot to another burner, threw some baking soda on the flames and went back to my book in the other room. No one would ever insure my restaurant.
Dalkey Archive Press and the University of Rochester have decided not to go forward with plans to join forces. (Thanks to Gary for the link.)
November 13, 2006
The Asheville Citizen-Times interviews Marisha Pessl's (Special Topics in Calamity Physics) high school English teacher. It's an odd angle to take, sure. And in that picture she appears to be falling or have scoliosis. At least the teacher had nice things to say about her:
“There were very talented students in that class,” he said, mentioning two now in New York trying to make careers as actors, “but she was clearly the one who was going to do something great in literature.”
November 10, 2006
I picked up a copy of Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them because... of some reason, I'm sure. I made the mistake of taking only it on a train to the suburbs, and so I either had to continue reading it or stare out the window for an hour and a half. The structure is: Prose presents an excerpt from a "Great Writer" (usually a dull dead white American man), then states very obvious things about the excerpt in hopes of teaching people to write more like dull dead white American men. I found myself talking back to the book in my head in a childish, sarcastic voice.
Excerpt: "Oh, what can you do with a man like that? What can you do?"
Francine Prose's commentary: "[T]he passage begins with the series of questions asking (Who? The reader? The diety?) what is to be done with 'a man like that.' They are, of course, rhetorical questions."
Voice in my head: "Oh my god, REALLY? BECAUSE I HAD NO IDEA FROM JUST READING THAT EXCERPT ON MY OWN. Thanks for the insight, smart teacher lady."
Prose still thinks she's written a good book, though.
I gave the book in galleys to this wonderful young writer, maybe the second or third person to see it at that stage, and he read it and said to me, “It’s like Harold Bloom, but written by and for human beings.” And that made me so happy. It’s what I had in mind.
If Harold Bloom started teaching 7th grade English, maybe.
Alan Moore will be guesting on the Simpsons.
Writer Kinky Friedman may have failed in his bid for governor of Texas, but he is "ready to form a shadow government."
Columbia Journalism Review has an oral history of reporters embedded with soldiers in Iraq about the cultural divide.
And there were these soldiers and they were just sitting there, taking pieces of bread and throwing them at each other. They were just kids — like twenty-two years old — just playing around. There’s these Iraqi police officers looking at this from out the window and they’re just totally aghast. They’re totally shocked: Look at what they’re doing to bread! You know, bread is considered holy in Islam. And I felt tempted to say something and I didn’t.
(Also: evolution supporters took back the Kansas Board of Education. Okay, back to books now.)
"Howl" recently turned fifty years old, and in celebration there have been several Allen Ginsberg releases: The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, Collected Poems: 1947-1997, and, of course, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript, and Variant Versions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, etc. But Rolf Potts believes that "Howl" hasn't aged as well as Ginsberg's antiwar poem, “Wichita Vortex Sutra.”
Ginsberg’s journey to Kansas, which he undertook in a Volkswagen van purchased with Guggenheim grant money, stemmed from his long-standing fascination with the state (in “Howl,” he mentions Kansas as the place where “the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet”). In one sense, Ginsberg felt that Kansas was politically representative of Middle American support for war and the military-industrial complex — a stereotype that presaged its current “red state” reputation by several decades. But beyond political generalizations, Ginsberg saw Kansas as the mystic center of America, celebrated by Whitman in Leaves of Grass (“chants going forth from the center, from Kansas, and thence equidistant / shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all”). The poet saw Wichita, the ultimate destination of his road-trip poem, as the symbolic heart of this transcendental American vortex.
(And I would just like to point out that to those who didn't follow Kansas's part in the midterm election, they re-elected a female Democrat for governor and ousted a sonofabitch of an attorney general who issued subpoenas for the medical records of women who had had abortions. Suck it, Thomas Frank.)
November 9, 2006
After almost two decades of dreaming on your part, 34-year-old Stephen Hochenko achieved your goal of opening up a small bookstore and café last Thursday, coincidentally in the exact location you had planned to open yours.
Canadians can now enjoy their Alan Moore porn just like Americans.
The CBSA stated that the “depictions and descriptions are integral to the development of an intricate, imaginative, and artfully rendered storyline,” and that “the portrayal of sex is necessary to a wider artistic and literary purpose.” They concluded with “Its importation into Canada is therefore allowed.”
Growing up in the same place as a famous writer can be annoying.
Then there were the Hardy tourists. Books in hand, they arrived by the coachload, fantasising about Julie Christie and Terence Stamp in the film of Far From the Madding Crowd. En route to a Dorset cream tea, they'd corner us, asking how we felt to be living in the pages of a Hardy novel. What could we say? Muddy? Thwarted? That we were going to chase our sheep over a cliff or hold a wife sale that very evening?
Thus began Styron's second act as a depressed person, for which he became, in his words, "reluctantly famous." He eventually became a crusader as well, someone who faced up to the responsibility, once the course had been set, to continue the good work his book had begun. "Almost every day, Bill is in contact with fellow depression sufferers by mail or by phone," Rose Styron wrote in 2001; she cited several instances when her husband, a person who cherished his privacy and solitude, skillfully counseled people who contacted him in the midst of their emotional crises.
Laura Kipnis is interviewed at Chicago Magazine. I know at this point it is beginning to sound like I'm Kipnis's publicist, but I read a lot of books that get shoved in the women's studies section, and most of them are awful. Awful, awful, awful. Offensively bad, whiny, anecdotal instead of studious, pieces of angry fluff. The Bitch in the House almost made me grow a penis I was so embarrassed to be the same gender as most of the essay writers. In the past three years, only two writers have made me stop rolling my eyes: Leslie Cannold (The Abortion Myth and What, No Baby?) and Laura Kipnis. I might not agree with Kipnis on everything, but it certainly provoked a lot of thought and arguments.
Which is why it's so depressing to see other people not thinking about The Female Thing. Chicago Magazine's front page declares "What Do Women Want Now? Men." And there's Kipnis, looking oh so concerned. And don't even get me started on the New York Times review. Yes, NYT, great idea to hire someone who writes dating articles for glossy magazines to review a book that grinds its teeth over dating articles for glossy magazines. Sure, the book talks about Freud and Marx and the changing economic structure, but ultimately it's about girls, right? So the only requirement you need to review the book is a vagina, right? Not like a background in feminist theory or two or more brain cells. You get these hysterical takedowns of the book that way. Of course, Kipnis accidentally commented on that in my interview with her, while we were talking about the Dora case study:
"The areas you find yourself going all ballistic about are the ones worth thinking about."
November 8, 2006
Both writer Claro and translator Brian Evenson (read an interview with him in the new issue of Bookslut here) submit playlists for Electric Flesh at the Largehearted Boy's Book Notes feature. (Hooray for the Virgin Prunes!)
I'm still sort of wandering through the IMPAC looooonglist (138 books), but it's nice to see a tiny glimmer of recognition for such books as John Crowley's Lord Byron's Novel and Lisa Moore's Alligator.
Asra Q. Nomani has noticed a trend in cover art for books about the Muslim world.
Publishing houses, art directors, and photo agencies are increasingly using stock photos of (supposedly) Muslim babes with piercing kohl-lined eyes framed by the pitch-black niqab—the black shroud favored by puritanical Islamic ideology—to sell books about the Islamic world.
November 7, 2006
She is allergic to offering solutions. In one chapter, she wittily denounces “the feminine-industrial complex” and its legion of “Professional Girlfriends.” She herself refuses to be any such girlfriend—far too busy popping the thought balloons of other writers, she doesn’t take the risk of blowing up any herself. And in her determination not to be earnest, not to be prescriptive, she at last ducks out of the implications of even her best insights.
I thought the whole point of the book was that there is no one answer. And then if Kipnis presented solutions, wouldn't she be forced to prove that she has it figured out, that she has created a life outside of these pressures? In the introduction she says point blank that these are personal issues for her as well. I just can't understand why the criticism is, "But she doesn't tell us what to do!" as if women, as one, could construct identical lives that would make us all happy. Please.
Think twice before wearing a miniskirt. You might look like Naomi Campbell, but more likely you'll end up looking like that minger Jordan, who never slept with David no matter what she says. And going out wearing no knickers underneath - I'm mentioning no names here! - just makes you look like a right slapper. Try wearing a pencil skirt, like me. They are so classy - especially if you buy them from Roland Mouret or Alexander McQueen. Empire-line dresses are also perfect for those bloated days when you've eaten breakfast.
I didn't know that Ian McKellan recorded an audiobook version of The Odyssey, perhaps the greatest actor/audio book match up since Jeremy Irons read Lolita. (One hour of listening to that will satisfy all of your sexual needs for the day.) World Hum is equally enthusiastic about the McKellen.
I know that the chances of most of us sitting down nowadays and plowing through 600 pages of antiquity are about the same as meeting an actual Cyclops. But it was originally an oral tale anyway, and in hands of McKellen, the ultimate travel story becomes pure magic.
Lynda Barry is teaching a two day writing course here in Chicago in January. The cost is $200, and you can buy your ticket on eBay. If you're interested, I would go quickly.
Claudia Roden is interviewed for the latest Nextbook podcast. Roden has been one of my favorite cookbook writers for years now, and my copy of her definitive The Book of Middle Eastern Food has been so overused the spine is broken, a puff of flour dust rises from it when you open the cover, and pages have been fused together with pomegranate sauce. Not only are her recipes practical for every day cooking, she's a great writer as well, and the stories of where the recipes came from and who passed it along are fascinating reads. I'm so jealous of the reporter who got to go to her house and have her cook for him.
November 6, 2006
Will Self has a new short story "The Principle" at Nerve.
Emma Thompson is interviewed at New York Magazine about books.
There is no one more vicious than an academic. So my seminal moment in university, having grown up reading the Victorian female novelists, was discovering Gilbert and Gubar’s book The Madwoman in the Attic, which is about Victorian female writers and the disguises they took on in order to express what they wanted to express. That completely changed my life.
I love this headline: "No Chicagoans have expressed an interest in Trib, Sun-Times" -- I mean, have you read these newspapers? It actually refers to the fact that both are for sale and there are no Chicago tycoons willing to waste their money.
Can I ask a question? Have there been no books published in Russia since Nabokov emigrated? No? Oh, okay then.
(As much as I like the idea of Salon's Literary Guide to various countries, it would be nice if more than two of them chose books that were unexpected.)
Courtney Love, uh, made a book. "Wrote" is the wrong word. It's sort of like sneaking a look at someone's really fucked up diary. It's called Dirty Blonde, and it made me pull out my copy of Pretty on the Inside again. Salon sort of reviews the book, sort of just tries to justify Love's existence. It seemed a bit unnecessary until I started reading the comments. People compare Courtney Love to Hitler in those comments. (I wonder if the same people commenting are the same people using Salon's dating service. That would explain some things.)
I just started reading Jess Walter's The Zero over the weekend, which was recently nominated for a National Book Award. He's interviewed at Eye on Books about channeling Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut for this novel.
November 3, 2006
Want to listen to an overly long conversation about America's food supply by three people who have never, evidently, thought about America's food supply before? And need I mention they're all New Yorkers who have possibly never seen a cow before in their lives? And who make fun of a farmer interviewed in the book because the farmer is anti-city? (Have they ever met a farmer? There are a lot of reasons why small town folk hate the big cities and it's not because farmers are simple or crazy like these three imply.) Well, then Slate's Book Club podcast about Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma is for you! It's just as boring and annoying as the book club that meets at the local Barnes & Noble!
(Watch the Real Dirt on Farmer John documentary. I cried when they interviewed a farmer on the development on fertile farmland. It's coming out on DVD soon.)
November 2, 2006
The Agony Column interviews Mark Z. Danielewski about >Only Revolutions for their podcast.
A reader from Worthing, West Sussex, recently attempted to buy a copy of Ian Buruma's Murder In Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance in her local bookshop. 'I'm sorry,' said the sales assistant, 'but the book has been banned.'
Atlantic Books, who publish Mr Buruma, assure us that the book is not only freely available but also selling well. It turns out a wholesaler misinformed the bookshop. However, the assistant must take responsibility for the following - startling - suggestion: 'Why not try Mein Kampf instead?'
I have always wondered why people love the Joy of Cooking. It's a horrible cookbook. Always has been. It's more of a cultural document than something you should actually cook out of. All it reminds me of is one hideous Midwestern casserole after another.
(Recently I had a conversation with two bookish types about The Corrections, a book I liked well enough. I found the details about the Midwest eerily accurate. Anyway, the other two grew up on the East Coast and admitted they found one particular detail hard to believe: the green pea, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise salad. Having eaten that exact salad through my childhood at every church potluck, I could assure them it existed. And I'm almost positive that hideous creation came out of the Joy of Cooking.)
He was 81.
November 1, 2006
Batman doesn't believe Robin exists, according to kids.
Peter Kuper has updated his dispatches from Oaxaca.
If you're a writer, Neil Gaiman instructs you on how to protect your intellectual property after your death.
Hi, can someone make QI come to America? Please? I spent hours transfixed by the show when I was in Ireland, learning random things like the scientific equation for a custard exploding. I need a DVD player that can play UK DVDs obviously.
On Halloween, some newspapers used the holiday to write about using science to debunk fears, about the biology of bats, about Mary Roach's particular interest in the dead. Others just wrote about slutty costumes.
The Wicked Son is the latest incarnation of Mamet's scalding lament over what he variously calls "lapsed Jews," "fallen-away Jews," "opted-out" Jews, or "conflicted winter Jews" (Jews divided over whether to observe Christmas or Hanukkah). The title itself refers to the Passover Haggadah, the ritual retelling of deliverance from bondage. In rigid, alienated response to the Passover story, the wicked son asks (as quoted by Mamet), "What does this ritual mean to you?" In Mamet's pointed reading, this "wicked Jewish child removes himself from his tradition and sets up as a rationalist and judge of those who would study, learn, and belong."
I know I've already linked to this, but read Shalom Auslander's response in his latest column for Nextbook.
The title of the book is taken from the Passover parable of the four sons—the good son, the wicked son, the moron, and the one who doesn't even know how to ask a question—which is not only one of the most famous parables in Judaism, it is also one of the most corrosive. Written by dreadful parents for other dreadful parents, it is a handy primer on labeling your children, favoring the one who doesn't ask the difficult questions, and rejecting the ones who would think for themselves. It could have been written by Tony Snow. The only good son is the one who agrees; the others are wicked, stupid, or simply to be pitied. Moreover, there is no thought given, or suggestion that such thought should be, to the nature of the children themselves, beyond how they—oh, those messy, stiff-necked children!—affect the adults. Why is this supposedly wise son so desperate to please? Does that concern anyone?
JC Hallman, author of The Devil is a Gentleman: Exploring America's Religious Fringe, has an essay on Salon about becoming a paramedic.
Seed has put up their article about Edward O. Wilson, author of Consilience and The Creation. He is currently appealing to the religious right to help protect the environment. There is also a video interview, with Wilson talking about his research on ants and why he still writes everything out by hand.