January 31, 2007
I've always been more of a Playboy kind of guy as opposed to being a Hustler sort of fellow. Unfortunately almost all bushes seem to have disappeared. I don't know if it's Chernobyl or some other ecological disaster, but I haven't seen pubic hair on a woman in years.
Patrick McCabe has been giving a string of interviews about his book Winterwood. This interview with Peter Murphy McCabe explains why he doesn't like the "bog gothic" label and his work with Neil Jordan on the Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto films. Also note that The Butcher Boy is finally being released on DVD. Its disappearance was some sort of crime against Americans without multi regional DVD players.
He's also interviewed at the Sunday Times, mostly about how bleak and dark Winterwood is.
“There’s no redemption at all in it — this is as dark as it gets,” McCabe says. “In a way, with this book, I was in revolt against the elegy of my own style. There’s a tendency towards the elegiac in everything I’ve done — towards the end, there’s a kind of a hope thing. So I said, no, I’m going to swing that right back on itself, because I don’t see things that way any more. It’s like redemption is the deus ex machina that you’re dragging in because you still believe. And I don’t think I do still believe in it.”
Shalom Auslander needs some better children's literature to read to his son. His son is obsessed with Maisy Mouse.
I honestly don't think she draws these, Buddy, I've got to tell you. I think she's abducted a bunch of kids, and I think she keeps them at the bottom of a well and every morning she passes a bucket down to them filled with markers and drawing paper. She draws the mousey with a grin or else she gets the hose again. Lucy doesn't give a shit, Son, trust me.
Bookslut's own Barbara J. King is interviewed at Salon about her new book Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion. She explains how an anthropologist focussed on apes becomes interested in the beginnings of religion.
When I was watching [bonobos], I noticed that not only were they very tuned in and emotional with each other, but they were doing some things that I didn't understand. Sue explained that one of the apes was a female who couldn't herself have children. That female would often act in ways that seemed to be beyond even adoption behaviors with other infants. She would, for example, take a squirrel and strap it across her belly as mothers do when they're carrying their young, and apparently enter into an imaginary relationship with this other animal, as if she had an infant.
January 30, 2007
This week's Guardian Digested Read: Not Tonight Mr. Right: Why Good Men Come to Girls Who Wait by Kate Taylor.
Let's pretend there's some sciency bits to this. I know we girls don't really do science - we struggle to get the batteries in our vibrators the right way up - but I'll try to make it easy. When women have an orgasm - if we're lucky!! - we release a hormone called oxytocin that immediately makes us do silly things such as ironing men's shirts.
Continuing my streak of nasty little books, I'm now reading Patrick McCabe's Winterwood. (McCabe has been a favorite of mine since Butcher Boy.) He's interviewed at Time Out London about tricks of narrative and the modernization of Ireland.
‘If you look at some of the old cowboy songs that started out as kind of campfire ballads, they are absolutely scatological and profane. The tension is when you yearn for something that wasn’t there in the first place – some lost paradise.’ But just as ‘auld’ Ireland fetishists are lampooned, so too is modern life. Here is Temple Bar, ‘the epicentre of Dublin’s hedonistic empire, a playground exclusively populated by louche adolescent Euro-ramblers and indigenous chemical-fuelled youths vertiginously wading in the currents of an ever-expanding opalescent ocean, shorn of history and oblivious of religion.’
A traveling exhibition called “Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939” focuses on journalists like George Orwell and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who changed the way that wars are covered. The New York Times takes a closer look.
I know you're dying to know how Robert Stack got women. Well, there's a book being shopped that will enlighten us all.
"They'd have their dates over in Bob's apartment and there'd be drinking and carrying on, and eventually they'd go into the bedroom where they had flags of different countries around the world. And if the girl couldn't identify what country the flag was from, she had to put out. It was like, 'Ooh, you don't know? You're going to have to go back to school. I'd better give you some lessons.' "
Strangely enough, I do exactly the same thing with men.
I wanted some dialog in the beginning, mostly to say something about the characters. After that introduction though that was no longer necessary. When the zombies show up it's pretty much all action, one big chase sequence, that worked better with no words.
January 29, 2007
It was written in the late 50s, after the famous Khrushchev speech at the 20th congress of the CCC party in Moscow. This speech, acknowledging just some of Stalin's crimes, was like a depth charge under the left, large parts of which insisted that "the capitalist press" had invented it. I was joking, but then could no longer joke, that every time the phone rang another comrade had had a religious conversion, taken to drink, committed suicide, or turned into his or her opposite. The collapse of communism created many a fine businessman. If you have spent your life analysing the crimes of capitalism there could not be a better apprenticeship for becoming one.
I have been spending my time reading nasty little books like Lydie Salvayre's Everyday Life and Gerard Donovan's Julius Winsome in the bathtub while smoking Cuban cigarillos that I smuggled into the country. (Hi, US Customs Officials!) It feels like a particularly wintry Chicago thing to do.
Everyday Life is narrated by a woman who wants to kill her new co-worker, and with every page I was reminded of my old officemate back in Austin. He would make up little songs and sing them aloud about the things he was doing. While he looked for the bottle of Windex, he would sing a song about looking for Windex. If he was doing something with a hammer, he would invariably sing "If I Had a Hammer" over and over for hours.
Reading Julius Winsome, set during a Maine winter, in an unheated apartment mostly reminded me of reading The Devil's Highway by Urrea in an un-air conditioned apartment in August. Once he starts describing just exactly how the body starts to die of heat stroke, you're checking yourself for symptoms. It also made me realize that since Donovan is coming to the Bookslut Reading Series this week, this will be the second February in a row that revolved around a dead animal. Kathryn Davis read the passage from The Thin Place about the cat being eaten, and Julius Winsome revolves around a man dealing out his revenge with a rifle for his murdered dog. I'll try not to make this a pattern.
Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain interview one another for WCPN about their show on Ohio's food scene.
The Newberry Library's Winter/Spring seminars are now open for registration. You can read Ulysses with an instructor, listen to a series of lectures on William James (yes, please!), or discover that there has never been a decent woman Irish writer in the history of Irish literature. Your choice.
Aren’t you sick of playing by men’s rules, having male editors, writing about what men want you to write about? she asked. She was building her own gang, her own posse, to take on the publishing industry, and I was going to be her capo. We had to make our own group, she said, like the Jews.
I feel a little dirty reading this, but the New York Magazine reveals some more about the Judith Regan incident.
A few Ryszard Kapuscinski links:
NPR has made available an interview with Ryszard Kapuscinski from 1988 available online.
The Guardian has an excerpt from his memoir.
You can read a handful of his pieces at the Granta website.
While just a montn ago you could still find half a dozen stories about the death of the independent bookstore in the news, the new story is the rebirth of the independent bookstore. Last year, 97 new indies opened, and the Christian Science Monitor wants to know what the hell they're thinking.
In Chicago, shopping at the new Open Books will not only get you a few books, it'll buff up your karma. The downstairs bookstore funds the upstairs literacy project.
The one thing you should read this morning is Michael Pollan's article in the New York Times, "Unhappy Meals." I've found it interesting how Pollan has turned from rambling NPR guy with an interesting but barely focused book (The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World) to the most compelling science-focussed food writer around. There are not enough positive adjectives to describe his newest book The Omnivore's Dilemma. "Unhappy Meals" traces how we all became nutrition obsessed while still gaining weight and becoming less healthy.
January 26, 2007
Nerve.com has added another website, this one devoted to parenting instead of sex. Guess which one I never read. It's called Babble, and it has Steve Almond blogging about fatherhood and articles on whether or not it's safe to dye your hair while pregnant. But it also now has Lisa Carver, Nerve's most interesting writer, going after fatherhood memoirs. Her main target is Neal Pollack's Alternadad. Although as much as I like Carver, did not everyone get a memo saying that Pollack's Greatest Living American Writer thing was a satire? Did we even need a memo about that?
And honestly, I expected more from Carver after reading her takedown of chick lit in Nerve. Her main argument in Babble appears to be that sure, she writes about being a parent, too, but at least she only does it for a magazine.
Until we get a handle on the awe and the tragedy that is having children, I think we should stick to magazines. Because, I mean, we shouldn't just shut up either, just because we're raw and awkward. Online magazines are the perfect place to make our mistakes and not have it matter. Because if our reader opens one article and it's crappy, they can just hit "close" and click on something else.
So therefore her articles on parenting are okay because they're more disposable? Oh, Lisa Carver, please come back and write the takedown that this area so desperately needs.
Take the Guardian quiz about Scottish literature. My Scottish ancestors are rolling in their graves over my shoddy score.
When I saw the link saying Frank Miller was on NPR, I was almost giddy thinking that maybe he would be on Fresh Air. That would be a show to listen to. Unfortunately, he's just included in this round up of writers and artists on Talk of the Nation, discussing the State of the Union. His section begins around the 30 minute mark.
I guess it's good to know that Slate will at least wait until you're dead to tell the world what a dick they think you are.
Now, this is a rather fascinating portrait of female nature and relations between the sexes, though it's unclear to which decade it applied—it has the slightly musty air of 1960-ish Kingsley Amis, wrapped in nostalgia for the merry days when sexual conquest required an arsenal of tactics deployed by bon-vivantish cads on girdled, girlish sexual holdouts. "Oh Mr. Hitchens!" you imagine one of the potential conquests squealing at an errant hand on nylon-clad knee.
Tom Stoppard is the new Lost. At least in New York.
New City Chicago has a guide to the independent bookstores of Chicago, and there are many more here than I realized. Two just opened within a few blocks of my house, a comic book store and an "occult" bookstore with ever changing, clever window displays.
January 25, 2007
Ryszard Kapuscinski, a globe-trotting journalist from Poland whose writing, often tinged with magical realism, brought him critical acclaim and a wide international readership, died yesterday in Warsaw. He was 74.
January 24, 2007
Would you call it over-the-top to begin a review of Tristram Stuart's The Bloodless Revolution, a book about vegetarianism, with a scene from Babi Yar of a young boy beating a kitten to death with a brick? What's the segue, you ask?
If I made any connection between the kitten and the dead animal I was about to consume, it has been erased from my memory.
Yeah. Not over-the-top at all.
When I was an awkward late-1980s teenager with a penchant for 60s folk music and Sondheim showtunes, I was so notoriously bad at making mix tapes that, many years later, my high school best friend inquired whether my adult love interest had yet “survived the mix”.
Bora Zivkovic is interviewed at Nature about the anthology he edited, The Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs 2006.
By now, more articles have been written about Sassy magazine than ever appeared between their covers. But until a magazine that good ever reappears, we'll all remain annoyingly nostalgic about it. Nerve has the latest BRING BACK SASSY, ON THE INSIDE WE'RE ALL STILL 15 article.
I had been meaning to read Joseph Brodsky's essays ever since I interviewed Dubravka Ugresic (Thank You for Not Reading) a few years back. She quoted Brodsky's essays repeatedly in her book, and then in the interview happily compared him to Eeyore. Brodsky, in this interview with the Boston Globe:
"I was a normal Soviet boy," he says. 'I could have become a man of the system. But something turned me upside down, 'Notes from the Underground.' I realized what I am. That I am bad."
I finally picked up On Grief and Reason this week and it diminished my readers' block. Also helping: the first sentence of Lydie Salvayre's Everyday Life. "I read yesterday that violin strings are made from sheep intestines."
January 23, 2007
I originally intended this book to be only about those alternative communities that live on the fringes of our society. But as I discovered that I was unable to let more than a page go by without some smart-arse reference to Nietzsche, Durkheim and Milton, I realised it was actually all about letting everyone know how cleverly contrarian I am. This initially caused me disquiet, until I remembered the consoling words of the great philosopher, Alainus de Bottonus: "Blessed are the Oxbridge graduates, for they shall inherit the Earth."
The book I'm most excited about in 2007 is Eddie Campbell's Black Diamond Detective Agency. As I have said a billion times before, Campbell's Fate of the Artist was one of my favorite books of last year. And I finally replaced his collaboration with Alan Moore, From Hell, and have begun rereading it. (The new edition has French Flaps! It almost makes it worth having to buy a second copy.) And I am addicted to Campbell's blog, what with the look at the From Hell script and his tale of finding the original version of Alec in an attic.
First Second Books has created a trailer for Black Diamond, complete with an overblown voiceover ("a crime that would SHAKE THE WORLD!") to get you excited.
This has been your Eddie Campbell update for the day. I'm sure this will get tiring after a while.
I can't go to this tonight, but I wish I could. Aaron Belz is reading at the Hyde Park Art Center here in Chicago at the Series A Reading Series, dedicated to "experimental" writing (can we find a new word for that? It makes me think of broccoli made into sheets of paper or something -- either way I'm not going to want to eat it). The website has all of the info.
I was at this birthday party for a child, and I took a bite of the birthday cake and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. The parents were so proud that they had provided this "healthy" birthday cake, because it didn't have anything in it that would make you want to eat a cake. It didn't have eggs, or milk, or wheat, or butter, of course, and it didn't have any sugar because, of course, that could kill you immediately.
January 22, 2007
My problem is not just that I do a job that's on the sidelines, not properly integrated into society, but originally I felt I didn't want to meet writers too much, because you get a nice guy and how do you deal with his writing? Then after Sylvia [Plath] died, the malice and glee and bitchery that was floating about ... There was more life and liveliness and appetite in Plath writing about death than there is in the collected works of Philip Larkin writing about what a bitch it is to be alive.
Wired for Books has hours of audio interviews with Calvin Trillin (The Tummy Trilogy, About Alice), ranging from 1983 to 1989. If your job allows you to have headphones, you won't have to work all day.
Chris Hedges writes about his experiences researching the book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America for Alternet.
Driving down a highway lined with gas stations, fast food restaurants and dollar stores I often got vertigo, forgetting for a moment if I was in Detroit or Kansas City or Cleveland. There are parts of the United States, including whole sections of former manufacturing centers such as Ohio, that resemble the developing world, with boarded up storefronts, dilapidated houses, pot-hole streets and crumbling schools. The end of the world is no longer an abstraction to many Americans.
Twelve of the most interesting writers in the Northwest have been selected by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to become writers in residence, including Jonathan Raban, Sherman Alexie, Rebecca Brown, and Ellen Forney. One can only hope this becomes a trend.
January 19, 2007
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about shoes. Or clothes. Or purses.
The authors of See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit offer a step-by-step guide to writing chick lit for Times Online, making it completely unnecessary for anyone to buy their book.
And lord knows I even bore myself whenever the phrase "chick lit" crops up again, but I was reading the back of a copy of Adele Parks's Still Thinking of You and came across this horrifying passage:
"Rich has always been skeptical about falling in love. Natasha has always fully expected to. And when these two find each other, they win the entire True Love package -- tenderness and hot sex and open-eyed kisses..."
I didn't realize kissing with my eyes open was part of the True Love package. That must be why I haven't found my Princess Bride-esque happiness.
I've been going through old bookmarks of things I never quite got around to reading, and discovered these two: Jorge Luis Borges's audio excerpts from lectures he gave at Harvard, and mp3s of William Carlos William reading his own poetry.
A longlist of 20 books has been announced for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize. The nominees include Ismail Kadare, Javier Cercas, Niccolò Ammaniti, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o. You can read more about it on the Independent website.
The Decibel Penguin prize, an Arts Council initiative awarded to writers of "Asian, African and Caribbean background," has been forced to change its entry criteria after an intervention by the Commission for Racial Equality.
January 18, 2007
Meghan O'Rourke writes about the love poems that Thomas Hardy wrote to his wife, after she had picked up her things and moved into the attic to get away from him.
The sensational HarperCollins imprint of Judith Regan, the publisher who nearly brought us O.J. Simpson's imaginary "confession" to murder, has been temporarily renamed "HC" and in the fall will be dispersed throughout the company.
It's a shame that this interview with Thant Myint-U, author of The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma is conducted by Terry Gross, because he and his book are both so interesting, and Gross is not.
Thank you to Lauren Sandler, Barbara J. King, and Laura Kipnis for last night's reading. I think Lauren scared the crowd a little with her tales of Evangelicals' pursuit of young blood from her book Righteous (her book scared the crap out of me), but the night was softened a bit with tales of Neanderthals' burial techniques and what that says about the progress of religious thought (that would be from Barbara's book Evolving God), and the economic value of the possession of a vagina (Laura Kipnis, The Female Thing). Softened is maybe the wrong word.
Next Wednesday, we have Neal Pollack, Adrienne Martini, and Leigh Anne Wilson joining us at the Hopleaf.
January 17, 2007
Expect posting here to be a bit dull and lackluster until this situation with my ears gets sorted out. It's surprisingly difficult to concentrate on a book with your ears constantly crackling and popping and aching. Fucking airplanes. In the meantime, go read Maud's post on the Literature from the Axis of Evil anthology.
This is, I believe, the fifth time that the Guardian has chosen to run a picture of Zadie Smith with an article that barely mentions her. Today, it's a story of Willie Davis, a teacher who won the 2007 Willesden short story prize. Smith's connection? She was one of the judges. Yes, we know she's cute, Guardian. Make it up to Davis by reading her winning short story online.
I needed a new book contract in order to feed my family.
Neal Pollack will be appearing at next week's Bookslut Reading Series, which has its 2007 debut tonight with Laura Kipnis, Barbara J. King, and Lauren Sandler.
Just in case you thought the Ghost Rider movie was going to be at the very least watchable:
Eva Mendes wants to make sure she pleases movie fans - even if that means enhancing her chest size.
Eva made her breasts bigger for her role in the new comic book movie "Ghost Rider."
Thanks to Brian for sending me the link to a video of Harlan Ellison reading "Prince Myshkin" online. His pronunciation of "Dostoevsky" will never leave my head.
January 16, 2007
Being English, the one pornographic story I that have written—called "Tastings" in Smoke and Mirrors, the story collection before this—was deeply embarrassing. It took about four years to write: I would write a page, stop, exit that document with my ears burning and my face red, and then it would be six or eight months before I'd go back and write another page.
The Independent thought it would be a good idea to have Martin Amis answer some questions by readers, but couldn't be bothered to find readers who wanted to ask anything other than "Why are you such a douche?" Amis answers pretty much how you'd expect.
Here's a good one (though I can hardly claim it as my own): the phrase is "fuck off".
Some of the Old Shes weren't happy about the arrival of the Squirts and planned to kill them. But the younger Clefts, led by another Maire, were prepared to forgive the occasional gang rape and stepped in to save all the Squirts whose Tubes made them too stupid to save themselves. How did everyone feel about this new prelapsarian state? We don't know because everyone was stuck in a 1960s feminist timewarp and had no inner world or emotions worth mentioning.
When flipping through a book, trying to find something to read, there's nothing that will get my attention faster than a picture of a man in a white lab coat, dangling a baby from a pencil. I came across that in Rebecca Lemov's World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men. (Watson, who I mostly remember from Psych 101 class as being the guy who tortured babies to try to make them afraid of white rabbits, was testing the baby's gripping strength.) There's also an illustration of what looks to be a giant rat eating a baby, but alas, is not. The New York Times reviewed Laboratory last year.
Slate, which previously helpfully told parents they were causing their children's autism with television, now says there is no autism epidemic whatsoever. Roy Richard Grinker's Unstrange Minds theorizes that there are not more cases of autism, just more diagnoses. Did they, by the way, apologize for making parents freak out for the past six months? Please. We're talking about Slate.
January 15, 2007
But also intriguing to many is the documentary’s revelation of a C.I.A. connection to the history of The Paris Review. In the film, Mr. Matthiessen, best known as a novelist, environmental activist and advocate of American Indian rights, admits publicly for the first time that he was a young C.I.A. recruit at the time he helped start the magazine, and used it as his cover.
All fiction is boring. No really, all of it. Used to be good, maybe, but that was a while ago. I mean, if Updike is writing badly, and John Banville said something about Ian McEwan writing badly, then the whole thing must be a disaster. Oh wait, I guess that Dennis Cooper book was pretty good, and then that Yellow Dog wasn't as bad as everyone said. Now, what was I talking about again?
*Which, to be fair to Liddle, is bad enough to make you question the future of literature.
January 12, 2007
This January is such a dead zone for books even the Guardian has given up and is running stories like "Just how ugly was Dante anyway?" I'm mostly spending my time catching up on issues of London Review of Books and the new issue of Virginia Quarterly Review. (They've put the latest installment of the Art Spiegelman series they're running, Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*!, online.)
And because it's so grey and rainy outside today, I'll probably spend hours with this: William Blake's notebooks at the British Library. At the Independent, Michael Glover asks you to care about Blake.
Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean are interviewed at Minnesota Public Radio about their collaborations.
Bookslut is in need of a Spring intern. Fame! Glamour! Free books! My pastry chef friend sometimes drops off brownies! E-mail if interested.
January 11, 2007
When it comes to book jacket design, I tend to prefer US editions to the UK. (For example, David Mitchell in the UK, David Mitchell in the US.) But someone please explain to me how a book cover went from this (thematic, evocative, creepy), to this (possibly just the first image in a clip art collection). It's a shame, too, because Colm Tóibín's book is amazing.
Ian Rankin (good lord he has a great voice) takes the Guardian around a tour of Edinburgh for their podcast. (MP3 link.)
Dirk Deppey at Journalista has a few comments on the nominees for the LGBT in Comics Award.
Green Lantern is mentioned because Power Girl once tells the title character that a male supervillain has a crush on him. This is a joke, right?
"I was told that I should talk about my agoraphobia, because another writer on the list is a cancer sufferer [Michael Cox, who won a £500,000 advance for his Victorian-set drama The Meaning of Night, and who is losing his sight due to the disease]. To be honest, I couldn't care less about publicity and I'm certainly not going down that my-life's-a-misery route."
January 10, 2007
The Splintered Mind noticed that books on ethics are more likely to be stolen from the philosophy section of libraries than non-ethics books. Now he breaks the statistics down even further. But I also have to mention the comments section.
I could be wrong, but I'm guessing there might be a difference between those doing normative ethics and meta-ethics. (E.g., it's harder to imagine a Kantian/utilitarian normative ethicist stealing Kant's Critique of Practical Reason or a copy of Singer and His Critics, than say, a meta-ethicist stealing Gibbard's Wise Choices, Apt Feelings.) No offense to meta-ethics!
Who knew people that polite still existed on the Internet.
Poetry: Letter to Patience by John Haynes
First Novel: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Novel: Restless by William Boyd
Biography: Keeping Mum by Brian Thompson
Children's Book: Set in Stone by Linda Newbery
The book that kept me up all night, and then awake for another hour trying to determine if the occasional weird sound in my apartment was a psycho killer, my friendly ghost Bruno, or a psycho killer, was Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. I don't spook easily (such a fucking lie), but Flynn managed to hit a few topics I find especially creepy: crazy families, pulled teeth, small towns with lots to hide, and 13-year old girls. You can read an excerpt online here.
That’s the Johnny Cash Children’s Album, re-released last year by Columbia Records. Some of the songs are about the usual Johnny Cash topics: Dead dogs, dead grandfathers, and dead bear hunters, but there’s also a great counting song, a fun alphabet song, and a weird little song about what it would be like to have a pet dinosaur.
I had no idea such a thing existed, but now I need to own it.
Watch this: ArtsJournal's video of the day has Margaret Atwood discussing myths with Bill Moyers.
January 9, 2007
"Maybe falling in love with Father Daniel the unavailable Catholic priest will give me some emotional depth," she thought. Just then her phone rang.
"I've got another hideous murder scene for you," said Detective Jane Rizzoli. "By the way, my parents have just decided to get separated and I'm still tormented by the killer we caught in the last book. Does this make me any more interesting or sympathetic?"
Fairfax County Library would like us all to calm down about the removal of classics from the shelves.
Although we occasionally reduce the number of copies of a particular title -- perhaps trimming Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls from 110 copies to 108, for example -- we’re committed to offering classic texts by western culture’s leading authors.
I run what I would call a friendly dictatorship at Bookslut. I've been known to make a petty call once or twice based on personal taste, but for the most part, what the contributors want to write about, I publish. Today is the first time, however, that we have a new issue in which a columnist says I'm full of shit. And on this specific topic, I do have to say, "Right back at you, babe," as much as I like Adrienne. I am a kind and loving dictator. I can handle dissenting opinions within the contributors.
There are many writers who did not say I was full of shit this month, however. Heather Smith concludes her look at 2006 book covers with the worst of the year. We also have interviews with Gabrielle Bell, Tim Sandlin, and Rachel Manija. Nick Mamatas explains to Geoffrey Goodwin that he wrote a young adult novel because kids should "find out that the nation-state is a lie now, right?"
Liz Miller writes a love letter to Andrew Davies, Eryn Loeb wishes feminist writing would produce something other than an endless stream of anthologies, and Clayton Moore talks to some of the best crime writers around about their new books. We also have reviews of new books by Joshua Cohen, Paul Muldoon, Frederick Seidel, Alissa Quart, and more.
January 8, 2007
It had completely slipped my mind that the ex-boyfriend who stole my copy of From Hell also stole Aleksandar Zograf's Bulletins from Serbia, a book I liked very much. That man is going to go to hell. Zogrof has a new book, Regards from Serbia, and he is interviewed at the Comics Reporter.
When the wars (in what used to be called Yugoslavia) started in 1991, I was 28 years old. In 2006, when the book was concluded, I was 43. Under normal circumstances, you would call it the focus of the lifetime of a man, but (just like so many people here) I spent these years hiding from the draft, trying to make ends meet, watching the worst political option developing, the worst scum coming to power, then my town being a target of the awful bombing campaign, and so on.
Novelist and Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk devoted the front page of a major Turkish newspaper on Sunday to the oppression of artists in his native country, fulfilling an old dream of becoming a professional journalist, if only for a day.
Pamuk, whose trial last year for the crime of "insulting Turkishness" received international condemnation, has a degree in journalism but had never practiced the profession. He was given editorial privileges for the Sunday edition of the newspaper Radikal.
Chris Hedges, who wrote the very good War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, has returned with the book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Nothing sets my teeth on edge faster than a liberal throwing around the word "Nazi" or "Fascist" in comparison with the current political system, proving in one second they have no sense of proportion, but Hedges explains why he carefully chose the title:
You're right, "fascism" or "fascist" is a terribly loaded word, and it evokes a historical period, primarily that of the Nazis, and to a lesser extent Mussolini. But fascism as an ideology has generic qualities. People like Robert O. Paxton in the "Anatomy of Fascism" have tried to quantify them. Umberto Eco did it in "Five Moral Pieces," and I actually begin the book with an excerpt from Eco: "Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt." I think there are enough generic qualities that the group within the religious right, known as Christian Reconstructionists or dominionists, warrants the word. Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes.
Last week while I was stoned on synthetic opiates, deaf as a... whatever they compare deaf things to these days, watching the pigeons and wrens on my fire escape for hours on end, it turns out things were actually happening. Libraries in Fairfax County decided to get rid of books that people weren't reading, including the classics. Also: books on tulips.
Meanwhile, half of the independent publishing scene was collapsing because AMS, the company that owns PGW, filed for bankruptcy. This is why Moby Lives radio needs to come back -- so that when I wake from my stupor I have something to listen to to fill me in on what I missed. You hear me, Dennis?
January 5, 2007
Several years back, when my friends and I first discovered Calvin Trillin, we all had the same thought: NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE US AS MUCH AS CALVIN LOVES ALICE. (We were young and full of self pity.) It turns out that this is a pretty standard response. The book About Alice, however, flips that on its head. Now it's more like WE ARE NOT AS DESERVING OF LOVE AS ALICE WAS.
This interview with Trillin on NPR is pretty dull. The interviewer just keeps setting Trillin up to retell the anecdotes that are in the book. But if you are thinking that you don't want to read a book that you know will make you cry for an hour after you finish it, the interview might convince you.
(I've also been thinking about how About Alice compares to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, a book I admired, certainly, but felt about ten yards removed from. With Trillin's book, it's like a conversation about a horrible thing with a friend. With Didion, I felt like I was eavesdropping on someone's terrible story in an emergency room. There was an emotional response, but in the end I could just walk away. I wasn't connected to it like I was About Alice. Perhaps that is because I've read about Alice Trillin in Calvin's books for years, or maybe it's just because he writes with a warmth and immediacy that Didion did not.)
January 4, 2007
Llewellyn Hinkes imagines a conversation between assorted Christopher Hitchenses.
Christopher Hitchens #1: I’d like to start off this week’s episode of “The Hitchens Group” with a quote by Hitchens #7524 in reference to Iraq; “There will be no war—there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.” My question is: How much would you have to eat to vomit enough at this sort of delusional claptrap?
My apologies for the slow start this morning. I was busy crying in the bathtub while reading Calvin Trillin's About Alice.
January 3, 2007
Anne Ishii -- Director of Marketing and Publicity for Vertical, Friend of Bookslut (I don't know what that means), and Orderer of Whiskey -- is interviewed at the Comics Reporter about Vertical's forays into manga.
That said, with something like Buddha or Ode to Kirihito, the content is so rich with narrative, and the sheer heft of the thing itself required extra special care. We thought about doing mass market paperbacks of Buddha or a shorter serialized version of Kirihito to make it more accessible to the manga market, but then we realized something really crucial to our marketing -- the people who buy $10 mass market manga are not the people who buy Tezuka. It's like trying to sell Cuban cigars to crack-heads.
Tillie Olsen, whose short stories, books and essays lent a heartfelt voice to the struggles of women and working-class people, died on Monday in Oakland, Calif. She was 94. (Thanks to Brian for the link.)
And at a relatively early stage I probably realized intuitively that when it came to settling down or being part of a family or a community, I was not very well-prepared. But the compensation was that there were other things for which my background had equipped me quite well. So, if you set me down in Rwanda tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t be culture shocked and I would probably feel no more estranged than I do in India, England or America. So I think, yeah, in that sense, my upbringing schooled me, I suppose, in expatriation and in outsidership, which is to say in writing, in a way, certainly in observation, because everywhere I was, whether it was in England or California or India, it was a foreign place to me.
January 2, 2007
Rolf Potts draws a line between one Egyptian's bad haircut in Greeley, Colorado to current jihadist thought.
In other words, before Qutb returned to Egypt to write his most influential and incendiary Islamist treatises (for which he was ultimately hanged by Egyptian president Gamal Nasser in 1966), the man who would one day influence terrorists passed his time in America as the most banal of interlopers: a tourist.
I personally may not be able to generate animosity today, so we will substitute mine with some of Shalom Auslander's. He has some to go around today.
I am reminded almost daily of the time God wanted destroy Sodom, and I think maybe I've been a little too hard on the Guy. I imagine Abraham here in Los Angeles, and I imagine God saying, "I am going to destroy LA," and Abraham says, as he did regarding Sodom, "But what if you find fifty righteous men there, will you still destroy it then?" and I imagine a well-timed beat before Abe and God start laughing.
"Just kidding," says Abe. "Burn it."
I am in Los Angeles. And I want to kill.
I'm not really into end of the year reflection (too afraid I'll take stock of my life and start crying, never quite able to stop), but I did finish off my list of books read in 2006. Drug induced musings follow below.
Fun Home was great, yes. Absolutely. But it was (as always) frustrating seeing a book I admired and liked completely take over while two comics I loved loved loved (Renee French's The Ticking and Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist) got almost no attention.
The universe really, really, really wanted me to read some William James this year. Not only did three of my favorite nonfiction books revolve around William James (Robert D. Richardson's biography, Deborah Blum's Ghost Hunters, JC Hallman's The Devil is a Gentleman), but the universe sent pretty but useless boys to mention James in conversation, made sure every non-James book I read mentioned him in some way, and put more than one copy of The Varieties of Religious Experience into my possession. I read it on an 18-hour bus ride, it changed my life, and now all I can talk about is William James. So thank you, universe. I got the message.
I started reading poetry again, after, um, well, 28 years of not reading poetry. August Kleinzahler rocks my world.
I started many more books this year, finished fewer.
The best book related decision I made this year was packing Graham Greene's travel writing for my vacation. When things were going not-according-to-plan, I had a readymade mantra: "Well, at least I'm not Graham Greene, afraid of turkeys and riding a mule through the Mexican jungle." That got shortened slightly when I was on a boat in the Atlantic on a rough day and the people around me were vomiting off the side: "NOT ON A DONKEY, NOT ON A DONKEY, NOT ON A DONKEY."
Bookslut needs a feminism/gender issue columnist. E-mail if interested.
January's blog postings have been brought to you by the makers of Hydrocodone, a magical drug that I have been on ever since I blew out my ears on the plane ride back to Houston, and then again on the flight from Houston to Chicago. So if the blog reads this month like someone has lost what little inner filter they once had, it's because I have.
The pills also have the unexpected side effect of making everything a-okay. It's hard to get upset about anything, really. Even the sudden onset of deafness. At most I thought, well, now would be a good time to re-read How Late It Was, How Late. Besides, Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority are much more pleasant now that I can't hear anything. Everything is GREAT.
I apologize if this new optimism upsets or confuses anyone.