March 30, 2007
I paused the Slate Audio Book Club discussion of Richard Ford's Independence Day in order to watch this video of otters holding hands. Now the thought of going back to finish listening to an inane conversation about an overly praised writer just seems impossible. Let the sunshine in, people! Watch otters who are best friends forever! My cynical nature will never be the same.
Eugenie Scott, author of Evolution vs. Creationism and a biological anthropologist, takes part in this BBC World Service program about the young earth "theory." She discusses meeting those who believe in strict Creationism, adamant that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago. (Link from Seed.)
Knight Science Journalism Tracker notes that newspapers across the country appear to be dropping their veteran science reporters.
New Yorkers! Go see Colson Whitehead and Calvin Baker discussing "Branding and Freedom in the Market Economy" with Maud Newton this evening. More information here.
Tom Bissell went off to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness monster. Not to ruin the ending or anything, but he didn't find her. (Probably because he doesn't believe.)
All children love two things: they love dinosaurs, and they love the paranormal. The Loch Ness Monster managed to be both. It attracted its share of druid enthusiasts and yeti scholars but also entranced respected scientists such as the University of Chicago’s Roy Mackal, author of some really quite reasonable books about the monster, or so they seemed to me when I read them as a boy. (I have since reread one of them: Mackal argues that the monster is some kind of jumbo eel-salamander mongrel.) Around the world other monsters were out there slithering and staggering—Bigfoot, Momo, Champ, Ogopogo, the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, the Skunk Ape—but they were thinly sketched, unsubstantiated, and reeked of zoological confusion, bad faith, and drunken double dares.
March 29, 2007
I am tired and a little sick and busy busy busy with the April issue of Bookslut, so there will be a slight pause today while I regroup. In the meantime, check out the interviews and such with the wonderful authors who are coming to our next reading series on April 11th.
I am regrouping with this, by the way, from Peggy Orenstein's Waiting for Daisy:
At eleven, I befriended Tabitha Shaw, who had untamed orange hair and was the only girl in my sixth grade of John Burroughs Elementary School to wear black all the time. Her mother, unlike those of the rest of my friends, worked outside the home and had an apron that read HOUSEWORK IS BULLSHIT in three-inch capital letters. At the Shaws' there was dust on the furniture. There was no adult supervision after school. Tibetha and I gorged on store-bought cookies and pored over Ms. Magazine, which had recently resurrected the comic book icon Wonder Woman. Inspired by her, we fastened towels around our necks with clothespins and -- in every working mom's nightmare of what the kds are up to in her absence -- climbed a ladder onto the roof of the garage. The distance to the next building was slightly longer than a leggy eleven-year-old's stride, yet we took deep breaths and leapt -- screaming, "WONDER WOMAN! WONDER WOMAN!" -- flying from roof to roof and back again, towel capes streaming behind us. It was my first foray into feminism.
Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to tie a towel around my neck and practice my leaping.
March 28, 2007
Every time we change venues for our reading series, something horrible happens. I walked into one event seriously expecting a bat infestation to have taken over the room because it seemed like part of the natural progression of the day. (Except for the Stop Smiling event. That went swimmingly. We're working on the next installment of our collaboration.) It's always good to get back to the Hopleaf after an absence. We have a charmed existence there.
Drop by tonight to hear Jay Hopler, Sarah Thyre, and Danielle Dutton read from their new books.
The Independent investigates whether women writers are too domestic. Luckily, this piece has been written so many times, I'm sure the writer was able to channel previous versions in time to get a nap in.
Related: Feminism causes cancer.
The idea of Cormac McCarthy having dinner with Oprah and discussing the end of the world just really makes my day.
Thanks to my Tivo, my Saturday morning ritual is two cups of tea, a crossword, and Bill Maher's Real Time from the night before. It's always surprising who works on that show and who doesn't. Ben Affleck? Surprisingly sharp. Salman Rushdie? Barely noticed he was there. Reza Aslan, author of No god but God? Kind of want to marry him. Sometimes Christopher Hitchens will show up drunk and flip off the audience, and that's always fun. But usually the panel is a good one if Andrew Sullivan is on there, even if I don't agree with him on half of it. It always worried me how quickly he want from Rah Rah Bush and War on Terror to Hooray Obama or whatever he's doing now. Jonathan Raban tries to explain in the New York Review of Books:
There is in Sullivan's makeup a most un-Oakshottian quickness to take passionate sides, a schoolboy tendency to hero-worship (Thatcher... Reagan...Oakeshott...Bush...and now it seems he may be warming up fast to Barack Obama), and an Oxford debater's ready access to the rhetoric of condescending scorn. Where Oakeshott stood self-consciously aloof from practical politics, Sullivan splashes excitedly about in them like a dog in a mud puddle, snarling ferociously at any other dog who challenges his position du jour. He's less a skeptic than a mercurial, and somewhat flirtatious, born believer.
Jodi Picoult is interviewed at Broken Frontier about her run of writing Wonder Woman. Yes, Picoult, the author of Harvesting the Heart and My Sister's Keeper, is writing Wonder Woman. (Link from Journalista.)
As for the complexities of Wonder Woman and her personal relationships, well, to be honest, I think that's what's been missing for Wonder Woman. She's often so busy saving the world she's forgotten who she really is.
(Or she's written by men who just write scenes with maximum sexual context or jiggle. Either one.)
March 27, 2007
Girls Gone Wilde. (Bless you, Elizabeth.)
This week's Guardian Digested Read: The Gospel According to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot by Jeffrey Archer and Francis J. Moloney.
Writing in an even more wooden style than usual is God's sign of my sincerity.
It's memoir week at Slate, which mostly means memoirists are answering that most obvious question: How did the people around you respond to being put in your book? Alison Bechdel and Mary Karr each respond.
March 26, 2007
'It's like anal sex,' she explains when I ask her about her fiercely literary attitude to her work and her correspondingly confrontational presentation of it. 'If that's what I want to do to you and you're not into it, then go away, because that's what will keep happening.'
Speaking of end of the world kind of literature, Jonathan Raban's Surveillance has portrayed present life in America like no other book I've read lately. Not only the rage towards the administration and the state of politics, but also everything from the memoir craze to the organic food movement. Toby Litt reviews Surveillance for the Guardian, and finds he wants to put it in a time capsule to illustrate what the year 2006 was all about.
Maud Newton points out that Dan Rhodes, author of the utterly charming Anthropology and Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love, has a new book coming out called Gold. It's available in March in the UK, but we poor bastards must wait until August for ours. There's more information on his website.
A battle over copyright between a California university professor and the estate of Irish writer James Joyce has been settled through a mediator.
The estate, controlled by Joyce's grandson Stephen James Joyce, had threatened to sue Carol Loeb Shloss if she didn't delete large portions of her 2003 book, Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake — about the author's daughter. The book suggests Lucia, who was mentally ill, was the inspiration for his novel Finnegans Wake.
Time to reread that New Yorker piece on Stephen Joyce and start lobbying for copyright reform, people.
I read The Road right before the midterm elections, I believe. Back when it was quite possible that at any minute we would be struck by some sort of apocalyptic event that our administration dragged us into. (The creeping Chicago winter also helped with the sense of our-lives-are-completely-over mood.) Now that spring has finally hit Chicago, there is a slight, flimsy little row of Democrats between us and the Nasties, who could stand to read about the end of the world? But the LA Times thinks it's still a trend. At least, however, Carolyn See is finally getting some attention for her excellent 2006 novel There Will Never Be Another You. Her novel has the added benefit of not having a baby on a spit.
March 23, 2007
I suck at being able to tell what's creepy and what's not in my own work. I'd say this is funnier and goofier than almost any of my other work, but the people who have read the whole book say it's somehow touching, and creepy too. Not sure where to put it.
It's funny to me that Ira Glass is a celebrity these days. In Chicago, he was that guy at the party that my ex-boyfriend dragged me to. Now that he's moved to New York, we're supposed to get flustered when we see him on the street. The Artsjournal has this video of Glass explaining storytelling.
Nothing against The Believer, but when you're feeling insecure about your own writing, the last thing you want is a magazine full of positive reviews and glowing reports about the brilliance of every writer but yourself; give me The Unbeliever, where everyone gets crapped on and every book's a failure—at least then I'll feel as if I've got a fighting chance.
March 22, 2007
James Salter is the subject of the new Guardian podcast. (MP3 link.)
Davidson: Over half of my buddies have never been in a fight, never worked a joe job, can't change the oil in their SUV, or build anything more complex than an Ikea bookshelf. My father, my father's father, they came into those experiences as a matter of course. Many baby boomers now have the means to prevent their kids from ever having to do these things. They wish to shelter us from the hard times they went through, a natural protective parenting urge. But who's to say those trials didn't shape our fathers and grandfathers into the sort of men they are? And without those trials, what does that make modern men? A bunch of marshmallows, frequently. I'm on board with that appraisal myself — speaking as a man who moisturized his face with Nivea not an hour ago. Not much mention of women in here. I guess womankind is doing fine?
Also, you can watch LeDuff on the Colbert Report.
Judging by the increasing lack of inventiveness and imagination amongst too many, though not all, women authors it would seem that we have either been persuaded to stay within a narrow experience in order to be "taken seriously", or more worryingly we are cautiously self-censoring because we are afraid of the gathering forces that are threatening feminism both domestically and internationally. As a judge in this year's Orange prize, it's hard to ignore the sheer volume of thinly disguised autobiographical writing from women on small-scale domestic themes such as motherhood, boyfriend troubles and tiny family dramas.
I feel a little bit out of the book buzzy-ness because I am currently reading Freud (don't ask). It's hard to mix Freud in with other books. And after five pages or so, I need a nap. Or a Veronica Mars episode. Evidently this book The Raw Shark Texts is creating a lot of Danielewski-esque buzz. There's even a section where the text goes all wonky on the page. But how old is House of Leaves now? Couldn't I just reread that? When half the press on a book focuses on either the gimmick or the fact that Nicole Kidman really liked it (Kidman was obviously replaced by a robot years ago -- I don't really care what robots like to read), I become very happy that I'm reading Freud. But the author Hall is blogging over at Powells. Judge for yourself.
The Lives of Others is one of those films you kind of have to be strong armed into seeing. My friend Ron demanded I see it, telling me, "I've seen it three times! See it once!" I have since bullied friends into seeing it. "I don't care if you don't want to see a film about East Germany in 1984. You're going." But now that Gulag author Anne Applebaum also thinks you should see it, I have an excuse to push the film here. (The movie also has my favorite book-related moment in a film ever. Everyone in the theater either gasped or burst into tears at that moment, and if you have seen it, you know what I'm talking about.)
"Oh, James, You're the only one who understands me..." (Thanks to Dan for the link.)
March 21, 2007
Like most people in Austin, I was aware of The Zendiks. They often cruised The Drag, selling their self-published magazines and CDs, and talking vaguely about escaping the "Death Kulture" of the outside world. The Zendik men usually wore long beards and dreadlocked hair, and some of the women pierced their ears and noses with bits of animal bone. They didn't stand out that much in Austin, but they were a curiosity.
Chris Ware illustrates this segment from the new Showtime television version of This American Life.
The controversy of Japan rewriting textbooks to remove references to comfort women during WWII is back in the news. It's worth listening to this Talk of the Nation conversation again with Franziska Seraphim and Falk Pingel about previous attempts to whitewash Japanese history and how this is affecting tensions between South Korea, Japan, and China.
And while we're on feminism again, I've received several e-mails about my interview with Leslie Bennetts for The Feminine Mistake. Jennifer pointed me back to this article in CJR debunking the myth of the rise of women "opting out." I agree with you, I don't think it's a worsening problem, and I see it mostly as a problem for lawyers and investment bankers, and my heart is not exactly weeping for them. But when the New York Times and Time Magazine have decided to pretend like it's a trend and more women are following it, someone needs to say it's a dangerous idea. It sounds glamorous, but you'll land on your ass.
I am slowly making my way through the new issue of Bookforum, but this information about the translator of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex was startling:
Untrained in philosophy, Parshley wrote his 1953 translation in isolation; he was also unfamiliar with the relatively new phenomenon of existentialism. Comically, he had been chosen for his expertise in sexual reproduction, since publishers Alfred and Blanche Knopf thought Beauvoir's book was a sex manual akin to the blockbuster Kinsey Report, Deirdre Bair writes in her 1990 biography Simone de Beauvoir.
The Second Sex's British publisher has commissioned a new translation that will possibly be out next year. Sarah Glazer speaks with the new translators about the problems with the former text.
March 20, 2007
The Guardian linked to this archive of the John W. and Joan Edie Celebrity Lecture Series. Currently on my RealPlayer: Joseph Heller cracking jokes about Kurt Vonnegut.
Oh fuck, I forgot that one from my list, too.
The strangest thing about this story about the Orange Prize is that the prize evidently goes to the most "important" book, not the "best." How exactly does a committee choose the most important book from a bunch? "Well, her book is 600 pages and saved a woman from an intruder one night, we should give it to her." Reading the longlist, "important" isn't the first word that pops into my head. "Dull" might be it.
I knew there was a reason I liked that Ian Rankin fellow, even though his books never did that much for me. Anyone who likes the Alasdair Gray has to be a good chap.
At that time there was also a huge explosion in contemporary Scottish literature, and the detonator was Lanark. Alasdair Gray's book showed that you could write exciting contemporary fiction in Scotland which also ranged widely. It was a shot in the arm for Scottish fiction, but also kick-started a lot of small Scottish publishers and magazines. And it got publishers outside Scotland looking for the next big thing in Scotland. The fact that you were writing about Scotland didn't make you parochial any more.
I was talking to a friend last night about the news stories that cycle through once a year -- the nobody reads poetry anymore, comic books aren't just for kids, Jane Austen fans are fucking nuts -- but I forgot one: What's so great about reading anyway? My friend asked how long these stories will keep being rewritten. I responded, as long as newspapers keep paying fifty cents a word.
March 19, 2007
The most incendiary notion in “Baby Love” may be that, for Ms. Walker, being a stepparent or adoptive parent involves a lesser kind of love than the love for a biological child.
In an interview, Ms. Walker boiled the difference down to knowing for certain that she would die for her biological child, but feeling “not sure I would do that for my nonbiological child.”
Oh my. I guess it's no surprise then that Jennifer Baumgardner, she of the it's-my-experience-so-it-must-be-universal school of feminism is a big Rebecca Walker fan.
The book started with my exasperation with media’s portrayal of women staying at home. The New York Times had the “Opt-Out Revolution,” and there was an article in Time. The coverage never mentioned money. It never addressed the risk factors: half of marriages end in divorce. Husbands might die prematurely or be injured. It’s a volatile job market; he might become unemployed. None of the coverage told women they would pay a penalty for opting out for even a year.
Oh, Alexandra Jacobs. Where to begin?
The New York Times assigned her to review two books about motherhood, Peggy Orenstein's Waiting for Daisy and Rebecca Walker's Baby Love. The books have similar themes, namely both authors were rather ambivalent about the idea of family until they were past peak fertility, and then the struggle began.
Both Orenstein and Walker have serious credentials, although Jacobs seems to be ignorant about the identities of these writers, lumping them in with, say, the author of Mommies Who Drink in the very first paragraph. I've only read one book by Walker, but I have followed Orenstein's career for years. The very least Jacobs could have done was read her book Flux, on women's changing desires for career, family, children, and spouses. It would have explained a lot to her. Instead you can see Jacobs skimming over any material that might have had an unsightly feminist tinge to get to the suspenseful "will she, won't she" ending.
Jacobs is something of a blight to feminist writers. I get e-mails of horror from writers when they discover she has been assigned to review their book. Take for example her review of the book Birth by Tina Cassidy. Do you get any sense that Cassidy's book might be interesting or important or politically viable? No. You get Jacobs's queasiness about the subject, and you get the sense that she wanted a dose of that Twilight Sleep to get through it. Oh, all those icky girl parts and the problems that come with pregnancy. Oh, ewww.
The New York Times needs to stop assuming that just because a reviewer is a woman she is qualified to review books about feminism or fertility or women's politics. Send Jacobs back to Elle and hire a real writer.
March 15, 2007
First Second Books has put together a document for retailers looking to improve their graphic novel section. Now if only it included instructions on how to get rid of 14-year-old boys who prevent you from getting to the Alan Moore books, it would be super helpful.
The National Magazine Award finalists have been announced. For me, it's like the announcement of the Oscar nods. And Bookslut fave Virginia Quarterly Review (I should get a nickle every time I gush about them) is nominated for General Excellence (they are generally excellent) and Fiction.
Duncan McLean is back to literature after a ten year absence. Thank god. He talks to the Scotsman about what he's working on and how things have changed since when he first debuted.
The world sat up and took notice of McLean and his gang, despite the odd lost-in-translation moment. "I remember a promotional tour of America involving Irvine, James Kelman and myself. At every radio station we visited they'd introduce us with bagpipe music then ask us questions about golf!"
March 14, 2007
And this is not so much "book related," but it makes me very happy this morning, so we'll end today with Eddie Izzard on Pavlov's forgotten experiments on cats.
These two titans of the modern novel - who were once the closest of friends, so close that Garcia Marquez was godfather to Vargas Llosa's son Gabriel - have not spoken since the day that the Peruvian writer landed a right hook on the left eye of the Colombian author three decades ago. Neither has ever disclosed the reasons for their feud, though both have let slip that it was "about something personal".
The Independent investigates the 30-year old feud.
I suggest mass suicide. Sell handguns that will serve as tickets of admission to a farewll concert by Dylan and the Rolling Stones. When a Jimmy Hendrix look-alike begins the National Anthem everyone should stand, aim his or her gun, at the person just in front of him, and fire. The problem with this is what is to be done with the people in the last row. A good mathematician should have a answer to that.
I need to go frolick in a field with bunny rabbits now.
The downside of 300 doing so well at the box office -- I mean, besides the fact that you once again have proof that people will spend money on anything -- is the unexpected demand for the Frank Miller book. The Comics Reporter talks to retailers about the high demand and the missing supply.
Part two of the Daily Cross Hatch interview with Tony Millionaire is now up.
How much do I love David Orr? Lots.
I'm happy for my books that they can go have adventures without me now (or soon). Still, I'm not sure I think life itself will be any different once I am officially "published." If it will be, I don't know how or why. I suppose once upon a time I thought that one day I'd magically become a real writer. But I can't quite remember what that meant. I think it meant I'd be a lot more interesting.
I always think, "Oh sure, I can get some work done while I'm in New York," but then it comes down to four hours of sleep a night, my lizard brain takes over, and my lizard brain is much more interested in pasta and naps than publishing news. So sorry about that.
We had another amazing reading series with Stop Smiling, even though Time Out Chicago decided to list the event at a venue all the way across town. If you headed to Andersonville for this last event, blame Time Out. But I am sorry you missed it. There was some stalking, paper throwing, and yipping.
On the 28th we'll be back at the Hopleaf with Sarah Thyre, Jay Hopler, and Danielle Dutton. I hope you can make it.
March 8, 2007
There might be prep school, $14 cocktails, life in Manhattan, and a single girl armed only with a plucky best friend, but you know it's not chick lit because it's FSG. But there's still that pink tinge.
“I didn’t want any pink on the back of my book,” said Ms. Taylor recently over $14 (or thereabouts) cocktails at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. “I didn’t want pink on my book—not because of what other people would think, or how it would be judged or marketed: I didn’t want pink because I wouldn’t buy a book that was pink. That’s why I haven’t read any of the pink books.” She paused. “I don’t want to disparage the pink books.”
Tom Lutz looks at books that instruct you on how to read. But even he gives up at the end when he comes to the question of how to know what to read. It's an interesting question. I take the advice of Bookslut's contributors constantly: Colleen Mondor's enthusiasm for PopCo made me read Scarlett Thomas, and I follow Olivia Cronk's lead on a very regular basis. So how do you know what you want to read next? E-mail me and let me know what caused your last book purchase. I'm curious to know.
Can someone filter SSRIs into Richard Dawkins's water supply? He's going after a fellow nominee for the Galaxy British Book Awards because -- oooh, guess -- he believes in god.
The controversy erupted after Dawkins read an excerpt from Kay's autobiography, in which he wrote: "I believe in a God of some kind, in some sort of higher being. Personally I find it very comforting."
The believer-baiting academic responded with contempt. "How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something because he finds it 'comforting'?" he said.
I'm going to start believing in god, just because I don't want to be associated with this blowhard.
Remember that tonight our reading series has moved locations. This is our first team up with Stop Smiling Magazine, and we'll be at their space tonight at 1371 N. Milwaukee Avenue. They ask that if you're coming by to send an e-mail to email@example.com, but if you're making a last minute decision, don't think that because you didn't RSVP you won't get in. Then on the 28th we'll be back at our Hopleaf space. So swing by, say hello, and wish me luck on catching a plane to New York at 6:15 am tomorrow. I'm going to need it.
March 7, 2007
AL Kennedy sympathizes with any mixed feelings the Americans dubbed by Granta as the Best Young Writers might be having.
I was listed in the British top 20 twice, so I can recall how delightful it was to have sets of journalists asking me "What does it mean to you?" on and off for the duration of two different years a decade apart. My honest answer would have been "I have no idea. I know it doesn't mean I've won money, which would stop me having to work to earn money so that I can write, only the earning money means I don't have time to write because I still need to eat and sleep - I'm thinking of giving up naps and lunch."
Part of me while reading this article "Scarcity of Ads Endangers Newspapers' Book Sections" (e-mailed to me by several people) was thinking "None of the 'endangered' book sections listed here are even very interesting." Perhaps publishers are sticking to advertising in the New York Times Book Review because book sections around the country have decided to become copycats of one another instead of creating a vibrant, interesting, worth-reading anomaly. Pick up any other book review section -- particular in Chicago -- tear off the header, and you would have no idea where it came from. Could be any newspaper in America. The book review venue doing well? Bookforum. Because it's awesome, and it's run by a man who wears pink socks.
Maybe when book review editors get off their asses and stop thinking that "You know what we should review? That Norman Mailer book, that's relevant" is an important thought, they'll attract readers, and dollars follow readers.
Rejoice, readers, it is March and that means publishers are beginning to release some interesting books after several months of books like Girl with Glasses, a memoir about different glasses the author has worn throughout her life (politically relevant!) and Stacked, the previously ridiculed book about the power of the author's breasts. Do you ever think that pitches for memoirs go down like this Family Guy Stephen King bit? "So I wanted to write a memoir about... (looks down) my breasts! That's it!"
Luckily we at Bookslut work hard to uncover the good stuff lying underneath that thick layer of bullshit. Writers like Scarlett Thomas, who wrote the spectacular The End of Mr. Y and PopCo. Colleen Mondor interviews her for our new issue about Aristotle, the god of mice, and why she's writing her books for geeky women. Paul Morton talks to Andrew Holleran about his latest novel Grief, why there is no great AIDS novel, and the perils of being known as a gay writer. Barbara J. King spends Darwin Day reading about Charles Darwin, Tony Dushane talks to Vikram Chandra, we get in our obligatory interview with Alison Bechdel -- seriously, it's the law now, but luckily she's a very interesting subject, and John Zuarino talks to Alain Mabanckou and his publisher Richard Nash as Mabanckou's first book to be translated into English is released in America.
We also have reviews of new books by Roberto Bolano, Elizabeth Hand, Mat Johnson, Juliana Beasley, Ron Starr, as well as reissued books by Philip K. Dick and W.H. Auden. In columns Jeff VanderMeer tackles the sticky issue of comics being nominated alongside works of prose for awards, Chris Zammarelli talks to Maryrose Wood about the latest attempt to pull her book off library shelves, and Jennifer Johnson geeks out. And, as always, more.
March 6, 2007
This week's Guardian Digested Read: The Steep Approach to Garbdale by Iain Banks.
The Chemical Brothers are playing on the iPod. Just thought you should know we're back in the present day, though nothing is really happening. It's a completely different year, some time in the 90s and Fielding and Alban are so out of it in a Hong Kong skyscraper, they've done coke and K, that their prose has turned into paragraph-long, breathless sentences, full of over-stretched metaphors, that are somehow meant to convey just how wired they are but above all to show that Banksy is a stylistic genius, though it actually rather proves precisely the opposite.
Over at Seed Magazine, Jonathan Lethem talks to Janna Levin, a theoretical cosmologist and author of the novel A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines. You can also watch video of the full hour conversation between the two writers.
Levin: As a scientist, I am interested in whether or not you can really make a false vacuum universe in the laboratory. You either can or you can't. It's either true or false. Yet as I was writing A Madman Dreams of Turing MachinesI was forced to contest this simplistic faith in truth. I mean, here I was so drawn to these mathematicians who prove that there are some truths that can never be proven to be true. The idea that even mathematical truth is elusive is very unnerving for somebody like me. I'm a realist. I believe that you're not a projection of my imagination. I believe there is something real about you that I'm perceiving. The physicists and mathematicians who I describe in this book, weren't so sure that you couldn't be reduced to a projection of their imagination.
Smith Magazine has a webcomic by Josh Neufeld called A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Chapter 1 is now available, and there are also supplementary materials like podcasts and blog entries about the stories behind the comic.
Andrew Leonard wonders if Kim Stanley Robinson's global warming trilogy -- the last installment, Sixty Days and Counting, was recently released -- can be considered science fiction, or if it's just a road map of where the government needs to be taking action.
March 5, 2007
Fitzsimmons' literary lifeline will be cut April 7, when Jackson County in southern Oregon shuts down its entire public library system.
The 15 libraries serving this rural forest community lost $7 million in federal funding this year -- nearly 80 percent of the system's budget.
Atheists are not liking the new books on atheism. (I can relate. The only part of The Varieties of Scientific Experience that I skimmed was the chapter when he tries to disprove the existence of god.)
Ned Vizzini talks anti-depressants with friends over at Sirens Magazine.
Here is how you create a new literary trend: notice that a few books have a similar topic, but choose something vague that just about anything can fit into, let's say "having it tough all over," and then cram recently successful books -- both fiction and nonfiction, it doesn't matter -- under that heading. Voila, Misery Literature, or Mis Lit. They did it with chick lit, and like chick lit, it comes with a readily available color palette to distinguish the category in the bookstores. Then watch publishers try to find books they think are Mis Lit, and perhaps a few imprints will be born. Something tells me it won't be as catchy as chick lit, though. If someone could work in some crossovers, that would be something worth seeing, but not really worth reading.
MacLeans has an interview with Barbara Gowdy, and while I haven't read (or even heard of) the book she's discussing, Helpless, the discussion about the character is rather fascinating. Gowdy constructed a man who kidnaps a little girl he's in love with because he's convinced himself she's in danger. In the interview she tries to explain the very fine line she walked in the novel, trying to keep the word "pedophilia" out of it, and trying to make the man understandable. (Thanks to Joey for the link.)
What I'm investigating here is whether we feel sympathy for him because he's restraining himself from having sex with her. I mean, there's something to be said for his restraint. I've asked myself questions like, "Would I rather have been physically abused once by a stranger as a child but come from a real loving home, or would I prefer to have been psychologically abused at home for years as a child while being left alone sexually?" They're both awful, but I think I would take my quick hit, you know? Little girls know about sex and they know about men's interests, and certainly we did when I was a girl because we were getting paid in suckers to let this man touch our bums. It's known that these feelings exist, and I don't think little girls are as freaked out or appalled by them as their parents.
J Wood, author of Living Lost, is blogging over at Powells about the literary mentions in Lost. Yes, I'm still watching the show, but only in a perpetual state of bitterness that I get maybe five seconds of Locke and Sayeed a week. But just when I'm ready to quit watching, they introduce a hot Scotsman. Thanks for that.
March 2, 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen, the future of American literature. Weep for us, rest of the world.
Your feminist round up for the day:
Jennifer Baumgardner, my least favorite feminist writer of the last ten years, has a new book out called Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics. Baumgardner's idea of research is to experience something and then make generalizations about the rest of the world. For example, in Manifesta, she was infected with herpes from a man who did not tell her he carried the virus, therefore all men are sexually irresponsible. In Look Both Ways, the women she dated were more comfortable with intimacy, therefore all women are good with intimacy. And all men leave their laundry on the floor. In both books, because she is bisexual, she assumes all women have bisexual tendencies. There is a word/diagnosis for that, and I wish someone would tell her what it is before she writes another book.
It's so good to see the Atlantic covering really important women's issues, like oh my god, I'd rather eat a cupcake than have sex. Say what you will about Caitlin Flanagan, she was a (slight) step above Sandra Tsing Loh. At least Flanagan would occasionally hit on a provocative issue. Loh mostly writes about the bullshit mommy wars and boring married sex. Atlantic Unbound interviews Joan Sewell about her book I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido.
But there is hope! The Guardian interviews Lynne Segal about her feminist career. She wrote books like Straight Sex and Is the Future Female?, and is generally known as one of the sane feminists. Sane meaning one of the feminists who sees the statement "all men are potential rapists" as genuinely absurd. She's a good egg.
Lisa Tuttle examines the rise in Philip K. Dick's fame since his death. (Link fixed, sorry about that.)
Ann Druyan is interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast about Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience. (I am very aware that the idea of this book bores all of you, but seriously, it's an essential read.)
The poet WH Auden repeatedly evaded British intelligence's attempts to find out whether he was involved in the dramatic disappearance of the Cambridge spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean in 1951, according to secret files made public today.
So much more interesting than the Slate Book Club talking about whether or not Auden is an honorary American.
Poison is often unfairly overlooked when people start talking about the ‘80s. Poison was like the Wu Tang of the ‘80s. They were for the children of America.
March 1, 2007
A Burlington Grade 5 student has become the first child to receive the Writers' Union of Canada's Freedom to Read Award.
Evie Freedman, 10, is being honoured for her spirited defence last year of the controversial book, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Simcoe author Deborah Ellis. (Link from Colleen.)
I thought I was being nice not writing about Chris Mooney's drinking habits, but Jennifer Ouellette spills his shameful secret on her blog: Chris Mooney came to the Hopleaf, which has the best selection of beer in perhaps all of America, for the Bookslut Reading Series and ordered a Miller Lite. If the owner of the Hopleaf suddenly refuses to host our series, I'm blaming Chris. And being a science writer, Ouellette uses the opportunity to expand on Chris's shame with an explanation of the fermentation process. (Okay, Chris, now we're even on embarrassment.)
Is today World Book Day? (WBD1, there's also a World Book Day on April 23rd, and I get confused every year.) Either way, the Guardian offers a quiz on World Lit, which I did surprisingly well on even if my knowledge of sea slugs needs improving.
Growing up, we were raised on science like some families were raised on Jesus. We were given chemistry sets as our summer projects, and my father would grade our lab reports. If he could not recreate the experiment based on our instructions, we were forced to rewrite before we could move on to the next experiment. We did go to church most weeks, but more as a small town social obligation than a spiritual need. My father seemed to enjoy skipping church to go to the lake (where he would teach us about waves or rock types) more than we did.
Carl Sagan was a definite presence in our household. I remember his books on the basement shelves, and him as a part of the constant PBS presence on our television. I also remember the day he died because of my father's reaction. MSNBC has a nice write up of Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience, a book I'll be sending my father as soon as I am finished falling in love with it. It's a collection of the lectures Sagan gave about natural theology as part of the Gifford Lectures, the same series that William James debuted his Varieties of Religious Experience.
Ann Druyan, who put the book together, explains Sagan's intention:
"Whether he knew it or not — and I think he did ... he was talking about science as a kind of informed worship," Druyan said. "Scientists have been very squeamish about this, about really going into it in any depth, until recently. Scientists have been loath to really talk about the oneness and that soaring feeling that science can give us. It's been part of their truce with religion. You know, 'You don't burn us at the stake anymore, and we won't try to attract your clients away from the way that you look at creation.'"
Integrity doesn't pay the rent, but hey. And I know my gravestone won't say, "He had health insurance."
That poem that got the teacher in trouble? "How Do You Make Love to a Black Woman?" Thanks to Caitlin for the link.