April 29, 2008
Established in 1919, the James Tait Black is the UK's oldest literary award. Booker? Costa? Whippersnappers. It's also distinguished by a judging panel of scholars and graduate students of literature, because in 1919 breakfast TV presenters and marketing department interns hadn't been invented yet.
James Tait Black Novel shortlist
Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben
The Devil's Footprints by John Burnside
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
A Far Country by Daniel Mason
Salvage by Gee Williams
The James Tait Black Biography shortlist
Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell by Michael Gray
God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain by Rosemary Hill
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee
Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeve
Larry McMurtry, author, bookseller, ""bibliophile par excellence," has been awarded the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award.
What does the LAPL Literary Award mean to you?
It means $10,000 is going to the little library in Archer City that myself and some others founded 25 years ago.
I grew up in the era of just say no to drugs. And while I don’t count Nancy Reagan as a childhood hero like I do Wonder Woman, Elizabeth Wakefield and Kelly Taylor, I do blame, or credit, Ms. Reagan with the fact that I used very few drugs in high school and college. I didn’t say no necessarily, I said, rather, will this make me seem tough and urban? And will you call my parents if it seems I’m having a heart attack?
Because Nancy was working her just say no magic in the form of Public Service Announcements, I’m pretty sure most any world ill can be solved with a PSA.
I thought I’d do a PSA for Bookslut’s readers today. It’s always my aim to get every one of you more play. And for you to look smart while you’re getting your play. Today’s Sticky Pages is a PSA for the guys. Believe me, if a woman sees you reading this book, you’re golden. Except you really should read it because you don’t want to get to the moment of truth without reading it because she’ll know if you have or haven’t prepared. Oh boy, will she know. And then you’ll know. And her best friend will know. And the Internet will know.
Today’s PSA is from Dr. Ian Kerner’s seminal work on having sex with a woman, She Comes First. The book is about using oral sex to get a woman off before the intercourse happens. Let me be clearer. Before you insert your penis into a woman’s vagina, you pay attention to her, with your mouth. For a while. Longer than three minutes.
I promise you, if you do this, you will have more sex. Because your woman will want you to do it again. And again.
But you must get started. Here are Kerner’s suggestions for “The Approach.”
Page 112 from She Comes First by Ian Kerner, Phd.
- Run your fingers gently through her pubic hair
- Be sure to tease her amply. Kiss her softly on the inner thigh, as well as the smooth skin adjoining her vulva. Kiss her with little succulent smacks (lips pursed, no tongue) on her inner and outer lips, or even on the top of the head. Make sure that your first kiss is less about direct contact with the clitoris and more about appreciating the entire genital area.
- Breathe hotly on her vulva
- Blow, ever so gently, on her clitoral head
- If she’s still wearing her panties, kiss her through them. Then delicately peel them to the side to reveal a glistening wet vulva.
Wow. Was that as good for you as it was for me? I think my keyboard is feeling a little violated right now.So please guys, run out and buy this book. And just say no to drugs. But yes to oral sex.
Do we really need more information about the James Frey scandal? Probably not, but a novel did not turn into a memoir by Frey's actions alone. So skim this Vanity Fair investigation until about the third page.
I'm going to play catch up from when I was in London:
- The New York Times writes about Trevor Paglen's new book about the Pentagon's black budget projects I Could Tell You But Then You'd Have to Be Destroyed By Me.
- And as today I feel like someone held me down and forced a bottle of bourbon down my throat last night, Todd McEwan's essay about North by Northwest: "Cary Grant's Suit."
April 28, 2008
Bookslut's Indie Heartthrob Interview Series
A weekly interview series where someone involved in the small press (be it writer, editor, slush slave, etc.) is thrown into the spotlight, grilled over the state of the independents and sundry other items, and quickly made to return from whence they came after having graced us all with their presence.
This Week: Josh Simmons
The first installment of Josh Simmons' new series Jessica Farm was recently released by Fantagraphics. A dark, fantastical spin on stories such as Alice in Wonderland, Jessica Farm was conceived over the past eight years under the strict regiment of one page per month. Simmons was kind enough to talk to me about his experience with Jessica and what's in store for her future. You can also see a preview over at New York Magazine.
You're doing about 1 page a month for Jessica Farm. When do you hope to have it finished?
My plan is to work on the book for 50 years. 1 page a month. 600 months, making 600 pages. I started in January of 2000 and would look to finish Jessica in December of 2049.
Do you have the story mapped out, or are you working month-to-month?
Up until recently, I basically made it up as I sat down to do the month's page. Once in a while I might get an idea for where the next handful of pages were going. In the last few months, though, with finishing up this 1st volume and thinking about the story more, I've started taking a lot of notes and making rough outlines for possibilities for the next couple hundred pages, or the next couple volumes.
Where did the idea for the storyline come about?
I've always enjoyed fantasy and horror and sex stories. I decided if I was going to be working on this strip for 50 years, it should be about something I enjoy. Weird creatures, adventure, genitalia, and monsters are all fun to draw.
How does this technique differ for you as opposed to what you've done with House? Is there a different thought process involved?
The process behind creating House was about as different as you can get. With House, I "wrote", or thumbnailed the entire thing out in pretty specific detail before penciling a single panel. This was necessary for the structure of that book, what with fitting the panels into the shrinking panels and specific layouts of the pages. A lot of math went into putting those pages together. With Jessica, it's a lot more spontaneous and enjoyable. I like working in different ways on different strips. Whatever the story requires.
Would you ever serialize the work as it comes, much like a strip?
Well, it is being serialized, although in a pretty unusual way, I guess. 1 book every 8 years. It's a pretty arbitrary choice, ultimately. The point of the project is the one 600 page book that the reader can hold in their hands in 2050. Putting any of it out at all is just a means for people to be able to see any of it in the meantime. There were a number of ways I could have done this; 1 page a month on the internet or a 24 page comic every 2 years. I decided on the book format for a few reasons: Practically, it just makes sense, with comics seemingly starting to phase out, and the book trade embracing the "graphic novel" format. And personally I just prefer a book with a spine to put on my shelf as opposed to a floppy, flimsy pamphlet you have to stuff in a box. As far as putting a page a month on-line, I hate reading comics on the internet.
Where do you hope to take Jessica Farm in the future?
The first volume was kind of just making a lot of stuff up and throwing it out there. I'm planning in the next 100-200 pages to offer up more of an explanation as to what the farm "is," how it came about, the history of the land and people there. I could also see jumping around in time, having stories of Jessica as an old lady, as a kid. Maybe cramming 25 panels into a page and having an entire little story, or a series of full page "splash panels" of violence, war scenes. We'll see. At this point I'm only 8 years and 4 months into the story. Who knows what I'll want to do with it in 2020, or 2035. It should be fun to see where it goes.....
I'm having trouble understanding why anybody would want to continue arguing about the matter, shouting back at the deceased over all these years, except that comic book fans tend to be people with a manichean view of reality and like to have a villain to... well just to be a villain, he doesn't have to be doing anything that's causing anybody significant problems. What was the result? Were you robbed of a childhood?
Like White Castle’s pint-size hamburgers, Mr. Kleinzahler’s poems are of uncertain if not dubious nutritional value. And while there is nothing made-to-order about them, his poems arrive salty and hot; you’ll want to devour them on your lap, with a stack of napkins to mop up the grease.
People were outraged. The few copies purchased in Limerick were burnt after the rosary, one evening in the parish grounds, at the request of the priest. I received anonymous letters, all malicious. Then it was banned; nameless gentlemen who sat in some office in Dublin added it to that robust list of novels which were banned in Ireland at that time. Unbeknownst to me, a heated correspondence passed between Archbishop McQuaid of the Dublin diocese, Charles Haughey, then a minister, and the Archbishop of Westminster Cathedral, all deeming it filth, a book which should not be allowed in any decent home. My poor mother was ashamed and had her own private battle with me. She erased with black ink any of the offending words, and the book was put in a bolster case and placed in an outhouse.
Tony Hoagland is the recipient of the second Jackson Poetry Prize, worth $50,000, given by the nonprofit group Poets & Writers Incorporated, "to recognize writers of great talent but less fame." This may be Hoagland's winning season, as one of his poems, "Beauty," is being read by Atlanta high school student Elijah Orengo, selected as Georgia's top poetry reader and a favourite in the upcoming Poetry Out Loud recitation contest. Hoagland's most recent book is What Narcissism Means to Me: Poems.
The 2008 Orwell Prize for Books winner is Palestinian lawyer and writer Raja Shehadeh, for his book Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape. The Independent's Johann Hari won the 2008 Journalism Prize, and some sort of Special Award went to Clive James, which at least might distract him from the poetry for a while.
Over at The LA Times/UCLA Festival of Books bookapalooza, the 2007 Book Awards have been given out to lots of books you thought about reading last year. Here at Bookslut, we seize any excuse for a bit of Andrew O'Hagan, so in his honour here's his latest up at the London Review of Books.
LA Times Book Awards Winners:
Fiction: Andrew O'Hagan - Be Near Me
Current Interest: Elizabeth D. Samet - Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point
Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Dinaw Mengestu - The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Science & Technology: Douglas Hofstadter - I Am A Strange Loop
Young Adult Fiction: Philip Reeve - A Darkling Plain
Poetry: Stanley Plumly - Old Heart: Poems
Mystery/Thriller: Karin Fossum - The Indian Bride
History: Tim Weiner - Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Biography: Simon Sebag Montefiore - Young Stalin
I swear, every four months or so there's another story about Daphne du Maurier and Rebecca in a British newspaper. I read every single one. I read that book as a 14-year-old girl, and it sent me on a spree of reading books with women's names in the titles. (When you're having to hide the fact that you're reading girly novels from your nonfiction loving father, you can't exactly ask for a recommendation. You have to find a way to guide your own reading. And since it led me to Jane Eyre and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I think it worked.) The Telegraph has the latest addition, and it's your standard "du Maurier's husband's ex-wife was perfect in every way" story. Somehow, still exciting to read about.
April 25, 2008
I'm in Long Beach this weekend, which has apparently thrown off my awareness of time. This morning, though, I read a very entertaining chapter on "great bad poetry," poetry that is so astonishingly bad that it circles all the way 'round again and becomes . . . still not terrific, perhaps, but unmissable. It's in Hazard Adams's recent book, The Offense of Poetry. The "offense" in his title is less about offensive content, then the idea that poetry's approach to language offends our usual desire for language to be straightforwardly communicative or expressive.
Robert Hass's 2003 reading from the UC Berkeley Lunch Poems series is now available on YouTube.
One more reminder about the benefit for Tom Clark, poet & editor for The Paris Review, that Dale Smith is organizing tomorrow night (4/26) in LA. It's now possible to donate through PayPal, or through a tax-deductible foundation.
Three brutalist poems by Ben Myers: "The Fish Tank," "The Willy Watcher," and "The Shit Kicking." Adelle Stripe's like-minded poems call out their formal origins--sestinas, ghazals, and pantoums. (Via 3am.)
Failbetter.com has 3 poems by Billy Wisse, who among other things writes questions for Jeopardy: "Profligate", "Valentine's Day,", and "The Deciding Tide." He also provides them on his own website, along with some commentary about his process, the poem's origins, and such. More interesting still is his affiliation with the Pearl Roth Institute, of which I'd not previously heard.
Via Al Filreis, a poem by Nick Montfort that uses only the top row of a keyboard: I outwit you, too. To perpetuity, I write poetry. / You, to put it true, putter out rote poop.
Herodotus, by contrast, always seemed a bit of a sucker. Whatever his desire, stated in his Preface, to pinpoint the “root cause” of the Persian Wars (the rather abstract word he uses, aitiē, savors of contemporary science and philosophy), what you take away from an initial encounter with the Histories is not, to put it mildly, a strong sense of methodical rigor. With his garrulous first-person intrusions (“I have now reached a point at which I am compelled to declare an opinion that will cause offense to many people”), his notorious tendency to digress for the sake of the most abstruse detail (“And so the Athenians were the first of the Hellenes to make statues of Hermes with an erect phallus”), his apparently infinite susceptibility to the imaginative flights of tour guides in locales as distant as Egypt (“Women urinate standing up, men sitting down”), reading him was like—well, like having an embarrassing parent along on a family vacation. All you wanted to do was put some distance between yourself and him, loaded down as he was with his guidebooks, the old Brownie camera, the gimcrack souvenirs—and, of course, that flowered polyester shirt.
I'm sorry, I thought we were in the year 2008. My mistake.
The least interesting thing I keep reading about is the level of sexism in Keith Gessen's All the Sad Young Literary Men. Is the book sexist, or is the author? Does the sexism of the characters reflect the sexism of the author? Or is it sexist that the women are one-dimensional plot devices with no life to them? Is it even that bad if a man cannot write realistic women characters? Oh my god, who cares.
While I was reading those reviews, I was reading Sarah Hall's Daughters of the North, and the little Q&A in the back of the paperback. Much has been made of the "extraordinary" women in her novel. She responds:
I'm not sure the power of the females in my work is so extreme. To me they seem no more or less able and intelligent than women we might meet every day in the street, potentially... When women are depicted in fiction as highly functional and self-assured, they suddenly become "extraordinary." I'm not interested in writing about women worrying about fat on their thighs: to me that seems frivolous and debilitating.
April 24, 2008
If I ever go to another SF Con, evidently I have to carry motherfucking mace with me. I am one of the women who are not open and do not "get it." Link from Jezebel.
Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.
Last year a man corrected my grammar five minutes after the sex was over. I did not sleep with him ever again.
When Bookslut favourite Dan Rhodes picked up the inaugural Clare MacLean Prize in Glasgow in March, he claimed to be surprised, but as news reached readers of Gold, his winning novel, they doubtlessly raised their pints in appreciation and nodded sagaciously.
The Clare MacLean Prize was established to honour the memory of a great reader, and to "encourage future lovers of reading, just as [MacLean] encouraged those around her to share her passion." Is there anyone, or anything, in particular that inspires you to read?
I'm just the same as any other keen reader, I suppose. I'm always on the hunt for the next book that's going to rock my world. I swap recommendations with people, but my favourite thing is still going into a shop and coming out with something I'd never heard of. I follow my nose. I discovered Cornell Woolrich while looking at a Smiths site on the internet -- in his 1948 book Rendezvous In Black the main character, Johnny Marr, has a fight with someone called Morrissey. How could I not read that? And it led me to his Manhattan Love Song, which is a smasher. I recently read and loved Jaws after finding it in a junk shop. The latest book to make me evangelical is Dial M For Merthyr by Rachel Trezise, which I heard her read from at Laugharne Rugby Club. This is a great job for someone who likes to proselytise about books -- I'm not sure anyone pays me any attention, but I enjoy it.
Have you heard any recent literary award announcements and thought, they got that exactly right?
Obviously the judges of the Clare Maclean Prize were bang on. More often than not I won't have read the books so it'll be hard to say. It was good to see the insane Dylan Thomas Prize won by a great collection of stories (Fresh Apples, Rachel Trezise again). Most fiction prizes fetishise the novel, which makes me cranky.
I read a quote of yours, "Maybe one day I'll write a nine hundred page epic but, if anything, my books will get shorter, I think," which reminded me of the film director Barry Sonnenfeld, who said he was the one director who would go back and make his movies shorter. Do you ever want to edit anything out of your published work?
I wouldn't edit my old books at all. I take great care with the words, and by the time they reach the printers they are just as I want them to be. Going back and making changes would just be meddlesome.
Since you made a stand in favour of short novels, I noticed both Ian McEwan and Philip Pullman have gotten in on the act. Do you think the tide is turning in favour of books that can be fit in one's jacket pocket?
I would hate to think that I was part of a movement that included a book as dreadful as On Chesil Beach -- I can't think of a worse advertisement for the short novel. It's not long books that bug me per se, it's filler. I have no idea if shorter books are on the rise. I think there's still an exasperating perception that longer books are better value for money than short ones.
Why is it I can't head over to iTunes and download some iStories (fit for my mp3 player's perfectly adequate screen) to read on the bus yet?
Who cares? Why can't you just read a book on the bus? Amazon's Kindle thing reminds me of the Sinclair C5, and I can see it going the same way. I hope it does, anyway. For a lot of people, me included, reading a book is a blessed relief from looking at a screen. As a writer, if books do go digital I can see file sharing eating away at my already precarious livelihood. If this makes me sound like a Luddite, so be it. If you can't fit a book in your coat pocket it's time to get a coat with bigger pockets.
I know you have some bookselling experience; do you think awards sway bookstore punters at all?
The big awards clearly do, and it never hurts to mention a shortlist inclusion on the jacket. Anything that makes the book leap out a bit, I suppose. I've been out of the retail side of things for a few years, so I don't know how books sell when they pick up a big award in a thunderstorm of negative publicity (i.e. The Sea, The Gathering -- neither of which I've read, so they might actually be tolerable for all I know).
For the record, what's the best bookstore in the world right now?Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco. As well as it being a nice, friendly shop I met my wife there so I'm sentimental about the place.
Along with many prestigious authors of the male gender, you were locked out of the Orange Prize nominee pool. As someone who has published novels in both male and female guises, do you think there is merit in having a literary event tailored just for women writers? Would Danuta consider making a comeback to qualify for entry?
My former writing tutor Sheenagh Pugh is militant about gender segregation -- she won't allow her poems to be included in women-only anthologies. I do think there's something condescending about the Orange Prize -- it's as if female writers need a leg-up, which is nonsense. But I'm not going to lose sleep over it. All awards have to be narrowed somehow. As for Danuta, I'm not sure if she'll be back or not. She's been busy designing the interiors of a range of recreational submarines with Karl Lagerfeld, but maybe if she has a week or two off she'll rattle off another novel. Last I heard she was still 24 and still unstoppably beautiful.
There's a great section on your website on your various book jackets. After five releases, have you reached any conclusions on what makes a winning book cover?None whatsoever. I've been fortunate enough to have had some great looking books, but although my sales have been respectable they've not been earth-shattering. Maybe Gold will change that... Of the foreign editions I love the ones that make me laugh -- like the Russian Anthropology, with its volcano erupting between a woman's legs.
The snazzy new paperback release of Gold has a very elegant cover -- did you get any say in this?
There's a story behind that jacket. A lot of the book happens in a pub, and the cover was going to be based on a pub table, but the big book chains (one in particular) decided it would turn off female readers, and told us they weren't going to stock it in big quantities, so we had the choice of sticking to our guns and keeping the original design or caving in and changing it. As it turns out we tried a new approach and ended up with a jacket that's commercial-looking and classy at the same time -- an author's dream, really. So the shops have been stocking it and it's probably sold more copies in its first few weeks than it would have done with the original cover in its entire shelf life. So this is definitely an instance of a big book chain using its might to do us a favour -- we were a bit stroppy about it at first, but it turned out they were right. I had nothing to do with the design but if it had been a catastrophe I could have vetoed it. This is quite a tradey answer, but there you are.
With Lily Allen on, then off, the Orange award committee, I was thinking that we could do with more popular music/literature interaction. Would you like to be on the voting panel of any music prize, like the BRITS or the Ivor Novello?
I'm trying not to judge anything -- I don't feel qualified. Maybe when I'm older. This isn't to say I'm not judgemental, though. And now I'm a new dad I'm not keeping up with music -- if I have any spare time I hurriedly fall asleep. I used to hear bits of it at the gym, but then the gym shut down.
Did Gold have a particular soundtrack to it?
It did. Once I started writing the book in earnest I went to Pembrokeshire for the first time to spend a couple of weeks walking the coast path and sitting in pubs. I was living in Kent at the time, and when I went down into the underground at Charing Cross a busker was playing Spanish Dance Troupe by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, who are the poets laureate of the Pembrokeshire coast. It's definitely not a song you would expect to hear a busker play, and I decided it was the world's way of letting me know it was OK to write the book, to set it in a place I'd never been to until that point. So the Mynci were my soundtrack -- a truly wonderful band hamstrung by their awful name. See also Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. And I was listening to a lot of Townes van Zandt -- he's been with me from the start.
In February you did a reading in the Philippines, which is very global village of you, how did that come about? Where does your world tour take you next?
My wife is from the Philippines, and I thought it would be fun to fit in a reading with a family visit. And it was. I'm officially off the road until I finish my next one, but who knows? I'll see if any invitations come in -- it does me good to get out of the house from time to time.
The Fairy Tale Review Press has rescued Joy Williams's The Changeling from out-of-print purgatory. Dwight Garner, over at the New York Times Paper Cuts blog, wonders if a scathing (and ridiculous -- it's obvious the reviewer should have been reviewing something linear and factual instead, like maybe the dictionary) review by the New York Times is what sent it there.
If women truly want to rule the world, they will stop writing books with titles like Why Women Should Rule the World.
April 23, 2008
Bookslut's poetry columnist Dale Smith is sponsoring a benefit in Austin for Tom Clark. Clark lost his job at the New College of California after the college lost its accreditation and he has since suffered a stroke. The benefit is this Saturday, and Dale has all the details on his site. For those who don't live in Austin, here are some ways you can help out anyway.
Having kept the literary world in a state of suspense for years over whether he was prepared to carry out his long-standing threat to burn his father's last novel, Dmitri Nabokov has finally announced that he is prepared to save it from destruction.
Hello! I have returned from the London Book Fair, where I learned a lot of important lessons. Mostly about how drinking champagne on an empty stomach will give you a headache. Now I'm about halfway through the stack (more like, room) of mail, and I've been pleasantly surprised that none of the books I've uncovered yet have made me want to get back on a plane. It might just be the jet lag, though, because when I found Men Are Better Than Women by Dick Masterson, I spent about an hour chuckling to myself, "Heh. Dick Masterson. Hahahaha." Evidently jet lag makes you a moron. Or more receptive to morons maybe.
Oh, and I know you were all very worried, so I'll let you know that fiction and I made up. Thanks to James Schuyler, Sarah Hall, and Scarlett Thomas. Maybe it was all the Death of Fiction talk at London Book Fair.
Okay, so you’ve been dumped and your ex is hitting it with a new person, or maybe it’s the old person who they were hitting it with while they were going out with you and this is why you’ve been dumped. There’s a sick part in all of us who wants to be a fly on the wall of this new (or old) coupling. For no other reason than we are narcissistic and fairly convinced that we are the best lovers anyone has ever had. Some of us are and some of aren’t -- another reason for dumping, in my book.
So how to get on the wall? How about not on the wall but in the living room? In a cage. And not a cage of your own helpless rage because your ex is doing it with someone who might just be, well, better than you are, but an actual cage. Because you’re a parrot, right? And your ex-wife has bought you. And you’re in her house.
Okay, that sounds sort of lame, but it’s the premise of one of my favorite short stories of all time -- “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot.” This story is in Robert Olen Butler’s collection Tabloid Dreams, but I read it in the greatest short story collection of all time: Best American Short Stories 1996.
The husband has, in fact, returned as a parrot and he’s in his old house, in his living room and the wife has brought home “a guy with a thick Georgia-truck-stop accent and pale white skin and an Adam’s apple big as my seed ball.” The husband was sort of a scrawny guy in real life, and the wife has always liked the big, dumb types.
Today’s Sticky Pages goes out to all of you vengeful ex-lovers out there. Page 37 in Best American Short Stories 1996.
But half an hour ago, there was a moment that thrilled me. A word, a word we all knew in the pet shop, was just the right word after all. This guy with his cowboy belt buckle and rattlesnake boots and his pasty face and his twanging words of love trailed after my wife through the den, past my cage, and I said, ‘Cracker.’ He even flipped his head back a little at this in surprise. He’d been called that before to his face, I realized. I said it again, ‘Cracker.’ But to him I was a bird, and he let it pass. ‘Cracker,’ I said. ‘Hello, cracker.’ That was even better. They were out of sight through the hall doorway, and I hustled along the perch and I caught a glimpse of them before they made the turn to the bed and I said, ‘Hello, cracker,’ and he shot me one last glance.
The wife and the new guy go out and then come back.
And then the cracker comes around the corner. He wears only his rattlesnake boots. I take one look at his miserable, featherless body and shake my head. We keep our sexual parts hidden, we parrots, and this man is a pitiful sight. ‘Peanut,’ I say.
Phew, didn’t that feel better. Much better than cyber-stalking your ex. Okay, well, it didn’t feel quite as good as cyber-stalking your ex, but it’s better than listening to Alanis in your parked car as you cry bitter tears of betrayal and disappointment. Not like I speak from experience or anything.
April 22, 2008
Cory Doctorow's YA novel Little Brother comes out next week and Instructables is doing a line of HOW TOs based on the book. The first one is on screenprinting your own T's. Which will be useful when the recession hits, Gama-Go and Threadless disappear, and we have to make our own groovy T-shirts out of palm leaves and beet ink.
After Punk Planet bit the dust (toast/moment of silence for all the indie mags killed by distribution problems) up sprang Is Greater Than, a punchy daily zine that covers a broad spectrum of Stuff. Up today, a profile of South End Press, a collectively run nonprofit book publisher whose slogan is “Read. Write. Revolt.
More from the our office bar where we're testing which beers go with which books. Mostly we are testing beer as the consumption of that is a mite faster than that of the books. So here's a press release some sexy android from Marketing just handed me. Press release? Pah! Where's the story?
Hot on the heels of last week's Creative Commons release of John Kessel's collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence (5,000 downloads and counting) Small Beer Press is proud to announce their third Creative Commons release, Maureen F. McHugh's collection Mothers and other Monsters.
The thirteen stories in McHugh's "gorgeously crafted" (Nancy Pearl, NPR, Morning Edition) collection include her her Hugo Award winner "The Lincoln Train" as well as a reading group guide. Mothers and Other Monsters was a Story Prize finalist and a Book Sense Notable Book.
Drinking and reading have always been two of my favorite pastimes and now Jeff VanderMeer is enabling bringing the two together with pairings by Arianna Huffington (not very interesting), Lauren Groff (fuzzy summers, mmm) and others. (But will Amazon deliver beer along with the books? Thirsty readers want to know).
Karen Joy Fowler paired Wit’s End with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: “The company describes it as a new take on a classic theme; it's light, but complex. This is a North Californian company, which fits me and my book. But what I like best is the slogan--‘the beer that made Chico famous.’ The where?” and Michael Chabon got counterfactual for The Yiddish Policemen's Union, suggesting "a nice cold bottle of Bruner Adler lager, brewed right in the Federal District of Sitka by Shoymer Brewing, Inc.”
VanderMeer has opened this up to anyone with a beer, book, and camera. So put down the beer (only for a moment!) and send in yours.
Earth Day is the one day in 366 you are officially asked by the world to stop and think about how messed up this place is and what to do about it. Although its a beautiful spring day here in Massachusetts, so how bad can it be?
Sure, there'll be no fossil fuels soon, no Arctic or Antarctic ice shelves, no frogs, bees, or bats, any seafront city behind the curve on building dikes will be gone (Singapore's all over this), and we'll all be injected with genetically-modified bacteria to protect us from sunburn, but come on, how bad is that really?
A couple of tasters for what's coming: Kim Stanley Robinson's excellent Washington DC-gets-flooded series (beginning with Forty Signs of Rain) and this fantastic web comic, A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.
Medal time! Here's the shortlist for the Carnegie and Greenaway medals. The Guardian, struggling for an angle, says "The 1970s is as contemporary as it gets" for the Carnegie books. Which means they're timeless, baby, timeless!
* Crusade by Elizabeth Laird
* Apache by Tanya Landeman
* Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
* Ruby Red by Linzi Glass
* Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland
* What I Was by Meg Rosoff
* Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine
Anthony Browne, Silly Billy
Polly Dunbar, Penguin
Emily Gravett, Llittle Mouse's Big Book of Fears
Emily Gravett, Monkey and Me
Jane Ray (Text by Carol Ann Duffy), The Lost Happy Endings
Chris Riddell, Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
Ed Vere, Banana!
April 21, 2008
Bookslut's Indie Heartthrob Interview Series
A weekly interview series where someone involved in the small press (be it writer, editor, slush slave, etc.) is thrown into the spotlight, grilled over the state of the independents and sundry other items, and quickly made to return from whence they came after having graced us all with their presence.
This week: Joanna Yas
Joanna Yas has been the editor of Open City since 1999. While working for the lit mag/book publisher, Yas has edited works by David Berman, Sam Lipsyte, Edward St. Aubyn, and countless other writers. Yas spoke to Bookslut about her work with Open City as well as the upcoming novel on the magazine's book imprint.
Open City was founded in 1990. What's the story behind it's inception? How did you become involved, and what were you doing beforehand?
It was founded by Thomas Beller and Daniel Pinchbeck, and joined shortly thereafter by Robert Bingham. It was based initially in various homes of the editors; the magazine was coming out once or twice a year, often on a shoestring, but always with great fanfare (ie. raging parties in lofts and galleries). Around 1998, they decided to get a proper office and to publish their first book—a poetry collection called Actual Air by David Berman—the man behind the band the Silver Jews.
I knew David from his time getting his MFA at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I was down the road at Hampshire College, and David was one of a small handful of poets who also happened to be in bands. He was this tall, fascinating southern Jew (that’s how I thought of him, at least), who always had a great record or refreshingly offensive comment to throw us all of our fervently New Englandish guards. Amherst was the birthplace of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, obviously, and there was a feeling then—in the early/mid-nineties—that there was something else brewing there, musically speaking—out of that tradition. Everyone was touring through town then, and there were nights with Royal Trux and Pavement members on our couches and Guided by Voices guys in vans picking up my girlfriends and I to help them find beer after the puritanical Massachusetts Blue Laws had shut down the bars. But, back to David, there he was all the while, writing poems and recording these pared-down, country/folk/sometimes-sung-sometimes spoken songs/poems on a four-track in an attic on Elizabeth Street in an apartment many of us cycled through, the mainstay tenant being Zeke Fiddler, another great recording star of that place and time.
I graduated from Hampshire in 1995, moved to New York, wrote porn and took care of people with brain injuries, interned at Grand Street, until landing a job at Zoetrope, the literary journal founded by Francis Ford Coppola. I had a great couple of years there, and then late in 1998 ran into David Berman. He said to me, “Open City is going to publish my book, but they don’t have anyone working there full-time to do it right. They should hire you.” And so it was. And, wonderfully, Actual Air became a tremendous success, a debut poetry collection now in it’s fifth printing, out of which the Open City Books imprint was borne. The second book was Sam Lipsyte’s Venus Drive, then Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth, and on and on.
How do you think Open City has changed over the years?
It started off as a very personal endeavor and in many ways has remained as such, so it’s changed the way we have changed. Instead of having a debauched party every time we put out an issue of the magazine, we have a (slightly more civilized) benefit. Our publishing schedule is more regular, and we picked up a great distributor (our titles appear in the Grove/Atlantic catalog and are distributed through their channels.) And, as mainstream publishing has become more and more corporate and less literary, and as glossy magazines have seriously cut back their fiction sections, we’ve had an opportunity to publish pieces in the magazine and books that don’t necessarily fit with what those places are looking for. A recent example of this is Mother’s Milk by Edward St. Aubyn (which was nominated for a Booker and was a New York Times Notable Book); Open City had published his trilogy, Some Hope, a couple years back, after he’d been widely published in the early nineties England and the rest of Europe but never in the U.S. Also, coming up in Open City magazine is a long, almost novella-length story by the fantastic Robert Stone (author of Dog Soldiers and Bear and His Daughter, among others).
Do you have similar hopes for Leni Zumas' Farewell Navigator this June?
Farewell Navigator is an amazing debut story collection by Leni Zumas—already with great blurbs from Miranda July, Joy Williams, and Karen Russell—and a terrific review from Publishers Weekly. It’s exactly the kind of book I want to be publishing right now: wonderfully beautiful and bizarre, by a writer with a true poet’s ear for language and stories that go places you’d never expect.
Unshelved, beloved by librarians and anyone with an interest in book carts, is getting their shit together for BookExpo. Which is impressive as I'm trying to do the same and instead am, well, doing this.
So if you haven't registered yet and are going to the annual freebie swap, add this to your To Do list. (Don't pretend you don't have one.)
This edition is one of the first titles from Fairy Tale Review Press who have been putting out a beautiful journal for a couple of years and are now stepping unafraid into the dark forest of book publishing with this and Pilot (Johann the Carousel Horse) by Johannes Goransson, "an assemblage, a book of nursery rhymes gone wrong in translation."
Nicholson Baker has written some gloriously odd books in his life and in his newest (with its grabby gross title) he argues that the UK and US could have saved millions of lives by suing for peace with Germany. Um.
Want to be bombed, receive death threats, and stand "before the red-robed justices of the Supreme Court of Canada"?
Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium in Vancouver is for sale.
I'm interrupting my trip briefly to say two things.
1. "Jessa is away writing her memoir" -- smartass.
2. I'm in London, recovering from the London Book Fair with the help of cake. My full report is at the Smart Set.
There is a romantic notion that much of the literary world exists apart from the rest of mankind. Authors will appear at a festival or two and say things like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, because I have not owned a television in 30 years.” They talk about their time living in the woods, getting in touch with their inner Thoreau, spending three days thinking about the word “blue.” When readers think of the magical process of writing, publishers would prefer the image to be Tolstoy scratching out Anna Karenina in a wintry Russian landscape and not someone staying up all night on Ritalin to cut and paste together a biography of Heath Ledger immediately after his death.
This is a poem in the form of a novel, an elegant echo chamber for a canonical work, a reading of an epic poem, and a rewriting of that poem. ... This voice has something wonderful and strange to tell us.
April 20, 2008
"Signet has conducted an extensive review of all its Cassie Edwards novels, and due to irreconcilable editorial differences, Ms. Edwards and Signet have mutually agreed to part ways."
April 19, 2008
Just read about last year's “Design for the Other 90%” exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC. Seems that non-intuitive (until you read them) solutions are coming to the fore and, surprise, surprise, it's all about the money:
Where design traditionally emphasized quality and durability, the extremely poor, whose lives and needs often changed unexpectedly, preferred affordability.... the innovations that had the most impact were often those that helped individuals earn money.
April 18, 2008
Words Without Borders reports that police in Cairo have seized all copies of Magdy El Shafee's graphic novel, The Metro, for “disturbing public morals.”
Some excellent reading suggestions (too many good ones to only copy a few over here) from Gwenda Bond on Omiveracious (what does that name mean??) and Cynthia Crossen at the WSJ. Looks like Crosson wants to start a meme, so 3,2,1, tag, you're it:
The following are [readers] suggested titles in no particular order. I've put a star beside the ones I've also read and liked.
• "Straight Man" by Richard Russo*
• "Thank You For Smoking" by Christopher Buckley*
• "The Wimbledon Poisoner" and "Scenes from a Poisoner's Life" by Nigel Williams
• "Tepper Isn't Going Out" by Calvin Trillin*
• "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams
• The comedies of Aristophanes
• "Naked" and other books by David Sedaris*
• "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis*
• "The Diary of a Nobody" by George and Weedon Grossmith*
• "High Fidelity" and other books by Nick Hornby*
• "44 Scotland Street" books by Alexander McCall Smith
• "Morgan's Passing" by Anne Tyler*
• "East Is East" by T. C. Boyle*
• "The Dog of the South" by Charles Portis
• "Happy All the Time" by Laurie Colwin
• "A Walk in the Woods" and other books by Bill Bryson*
• The first half-dozen (in order) Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
• "Modern Baptists" by James Wilcox
• The "Reinhart" trilogy, "Sneaky People," "Killing Time" and other books by Thomas Berger
• The "Flashman" series by George MacDonald Fraser*
• "Hot Water" and others by P.G. Wodehouse*
• "The Eyre Affair" and other books by Jasper Fforde
• "Diary of a Provincial Lady" by E.M. Delafield*
• "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome*
• "The Education of Hyman Kaplan" by Leo Rosten
• "Scoop" by Evelyn Waugh*
• "Westward Ha!" by S. J. Perelman
Sad news yesterday: Aimé Césaire has died in Martinique at the age of 94. Several people have posted "Hommages" to YouTube; here's an interview where he discusses Leopold Senghor and negritude. Here's a snippet of Notebook of a Return to My Native Land. I first read Césaire as a junior in college--probably A Tempest first, and then some poems, and while my interest then was mainly in Anglophone Caribbean verse, his work has always rattled around in my head. Hell, I just taught A Tempest again last semester, as a paired text with Shakespeare's original in a class on utopias/dystopias in western culture.
There's usually *something* to like when Robert Pinsky explains how to read contemporary or modern poetry, but he really mailed in yesterday's FAQ about poetry. He responds to the question, "Isn't so-called free verse just prose chopped into lines?" by quoting William Carlos Williams. But "Fine Work with Pitch and Copper" can't wholly purge the memory of Yeats chopping Pater's prose into free verse for the Oxford Anthology of Modern Verse 1892-1935. And while "Read the following aloud, listening to the vowels and consonants, the sentence movements"is good advice, it's not as though those features aren't prominently manipulated in prose, too.
There *is* someone who likes National Poetry Month!
Via Philip Metres, a list of "un/definitions" of poetry assembled by Amy King, including this by Elizabeth Bishop: "One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire one could probably hear it turning to marimba music."
On avant-lyric: It has sniffed out the underbelly of lyric and though it admires the rigging, wants more than a polite, contained, cocktail-fueled jaunt across the bay.
In commemoration: VQR has a poem, "Jamie's Hair," up in the memory of Jamie Bishop, who died in the Va Tech shootings.
A little diversion for a spring weekend: Jabber, the Jabberwocky Engine produces nonsense words that sound like English words . . . [it] realises a linguistic chemistry with letters as atoms and words as molecules.
Sometimes all you need to do is paste in the post heading: Evil Monkey's Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals (from Jeff and Ann VanderMeer).
This year’s winner of the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize was Jesse Ball's story, “The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr.” The Prize, previously called the Discovery Award, was renamed after George Plimpton's death. In the past it has recognized work by stellar writers including Vikram Chandra, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Yiyun Li. At the Prize announcement, judge Jeanne McCulloch said of Ball’s talent that she had “no doubt that George Plimpton would have enthusiastically labeled Ball’s story a tour de force… Ball is exactly the kind of writer the Plimpton Prize should honor, with its mission to recognize, support and celebrate a prose writer of remarkable talent." Ball’s other work includes the novel Samedi the Deafness, and the collaboration with poet Thordis Bjornsdottir, Vera & Linus.
You're best known as a poet, but you've worked in lots of different forms. Did "The Early Deaths..." emerge as a short story from the outset, or did you explore it in different shapes?
I actually think of it as a novella -- because, when it is spaced out in the way I originally had it, many of the paragraphs and sentences have their own pages, and it ends up around 65 pages long. Also, the structure is more stretched out -- as in a novel, rather than a short story. I really like novellas, by the way, and wish that more people wrote them, as I absolutely adore reading them.
Is there an inherent lack of ambiguity in the nature of this kind of award, in pronouncing a story as better than the rest? Do you think it's at all detrimental to an artist?
Better for who? I'm sure many people dislike the story. I'm often challenged to fisticuffs over it! It certainly is easier to like artists who were unknown in their lifetimes. I certainly prefer them.
Do you feel any responsibility to set a precedent for award winners of the future?
Yes, they ought to wear lizard skin boots with a balisong hidden by the left ankle.
Are there any awards you take particular notice of each year?
Most of all the MacArthur. I was very pleased when they gave it to the guy who studied movements of fish populations through oral histories. That's the ticket.
At the award announcement, you described the judge's decision as demonstrating "a belief in ambiguity"; do you feel that our current cultural climate shies away from the ambiguous in art?
I think that there is a general arrogance in our culture, or rather, in general among human beings of the atomic age, that the world can be precisely fixed and understood according to coordinates, facts, etc. I don't believe this is so. I think things can only be gestured at, and that's part of why we should be more careful about how we behave, individually, nationally, culturally. These assumptions extend even to moral ideas, and the way that morality affects science. People today are very sure of themselves, and they shouldn't be. But they'll all be dead soon! Us too.
What do you think the current function of literary awards is, for a writer?
I don't know much about it. I guess it brings notoriety, and gives one's work a bit more authority with the public. It is difficult to get anyone's attention -- so this sort of thing is immensely helpful.
Has the Plimpton Prize opened up any new possibilities, creatively or professionally, for you?
Not yet -- but I don't think many people know about it as of this moment. Of course, I hope it does. The ceremony will be on Monday, so I can say more after a month or two.
Do you re-visit your published work much? I was wondering if, in the afterglow of the award, your reading, or regard for, this story has changed.
There's so much reading to do -- so many good books. I reread my work when it comes out -- or when I'm reading in public. Sometimes I'll read for a friend, etc. I like that -- reading out loud for one other person. Although I think public readings should be kept quite short.
As Stephen Gaghan pointed out, you've written in a very recognisable genre, the dueling story; was it a conscious decision to play with that framework from the story's outset?
Well, I adore duels and the subject of duels -- that's more the motivating factor than any consideration of frameworks or genres. A man named Paul Kirchner wrote a book called Dueling with the Sword and Pistol, which is splendid, and which I recommend highly. There are many great books about duels, but that is a recent one that ought to be purchased and delighted in. Anything having to do with duels fascinates me. If I could, I would have a duel in every single thing I write. But I won't allow myself that pleasure. Or at least I haven't so far. Maybe I will weaken over time.
If my co-worker keeps stealing office supplies from my desk, is it appropriate to challenge her to a duel?
You could do that -- but the problem is, she has no honor and would not accept. I suggest you ambush her and give her a whipping with a sand-sock. Or pinch her until she cries!
I know you've got lots of completed projects awaiting release, what's next for you?
I haven't managed to find a publisher for my children's books. It is a difficult process, especially when the books are morally problematic (some would say). Certainly I like the idea of illustrating them. One in particular, called, The Well -- I would love to do woodcuts to go with it. Vintage is publishing The Way Through Doors, a novel, next year, so I'm very excited about that. I have a book of short-prose coming out with The Cupboard Pamphlet called Parables and Lies. A book of my collected poems from the last five years is out on submission right now -- hopefully it will find a good home. That's called The Village on Horseback. Publishers of fine literature should contact my agent to see the manuscript. I've written quite a lot of poetry since March Book -- but I haven't found a publisher for the books. In December, I finished a volume of poetry called The Skin Feat. That's included in The Village on Horseback. I'm about to start on a new novel, but I haven't titled it yet.
April 17, 2008
Ed Park pointed me towards a good piece by Izzy Grinspan on the Poetry Foundation web site (ok, so maybe I was looking for a poem to carry around) with the best subhead you'll read this week. Nope, not going to tell you. Go on, go read it.
Also, go add a line to the longest poem in the world (in between the spam and the cries out against same).
This man is somewhere between a hero and a nightmare. I imagine his book will clarify my feelings but I think I'll be too busy counting my window panes to read it. (Link trail: Kelly, then Chris, via Meghan. Ha!)
Is that a poem in your pocket, etc., etc. NPR says it's the first National Poem in Your Pocket Day.
Why is the US so introverted? Why not International Poem in Your Pocket Day? I ask you why is Canada not participating?
Hmm: the link was missing. How about here.
Recession-tip story of the day is to get your long tail book swap action at Bookmooch (where Amazon still manages to get a slice of the action!).
The Eisner awards shortlist is out, and one of the nominees (Mr. Wonderful) is online at The New York Times Funny Pages. It's by Dan Clowes, however, so any funny will rapidly evaporate to be replaced by bleak despair. Caffeinate yourself first, or just call your bookmaker and lay down cash that Shaun Tan's The Arrival will win all three categories it's nominated for.
April 16, 2008
Excellent freebie for Madison area peeps -- and online later for the rest of us:
Caldecott Award medalist David Macaulay will deliver the 2008 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, "Thirteen Studios," at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, 2008, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Tickets for the general public are available free of charge. There will be a live video stream of the lecture (250 viewers maximum), after which it will be available online until April 17, 2009 (limited to 10 simultaneous viewers).
UK kids know St. Trinian's from the hilarious films where the monstrous girls run circles around the headmistress — played in drag by Alastair Sim. There was a remake last year (which looks to be the first in a new series) with Rupert Everett in the Sim role. Could be good, you never know.
Not sure how the Arab World will fit inside the convention center but it's the guest of honour at the London Book Fair this year. The Independent wonders if the Arab world is ready for a literary revolution? (Which sort of means non-Arabic publishers looking for the next The Kite Runner.)
The reading list includes a name expected to make me feel at home (Mahfouz) then a handful of newer names that certainly sound worth reading: Hanan Al Shaykh, Rajaa Alsanea, Khaled Al Khamissi. Maybe the revolution will be on us.
It's worth noting that MacAdam/Cage is one of the few remaining publishing houses who take both agented and unagented submissions and have published such goodies as The Time Traveller's Wife, Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea, Michelle Tea's Rose of No Man’s Land, and Iain M. Banks's The Steep Approach to Garbadale.
The Griffin Prize shortlist is out, and the website kindly provides pictures of both poets and their translators, making our internet that much more beautiful. The 2008 anthology is due out in June, and it's nearly as sexy as César Vallejo.
Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems by John Ashbery
Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems by Elaine Equi
The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition by César Vallejo
Selected Poems: 1969-2005 by David Harsent
The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser by Robin Blaser
Notebook of Roses and Civilization by Nicole Brossard
Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden by David McFadden
More good news for poets from Manchester, where the city's annual literary festival has launched a new poetry award, for a tidy £10,000 prize and associated glory. Carol Ann Duffy is on the judging panel, along with Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker. It seems to be open to any monkey with a basic grasp of English and a "'portfolio' of three to five poems, adding up to no more than 120 lines". I'm off to collate my 1996 Tori Amos-inspired freeverse and cash in.
April 15, 2008
Sadie Jones, one of three debut novelists up for the Orange Prize (must remember: buy cell phone), is quoted in The Scotsman as saying "I think there should be a literary prize for men. I have a son, and you hear a lot about boys not reading. Anything that adds interest or glamour for boys can only be good sense."
So, a prize for books by men which will interest boys: The Bigglesworth Prize? The Nix? The Rowling? (Unless J.K. is a cunningly gender-neutral name and it turns out he's a woman?!) The Lovecraft? The Hitchcock? Stop me if there's any chance of this actually happening.
Here at Small Beer Press we're celebrating Tax Day by sending out our new book for free. NC author John Kessel agreed that it would be fine fun to send his book, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories, out into the wild and see what happened.
The Baum Plan includes Kessel’s Tiptree Award winner “Stories for Men” (gender inequality meet Fight Club . . . on the moon), “Pride and Prometheus,” a mashup of Frankenstein and Jane Austen, and “Powerless,” an amazing mix of pulp fictions, paranoia, and academia. It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license allowing readers to share the stories with friends and generally have at them in any remixing/interpretation/Web 2.0 huddly-cuddly noncommercial manner. Get it here.
Question: Are book prizes just ads for the sponsoring companies? (This makes more sense in the UK with the Orange Prize, Galaxy (mmm, chocolate) Book Awards, etc.)
Answer: who cares? These ads are the only ads (apart from the mythical 2-page NY Times spread their book will get on publication) that make authors happy. And isn't that what it's all about?
Gawker (who reads this stuff? Oh, wait) updates the JK Rowling vs the encyclopedist with the exciting news that He Who Must Not Be Named (Dick Cheney?) still rules as JK managed to get her attorney to apologize for using his name....
I started it the other day and me and Sister have almost reached Carhullan. (Post apocalyptic novels are good training for the coming economic crash!)
The book already won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and now it's been awarded the Tiptree Award: $1000, an original artwork created specifically for the novel, and chocolate. Mmm. Chocolate.
The jurors also announce an Honor List of recommended reading:
"Dangerous Space" by Kelley Eskridge, in the author’s collection Dangerous Space
Water Logic by Laurie Marks
Empress of Mijak and The Riven Kingdom by Karen Miller
The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Interfictions, edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss
Glasshouse by Charles Stross
The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper
Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Pia Guerra
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
Amazon, our benevolent overlord, has free downloads of the first chapters of Bill Loehfelm's Fresh Kills, the winner of its Breakthrough Novel Award.
Break out the Pimms, chaps, the Galaxy British Book Awards have been announced. J.K. Rowling got given something called a 'Nibbie' (make mine a double), and Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach won Galaxy Book of The Year.
Adam Foulds, author of The Truth About These Strange Times, is the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2008. Foulds responds by providing charming and restrained answers to the Times "Quick! We've run out of ideas! Open the Question-o-matic in default writer mode" interview.
What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
I've no idea. I'll look out for a sudden widening of the eyes in new people I meet from now on and will report back.
April 14, 2008
Canadian author Cecil Castellucci survived a citizenship challenge this week when she (along with Jim Munroe and other good folk) was nominated for a Joe Shuster Award (the Canadian Eisners) for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Writer.
The challenge was based on . . . her Wikipedia entry not mentioning her Canadianity. (Wikipedia—now updated!—is perhaps not the strongest evidentiary source?) Cecil, whose next graphic novel is Janes in Love (after The Plain Janes: a great mix of politics and small-town art guerillas), wrote a lovely letter and now all is tea and cakes in Canadian comics again.
Bookslut's Indie Heartthrob Interview Series
A weekly interview series where someone involved in the small press (be it writer, editor, slush slave, etc.) is thrown into the spotlight, grilled over the state of the independents and sundry other items, and quickly made to return from whence they came after having graced us all with their presence.
This week: David Ohle
According to Ben Marcus's introduction to Motorman, David Ohle is the type of writer that most, if not all, writers aspire to become: that writer who writes the book to end all books. A New Orleans native living in Kansas, Ohle has written three novels and edited William S. Burroughs, Jr's (or "Billy's") memoir Cursed From Birth. His next novel The Pisstown Chaos is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press this July. The impatient can get their peak on with a free ad-support eBook (via Richard Nash).
Your new novel, The Pisstown Chaos, focuses on a dystopia riddled with parasites, stinkers and often senseless shifting orders. Is this the same future we see in your previous novels? If so, would you consider this a proper trilogy or a stand alone novel?
It's not so much a stand alone novel as it is a novel about events in another corner of Moldenke's world that take place at a different, indeterminate time. The three novels, Motorman, The Age of Sinatra, and The Pisstown Chaos are only loosely a trilogy. The only real carry-over from Motorman to Sinatra is Moldenke and his mother who show up as major characters there. Then, in Pisstown, the focus is on stinkers, random population shifts, and the chaos in Pisstown -- all mentioned in Sinatra but not treated extensively. I guess I think of it something like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, an imagined place where a variety of human dramas play out, with characters that sometimes re-occur.
Where did the initial idea for Pisstown come from?
There is a line in The Age of Sinatra: when "the Pisstown Chaos spread to the countryside;" and another that describes a "heavily muscled veteran of the Chaos." I knew the moment I wrote those lines that somewhere I would have to explore the Chaos much more extensively, just to satisfy my own curiosity. I'm the kind of writer who begins with the slimmest of ideas and builds layer after layer until I'm satisfied I've exploited it fully. Motorman began when I heard two people talking at a party about a friend of theirs whose name was Moldenke. That was all I began with, that name. In it I saw a universe of possibility. This approach of course means lots of trial and error, lots of abandoned chapters, lots of blind alleys. The same holds for stinkers, who are mentioned in Sinatra, but not fully explored. They, too, became a focus in Pisstown.
Tell me about your time with Burroughs in Kansas. Had working with him on his memoir influenced your fiction?
I met Burroughs when I moved to Lawrence in 1984 and hung out with him once or twice a week until his death. I cooked dinner for him on Thursday nights, took him to the methadone clinic in Kansas City on occasion (where he picked up a "six pack" for the week), took him fishing and target shooting (I fished, he shot). I also transcribed a few of his novels from manuscript to computer files (Western Lands, Queer, The Cat Inside). A rumor has persisted that I somehow transcribed his dreams, but it's not true. I'd like to say that his writing had no influence on mine, but that may not be true either. If any of his writing influenced me, it would have to be Queer and Junkie, the two works of his I most admire for their starkly simple, straightforward style. (I wrote a screenplay adaptation of Queer, which Steve Buscemi initially optioned, but it has never been made.) His fame as a writer aside (Bill never talked about that), he was a very smart guy, a razor-sharp wit, and funny as hell. We were friends. I wrote a more complete account of my times with Burroughs called Mutate or Die: With Burroughs in Kansas, published by The Beat Scene Press. I've also published (Soft Skull, 2006) a memoir of Burroughs' son, Billy, called Cursed from Birth.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to write?
When I was a kid of nine in New Orleans I wrote a story in pencil called "The Bear" in a small notebook. I had a kid's roll-top desk painted yellow and right then and there, with my mother's encouragement, I fell in love with writing and have done it compulsively ever since. Unfortunately she died before I'd published anything.
How do you feel your writing process has evolved since you initially wrote Motorman?
Motorman came rather quickly and easily. I completed it in about two years. It was all inspiration and youthful energy. The Age of Sinatra took thirty-two years to complete in publishable form. After Motorman, my writing process changed in that it became more plodding, more deliberate, involved plenty of research (believe it or not) and I began using a computer, which allowed me to impulsively change names and places as often as I wished. Another factor in Sinatra's taking so long was finding a publisher. Various early forms of the novel were rejected many times until Richard Nash at Soft Skull took it.
Moldenke, Motorman's protagonist, appears as well in The Age of Sinatra and Pisstown. Is he a character you intend to continue working with? What is it that propels him through your work?
What propels him through my work is that he's a two-dimensional "observer narrator," merely a device to experience for the reader the dystopic fictional world I'm inventing. It could be anyone with any name. I just like the name, which seems oddly fitting for the times he lives in. I've told myself that I'm finished with Moldenke as a character in any future work. We'll see about that. After all, when he appears in Pisstown, he's "dead." Actually, he's a "necronaut," a death traveler. He's died but come back to talk about the afterlife, and he makes a living at it.
What are you working on post-Pisstown?
Currently, a short novel called Quackers is "being shopped" as they say. It was written in collaboration with a friend in South Africa. I have also begun working on a novel called Sunspot, which takes place in the same imaginary place as the other three, but features new characters.
Karen Joy Fowler (Wit’s End) is one of the smartest people I know and her novels are always great fun, filled with all kinds of sharp observations and humor as well as great characters. She’s incredibly sharp and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of her—see the last answer in this mini-interview for an example:
I had the thought at one point that I would write and post an entry on the Holy City cult and then be free to quote it verbatim in my own book as the Wikipedia post. But the entry already there was so good I felt I couldn't improve on it. So I didn't, and then I couldn't quote it verbatim, after all, and the whole postmodern plan fell sadly to pieces.
Recently while at some other Wikipedia site I realized that there was an error in that one of the links didn't take you where you were told it would, and I tried to report this or fix it myself, but the whole escapade proved beyond me. And now I can't remember where or what it was. Only the irritation of trying to figure out how to alert the great inert creature that is Wikipedia and failing to find any place to kick it awake.
Wit's End features a mystery writer, Addison Early. Are you a fan of the murder mystery?
I do love a good murder mystery. I read boatloads of Peter Dickinson's books in preparation for writing Wit's End. I can't actually do what Peter Dickinson does, so there was no real need for that. Just the excuse I was using to allow for many, many readings of his many, many books. I also love: Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Harley Jane Kozak, Karin Fossum, John Lescroat, PD James, Josephine Tey, others, many others. I'm currently reading Christine Falls by Benjamin Black. Really I should stop answering your questions and go see what happens next.
Wit's End is set in Santa Cruz and throughout the book you give the Murder Capital of the World a fair amount of love. Is this the romance of a new citizen? Are you ever going to write about Davis, the city you recently left?
The Jane Austen Book Club is set in Davis so that's been done. Part of the process of writing Wit's End was to give me a chance to get to know Santa Cruz better in preparation to moving there, and for Santa Cruz to get to know me. Yes, I'm sure I'm all starry-eyed at the moment. When I've lived there for 30 plus years as I've lived in Davis, when I know the city council members by name and have been to the meetings pleading for this and that and being ignored, well, then, I'm sure the place as covered in my books will look very different indeed.
You're on a book tour at the moment: any high (or low) points?
I had a flight on American from St. Louis to LAX the day they canceled all flights out of St. Louis. I arrived at the airport about 7am, got on a flight to Denver at about 11, waited hours for a delayed flight to LA and finally arrived about 5:30 with all the cars in California between me and Vroman's Pasadena store where I was due to read at 7:00. I was about 10 minutes late to the reading, still in my traveling clothes (don't ask) and rumpled in both body and spirit. Though I had a lovely group of readers waiting for me, augmented eventually by my son and 3-year-old grandson, all of which cheered me right up. Low point to high point in fifteen minutes tops.
I had spent most the day reading a book pressed on me by Paul Ingram at Prairie Lights -- Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves -- so it wasn't all that bad, really. Any low point you can read your way through is hardly a problem at all. Great book! Thank you, Paul!
Who would you like to see in the White House in January 2009?
NOT the bad-tempered, flip-flopping, old guy who knows nothing about the economy, says he opposed the early execution of the Iraq invasion when he did nothing of the sort, insists the escalation is working a treat, can't remember whether Iran is Sunni or Shia, can't see the difference between Iraq and Japan, thinks people who borrow money irresponsibly deserve to lose their homes, but has no problem bailing out irresponsible lenders, has promised us more wars, will not rule out the use of torture, will not sign onto a new GI Bill, voted to suspend my right of habeas corpus and has never apologized for it, and has no intention of providing healthcare even to children. Not him, not ever.
I want the Democrat.
April 11, 2008
Sci-fi is apparently still the kiss of death on a literary book deal as the NY Observer had an update on their Heroes-writer/Dale Peck collaboration to note the $3 million trilogy (which will not at all read as if written by L. Ron Hubbard) "is only going to have a little bit of sci-fi in it" according to the book's agent, Richard Abate.
Ooh--there's internet access again! It's almost like I'm back to being a real person.
Jessa asked on Tuesday whether it's ok to be sick of National Poetry Month yet? The only reasonable reply is: Yet? Is anyone not sick of it? Charles Bernstein's "Against National Poetry Month As Such" is almost a decade old by now: National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally "positive." The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an "easy listening" station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. "Accessibility" has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn't be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry.
There are some compensations, however. Eric Ormsby has a fine essay in The New Criterion about Walter de la Mare, and how to cope with the fact that "to categorize de la Mare is to catch at a fog with tweezers." Meanwhile, Roger Kimball defends Kipling, not so much against charges of political incorrectness as against Eliot's charge that Kipling writes verse, but not real poetry. And David Yezzi explores the still fruitful legacy of the New Criticism, if he may overstate their death a bit. (After all, to say that "The New Criticism, like old Marley, is dead as a door-nail," is precisely to say that they're not dead: Marley came back . . . )
And VQR has made available a recording of Charles Wright & Charles Simic reading, plus another with Jennifer Chang, Kevin McFadden, Cecily Parks, and Patrick Phillips.
Ernest Hilbert interviews X. J. Kennedy: I was christened Joseph Kennedy, and all the time I was growing up I was mercilessly taunted for having same name as old Joe Kennedy, ambassador to England. When I was in the navy, I was even stationed for a time on a destroyer, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. The kidding was fierce. So when I started sending poems off to magazines, I thought I would sign my name any crazy way I could think of just to be different from all the better-known Kennedys, so I stuck the X on.
Jessica Johnson commemorates April with Montale & Ungaretti, because they "write of storms, seas, warm nights, and landscapes of anticipation."
Finally, Ralph A. Lewin doesn't much like 20th-century poetry, and has done something--270/odd pages of something about it: Verses is, according to the catalog, Collected poetry on plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, medical topics, memories, food, times, space, travel, places, pollution, religion, politics, songs, etc. (Via the Chronicle.) There's a poem about cannibals eating missionaries, and "Cross-dressing," a little ode to the slit in men's briefs: I wear a kind of underpants / That fit me nice and tight. / They have a slit or orifice / That opens to the right." The .pdf is available for free through the U of California system's eScholarship repository.
"I'm a lady." She likes the sound of lady so much that she repeats it, running it off her tongue with lascivious delight. "I'm a lady." She likes to mislead people, she says. "It is better not to look like what you are; it is better to look like a bourgeois woman because then all the doors are open for you and then you can just go and make hell. That is much more exciting."
The Blake Dawson Prize for Business Literature is a great reason for novelists to kick their old manuscripts out the way and get to writing something with backbone. (Especially for US novelists. The $30,000 prize is in AU$ and any foreign currency is like gold around here.)
Caroline Overington won this year's prize for Kickback: Inside the Australian Wheat Board Scandal, her story of the Australian Wheat Board's kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's(!) government. (Via The Australian)
It’s hard to describe the psychological effects of growing up with so much spaciousness, as I did in Central Illinois. I describe the wind as the “eighth ocean,” and all of the pictures I have of my relatives look as if they were caught off guard commandeering way too much space as wind nudged up their pant legs.
Jessa is away writing her memoir—it's about time this site produced a book of its own for others to get snarky about—so I'll be filling in.
In preparing for this gig I am (re)reading Eric Felton's
How's Your Drink?—anyone can make a martini, how about something more interesting? Also putting the word out for someone to reprint Paul Harrington's Cocktail so that I can get me a copy.
Which me? Gavin Grant, Small Beer Press publisher by day Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet editor by night, and sometime in between, co-editor of the fantasy half of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror with Kelly Link (Ellen Datlow does the horror half).
Shafik won my heart by publishing a paper in European Urology in which he investigated the effects of polyester on sexual activity. Ahmed Shafik dressed lab rats in polyester pants.
There were seventy-five rats. They wore their pants for one year. Shafik found that over time the ones dressed in polyester or poly-cotton blend had sex significantly less often than the rats whose slacks were cotton or wool. (Shafik thinks the reason is that polyester sets up troublesome electrostatic fields in and around the genitals.)
Broadway will see if a play (as against the unending stream of Muse-icals!) can actually get bums on seats this autumn when Daniel Radcliffe bares his soul (etc., etc.) in Peter Shaffer's play Equus. It went over very well in London and should do the same here. If it takes Naked Harry Potter to rescue the theater, then Naked Harry Potter it will be.
April 10, 2008
Your obligatory National Poetry Month link of the day: Why are Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop the only two female poets in the canon?
It was no surprise to see Frances Leviston defending the lack of women in the recent Guardian series of poetry booklets. It was less surprising still to employ a woman to justify this predictable paucity - it's a well-worn, pre-emptive tactic of those who want to defend a canon still being shorn of female talent, although it's passé to say so.
Bookslut's Barbara J. King is discussing language -- both simian and human -- in new books by Gregory Radick and Steven Pinker at the Times Literary Supplement.
All these years after The Language Instinct, Pinker, star professor at Harvard University, veteran of the lecture circuit and op-ed pages, shines as cognitive science’s leading light. With force and clarity he argues for an innate human nature, and appears to enjoy provocation as much as prognostication. Joining up with New Atheists like Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, Pinker categorized religious faith in a recent interview as akin to astrology or alchemy. No one, then, picks up one of his books in search of an even-handed review of models of human behaviour.
That sex can not have been worth the effort of the lying.
April 9, 2008
Mezrich's response to these specifics is to say that everything he describes is accurate, only that it didn't necessarily happen to the people, in the places, or at the times it occurs in the book. He had to change things, he says, in part to protect the identities of the people he wrote about. But he also admits that, as he puts it, "I took literary license to make it readable."
The Boston Globe investigates the "literary license" in Bringing Down the House, recently made into a film getting a 31% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
De rigueur jokes about T.S. Eliot's "cruelest month" notwithstanding, the National Poetry Month FAQ web page explains why April was chosen for the honor: "February is Black History Month and March is Women's History Month, so April seemed a logical choice." Let's get this straight: logically, this would mean that poets are an oppressed group on a par with groups who have overcome the legal status of chattel.
Ange Mlinko says yes.
April 8, 2008
I’m a Luddite. Sure I have a sweet little mac and a Treo and a profile on Twitter, but I was a bookseller for five years and it’s important to me to hate technology and believe that cafes with wifi can read my thoughts and the Internet is giving me brain cancer. No matter that I often find myself (usually while on deadline) blogging, texting and twittering all at once. I would like to add that I have no profiles on any social networking sites (except LinkedIn and Goodreads) because I believe friends ought to be people you know in real life, and not someone who shares your love for Hannah Montana.
So I hate all things technological, and for this week’s Sticky Pages, I picked up Sexier Sex by Regina Lynn. Basically it’s a guidebook to using technology to have better and more sex. And I thought, meh. So you go to a few sex websites (Here’s my favorite), IM one-handed with that cute blogger boy on the other side of the country, and then you hit it with your partner or yourself at home. And that’s all good. So why do I need a guidebook?
I’ll tell you why: there are some really good ideas here. And some not good ideas. And things I didn’t know were possible: “How to Control a Sex Toy Over the Internet” and “How to Reassure your Man That Sex Toys Won’t Replace Him.”
We’ll begin with the not good. Well, not good for me. The chapter titled, “How to get Started in Virtual Worlds” with its mentions of Second Life and MUD’s (Multi-User something, something) made me say, “Oh. Shit. No.” And then I had to put my head between my knees and try not to pass out while remembering high school and the guys in the Rush cover band and their fan club, which was, I’m pretty sure, the whole Role Playing Club. I was in college when I discovered that the Role Playing Club was a front for Dungeons and Dragons. Just the thought makes me swoon and NOT in the good way.
On page 73, in the “How to Meet an International Superstud or Sex Kitten,” Lynn implies that airplanes are great places to meet people. There have been some swell erotica stories set on planes, but damn, I’ve never, ever sat next to any stranger with whom I’ve wanted to dive under that flimsy, staticky, blue blanket. Though I am flying to LA for BEA and maybe, just maybe Khaled Hosseini will be sitting next to me and he’ll be feeling particularly naughty.
On the very good side: “How to Seduce Someone in 160 Characters or Less.” I do love me some dirty texts. Lynn gives some great texting suggestions including, “Use abbreviations sparingly, but use them when you need them.” And “Triple-check the recipient’s address before you press Send.” That second one is very important and sort of sad for me too, as I have been on the receiving end of a mis-sent text and it was one of the funniest moments of my life. But I can see how it could also be very, very bad.My favorite chapter in the book is “How to Use Technology to Give You More Time for Sex.” Lynn writes, “Use a shared online calendar to plan surprises for each other. Create appointments like ‘Tuesday, 8:00 pm, oral sex in the shower’ and follow up on the promises.” She also suggests getting a “robot vacuum and a robot mop to handle the daily mess.” As I said before, I’m not the biggest fan of technology and it seems to me that a vacuum that’s smart enough to navigate my house, is probably smart enough to film my exploits and put them up on YouTube. Or maybe the Internet is making me paranoid. And slightly hotter thanks to Lynn’s book.
Maxim publisher Felix Dennis confessed (while drinking) to a journalist that he once killed a man. He's since retracted.
I think Chris Ware has said before that it’s one of those occupations that will keep you penned in the basement and that it naturally breeds miserable subject matter. Not only is it one of the few artforms that can be performed entirely in solitude, it usually deals with the visual stuff you couldn't pull off in a theater or film production -- because it's too personal, or fetishistic, or outrageous to be made with others. And so people have to spend all this time in their own minds, wandering.
Maybe I’m making too much of this… I might just be tired of the solitude of comic-strip making.
"Your tortured longing reminds me of the engraving in my edition of Shelley's love poems," Joe pleaded with no sense of irony.
"Ah, Melvyn," Natasha replied earnestly. "Or should I call you Joseph for short. The dialectic of your northern simplicity and your Sartrean existential modernity pierces my Gallic heart."
My lit award mojo is painfully good, people. Scroll down the page to the April 7th post and observe how I nailed the new Pulitzer Prize winner. Cross my palm with silver, and I will whisper you tales of book prizes to come in the silvery future, long after the last Kindle is trashed and we download chapters directly into our brains.
Pulitzer Prize Book Winners 2008
Fiction: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
Drama: August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts
History: What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848, by Daniel Walker Howe
Biography: Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, by John Matteson
Poetry: Time and Materials, by Robert Hass and Failure, by Philip Schultz
General Nonfiction: The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945, by Saul Friedlander
April 7, 2008
The Telegraph lists the 110 books that compile the perfect library, so you can make your shopping list to get that book snob into bed. Why you would want to sleep with a book snob, however, is beyond me.
Maud Newton reminded me of the Mike Wallace interviews at the Ransom Center in Austin, now available online. Chain smoking, men in suits, Mike Wallace in his nastiest form, ohhhhh. Today I'm watching the interview with Philip Wylie, as they discuss Simone de Beauvoir, and I recommend you do the same.
It is April, National Poetry Month, and we have a new issue, jam packed with poetry. I am going to stand here and pretend that it's on purpose! Yes, we thought it out for months! How much poetry can we put in one issue? Let's find out! (Actually, it just turns out that way, and if we had tried to plan it, we maybe would have had two poetry reviews.)
But wooo, poetry! Wendy Anderson interviews Galway Kinnell. Elizabeth Bachner tries not to turn into a hippy while reading Ken McLeod's translation of the Heart Sutra. Len Bracken tries to track down translations of Picabia's poetry. Dale Smith considers Forrest Gander's prose. (I should also mention that Dale has a new collection of poetry out himself, Susquehanna.) We also have reviews of Campbell McGrath, Frederik Nyberg, Noah Eli Gordon, Christopher Kennedy, and the new sonnet anthology.
And non-poetry related content, too. Our new Judging a Book by Its Cover writer Graeme Allister looks at those adorable polar bears showing up on global warming books. (Fat happy ones, of course, not starving, dying ones.) Barbara J. King remembers Nim Chimpsky, one of many chimps raised like humans to prove... something. Sarah Burke talks to (non)nature writer David Gessner. Melissa Lion discovers the food equivalent of Anthropologie. And other things as well!
Oh, Nigel Slater. How I love your cookbook prose, and yet how completely unable I am to make anything in your cookbooks. I will stick to your food writing, even if lines like this one make me wish I could follow your recipes: "You then knead it for 10 minutes, firmly but without any hatred."
If you would like to knead bread with hatred, by the way, you should find Beth Hensperger's books. I was addicted to one of her whole wheat recipes, because it called for the dough to be raised over the head and slammed with force against the counter, again and again. It was very satisfying after a fight to yell, "Fuck all y'all, I'm going to bake now."
I don't blame Lily Allen for dropping out; some of the books on the Orange list would make me depressed and sick, too. Dear readers, in case you find yourself stuck on a book award selection committee while snotty editorials call you out for the crime of being younger and more fabulous than the literary editor of the Times (as a for instance), I would start a strict regime of Moomins, Ellen Raskin, and lying on the couch watching clips of Dr. Katz. You'll find the problem will clear up in no time.
I've never read Orion Magazine (no Anthony Lane byline, no Andrew O'Hagan, no "Savion Glover's Aha! Moment"), but they have the good grace to give an award to Diane Ackerman for her latest book, The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story.
Junot Diaz talks about how winning the National Book Critics Circle Award led to a tiff with his publisher, how Oscar Wilde metamorphosed into Oscar Wao, and drops science over at Newsweek:
Someone said this to me and I love it: "Being a hot young short-story writer is like being a hot young up-and-coming pastry chef." Who really knows or cares in the real world?
April 6, 2008
Not only does Bookslut point the way to your next book, help you get off, and keep you up to date with literary awards we previously did not know existed, we answer the drunk e-mails you send in the middle of the night. (Well, some of them. The e-mails asking if such-and-such Bookslut writer is single and attractive will not be answered. Work on your wooing, men.) To match the spirit in which such e-mails are sent, I am having my second martini of the evening. So pardon the typos.
i have a problem. i don't know who among your contributors i can ask this question, but here it goes: i've suddenly come to hate books. i used to love them, but something is wrong with me in that i hate them. the last book i read was, i think, Herodotus, The Histories; before that I can't remember. I think maybe The Book of Disquiet, by F. Pessoa. I need help. Who should I consult? Maybe it's just a matter of engaging in real conversation or something. Help.
Readers block happens to everyone at some point, and I'm not sure anyone has a definitive answer on how to get past it. Because I am not an actual advice columnist, and am incredibly self-involved, I will answer with an anecdote.
Last year, when I packed my bags for a month long visit to a dairy farm, I was incredibly optimistic about the books I would like to accompany me. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Pragmatism. The White Goddess. Etc. Everything went fine for two weeks. I got an incredible amount of work done, and spent my evenings reading Very Important Books. (I also took Pessoa, now that I think about it.) After two weeks, however, I started to be sabotaged by my right brain. "Hey, let's go outside and talk to the cows." I tried to reason with it. "Right Brain, cows do not talk." "No, but they listen, and they enjoy being taught about pragmatism. Also, that 20-year-old flirt Patrick is out exercising the horses without a shirt on again." "Okay, fine."
My guess is that maybe you've been neglecting the right half of your brain. It needs love, too, and reading is a seriously left brain activity. The right brain might be sabotaging you until you entertain it for a while. It loves flirting, and Bourne movies, and the Art Institute. Try baking a cheesecake, or sit on your floor with a box of crayons for a day. Then try again, but maybe something a little less intense than Herodotus. When I'm sick I always regress back to Christopher Pike books, so get back to that level. After a week or two of zombie teachers and man-eating cheerleaders (in a literal sense, not, you know) you'll be back to Graham Greene.
April 4, 2008
The 448 pages of David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America not enough to satisfy your curiosity on the subject? (Geek.) Well, then, you can read the full transcripts of the 1954 Senate Subcommittee hearings. (Link from Journalista.)
There will be a lot of sex anecdotes from Mary Roach's interviews in support of her new book Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex here on the blog, I imagine. (Read Elizabeth Bachner's take here.) Might as well start today.
Marie Bonaparte, who was the great-grand-niece of Napoleon Bonaparte, had this notion that the distance between the vagina and the clitoris would determine how aroused the woman got during intercourse. She was very frustrated that she never had orgasms during intercourse. By the way, her husband was gay; I don't know if that played into it at all.
She couldn't manage to have an orgasm during missionary position intercourse. Rather than try a different position, she decided it had to do with clitoral-vaginal distance. She did a lot of measurements on women, and then asked them, "Do you orgasm during intercourse?" and found a correlation between the distance between the clitoris and the vagina. In other words, the clitoris wasn't getting stimulated at all during intercourse, in some of these women with a far distance. She called those, like herself, the "téléclitoridiennes" -- "she of the distant clitoris."
I approached this Booker Prize quiz thinking that they would have to hose the room down afterwards, my win would be so complete. Decided somewhere around question two ("Which was the first second novel to win?") that knowing anything about literary prizes is stupid, anyway, and that doesn't make me dumb. Just cool.
9) Which was the most catty of the winning author's speeches?
Please let it be Anita Brookner. I'm desperate to find her interesting.
The two 2008 Kiriyama Prize winners have been announced, with the fiction award going to the inescapable Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, and nonfiction to Julia Whitty's The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific.
It's an award that "has no specific political or religious agenda" except to unite the literary voices of the countries surrounding the Pacific -- so, Nepal, Taiwan, Samoa, and the right-hand side of Canada can revel in their oceanic bond. So, in less than a week, a more arbitrary literary award than the Ondaatje has been found. Call me when they announce the Authors Whose Names Begin With Vowels Anna Akhmatova Memorial Grant, please.
The IMPAC Dublin Award -- a favourite among the world's librarians, who vote for it, and writers who are fond of money. It's the single richest literary award going, at €100,000 (around $US150,000) (Um, Margaret, I think you're seriously overestimating the value of the dollar right now - Ed.). The shortlisted authors are:
The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas
The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne
De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Let it be Morning by Sayed Kashua
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra
The Woman who Waited by Andrei Makine
Winterwood by Patrick McCabe
Ethan Hawke co-founded an award for authors under thirty-five. Which is cool. Someone (and I'm not pointing fingers, Mr. Hottest State) decided to call it the Young Lions Award. That's worse than the award names I make up at work to sell last year's Christmas stock: "Really, really powerful work. Won the, uh, Zapp Troutman Pedigree Roast Citation. In France."
The 2008 nominees:
Emily Mitchell - The Last Summer of the World
Peter Nathaniel Malae - Teach the Free Man: Stories
Dinaw Mengestu - The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Ellen Litman - The Last Chicken in America
Ron Currie, Jr. - God Is Dead
April is, of course, National Poetry Month, which isn't interesting in itself, but it *does* mean that Ami Greko is blogging again at The Best Words in the Best Order, with all the sound clips and other material that you might expect. Yesterday, for example, she posted Frank Bidart reading "To the Republic," from his new collection, Watching the Spring Festival: You betray us is blazoned across each chest. / To each eye as they pass: You betray us. / Assaulted by the impotent dead, I say it's their misfortune and none of my own.
More poets on war: Tod Marshall interviews Yusef Komunyakaa: I feel that the artist or poet—more than the politician or professional solider—is condemned to connect to what he or she observes and experiences. Bonus video: Komunyakaa delivering a lecture in the Helen Edison Lecture Series.
Guernica has three poems by Monica Youn: When you have left me / the sky drains of color / like the skin of a tightening fist.
An interview (via Lemon Hound) with Rachel Blau DuPlessis: However, I feel that politics and the private life of persons; politics and emotional understanding; the historical world and the private sphere are not binaries. I feel, as Adorno said, "migrated into" by our current realities, infused in every cell by an on-going world crisis of global plunder and nationalist malfeasance. The political world, in another way, infuses everything we are. I express it continuously; I do not have to "decide" to write a "political" poem—I write politically simply by trying to represent all the dimensions of my and our lives. The social world, the economic world, the political world are here, now. The questions is how to face them, how not to "exclude" their force by means of the purificatory, aestheticizing rituals of art.
An old burn, but a goodie, from Jerome Rothenberg (via Al Filreis): "As for poetry 'belonging' in the classroom, it's like the way they taught us sex in those old hygiene classes: not performance but semiotics. If it I had taken Hygiene 71 seriously, I would have become a monk; & if I had taken college English seriously, I would have become an accountant."
Linh Dinh reads in Berkeley's Holloway Series in Poetry.
Nikki Giovanni reads "Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (We're Going to Mars)."
Fou Magazine has lots of Bookslut favorites, such as Dorothea Lasky, Tao Lin, and Matthew Zapruder, in its first issue. Here's the opening to Zapruder's "Narrative Lyric": Doctor DeSoto stepped into the fox's mouth. / Around him the fires were raging, / and he heard the wind. (Via This Recording.)
Weekend fun: Jason Nelson has built Netpoetic.com, which promises a new interface for creating digital poetry every two weeks. He's got three up so far: the reDimensionalCube, LayeringFollow, and WithinSpace. (Via Crg Hill's poetry scorecard.)
April 3, 2008
I am not the child of timid Hungarian refugees, nor have I ever had a slum-landlord uncle. I did not grow up in a mansion block off Marylebone High Street. None of my relatives were survivors of second world war slave labour units. I did not have an early marriage that ended in disaster on the honeymoon.
People assume that if you're not actually sitting with a book in your lap, you're not really reading. Whereas most of what people are doing online is reading. Sending text messages or sitting with a magazine or a comic is reading. There are all kinds of reading, and I think book-boostering campaigns are a reaction against these things that compete for our attention. People feel anxious about the demise of reading, but those anxieties are groundless, and perhaps rooted in snobbery.
Also, raised as I was by a feminist mother, on Ms. magazine, the sense that you can have it all was instilled in all of us -- and I'm really glad that it was. But when motherhood pulls you in one direction, and work pulls you in another, that sense becomes diluted. Somebody said to me long ago that it's not a question of having it all, but that you can have a lot of most things. That's a nice way to think about it. Think about if your life is going in the direction you want it to go, and try not to be riddled with self-doubt.
I was checking for on-board restrictions for an international flight, and found I was only allowed to bring "A reasonable amount of reading matter for the flight." I foresee an argument about my definition of "reasonable" and theirs.
April 2, 2008
There are some good things about going vegan for a week or two while working on a column for the Smart Set. There are interesting conversations to be had ("The problem is that if I eat soy when I'm PMSing my breasts hurt like crazy." "Oh my god, that happens to me too!"), you'll get to spend lots of time fantasizing about cheese, and when you tell your friends at the swank Italian restaurant that this is the first time you've eaten animal products in a week, they will let you eat more than your fair share of the duck prosciutto. (I evidently cannot spell prosciutto.)
Health, the environment, and the well-being of animals are all very good reasons to be informed and smart about our decisions as consumers. What I have never understood, however, are the arguments for going vegan. When you’re a vegetarian, there is always someone around who is more hardcore than you. The vegans were always the most obnoxious at the drum circle. “I can’t believe you’re putting honey in your tea. Oh my god, that honey is for the bees. They made it, it’s theirs,” says the 85-pound hollowed-out girl wearing pleather sandals and a hemp skirt.
So enjoy, while I go back to using raw egg yolk as a condiment. I think I'll miss you most of all, vital wheat gluten.
I've been having some problems with fiction for a while. I recently sent e-mails to friends asking for recommendations for novels. I started five or six, and as soon as I paused and put them down, that was it. I had no compulsion to pick it up again, even if, like the book sitting on my couch right now, I'm only 20 pages from the end. It's been a steady stream of nonfiction, with only one novella finished since January. Then I picked up Sophie Hannah's The Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets and started to feel much better.
Part of it, I think, was relief that the stories were not Quirky! as is the theme of most story collections these days. No character ended up having gills, no one had been raised by wolves, no one could only communicate through song. People did things that might be unexpected, but none of it included growing feathers. Not that there is anything wrong with Quirky!, it's just that most of the time the author hasn't thought further than "I know! Feathers!" and the story suffers.
Not many poets of the period would have dared put the word "bum" in a poem.
Claire Harman calls for the rediscovery of Sylvia Townsend Warner.
April 1, 2008
I was a little light on material this week for Sticky Pages. (Private message to publicists: You might want to mail me your books so I can read them and pick apart the sex scenes for Bookslut’s educated and horned-up readership.) I was thinking of you all at work this fine Tuesday and needing a wee bit of the sexy for your day. I knew I had to find something, but the only thing sitting next to my computer was Getting Off: A Woman’s Guide to Masturbation. Sexy, yes, but the cover with the pink vibrator (or is it a tickler?) wouldn’t exactly be lunchroom reading material.
And then I was reading through the book and the author, Jayme Waxman, mentions repeatedly that there are women who don’t masturbate, or don’t admit to it. And at first, I thought, oh pity them. And then I looked back on my past day’s activities and thought, oh my god. Women who don’t masturbate. It’s totally true that women never, ever talk about rubbing one out. And what kind of a world do we live in that this is so totally true? Women being shameful about masturbating might be an epidemic. Like SARS and the Bubonic Plague put together.
I realized it was up to me to single-handedly (that was cute, was it not? Especially because I’m more of a two-hander myself) bring this book to the attention of the women readers of Bookslut and start the Ringing the Bell Revolution. I’m pretty sure Oprah will be calling me soon to discuss the topic.
Weighing in at nearly 300 pages, including notes, Getting Off covers most every element of masturbating from the history of masturbation -- “One of the earliest images of a woman masturbating (a clay figurine) dates back to between 2000 and 4000 BC, and is from the site of an old temple on the island of Malta” -- to suggestions for sex toys -- Jimmyjane (my favorite) gets a shout out.
Waxman offers suggestions on fantasies: “Even if you aren’t a three-hole type of girl, you might try imagining, at least once, that you want every orifice stuffed up with sex toys, dicks, fingers and tongues, or any other object that gets you off and gets your mind racing.”
My favorite part of the book, besides the possibility that more women will masturbate and talk about masturbation, is the list of terms for female masturbation. A few highlights (page 219):
A night in the with girls
Exploring the bush
Fanning the fur
Menage a moi
Ringing the bell
Shebopping (yes, the Cyndi Lauper song is about putting the dot in dot org)
Tiptoeing through the two-lips
Truth is, you don’t need a book how to tell you to flick the switch. You just need your fingers or maybe not even that, maybe just strong thighs? I don’t know. It’s up to you -- that’s the beauty of letting your fingers do the walking.
So lock your office door, park your car under a tree, or climb into bed and go to it. And when you’re finished, call up a girlfriend and let her know about how good you feel, warm and tingly, or hot and bothered and encourage her to butter her muffin. Or maybe she’ll say, “I just finished too!” And soon we’ll have a revolution on our hands and in our pants and we’ll all feel that much better.
So come on, ladies, as Waxman writes, “Raise your head high and place your hand low, and enjoy the freedom to touch your own body.”
One of the "men in my life" would like to point out that not only does he read, he's currently in love with Amy Irvine's Trespass, a book that I forced upon him after half a bottle of wine. (I only lend out books when drinking. Any other time, you can buy your own damn copy.) You can listen to Irvine read from Trespass here. (There is a long introduction, so you might want to skip the first five minutes.)