May 30, 2008
Prize-winning author, poet and humorist Sherman Alexie shouldn't be allowed to testify at an upcoming trial to block the Seattle SuperSonics from moving to Oklahoma City because he has nothing relevant to say and is known for his "profanity-laced" columns for a weekly newspaper, the team argues.
May 29, 2008
A Short Interview with Tao Lin
Tao Lin needs little introduction to Bookslut readers. His books of poetry (you are a little bit happier than i am) and fiction (Bed & Eeeee Eee Eeee) are funny, sad, honest ("masturbation is underrepresented / in my poetry"), and observant--and have talking animals.
The new book of poems, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy does nothing to hurt Lin's reputation as a prodigiously talented, idiosyncratic writer. Whether the topic is lifting things from Whole Foods, the "perfect headbutt," energy drinks, or the difficulty of constructing a philosophy of life that doesn't crumble under absurdity and loneliness, Lin's deadpan voice can make poetry of it. Here's a taste, from "the power of ethical reasoning":
articulating intellectual convictions, isolating irrational behaviors
in emails and poems, and shoving the pulitzer prize into your mom's face
saying, "i won the pulitzer prize bitch"
to humble her into being a better person
are a few of the tasks that now control my life
alone at night i turned away from the computer
hit my face on the bed, made a noise
and turned back toward the computer
with a neutral facial expression, thinking
i knew how it felt not to be in control of one's life
the next day i said, "if you really wanted to change
you would have changed by now"
- Tao Lin's blog: reader-of-depressing-books.blogspot.com
- The site for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, featuring a video and the book's poems remixed as haikus
- A review of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Do you see the poems as therapeutic? (Were they while you were writing them?)
In times of sadness Barack Obama (or other political leaders) might feel more bad after reading the poems, and be less capable of giving a speech later that night with 100% conviction. Or maybe he would feel happier due to knowing that successfully blocking out certain knowledge and successfully unsarcastically believing in God allows him to be more productive than other people.
(One of the pages in the book says that people who aren’t killing themselves could think about that and assume that they value life, then focus their life on doing things that increase everything’s lifespan, and it would “makes sense” and be logical. So maybe political leaders would read that and feel good.)
Someone severely without illusions like Fernando Pessoa would probably feel better about life after reading the poems due to being reminded about the arbitrary nature of the universe, then maybe go for a walk and pet a dog or smell a flower, feeling gratitude that he exists. Later he would sit on a bench and look at people and feel really alienated.
Many of your poems are about distance in some way, either expressly or in tone--at one point you even say "the focus is on the distance itself." Why is this such an interesting idea or problem?
Everything is “connected” at the atomic level, some say. But distance still exists between each atom and inside different parts of the atom. I don’t know what I’m trying to say right now. Something existential probably about how no two things can occupy the same physical space, but what about abstract space or something?
I don’t know. I don’t really feel interested in that question. I focused on certain things in the book because they felt emotional, seemed funny, or made me feel like something that was somehow alive but not conscious, not required to make choices, like a tree maybe.
Does it matter whether one is vegan or an obese Taco Bell patron?
To a particle of sand it doesn’t matter if ten million people ate nine burritos or five cucumbers for dinner. To a snail it probably matters because if people eat cucumbers they’ll have to do things on a cucumber farm and probably crush a lot of snails.
To me it matters because the refined and fortified white wheat flour, natural flavors, and sour cream will be in my stomach and have different effects than if a cucumber was in my stomach.
Was writing Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy much different from You Are a Little Happier Than I Am?
I worked maybe 5x to 10x more hours on “cognitive-behavioral therapy.”
Who do you imagine as the audience for your poems? Who are you writing for?
My target audience is 12-17 year-old children who exhibit signs of social anxiety. I imagine them sleeping in class in middle school while maintaining a B average. I imagine them in high school thinking “Chuck Palahniuk is immature” while still enjoying his early works. I imagine them walking alone in gated communities listening to early Rilo Kiley.
My target audience is also 18-30 hipsters. I imagine them on the L train listening to some new NYC indie band on their iPod hating their life and feeling good and occasionally thinking “steady cash flow without a real job would be good” while knowing it would just make their despair more noticeable to themselves, due to having less distractions from it, but also more amusing for everyone—something they value in life.
In the X-Men comics, the superhero Wolverine is armed with three sharp claws on each arm. They extend through the skin of his hand, and the resulting wounds are closed by up his superhuman ability to heal. Now, in a bizarre case of life imitating art, scientists from Harvard University have discovered that a group of African frogs use similar weapons.
Lord knows I've been trying to ignore Lee Siegel since the New Republic blog melt down, but he refuses to shut up about it. "No regrets!" Whoopdeedoo, sir.
I was wandering around London Review of Books, reading James Meek's review of the new James Kelman novel, and found Rebecca Mead's review of The Lovely Bones. I don't know why I still enjoy a good Lovely Bones thrashing; that book just bothered me to no end.
That American readers have become so enchanted by the character of Susie, who manages to be lively even when dead, is no great surprise. The Lovely Bones renews the cliché of the triumph of the human spirit by taking it to its logical extension, in which a particular human spirit, having been literally disembodied, is endowed with sympathetic character traits and an enduring cuteness. Like M. Night Shyamalan’s summer hit movie Signs, The Lovely Bones dwells in the familiar American province where wanton supernaturalism meets all-embracing sentimentality. Susie’s heaven, the reader eventually notices, is curiously godless. Transcendence means acknowledging one’s deepest desires, which are guaranteed to be fulfilled, so long as they don’t involve being brought back to life. Being in heaven is like participating in a not especially intellectually rigorous self-help encounter group. It’s also oddly consumerist: when Susie tells Franny that she doesn’t really know what she wants out of heaven, Franny tells her, ‘“All you have to do is desire it, and if you desire it enough and understand why – really know – it will come.” It seemed so simple and it was. That’s how Holly and I got our duplex.’
The announcement of a new book award should properly be heralded by parades through the streets and free icecream for school children. At present, we get betting odds from British bookmakers and updates from the Guardian blog. The brand spanking Desmond Elliot Prize is now running with an economical three books shortlisted:
May 28, 2008
Several parts come together in the book design of American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau, Bill McKibben’s anthology of American environmental writing – a mosaic of tiny, intricately placed images forms the bald eagle on the jacket, and a Sanford Robinson Gifford landscape has been printed right on the cover. Designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich answers a few questions on creating these components:
Where did the dust jacket image come from? How did you start to put it together?
I like to play with type and images to create illustrations. I did that in two of my books, Bembo's Zoo and more recently in Men of Letters and People of Substance. I chose the bald eagle, since it works in two levels: the first as a representation of America, and the second that the animal was until this year on the endangered species list. It is a fitting image for the cover; a symbol that was almost destroyed by its own success. If you look closely the head is made by birds, the body by land animals and plants, and the tail by sea creatures, trying to represent an eco-system.
What inspired the choice of the Sanford Robinson Gifford painting, out of all the American landscape painters you could have chosen from?
I love early American painters that have this grandiose image of the land. America as a vision of paradise on earth, an Arcadia depicted by painters like Thomas Cole or the Hudson School, so romantic, optimistic and heroic. I saw a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Sanford Robinson Gifford's work and loved it; it was beautiful but not too messianic. I kept in the back of my mind for future use and was happy when the opportunity appeared.
With so many iconic writers, as well as the sheer size of the 1000+ page book, was it an intimidating project, or a welcome challenge?
I think this is the longest book that I have ever worked on. It was a pleasure to design for Library of America and to do something far more relevant than another self-help book.
Maybe people like reading about people who have rougher lives than they do. I've always tried to keep away from typical "working-class stories," where they're dying for money, or dying to get out of there. My characters are accepting of the kind of house they live in and the kind of car they drive. It's not a struggle to get out as much as a struggle to just stay afloat.
The Hay Festival has come up with a list of the 21 most promising young writers. The Guardian takes a look.
Calvin Trillin on being on the bus with the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders:
I remember later interviewing a white integrationist in Mississippi, who told me he was listening to the radio that day, waiting for the bus to be blown up. He thought somebody would blow it up.
So it wasn’t a crazy notion not to stop. It may have been a caution. I don’t mean that the people were that concerned about the Freedom Riders’ safety. But they didn’t want the blot on the state.
She has a wonderfully vivid Scandinavian beauty - eyes that speak of fjords, cheekbones that really should be kissed by a sauna-induced glow - yet she looks frail, too, even spectral. She makes you think not of decaf soy lattes but of smelling salts.
Well, someone needs those smelling salts anyway.
A new Indiana law — due to take effect July 1 — would force any bookstore that sold even one book that could be broadly described as "sexually explicit" to pay a $250 license fee and be classified as an "adult bookstore."
Way to go, Indiana. You had to embarrass the whole Midwest.
May 27, 2008
A few confessions about me today. The first is I’ve never read The Scarlet Letter (me either – ed.). I blame this on the California public school system. The next is I don’t get poetry. I blame this on graduating from an MFA program with an emphasis on fiction. I have nothing against Hawthorne or poetry but I’ve just never had the pleasure of an introduction. I understand that what I’m about to say might seem a little nuts to poetry pros, but I’m going to say it anyway: I have found the greatest book of poetry ever written.
Hot Teen Slut by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
The book is published by a tiny press so I don’t have to worry about Oprah pimping it out anytime soon, thus making me feel like I’m not half as indie and cool as I fancy myself. It’s funny and I understand the poems. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The language is linear and clear and I don’t need to stare at a blank wall trying to muddle through a meaning, if there is one, or fight my need for a meaning if it’s postmodern. And the poems are all about sex.
When Aptowicz graduated from college, she got a job as porn editor. Hot Teen Slut are the poems she wrote about that time. The poems are as much about that first foray into the real world as they are about the day-to-day life of a porn editor. They are funny and painful and funny.
Today’s Sticky Pages is an excerpt from my personal favorite, “The Sass Manifesto.”
The first line of the poem is, “My pussy is tired of being wet” and Aptowicz goes on to protest the limited language for being wet.
How come men get all the cool words
for sexual arousal like:
Hard and Erect
and Rarin’ to ‘splode.
And on page 58 she takes action.
So I have done it here, people!
I have created a new female empowerment word for ‘feminine wetness.’
And I’m doing my part.
I’m putting it in every porn story I write,
in every forum I monitor and
in every chatroom I’m forced to go into,
But it is not enough
I need this to be a grassroots effort!
So, the next time you are making love to your lady,
or if you’re a lady being made love to,
I need you to start using my new
female empowerment word for feminine wetness.
And that word is…
Poetry, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
The Washington Post's Magazine Reader column is no more.
I'm taking The Post's early retirement buyout and heading off to pursue other interests, such as sloth and gin.
Kevin Myers is a bit of a problem as a columnist. He tends to use sexist language, he has written some incredibly objectionable things about politics, and he supported the invasion of Iraq. (There's a blog devoted to attacking Myers's journalism.) But his book Watching the Door: Cheating Death in 1970s Belfast is just damn good. It's astute, furious, painful, and witty as fuck. (Please, someone, publish it in the States? Please?) It also has lots of dirty sex in it. It's enough to make you forgive the Iraq stuff. There's an interview with him in the London Times.
When not working, Myers tended to avoid the company of other journalists, preferring to socialise with republican and loyalist paramilitaries, a few of whom became friends. “Tommy ‘Tucker’ Lyttle, who became a friend of mine, ran killing gangs,” he says. “The UDA killing gangs from the Shankill, of which Lyttle was a member, beat their victims for hours and then killed them. He was a violent man, but I liked him. I liked my (IRA) friend Seamus, whom I had seen shoot a soldier. One of the lessons you learn about Northern Ireland is that nice people do terrible things. Seldom did I come across people who were conspicuously evil.”
I just noticed the Book Standard is dead. It lost its editor (and my boss) ages ago, and then sort of clung to (shriveled, pathetic) life for a surprisingly long time after that. Ah well. I discovered this while trying to find my chat with the editor of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, a book the New York Times just realized existed.
As the publisher of Barbara Coloroso’s Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide, we regret the Toronto District School Board’s decision to drop the book from its list of resources for a Grade 11 course called Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.
May 23, 2008
I picked up two Jenny Diski travel books at the London Review Bookshop (once I found out they have cake there, it was hard to convince myself not to return the next day with my suitcase), and I am currently reading Stranger on a Train. More misanthropes should write travel literature. "My travel books are all about me not very much liking being in the world."
I'm also doing monster amounts of reading for the next novel, none of which I can tell you about. I've got headaches in parts of my head I've never known about before.
Books I talked about last night:
Yes, the Thomas book is old, but PopCo kept me company on my flight back from London, so Scarlett Thomas was the first author that came into my head when they asked for a list. And it fit into the accidental theme I had going of geeky girls.
May 22, 2008
Apparently English professors don't like it when faculty in other departments bring in more poets than they do: Gary Sullivan has a disturbing story from Dickinson College, about the English department helping to block a psychology professor's tenure bid . . . because he brings in flarf poets. Wow. (But remember last week's takeaway: I can't pretend to be much of a judge of poetry: I'm an English teacher, not a homosexual.)
Andrew Motion's still got another 6 months at least as the poet laureate, and already there's speculation over his successor. The early frontrunners are Carol Ann Duffy, back in the game now that being a lesbian mother isn't quite the scarlet letter it was a decade ago, and Simon Armitage (my five-yr-old's choice), who ten years ago was deemed too young. Gordon Brown's not yet been in touch, but of these two I'd cast my lot with Duffy, on the strength of her early monologues, which are among my favorite in recent years.
There's been some entertaining coverage about this already:
- Vanessa Thorpe thoughtfully provides a sort of betting guide to the various candidates (though, as Todd Swift has observed--poor Geoffrey Hill!!!), while Arifa Akbar does her one better and handicaps some potential female choices.
- Thorpe notes that If the role were given to a woman, it would mark a change in national appetites. While many of Britain and Ireland's reigning literary titans are men, among them Raine, Seamus Heaney, Don Paterson and James Fenton, it is also true that female poets are more popular than ever with their audience. If Duffy doesn't get it, though, I guess those appetites would just fade away?
- In Akbar's article, Chloe Garner is quoted as citing Hillary Clinton's candidacy for president as a reason to nominate a woman laureate.
- George Murray, who's been tracking all this with amusement, reminds us not to expect too much.
Via dumbfoundry, a new site that focuses on interviews with poets: Volumes kicks off with Geraldine Monk: Before I leave this I want to qualify what I say by pointing out that I don't think the maligners of 'origin' would come from sound or concrete poets. Although these poets deal primarily with abstract sound or visual conceits they snuggle up so closely to visual arts and music that 'poetry' is a tenuous nomenclature and doesn't really come into play.
Paul Vermeersch *may* have a quarrel with spoken-word: If the performer is a serious practitioner of this ‘art form,’ he has to constantly move his hands about, mostly to count the syllables of his speech. Essentially, this gives the impression that the syllables, with their forced rhythm, have been arranged this way on purpose, and that he must carefully ‘conduct’ the words coming out of his mouth, perhaps as Leonard Bernstein would conduct the New York Philharmonic. Occasionally, his hand movements change from syllable counting into a kind of illustrative mime, some clever action to help demonstrate a particular word’s significance to the audience. Usually the important word that requires this kind of illustration is a first-person singular pronoun, and the clever performer mimes this by pointing to himself, or perhaps by thumping his chest, or (my personal favourite) by tugging on his shirt like he’s ready to rumble, yo.
Irrefutable criticism from Simon Cowell: "Continuous poems about hats is a bit limited."
I'll be on Chicago Tonight this evening, discussing "summer reading." That means I will spend the rest of the day in my closet, and then begging my friend to skip out on work to help me find something to wear. While I'm doing that, here are some things to read:
The Telegraph profiles Charles Fort, the man who started my fascination with spontaneous human combustion as a child.
I love the Act Like a Man blog.
Marilynne Robinson's essay "Waiting to Be Remembered"
Steven Pinker's response to the President's Council on Bioethics report "Human Dignity and Bioethics"
Then there's this conversation between Laura Miller and Louis Baynard about Ronan MacDonald's book The Death of the Critic. It is occasionally interesting, but it makes me wonder how long this meme will keep going. If you are upset about the waning audience for criticism, perhaps the best way to woo them back is not by repeatedly complaining about the waning audience for criticism.
See you tomorrow, with tv-grade eye make-up probably still applied.
May 21, 2008
A voluptuous Fernando Botero character embodies the title of The Royal Baker’s Daughter, recipient of the 2008 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. Author Barbara Goldberg comments on her choice of cover art, acquiring permissions, and the painting’s “delicious” appeal:
Well, you know I’m crazy about my self-portrait (!), especially since she’s wearing my green corset. I actually chose this image after much (painful) obsession. I always knew I wanted a “juicy” woman, one who was obviously raised on royal treats. Her hair looked like cinnamon rolls and made me laugh. And to be frank, I wanted a cover that the “boys” would pick up, since, if not for her, the title of the book could be considered “chick poe.”
Botero had so many images that would have been suitable. I considered many before settling on this (and then changing my mind 10 million times). The hardest part of all this was to track down Botero’s agent to get permission. Turned out after months of sleuthing, I found him with one phone call. Botero’s exhibition, Abu Ghraib, was coming to American University here in D.C. and I just called the director of the museum. He answered the phone himself and gave me phone number of Botero’s agent in Miami. The Abu Ghraib series is very different – giant canvases of naked men being tortured. All of them (there must have been 25 or so) were set in a cell and all you’d see of the Americans were some latex-gloved hands reaching into the cell. Quite shocking, and I think almost pornographic, but maybe that’s what he meant to convey. I guess if you think about it his delicious women and “family” portraits are also political, kind of tongue-in-cheek humor but pretty devastating to the upper class.
In terms of this image, I fell in love with her vacant expression, the vibrant colors, which I knew would do well on a cover, and the fact that the image was vertical to suit the dimensions of a cover. University of Wisconsin Press did a fabulous job with the cover design. It really does matter to me what the cover looks like, so I’m blessed that the Press showed such care. They offered me four designs, and I chose the most “classic” one because she’s outrageous enough! I guess I would advise anyone coming out with a book to go for the image they really feel attracted to and want. The images for my other books are a woodcut by Rosemary Covey, an Inuit print (“man carrying reluctant wife”), and a photo collage by Jerry Uelsmann, all of which I selected. When I told the designer that I wanted a Botero, she cautioned that the Press had very little money to pay for rights. Can you believe that Botero didn’t charge a dime? Of course, I did communicate with agent, pointing out that the book would go out to a very different audience. I also sent along a few poems.
To cap everything off, Botero and agent actually came to American University this last November to talk about the controversial exhibit. Everyone called him “maestro” and most of the audience was Latin American – not all that many students showed up from the university, which surprised me. And after his talk, I actually got to shake his hand – he knew exactly who I was (meaning that poet who wanted to put a painting of his on a book cover). He and agent were very courteous, so all in all, a terrific experience.
In 1997, not long after I had first arrived in Moscow, my friend Sergei told me about the Diggers. They were a group of sensitive, educated people who had turned their backs on modern life and retreated to the network of tunnels and secret bunkers beneath the city. There they had formed a new society that was fairer and more just than the surface one. It was dark, beautiful, surreal - precisely the kind of world I wanted to live in.
"Either Scotland is enjoying a Golden Age of Letters, or it's got a brass neck like a tuba." Just reading that sentence makes me want to go lie down. (Thank you to Margaret for the link.)
May 20, 2008
I’m getting contemporary and literary and fictional on you today for Sticky Pages. Today we’re going to look at Amy Hempel -- every serious contemporary, literary fiction short story writer’s favorite writer.
Hempel has released just a few books, one of which, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, is out of print and was a collector’s item until her Collected Stories came out. I happened to buy At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom on remainder somewhere in a moment of youthful luck and not with a shred of anticipation that this book would be so rare and important to contemporary fiction. It was like reading a review of The Virgin Suicides in Sassy magazine and buying a brand new, first edition, when I was seventeen-years old. I’m not terribly prescient, but I am heavily influenced by discounts and four-color glossy magazines.
Hempel’s stories sometimes speak to me, and sometimes I just don’t care. Her portrayals of California are sometimes grating and sometimes just what I need to survive the homesickness brought on by another rainy Portland day. But she does simplicity so well.
Today’s Sticky Pages, features Hempel’s short story, “The Most Girl Part of You.” It’s in The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, but I’m going to quote from At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom. Here’s the background on the story: it’s about two teenagers who have been friends for years. The boy, “Big Guy,” has just survived his mother death. The girl’s father died years ago and the boy comes over to their house often, so often the mom considers him the man of the house. And yet, the boy and the girl have been nothing more than friends the whole time.
This scene takes place days after Big Guy’s mother’s death. The girl has mosquito bites and Big Guy has taken a razor blade and made a tiny x on each one to stop the itch.
Hope you spend a little time with your life rushing forth today, and not like maggots in ashes, or maybe like maggots in ashes if that’s your thing.
And that is the end of the joking around; we get it out of our systems. We take the length of the couch, squirming like maggots in ashes.
I’m not ready for this, but here is what I come up with: He’s a boy without a mother.
I look beyond my own hesitation. I find my mother, Big Guy’s father. We are on this couch for our newly and lastingly widowed parents as well.
Big Guy and I are still dressed. I am bleeding through my clothes from the razored bites when Big Guy pushes his knee up between my legs.
“If you have to get up,” he says, “don’t.”
I play back everything that has happened to me before this. I want to ask Big Guy if he is doing this, too. I want him to know what it clearly seems to me: that if it’s true your life flashes past your eyes before you die, then it is also the truth that your life rushes forth when you are ready to start to be truly alive.
My deep dark secret (can cheerleading ever possibly be considered "dark"? Doubtful.) about my Kansas years is revealed at the Phenix & Phenix blog.
What would surprise Bookslut readers about Jessa Crispin?
It might be a bit surprising that I was a cheerleader back in school in Kansas. I told someone that recently, and he was flummoxed. So yes, I was a cheerleader, but I was a cheerleader who read Thomas Hardy books on the bus on the way to games and painted her fingernails white and magenta in honor of Molly from Neuromancer.
I must have had a short attention span when I was answering these questions, as my three favorite books are two short story collections and a series of lectures. The answer, indeed, has already changed.
Aware of all the writers who have come before -- Carl Sandburg, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel -- I have no pretensions of having the last word on Chicago. Nor can I hope to capture in such a short space the contradictions of this place. Wright, who launched his career here, once wrote, "There is an open and raw beauty about that city that seems either to kill or endow one with the spirit of life."
The Guardian comments on the blood sport that is literary criticism. Meanwhile, the Spectator decides to just get on with it and titles their review of the new biography of Kingsley & Martin Amis, "Not a decent book."
“When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. . . . You have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.” Some people are unable to convince themselves of this. Amis described the opening of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” with the hero discovering that he has been changed into a bug, as the best literary representation of a hangover.
May 19, 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: Paul Siegell
Paul, a poet living in Philadelphia, recently published a collection of poems under the title Poemergency Room, released through Australia's Otoliths Press. His poems take the forms of people ("Antibiotics"), praise bands like The Disco Biscuits, and capture idle moments in public transit. Poemergency Room can be previewed and purchased here or from Siegell directly. You can learn more about Paul Siegell and his poetry at ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL.
Where does the title (Poemergency Room) come from?
A friend of mine makes fun of me for this all the time. He's always like, I'm getting a po-beer; you want one? Yo, you gotta hear this po-song I just downloaded. Did you get those po-tickets for the po-show next week? He's such a punk, but I know it's just his way of letting me know he likes what I've done.
I'll wordplay pretty much whenever a piece can handle it, and in another effort to put "The Poem" on a pedestal, this phrase came out of a portmanteau-fueled series held together by using the word "Poem" mashed up with an "em"-beginning word for their titles (i.e., A Poembarrassing Display).
I elevated the status of Poemergency Room from simply a poem's title to the book's title for its sense of urgency, and also to prepare the reader for what's to come.
When did you realize you wanted to write?
The first poem I ever wrote, or tried to, came to me the morning after a concert when I was 19 years old. The poem wasn't the greatest, but what I liked about it was the quirky feeling it gave me, which helped me get to the next poem and then the next.
I knew I wanted to write, to get serious with it, when I realized I had something to say, and that I could say it in a way that gave me an unprecedented sense of not only pleasure, but purpose. It was that realization of "Paul Now Has A Purpose" that made this whole writing thing extremely sexy to me.
How is your work unique? What makes it stand apart from the other stuff filtering onto bare poetry shelves in bookstores across the country?
Ha, no idea. I'm the one who writes it. I think that kinda might be up to the reader to decide.
What I can tell you is something I've held onto for years: I don't want to be a sad artist.
When I write a poem, I experience that act with incredible levels of exhilaration. It's a definite rush, and I am doused in it, and again, I can call it purpose. One of my aims as a writer of poems is to transfer that exhilaration on to the reader. So, maybe another way of saying it is: "Read Siegell. Cop Buzz."
What are some of the bands you've written for and why?
Heck yeah! Let's get into the song: PHiSH, Wilco, the Disco Biscuits, the Benevento/Russo Duo, Beck, Roger Waters, Galactic, Bright Eyes, New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Toots & The Maytals, STS9, MMSW, YMSB, Ryan Adams, the Greyboy Allstars, Keller Williams, Iron & Wine, Michael Franti & Spearhead, plus PHiSH's Big Cypress and Coventry festivals, the Jam on the River festival, the Philadelphia Folk Fest and so many more.
Because I'm dancing in this crowd with all these interesting-looking people and what are we all doing there but sharing in the same heightened experience of life and live music?
Because when my friends and I score tickets, there's a very distinct emotional trigger associated with it.
Because there's so much going on at shows and I somehow have the ability to respond to it.
Because concerts, the people who put them on and the people who attend them, inspire me.
Because everybody loves to have a song to sing.
Because I believe that these concerts deserve the treatment of poetics.
Because when I'm able to write a poem about a concert, I'm essentially writing a love poem.
Because if I can get it right, and then if I can get it published, and then if I can get it back into the hands of those who were also at that show, then I can get Poetry into the hands of people who wouldn't normally consider it. And that, to me, is a worthy challenge.
Is there a band you simply won't write a poem for?
Ha, not at all. It's not a question about being unwilling to write about a band or concert—It's being able to. Some nights I'm at a show and I just don't hear anything in my head that's worthy enough, or complete enough, to put down.
I've a whole long list of concerts I've written about, but I've also a list of ones that I was never able to write anything for. But, that's cool. Can't catch 'em all.
You also copywrite for several papers. Does your creative side ever seep into your professional side?
Yes, when I'm lucky. I do try to sneak an idea or concept of poetics into my print ads and radio commercials, but most of the time it gets cut by the approval process. But, I can speak to one 60-second radio spot I wrote for our coverage of 75th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Eagles. The direction I was given was "make it majestic" and that basically gave me the go-ahead. The rhythm, the phrasing, even the sonic momentum of the piece, it was all based on poetry. When the assignment was over and we recorded the spot, my boss told me it was one of the best pieces I'd ever written for them, and I'd like to think that it was because I was finally able to write like myself. Go Birds!
Who (besides everyone) should conveniently send their money directly to you so they can get their grubby hands on Poemergency Room?
Poemergency Room loves grubby hands. Have a touch and see how it reacts. It also loves the lifted Yeah!-hands of anyone who ever went to a concert, any concert, ever. I'm constantly told the book inspires people to want to write, or write differently, so the book loves the kind of hands that hold the pen or click the keyboard of self-expression—Poemergency Room is made for students of writing because it itself is a student of writing. It also loves the hands of the 9-to-5 work-weary, clicking mice all day, and those hands of the adventurous kind that type out Two-Weeks Notice letters and then know the feel of the steering wheel.
In Sleepless Nights, her best novel, a meditation close to autobiography, Hardwick ponders a life she never could have had: that of a bachelor. This was, in extremis, another character she often wrote about, a cad, like Samuel Richardson’s Lovelace or Brontë’s Heathcliff, equally forbidden and fascinating to her. This is not surprising, in a sense, as she knew one intimately. “I often think about bachelors,” she writes. “A life of pure decision, of thoughtful calculations, of every inclination honored. They go about on their own, nicely accompanied in their singularity by the companion of possibility. For cannot any man, young or old, rich or poor, turn a few corners and bump into marriage?”
Lisa Levy writes about the loss of Elizabeth Hardwick in the Believer.
A couple is living together, committed to never being more than 15 feet away from the other person (ever), and completely chaste. Enter your own marriage jokes here, the whole article is making me squeamish with commitment fears. And yes, of course, they're writing a book.
In the mid-1970s, the Booker panel were suckers for punishment. The year after John Berger threw his award in their faces (or more accurately, threw it at the Black Panthers, knowing how much annoyance that would cause) the prize went to the equally subversive JG Farrell. At the ceremony he pointedly remarked that he was going to use the money they'd give him to research "commercial exploitation" and noted that: "Every year, the Booker brothers see their prize wash up a monster more horrid than the last."
The nominees in the Samuel Johnston Prize for Non-Fiction feature a surprising number of novelists, as The Guardian notes, as well as a record level of assholes. V.S. Naipaul? Asshole. King Leopold II? Asshole. Stalin? Possibly the biggest asshole ever.
The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S Naipaul by Patrick French
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher
The Whisperers by Orlando Figes
Crow Country by Mark Cocker
The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross
Elaine Dundy, the author of the best-selling novel “The Dud Avocado,” whose title came from the theater critic Kenneth Tynan, her husband at the time, died on May 1 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 86.
May 16, 2008
ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive presents Kay Nielsen's illustrations from The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Other Fairy Tales.
The New York Review of Magazines ignores Christopher Hitchens's politics for a minute and focuses on his book criticism.
If you can read another article about the future of reading, the Columbia Journalism Review one is not bad.
Though Amazon has transformed the way we purchase content, its business model has always contained a crucial inefficiency: Amazon gives you unlimited, free, instant access to text about books, so long as you read it on your computer screen. Then, when you’re ready, they’ll also sell you some text, only it won’t be unlimited or instant. Instead, it will be printed on mashed-up tree, put in a box, and sent across the country to you. What’s in that box is simply more text, no different from what you read on your computer, save for the wasteful, inefficient, and costly method of production. For all that we rebel against the idea, examined rationally, the death of the book would be no surprise.
May 15, 2008
It explains a lot, really: I can't pretend to be much of a judge of poetry: I'm an English teacher, not a homosexual.
Eavan Boland asks, Who exactly is a poet? How do we recognize one, even when circumstances seem to deny the possibility of such an existence?
Noö Journal whets our appetite for issue 8 by releasing its first ever e-chapbook of bad poetry, Matt Jasper: A Collection of Bad Poetry. It's got poems by Tao Lin, Blake Butler, K. Silem Mohammad, and others. In addition to the free chapbook, you can always buy a bad poem. From Mohammad's contribution: I just heard from someone in Hades, / How Matt Jasper is a hit with the ladies, / . . . / How Slim Whitmans beget Slim Shadies, / How Alice the maid is exploited by the Bradys, &c.
Preserving the poetry of Shel Silverstein: "I think Shel had an impact on poetry," [Mitch] Myers said in a recent phone interview. "He gave a lot of freedom to his readers and to the poetry itself."
While Silverstein's contemporaries in modern poetry attempted to push the envelope on form and style, his simple, accessible verses were just as visionary. "Guys like [Silverstein] and Dr. Seuss took it to a whole new level," Myers said. "He's touched a lot of generations."
At Guernica, James Galvin's "The Stagnation": Did you ever notice / How easy it is / To terrify clowns? / They're already crying / Before the fun / Begins.
Gary Sullivan on K. Silem Mohammad and Sharon Mesmer: Mohammad always determinedly trips up the expectations of our settled tastes in avant-garde poetry; Mesmer continuously embarrasses them.
Jon Schneider talks with VQR about Ezra Pound (mp3).
I don't really have anything to say about the Observer's "Are Women Better Writers Than Men?" except holy fuck, the crazies come out in the comments section. Just for future reference, listing the number of awards male writers have won is not an argument for why they're superior to female writers.
I was filling out a little Q&A the other day for someone's blog, and one of the questions was "What about Jessa Crispin would surprise Bookslut's readers?" Jesus. How the hell should I know? I went with my previous time spent as a cheerleader, as when a friend recently heard about it, he nearly fell over. "I don't know whether that's awesome or disturbing." I was kind of disturbed by The Solitary Vice: Against Reading because her insistence that reading too much as a kid leads to social insecurity, prolonged virginity, etc. I write about it in my latest column for the Smart Set:
Brottman and I share a very similar reading history. We were early readers who saw the library as a candy store. We both were obsessed with rather macabre stories — she read everything by Edgar Allan Poe; when I was eight I read all I could about spontaneous human combustion to the point that I kept a glass of water by my bed, just in case. I snorted with recognition at Brottman’s description of Jane Eyre as the “plain girls’ bible.” I too read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as a sexually frustrated 14-year-old, awkward-looking girl, which is also the only age that one can read Wuthering Heights and think it’s a romance. Strangely, puppy hanging becomes much more psycho than “tormented soul” after high school.
But it bothered me the way she relied on these weird stereotypes of readers, and then wrote about them as if they universal. One can read Thomas Hardy, be a cheerleader, and write "SLUT" down your arm in lipstick to dress up like Courtney Love for Hero Day during Homecoming. They are not paradoxes.
It is seemly and good to reimagine the second world war in fiction. It is seemly and good to imagine the future consequences of global warming, nuclear war or overpopulation. But I do not want to live, as a reader or a writer, in some fuzzy limbo of now, bookended by holocaust and armageddon. I want to imagine the present, in all its
gnarly, shaming complexity, without which its wonders and glories are bogus.
South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes was previously selected by JM Coetzee as the winner of the 2007 HSBC/SA PEN award, and her winning story, 'Poison', is now shortlisted for the Caine Prize. The Caine, worth £10,000, gets called "the African Booker," a nickname that's half accurate and half kinda redundant and lazy. The other four short stories listed for the Prize, now in its ninth year, are 'Mallam Sile', by Ghanaian writer Mohammed Naseehu Ali, from his collection The Prophet of Zongo Street; 'For Honour' by Malawian Stanley Onjezani Kenani, 'The Day of the Surgical Colloquium' by South African Gill Schierhout, and 'Cemetery of Life' by the legendary Nigerian poet Uzor Maxim Uzoatu.
In further short story news, we are graced with the Frank O'Connor longlist. I had no idea it was only up to its fourth year, what with its pretty decent track record -- go read Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers right now -- and mad, multi-national press releases.
When Jessa tipped me off to the existence of the Shirley Jackson Awards, I spent a good twenty minutes fighting down bad Lottery puns. You're welcome. There's a pleasing exactitude to the categories, and I'm glad the judges are in the know about the difference between a novella and a novelette (for the unenlightened reader, the latter comes with a sunroof and extra drink holders).
Excitement builds towards the Booker2, as we have been handed down the shortlist of six titles. Expect your local pub to be rocked with arguments over the relative merits of the Regeneration trilogy versus really bleak South African novels versus
the bookie's favourite. Vote over here and listen out for the sound of John Berger softly weeping.
Pat Barker's The Ghost Road
Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda
JM Coetzee's Disgrace
JG Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur (Hooray! - ed.)
Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children.
May 14, 2008
Kurt Vonnegut’s posthumous collection, Armageddon in Retrospect, released last month, features the classic author-drawn caricature on the cover. How can you not love famous figures who draw self-deprecating self-portraits (Vonnegut, John Lennon, Alfred Hitchcock, and errr... Schoenberg)? I conversed via e-mail with jacket designer Nellys Li about Vonnegut’s sketch and the thought process behind the final design.
Nellys Li: I believe it was the editor that wanted me to take notice of his typewritten work, and the "old-school" way of composing essays, a.k.a. the typewriter. Taking this comment (and many others) into consideration, I thought the best thing was to keep the design simple, simple and Vonnegut-esque. Having his name boldly displayed across the top in a classic and a very black type is a major selling point for those Vonnegut fans. The design of the title makes reference to that typewriter style. Towards the end of finalizing the design, someone (and I forgot who from which department) commented that perhaps the jacket was feeling a bit too bare and needed something. Perhaps one of his sketches? Which better to use, than the infamous illustrated self-portrait (which I do find completely adorable, as adorable as his photo on the back of the jacket). "They" wanted me to just put it somewhere on the jacket, anywhere. So I tucked it on the lower right, like he's playing peek-a-boo.
I think it’s the strange simplicity that most people find visually appealing. I must admit that this was one of my favorite jackets that I designed. When I was piecing together the title design, I just kept thinking about those days when I did my papers with the typewriter and constantly used the "eraser" ribbon to delete unwanted type. Still, you'd see the debossed, ghosted type there. And, with what our jacket printers can accomplish with effects nowadays, I was able to create it.
My favorite footnote of all time comes from Mary Roach's Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex:
During intravaginal stimulation,* perivaginal muscular contractions of about .8-second duration and about one second apart were palpated.
The short answer is that the good humor is still there, but the book itself now seems strained, dated and not really very funny. This is disappointing if not surprising, but it leaves unanswered the question about Steinbeck that for years has vexed me and innumerable others: Why is it that the work of this earnest but artless writer continues to enjoy such astonishing popularity?
Win turns to Lamont as the others leave. "Don't hold out on me again," he snaps. "So you feel guilty that you inherited millions from your father, who I shot dead when he was raping you last year? There's no need to siphon funds to Romanian orphans anonymously."
Scott Huler recently published No Man’s Lands: One Man’s Odyssey Through The Odyssey. It's a travel book. It's useless, that's all you need to know. But it's got Neal Pollack thinking about his "next remaindered work."
The Sheltering Guy: A Quest To Sleep With All The Male Prostitutes In Tunisia. An unlikely attempt to recreate the mid-life adventures of Paul Bowles.
Marc Hauser, evolutionary psychologist and author of Moral Minds, and filmmaker Errol Morris discuss whether there is a biological basis for morality, Morris's new documentary about Abu Ghraib, and Scared Straight vs the Milgram experiments.
Morris: Well the movie was really, really bad. On the level of craft, I thought: This is just awful. Then someone wrote an article about it. The kids in this program had come from an upper middle class suburb where the recidivism rate is zero. So, now I thought: bad movie and really bad social science. If the recidivism rate is zero, then it really doesn't matter whether they are "scared straight" or not, they are going to "go straight" regardless. And then I thought: really bad morality: Is this how you want to ensure compliance in a society? By scaring people?
The Milgram inoculation is a little bit different. It's scaring people by giving them an example of what they're capable of. It's not by saying: I'm going to take a two-by-four to the side of your head. It's not A Clockwork Orange.
May 13, 2008
Okay, I’m a little scared of today’s Sticky Pages. Mainly because I’m just a little scared of the book. However, the author is Ian Kerner. He wrote the profoundly important, She Comes First, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I have since considered making my presidential choice based on the candidate who comes out in favor of every tax paying American getting, not economic stimulus checks, but rather, a copy of Kerner’s seminal work.
The book today is Sex Detox. It has a hot pink cover, which I’m naturally drawn to because I’m a woman and my X chromosomes condition me to believe all books with pink covers are meant to enhance my life without putting too much pressure on me to think about stuff, like character development, or language, or plot, or stuff other than shopping and rich men. And high-heeled shoes.
My life would be so much richer if Penguin would just release their classics with pink covers.
So Sex Detox. Kerner is saying that by not having any sex for a month, you’ll have greater sex when the month is over. And he has all of these scientific studies to back it up. The book is filled with exercises and tests and journal ideas to keep you busy for the month. He encourages exercise and a good diet to improve your sex life (I recommend pomegranate cocktails -- antioxidants and social lubricant!). And, of course, visiting his website, www.iankerner.com.
Because I’m a girl, and the only tests at which I excel are about relationships, I’ll excerpt a few questions from one of Kerner’s quizzes. This one is to determine How Toxic Is Your Sex Life?
Pages 32- 36.
Having sex with my partner makes me:
- Look forward to the next time we’ll be intimate again.
- Happy that we had the chance to connect.
- Relived that I got it over with for a while.
When we have sex, my partner is aware of whether I achieve orgasm:
- One hundred percent of the time
- Most of the time; I don’t fake it, but I generally don’t let on either way.
- Doesn’t know or particularly care.
If I am in the mood to have sex, I:
- Grab my partner and go for it.
- Snuggle up close to my partner and hope he or she picks up on it and makes a move
- Hit the shower, lock the door and take care of business myself.
If I received a $100 gift certificate for an online sex shop made out to me and my partner, I would:
- Tell my partner so we could pick out something fun together.
- Buy something just for me and keep it a secret
- Throw it away!
When I think of the single life I left behind, I feel:
- Grateful for the memories, but happy to be exactly where I am.
- Nostalgic for the good old days.
- Disappointed that things only went from bad to worse.
For every A, give yourself 3 points.
For every B, give yourself 2 points.
For every C, give yourself 1 point.
That should get you started on your Sex Detox journey. If you choose to do this program, let me know. Or start a blog about it. But make sure it’s pink, because I can’t read it if it isn’t.
The New York Times is the only publication that likes James Frey's new novel, as far as I can tell. (They'll have a review in a week or so, directly contradicting Maslin's positive review. At least that's my guess.) The LA Times does not pull any punches: "Bright Shiny Morning is a terrible book. One of the worst I've ever read."
I know what a friend of mine would say in response to these pictures of an abandoned library in Russia: "That looks like your apartment." (Link from Journalista.)
Author! Author! has an episode called "Pulp Fiction": they have Nelson Algren reading from Chicago, City on the Make, Studs Terkel talking about Algren and why he's not considered part of the canon (it's the fault of the New York literary "stranglers"), Tom Wolfe discussing The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Chris Ware, once again talking about how pathetic he is.
You can watch a Chris Ware cartoon from This American Life here.
Irish journalist and author Nuala O'Faolain died May 9 in Dublin of lung cancer at the age of 68.
A radio and television broadcaster, O'Faolain was well known as an opinion columnist for The Irish Times even before her first memoir, Are You Somebody?, made her a best-selling author.
RTE has O'Faolain's last interview on their website. (Thanks to Richard for the link.)
May 12, 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: Steven Gillis
Steven Gillis is the founder and publisher at Dzanc Books, a not-for-profit based out of Michigan, as well as 826 Michigan. His novels Walter Falls and The Weight of Nothing were both finalists for the Independent Publishers Book of the Year and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year in 2003 and 2005. His newest novel, Temporary People, was recently published by Black Lawrence Press. All the proceeds from Steve's writing helps keep Dzanc afloat.
What is Dzanc about? What is its mission statement?
Dzanc is about great writing. Dzanc is about helping writers and supporting writers and proving to the world that great books can be sustained by a well read community, and we needn't have our book markets taken over by the crap that appears on bestseller lists and certain larger houses who are intent on pandering to sub-standard books in order to meet the bottom line. Our mission statement and further information can be found on our website.
Dzanc is also about community. Our charity arm–the workshops we run and programs we present to students–is essential to our philosophy and identity.
When did you found Dzanc, and what was your motivation?
Dzanc Books was founded in 2006. Less than a year later, in an article appearing in Publisher's Weekly, Dzanc Books was declared "the future of publishing." We're pretty damn proud of that quote and my partner, Dan Wickett, actually has it tattooed to his forehead. Our motivation was to bring the best writing out there to a new audience. We knew there were many great writers being ignored and we wanted to show that an independent house could get behind great writing and actually make a difference. We also wanted to expose students to books and writing in a way they might not normally get in the course of their school days.
How do your imprints function? How do they stand apart?
Our imprints are financed by Dzanc but each–OV Books and Black Lawrence Press–maintain their own independent editors. We work together, as a team, as a unit, but our imprints tap their own literary markets and prepare their own books. With the literary journal Monkeybicycle, we are the sugar daddy. Steven Seighman runs the show and we offer whatever support he asks of us. We feel literary journals are a lifeblood for independent publishers, a way of getting writers out there prior to a larger manuscript and allowing us to work with them on a different level.
How do your projects with literary journals work? Is Dzanc in fact funding upcoming journals?
Dzanc funds Monkeybicycle and Absinthe, both great independently run journals we are proud to be associated with. As noted on the lit journals section on our website, Dzanc is working hard to help journals get better distribution and sales. In any way we can, we are there for journals. In the future, we hope to organize readings and sales campaigns with journals. As noted, our relationship with the editors of literary journals is very important to us. We see us all as part of the same community and we are there to help in any way we can.
Tell me about your work with 826 Michigan.
I founded 826michigan myself in 2004. I had a vision for bringing writing programs to the whole of Michigan and was familiar with the wonderful work Dave Eggers was doing, so I contacted 826valencia and they gave me their blessing to found my own chapter. I was very proud of my effort and worked my tail off to make this happen. After I got everything in place, I brought people on board who didn't share my vision. I will leave it at that. I love 826 and am still involved to a degree, but sometimes good people can have differing views on how to best serve the community. I wanted to get into Detroit and beyond. Dzanc's charity arm is now achieving this. But I am very proud still of the work 826 is doing and remain an avid supporter.
As a nonprofit, how is Dzanc sustained?
We have funding through myself and other private sources. We founded Dzanc only after I had raised sufficient capital to insure we would survive. Since then, we have been writing grants and appealing to the kindness of strangers. It is imperative for a press like Dzanc and others to do all the things we envision that the public buy our books and contribute. All monies are tax deductible, and we accept coins, bills. checks, IOU's and pledges. I do not draw any sort of salary for my work–which would be silly if I did as I put in the seed money to get us going. Everything Dan and I do is a labor of love and the conviction that Dzanc is what we were put on this earth to do.
What's coming in Dzanc's foreseeable future?
Ahh, we have so much on our plates we need a new table! We have a great list of authors already signed through 2010. Our books are distributed by Consortium and places us nationally in hundreds of stores. Between ourselves and our imprints, we will be publishing the works of such amazing writers as: Peter Markus, Jo Neace Krause, Norman Waksler, Hesh Kestin, Louella Bryant, Laura van den Berg–winner of our 2008 Dzanc Prize, currently conducting workshops in MA prisons–, and a new Roy Kesey novel. We also have our Best of The Web coming out in July of each year, with our series editor Nathan Leslie and the 2008 edition guest edited by Steve Almond and 2009 by Lee K. Abbott. We are also doing a panel at the Summer Literary Series in Russia run by the inimitable Jeff Parker.
Then, we have our Dzanc Prize, our workshops–our Dzanc Writers in Residency Programs–and a reading program we run in partnership with Eastern Michigan University. Our imprints are working hard on their new lists. We are looking to expand our charitable programs outside of Michigan and New York where we now are in the schools. Anyone interested in conducting a workshop should contact us. Likewise, we are now open for submissions for our second Dzanc Prize. We are constantly reading and looking for great work. We are in this for the long haul. We love what we do and feel driven to make Dzanc a success.
I don't know how long ago, a year maybe, we accidentally deleted a portion of our sidebar and while rebuilding it made the mistake of putting the RSS feed for the magazine side of the website where the blog RSS feed should be. I just now figured this out. After about ten people e-mailed telling me this. I just kept thinking, "What the hell are they talking about? It's fine." I apologize for being an idiot. The link to the RSS feed now actually works.
I am spending way too much time reading The Stork Didn't Bring You, a sex ed guide from the 1940s that is available online. Other than a confusing bit about how if you bump your chest your breasts won't grow as large (so that's what happened...), it's kind of fantastic. I'm on the "Sex Conscious and Self Conscious" chapter, wherein Lois Pemberton discusses "wolves" who try to get in your pants to fill the void in their cold black hearts, as well as women who refuse to wear feminine clothing and have real jobs and spend all their time with male friends. "She should not be condemned for it."
Americans are finally getting James Meek's We Are Now Beginning Our Descent and I stayed up way past my bedtime reading my copy last night. I looked for an online excerpt, but all I could find were two sad little paragraphs on Meek's website. Meek needs a new website. So instead, here is Meek's review of Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater for the London Review of Books.
A man who hires a squad of elite lawyers to fight to protect his company from liability for anyone’s death, foreign or American, anywhere overseas, despite at least one incident of Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq shooting dead an innocent man; despite the death in Fallujah of four Blackwater mercenaries to whom the company hadn’t given proper armoured vehicles, manpower, weapons, training, instructions or maps; despite the death of three US servicemen in Afghanistan at the hands of a reckless Blackwater aircrew, who also died: well, casual observers might think this would render Erik Prince a villain. Yet it would make him a villain only in some liberal, humanistic, ethical sense. In the eyes of American law, Prince has done nothing villainous; on the contrary, he is a patriot and a Christian, which is to say, a good man.
May 9, 2008
Salon reviews Tony Horwitz's A Voyage Long and Strange, which besides having cover art with a giant sea creature eating a man (awesome), gives a revisionist history of the settling of North America. It turns out not many people knew Coronado went through Kansas. Really? Kansans knew that. But Kansas History class needed a lot of filler, so they told us everything they could think of. Coronado, then a little mumbling about bloody genocide, something about sod houses, then skip to the Civil War when it gets interesting again, and then Amelia Earhart.
But if your early American history is deficient, Lee Miller's Roanoke gives a lot of information about the early English settlements, and the clashing with the existing Spanish settlements in Florida.
I just managed to find this, but Christina Nehring puts into words why I never read the Best American Essays collections.
Reading the Best American Essays from 1986 to 2006, it’s tempting to create a composite portrait of the Preferred American Essayist: Educated at Harvard, he or she has spent significant time at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, written proposals for New York Public Library Fellowships (often lovingly paraphrased in the essays) and received medical attention at Sloan Kettering Hospital. Chances are good she’s a doting dog owner who has done such things as lace her pet’s dinner with “Prozac, Buspar, Elavil, Effexor, Xanax, and Clomicalm” (Cathleen Shine, 2005) or write gourmet cookbooks for his discerning palate (Susan Orlean, 2005 and 2006). More likely than not, he (if it is a he) has had a lifelong love affair with fishing or baseball, preferably both. An added bonus is to discover—or at least reassess—a Jewish ancestor in one’s family tree.
Where in the world is Schiller's skull? DNA tests prove that a skull venerated by many literature lovers as the "brainbox" of 18th-century German dramatist Friedrich Schiller actually sat atop the shoulder's of a very different man, a German official said. (Via Paul Vermeersch.)
Danielle Pafunda has posted the first half of a long interview with Arielle Greenberg about "the Gurlesque" in contemporary culture: There’s an interesting relationship to irony here: My generation (Gen X) was known for being cynical and glib, but I think a lot of what seemed posturing nostalgia—the way riot grrls, for example, carried kiddie lunchboxes—was an actual longing for the (complicated) promise of a 70s childhood, which itself was overshadowed by our parents’ cynicism, Watergate, Vietnam, the recession, etc. I think perhaps the reasons we return to these images from girlhood have to do with a longing for sincerity, for passion.
Bookslut favorite Tao Lin has a new book of poems out, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and a promotional blog to go with it. There's a trailer, movie reviews, and "every page edited 'half-assedly' into haikus."
"Fauxhemia: The Same Old Same Old New York School": Meanwhile, Language Poetry distinguished itself as the slowest art movement ever. It took 20 years to get off the ground. Theory-heavy, they should have called it Talk Poetry. In it, politics is defined as ineffectual insurrection, yack attacks meant to land university jobs.
David Yezzi is interviewed in Men's News Daily about Azores: most poetry is utterly forgettable. Sometimes I forget it even before I’ve finished reading it.
David Whyte encourages executives to . . . quote more poetry: "In many ways, poetry is about making you more dangerous again, and re-creating a kind of innocence you've had all along," Whyte said.
Reviewing the new biography of Isaac Rosenberg: But he was surely the world's worst soldier. Bullied for his stature - he enlisted in the Bantams, a unit to accommodate short men - he endured with remarkable fortitude and his letters home are models of stoicism and humane humour.
May 8, 2008
I once heard a woman say that she did not consider Simone de Beauvoir a feminist because of her tangled affair with Sartre. Dumbest shit ever. (Forgive me, I still have a cold, so not enough oxygen is getting to my brain.) As if your romantic suffering erases your entire (monumental) body of work. Feminists make bad decisions in love, too. Tarts on reality shows are not the only ones. Carole Seymour Jones talks to the Telegraph about her biography of de Beauvoir and Sartre, A Dangerous Liaison.
It's been a difficult fifteen years. It would have been easier to find someone who would tell me I need to get rid of my anger, encourage me to get over it, help me to move on. It would have been easier to go to the local bookstore, buy some self-help books, and hurry home to enjoy my shiny new non-anger and my shiny new Love and my shiny new hard-on.
But where would we be if Beckett had bought The Anger Busting Workbook? If Vonnegut had bought The Anger Habit Workbook? If Flannery O'Connor had bought The Anger Workbook for Christians?
And with that, it is revealed that the Guardian blog has officially run out of ideas.
I remember the days when I thought Steve Almond just wrote pretty decent, dirty short stories. But now...
In an attempt to help its readers “cut through the clutter” of the 24,000 cookbooks published each year, Gourmet magazine is launching the Gourmet Cookbook Club, which will select one book a month.
This coming from a magazine that gave a good review to that Rocco DiSpirito cookbook. It is pretty, yes, but you can't make a damn thing from it without a staff of ten. Most of their reviews make you believe they looked at the photography, scanned through a few recipes and decided, "There's absolutely nothing in here that will cause an explosion when mixed together, so it must be okay." Or maybe they're doing it so you know exactly which cookbook will leave you on the kitchen floor, sobbing into your souffle dish. I'm suddenly suspicious of their first pick, Fish Without a Doubt.
May 7, 2008
"What's all this stuff about an old chemist who wonders if his secretary is having a wank?" she asks. "If it hadn't been my son, I wouldn't read that kind of crap, I would put it down straight away, because if there's one thing I detest in the world it's pornography. That book is pure pornography, it's repugnant, it's crap. I don't understand its success at all, that just shows the decadance of France." In her own book, she speculates that he writes about sex because he doesn't get enough. "What's this moronic literature?! Houellebecq is someone who's never done anything, who's never really desired anything, who never wanted to look at others. And that arrogance of taking yourself as superior ... Stupid little bastard. Yes, Houellebecq's a stupid little bastard, whether he's my son or not."
Happy Mothers Day, y'all.
Princeton University Press has recalled all copies of one of its spring titles after discovering more than 90 spelling and grammar errors in the 245-page work.
The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Festival is quite conveniently the home of the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. Go here to vote for the winner and wonder at the preponderance of lightbulbs on covers. British crime: still gloomy.
The brand spanking new Australian-Asian Literary Award is going to be worth $110,000, which in lit award pissing contest terms, puts it in league with the Man Booker. And Keno. Two of the three judges have been appointed: Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie and the charming Nury Vittachi. While they hustle up no. 3 judge and an Australian politician spouts some piffle about "the power to excite and expand the State's cultural horizons," Lee Siegel just heard that it's accepting text-message entries and is in need of a defibrillator. Chillax, Lee, this is what's gonna win.
Thanks for everyone's sore throat remedies. Some of them worked, and some of them just made me drunk. Although I do appreciate having a new excuse for drinking whiskey at 10 am: It's medicinal! (I once asked a farmer I had been staying with for some cold medicine. He replied, "Ah, fuck that, what you need is a hot whiskey." When I finished my hot whiskey, he asked if I could breathe yet. I could not. He handed me another. And so on. I woke up 15 hours later, very well rested, but still unable to breathe.)
In other news! Reading Jane Austen leads to a disappointing sex life.
The Mister Darcy Delusion is the notion, popularized by the early 19th century author Jane Austen, that the smug asshole who calls you fat at the party is really just a misunderstood studmuffin held in by early 19th century social conventions who will turn into Colin Firth if you give him a chance. Well chicas, Jane Austen died a spinster (thank you, Anne Hathaway) and it's the 21st century, and if he looks like a prick and he talks like a prick and he walks like a prick, well, chances are you've had sex with him.
May 6, 2008
I’ve been thinking about cheating lately. About that term. I don’t know that one ever ponders cheating, like one ponders buying a new bicycle or what to do if that lottery ticket pays off. I think cheating happens in a moment. One moment you aren’t. And the next moment you are. And come on. We have all done it.
I’ve met a few people who have boasted that they have never cheated and I think, give it time. Like a week. And others who hide it and then blow up when it all comes to the surface. And there are most who will lie and lie and lie and lie and lie, even when the proof is right in front of them. I think about the whole idea of it. Why I’ve done it. How I’ve reacted to it when others have cheated on me. I hate the idea of someone cheating on me. Not someone having sex with another, but the language of it -- that something is being done to me or on me. To be very precise, nothing at all is being done to me. Rather things are being done to other people.
I roll this around all the time and marvel at how many relationships end because someone has cheated. How cheating is, in our culture, the very worst thing one can do in a relationship. Why is that?
So today’s Sticky Pages is not a sex scene, but rather a paragraph about sex that I think is particularly thought-provoking. It’s from the collection of essays, The Bitch in the House, which is a pretty good collection, except some of the stories are written under pseudonyms, which I don’t think is cool. I mean if you’re going to write something you think is controversial, but it’s a way you choose to live, then write about it under your own name. Give this thing some credibility, would you? Don’t just contribute to whatever it is that makes you want a pseudonym.
In any case, this is from “My Marriage. My Affairs.” By Hannah Pine (and yes, that’s a fake name). The story is: the writer and her husband are both having ongoing affairs. Page 142:
You could say we’ve ‘survived’ an affair. But that makes our lives into a battle. And I choose to decline. I think, quite simply, we made a decision, just as you have made yours, whatever it may be. For myself, I refuse to pathologize adult, consensual sex, especially when I’m not involved. Not the most graceful sentence, but the content is sweet. Any time I try to write it out point-blank, it becomes clumsy like that.
I’ll try again. There are many ways to choose to live erotically -- or not. I simply believe that for culture to flourish, sex must not remain a morality tale. This renders nobody happy.
There's a novel I'm pretending does not exist. The book is so mind numbingly sexist, it's hard to deal with the fact that only one review I've read thus far (in my lapses of pretending it doesn't exist) has mentioned this fact. In my efforts today to pretend, I will simply rewatch this interview with Brian Eno, talking about Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Barry Lyndon. It will clear my mind and make me feel the world is okay again. Brian Eno: musical genius, author, and fantastic dresser. (Thanks to EJ for the link, who knows how I love my bald, British, purple-shirt-wearing men.)
I've been chewing on raw garlic and gargling vinegar in an attempt to get rid of a sore throat, so let's be thankful that blogging technology cannot transmit smell, shall we?
Let us also be thankful that those of us who do not live in Austria, do not live in Austria. Between the daughter-raping, dungeon-building psychopath Fritzl and John Leake's book Entering Hades: The Double Life of a Serial Killer, Chicago is looking slightly less scarily violent this spring. You can watch the trailer for Entering Hades here. It's the story of how to truly make a name for yourself in journalism: just create the murders you cover.
There are few things quite as xenophobic as breakfast. Apart from me.
The book world has a billion unnecessary awards, so why not the magazine world as well? Introducing "the American Magazine Vanguard Awards (AMVA's), which recognize both big and small innovators: magazines that are taking new, smart, necessary risks in extending their franchises off the page."
I'm reading Maryanne Wolff's Proust and the Squid, and her explanation of what dyslexia is is kind of fascinating. In the Wall Street Journal, Robert Lee Holtz explains why someone who is dyslexic in Chinese may not be dyslexic in English, and vice versa.
May 5, 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: Nick Sumida
I'm going to be blunt: Nick is my roommate. I've known him for quite a while now, and I had the opportunity to watch him refine his work as a cartoonist. He recently put out a new zine called Broken Piñata (if you have the means, pick it up. Seriously. Read it.), and he has much more in store this summer. Check out his work at Doggy Hey Light Comix. While you're at it, go ahead and contact him through the comment feature on his blog for a copy of Broken Piñata. The uptight can just email him.
You just put out a new zine called Broken Piñata. How far back in your career does this cover?
The Broken Piñata zine basically collects some of the work I've done in school from 2007 and 2008. I've made a lot of zines in the past, but this is the first collection of work I'm really proud of. It's sort of jarring to think of it as the beginning of my career in that respect, because I still think of myself as a student trying to figure out what I want to do. When the word career enters the equation for me, it's like the scary real world is that much closer.
How do you think the zine movement is helping young artists like yourself?
I think the zine movement is great for young artists in that it's void of the third party editorial process and forces you to be resourceful. I think people can be really creative when working around limits, like having a low budget and only two hands to put things together. It's a really personal and earnest way for someone to share their work with their peers, publishers, and the public. Also, since there's so much out there, it's a real challenge to stand out, so you see a lot of people incorporating strange design elements or, say, paper made out of bald eagle feathers or something. For me, the zine movement also provides a gradual way to get used to letting my work go and feeling gratified with people seeing it.
One of the stories included in Broken Piñata is about the fabled super delegate. Can you tell me what you were going for with this?
The "Super Delegates" comic was my attempt at doing something topical that's short and self contained. Going to an art school in New York City, I've pretty much heard every paranoid government conspiracy theory under the sun, and I sort of love hearing them. It probably goes back to being a huge liar when I was a kid, but I have an affinity for insane gossip. My hope is that by the end, the reader will have laughed and maybe gotten a little angry.
You knew it was coming... How much of your work do you consider autobiographical? Do you think the term is even relevant anymore?
I'd say about 80 percent of the work I do is based on personal experiences. Cartooning is such an intimate, obsessive medium, and I think it sort of lends itself to working out personal neurosis on the page. Like my comic "Dating Hell" is mostly me making fun of all the awkward and embarassing dates my friends and I have been on, and the "Super Delegates" piece came from feeling really frustrated with our country's confusing democratic process. I think that question is relevent to a point, but I think there's an obsession these days over authenticity. Ever since Oprah and her James Frey-gate scandal, everyone has to know what's true and what's fabricated. I think when we hold storytellers to the same standards as journalists we end up with really boring stories.
Who do you consider to be your biggest influences?
I think I was really influenced by Daniel Clowes, Lynda Barry and Julie Doucet. All three of them are brilliant and funny, and I really like how all three of them aren't afraid of experimenting with formats and mediums. I feel like this is a great time in comics, with people like Kevin Huizenga or Gabrielle Bell producing this really inspiring work, I'm sort of finding new influences everyday.
Your website recently featured a short comic biography of Imelda Marcos. Do you plan to continue or expand this into something bigger?
The Imelda comic was my Junior thesis, and it's a 16 page biography. I'm definitely going to be printing it as a mini soon and it'll be available in June.
If you could say one thing to publishers like Fantagraphics, D&Q, etc., what would you say?
I'd say continue taking risks on new young talent! Like, say for instance, me!
In the past [Dave Sim] has been pretty open about exchanging viewpoints and debating, but this latest piece is just damn weird. He is requesting that if you want to correspond with him, you must agree that he is not a misogynist. (Link from Journalista.)
Aeronwy Thomas, daughter of Dylan, discusses her father at the Guardian.
Speaking of Philip Whalen, PennSound has an audio archive of Whalen's readings beginning in 1963.
Reading Elizabeth Bachner's feature in this month's issue of Bookslut, "Plathophilia: Rereading Sylvia," made me wish I had read Sylvia Plath as a young girl. The very limited library at my school had no copies of The Bell Jar or Ariel -- I'm pretty sure there was no poetry past Tennyson at all. (It should probably be against the law to not stock copies of Plath's work at high schools and colleges.) By the time I picked up Ariel, I think I was in my early 20s, and it was during that stage of life when Plath is hopelessly uncool. By then we women should be reading INTELLECTUAL material (read as: stuff written by men), and get beyond all that icky, feminine dreariness that Plath represented. It was like admitting you listened to Tori Amos past the age of 16. Bachner, however, makes me want to dig up my copy of Ariel and spend the rest of the day reading it.
"There are stereotypes about Sylvia Plath fangirls -- that we’re mired in middle-class existential woe. That we wear black and chain smoke Gitanes and have eating disorders and skulk around in dark corners, nursing our Electra complexes for our suburban dads. Mostly, that we are teenagers, and that we write unforgivably bad teenage poetry."
Elsewhere in the new issue, Sean P. Carroll talks to Siri Hustvedt about The Sorrows of an American, writing from the perspective of a man, and being a phenomenologist. Everyone at Bookslut is still head over heels over the Collected Poems of Philip Whalen, and Richard Wirick remembers a reading he attended in 1973. Aaron Shulman talks to Stephen Amidon about works in progress, coming of age as a writer in London, and the new role authors play in the publishing industry.
We also have interviews with J'Lyn Chapman and Amy Knox Brown; Barbara J. King finds some spirits in a work of ethnography. There are reviews of new works by Claire Keegan, Michele Roberts, Jim Krusoe, David Samuels, Janice Erlbaum, Aleksandr Skidan and more.
Guess the Ondaatje - not the Prize winner (that would be Graham Robb with his exhilarating history The Discovery of France), but the award namesake. It's not Michael, but Sir Christopher: multi-millionaire publisher, philanthropist, author and champion bobsledder. Please send in any other literary Ondaatjes you have to the usual address. (No responsibility accepted for any damage caused in handling).
The Cervantes Prize medal, Spain's leading literary accolade, has been awarded to Argentinian poet Juan Gelman. Gelman, a former political exile who once fought with a guerrilla group in the '70s against the Argentine dictatorship, was praised by Spain's King Juan Carlos for his "extraordinary, moving and unforgettable" work.
I daren't speculate as to what responsibilities a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America takes on, but it's safe to assume that they first beat out other writers in hand-to-hand combat and pledge allegiance upon a vintage Cornell Woolrich paperback. Bill Pronzini, whose newest Nameless novel is out later this month, was inducted into their number at the recent 2008 Edgar Awards. The Edgar for Best Novel went to John Hart for Down River, while the 2008 Best First Novel is Tara French's Into the Woods.
The rest of the Edgars in full:
Best Paperback Original
Queenpin by Megan Abbott
Best Fact Crime
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi
Best Critical/Autobiographical Title
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley
Best Short Story
The Golden Gopher by Susan Straight from Los Angeles Noir
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh
Best Young Adult
Rat Life by Tedd Arnold
Panic by Joseph Goodrich
Best Television Episode Teleplay
Pilot - Burn Notice, Teleplay by Matt Nix
Best Motion Picture Screenplay
Michael Clayton, screenplay by Tony Gilroy
Robert L. Fish Memorial Award
The Catch by Mark Ammons from Still Waters: Crime Stories From New England Writers
From Fry & Laurie: If Rupert Murdoch had never been born.
May 2, 2008
We asked Cathie Bleck to talk a bit about her cover painting for Amy Irvine's Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. As I'm dealing with technical problems today, I figured I'd leave you with her reaction to Irvine's book. I'll see you on Monday.
I had the privilege of working with one of the best book designers in the business, Susan Mitchell, who discovered my work through my recent artist monograph, “Open Spaces.” She sent me a one inch stack of picture references from Utah with about 20 images per page and some shots of the author. I also did a bit of research on my own, once I had read the piece. She gave me a good deal of freedom and the parameters were to do art that would wrap around to the backside, leave enough room for the type and also requested that I depict the author as the main character in the artwork. I understood that the editor at FSG really had an affection for this book and as a result the cover art was not rushed, which afforded me the time to labor over the art which took about 3 weeks to do once they settled on one of my sketches. I sent them about 6 ideas before finalizing the concept, which revealed the author’s personal story of attachment to the land. I wanted to create a montage of animals and landscape as well as portray her as an activist; armed in a pose of a fighter, showing her disbanned and unattached relationship from the Mormon Church. Thus the church trails behind her, she is armed with the nature that she loves dearly surrounded by and covered in the animals of the land as well as dwelling beneath the historic cave paintings. Overall, the feeling I was trying to convey was Amy’s life so far as a tapestry, rich in history and social context and some sense of empowerment in taking a stand for what is right.
I really enjoyed the first part of the book, especially the way she described her husband as an animal (as I recall). Her creative writing kept me curious and moving through the first part of the book, though my attention did wane a bit throughout, but in all fairness: I had to get to doing the work of creating the art and prefer to spend less time on reading and more time on the actual art. I can usually get a sense of what an author has to say by reading the first 60 pages of a book and then skimming the middle and then reading the conclusions at the end.
Having not spent much time in Utah, I found Trespass to be enlightening and valued learning more about the abuses of the land, and developed an admiration for Amy and her husband in the quest to bring change in what seemed to be an impossibly small town in a big countryside, surrounded by people addicted and bound by their religious backgrounds which interfered with their ability to actually see what was happening in their own present day life in regards to the land they lived on … as if they had a right to do whatever they wanted as long as they were a religious participant. I found a lot of texture in this personal story and I think you can see that in the art as well.
Richard Thompson has some recommendations for you on Free Comic Book Day.
Mangaloid Wars X: Giant Spazzoid Zombie Robots Invade!
This one is really the sensitive coming-of-age story of a withdrawn girl & her fragile, alcoholic mother in Louisiana in the 1950s, and their battle against the Giant Spazzoid Zombie Robot Invasion. (All ages)
The National Magazine Awards were handed out, and Caitlin Flanagan and Atlantic Monthly won for criticism. I'm processing.
May 1, 2008
Now that National Poetry Month is over, a less controversial celebration is upon us (I *won't* say "at hand").
The Virginia Quarterly Review's blog indulges in a little schadenfreude after reading slush-pile rejections in the "bad" and "terrible" categories: Why does the speaker's wife only want babies from Chinese shacks? This is the craziest poem. And the scariest. I feel like we should the call the cops on this guy. (There should be a category called "Inappropriate to Humanity.")
At This Recording, Will Hubbard takes on Ashbery: Ashbery wishes his reader to be aware of (and at the foot of) a new way of understanding the world, though he does not want to identify that way for his reader. Instead, . . . his method is to ‘call attention’ to things that have no 'intrinsic importance' so that his reader may move beyond them at his own discretion to whatever revelation awaits, to the great 'something else'. It's a follow-up of sorts to last week's look at Ashbery's interview style.
Gary Snyder has won the Lilly Prize.
Charles Simic's year is up.
Elizabeth Bishop in the Library of America: With the Library of America's "Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters," editors Robert Giroux and Lloyd Schwartz have managed to combine the canonization and demystification of Elizabeth Bishop between two covers. The book simultaneously enshrines the poet in our national library and makes readily available pages of material, especially failed journalistic efforts, that are middling and mundane.
McGonagall, "the world's worst poet," will go on auction. The late-Victorian poet's works are expected to fetch about the same as a brace of Harry Potter first editions: Women’s Suffrage adds McGonagall’s tuppence to the debate about extending the vote to women: "Fellow men! why should the lords try to despise/And prohibit women from having the benefit of the parliamentary Franchise?/When they pay the same taxes as you and me/I consider they ought to have the same liberty."
"I liked it very much in Macy's when I went there drunk one day, and told everyone afterward I found the perfect bourbon vanilla with orange blossom, as if it'd been a life quest. Sadly the bourbon was all me."
For scientists trying to parse the mystery of brain and mind, she is one more case of the possible link between mental illness and artistic creativity. With all our scans and neurotransmitters, we are not much closer to figuring out that relationship than was Lord Byron, who announced that poets are “all crazy” and left it at that.
Buzz Bissinger wrote Friday Night Lights, which was turned into a TV show that I spent a week trying really hard not to watch on Netflix. I failed. I got zero work done that week. I would tell him that, but it looks like from his appearance on Costas Now that he would throw something at my head in response. Blogs are dedicated to cruelty and journalistic dishonesty, he says. He would not be invited over for dinner.
This year, a more cryptic stencil has appeared on the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, boldly proclaiming "ISBN 486-28495-6" for all to see and ponder. This International Standard Book Number turns out to be a paperback edition of Henry David Thoreau's Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. (Thanks to Joanne for the link.)
I was a couple chapters into Shmuley Boteach's The Broken American Male when I called my friend and announced, "I'm pretty sure I'm a broken American male." Workaholism? Check. Sex addict? By his definition, check. Ignore the kids? If I had some, I'm sure I'd be the type to hand them off to others. Turns out all I need is a wife! Then everything would be better. From my column at Smart Set:
He does not blame feminism for the state of masculinity, or so he says. But having read his thoughts on femininity before, I read The Broken American Male wondering how long it would take before women became the problem. That would be 47 pages. “[M]en are with women who have in turn been with so many other men that the modern American male feels that his very anatomy is being measured against some standard that he cannot attain.” Sluts! I noticed that in his book about femininity he did not have a corresponding chapter about women’s bodies being compared to men’s former sexual partners, not to mention every woman on television, in movies, on billboards, in pornography; or that chick he saw on the elevator and used as a masturbatory fantasy earlier that day.