August 29, 2008
An American book prize has blacklisted Random House following its "cowardly self-censorship" of Sherry Jones's novel The Jewel of Medina. The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards two yearly $1,000 (£550) prizes, has said that until the novel is published, it "will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates".
I find the notion that we should do nothing because, as you put it “guys will be guys” to be a case of premature resignation. As if guys are biologically programmed to be rapacious predatory beasts. I think that’s “male bashing” – and sets the bar far too low.
Comments about this book, particularly by people who have not read it, are kind of hilarious to read.
A (crazy) woman would rather go to jail than return a book to the library that she feels is hurting the children. While the possibilities are endless, the book she has selected to martyr herself for is It's Perfectly Normal. Included in the list of things the book thinks is perfectly normal are boys liking boys, masturbation, and having a body. Her argument:
"Children are not meant to be sexually active." Nor know what's going on in their bodies, evidently.
August 28, 2008
This can't possibly be true, right? David Gest and Michael Jackson have allegedly collaborated on a recording that sets Robert Burns's poems as . . . show tunes: Robert Burns's poetry might have been dismissed as "sentimental doggerel" by Jeremy Paxman but that hasn't stopped diminutive I'm A Celebrity contestant David Gest and pop legend Michael Jackson from recording an album of the much-loved Scottish poet's work. Mercifully, There are no current plans to release the recording as an album.
Talk about writers and fishing usually leads to Hemingway, but Chris Justice finds in James A. Emanuel's poems a vital connection: The “half-catch sometimes” that he alludes to recalls the imperfections inherent in fishing. Like writing, fishing is a celebration of missed opportunities, uncertainty, and failure. Casting a fly to an exact location is an exercise in imperfection, just as trying to describe a mental image or emotion with words can be. Every word a writer chooses, just as every cast a fisherman boasts, is simultaneously a reaching for something perfect while tacitly acknowledging it cannot exactly hit its target.
Poetry collections inspired by Katrina.
Listening to W. S. Merwin read: "Prose has a specific subject," Merwin said. "Poetry, on the other hand, is about what cannot be said.
It's fitting to go into Labor Day weekend with Caitlin Kimball's "ten poems to read when you get stuffed in your locker."
There are moments when the books I am reading seem to act themselves out in my life. So while I was reading books about marriage for the Smart Set column, friends were announcing engagements, sisters were getting pregnant, and people were discussing grooms' cakes at dinner. Now that the column is up, hopefully all of that will calm down. But still, I found Susan Squire's I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage sadly disappointing. I was expecting marriage to take a serious ass kicking, and instead, the book was sorta, "Wives used to be kind of like slaves! DID YOU KNOW THAT?!" Someone just got out of Women's Studies 101.
We are at a point in society where each couple must define for itself what marriage is, what monogamy is, what “’til death do us part” is. Just as we no longer look to the church to define what our wedding ceremony will be, we are in the process of rejecting religion’s definition of marriage. No wonder we work ourselves into lathers over our wedding ceremonies. Writing your own vows and deciding which table linen best represents your inner spirit is a lot easier than laying out what a “wife” is these days.
Next topic? Insomnia. Expect a lot of 3 a.m. posts in the next two weeks.
Once upon a time there was a princess who was living quite happily and not pining away for her prince or trying to avoid being killed by her evil stepmother.
This is not going to go anywhere good, is it?
Princess Bubble is a college graduate, a homeowner and works as a flight attendant to satisfy her desire to travel and meet people. Johnston and Webb once worked together at Delta Airlines and have college degrees.
A flight attendant? Way to make feminism look super exciting and rewarding.
I wouldn’t say I’m exactly afraid of Shakespeare, but if I were, the No Fear Shakespeare series from the Editors of Sparknotes would probably quell my anxieties. They’ve simplified Shakespeare’s plays, with the original text accompanied by the easy version. Examples:
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
But wait, what's that light in the window over there?
If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall.
If it's true that music makes people more in love, keep playing. Give me too much of it, so I'll get sick of it and stop loving. Play that part again! It sounded sad.
I already feel like I have better grasp, not just on Shakespeare, but on literature as a whole.
But the thrilling thing is that the editors have worked with illustrators to convert these into graphic novels. Artist Matt Wiegle from the PARTYKA comics/art collective created the drawings for the Romeo & Juliet book, which you can view samples of here. The covers from this series are literally and figuratively pretty dark, with silhouette figures over bold, solid colored backgrounds. I’ll be interested to see whether they go for a different mood, cover-wise, with one of the comedies; so far I’ve come across Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet, and the Hamlet cover illustration (by Neil Babra) will probably give me nightmares. Inside, the drawings are endearing in a comic book way -- drops of perspiration fly off foreheads, villains grimace in the shadows -- but some of the language can get a bit lengthy for the space available in those little speech bubbles.
If I had a hip teenage son, I might get these for him in hopes that it would help him better understand both Shakespeare and me.
Helen DeWitt, author of The Last Samurai (uh, no, not that one), is selling e-books of Your Name Here co-written with Ilya Gridneff. She talks to Joey Comeau about why she's shying away from publishing these days.
I'd certainly consider publishing with a smaller press; I got a very brilliant letter from one editor who I think would be wonderful to work with. The problem is, though, that seeing a book into print takes up a lot of time and energy that could be spent writing other books. Normally an advance gives one something to live on while one writes the next book; if one doesn't have that, one is using up one's own money, that could otherwise be used to buy time to finish a new book, to see one already written into print. (Needless to say, I feel horribly guilty leaving Brilliant Editor to wait for an answer while I try to sort out my finances.) I think publishing with a smaller house often has a certain glamour (though it does depend on the house); if it means very small print runs, though, sales of the book will necessarily be limited, and that might affect the chances of other books. I don't know if that's the case; people in the industry tell one all kinds of chilling things and then say: 'But I don't want to make you paranoid.'
August 27, 2008
I am on a strict diet of three bowls of oatmeal a day, with shots of olive oil between meals, trying to clean my blood after Bistros and Brasseries. (I shouldn't just blame this one cookbook. The foie gras bon bons -- and foie gras waffles -- I had about a month ago did my cholesterol levels no favors.) If you're feeling sturdy enough, I recommend the recipe for the stuffed onions that runs below my review. That is a quart of demi glace they're coated with. Consult your doctor first.
The New Yorker has the charmed story of Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World. It's worth it alone for the picture of the "beauty calibrator," Factor's device used to "detect subtle facial characteristics that needed to be disguised or enhanced." It looks like an Iron Maiden. The militant feminists who think "that we should neglect our looks entirely, just let ourselves go, and devote our energies to self-expression" are so not going to like this. (They also have a slide show of old Max Factor advertisements.)
Amazon is betting that you'll love the Kindle so much you'll be willing to meet with strangers from the Internet to show it off. (I just had a weird, parental-ish moment of "Oh my god, axe murderers will want to see your Kindle!")
August 26, 2008
Would someone please give Rachel Kramer Bussel her own imprint already? I was thinking it could be called “The Orgasm Factory” (if that’s not taken) or “Frost My” and there would be a small picture of a cupcake. Just give her an imprint and pay her a regular wage to publish erotica anthologies, please someone do this. (Random House, I’m looking at you.) I think I’ve reviewed eleven thousand of her books and all have been winners, whereas I’ve reviewed ten erotica anthologies by other editors and all have left me cold.
Bussel just put out a pair of oral sex anthologies, one for women (Tasting Her), one for men (Tasting Him -- yes, this will be next week’s Sticky Pages review) and so far, so delicious.
I’m pretty sure Bussel read my mind as she was editing Tasting Her because as I was reading the story “The Goth Chick” by Lisette Ashton, I was thinking, why do all of these anthologies have one seriously hardcore SM story that never fails to make me uncomfortable? “The Goth Chick” is set at a swinger’s weekend and the eponymous chick has her vagina laced closed. As much as I wanted to enjoy the great oral scene between the chick and the female narrator, I just kept hearing a voice, which sounded an awful lot like my mother’s, saying, “that is very unhealthy and unsanitary.”
After I finished “The Goth Chick” and tried to remember it’s just fiction, it’s just fiction, I began the story “The Dominance of the Tongue” by Teresa Noelle Roberts. It’s about a couple dabbling in SM. They go to a pool party and the wife has to submit to the husband all day. He tells her to get out of the pool and they go inside the house to find a room in which to get it on.
Page 184 from Tasting Her, from “The Dominance of the Tongue” by Teresa Noelle Roberts:
“Serena," he said, forcing his voice into what he thought of as Domspeak, "We’ve agreed that today you’re to do what I tell you to do. What I’m telling you to do is lie back and enjoy yourself, because right now I feel like tasting you. I like making you scream, Serena. Will you scream for me if I lick you?"
Eyes wide with anticipation, now that it had finally sunk in this wasn’t a test or a trick, just good old-fashioned oral sex, she smiled and nodded.
He positioned himself and gave a slow, sensuous tonguing from the juicy opening of her cunt up to her eager clit, savoring the combination of her sweetly smoky juices and overtones of chlorine – usually pool water wasn’t on his list of favorite flavors, but blended with essence of Serena it was pretty damn tasty. “There,” he said, “not so hard to handle, is it?”
Then he set to work to carry out his threat-or-promise.
Licking delicately at her pouting lips.
Sucking at the juices that flowed from her cunt, wishing he could just stick a straw in and drink them down -- she tasted that good to him, that rich and hot and musky.
And that was just a taste of this excellent anthology. Bravo to Bussel. Now, get someone in legal to please draw up the contract.
Anne Trubek on Catcher in the Rye:
Why is The Catcher in the Rye still a rite of high school English? Sure, J.D. Salinger’s novel was edgy and controversial when teachers first put it on their syllabi. But that was 50 years ago. Today, Salinger’s novel lacks the currency or shock value it once had, and has lost some of its critical cachet. But it is still ubiquitously taught even though many newer novels of adolescence are available.
If Mickey Mouse falls into public domain, we might finally see the end of the ridiculous extensions of copyright in the US.
In the process of fashioning a more female-friendly world, we have created a culture that is hostile towards males, contemptuous of masculinity and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible, especially when something goes bump in the night.
I'm wading through the fog (and dirty wine glasses) of last night's vegetarian dinner party, so here is where I'm at intellectually now: Monty Python's All-England Summarize Proust Competition. (Link from Artsjournal.)
August 25, 2008
A Grafton, Wis., woman said she never expected to be led away from her home in handcuffs simply for failing to return two overdue library books.
Heidi Dalibor admitted to ignoring four notices from the library in addition to two phone calls, two letters and a citation that included a court date, WISN-TV, Milwaukee, reported Friday.
"I said, what could they possibly do? They can't arrest me for this... I was wrong," Dalibor said.
The reason there are no more alcohol-fueled feuds in American letters anymore? No one can afford to drink anymore.
To all the writers out there who complain of being categorized incorrectly, or compared to Art Spiegelman if you're a comic book writer, at least you have not been labeled like Emily Perkins:
It wasn't long before Perkins was being hailed as one of the fresh young voices of her generation, which can be a mixed blessing when it comes with being labelled by one pundit as "the Natalie Imbruglia of Britlit."
"Oh my God," says Perkins, bursting into laughter, "what does that even mean? What could it possibly mean?"
I read her newest this weekend, Novel About My Wife, and was late with deadlines, with cake baking, reading papers for a meeting, and everything else because I refused to put it down.
The Washington Post should know better. The "I don't know anything about comics, but here are all of my opinions, and by the way, I have heard of that Maus one" thing was out of date five years ago.
August 22, 2008
August 21, 2008
If Time is writing about Haiku Nation, it must be late August: Short is in. Online Americans, fed up with e-mail overload and blogorrhea, are retreating into micro-writing. Six-word memoirs. Four-word film reviews. Twelve-word novels. Mini-lit is thriving. Like traditional Japanese poetry, the new pop-culture haiku says a lot with few words.
Of all the tributes to Mahmoud Darwish, one of my favorite's is Fady Joudah's startlingly intimate one at the Kenyon Review Online: Do you remember when you asked me what I intended to name the translated collection? The Butterfly’s Burden, I said. And laughing you said: "The heaviness of lightness." You were so delighted that I did not choose a title about history and elegy, loss and myth. It was the butterfly you chased as a boy. When you couldn’t catch it and you’d give up on it, it would come back and alight on your shoulder, and you’d leave it there.
The Chicago Reader has a feature on Regina Coll's Bathroom Poetry Project (a site which alarmingly includes podcasts), focusing on Sid Yiddish (a stage name for Charles Bernstein, though not that Charles Bernstein): "Sid Yiddish got a surprise in the ladies’ room at Cafe Express last fall. Someone had taken a knife and slashed a big X through his poem "For the Love of Man (For Jobie Hughes)." Yiddish took it remarkably well. "It’s quite a compliment," he says. "If they steal it or make something on it, it inspired the person enough to do something."
Quincy Lehr doesn't include the bathroom in his rant about selling your poetry book, but he might have: And you might even get a review in a prestigious journal. The journal has a subscription base of 2,500 people, of whom 200 subscribed because they’d heard the thing was highbrow but give it a desultory look-over. Five subscribed online while high. Another 250 are shipped out to university libraries. Some 600 are subscriptions from former and would-be contributors largely looking to see what work of theirs might be appropriate to send in, given what’s been running lately. Thirty subscribers graduated from the same creative writing program as the editor, while another ten are undergraduate chums. Then there are the thirty or so contributors of poems, fiction, and critical articles. The reviewer of your book won’t buy a copy; she has the review copy. The editor might, except that the magazine reviews sixteen or so books of poetry a year, and he knows five of those under review, who take priority.
Aimee Mann on language: I’m not somebody who sits around and reads stuff like Anne Sexton. Obviously, I’ve read her poems because I remembered that, where she talks about how [the word] stars is rats backwards. Which actually at the time I was like, “I wouldn’t be so excited about that if I was you” (laughs). That’s not really much of a discovery. But there is a fascination with words and letters and almost a feeling that certain things are encoded in a way- just taking pleasure in words.
Hmmm: Short Order Verse offers custom-crafted poems for all occasions: A custom poem adds a unique dimension to any occasion or communication. . . . Short-Order Verse is also happy to provide poems for events beyond the Hallmark spectrum. Have a presidential inauguration on the horizon? Need to address menopause, weight loss or divorce? Just say the word and we've got you covered! For your customized-poetry needs, though, I strongly recommend NOÖ Journal's Bad Poetry, which at least goes to support the journal.
Gestalten has sample pages from their pretty, pretty book Fully Booked: Cover Art and Design for Books. (Speaking of pretty, pretty books, I'm sleeping with The House of Viktor & Rolf under my pillow these days. I'm hoping it'll start invading my dreams.)
Lucy Mangan celebrates Enid Blyton, even if she isn't the type of writer you can revisit as an adult.
Blyton wrote more than 800 books in her 50-year career - 37 of them in 1951 alone, during which productive peak she was estimated to be churning out about 10,000 words a day. This is not a work rate that lends itself to the refining of prosaic ore into literary gold. Blyton was a one-woman mass production line, turning out workman-like units to serve a particular need at a particular time in a child's life, not finely wrought pieces of art destined to have their secrets delicately unpicked over the years by a gradually maturing sensibility.
Thomas Beller writes about the deaths of Ted Solotaroff and Rust Hills, "two of the more prominent editors of fiction in the '60s and '70s."
I'm kind of excited not to be keeled over, half dead today, which means the half dozen raw eggs I put into yesterday's cooking experiment for the Smart Set did not poison me with salmonella. Success! In this week's cookbook column, I hate on The Weekend Baker's insistence that baking is stressful.
Baking can no doubt be complicated. If you are impatient and refuse to let eggs and dairy come to room temperature before mixing, your cake batter can curdle. You can set off the smoke detector trying to caramelize sugar. But really the worst thing you could possibly do is mistake salt for sugar, and that only seems to happen in movies to illustrate how unsuitable a woman would be as a wife and mother. If it happens in real life, just shrug it off and declare that you weren’t making cupcakes anyway — you were making adorable, portable weapons.
August 20, 2008
I felt guilty and undereducated because I did not know what “Gaslight” crimes were, and Googling it only yielded me the definition, “Light produced by burning illuminating gas.” The reason I went to Google was that I saw the fantastically sharp cover design of Michael Sims’s The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime. Sims generously answered a few questions over e-mail about the cover and the book itself, which is due out later this year.
Did you have any input on the cover design?
I recommended a particular Gaslight-era painting of London, which would have been attractive but in no way clever. I’m glad the designer ignored my recommendation. On my first Penguin Classics cover, for The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel, they used the illustration I recommended, but they made it more interesting with artful cropping. On the second cover, for Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, they used one of the early book covers I recommended, from a century ago. I think they do an amazing job.
Are you happy with it, and do you feel like it appropriately represents the material inside the book?
I’m very happy with it; I think it’s just about perfect. The book is a collection of clever stories about clever thieves -- not murderers, not detectives, just thieves, from art forgers to burglars -- so a clever image of theft is the best possible cover design.
Who was the designer behind this cover?
According to the folks at Penguin, the cover “was Paul Buckley’s idea and art direction, Jennifer Wang’s implementation, and Jaya Miceli’s illustration.” Buckley designed the cover for the hardback of my 2003 Viking book, Adam’s Navel, and Jaya Miceli designed the cover for my 2007 Viking book Apollo’s Fire.
I'm curious about whether there was any initial resistance from the Penguin Group in having the logo be involved?
My editor there is Elda Rotor, the editorial director for Penguin Classics. She said in reply to my e-mail, “There are guidelines about using the Penguin logo which our art department has followed... Everyone thinks it’s very clever and it doesn’t infringe on any restrictions of Penguin logo use.” She said it was her favorite pick for the sales reps at the sales conference a couple of weeks ago and they responded enthusiastically.
What about the content of the book, and this business of Gaslight crime?
I got the idea for it while researching background material for my introduction and notes for Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief. I’ve been reading Gaslight-era (pretty much Victorian and Edwardian) detective and crime stories and novels for decades, but I only got into this quirky little corner of con-artist and burglar stories in the last few years. I find these tales not only clever and amusing, but also they form an odd critique -- some of them explicitly -- of an ever more materialistic society. Edwardian writers had little patience with Victorian official morality, and one way they demonstrated it was by making crime pay. But of course the idea of stealing from the rich dates at least all the way back to Robin Hood. As a consequence of the Arsene Lupin book, I've already found myself on book festival panels, writing more articles, and so on, and I have another couple of collections in the works. All of this is aside from my day job writing books about nature and science. It's fun.
As chief scientist in charge of making the world a better place, once I’d found a way of making men give birth, or at least lactate, I’d devote myself to abolishing the need for sleep.
Helen Epstein reviews Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population and Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti in the New York Review of Books.
Most family planning programs were not coercive and Connelly does dwell excessively on those that were and far too little on the benefits of contraceptives to individuals and even entire societies. But Connelly and Maternowska also have a point, which is not only about the unintended harm caused by well-intentioned but poorly run development programs. The mistakes those programs made -- and not Connelly or Maternowska, who merely report them—provided fuel for the religious right, and these books, though painful to read, contain many valuable lessons for anyone who cares about making development programs work, both technically and politically.
Just in case you need some extra cash this week:
One smart publisher seems to have devised a way of easing the pain for the millionaire bestseller writer: they have posted an advert on the listing site, Craigslist, inviting a team of part-time workers to fake the signatures and get paid in cash for the privilege.
August 19, 2008
I really, really despise Las Vegas. I hate the heat and the dust and the cheap booze, the smoke and, most importantly, I hate the gambling. That people just throw money away hurts my former-bookseller brain. Last time I went there, I promised to never, ever return. I’ve made good on that promise and have avoided any mentions of that town in my daily life. Until this evening as I was reading Best Bisexual Women’s Erotica edited by Cara Bruce.
This collection is, I like to think, two two two times the erotica! Most of the stories have two separate sex scenes to accommodate both genders, and a few have threesomes and more.
The collection is pretty solid. “Hands” by Ariel Hart is a hot little story about a aesthetician who eases her loneliness by giving her clients a happy ending. “The Year of Fucking Badly” by Susannah Indigo is light, funny and sexy. But today’s Sticky Pages is about Las Vegas and “Double Down” by Esther Haas does a very good job of portraying how truly annoying that town is.
Page 13 from Best Bisexual Woman’s Erotica, “Double Down” by Esther Haas"
And then Karen was on her back, on the edge of the bed, her legs over Dru’s shoulders as the dildo slid inside her. Dru’s cock felt so good up her cunt. Karen reached up with one hand to squeeze Dru’s dark nipple, her other hand homing in on her own clit. And at that very moment, the loudspeakers outside the hotel started blasting our Frank Sinatra: “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.” Karen turned her head to look out the window; the fountains in front of Bellagio were dancing to Sinatra, shooting high into the air. Karen’s fingers moved faster and faster against her swollen clit. The fountains shot even higher. Across the street, the faux Eiffel Tower hovered in the hot Vegas air. Karen tightened, thrust, and, with something in between a scream and a sigh, she came.
Luck be a lady, indeed.
Ze great avantage of writing a book in trois voices is that you can pad out the book by repeating loads of historical detail. As vous might have gazzered from all ze italics, je suis un bit Franche, so I am obviously untrustworzee. So what if I am still in amour weeth the imprisoned Bothwell who raped moi and murdered my effeminate mari, Darnley? The King of France adores moi, The Pope adores moi, and if I flutter mes yeux even Dieu find me irresistible. Je am divine!
Morgan Meis's first entry for the new column "Noncanonical" examines the importance of the poetry of Catullus.
There are no real gatekeepers. The barbarians aren't merely at the gates — they long ago passed through the gates and are comfortably strolling around town. They are ordering lattes at the museum café right now. More honestly, perhaps, it should be said that we're all barbarians. We are them and they are us. This is a terribly bothersome situation to some people, usually to the very people who still think they can show a difference between themselves and the barbarians.
If you can watch a video clip with Joe Scarborough in it without trying to set your monitor on fire, you should watch this interview with Andrew Meier on Morning Joe ("Morning Joe" being the answer to the question, what is an even dumber pun than "Scarborough Country") about his new book The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service.
August 18, 2008
If surnames yield history, first names give us love stories: they speak of the family mythology, the kind of person your parents hoped you might become. It is important to keep this element of hope when you name a character. It is important to keep your creation open, though it is a brave writer who leaves them entirely blank (by calling his protagonist John, for example, or even "K").
Art Spiegelman talks to KCRW's Bookworm about his upcoming book Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!.
I have a review of Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey: The Mediterranean Flavors of Sardinia at the Smart Set.
Flipping through Efisio Farris’s Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey makes me think about living in Sardinia, with a wood-burning fireplace in my kitchen where I can make Pane kin Casu Arrustu, just like Farris’s mother. Afterward I can go out to the shoreline to harvest sea urchin and its roe. Then maybe I’ll get trashed on Cannonau wine and have an affair with a handsome fisherman.
But I don’t live in Sardinia, and I certainly don’t have a wood-burning fireplace in my kitchen. Nor do I have access to the ingredients that a good 50 percent of the recipes in Sweet Myrtle require.
August 15, 2008
The Guardian has an interview with James Frey, which is so lacking in self-awareness, I can't even link to it. Instead, here's John Crace digesting Bright Shiny Morning.
There are lots of facts about Los Angeles in Wikipedia facts that if you jot them down one at a time might somehow seem quite deep. All the Los Angeles banks were robbed at least once in 1895. See what I mean?
I met up with someone I hadn’t seen in a long, long time, like twenty years or something, and she had really transformed herself as a person, going from being a pretty wild person to being remarkably stolid and a kind of calm, gracious woman. And I was like, What happened to this person? And I started to think about outer transformations, and to what degree our inner life is changed as well.
I don't know how obsessed everyone else is with Cathy Alter's Up for Renewal -- her memoir about how taking the advice of women's magazines (and by that, I'll assume she followed the "Get Flatter Abs in Five Days!" and not "Pour Hot Wax on Your Lover's Scrotum and Drive Him Wild!") made her a better person -- but I am obsessed. It's crazy. Eryn Loeb wrote about it in our August issue, and in September, Elizabeth Bachner will take a crack at it. Until then, Tanya Gold at the Guardian tries to recreate the experiment.
On reading it, I puke and puke again. I have agreed with my editor that I will emulate Alter, spending a week following the advice of women's magazines - my nemeses. I despise Tatler, Harper's and all their evil spawn. Whenever I hear the words Style Bible, I reach for my garrote. I blame them for all the evil in the world: greed, bulimia, blusher, but I duly go to the newsagent and find them on the shelves, preening with self-love. I take them home, spread them out and howl, "Save me glossies, save me!" and immediately I see a list of impossible demands. Take your Brain Shopping! Linger over Love Time! Say Goodbye to Fungi! Stop Stress Making you Fat! Think Yourself Happy! Wear a Romper Suit! Decode Your Sex Dreams! Feng-shui Your Arsehole! (OK, I made the last one up.)
In a corner of the room stands a device invented in 1756 by the abbot Antonio Piaggio, a conservator of ancient manuscripts in the Vatican Library, to unroll the papyri by suspending them from silk threads attached to their surface with a paste of fish oil. These were fixed in place by a slice of pig's bladder.
This process has been updated, and they're now reading documents from Pompeii.
So, Chicago Tonight! Here's the list of books I was suggesting readers should stay away from this summer:
David Sedaris's When You Are Engulfed in Flames (Dude is barely even funny anymore)
Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence (Reading the sex scenes is sort of like watching your father flirt with a waitress your own age -- you feel really bad for everyone involved.* Sorry, Scruffy)
Joyce Carol Oates's My Sister My Love (For once, I agree with the NYT review)
Instead! Read these:
* I assume. My father does not flirt. He glowers.
If you can keep yourself from loudly weeping at the painful stories of the baby monkeys, Deborah Blum's Love at Goon Park about Harry Harlow's attachment experiments is some excellent airplane reading. It's gripping and fascinating and gave birth to my favorite way to describe assholes: "Oh, don't mind him, he was just raised by a wire monkey." Not only that, it satisfied my twisted desire to know all I can about the behaviorists, who basically seem like sociopaths to me.
I wrote about Love at Goon Park, along with John T. Capaccio and William Patrick's Loneliness at the Smart Set. Loneliness is not quite sure what it wants to be: science? cognitive self-help? seemingly endless explanation of how they determine which personality traits are genetic? It has it all, I suppose. Either way, it's still a very interesting book.
“Once loneliness becomes chronic,” the authors of Loneliness write, “you cannot escape it by merely ‘coming out of your shell,’ losing weight, getting a fashion makeover, or meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right.” You’re going to have to be nice to people and stop your destructive thought patterns. Volunteer at an organization that saves puppies. Stop expecting that everyone will reject you. Or you could spend a little time each day with a baby monkey, which is how the researchers at Goon Park helped the monkeys coming out of isolation return to a normal state. There is an action plan in the back of Loneliness to help. Follow it and you’ll eventually turn into one of those treacly people on eHarmony.com commercials — “Feel the good feeling, mark it down on your life list and move on” — but I’m sure you can stop the program before your blood turns into sugar water.
August 14, 2008
Awhile ago, my husband Brian said "wouldn't it be funny if you were sitting on the subway reading a book and on the front cover it said, How to Murder a Complete Stranger and Get Away with It? Imagine what people around you would think, especially when you finally finished the book".
Ha! That’s the inspiration behind Misleading Reading, a collection of imitation book covers with fake titles, subtitles, blurbs, and copy. You can give them as gifts, or simply use them to cover up whatever shameful book you are actually reading.
Their titles include: Do-It-Yourself Liposuction, How to Impersonate an Engineer, How to Steal From Your Employer and Get Away With It, and Laser Eye Surgery at Home. A few of the designs make the text difficult to read -- due to lacking color contrast or using crazy fonts -- which defeats the point. And I find some of them kind of meh, like How to Cheat Your Way Through College. But then, I was on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board.
These remind me of the Harry Potter book disguises they had on Cracked.com a while ago, which, I should warn you, are not safe for work!
Also, there’s Kimberly Brittingham, whom NPR’s The Bryant Park Project describes as “zaftig,” and who, after being insulted on the subway, created her own fake cover saying “Fat Is Contagious” and took it to the public.
And, just for fun, some “reimagined” romance novel covers.
Between the fact that my computer seems to be having panic attacks and I'm preparing for a Chicago Tonight appearance this evening, I'm a little distracted. I believe we'll be discussing overrated books tonight for the Public Television audience. (My friend: "Just don't mention Oprah by name, she controls the weather.") Oh, live television... I have to try to banish "fuck" and "cocksucker" from my vocabulary now.
The inspiration for it came from the son of his partner, Liz. 'He was seven. He said he didn't want to go to work; he wanted to live in the woods, have campfires, catch rabbits. I was saying: "You can't really do that. You can't light fires: you'd get arrested. The rabbits belong to someone else." Poor kid. He was getting upset. I was destroying all his dreams. That made me think what would happen if a grown man, albeit not of great intelligence, tried to put into action the fantasies of a boy.'
August 13, 2008
I was very pleased when I started the story “Bad Kitty” by Thomas Roche in the Five Minute Erotica collection by Carol Queen because I hoped it would delve deep into the consciousness of a woman dressed up as a sexy cat. Like the narrator in Lorrie Moore’s short story, “You’re Ugly Too,” and Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls, I’m more likely to show up in a Halloween costume celebrating the garishness of the holiday than go to Victoria’s Secret for an ensemble that says sexy and available and yet not hooking on the corner as I prance about in public. I think the sexiest costume I wore was when I was Shirley Feeney from Laverne and Shirley. Sadly, most every day feels like I’m living in Shirley Feeney’s skin, and so I’m a little intimidated and envious of women who can wear their panties and a bra and lemur tail and claim to be a marsupial.
Unfortunately, the collection and Roche’s story neither made me hot, nor want to ignore the need I feel to make sure my skirt hits just below my knee cap, even on Halloween.
But this column is not about me, gentle reader, it’s about you and your needs. And I bet some of you are daring enough to celebrate Halloween as a naughty swashbuckler or maybe as a sexy Supergirl who has some villians she needs to punish with a cat o’ nine tails.
From Five Minute Erotica by Carol Queen -- “Bad Kitty” by Thomas Roche, page 14:
“Bad kitty,” I say, and extricate myself from her grasp. She looks up at me looking like she just at the canary. Then, with slow movements of her limbs, she begins to wash herself.
Her pink, pierced tongue lazes over the inside of her wrist, and I can see she’s trying to suppress a smile as she coils herself onto all fours and bends down to lick her thigh. She’s amazingly limber, but she still can’t manage it with the grace of a cat. The leotard plunges low in the back, revealing her spine and approaching the crack of her butt. I start to caress her bare back.
“Purrrrrrr,” she coos, stretching out fully on the bed. She starts pushing her ass in the air as I run the strokes of my hand down her back -- just like a real cat. This one has a different effect on me, and I feel my cock stirring as she wriggles her kitty behind back and forth high in the air. I spank her butt hard right at the place where her leotard ends and she yelps and meows, clawing the bedsheets. Then she turns toward me. “Hissssssss!” she says and claws at my arm, leaving angry red marks until I go back to stroking her butt gently. She pushes her face into the sheets and moans softly, “Purrrrrrrrr.”
Yeah, I didn’t get it either.
Post-Philadelphia, my brain is here: "Today is a good day for fixing up my life! I'll do it by putting out a new, less controversial book: Lolita III: This Time, She's 30. Nobody can argue with that!" Philadelphians: You have a nice city.
August 12, 2008
That's me done, I better go let Jessa out of the basement now. Before I split, do check out the NZ Book Council's procrastatastic pretend desktop site, Read At Work.
As my homeboy Julian Novitz puts it, "Basically it takes you to a fake windows desktop containing folders of short stories and poems that have been formatted into powerpoint slide-shows (complete with bullet-points, pie-charts, graphs, incongruous media images, etc), the idea being that you can then read them safely in the workplace, while still appearing to be vaguely industrious for the bosses." There's Tolstoy and Wilde and Dickinson and Novitz and lots more reading bound to be more interesting than that budget projection from Frank in accounts.
Jessica Duchen has written the latest Guardian Top 10: Literary Gypsies.
The "most romanticised people on earth and the most vilified", and the list still had to be padded with Mr. Rochester in drag?
From our World Literature desk, news just in: Michel Houellebecq's first film really sucks.
The format of this Top 50 Comic Book Characters List couldn't be more annoying, but check it out if your Occupational Overuse Syndrome has been dormant too long.
Get Jon Hamm to read one of your poems on Mad Men and then watch sales of your backlist increase by 218%. I wish that Frank O'Hara was around to enjoy this. Bet Tao Lin wished he'd thought of it first.
Daisy - Miss Frost if you're nasty - notes a rash of a new imprints in the UK:
In the old days publishers were content with getting names from wildlife (Panther, Red Fox, Black Swan and Lion), solid sounding objects (Anchor, Arrow, Coronet and Sceptre) or just going for a world-domineering vibe like Orion or Anova. But Windmill and Particular just sounds plain odd at the moment. Windmills go round and round (and round) and survive on just air (something, admittedly, that publishing is not short of - especially 'hot air')
To throw off the archivists, she would leave behind well-crafted replicas that she had prepared after careful study and note-taking. Sometimes she would spirit the originals past reading-room attendants in her shoe. Even so, the F.B.I. eventually caught on to the new scheme, and she couldn’t get rid of those manual typewriters fast enough, dumping them “one by one, in trash cans along a mile stretch of Amsterdam Avenue.”
Playing a game called Dictionary with Ammon Shea, author of Reading the O.E.D, is an entertaining prospect for a blog entry, but the truly intrepid journalist would've involved tequila shots or a Russian Roulette round. (Note: expense liquor and firearms to Jessa upon her return).
The Hugo Awards are newly minted, and recipients of one of the greatest award statues going this year include:
Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Best Novella: All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis
Best Novelette: The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang
Best Short Story: Tideline by Elizabeth Bear
Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher
August 11, 2008
Any writers with Kafkaesque porn stashes shouldn't feel too bad, as it turns out many literary types have dabbled in writing one-handed reads to pay the bills. As well as the usual suspects, there was Tony Blair's former speech writer Alastair Campbell, novelists Alexander Trocchi and Lawrence Block, and Kindle.
The Guardian celebrates the Olympics with a big sod-off quiz that should decide who in your office buys tonight's first round of drinks.
The London Review of Books pulls up an article from 1987 that proves Julian Barnes was slagging off the Booker Prize long before it became the gold standard of literary banter.
Three years ago, when I was short-listed for my novel Flaubert’s Parrot, I was introduced after the ceremony to one of the judges, who said to me: ‘I hadn’t even heard of this fellow Flaubert before I read your book. But afterwards I sent out for all his novels in paperback.’
Theatre critic Charles Spencer remembers Simon Gray, playwright and author of The Smoking Diaries, who died last week.
As a playwright, I don't think I'm very interested in what makes people tick because I haven't got the slightest idea. What they are is simply creatures of the imagination, so to speak.
This TLS review of a new biography of modern literature's most self-satisfied dynasty asks: can either Amis really write?
August 8, 2008
The shortlist for the Forward Prize for poetry has been released. Judge Frieda Hughes said "Our final decisions will be extremely difficult, but we have marvellous material to work with", helpfully providing a soundbite that can be cut and pasted into any given book prize press release going.
If the Kafka porn-stash news didn't fulfill your quota of author fapping-related material, there's the AV Club's round up of unflattering moments from autobiographical comics. It's not just masturbation. But it mostly is.
There's yet more bloody Kakfa in Alexander Waugh's list of writers on "the complexities of father-son relationships" . Waugh, the author of the excellent Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family, is pretty well equipped to win 'My old man was more of a dick than yours' games himself.
Esther Hoffe's Miss Havisham act with Franz's leftovers caused a great deal of kerfuffle last month. Kafka had asked his executor Max Brod to destroy much of this material, although whether he would've approved of his final papers slowly degrading under the persistent forces of a badly ventilated apartment and cat piss, scholars can only speculate. Expert James Hawes has hinted at another stash of Kafkaphernalia to be brought to light, and he's made good on his word: Kafkanography.
"These are not naughty postcards from the beach. They are undoubtedly porn, pure and simple. Some of it is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant."
It may get even nastier. Academics now await the unearthing of Kafka's Jane magazine collection.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again:
My Dear Daughter, the sex education book my ma gave me at 12 years old. I threw it behind the bed. I want to know what it was in that book that offended me so much.
August 7, 2008
Prosody picks Barack Obama to win in November. And there's no arguing with scansion: The trochaic method of judging electoral odds has proved accurate in every instance except years when both candidates have metrically identical names, as in 1948 and 2000, effectively neutralizing the system. Applied to this year's presumptive nominees, metrical theory predicts a narrow victory by Barack Obama.
Austin Kleon is running a Newspaper Blackout Poem contest this month--winners receive a copy of his forthcoming collection, as well as the chance to appear in it!
Adam Kirsch has an essay on Heidegger and contemporary poetry; Robert Archambeau explains that, while Kirsch's Heidegger is a little shaky, there's an interesting point about contemporary poetry made nonetheless. Meanwhile, K. Silem Mohammad asks whether poetry is, in Heideggerian terms, a technology: My inchoate thesis is that when poetry puts on technological goggles and overalls, it does so ultimately to highlight its intrinsic incompatibility with the overarching agenda of modern technology--its capacity, perhaps, for "enframing" us all as a standing reserve of resources.
Last week I linked to a story about how overworked the poet laureates are. As if in answer, here's Brian Oberkirch, on Merlin Mann's genius 43folders productivity website, about Frank O'Hara's maker mentality: He made it a point not to be a professional poet, but to write poems and essays and catalog introductions and letters and his own life in the due course of long days he filled equally with chatter, lunches, working at the MOMA, talking on the phone. Kenneth Burke called literature equipment for living, and O'Hara never put his away. He was always making. Sometimes poems, sometimes friends.
I"ve also been linking regularly recently to Dale Smith's blog posts about Slow Poetry, and his Marsupial Inquirer column this month rolls the idea out more formally: My notes on Slow Poetry try to re-imagine the role of poetry in our changing environment. I have no prescriptive agenda, but I hope to produce reflection on poetic practices. Slow Poetry stresses a kind of ecological or environmental approach to the writing and reading of poems. Poetry doesn’t do anything for anyone’s career advancement; it is used to bring the world into greater focus. What is out there, Timothy Morton reminds us in Ecology Without Nature, is under ongoing debate. But the words poets bring to the intersection of reality with their experience can help reveal some of the significant events we all encounter on a daily level.
(Speaking of this month's issue, my PsychoSlut column is on Freud and the meaning of our lives--including why my 5-yr-old can't get The Hold Steady's lyrics right on this one song.)
I'm a bit short (and early) today because . . . well, we have tickets to this show tonight. I'm not proud.
The latest Guardian Digested Classic is The Trial:
K was informed a short inquiry into his case would take place the next Sunday. The caller had not specified a time, and K had not seen fit to ask for fear of lessening the sense of alienation.
Please don't type Rawi Hage's name into a search engine. Please. I feel sort of dirty for even mentioning it. The IMPAC winner (for De Niro's Game) isn't too keen on most media attention, but then he insists on sharing his sandwich with a journalist, which is farmore graceful than the traditional all-capital-letters rejoinder on MySpace.
Sixty-One Things I Learned During the Sonics Trial: A Sonics Love Story, or how Sherman Alexie came close to convincing me that basketball is as important as sex and/or literature.
42. Of course, there are plenty of things that I wanted to say—I tried to get the city's lawyers to let me say them—but I would have been objected clear out of the courtroom. If I had tried to speak as I actually speak—with a whirling and spinning and beautiful and ugly and intelligent and stupid stream of metaphors, profanity, dick jokes, insults, Whitman and Dickinson quotations, Hall & Oates lyrics, the lifetime statistics of my favorite 127 NBA players of all time, and aching grief songs for my father—I would have been held in contempt and tossed into a holding cell.
With one good dress in the trunk of my car, I would drive to Chicago, find the McDonald’s closest to the bookstore, change clothes in the bathroom (say what you will for the food, they have the cleanest bathrooms), go to the bookstore, and present myself to the person behind the counter. That has always been the hardest part for me, approaching the stranger at the cash register to say that I am the seven o’clock show. We would look at each other without a shred of hope and both understand that no one was coming.
Neo-capitalist shuddering aside, what about room service? I swear even Atwood must enjoy room service on those arduous nine day book-flogging jaunts.
August 6, 2008
I'm leaving again tomorrow, this time for more work, fewer chickens. While I'm in Philadelphia, hanging with the Smart Set folk, the incomparable Margaret Howie will be blogging from London. Do be a dear and play nice, I'll be back in a week.
Books Un-Covered: Before Green Gables
I’d heard that for the hundred-year anniversary of Anne of Green Gables, Penguin had asked Nova Scotia author Budge Wilson to write a prequel. Perhaps this sounds crazy to diehard types who have all L.M. Montgomery books memorized, including the boring epistolary one, and who attend Anne movie nights where they wear puffed sleeves and giggle to themselves while drinking cherry cordial, and who take trips to Prince Edward Island just so they can walk around the Green Gables House exclaiming things like, “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” and who date guys named Gilbert merely because they are named Gilbert, oh, who am I kidding, I’ve done all of those things, which is probably why I’m about to be so picky about the book’s cover.
The first version I came across was the American one, where our protagonist, known for her remarkable nose and prominent freckles, hides her face like all modern women on book jackets. Also, I know this is a prequel, but does it not look as though Anne has just died and is walking into the afterlife? I am somewhat afraid she might turn her head around in an Exorcist way, whipping her ghostly braids behind her.
The Canadian version is quite traditional, and I enjoy the birch tree watermark, but I don’t know about the American Gothic spawn version of Anne. The Amazon product description says, “Before she arrived at Green Gables, Anne Shirley had a difficult early life,” which perhaps explains her depressing expression, but where’s the hint of her secret inner life? I do, though, enjoy the original cover art by George Gibbs, featured on the 100th anniversary reprint of Anne of Green Gables.
The UK cover of Before Green Gables is cute and pretty and colorful, and probably would appeal to a little girl coming across Green Gables for the first time, but it lacks any reference to Anne’s hundred year history. There’s a positive review in the Guardian but it points out, “While the story works hard towards achieving historical and geographic authenticity, Puffin has given us Anne as a deracinated figure in what appears to be modern dress. And the freckles are hard to spot, too.”
And then there’s the Japanese cover, on which Anne confronts a rooster.
Being caught with Oprah-related materials out in public — whether it be the books she recommends, or any of her publications, or even a product she recently declared a Must Have — is like announcing to the world, “Hello. I am not going to be making any of my own decisions from now on.”
All you arty, bookish intellectuals need to learn some goddamn math. (Not me, though, I'm fine.)
A friend e-mailed before the Bookslut Reading Series, "Oh man, I can't come, gotta work. Can you stand awkwardly in front of Eddie Campbell and tell him for me, 'Wow, man, you just... yeah.'" I did, but I forgot to tell Eddie that was from my friend, not me. Either way, his new book The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard is really beautiful and delightful. You can see for yourself, New York Magazine ran an excerpt recently.
August 5, 2008
I was a bookseller for many years. My first bookstore job was at a very old store in San Diego still owned by the family who opened it in 1896. They opened a paper store and in those days, paper stores sold all paper products -- wallpaper, stationery and books. Even today, the store remains true to its roots with separate office supplies and gift sections.
The gift and office people were never to venture into the book section. Booksellers had to take a test to be hired. As a result, I worked with some really remarkable people -- a professional magician, a chess instructor, a professional comedian and juggler who would juggle just to piss off the magician. There was a rivalry between jugglers and magicians -- a competition the two men never failed to discuss, separately of course, during slow moments.
It was at this bookstore that I learned no one -- no one -- drinks like booksellers. I suffered many painful mornings after being out with my co-workers.
Because this store is in a posh neighborhood in San Diego we had to dress up. No jeans, no sneakers. The month before I was hired, the gentlemen were allowed to stop wearing ties but ladies still had to have their legs covered. And, like a restaurant, there was the life in the front of the store and the life in the back of the store. This store had free gift wrapping and a separate room, complete with dozens of gift wrap selections and ribbon where we’d scurry off to wrap the books.
I was hired just as The Sexual Life of Catherine M was published and I don’t know who started the legend, but someone, somewhere, suggested that one day a bookseller was wrapping an innocent fiction book and accidentally swapped it out for The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Maybe it never happened, maybe just the threat of it was enough that I became unreasonable paranoid, waking deep in the night worried that somehow this would happen to me.
Oh The Places You’ll Go? Never mind the size difference, peel that tape back and make sure it’s not The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
Tolle’s Power of Now? Double tape that sticky note identifying the book.
Bel Canto? Let it ride.
The Sexual Life of Catherine M is the memoir of French, art critic Catherine Millet. She was also a connoisseur of the orgy and anonymous sex. The book itself is a detached account of so much of the sex she had. And it’s a lot of sex. The sex is on nearly every single page. Some of it is hot, some of it is uncomfortable, some of it, despite the content, is antiseptic in its cold observation.
And this book haunted me. Haunted me. Not because I was so turned on by dozens of people having sex with each other in Paris, but because what if I was the one who wrapped Millet’s story instead of the trade paperback version of The Golden Compass? Today’s Sticky Pages features a scene from the book that kept me up at night for a solid year, and not in the good way.
Page 13, The Sexual Life of Catherine M
“I took pleasure in this caressing more than in the penetrations in particular when it was a penis trailed over the entire surface of my face or a glans that rubbed against my breasts. I liked to catch one in my mouth as it passed by, running my lips up and down it while another came and begged attention on the other side of my oustretched neck, before turning my head to take the newcomer. Or having one in my mouth and one in my hand. My body opened up more under the effects of this kind of stroking, which was relatively brief and could be renewed again and again, than in penetration itself. On that subject, what I remember most is the stiffness between my legs after being pinioned sometimes for four hours, especially as many men tend to keep the woman’s thighs spread well apart, to make the most of the view and to penetrate more deeply. When I was left to rest, I would become aware that my vagina was engorged. It was a pleasure to feel its walls stiffened, heavy, slightly painful, in their own way bearing the imprint of all the members that had labored there.”
Okay, so maybe art critics party harder than booksellers. I hope that was as gratifying to you as it was scary to me.
It is going to be very, very difficult not to refer to Sir Salman Rushdie as "Scruffy" from now on.
Tao Lin is selling shares of his upcoming novel. New York Times readers are flabbergasted:
I can only assume Mr. Lim hasn’t bothered to register this offering with the SEC (typically a six-figure proposition). If I’m correct, Mr. Lim could only be operating under an exemption from registration, which generally require the offering to be restricted to those with whom the offeror (in this case, the author) has a substantive and pre-existing prior relationship. This means he can’t advertise the offering in a public forum (i.e. a blog). Also, unregistered shares (meaning shares offered wtihout the benefit of registration) generally are very restricted in their resale (by law). However, Mr. Lim’s blog assures potential investors there are no restrictions.
An astonishing project is underway in Timbuktu, Mali, one of the world's poorest countries. On the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, experts are opening an enchanted Aladdin's Cave, filled with hundreds of thousands of ancient documents.
The Ahmed Baba Library alone contains more than 20,000 manuscripts, including works on herbal medicine and mathematics, yellowed volumes of poetry, music and Islamic law. Some are adorned with gilded letters, while others are written in the language of the Tuareg tribes. The contents remain a mystery.
Two Chris Adrian interviews for A Better Angel: The National Catholic Reporter and Wall Street Journal. Guess which one this line came out of: "A physician to the core, he is immersed in the human body, yet his work is driven by pure spirit." (There's also an excerpt from the book at the WSJ.)
Paul Collins's "10 Oddest Travel Guides Ever Published."
The iconic Baedekers of Leipzig, pressured by the Nazi government into producing a vacation guide to occupied Poland, published the most inadvertently creepy guidebook ever, complete with Reichminister General Governor Hans Frank promising visitors the charms of home—"ein stark heimatlich anmutendes Gebilde." Those charms include an Adolf-Hitler-Platz in the foldout Warsaw map and a brief entry for Auschwitz listing it only as a "train station."
August 4, 2008
For someone who runs a website, I should probably be more tech savvy than I am. So when my database interface went away today, I was rather stumped at what to do about it. I waited a while, then hit refresh. Nothing. Waited a little longer, hit refresh. Nothing. Made myself a sandwich. You get the picture. Four hours later, hitting refresh worked, and the interface came back. "It just resurrected itself," I wrote my friend. "I think Bookslut is Jesus."
This is bad, though, because now I will think that any tech question can be solved by waiting a couple hours and hitting refresh.
But it's back, and that means I could put up the new issue. David Griffith, author of A Good War is Hard to Find takes a look at Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure. Drew Nellins talks to Chris Adrian, whose collection of short stories A Better Angel just came out, about all the gays in Divinity school, the structure of the collection, and if forced to choose, whether he would be a doctor or a writer. Elizabeth Bachner examines the staggering number of books about Prozac out on the market, and makes me pray for the souls of people working at pharmaceutical companies.
Also: Jen Crispin talks to Christian Bauman, Barbara J. King looks at what one man thinks women want (intra-uterine devices that allow us to control pregnancy, evidently; also, spell-check), our series on independent bookstores continues with my Chicago favorite: Unabridged, and Jeanne Sager talks to Jancee Dunn. Also, reviews of Kenneth Patchen, Adam Thirlwell, Richard Milward, and more.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to see if I can fix my kitchen faucet by turning it on and off repeatedly.
Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who exposed Stalin's prison system in his novels and spent 20 years in exile, has died near Moscow at the age of 89.
The author of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, who returned to Russia in 1994, died of either a stroke or heart failure.
(I also really, really loved Cancer Ward.)
Money definitely creates this imbalance, especially because in creative worlds it seems like it flows so easily and quickly, particularly when you’re not the one getting it. When I graduated from college in the 90s, there was this feeling that we’d all just be starving artists and listen to Nirvana and that was great. And Margaret wants to be pure in her artistic vision and anti-capitalist, but part of her gets completely sucked in against her will. It’s hard not to when you see all these people earning so much money. It seems like it’s right there and you can’t get it. It warps one’s sense of life and ambition and success.
August 1, 2008
Aside from clarifying its contents as "fiction and new verse," Memorious sums up its aim with a short quote from Jorge Luis Borges' "Funes el Memorioso":
He remembered the shapes of the clouds in the south at dawn on the 30th of April of 1882, and he could compare them in his recollection with the marbled grain in the design of a leather-bound book which he had seen only once, and with the lines in the spray which an oar raised in the Rio Negro on the eve of the battle of the Quebracho.
The contents of the journal are relatively short and the format is quite spare, leaving my mind free to both revel in and collapse beneath the writers' memories, whether entirely real or magically so.
Some things I will remember:
"the beach,/trashed with Slavic syringes/and Turkish condoms" (Mark Conway)
"bee-stung stunned lips" (Mark Conway)
"pancakes wet with butter/frozen blueberries, spatulas/greased with this morning's/eggs" (Matthew Gavin Frank)
"I've said a hundred prayers/to her knees" (Major Jackson)
"Hairdryer sun." (amongst others... Blake Butler... this piece is fascinating)
"Without looking at me, she reaches across and plucks a tiny roasted potato from my plate. She rubs it across her lips, englistening them, and then puts it in the ashtray." (Kristen Iskandrian)
I was speaking to someone the other day about how difficult it was to find a job after I started Bookslut. A few years in, it was kind of a large thing, and when an employer Googled my name, it was, of course, the first thing to come up. And with my name, it wasn't like I could say, "Oh no, that must be some other Jessa Crispin."
Turns out it is just as difficult to have a more common name, as people start thinking you liked the remake of Flight of the Red Balloon.
Ask a Poet answers questions like, "What do poets eat for dinner?" (If I remember correctly, mostly Chinese take out.)
When they adapted Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging into a film, "full frontal" became "perfect." I suppose they were afraid parents were afraid they meant naked make outs. (God, keep up with the language, parents.) Alice Wignall looks at the power of teenage girl reading.