September 30, 2010
I always liked Louisa May Alcott more than I liked Little Women. (I'm looking forward to reading about her father's utopian adventures in Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia.)
"I plod away," she wrote in her journal, "though I don't really enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it." Alcott's journals give other glimpses of her independent and doubtful outlook. "Very sweet and pretty," she wrote of her sister and her husband in their honeymoon cottage, "but I'd rather be a free spinster and paddle my own canoe."
Over at PBS, I talk to Erika Lopez about her new book The Girl Must Die, the death of the riot grrl movement, embracing failure, the importance of like minded folk, and how white women fucked up feminism.
So if you do attempt something bold and you fail, DON’T HIDE IT. Don’t be afraid to embrace REALITY. Part of what I’m trying to do with the failure thing is to show the other side of reality. All we get are the upside Parade stories. The downside is part of a back story. Sometimes there ISN’T an upside. Or it takes YEARS to find.
I keep passing by a movie poster for "Goethe!" (That is not a punctuation mark of sarcasm, it is actually part of the movie title.) Everyone in the poster is so windswept and apple-cheeked that I imagine the movie to be a musical. Although I'm not sure that's actually the case, I keep writing songs for the movie in my head. Like, "Shoot Yourself in the Head (It's Romantic!)" and "Poison Your Mother and Let's Get It On: Part One of the Faust Cycle".
I'm considering writing these down and sending them to the production company. Obviously they are going to want to shoot some extra scenes for the DVD release.
Someone told me yesterday that Alfred Döblin's classic Berlin Alexanderplatz has been allowed to go out of print in the US and the UK. From what I can gather, it's true. It's a damn shame, and thank goodness for online used bookstores. It's plentifully stocked at abebooks.com. Here's hoping its revival comes quickly.
September 29, 2010
I'm obsessed with American politics of the 1970s -- why, no, I wasn't very popular in high school! Why do you ask? -- but I still didn't expect to love Mark Feldstein's Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington's Modern Scandal Culture as much as I did. I recommend it all official-like over at NPR.
Nixon and Anderson were both extremely controversial figures, but Feldstein proves remarkably calm and even-handed throughout the book, even while discussing some of the men's lowest moments (Nixon's resignation in 1973; Anderson's inexplicable decision to censor his own expose on the Iran-Contra scandal). Feldstein has remarkable narrative skills — if the names weren't so familiar, and the setting weren't decades ago, you could almost think you're reading a dystopian political thriller.
Portland, thank you so much for coming to Bookslut's first PDX reading last night! There sure was a fucking lot of you, and you were all very attractive. Let's do this again soon, shall we?
Thanks to Reading Frenzy, which is the first bookstore I ever went to in Portland, and which is unspeakably cool and staffed by the nicest people in the world. And thanks to Alison Hallett and everyone at the Portland Mercury for being so supportive of Bookslut over the past several months.
And finally, thanks to Tao Lin, our guest, who did an incredible job reading from Richard Yates, and then, later, playing Street Fighter II at Ground Kontrol. Tao has been a friend of Bookslut for years, and a friend of mine; he was incredibly kind and supportive of me during a hugely awful time in my life. Tao, man, it was an honor, and thank you.
I chose, in this book, to follow the stories of young women who aren’t in bands, in addition to the stories of the musicians, in order to assert that the lives and struggles of teenage girls matter, and that, furthermore, you can know some very important things about a historical and political era by looking at the lives of teenage girls. And this was particularly true of the years in the early ’90s in which the book takes place, for reasons that I lay out in some detail: I show how societal anxieties about young women’s bodies and sexualities were acting as synecdoches for the culture wars as a whole at that moment.
GOD I miss the '90s. Especially reading the new Erika Lopez, The Girl Must Die. I had her Flaming Iguanas when it came out in '98, and must have read it half a dozen times. It's stupid to get nostalgic about the '90s, because in reality I was dirt poor and wearing only men's clothing and had to keep a knife under my mattress because I was a small town girl living in the big bad city (Dallas) for the first time. But, truth be told: I still sleep with a knife under my mattress. And I still love Erika Lopez.
September 28, 2010
Lillian Gish was in The Night of the Hunter, which wasn't nominated for a single Oscar (and, people, watch this film, it's good as fuck), and Chinua Achebe has never been awarded the Nobel Prize. So it's fitting - see how effortlessly I've done this - that he's won the 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award. Which is worth $300,000, close to the amount that it would take to make me happy enough not to have won no stinking Nobel.
Tonight's the night, Portland! Bookslut's first reading in the City of Roses is this fine evening, at 7:00 pm, at Reading Frenzy, featuring Tao Lin, the Great American Novelist, author of Shoplifting from American Apparel and the new Richard Yates.
We've lined up some great authors for future readings, so stay tuned. We hope to see you tonight -- I have heard rumors of free beer from Oregon's best brewery -- but if you can't make it, we'd love to see you at the next one (more information on that coming soon). Thanks to all of you Portlanders for supporting us; we hope to meet you soon.
There's nothing wrong with libraries that can't be solved by outsourcing, blaming labor unions, and insulting the working women and men of America. Meet Library Systems & Services before they take over your city's most basic literary resource.
“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” . . .
“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”
In case you're wondering, this guy is classified in the Library of Congress under "People - assholes - biggest in world."
September 27, 2010
Did John Milton write an offensive, sexist poem called "An Extempore upon a Faggot"? Probably not. But still:
The coarse, and frankly misogynistic verse likens a young woman to a faggot, a bunch of damp sticks, which, when cast upon the fire, produces moisture "at both ends", like (according to the poem) a weeping virgin when sexually aroused. By contrast, the more sexually experienced woman is more like dry wood, which becomes joyfully enflamed when put on the fire.
Uh...yeah. If that's not the sexiest extempore you've ever heard, I'll kiss your ass.
The New York Times looks at the essay that "changed sportswriting," John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. I love John Updike (yeah, whatever, shut up), but what Ted Williams was to baseball, that's what Updike was to being a dick.
Only 10,455 fans turned up to say goodbye to [Ted] Williams, who was 42, hobbled by aches and pains. Among them, sitting behind third base, was 28-year-old John Updike, who had actually scheduled an adulterous assignation that day. But when he reached the woman’s apartment, on Beacon Hill, he found that he had been stood up: no one was home. “So I went, as promised, to the game,” he wrote years later, “and my virtue was rewarded.”
You've got to love his definition of virtue, under which you are a good person if you don't do something bad, even if the only reason you don't is because you can't. It would be like that Amarillo preacher bragging about not burning the Qu'ran after it got stolen by that stoner kid. John, dude, you have no mistress!
Anyway, I didn't have a coke orgy with a bunch of Reed freshmen last night. It doesn't matter that nobody asked me to, it just matters that I didn't do it. Remember to spell my name right when engraving my Humanitarian of the Year award.
If you look in Descent of Man, you’ll find that Darwin himself made what may be the most politically incorrect and least quoted surmise about human evolution. He said that it’s quite possible that some of what we call our highest qualities of the human character—heroism, leadership, and the like—have evolved by disputes between groups and wars between groups and conflict, which reward those very qualities that we most admire. Because they give the group an added advantage in conflict. That was what Darwin said. And that is something that we will be hearing more and more about in terms of our reconstruction of human behavior.
"Nowadays, great value is placed on sincerity in literature. What a joke! ... Constructing a story, the art of attracting a reader’s interest, the gift of storytelling, the ability to see close up something that is far away, or to evoke without describing, the ability to give an illusion of reality — all of that has nothing to do with sincerity, and owes nothing to it."
Weekend reading included a nonfiction book about post-war Germany, The Witness House: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sharing a Villa During the Nuremberg Trials, followed up by Germany, Year Zero, a film shot in Berlin just after the war, among the rubble and wreckage. Excellent way to combat the gloom of several days of rain, way to go.
‘Each woman must accumulate enough Status Quo points (100) to prove her equality to men. Each man must collect enough Status Quo points (100) to prove once and for all a woman’s place is beneath his’.
When the magazine Psychology Today made board games. (via)
September 24, 2010
Herta Mueller, current holder of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was in shock after the revelation that the real-life hero of her latest anti-totalitarian novel - and a close friend of hers - had been a communist spy, she said Friday. (Via)
I do rather like this piece on reactions to a bad book review, particularly the response to the accusation that the reviewer or critic "is just jealous." Jealous of um what exactly? It is the response of 7th grade girls, when one has been branded with the "slut" label. "She is just jealous." Of your whatever. Integrity, home sewn clothes. What have you. The truth: Maybe not everyone will love your book. Not as comforting, though, is it?
(Nice also to see gurl.com still around. If they have fallen from previous highs, please don't let me know.)
A white man (Australian) has decided to "save" a poor misguided Asian country. Oh this is going to go well. David Thompson has decided that Thai cuisine is at a crisis point, drifting from authenticity and complexity, and he is the man to rescue it. (I just got his cookbook in the mail, Thai Street Food. It is awfully pretty, but I'm not sold on its usability.) The Thais would kind of like David Thompson to go fuck himself.
And is it just me, or is this lede kind of douchey:
It’s been a rough year for Thailand. First there were the images of deadly street battles between soldiers and protesters beamed around the world. Then people living in neighboring dictatorships snickered that Thailand was a democracy in decline. Foreign tourists wondered whether it was safe to travel here.
And now this: An Australian chef has the audacity to declare that he is on a mission to revive Thai cuisine.
God, those Thais are always bitching about something: war, dictatorship, bloodshed, white people who are just trying to help them... (Would I pay to eat at his restaurant? Yes. But I am a know-nothing white girl.)
September 23, 2010
"What strikes me this year is the sheer readabilty and accessibility of these books. These are great books: books to be read and enjoyed by all readers and not least by young people”
You can’t imagine a chair of the Prix Goncourt saying that, could you now? No, it’s a lovely eager-to-please Welsh person, Professor Peter Stead of the University of Wales talking about the new Dylan Thomas prize shortlist.
Caroline Bird: Watering Can
Nadifa Mohamed: Black Mamba Boy
Eleanor Catton: The Rehearsal
Karan Mahajan: Family Planning
Elyse Fenton: Clamor
Emily Mackie: And This is True (Also known in the South London branch of the Bookslut Empire as “that book which made me cry for about two hours straight”.)
Not to get all patriotic or shit, but the National Book Foundation’s website makes me proud to live in a country where
we some people have figured out the basics of how the Internet works. I love your books, France, please let me find out more about them in an easy, 21st century fashion.
Leave the French alone - they've only just discovered their first meme, let alone HTML. I predict that by 2012, Houellebecq's Goncourt submission will be composed entirely of 4chan macros.
"I guess I know how it feels to win a beauty pageant now," said Rash, whose former books include the bestselling Serena, set in depression-era North Carolina, this morning. "It was a great feeling, a real honour. I write novels and poems as well but the short story is my favourite form."
It was six months ago today, and it's weird how things have a way of not getting easier.
"But I did not want to finish this book. Some of the books I'd read had told me that love is fleeting; some of the other books I'd read had told me that love is eternal. But they were wrong. Love isn't either of those things. Love is not wanting the thing you love to ever end."
-Brock Clarke, Exley
Graham Greene on Henry James (From):
"After the death of Henry James a disaster overtook the English novel; indeed long before his death one can picture [him] as the last survivor on a raft, gazing out over a sea scattered with wreckage... "
My editor at the Smart Set, Jason Wilson, has a new book out this week: Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits. It's good -- as a geek, it satisfies my weird need to know the origins of everything, and as a... yeah, well. You can read an excerpt from the book at the Washington Post.
Over at the Smart Set, I wrote about the pleasures of not reading the must-read.
My proclamation that I was not going to read Freedom was beginning to make me look like a dick. Just read it already. What’s the big deal? It’ll take a few days, and then you will be a participant in the cultural zeitgeist, the document of our era, the book that made books relevant again. (At least, the book since Twilight. Or Harry Potter. Or the last Franzen, Corrections.) After all, the Guardian called it the book of the century. Surely you have to read that.
But no. Not in Vienna, not in New York, not on the plane, not in a box with a fox whatever the fuck, no. So just shut up about it.
September 22, 2010
There's a great profile of Tao Lin (Richard Yates) at BlackBook, and he's also the subject of my new favorite newsweekly cover ever. Tao will be the guest at Bookslut's first Portland reading, which is next Tuesday, Sept. 28, 7 pm, at the legendary Reading Frenzy (which is providing free beer). Come to this thing! A sexy time will be had by all.
Sometimes, it's not the book that's bad, it's just you. And years later, you'll pick the hated book back up on a whim, and realize what an asshole you were. Wayne Gooderham writes about liking How Late It Was, How Late (one of my favorites) the second time around, years after first discarding it.
I was wondering when this particular memoir topic would emerge: Meredith Maran now believes her "recovered memories" of her father molesting her -- recovered when such things were the craze -- were actually false. Her memoir My Lie is excerpted at Salon, and they are also running an interview. It's such an interesting, bizarre little moment in history -- I'm curious to hear more.
The current topic of conversation in Berlin is the dread everyone is feeling about the coming winter. The weather has turned chilly, the ivy in my courtyard is turning red, and memories of sitting in the snow and crying over the icy sidewalks, the gloom and grey take over. There are things to look forward to, like the return of the Christmas market booze tepee, coming soon. Also, the cold weather cookbook Snowflakes & Schnapps has me dreaming of stewed meats and roasted vegetables and spending a day reading next to the warm oven so I can occasionally poke whatever's baking in the oven occasionally to keep it from burning. My review of the cookbook, along with a recipe for a very complicated but fulfilling chicken pie, is at PBS Need to Know.
“Snowflakes and Schnapps” has some of the most seductive food photography I have ever seen. It’s all candlelit and twinkly, food spread out on charmingly cluttered tables (oh, I’m sorry, did I leave my “War and Peace” and ice skates on here? Silly me…) or across shag rugs in front of roaring fireplaces. The message from Jane Lawson’s cookbook of winter food and Northern climes is clear: Baby, it’s cold outside. Let’s stay in and … gorge ourselves.
September 21, 2010
Reading changes you, even if you can't remember anything about what you read.
Elif Batuman (The Possessed) wades into the age-old battle over whether the MFA in creative writing is a good idea. The article is headlined "Get a Real Degree," so you can kind of guess how they're going to be reacting to this one in Iowa City.
In the greater scheme, of course, the creative writing programme is not one of the evils of the world. It’s a successful, self-sufficient economy, making teachers, students and university administrators happy. As for literature, it will be neither made nor broken by the programme, which is doubtless as incapable of ruining a good writer as of transforming a bad one. That said, the fact that the programme isn’t a slaughterhouse doesn’t mean we should celebrate, or condone, its worst features. Why can’t the programme be better than it is? Why can’t it teach writers about history and the world, and not just about adverbs and themselves? Why can’t it at least try?
I love Elif Batuman, but I've never heard of an MFA program that doesn't teach writers about "history and the world." It's just that they do it through books, which, I'd think, is the whole point of a college education in the first place.
I don't know. I dropped out of college, a decision I used to regret until I started reading articles like these. I guess I think if you want to be a writer, you should read, and you should write, and you should probably ignore these ivory tower slap-fight distractions, none of which are helping literature, and all of which increasingly miss the point.
Dahl had an idyllic childhood until the age of 3, when his older sister suddenly died and was followed, weeks later, by her heartbroken father. This was the beginning of a toxic tsunami of bad luck that would toss Dahl around for the rest of his life. When he was a boy, his nose was cut off in a car accident. (A doctor sewed it back on.) Then he was shipped off to boarding school in England, where he suffered all the traditional miseries. In World War II, he became one of the RAF’s most promising pilots—only to crash his plane, on his first official day of flying, in the Libyan Desert. As he lay there fighting for consciousness—his skull fractured, his spine wrenched out of place, his eyes swollen shut by burns, his poor reattached nose driven back into his face—his airplane’s machine guns, stoked by the heat, started shooting at him. (Dahl later mythologized this, telling people he’d been shot down.)
Today I met a woman who wants to barter bottles of wine for excess books I have in my apartment. Oh, you and I are going to be good, good friends.
But I was sad to learn that Barbara Holland recently passed away, the author of The Joy of Drinking. She who wrote that booze is
the social glue of the human race. Probably in the beginning we could explain ourselves to our close family members with grunts, muttered syllables, gestures, slaps and punches. Then when the neighbors started dropping in to help harvest, stomp, stir and drink the bounty of the land, after we’d softened our natural suspicious hostility with a few stiff ones, we had to think up some more nuanced communication, like words. From there it was a short step to grammar, civil law, religion, history and "The Whiffenpoof Song."
September 20, 2010
This Twitter post by Portland Mercury arts editor Alison Hallett is the best description of arts reviewing I have read in a long, long time.
I was about to pull down my seat and take a well-deserved nap when the clown called out, “Here comes another engine. Maybe she’ll help us.”
It was a little engine painted blue—the same blue you see emanating from the waters off the Andaman Islands. The clown waved his sad flag again, gesturing for the engine to stop.
“Please, please, please help us,” the clown said.
I thought of Indonesia after the Dutch, and of the insidious post-colonial reliance on others.
I am still trying to catch up on things I bookmarked ages ago, from the road, and never blogged. Foreign Policy responds to Philip Gourevitch's attack on the UN report regarding Rwandan president and massacres committed by the Tutsi government.
September 17, 2010
Portland cares more about reading than your city. Here's proof.
Two long reads for the day: Phillips on the "happiness myth," and why the right to frustration is more productive than the right to happiness.
September 16, 2010
So you want to date a writer? You might want to rethink that.
Writers will remind you that money doesn’t matter so much. Yes. We will do this by borrowing money from you. Constantly.
Writers are creative. This is why we have such good reasons why you should lend us $300 and/or leave us alone, we’re writing.
Writers are sexy. No argument. Some people think this about heroin addicts, too.
Save yourselves, people! Date rock musicians. They all seem pretty put together.
I'm still kind of shocked that Paul Murray's brilliant Skippy Dies didn't make the Booker shortlist, a snub that marks the first time in history that the English have treated an Irishman unfairly. (I know, Irish author Emma Donoghue [Room] made the list. But acknowledging that would have rendered the previous joke even stupider.) Murray contributes a fictional op-ed to the New York Times about back-to-school season, and if it doesn't make you want to go out and buy this book right away, you're hopeless, yo.
Darby M. Dixon III has a fascinating review of Grace Krilanovich's The Orange Eats Creeps, which I finished recently, and which has been haunting me -- in the best possible way -- ever since. (It's hard to explain, as Darby notes in his review, but you can read the first chapter here.) At Codex, Grace shares what she's been reading lately, including the most awesomely-headlined obituary ever. If all goes well -- and shit, hasn't everything gone so well this year? Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha. -- Bookslut will be sponsoring a reading by Grace in early December here in Portland. (Portlanders, I feel like you in particular would love this book. Again, hard to explain, but trust me on this.)
All dogs go to heaven, all geeks go to hell. See you there, nerds!
September 15, 2010
Barbara Holland, author of Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences and The Joy of Drinking, is dead at 77.
She even mounted a defense of smoking, which, along with drinking, she identified as her principal hobbies. . . . “I was getting sick and tired of being lectured by dear friends with their little bottles of water and their regular visits to the gym,” she explained to The Washington Post in 2007. “All of a sudden, we’ve got this voluntary prohibition that has to do with health and fitness. I’m not really in favor of health and fitness.”
I want to name the Portland Bookslut Reading Series in honor of this woman.
David Foster Wallace's archive, at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, is now open to researchers. Wallace's final novel, an unfinished book called The Pale King, will be released next year.
Noam Chomsky - unless you want to spend the whole relationship pretending not to roll your eyes every time they refer to consumers as "sheeple." Unless it is his linguistics books, in which case the person is not even the interesting kind of linguistics nerd.
September 14, 2010
Yesterday I was complaining to my travel companion that my knowledge of Hungarian literature is paltry at best. I have read some -- Peter Nadas, Karinthy -- but really not a whole lot. Today, I am set for at least a month thanks to a pretty great English language bookstore here in Budapest. Acquired:
I am also fatter thanks to Hungarian street food and the restaurants that just serve massive piles of meat, but that's neither here nor there.
September 13, 2010
Lou Beach writes short stories in 420 characters, and they are bizarre and awesome. Beach's site includes audio of his stories being read by Dave Alvin (yes!), Ian McShane, and Jeff Bridges (thus marking the first time the Big Lebowski star has been involved with anything called "420").
Take, for instance, his gloves, which he said he wore to hide his hands. “He claimed he had a hideous skin condition, but there was also the webbed-fingers story,” Mr. Schweitzer said, noting that Mr. MacIntyre had told some people that webbed fingers were the origin of his nickname, and others that it derived from an obscene phrase his father called him. “Other times, he’d claim he had prosthetics,” Mr. Schweitzer noted, “and then there was the story about having had his fingernails pulled out by Idi Amin’s soldiers while working as a reporter in Africa.”
I have just arrived in Budapest and I need a moment. Because it is like Metropole out there. Who knew that book was a guide on how to survive a spontaneous train trip to Budapest?
But I wrote some things! I'm sorry, I have been in hiding, and now I'm only coming out to shill for my writing. I have trouble blogging outside of Berlin, I have no explanation for that.
After reading stories about the new state of austerity in Britain, and European nations yelling and screaming at one another, I started to pick up some books from and about the time. I made a little reading list, a guide to Austerity Britain at PBS Need to Know, with Elizabeth Bowen, Gina Mallet, Nella Last, and more.
Now, if Metropole is correct, somewhere in this hotel there is a room full of birds. I just have to find it.
September 10, 2010
Who wouldn’t want to hit the sheets with this guy? Nonetheless, he is irresistible to women. How do we know? Because Stieg tells us so. And because all the women he sleeps with in the trilogy (roughly half of the primary female characters) do us the favor to reflect at length at how great he is in the sex department. In what claims the (hard-won) prize as most tasteless passage in the series, a victim of decades of sexual abuse ruminates on how she thought she’d never sleep with another man, until she met our middle-aged, out of shape, Swedish Adonis.
A design from Douglas Coupland and a Toronto architecture firm has been selected for a national monument in Ottawa to Canadian firefighters who died in the line of duty.
Yep, that would be the novelist Douglas Coupland, coming up with the world's best pick-up line: "Well, yes, I am a hugely successful novelist, but my true love is designing monuments to honor fallen firefighters." I mean, how does that get better? "Why, yes, I was honored to be offered first cello in the Los Angeles Symphony, but I was too busy doing heart surgeries with Doctors Without Borders and winning that world's largest penis contest."
I'm not jealous, though. Congratulations, Douglas! Bastard.
I talk about Bookslut on Outlook Portland, a local news show hosted by the awesome Rick Emerson, just in case you want to see a nervous, pale, doughy book blogger trying to not seem hung over on TV. Feel free to skip my ineloquent ass and go straight to the commentary by Megatron, which is hilarious (yes, I am serious; it's at about 4:10 in this segment).
September 9, 2010
Minutes after the party’s outset, guests already had gathered around the bar at the landing, including Mr. Franzen himself, calm and genial in a dark gray suit and pale blue shirt, equably chatting with his girlfriend, Kathryn Chetkovich; and Mark Costello, the novelist husband of the editor in chief of Scribner, Nan Graham. Ms. Graham, in a chic cloud-blue dress, stood at the bar, talking with Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker’s elegant fiction editor . . .
I promise the Portland Bookslut Reading Series will not be like this. Except for the chic cloud-blue dress. I've been dying for an excuse to wear that.
Michel Houellebecq (The Possibility of an Island) has been accused of plagiarizing from Wikipedia. Maybe. But maybe Wikipedia is plagiarizing from Michel Houellebecq. That would explain why their article on Islam just says "Ze Muslims, zey are trouble, n'est-ce pas?"
Rosecrans Baldwin, whose You Lost Me There is incredible, contributes a playlist to Largehearted Boy's Book Notes. New Yorkers: Rosecrans will have a conversation with Maud Newton at McNally Jackson Books on September 15, at 7 pm. You should go to this! I will also be having a conversation with Maud next week, but it will likely be about country music and whiskey cocktail recipes. It won't be public, but it's probably going to play out pretty much just how you'd expect.
September 8, 2010
Yesterday (my lateness due to celebrating 100 Booksluts by getting hosed at a publishing do, apologies) the Booker shortlist was unveiled. No Skippy, no Slappy, no Thousand De Zoets. According to literary director* Ion Trewin this selection "was the funniest in the history of the prize". Bet he's a big tickle at parties, old Ion.
Howard Jacobson: The Finkler Question
*The hell is that? Suggestions on the back of a form of legal currency to the usual address.
It turns out there is a lot of hate for The Giving Tree. (I was not aware of this.) The New York Times blog Motherlode wonders what children's books you hate. I can't say I was ever too fond of It Turns Out Curious George Is One of Those Monkeys Who Rips People's Faces Off, Shit, I Bet the Man in the Yellow Hat Didn't See That One Coming, but that might just be me.
Here's an awesome trailer for The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide, coming next month from Eva Talmadge and Bookslut contributor (and interview subject) Justin Taylor. (Be careful if you're planning to get a literary tattoo, by the way. Having Philip Roth's face tattooed above your genitals is not quite the sex magnet you might expect. I've, um, heard.)
So you're looking for the funniest novel of the year, are you?
Murray is at his funniest when his teeth are bared. In one scene, Ruprecht's cynical friend Dennis defends his adolescent desire for a "death ray" to kill bullies with: "Violence solves everything, you idiot, look at the history of the world. Any situation they have, they [mess] around with it for a while, then they bring in violence. That's the whole reason they have scientists, to make violence more violent."
Skippy Dies is one of the smartest, most fun novels I've read in a long time. You must check this out. Particularly if you are, like me, Irish Catholic. (OK, I'm not Irish. But thanks to The Awl, I've been listening to a hilariously NSFW Irish rap song, which has me feeling all KMRIA and shit. I mean, shite.)
September 7, 2010
OK, so: Issue 100! Once again, we're proud to bring you reviews from our intrepid and awesome writers. Check out their thoughts on the latest from Jonathan Franzen, Eliza Griswold, Gary Shteyngart, Susan Glaspell, Paul Guest, and more.
Our columnists are back! And this time...they're angry. (Not really.) In addition to our usual incredible lineup, we're proud to introduce a new regular columnist -- please check out White Chick With A Hindi Ph.D., written by the artist, scholar, and all-around badass Daisy Rockwell. Welcome, Daisy!
We are also thrilled to debut a new column/recurring feature from the authors Ben Greenman (What He's Poised to Do) and Pauls Toutonghi (Red Weather). In The Nobel Reprise, Ben and Pauls will read at least one book from each Nobel Prize in Literature winner. This installment features the introduction, and reflections by Pauls and Ben about Imre Kertész and Samuel Beckett, respectively. It's an honor to be able to run this cool project by two of America's great young fiction writers.
We're heartbroken to announce that this issue brings the final Mystery Strumpet column from longtime Bookslut contributor Clayton Moore. Clayton is a good friend of mine, and I still plan to extort him into writing for us, but he's passing on the Strumpet mantle to an as-yet-unnamed successor. (Interested? Let me know.) Clayton, man, we'll miss you, and thanks for everything.
In features this month, Jessa and I discuss the origins of Bookslut, and Jim Behrle explains the real origins of Bookslut. We've got great interviews with Rachel Shukert, Lee Rourke, Dorothea Lasky, Mary Roach, Matt Burgess, Christopher Higgs, Matthew Lippman, and Matt Stewart. And you don't want to miss the essays by Elizabeth Bachner, Barbara J. King, Rachel Rabbit White, and Josh Cook.
As always, thank you for reading!
Almost nine years ago, Jessa Crispin explained the idea for Bookslut to me via drunken scribblings on a napkin at Magnolia Cafe in South Austin, Texas. I also had an idea (also drunken, our lives kind of sucked back then) that I shared with Jessa on a napkin, one that, I thought, would change the economics of capitalism forever. That's the official story of the origin of Bookslut, anyway; there is an alternate theory.
And while the Schaub curve was widely derided as overly simplistic, Bookslut has been around for over 12,000 blog posts, over 2,700 articles, and now, 100 issues.
I'll introduce the content of our new issue soon, but for now, I want to thank all of you for supporting us over the last eight years. We've always known we have the most attractive readership of any publication ever (at least ever since that study we commissioned, which cost tens of millions of dollars and was run by an unaccredited college, but was totally worth it), but we're mostly proud of having the smartest and nicest readers in the history of journalism (sorry, Soldier of Fortune). Thanks, everyone.
Our writers all volunteer their time and energy, and we wouldn't be here without them. I haven't been this proud of a group of people since the kids I coached last summer at Camp Bookslut, our short-lived foray into...you know what? Forget I mentioned that. We'll get insurance next time. Anyway, our writers are the best literary critics you're going to find, and I love them all dearly. I also appreciate their patience with a managing editor with a sleep disorder and the short-term memory of a Christopher Nolan character. Thanks to each one of you.
And hey, Jessa, thanks for letting me help. That napkin made a lot of people happy. It changed my life. And I think you should consider selling it for a shitload of money so we can retire in Amsterdam. (I know you don't have it. Just fake one.) And thanks for being like a sister to me, especially this year, when I really, really needed one.
September 6, 2010
The Hugo Awards, with contemporary literature's most uncompromisingly phallic award statue, have been announced.
This year's Best Novel was a tie between China Miéville's The City & The City and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Other winners include Wireless by Charles Stross as Best Novella, and Best Novelette (which is also the name of my imaginary pug) to The Island by Peter Watts, available here. Will McIntosh's darkly funny and terrifying Bridesicle won Best Short Story, Bookslut favourite Shaun Tan won Best Professional Artist, and Best Graphic Story went to Girl Genius Volume 9.
The Guardian First Book Awards (last year's winner was the stormingly good An Elegy for Easterly by Patina Gappah) has unfurled it's 2010 longlist. The Graun has lots of treats, including extracts and Claire Armitstead's 'Red Pen Blues' on editorial shortcomings:
One could see both examples (like the laddish weakness for disquisition in fiction) as byproducts of just the sort of energy and enthusiasm one would hope for in a first book. But surely one job of an editor is to rein in such excesses?
The longlist, under the cut:
Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman
September 5, 2010
A Jim Behrle Production
Click for the full comic!
September 3, 2010
Flavorwire lists the top ten bookstores in the United States. Bookslut's new home state of Oregon is represented by -- surprise! -- Powell's (and by The Strand in New York, kind of, which is co-owned by the wife of US Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR]). Note they're all indies, though in fairness, chain bookstores do always tend to dominate the list of the top ten men's room glory holes in the United States, so they'll be fine.
Speaking of silent desperation and book retailing, Borders is planning to add "Build-a-Bear" products to its stores. I went to one of those places a few months ago, when I was in San Francisco, but it turns out they were selling a different kind of bear. I guess I should have known from all the Tom of Finland art on the walls. (Thanks to Poornima for that last link.)
You know those irritating dog people, who talk about their pets like other people talk about babies, and never shut up about how cute their dogs are? Yeah, so, that's me. (Bookslut office dogs Darwin, Wallace, and Maeby all say hi, by the way.) Which is one of the reasons I loved J. R. Ackerley's sweet, funny, and heartbreaking memoir My Dog Tulip so much, and why I can't wait to see the animated film adaptation (trailer here). Even if you're a cat person, you'll love this book, and the movie looks pretty awesome, too. (This seems like as good a time as any for a public service announcement, so if you feel like donating money to stop a practice that should land people in jail for the rest of their pathetic little lives, go here.)
George Hitchcock, the artist, author, and founder of the legendary literary magazine kayak (one of the first magazines to publish Raymond Carver), is dead at 96. Hitchcock, a socialist, was perhaps most well-known for a famous comment he made while testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee:
Hitchcock was a longtime member of the Socialist Party and didn't care who knew it. A labor organizer who once worked in a blast furnace, he was committed to social change and was ready when he was called before the committee in San Francisco in 1957. He said he was from Hood River, "where the delicious apples come from" and when asked his profession, replied "My profession is a gardener. I do underground work on plants."
September 2, 2010
And hey, Portlanders! Remember that Bookslut is sponsoring our first ever reading in Portland, with Tao himself, on September 28, 7 p.m., at Reading Frenzy. I need to write a long-overdue post about Reading Frenzy, which is one of the coolest places in Portland. Just walking inside feels kind of like falling in love. Anyway, if you are in Portland, please come! There will be free beer. And if that doesn't entice you, you don't belong in this city.
Someone just realized that there have been no authors on Dancing with the Stars. (Actual authors, not random famous assholes with book deals.) This show is the reason I have the worst image ever constantly in my head -- that of Tom DeLay badly playing air guitar and shaking his corrupt ass to "Wild Thing," it's here, and you've been warned) -- so I can't say I'm too excited about that idea. On the other hand, seeing Joyce Carol Oates do the cancan would fulfill one of my oldest, weirdest fantasies, so...
At The Smart Set, Rock Chalk Jessa Crispin discusses the new Radical Homemakers and The Urban Homestead. You can take the girl out of Kansas, but...
Then about 50 pages into Radical Homemakers it came screaming out, my crazy Kansas genes. Kansas breeds eccentrics, like the guy who asked that after his death his corpse be displayed in his backyard in a glass-fronted case (it is.) Or native son John Brown, whose wild-eyed portrait is lovingly painted in the Topeka capitol. Or the other guy who built massive tunnels from his house out to his fields so that he could check on his cows without stepping outside, where he might accidentally run into someone. The tunnels, by the way, were wide enough to run cows through. This is what runs in my blood. "It's the wind," my friend Ron used to say to me. "There's nothing to stop it, and it just runs straight through your brain." This is my destiny.
After Radical Homemakers stirred my crazy impulses, I decided I would need to move out onto a farm. I would raise goats and chickens and crops. I would have a massive garden. I would have a kid or two and homeschool those things. Make jam. After the kids are gone I'll start in on the tunnels.
I know the impulse. Kind of. I was born and raised in San Antonio, and sometimes I just feel the urge to listen to "Hey Baby, Que Paso" while getting high, eating breakfast tacos, and building a large shopping mall on a river by an old mission. Such is the city mouse-country mouse dynamic that makes Bookslut what it is. (Jessa, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.)
September 1, 2010
We still have a lot of work to do, but I can promise that the Portland Bookslut Reading Series will be held in one of these bars.
The great Lizzie Skurnick:
Make of it what you will, but the Twitter-born fracas over Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom proves one thing without a doubt: The American literary establishment are size queens.
And Ron Charles has a hilarious video review of the book. See, Grey Lady? Book reviewing can be fun! It doesn't have to be as joyless as the funeral of a homeless orphan!