December 22, 2011
The sun’s gestures are precise at this time of year. When it eventually rises above the hill it shines directly through our small kitchen window. A beam crosses the table and illuminates the hall beyond. In barely an hour, though, the sun sinks again below the hill, south-south-west, leaving a couple of hours of dwindling half-light. Everything we imagine doing, this time of year, we imagine doing in the dark.
Happy solstice, everyone. Tomorrow I'm flying across the Atlantic, so I'll bid you all farewell for now. And I'll be back post-Christmas.
December 21, 2011
For those not at all in the Christmas spirit: listen to A.M. Homes read Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery."
The Chronicle catches us all up on the sprawling, bilious controversy over the Rita Dove edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry. It started with the nasty Helen Vendler review in the New York Review of Books and spilled out from there.
December 20, 2011
Some things are universal, like BFFs and the desire to make fun of the size of someone's ass. Ten ancient graffiti are translated for your contemporary pleasure.
You can, if you are me, spend a lot of time studying maps and looking at how much the European borders have changed through the centuries. But Frank Jacobs notes that the more things change etc etc. Borders have a tendency to reassert themselves, and he uses the "zombie border" between East and West Germany -- a border that was basically a retracing of medieval borders -- to explain why that is.
And on a related note, I talk to Max Egremont at Kirkus about his book Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia about the territories lost after World War II.
Prussia was seen as the cradle of German militarism, as in caricatures of spiked-helmeted, goose-stepping soldiers. It did owe its rise and its eventual domination of the new Germany Empire [created in 1871] to the victories over the Austrians and the French under Bismarck and, earlier, to Frederick the Great—although Frederick’s opportunistic aggression was no worse than that of Louis XIV or Napoleon. The Prussian army certainly was very large in proportion to Prussia’s population. In pre-1914 Imperial Germany, the army had obvious presence and influence. Foreign visitors to Berlin noticed how the streets were full of men in uniform.
Before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, her husband wrote a complementary, if less successful, novel that drew on similar themes. St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian, A Romance turns two hundred years old this year, and Stefany Anne Golberg uses the occasion to revisit the book.
"His essays, lectures, and prison letters from the last quarter century are, taken altogether, among the most vivid, sustained, and searching explorations of the moral and political responsibility of the intellectual produced anywhere in Europe," wrote Timothy Garton Ash, the foremost chronicler of revolutionary Central Europe, in his 1999 collection History of the Present. "Indeed, it is difficult to think of any figure in the contemporary world who has more cumulative authority to speak on this issue than Vaclav Havel."
From 2003, a profile of Havel from Reason Magazine.
December 19, 2011
In an interview at Truth Out, Judith Butler wonders why people say they can't figure out what the Occupy Wall Street protesters want. She has figured it out, but perhaps the message is a little too large for media commentators:
Well, let me say this: I think there is a demand. The demand is for a radical economic and political restructuring of the world.
It feels weird to grieve for a politician, doesn't it? We're way past a time when we could believe good things about our leaders. Even the most productive or idealistic are necessarily sleazy and disappointing. We all now know too much about Kennedy, let alone anyone fucking up our country now. But Havel was a writer first, and it is still possible to grieve for writers. I wrote about Havel not too long ago for the Smart Set.
This address he gave after taking office is one of my favorites. Asking the people of Czechoslovakia not to look at their recent past as something that was done to them, but as something they allowed to happen. It's a little brutal, and painfully relevant to our own situation now.
December 16, 2011
Raymond Tallis reviews two new books on neuroscience and gleefully rips into the idea that economics and neuroscience can fully explain human behavior and desires.
Razan Ghazzawi, a 31-year-old Syrian blogger, was arrested and charged with “trying to incite sectarian strife” earlier this week, which could result in a 15-year prison sentence for the U.S.-born writer.
Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died Thursday at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was 62.
December 15, 2011
I have been trying to find a link to kittens reading books or curled up in books or a goat eating a book, something on that level for you, but instead I have all the bad news below and now babies being cut out of pregnant women's bodies in Guatemala to sell on the international adoption black market. I know!
Erin Siegal sits down with Guernica to talk about her debut book Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child, and a Cross-Border Search for Truth.
Yes, but the principle of rationality, which has its place in the economy, has increasingly permeated our thinking, finding its way into living rooms, schools and social relationships. This application of economic principles to the valuation of human beings is inhumane.
Wilhelm Heitmeyer tells Der Spiegel what is wrong with our culture.
A group in Jerusalem going by the name Sikrikim -- "a name chosen in honor of an honorless group of Jewish terrorists from the Roman era who killed so many of their own they were chased out of Jerusalem before the Roman siege ever began" -- attacked a local bookstore for promoting immodesty. By selling books in English. Shalom Auslander reports on the attack for The Jewish Week.
And so, over the past 20 months, these soldiers of the Lord Our God, God of Abraham, Isaac and Yaakov, relentlessly terrorized and vandalized Manny’s (www.mannysbookstore.com), shattering the store windows as God had commanded them, flinging soiled diapers into the shop in the manner which the Lord did show us and, in order to find favor in the eyes of Hashem, smearing the store with feces and excrement. In all, they caused 250,000 shekels (about $60,000) worth of damage to the store, and last month, the store fell. They capitulated. Victory, again, for the zealots.
"I can't stand THE DEPRESSED. It's like a job, it's the only thing they work hard at. Oh good my depression is very well today. Oh good today I have another mysterious symptom and I will have another one tomorrow. The DEPRESSED are full of hate and bile and when they are not having panic attacks they are writing poems. What do they want their poems to DO? Their depression is the most VITAL thing about them. Their poems are threats. ALWAYS threats. There is no sensation that is keener or more active than their pain. It's just another utility. Like electricity and water and gas and democracy. They could not survive without it. GOD, I'M SO THIRSTY, WHERE'S THE WAITER?"
Reading Deborah Levy's Swimming Home.
December 14, 2011
Video from 1991: a television news program carries the news of Graham Greene's death.
Legendary cult author Russell Hoban, whose apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker was described by Anthony Burgess as "what literature is meant to be", died last night aged 86, his publisher has announced.
It was impossible not to warm to someone who replied to an actress claiming that since she had the most beautiful body and he the most brilliant mind they should produce a child of genius: "But what if the child inherits my body – and your brain?"
Any Berliners in need of some English language books? I need to discard some before I head off. Email me for a list of what I've got.
I just really want everyone's mother issues out on the surface before you all travel home and see her face to face. Nothing bad could ever come of that. In my continuing quest, I talk to Barbara Almond at this week's Kirkus Q&A about her book The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood. (Her book showed up in this week's Smart Set column.) We discuss social expectations for mothers, why ambivalence about her child is not a horrible thing for a mother to have, and how it would be best if we could somehow physically resurrect Winnicott. (There is a contemporary zombie novel no one has thought of.) But really, Winnicott is the best. You might want to take a selection of his work home with you as self-soothing.
There are certainly powerful biological and psychological roots to maternal love. Women who have planned to give a baby up for adoption often change their mind as soon as they take their first glance at their newborn. But not every woman reacts this positively and instantly. And certainly the strains of child-rearing, and the inevitable clash between the infant's needs and some of the mother's needs, produces negative feelings.
A mixture of feelings is inevitable and a culture that denies this, as ours does to a large degree, does women no favors. Women have a much easier time recovering from their negative feelings when they are cut a little slack by society. However, It should be added that women themselves cultivate a lot of the competitive maternal perfectionism that characterizes so much of middle- and upper-class parenting.
December 13, 2011
"Creative people tend to have traits that some have referred to as obnoxious." Apparently teachers and professors would rather you were a dullard. Oh my god, The Wall, scientifically justified. I'm calling the guy who gave himself all his own haircuts and wore the same three t-shirts all through high school to let him know.
Speaking of the Smart Set, my latest column is up, all about mothering! Let's talk about motherhood! Because no one ever does that, ever. The piece came out of the biography Dangerous Ambition: Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West -- and I should state right now that I actually like that book a lot. But it had this odd twist that I couldn't help noticing; Susan Hertog couldn't keep herself from letting it show how much she judged both writers for being failures as mothers and wives.
The New Woman drank, she smoked, she wore her skirt a little shorter and she had sex before marriage. But most important, the New Woman worked.
Now, New Women had an awful habit of becoming Old Women as soon as they found themselves married or knocked up. The birth of the New Woman — exciting, edgy, urban — was timed perfectly with the birth of the suburb, as women tired of all of their new freedoms and fled to the outskirts to nest with their families. A few stubbornly held onto their careers, and two of those women were West and Thompson. West infiltrated the London literary scene as a critic with a bluestocking vibrancy, and Thompson traveled the tumultuous post-World War I Europe as a foreign correspondent. Both longed for love, but both were acutely aware that a person gives up something in order to get married. Even if you are the blissful bride, radiating an aura of love and joy, you are sacrificing something at that altar. Thompson classified that something as, “I'll never take risks in the same way. I'll never start off across the world with nothing in my pocket again, and be able to say, 'well, it's my own life, isn't it?'" She was conflicted, but she married. She may have regretted it.
A while back I wrote a column about being a dead ringer for Cosima Wagner, a tricky lady. Particularly in this photo. Today I read the entry in Cosima's diary that refers to that photograph: "Told R that we should have ourselves photographed, I kneeling before him, for this is my rightful position - it would be a family heirloom." Jesus Christ, Cosima.
(A friend at lunch today asked me, "Are you done with Frau Wagner yet?" I think meaning, will you stop bringing her up in conversation? I answered with a question: Can anyone ever be said to be done with Frau Wagner? But really, I should stop bringing her up in conversation.)
December 12, 2011
“Millions would die in the first week alone.”
Newt Gingrich would like you to know, through science fiction novels and speeches, that someone is probably going to detonate a nuclear warhead in outer space above the United States, which will recreate The Road in live action America. This is definitely going to happen, but don't worry! He totally has a plan.
Marina Warner is at the New Statesman, talking about her new book Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights and why you must read fairy tales differently than literature:
Fairy tales are very different from Henry James or Virginia Woolf or Proust - they don't have specificity. This literature of enchantment presents the possibility that people are not consistent within themselves and that all kinds of unpredictable events will take place in someone's life that will make them behave out of character.
He always said Barcelona was one of the greatest experiments in world history, because what we discovered there was that white-collar workers don’t actually do anything. In Barcelona their idea of having a revolution was to get rid of all the managers and just carry on without them. And nothing really changed.
December 9, 2011
Speaking of travel writing, Toby Lichtig has noticed that there is no discovery left for travel writers these days. They need either a gimmick or a personal angle. He discusses Evelyn Waugh's travel writing. His personal angle (or gimmick?) was cantankerousness.
It is precisely this urbane jadedness that makes Labels so entertaining, whether its author is condemning the architecture of the Sphinx (“an ill-proportioned composition of inconsiderable aesthetic appeal”), the interior of Hagia Sophia (“a majestic shell full of vile Turkish fripperies”) or the dubious majesty of Etna at sunset (“Nothing I have ever seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting”). Volcanoes are a particular source of the author’s contempt, as is the “unremitting avarice of the Egyptian race” and the inhabitants of Naples, on whose shores he is reminded of the “admirable phrase” of Baedeker, “always extortionate and often abusive”.
Daybook pays tribute to a mostly forgotten travel writer, Johann Gottfried Seume. He once walked 4,000 miles from his home in Saxony over the Alps and down the length of Italy, a story told in his book A Stroll to Syracuse.
I am thoroughly enjoying Eugene Hynes's Knock: The Virgin's Apparition in 19th Century Ireland. And it's so seasonal! Although I keep forgetting it's about to be Christmas, as there is not the relentless creepy carols sung by creepy children's choirs blaring at every grocery store and shopping center. (Talking on the phone with a friend last night, he was walking through a strip mall and I could hear the insistent trill of the Sugar Plum Fairy loud and clear. It was the first dose of Christmas I had gotten in a while.)
Anyway! What were we talking about? This wonderful book. Hynes has laid an extensive foundation to explain and support his theory that Irish peasants were not a bunch of wackos. And I particularly enjoyed this section:
In a critique of the way American history is presented in US school textbooks, James Loewen made a point that has broader application. He quotes from one typical text's description of the religion of the continent's original peoples:
"These Native Americans [in the south-west] believed that nature was filled with spirits. Each form of life, such as plants and animals, had a spirit. Earth and air held spirits, too. People were never alone. They shared their lives with the spirits of nature."
While the account tries to show respect, Loewen argues that it reduces the believers to simple-minded caricatures. Their beliefs are presented as childish make-believe. A similarly literal version of Christianity would offend believers:
"These Americans believed that one great male god ruled the world... They ate crackers and wine or grape juice, believing that they were eating their [god's] son's body and drinking his blood. If they believed strongly enough, they would live on forever after they died."
Loewen points out that textbooks never describe Christianity this way. The reason is not hard to find: believers would immediately recognise that such literalism fails to convey either the symbolic meaning or the spiritual satisfaction of sharing in the beliefs and practices of a religious community. Rather than reducing their faith to a listing of the bizarre and the irrational, researchers need to pay as much respectful and sympathetic attention to the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the underdogs of the world as they do to those of the orthodox elites and the powerfully established.
Too funny. A publisher took an offhand comment I made on the blog and turned it into a blurb. A very strange blurb!
'Made me want to eat potato chips and read in the bathtub'
December 8, 2011
Joe McGinniss wrote a little book you may have heard about recently, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. But you know, before he was writing hilarious books about would-be vice presidents, he was a subject of Janet Malcolm's classic and oft-quoted work, The Journalist and the Murderer. McGinniss was the Journalist. He did not come out so great.
In 1989, he responded to Malcolm's portrayal of him as an unethical creature in an epilogue to the book that started the whole thing, Fatal Vision. He's now posted that epilogue online, in case you wanted to read it without buying some true crime book.
The Copiale Cipher, an 18th century code that was perhaps* used by one of the century's many secret societies, has now been cracked.
* Who gives a bloody hell if it's not really a secret society thing, it's a better story that way. Much more interesting than the guy who is hallucinating buffalo heads in the Mona Lisa.
Jenny Turner has a surprisingly thoughtful essay about the muddled mess that contemporary feminism has become. I say "surprisingly" not because of the author -- Jenny Turner is nothing but wit and grace and intelligence incarnate from what I have read -- but because normally when someone approaches this topic it's with a blow torch and a table saw. Turner's piece is worth your time.
‘Enough ink has been spilled in quarrelling over feminism … perhaps we should say no more about it’: Simone de Beauvoir, at the very beginning of The Second Sex (1949). ‘The subject is irritating, especially to women.’ Long before they were shouting ‘Ban the Bunny’ and dressing up as butchers, feminists were annoying people, not just misogynists and sexists, but the very people you’d think would like them best.
December 7, 2011
John Kinsella has also decided (following Alice Oswald's decision) to withdraw from the TS Eliot poetry prize in protest of its sponsorship by an investment firm.
Mike Dash, who wrote that peculiar and amazing story about the unidentified body found on Somerton Beach with an as-yet-unbreakable code in his pocket, gives a list of five of his favorite history books, and god damn it, now I want them all.
I’m interested in the ordinary people of history. One of the things I try to do when I write is to dignify them by showing a bit of interest in their lives and what happened to them, rather than treating them as if they’re another disposable number, which is how, quite often, they were treated in life.
I am not one who particularly aches to listen to a panel of writers discuss issues for an hour, but Marina Warner and Richard Dawkins were on the same panel show, and there's only a 1 minute 40 second clip online? (Anyone know where I can find the rest of this?) When a new, massive Warner book showed up recently, Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights I had to muffle my girlish, geeky shriek of joy.
Anyway, here she is, for one minute and 40 seconds, explaining to Richard Dawkins why myths and stories are important to people.
The Smithsonian offers up a brief history of stigmata, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm currently reading Sergio Luzzatto's investigation into the recently beatified Italian, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age. (Pio is included in the Smithsonian article.) My favorite bit of information so far was that Pio wrote a series of letters about his experiences with religious ecstasy... except he plagiarized them in full from the writings of another stigmatic.
Maybe QR Markham should not feel so bad? His book was yanked, his series of novels cancelled, but he's probably going to get a book deal so he can write about how bad he feels -- because that is how this disgusting industry works sometimes -- and apparently sainthood isn't off the table just yet. It'll just take a little spontaneous bleeding.
December 6, 2011
Alice Oswald has withdrawn from a shortlist of ten poets in the running for the £15,000 [T. S. Eliot poetry] award, taking issue with the fact that the prize is sponsored by an investment company.
Aurum, which manages hedge funds, has signed a three year sponsorship deal with the prize-owning body Poetry Book Society. The society lost the regular backing of the Arts Council in recent cuts.
They're turning Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca into a musical, I don't know if you have heard. It is going to be pretty awful. (Reading about it on a German news site is not helping. "Rebecca: DAS MUSICAL" doesn't sound any better.
And just in case you were wondering what in the world the songs were going to be about (oh my god, there are white top hats involved. On the ladies.), here is a collaboration, not musical-affiliated from what I can tell, of a song inspired by Rebecca. It is awful enough that it might as well be affiliated. Oh, Daphne. You were so wicked and now they are putting white satin top hats on your characters. It's an unfair fate.
Misha Angrist has an extensive interview with Carl Elliott, bioethicist and author of White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine.
[There was] a mid-1990s study of creative groups which found that only one of fifty writers (Maupassant) was free of psychopathology, and that this group contained the highest proportion of individuals with severe pathology (nearly 50 per cent) compared with scientists, statesmen, thinkers, artists and composers.
See also: documentary that Phillips participates in, about the link between art and madness, on YouTube.
Maureen McHugh and I talk about the end of the world and other problems over at Kirkus. Her short story collection, After the Apocalypse, is wonderful. And it's perhaps made all the better by the fact that the apocalypse in no way brings out the noble spirit in the survivors. No Hunger Games-style self-sacrifice, no purification of The Deluge. She explains why this is:
I was raised Catholic, and one of the things I was taught was that there are no sins that we are not capable of. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can imagine circumstances where I am capable of most sins. When bad things happen to people, it doesn’t make them better people, it makes them the victim of bad events. Maybe some of them make choices that make them better people. But I am often irritable if I get in my car and I’m supposed to be somewhere in 20 minutes, but I realize I have to stop for gas which will make me late. I can see where my behavior might actually get worse.
Look, no one is more upset that Arthur Koestler turns out to be a really good writer than me. I am teaching Koestler in my upcoming class about bad people who write great literature at Drexel University. And he is a bad person. We'll not detail his sins right this second, but if you wanted to Google "Arthur Koestler Rapist" you'd get caught up pretty quickly.
I figured I should read more by him than the usual Darkness at Noon, and I had a copy of Dialogue with Death: The Journal of a Prisoner of the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. It turns out it is good. Really good. And not just good in the distant sense of oh, that's a nice sentence, or this passage is particularly good. But in a I cannot stop reading it even after I've run out of hot water and my bathtub is quickly cooling on me. In a, I am actually rooting for him kind of way. God damn it! I am going to have to rewrite my Koestler lecture now.
December 5, 2011
'Now hear this" – the three words that Christopher Logue, who has died aged 85, used to open his epic poem War Music were aptly chosen. In this stark modern rendition of The Iliad, Homer's ancient Greek account of the siege of Troy, the invocation to the muse commands the listener's attention with the insistence born of first-hand experience of military life.
We decided to go ahead and do another one of those things. Whatsits. Issues. It's a monster this month!
Starting off with an interview with the divine Lore Segal. Have you read Lucinella? There is no good reason why you haven't already. At any rate, Segal is a formidable writer, and she dishes on her long career to Drew Johnson. We also have interviews with Alvin Orloff about sex and God and why the Cathars should make a comeback right about now, and Luis Urrea, who uses, it turns out, a whole lot of exclamation marks. As someone who only uses exclamation marks for sarcasm, it was a difficult edit. And at Star-Crossed, Kevin Frazier boldly brings new life to the conversations about Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, and the whole essay is a treat. That sentence ended with a period, so you know it's sincere.
At Locus Pocus, Kerri Arsenault takes us to Jerusalem, via personal and scholarly history. Martyn Pedler has a wonderful piece on adolescent male aggression and comic books, Jenny McPhee finds the parallels between Muriel Spark and Mary Shelley, Christopher Merkel writes about the two Murakamis, and we also have reports from Bookslut in Training, Latin Lit Lover, and the Cookbookslut.
Apparently there is some sort of controversy, a lot of hoohah over nothing, about publishers feeling a little grumpy about sending endless copies of review books to bloggers. William Morrow sent out a notice to bloggers about a new review book policy. (I got that email. I did not in any way interpret it the way some people seemed to, but whatever.)
But GOD. Remember the days (before electricity was invented, natch) when a) we had to FAX book review requests? and b) when no one wanted to send bloggers books? I sent one fax a week to Random House for a year before they broke down and started sending me books. So all you damn youngsters, you have no idea how good you have it.
(Someone described me on a website as "one of the oldest of the bloggers" and YES. Thank you. Basically near death over here, but my new hip replacement is working out just fine.)
December 2, 2011
We're working on the new issue, up on Monday, so we don't have much for you today. Perhaps you can go register to win a copy of Dubravka Ugresic's Karaoke Culture? Or you can do some daytime drinking at your desk and watch kitten videos for a couple hours. No reason you can't do both.
December 1, 2011
And while everyone is talking about the New York Times's list of the best books of 2011, I'm more interested in this particular list of theirs.
André Schiffrin, the man who published "Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Noam Chomsky, Günter Grass, Art Spiegelman, Marguerite Duras and Gunnar Myrdal," talks about the role of money in publishing in a totally cheery and upbeat manner.
When I came out of the Delhi airport, the first bookstore I saw had a whole rack of books labelled Hachette… And Hachette belongs to the leading French manufacturer of armaments, Lagardère. So you ask yourself, would Hachette in India ever publish a book on military spending in India when they are selling their aircraft to the Indian Air Force? I doubt it.
Christa Wolf, one of the best-known authors from former communist East Germany, died on Thursday aged 82 in Berlin following a long illness, her publisher said.
The critically acclaimed and award-winning author of such works as "Divided Heaven", "Cassandra" and "The Quest For Christa T." courted controversy throughout her career and had links to the hated East German Stasi police in the 1960s.
Maureen McHugh's After the Apocalypse is one of the better short story collections I have read in a while. (Her Mothers and Other Monsters was a favorite when it was released, too.) In her new book, there might be zombie penal colonies, and environmental devastation, and a corporate takeover, but you still have to pay your property taxes somehow. It's a delight.
She's interviewed over here a ways about ending the world again and again in her writing, and how if you're not good at writing plot, cataclysm is an easy shortcut.
I live in LA. Right now. And on and off, I’m confronted with all sorts of LA stuff. And a few years ago, one of the big LA things was people like Shirley MacLaine, who thought they were reincarnated. And people who think they are reincarnated are always convinced that they were Napoleon, or…
Cleopatra. Yeah. I’m pretty sure that if I’m reincarnated, that I come from life after life of ‘peasant’. And After the Apocalypse—all of my apocalyptic stories are not of the people who become Mad Max, but they’re of the rest of us, you know. So, yeah. Things tend not to go really well for my people after the apocalypse.
I almost didn't link to this, because it seems like enabling in some way, but Quentin Rowan the Plagiarist confesses to his misdeeds at the Fix, connecting them to his alcoholism. The reason I'm linking is because Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, has an appropriately flabbergasted response to Quentin's confession. The parallels to James Frey's confession -- another addict -- are interesting, and if you know alcoholics -- and I have known alcoholics -- then it is all very recognizable. The apology that is never really an apology, the "hey other people think I am swell," the collecting his punishments around him as an act of grand egoism... From Pickett's response:
What I find so weird about his "confession" is that in order to atone for his "literary" sins, Rowan, in apparent desperation at the scorn he feels is going to storm down on him, grasps onto his plagiarism as an addiction, then cleaves to AA, as if those who have had real addiction problems -- the physical and emotional suffering that drugs and alcohol inflict on a person -- have to be lumped together with this charlatan. I mean, where does it end? Can a serial murderer now claim he was addicted to torturing and raping and dismembering young prostitutes and hope to find redemption in a 12-step program? Okay, that's hyperbole, but where is the line drawn, this naming your "crime" an addiction?