August 31, 2005
J.P. Avlon remembers Johnny Cash and Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
"Before I start my reading," I announced to the crowd, "I'm going to ask you some Canadian trivia questions." Anyone who answered a question correctly would win a Canadian chocolate bar called Crispy Crunch (re-named Butterfinger in the U.S. edition of The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington, in case a character eating something bar-shaped and chocolate left you scratching your heads).
Karl Martin, chair of the department of literature, journalism and modern languages at California's Point Loma Nazarene University, will weave together Springsteen's fabled auto-imagery with that used by the southern Gothic author Flannery O'Connor.
Martin's theme could turn out to be one of the conference's more intriguing ones, because, in some quarters, it's become as much a cliche to mock Springsteen for his lyrical fixation with motor vehicles as it is to link Leonard Cohen with late-night angst in dreary bedsits.
I have my own questions for these people. Who was the chicken man who got blown up in Philly last night? Was it really necessary to also blow up his house? And so on.
I was really enjoying E. Kay Trimberger's The New Single Woman until I came upon her "Celibacy is A-Okay!" chapter. You don't need sex, because there's always solo flamenco dancing! The section was so cheesy (really, no, we're fine not having sex!) it just reinforced that stereotype of your spinster English teacher who so obviously needed to get laid. But all of the other chapters were just fine. Trimberger is interviewed at the Boston Globe.
Also: Daphne Merkin is more skeptical than me about the rest of the book in this article from Elle.
It's with her insistence on the consolations of community—described, in a curiously dated (not to mention sexist) Cheever-esque image, as being the sort of loosely connected realm in which “a friend from church knows your golf buddy”—that Trimberger begins to lose me, just as she does on the issue of sex. I'm not convinced, when it comes down to it, that she has figured out the life project of being single all that well—but perhaps the problem lies less with her than with the myth, propagated by Helen Gurley Brown's sex-and-the-single-Cosmo-woman on a gullible female public, that it's possible to have it all. The un-American truth is that most of us can't, if only because options are often mutually exclusive, a matter of opening one door and closing another.
After finishing a book, Mr. Leveen suggests writing a letter to the author—if they’re still alive, I presume. “Dear Rachel Cusk: You wrote a horrible book. How did it ever get published? Or long-listed for the Booker? Were there only 16 novels total published in the U.K. this year and therefore you were an automatic nominee? Please let me know.” I am also to take a walk and reflect on what I just read. “Wow, that was awful” quickly turns into “I think I might actually like post–Brian Eno Roxy Music more than the first two albums.” I don’t think I was supposed to bring my iPod on this walk.
Is there a straight woman in this land (and abroad for that matter, and probably some lesbians, too) who hasn't at some point looked across the breakfast table, the bed, the La-Z-Boy with the TV Guide/remote-control caddy, the tool shed, the cheap golf bag, the unsightly family car, the supermarket aisle, the Thanksgiving dinner where the turkey is dry and the cranberry sauce isn't made from scratch, the laundry basket, and closed her eyes really hard for just a moment and wished, wished, wished that the man she saw there was Leonard Cohen?
No. No, there isn't.
"Comic books are back and hotter than ever!" says Kirkus (in PDF format). (Were they gone for a while?) They offer the 25 "hottest!" titles of the year, including personal favorite David B's Epileptic, with the occasional "Uh, what?" choice. But can we stop with the "women make comics, too!" sidebar? Kirkus makes them sound just adorable.
Editor & Publisher reports on the difficult times for journalists in Latin America.
"If tomorrow the president says to the police, go and put a pair of shots into a citizen, or put a pair of shots into Octavio Sacasa [owner of a television station], and then he tells the police put a pair of shots into La Prensa journalists, the police are not obliged to attack just because the president ordered it," Ortega said, according to an account in La Prensa.
August 30, 2005
Don't look for Jewel's next collection of poetry on bookshelves anytime soon — the singer's scrapped plans to publish a volume of love poems, since she thinks they're just "too steamy, too private." "A lot of poets are vampires of emotion," she said. "They suck it out and put it on a page; they're merciless about it. And so when I wrote these poems, everything was fair game." But then she considered who might read them, and thought twice about making them public. "I don't want [my boyfriend Ty Murray's mother] to read them. They're too explicit." Instead, she said, she made a personalized volume for Murray, who gives them two thumbs up. "So it's written, but I don't know how to change it. It wouldn't be honest. It wouldn't be me. But maybe one day [I'll release them]."
Oh, Jewel, we'll be waiting.
When Cohen first arrived on Hydra there were no wires on the island. In the mid-1960s, the arrival of telephone poles and electricity meant that wires appeared for the first time on the landscape - slung loosely across alleyways, including outside his house.
At first Cohen was despondent. But then he noticed birds came to the wires. And the song was born.
Joan Klingel Ray, a professor of English at the University of Colorado and the president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who has seen a preview of the £20 million film, said Macfadyen wasn't a patch on Firth who was "simply more attractive".
She said: "The Darcy in the film does not have the quality of attractiveness that Colin Firth has. I don't want to cause any offence but Colin is simply a much better looking man than Matthew."
Linton Weeks is nonplussed by Amazon's fancy-ass text stats.
Virginia author Robert Bausch is also concerned about his statistics. "There is something really kind of disturbing about this," he says while checking the Text Stats of "The Gypsy Man," his novel from 2003. "You can't tell me that 96 percent of books have fewer sentences than mine. If that's true, I'm in [expletive] deep [expletive]." . . .
But in its pure form, Text Stats is a triumph of trivialization. By squeezing all the life and loveliness out of poetry and prose, the computer succeeds in numbing with numbers. It's the total disassembling of truth, beauty and the mysterious meaning of words. Except for the Concordance feature, which arranges the 100 most used words in the book into a kind of refrigerator-magnet poetry game.
Torrential rains fall on New Orleans -- enough to cause flash floods inside the municipal walls. The water has nowhere to go. Left on its own, it would form a lake, rising inexorably from one level of the economy to the next. So it has to be pumped out. Every drop of rain that falls on New Orleans evaporates or is pumped out.
Rick Moody writes about his band, The Wingdale Community Singers, for The Guardian.
I therefore make the following vows, with respect to music: I will never pad shirtless across a stage in front of a microphone stand, festooned with fluffy boas. I will never destroy a hotel room. I will never brandish a handgun in order to bolster my street credibility. I will never, ever be seen at a party with someone whose profession is model/actress. I will never let them use an auto-tune device on my voice. I will never perform as a guest DJ, and especially not at 2am. I will shoot no commercials in Japan. I will not play at the annual shareholder's conference of any major computer manufacturer. I will not sign a management contract with anyone from Belgium. I will not get my nose, tongue or navel pierced. I will avoid Winona Ryder.
I'm torn. Part of me wants to go to Starbucks right fucking now just to spite these assholes.
A national Christian women's organization is accusing the Seattle-based coffee maker of promoting a homosexual agenda because of a quote by author Armistead Maupin, whose "Tales of the City" chronicled San Francisco's homosexual community in the 1970s and 1980s.
The quote is part of Starbucks' "The Way I See It" quotes-on-cups campaign. I guess they figure if you're going to spend seventeen dollars for a medium cup of coffee, they might as well throw in a little wisdom.
What does Jesse Helms have instead of a soul?
Former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, writing with the same passion that made him the Senate's leading archconservative for 30 years, renews his criticism of abortion in a memoir published this week, comparing it to both the Holocaust and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
This is an important book, a wonderful reversing story with a cast of characters with names that are not their names, and ideals that have been thrust upon them, but this is not a real study of the anatomy of terrorist warfare or its perpetrators. Remember this as you read this vast story set in a splintering world reflected in lakes.
The Times also has an excerpt of the novel online. It's released in the UK on Thursday and the States and Canada next Tuesday.
James McManus, who will be joining Stuart Dybek and Jeffrey Eugenides for a talk at the Harold Washington Library next Thursday, talks to the Chicagoist about his switch from fiction to nonfiction, his upcoming book about America's health care system, and his "ardor" for Las Vegas.
August 29, 2005
In October, after three years of a great column, Karin Kross of Comic Book Slut will be resigning. She'll still be around to write insightful reviews, but Bookslut will be in need of a replacement columnist. If you're interested in writing a comic book column (or any of our other positions, like poetry reviewers, nonfiction reviewers, feature writers, or if you're interested in pitching a new column idea), please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is important that you go about your business while you pursue your reading project. You have to take M. with you on planes and trains and into hotels and to the dentist's office and into your child's piano lesson. "In Search of Lost Time" will not have its full effect if you sequester it. It must diffuse into your life, color every place you go and every scene you look at with its own tints.
But not everybody is cheering. A grousing minority thinks the Quills are nothing but a marketing gimmick by a nervous book industry.
A grousing minority? I thought "A Marketing Gimmick by a Nervous Book Industry" was actually the subtitle of this year's show.
He moves around in a bumbling, patting-his-pockets kind of way, which seems both awkward and benevolent. He's an odd combination of cuddly and spiky to look at, the only angles in his face those shooting eyebrows that in photographs come across as supercilious but up close seem more like cheekiness...
Rushdie, now 58, is sometimes cast as the over-indulged boy-child: chubby, cute, aware of his own cuteness, with the reserves of spite and temper that come from the eminence of this position...
with one hand he tucks his hair behind his ear; he can look as demure as Princess Di. But he can be caustic, too...
He chuckles like Santa.
Should I feel satisfied that now not only women authors' appearances are discussed at length, or should I just be frustrated that the Guardian printed a profile by a complete twat?
Darlene Jospe, from Jerusalem, warned the writer not to think too much of herself because she has managed to attract so many Jewish men.
'Non-Jewish women are not the attraction, but the forbidden fruit that is always sweeter. Kristina, like any other shiksa, is the appetiser for some men, but they are still likely to go home for dinner to their Jewish wives and girlfriends,' she wrote to the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.
The corps is inured to this ideological Esperanto, but it is vertiginous and risible when you first hear it live -- compared to human conversation, it sounds absurd. I discussed the "defeating ideology" statement later with defense analyst "Dr. Suave," who clarified: "It's postmodern language. It's abstract. It means absolutely nothing. There's no content there."
My first revelation: Nobody in the room asks questions like "How does one militarily defeat an ideology, short of killing everyone who feels that way and their families, then destroying all writings ever produced about that ideology, and disappearing any scholars who've ever had a passing interest in it?" And/or "Has the president noticed that historically, ideologies usually persist, despite genocide and other disincentives?"
That's not how questions are asked in the briefing room. How it's done is far more complicated, Byzantine and ineffectual.
Patricia Cornwell says she is not obsessed with Jack the Ripper. And she has taken out a full-page newspaper ad to let her readers know.
August 26, 2005
Steven G. Kellman at the San Antonio Current reviews Karen Olsson's debut novel, Waterloo, which looks great. It's a fictionalized look at my hometown of Austin (which used to be named Waterloo). James Hynes took on Austin (which he called Lamar) in the wonderful Kings of Infinite Space, and all Austinites should check out one of the best books set in the city, Billy Lee Brammer's The Gay Place.
Olsson is touring as part of the First Fiction Tour, which kicks off Oct. 17 in New York. (She'll be joined by Lisa Selin Davis, who will be at next month's Bookslut Reading Series on Sept. 28. I'll be there too. You should totally come.)
Using its expanded power under the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, the F.B.I. is demanding library records from a Connecticut institution as part of an intelligence investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday.
The demand is the first confirmed instance in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has used the law in this way, federal officials and the A.C.L.U. said.
He depicts a world in which young women are ranked by the size of their breasts rather than their legal acumen, in which sex is a commodity designed to advance careers, and in which a large proportion of workaholic young lawyers blow their pay packets on alcohol.
The young lawyer and author of Fish Sunday Thinking, who writes under the name Alex Gilmore, has shocked the British legal profession by insinuating get this not all lawyers are morally upstanding.
Phillip Robertson reports from "Baghdad's fear-haunted literary cafes" on Al Mutanabbi Street.
Baghdad's literary neighborhood has a long history of dissent and a well-practiced tolerance of other ideas. Under Saddam, Al Mutanabbi Street was a center for small anti-regime cells who published illegal copies of their tracts, under fake names. Because the place was known for intellectual resistance to the regime and as a center for liberal ideas, the government hated it.
USA Today looks at the su doku craze.
Employees of non-traditional book accounts, such as discount department stores, price clubs, drug stores and supermarkets, typically aren’t familiar with the merchandising rules of the book industry — or, for that matter, the music and video industries in general. Consequently, those stores tend to have more problems with street-date violations.
The retailers were more careful with the Harry Potter book, though. Maybe because they're more afraid of a multitrillionaire author who probably has her own super-secret ninja assassin squad than they are of Paolini, who is like seven.
August 25, 2005
Tao Lin is writing a novel.
Since almost every Canadian novelist is fixated on the great traumas and tragedies of the past, and since their books become bestsellers both here and abroad, and since their dust jackets bristle with quotations from even more famous novelists who are almost hysterically excited about how unmitigatedly entertaining, amusing, moving and generally brilliant these books are, I feel distinctly stupid.
I feel I am not getting something -- particularly since I can't articulate any precise intellectual objection.
Do you have any writers that you admire?
I do. I certainly don't exist in a vacuum. It would be pretty funny if I told you, "Oh, fuck no, I actually don't know how to read — actually I've watched a lot of television."
“I remember I was talking to my assistant pretty much every other day from L.A.,” he says. “And he’d gotten a galley of the book, so I asked him, ‘So what do you think?’ He’d started it, and he sent me some e-mails saying, ‘I’m loving this book. I think it’s your best book, I really love it.’ And then the e-mails stopped. And we had a couple of conversations, and he didn’t bring the book up anymore. And I said, ‘Lookit, Cole, what’s going on? Did you like the book or not?’ And he said, ‘I really loved it up to a certain point, and then I thought it began to totally fall apart, and then it came in for a save at the end and it kind of all worked.’ And then I got furious, and I said, ‘I don’t pay you for your fucking opinions. Shut up! Why did you tell me that? You’re fired!’ ”
Wasters of Cinema: "I'm filled with a great sense of pride that, with only a few clicks, I now know that 'poop' is our 46,548th most frequently used word, nicely nestled between 'junker' and 'unflinching.'"
WordCount, "an artistic experiment in the way we use language," ranks the most frequently used words in English.
Fairy Tales as read by Klingons: "Snow White and the Six Dwarves She Killed With Her Bare Hands and the Seventh Dwarf She Let Get Away as a Warning to Others"
At the Book Standard, Jessa wonders if bad covers influence book critics. (Bad covers as in the artwork on the front of the book, not like Sixpence None the Richer's remake of "There She Goes.")
No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan
The Farm by Richard Benson
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta
The Ice Museum by Joanna Kavenna
To a Fault by Nick Laird
26A by Diana Evans
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Misfortune by Wesley Stace
The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
The moral of the story, Aquarius: It'll be very lucky if you, like me, have to settle for your second choice in the coming week.
The Venezuelan blue-breasted shearwater is known for spending its entire life in seclusion, never making any noise or showing itself at all. Many locals go their entire lives without seeing or hearing the bird. Rob Brezsny, in the coming years, I urge you to follow the example of the blue-breasted shearwater and shut the fuck up.
Berkeley Breathed talks to Editor & Publisher regarding his Opus strips about a journalist who refuses to reveal his sources for his story about the mayor's sex change operation.
It's a different time than it was in my prime years, for sure. I can't even print the word "gay" in my strip without losing clients. To say the least, editors are weirdly on edge right now. I think they're all worried that they may have to become religious pamphlets in order to survive.
Tim Clare: Everyone does not have a novel inside them.
Despite this, there will always be luminaries such as GP Taylor who are happy to curry favour with the disaffected and untalented. Enthusiastically promoting a competition with the aim of finding "the next JK Rowling", Taylor made the bizarre claim that "for the first time ever, a publisher is going to offer someone totally unknown the chance to be published". I daresay there are numerous examples of an author brokering his or her first deal over champagne at a garden party, but the simple fact is that unknown authors are being taken on every day, and frankly, publishers and established authors suffer because of it.
August 24, 2005
Gothamist on Kakutani vs. Kunkel:
We have our gripes with Candace Bushnell (for instance, if we have to listen to one more girl fake an orgasm over a pair of shoes, we are moving to Austin), and we’re probably just jealous of Michiko Kakutani’s fierceness (and the fact that her brain is obviously ten times the size of ours), but it seems a bit harsh to do this to a first-time novelist.
Since all of my Austin friends are moving to Brooklyn, there's plenty of room in my hometown for disaffected New Yorkers. Come! The weather's nice! (Actually, it is not. But come anyway!)
Rock books! I asked you guys for suggestions on great rock novels, and oh dear God did you ever respond. I have over 40 books that various readers have recommended, and I'll be listing them in an article for the next issue of the magazine, rather than a blog post. Thanks for all your help, and if you have any rock novel recommendations, it's definitely not too late to email me.
The CBC lockout is affecting authors and publishers, reports The Globe and Mail. (Are they still showing DeGrassi up there? I only make fun because I love it.) George at Bookninja explains: "For our American readers, a CBC strike is the Canadian arts world equivalent of a hockey strike. The whole country suffers."
The Comics Reporter rounds up all of the information about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's defense of Gordon Lee, a trial that will begin September 12. The case involves a comic book store employee who accidentally gave a minor the Alternative Comics free comic book that included adult material.
esquivalience — n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”
William S. Burroughs wasn't just a crazy-ass drunk guy randomly firing guns into the Kansas air. He was also...OK, that really is like 98% of what he was. But also: artist. Apparently.
The Atlantic's move to Washington DC means it is losing 90% of its staff. Ninety fucking percent. Including Cullen Murphy, who has been doing a fine job since Kelly left. The Atlantic is one of my favorite magazines, and I worry about its future with a completely new staff. (No matter who the new editor is, they're going to keep William Langewiesche, right? I can't do without him.) Owner David Bradley talks to the New York Observer about the hiring process.
Rumors have brought up the name of Michael Kinsley, with whom Mr. Bradley said he had breakfast in Seattle. “I had a great conversation with Michael... I can’t tell you how many people have recommended him as the best editor they’ve ever seen,” he said.
But Mr. Kinsley is an unlikely candidate. A veteran telecommuter who declined to move to Los Angeles while running the Los Angeles Times editorial page, he appears to be a poor fit for Mr. Bradley’s ingathering-of-talent plan. And as Mr. Kinsley’s journalistic wanderings start to resemble Larry Brown’s basketball ones, he seems unlikely to settle in for anyone’s long-term rebuilding project.
Kirkus interviews TC Boyle.
KR: What’s the worst technological invention?
TCB: The penis and the vagina. Is that technological? Because look how many of us there are?
The Monitor profiles the late Edward Whittemore, "America's best unknown novelist."
Thanks to everyone who came out last night to our second reading. The turnout was again amazing, and our tip jar that we put out to raise some money and offset the costs of some of our writers coming to Chicago to read actually had some money in it! (If you couldn't make it last night and would like to donate a dollar or two, you can do so by clicking the Paypal donate button on the Reading Series page.) The other exciting news was, of course, the arrival of the PA system. We did not have a mic stand, but hey. We're a low budget operation here. And since last time we had no working mic at all, by next reading we might actually have things down.
Charles Blackstone started the reading with a passage from The Week You Weren't Here. He stopped, unfortunately, right before the naughty bits got started. "And then it goes on from there," he said. Tease. Jennifer Stevenson did not hold back and read a passage from her novel Trash Sex Magic that included the phrase "swollen cock" and an excerpt from a new work about an incubus chained to a brass bed. Maureen McHugh read half of "Ancestor Money" from her amazing, amazing book Mothers and Other Monsters. She came in from Ohio for the reading, which we all appreciate very much.
Thanks again to all of the authors, the Hopleaf, Women & Children First, Kate, Ben, and anyone else I may have forgotten for another great event. I hope everyone can make it to September's reading which might (possibly, hopefully) be hosted by Michael Schaub. If I announce it, then he has to come, right, Mike? The line up will be:
Oh, this is great. Little, Brown has changed the cover of Rick Moody's The Diviners, after pretty much everyone in every industry agreed that it sucked. My review of the book will be in the September issue of Bookslut, but in the meantime I will just strongly urge everyone to hold off on the pre-orders, if you know what I mean.
(I mean that it is not very good.)
I read a lovely interview yesterday in Locus with Lois McMaster Bujold in which she says that Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who is an editor at Tor, once told her that the big problem with authors is you can't train most of them. We don't train very easily because we're like otters. You know, a dolphin you can train. You can say, "Do this, and you'll get a fish." With an otter, if it does something cool and you give it a fish, next time it will try and do something cooler. [Laughter.] With Anansi Boys, I wondered if it would be possible to do something that would be cooler, but would be lovable.
August 23, 2005
Tonight is the second installment of the Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago. Remember that you can read excerpts of all three authors' works on the Reading Series page. The authors are:
It's at the Hopleaf at Foster and Clark. If you're taking public transit, you can take either the Clark or the Damen bus, or the Red Line (Berwyn Stop). Remember that we are on the second floor (just ask the bartender if you get turned around), and the event is 21 or over, being that it's a bar. Beer a-plenty available! Maybe tonight we'll have a functioning PA system! Won't that be exciting! So bring your friends and loved ones. Women & Children First will once again be selling the authors' books, and the authors will be sticking around to sign and chat after. I'll see you all there.
I did, later, come across an old gentleman whose book club meetings were held strictly in black tie, over lavish dinners whose many courses any available women were welcome to bring in and remove.
I will dress in drag for this book club. It's got to be better than the book club with the grandmother who kept making us read Kaye Fucking Gibbons books.
What does it mean that George W Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?
In other words -- according to the headlines in most of the nation's major papers -- life goes on.
But not, apparently, in Chicago. There, life is "nasty, brutish and short," as Thomas Hobbes famously said. Or so it seems if you rely on the Chicago Tribune's crack online team, which is up to its old tricks, giving the impression that the world -- or at least your world -- is about to end.
August 22, 2005
This is the funniest thing I've seen all year.
At 9 years old, I'm drawing a guy with "BJ" on his chest yelling out that men are coming from everywhere- yet I still ended up a straight man. And some say there's homoeroticism in superhero comics...
This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.
DC Comics has ordered a New York gallery to remove pictures which show Batman and Robin kissing and embracing.
Because no one had ever, ever made that connection before.
Granta, the one-time Cambridge University student magazine, is seeking a new owner to carry on a tradition of discovering new writers that began in 1889.
The Times talks to Salman Rushdie.
“Four years ago, nobody would have suspected that the story of al-Qaeda and the story of New York City would be connected, for instance. So it’s not like when I wrote Midnight’s Children where essentially I was writing about India and Pakistan and I didn’t need to write about the rest of the world in order to tell that story. Now I feel more and more that if you’re going to tell a story of a murder in California, you end up having to tell the story of many other places and many other times in order to make sense of that event and that place. To try to show how those stories join.”
Johnny Temple wants to know why small bookstores received so little profit from the Harry Potter release.
Where the hell are the problem-solvers in this industry? My god, the issue of overstock and returns—the very issue that has destroyed the profit margin for some indie booksellers with the Harry Potter book—has been around for nearly 200 years! Which is why it’s so damn amusing to hear a writer “calling into question” the nature of our business. I guess some people still haven’t lost the illusion that book publishing fits snugly within a free-market economy.
Writer, radio host and oral historian Studs Terkel, a 93-year-old Chicago icon, has been released from the hospital after undergoing risky open-heart surgery -- with doctors calling the Pulitzer Prize winner's recovery "spectacular."
She hints that the character of Wendy will be a stronger, more modern woman, while - in a remarkable twist - the immortal Peter may be transformed into his dastardly nemesis, Captain Hook.
Someone please tell Patricia Cornwell to shut up. Sue her or something. Just get her to be quiet.
Mother Jones has a suggested reading list for President Bush.
6. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault: A don't-ask, don't-tell novel about Alexander the Great, another shock-and-awe visitor who had a terminal case of being unable to get out of the Middle East.
Some media critics are upset that the New Yorker used Target as its sole advertiser in the Aug. 22 issue. They also fret that it's difficult to distinguish between the articles and the retailer's ads.
This sounded serious, so I visited a newsstand near my office in the World Financial Center and checked it out. Sure enough, I quickly became agitated, too. In fact, I saw many causes for alarm. For instance, I noticed that plenty of magazines -- Entertainment Weekly, Us, Time and Newsweek -- clocked in at fewer than 100 pages, a figure which was once regarded as a threshold.
Jon Friedman at MarketWatch thinks people are getting hysterical over the New Yorker's Target ads for nothing.
The Age points out what should be obvious: when casting Jane Eyre or Little Women and looking for a "plain" girl, you can't just choose a stunning actress and not put make up on her.
Charlotte Bronte was "a little, plain, provincial, sickly looking old maid", according to contemporary descriptions, and she well understood the power of the plain. Jane Eyre, her greatest heroine, is painfully aware of her starved, scarred features: "I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked."
August 19, 2005
V for Vendetta has been pushed back to a Spring 2006 release date.
Inside my head, behind my eyes and beneath my bald dome, is a lingering mild depression, which causes me to procrastinate and not do simple tasks like cleaning my reading glasses or to begin important tasks like writing my version of War and Peace. Generally speaking, my depression manifests itself as this feeling of subtle displacement from my life. I'm reminded of this line from the movie The Red Shoes: "Life rushes by, time rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on dancing forever." All of that applies to me, except for the red shoes part.
The Guardian wants you to try your luck at recognizing famous authors -- not by their words, but by their bald heads, crow's feet, and cigarette holder. If you get them all correct, you could win the Booker longlist.
Now that Jane Pratt has left Jane magazine, is anyone going to miss her?
August 18, 2005
Not that I’m not grateful as I go – because every book I can sell means I’m further from the slush pile and I have no skills or employment prospects and this is a great opportunity for somebody like me and ten, twenty years ago I didn’t even dream of being able to do this kind of thing (because I’m not a psychopath, or irredeemably masochistic) and it does seem genuinely astonishing, it always will, that anyone anywhere would read me, or turn out to listen to me. Really.
So you guys are still sending me rock novel suggestions, which is fucking awesome. I'll recap them all very soon probably tomorrow. Thanks for all your help.
Some women who write chick lit seem to be laboring under the delusion that their product is equivalent to decent literature and that Sophie Kinsella isn’t excerpted in the New Yorker due to prejudice against non-literary fiction, rather than due to the fact that she writes complete and utter crapola.
And some, as you might remember, compare chick lit authors who don't get reviewed in The New York Times to rape victims. Unfortunately for chick lit fans, the woman behind that comment ("Rape victims talk about taking back the night. Well, we need to start taking back the book reviews."), a novelist named Lauren Baratz-Logsted, seems fond of making dumbass proclamations like that on whatever website will let her promote her book. Fans of chick lit should either demand an apology, which really should have been offered a month ago, or find a better ambassador than this self-serving, insensitive hack.
From the country that brought you Ikea and small, tasty meatballs:
This summer a Swedish library is offering to lend out representatives of minority groups, including lesbian and gay people, in a bid to tackle prejudice and discrimination.
Remember: Unless you want a bad credit rating, return your gays on time.
A movie about the ghost of Dylan Thomas has started filming in Swansea, Wales, and will move to Austin, Texas, later this year.
The Guardian's Top 10 lists are getting hilariously specific. This time, it's Diana Souhami, and her Top 10 books about Paris and London lesbians in the early 20th century.
“Osama may be the world's worst terrorist, but he's also one of the best prose writers in Arabic.”
Mohanraj has indeed found success, but not the kind her parents can brag about at potlucks in the Tamil community. Instead of curing infectious diseases, she writes erotica. So much of it, in fact, that Intersmut magazine dubbed her the "queen of the alt.sex.stories newsgroup."
"Would Eustace Tilly shop at Target?" Slate comments on Target's ad buyout of a full issue of the New Yorker.
A Duke University student has been given a suspended sentence by an Armenian court for attempting to leave the country with some old history books. As the AP explains, "Armenian law prohibits anyone from taking a book that is more than 50 years old out of the country without permission." The Journal of Turkish Weekly also reports on the case.
A bibliophile, Turkyilmaz scoured bookstores and open-air markets for old books. Supporters say no one told him he needed special permission to take the books from Armenia.
Several American and Armenian scholars have said that they also were unaware of the restriction. Although the law has been used in stopping the export of cultural goods such as religious icons and carpets, it is thought to be the first time it has been applied to books.
"If I want to be remembered for anything other than this sick coincidence, then my next book had better be bloody good," he says. "My next book had better be unbelievably fantastic to the point where people talk about that, rather than the coincidence."
August 17, 2005
Jessa gets all self-conscious in The Book Standard.
I have never worried my friends with my choice of reading material more than when I started carrying around E. Kay Trimberger's The New Single Woman a few days ago. Nothing in its pastel-colored package screams "Important feminist study of the changing sociological pressures on single women ages 35 and up, and approved by Barbara Ehrenreich, Katha Pollitt, and Vivian Gornick to boot!" As I am newly single, those around me assumed I had entered a personal crisis deeper than the end of a relationship: the point when you think self-help is really there to help you.
The AP asks: What's this year's great American novel?
Publishers and booksellers struggled to think of a book that was likely to receive awards nominations, one with the kind of word of mouth that built for Philip Roth's The Plot Against America and Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. One hope is E.L. Doctorow's The March, a novel based on Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's bloody advance through the south during the Civil War.
John Crowley (Little, Big) is interviewed at Science Fiction Weekly about his new book Lord Byron's Novel, why writers keep coming back to Byron in their novels, and when the fourth volume of the Aegypt Quartet will see the light of day.
The problem with the “science fiction” label is that when most people hear that they immediately think of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Vicki from Small Wonder. There’s also a little warning sound that goes off in their heads that says (in the voice of Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds) “Neeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrds!”
Here’s the thing . . . I’m no nerd. I mean, look at me, Rachel. Look at me dammit! Beyond the fact that I have huge muscles all over my body and incredible taste in clothes, I also listen to a type of music called “Indie Rock.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? Nerds, real nerds anyway, don’t listen to it. They aren’t allowed to. However, fake nerds (who are simply cool people who ironically wear Neighborhooodies that say “nerd” on them) MUST listen to Indie Rock or risk an MTA-sanctioned lifetime ban from the L train.
"Have you ever seen a Russian matyrushka doll? Most people have no idea there are other dolls hidden inside. The big outer doll should be beautiful... If it is a qualified reader, he knows how to open it. He'll discover another doll, and just go on to the tiniest one. And still he won't be able to discover the smallest of all those matyrushkas because there is a certain level which is written just for myself, which only I can understand: symbols, jokes, just meant for myself. It gives me enormous pleasure to write."
Some parents of incoming high school sophomores in Englewood, Florida, are upset that their children were given House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III as a summer reading assignment. Lemon Bay High School Principal Dan Jeffers offered a sincere "My bad" after an infuriated grandmother wrote him a letter.
She attached copies of portions of the novel she thought were inappropriate, including descriptive oral sex scenes, references to AIDS and scenes where characters participated in unprotected sex.
She said she was "appalled" that the school would assign a novel like that to 14- and 15-year-old students, who may not be educated in depth about sex.
She has a point. What teenager would possibly know about oral sex?
In Borders, one of America's largest bookstore chains, graphic-novel sales have risen more than 100 percent a year for the past three years.
Then why won't Borders organize their goddamn graphic novel section? I have yet to see a Borders whose graphic novels weren't in total disarray.
While I appreciate the sentiment of this article about the declining number of feminist bookstores, not every little thing is as awful as she says.
Forced to include items that will help prop sales, the stores -- from In Other Words, in Portland, Ore., to Women and Children First in Chicago -- have begun stocking jewelry, journals, incense, greeting cards or even copies of the bestselling The Da Vinci Code.
Oh good lord, not The Da Vinci Code! (Can't you argue that TDVC is feminist? The idea of it at least?) Every bookstore in America is selling jewelry, journals, incense, greeting cards, coffee, tea, stale pastries, whimsical back scratching implements, tarot cards, toys, Buffy DVD sets, yoga mats, exercise balls, soap, board games, t-shirts that say "Books, Cats... Life is Good!", bumper stickers, book "thongs" -- whatever they are, and other various "Oh shit, I forgot my cousin's birthday" impulse buys.
But I would say Women & Children First is the best feminist bookstore I have ever stepped into. God forbid, they even sell books by men! Which might be why they've survived longer than most. I miss living only two blocks away from them.
Carol Seajay, of "Feminist Bookstore News," speaks the most sense in the article:
"But the need that inspired the bookstores has changed. Feminism's becoming integrated with other social movements. You had to convince people before that sexual harassment was an essential concern. You don't need to do single-issue consciousness-raising anymore. It's not a bad thing if the needs have been met. They have changed mainstream publishers, distribution and people's reading habits. In that sense, it's a huge success."
But then it just gets wacky at the end, saying "fewer titles, fewer voices" in reference to today's publishing climate. We have never had more books than we do today. Every year the number of books published rises. Now, I'm not sure what the numbers are on books published by men vs. women, but as a good half of what I've read this year has been books by women, I'm not that concerned. My favorite book of the year thus far is Mothers and Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh, a woman. Without any numbers in the article to back up her claim, it's difficult to say if she's nuts or not. (Anybody know? Is the number of books published by women on the decline?)
While the tone is certainly grumpy, this Sarah Boxer piece in the New York Times does ask legitimate questions about the quality of web comics. No one has yet figured out how to make micropayments anything other than clunky and inconvenient. Reading comics on the screen can be straining, especially if there are some browser or screen size issues. But there are also some good web comics out there, and it does seem to be getting better.
Since when did a regular quota of suitably serious reading matter become obligatory? And who decides what's worthy anyway? If Victoria Beckham swallowed a regular dose of sugary chick lit or violent slasher chillers, for example (well, they're books too), would it somehow make her reading habits more acceptable than the fact that she happens to "love fashion magazines"?
Chicago's radio program Writers on the Record will resume in September with appearances by Bret Easton Ellis, Louise Erdrich, and Frank McCourt. Writers on the Record brings authors to the Lookingglass Theater for an interview, which is free and open to the public. (Best to reserve a seat, though.)
August 16, 2005
Thanks, by the way, to everyone who wrote me with rock and roll book suggestions. (And hey, keep it coming.) I'll recap them all today or tomorrow, but in the meantime, go join the discussion on the topic at Largehearted Boy, who generously solicited his readers for suggestions on my behalf.
Last month's inaugural Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago was a huge success. Or so I'm told. And if you're in Chicago, or really anywhere in the upper Midwest, and you miss the next one featuring Maureen McHugh, Jennifer Stevenson and Charles Blackstone you are a sad, pathetic human being. Remember the testimony of Jason Pettus:
And as you can imagine, every single fucking person in attendance is young, hot, sexually ambiguous, and dressed much hipper than I'll ever be able to pull off. Hooray, Bookslut!
The Reading Series offers Chicagolandians an increasingly rare opportunity to hear and meet some of today's most exciting writers, and, of course, some hot young people. Can you afford to miss that? (No.)
The writers who come to the Reading Series pay for their own travel expenses. There's just not enough money in publishers' budgets to pay for plane tickets, for complicated reasons that we'll just distill into the simple and possibly libelous phrase "coke parties." The authors pay their own way, and they do it for you, Chicago. So we're asking you to help them out if you can.
If you go to our Reading Series page and scroll down, you'll see a button that will allow you to make a donation to our Reading Series author travel fund. When writers don't have to choose between airfare and their kid's insulin, they'll be less tense, thus rendering your Reading Series experience all the sweeter. Anything you can give helps these very cool authors, and will allow Bookslut to continue to bring some serious talent to Chicago. Do you really want today's literary lights hitchhiking their way through the Midwest? Can you live with that on your conscience?
Help these generous women and men out by giving what you can. With your help, the Chicago series will continue to rock hardcore, and hey, who knows? Maybe we'll have a Bookslut Reading Series in Austin someday. I mean, besides the current one, which is basically just me sitting in the shed behind my house with a flashlight and a stack of Barely Legals.
If you're in Chicago, we'll see you next Tuesday. Well, I won't. But Jessa will. Thanks for reading.
“I'm sick of being a performing monkey,” he said after a while. “I'm sick of these rich motherfuckers. But I'm also sick of people asking me if this is a joke. God damn it, I am serious. And they're going to see that I am, eventually.” He paused, then added, “People are always misunderstanding each other. You can never think you have the last word on any human heart.”
Needless to say, I love this guy.
"It's a fair bet that George W. Bush is the only person in the entire United States who chose those three books to read on vacation," Osnos said.
No, I swear to God, he said it. That would be PublicAffairs publisher Peter Osnos, reacting to a White House press release (read: comically obvious lie) that Bush is reading Salt: A World History, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar and The Great Influenza on his five-week vacation. (Note to our Canadian and European readers: We're serious. Five weeks. Send help.) I could almost buy the salt and flu books, but why did they have to get greedy and claim he was reading Russian history? Does anyone believe that? Even Dick Cheney is shaking his head and muttering "Bullshit" somewhere.
1. a vacuous synonym for excellence or unconsciousness. What else is common to the public perception of poetry?
2. It is universally agreed that no one reads it.
3. It is universally agreed that the nonreading of poetry is (a) contemporary and (b) progressive. From (a) it follows that sometime back (a wandering date, like "olden times" for a six-year-old) our ancestors read poems, and poets were rich and famous. From (b) it follows that every year fewer people read poems (or buy books or go to poetry readings) than the year before.
Other pieces of common knowledge:
4. Only poets read poetry.
5. Poets themselves are to blame because "poetry has lost its audience."
6. Everybody today knows that poetry is "useless and completely out of date"--as Flaubert put it in Bouvard and Pécuchet a century ago.
This month's Henry Miller Award nominees for best sex scene:
Chris Loxley, the schoolteacher reading the Booker longlist for the BBC, spent his weekend the same way I did: being bored to death by In the Fold by Rachel Cusk. How exactly did this book get longlisted? I think it was supposed to have been interesting, what with the glimmers of the subplot of farming no longer being profitable and the best land being sold to developers, but it went nowhere. And the ending was god awful with a fake climax and one of those endings that wraps everything up as if it had been a murder mystery but it wasn't. That was the first Booker longlisted book that Loxley decided to read, and I hope it hasn't destroyed all of his hopes and dreams.
August 15, 2005
DJ Taylor considers an issue near and dear to my heart: the rock and roll novel. The only great ones I've read are Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street and Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. (Shut up, it counts.) I'd also add Neal Pollack's extremely funny Never Mind the Pollacks and Camden Joy's hilarious and touching The Last Rock Star Book, or: Liz Phair, a Rant (written in the pre-"H.W.C." days when it was still possible for a self-respecting rock fan to like her). Taylor thinks Mark Radcliffe's new Northern Sky is "typical" and "sub-Hornby," but he loves Douglas Cowie's Owen Noone and the Marauder, which he says "performs the difficult trick of appearing to reinvent the rock novel while leaving it almost exactly the same."
I tried reading Jeff Gomez's Our Noise a few years ago, but couldn't really connect, despite the fact that the title is from a Superchunk song, and the first word of the book is "Cub," as in the late, great Vancouver pop-punk band. There's got to be some other great rock novels out there, though. Anyone?
National media attention. A new icon for Seattle. Suddenly, public libraries were on the map—and not because teens were looking at Internet porn. What Bilbao has become to museums, Seattle is becoming to libraries. It's no wonder even your dentist was asking, "What's up with that Seattle library?"
When I was a teenager, my dentist talked to me about the communist infiltration of state universities. The only magazines in his waiting room were Focus on the Family newsletters. This is why I don't go to the dentist much anymore.
Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac is back.
The truth is, however, that since 1997 there has been no new galaxy of stars emerging to match the stature of those of the 1980s and 90s. Many of the Indian novelists who were signed up with such excitement 10 years ago failed to repay even a fraction of their advances. The only Indian-themed book to win the Booker - The Life of Pi - was written by Yann Martel, a white Canadian. In India itself, there is no new internationally acclaimed masterpiece, no new Roy.
The wave of Indian writers is officially over, so says the Guardian.
The University of Nebraska brings academic excellence back to the Big 12.
Coincidentally, (Tommy) Lee's autobiography was released around the same time he started at UNL. So, in an upcoming episode (of Tommy Lee Goes to College), watch as Lee's American literature teacher uses Tommyland — which opens with a dialogue between Lee and his Johnson — as a class text.
Walt Whitman. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tommy Lee. Whatever, Lee dug it. "It was kind of cool to be chilling on that New York Times bestseller list and having people in the class review my writing." Any criticism? "No, everyone actually really enjoyed the style of the book," he said, sounding just a little surprised.
You can say "johnson" in Canadian newspapers? What a strange and beautiful country. (Weird that it's capitalized, though.)
What's it like to chair a discussion at the Edinburgh Book Festival? The Herald asks several people who know. Here's Ramona Koval:
There are moments in an interview when you hold your breath, not sure if the next move will bring public humiliation or elated relief. Televised surgery comes to mind, where the surgeon's deft moves are exposed to the public gaze: will they gasp with delight at your skill, or watch your patient bleed to death? Perhaps the patient will even rise up, wrestle the scalpel out of your hands and cut your throat.
This review of Maria Housden's Unraveled by Sandra Tsing Loh is genius. The book is the memoir of a woman who abandoned her husband and two children without even having the decency to feel bad about it.
But here's the next turn: although old Maria Martell feels that spurning domestic wifehood is necessary if she is to pursue her dreams, her fate is not exactly to be single either. Enter, to the artists' retreat, Roger Housden -- English writer, photographer, and explorer of such exotic places as Africa and India. Although he's fifty-three and she's thirty-five, the two speak a similar metaphysical language. He is given to utterances like "Beauty, Beauty, you are the sun." And later, when he asks in wonder, "Who are you?," she elatedly replies, with typical Boomer math, "I am the second half of your life." Roger exudes boyishness and a kind of heady European sophistication; personal details given include both that he wears clogs and has a medicine kit containing Eternity cologne and a tiny bottle of tea-rose oil. Often seen sweaty and wearing only running shorts, he is described rapturously as having a "mossy, musky" scent. This was when my horrendous attack of the giggles began. The mossy, musky scent, combined with the clogs … it was too much. I raised my hands in protest, as if to ward off the inevitable tantric sex, but here it came anyway.
I would comment, but Mimi Smartypants has already said everything worth saying.
God, I am so sick of women telling each other how "brave" and "strong" they are for every little thing, when ninety-nine times out of a hundred it is severely overstating the case. And in this instance, criminally overstating the case. I somehow doubt this woman's kids were right there giving her "you go girl" snaps in Z-formation when she moved out.
I was ranting about this the other day, before I realized that I should stop torturing my email/IM friends with it and start torturing the Internet with it, and then I spent the rest of the day cracking myself up by calling all the chicks I knew "brave" or "strong." Except I almost forgot that not everyone is in my head (where it truly is a non-stop party, I tell you what), and that not everyone was in on my personal brave/strong meme.
Posh Spice has never no, wait, sit down. Sit down for this shit.
Shocked, right? I just rocked your world a little bit, right? Nobody could have possibly seen this one coming.
I've been lucky that all my books have been in print for years. So, that kind of adds up after a while. It's a huge hodgepodge. My taxes are unbelievably complicated.
A 31-year-old employee at Springfield's public library has been accused of stealing hundreds of donated books, videos and compacts discs and then putting them up for sale on eBay, police and library officials said.
Lori Burger, of Modesto, who was responsible for cataloging the donations at Lincoln Library, was charged Thursday with one count of library theft. If convicted on the Class Three felony charge, she could face up to five years in prison.
I'm torn in my feelings about [Lord of the Flies). On the one hand, I find it a nasty, sophomoric book, not any different from what I thought it was -- a smug treatise on the evil of unchecked human nature.
Oh, come on. Lord of the Flies was one of only two books I liked in Ms. Wright's English class. (Although when we were watching the video in class and we kept rewinding and rewatching the bit where Piggy twitches and dies while we giggled, she should have figured out that maybe we weren't quite getting the book.)
August 12, 2005
The University of Kentucky's public radio station, WUKY, has cancelled Garrison Keillor's daily segment, The Writer's Almanac, because of "offensive content." That offensive content would be the word "breast" and the phrase "get high." (If you're prompted for a username and password, go to BugMeNot.com.)
"I don't question the artistic merit, but I have to question the language," WUKY General Manager Tom Godell said. "It's not that he's behaving like Howard Stern, but the FCC has been so inconsistent, we don't know where we stand. We could no longer risk a fine."
(Thanks to Charlie Hughes for the link.)
Nick Hornby visits the High Down prison reading group.
"How about this?" said one of the men when the organisers of the prize asked for a quote to illustrate the prisoners' delight. "We could have had a weekend of sex and drugs in Edinburgh. But instead we decided to talk about suicide with Nick Hornby."
Google will temporarily stop scanning copyright-protected books from libraries into its database, the company said late Thursday.
I will be keeping a video diary for BBC Four, and there will be regular entries on my online diary, so you can follow my gradual decline.
Friends, family and personal grooming will be neglected as I struggle to read every novel before 8 September, and I am sure the withdrawal symptoms will be horrifying to witness, as I push away comics, Doctor Who, Playstation, television, DVDs and the internet.
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
1. When you sally forth to meet the enemy, show your contempt for him by the haughtiness of your prance.
August 11, 2005
OK, since the "pernicious bollocks" thing never really took off (Thanks a lot, everyone except Sumana Harihareswara and Wayne Alan Brenner. Thanks a lot.), I say we try to introduce the phrase "hoovering a supersized ruby murray" as a euphemism for fellatio.
The new issue of Stop Smiling has a long, long oral history of Hunter S. Thompson, and at least a dozen other articles I can't wait to read. I need to subscribe 25 bucks a year is a pretty incredible bargain for a magazine this good.
And speaking of great magazines: The new issue of Ruminator is up. Rock.
(Thanks to Steve Marshall for the Stop Smiling tip.)
BloodHag demands to see library cards. They get angry at illiteracy and assign book reports. They throw books into the audience. They offer free admission to concertgoers who read a novel from their "required reading list" and then write an essay.
It's a great article, clever and engaging, and depressingly enough, it was written by a 15-year-old. Jesus.
Remember Maria Alquilar, the artist who misspelled a bunch of famous names on a mosaic she installed outside a Livermore, California, library? She finally returned to correct the errors. The city paid the artist over $6,000 to fix the mosaic, which has to make the taxpayers of Livermore just ecstatic. In fairness to Alquilar, it's hard to spell obscure names like "Einstein" and "Shakespeare." And looking it up in a book could potentially take over 20 seconds, so hell, you might as well just wing it.
Tao Lin, the Reader of Depressing Books, has temporarily turned his site into a forum for discussing Joy Williams. Go and discuss.
Lizzy Ratner remembers Steven Vincent, the American reporter murdered in Iraq last week.
Lauren Winner is one of the most intelligent religion writers in the country, even though she's only 28. Her memoir Girl Meets God, about her conversion to Christianity (she was raised Jewish), is popular with the same readers who like Ann Lamott and Donald Miller. She talks to New Orleans' Gambit Weekly about her new book, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.
Obviously, I think sex is important, or I wouldn't have devoted years to writing a book about it. But I don't think it is the only important thing or the most important thing. Thinking about money is every bit as -- indeed, arguably more -- important, for example. So is thinking about peace and justice and war and electoral politics. Non-Christians often say Christians spend too much time talking about sex. I actually think there's something true in that criticism. I think if we talked about sex better, we could talk about it less.
The Times lists the Ladbrokes odds for the Booker longlist (scroll down). The favorite: Julian Barnes' Arthur & George, though The Times notes that William Hill picked Ian McEwan's Saturday as the one to beat.
Bryan Curtis reminds us that TV Guide wasn't always comically irrelevant.
Case in point: In 1985, Joyce Carol Oates contributed a gushing tribute to NBC's series Hill Street Blues. Her contention was not just that Blues was great TV. Her contention was that Blues was great art—"Dickensian in its superb character studies," and as "intellectually and emotionally provocative as a good book."
I bet that was great reading. Right up there with Norman Mailer's "McMillan, Wife and Me" and Joan Didion's "Whither Trapper John?"
Just to clarify, I don't actually think I know "what's wrong with Chicago." I didn't name that column. If I did know, the column would probably be about why our animals keep dying, or why Charlie Trotter is such a fuckwit. I know neither of these things. What I do know is that there are only a small handful of publishing jobs in Chicago, and I wanted to do a little research as to why. But that is a much more cumbersome column title, so they changed it.
Photographer Joe Stevens, whose work is included in the new book CBGB and OMFUG: Thirty Years from the Home of Underground Rock, talks to Spotlight about the legendary New York club and his famous subjects.
One night I was standing at the bar with Tina Weymouth (bassist for Talking Heads) and she pointed into the darkness in the back room and said, "What are those people doing, Joey?" I said, "Umm, I think it's two people eating something?" She started laughing and said, "You don't eat food at CBGBs." They had a liquor license that required that they serve food and they always had this nasty pot of ancient chili on the stove that nobody ever ate. Tina was laughing and saying, "That meal will never leave their bodies."
The place was a dump.
RSF and the Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN) have condemned a month-long prison sentence handed down by a Rangoon court to cartoonist Chit Swe... Chit Swe was found guilty of "defying authorities' orders" during a summary trial on 3 August. The charge was brought under an old emergency law often used to crack down on the opposition.
Karen Armstrong, author of the essential History of God and Battle for God and the upcoming A Short History of Myth, comments on the tendency of religious groups to go back to the literal interpretations of sacred texts during crises.
Protestant fundamentalists, for example, claim that they read the Bible in the same way as the early Christians, but their belief that it is literally true in every detail is a recent innovation, formulated for the first time in the late 19th century. Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation.
My first thought when I saw the Booker longlist was, "Wow. There are only two writers I have never heard of." And that disappointed me. My favorite part of the longlist is finding writers I had missed earlier in the year. Oh well. My money is on Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro. I don't know if you've read it yet, but it approaches perfection. DJ Taylor comments on the longlist for the Guardian.
Should, for example, Julian Barnes publish a novel, one can guarantee that the newspapers will be awash with amiable profiles. It is not that Mr Barnes doesn't write good stuff - Arthur and George is one of his best in years - merely that such profiles have been appearing since the time of the Falklands war and that there are other writers, in other parts of Britain, who could do with a look-in.
Mediabistro presents a list of the best media books, as chosen by prominent journalists, columnists, and editors.
August 10, 2005
At its best, Rushdie's fiction holds up a warped mirror to real life, in all its absurdity and awfulness. Shalimar the Clown does that to some extent, but feels not fully inflated. Even more than usual, the characters seem allegorical, passion-play placeholders for the grand ideas and currents buffeting the world. The result is an honorable failure, a garbled book for garbled times.
Officers from the New York City Police Department evacuated the Union Square subway station and suspended all train service Monday after a random search of a passenger's backpack revealed an explosive bestseller.
I can't wait to read Just a Modern Rock Story, a biography of my current favorite band, Belle and Sebastian. Largehearted Boy reports he couldn't put it down until he was finished, and The Daily Texan finds it "well-written" and "enjoyable."
The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press has a strikingly bitchy editorial about the planned memoir from former Gov. James McGreevey. McGreevey resigned after disclosing that he is gay, and had an affair with a man.
His choice of publishers, ReganBooks, is appropriate. It's stable of authors includes steroid king Jose Canseco, porn queen Jenna Jameson and Dick Morris, a political consultant for President Clinton who was fired after it was revealed he paid prostitutes to let him suck their toes.
Somehow, the Press seems to have found a copy of the book before it was actually written. Amazing! Or I guess it's possible that the paper's editorial staff saw an easy opportunity to advertise their own craven homophobia, and just couldn't help passing it up. McGreevey might have been a crappy governor I have no idea but I'd sure as fuck rather read his book than the incoherent whining that the hacks at the Press seem to specialize in.
This column by Brian Hennigan makes me want to either move to Scotland or marry Brian Hennigan.
Let me also say that, yes, I have read a Harry Potter book. It was nice enough - for a children's book. But at no point did I ever think that I was involved in anything other than a book for children. . . .
Adult fiction recognises that the contemporary world is a complex, difficult place with demands on our reasoning that require careful consideration. I have nothing against Harry Potter or any of his genuinely juvenile followers - children should be bursting with juvenility - but his adult disciples are little more than cowardly escapists.
"Smoking Dope with Thomas Pynchon: A Sixties Memoir" by Andrew Gordon
Johnny Temple reports back from the Harlem Book Fair.
What was distressing, by comparison, was that most non-vanity indie publishers, even those based in the New York area, were so noticeably absent. This was all the more disappointing when you consider that with the implosion of the Big Apple’s only book festival named for the city itself (New York Is Book Country), HBF will likely wind up as the city’s largest public literary festival in 2005. I’ve always been enamored of these events, which represent one of the few arenas in which publishers can sell their titles directly to book-buyers. And public engagement is allegedly an area in which the indies outshine corporate publishers.
So it’s a shame the indies don’t take advantage of such a great thing—the more so when there were examples of how good it can be.
The winners of the 2005 Chicago Tribune Heartland prizes have been announced:
Gilead by Marilynn Robinson
Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle
An Arizona woman is selling an 1830 first edition Book of Mormon, page by page. Many LDS faithful aren't happy about it.
Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, said he believes dismantling such a complete, revered book "is ethically indefensible."
"But I'm not passing judgment on her," said Bench.
Ha ha! I love that, when people pass judgment on other people and then say "But I'm not passing judgment." It's like that Outkast song where the guy says he hopes the girl crashes, crashes into a ditch, and then says "Just playin'!", thereby negating the first part.
Anyway, if you have a few thousand dollars to spare, Helen Schlie has a page from the Book of Mormon with your name on it. Actually it probably has a name like "Mathonihah" on it, but whatever.
August 09, 2005
Tomorrow night will be the last Funny Ha-Ha reading with John Green (Looking for Alaska) as co-host EVER. If you are in Chicago, you must come. There's just no excuse.
An acquaintance of mine once told me that he went drinking with Christopher Hitchens and in the middle of a conversation, and apropos of nothing—or nothing worth mentioning—Hitchens declared, "Four most overrated things: Picnics, lobster, champagne and anal sex!"
An acquaintance of mine once told me that exact same story. Either Hitch is telling that quip every time he gets drunk (read: twice a day) or Elizabeth Spiers and I have the same acquaintance.
Introducing: The Londonist Literary List.
Prostitution, heroin, kidnapping, mass murder, soccer it can only mean one thing, and that is British children's books.
If you haven't yet bookmarked Tao Lin's blog, Reader of Depressing Books, you might want to go do it now, before he gets some sort of book deal and gets all famous. The guy's scary smart and funny. And he needs your help.
He's preparing an über-post about Joy Williams, the godmother of Kmart realism and author of Breaking and Entering, State of Grace, and, most recently, Honored Guest. If you have anything you'd like to add, let him know. Joy Williams is mysterious, but I know that Bookslut readers have the answers. (Seriously. Sometimes I'll ask something on the blog, like "What was Robertson Davies' favorite salad dressing?", and I get ten responses within minutes. How the fuck do you do that?)
I'm a huge fan of the writers who have been associated with the "Kmart realism" school Raymond Carver, Mary Robison, Ann Beattie. I was first introduced to Williams' fiction by Scott Heim, who's a huge fan. I've only read one of her books, the out-of-print Taking Care, which I loved. If you have stories about Joy, let Tao know. (Also if you actually are Joy Williams, you should let him know. But you're probably not.)
(UPDATE: Robertson Davies favored a wild blueberry vinaigrette.)
The Watts riot was a deep-seated anger at injustice that had gone on unchallenged, that was intended to go on forever. There would be no true power for black people. They did not deserve a history or a worldview or even a place at most tables. The Watts riot was the product of an intelligence that was unaware of itself. It was an action that was artless, unstructured and unplanned.
Kelly Link answers Jeff VanderMeer's questions about her new book Magic for Beginners, what she would be doing if not writing, and why you should perhaps buy a book other than hers.
So far, we've heard that book buyers have found the book filed under "Occult". Preferably, it should be filed under "Occult for Ages 8 to 12". If your child has accidentally read MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS, we suggest you trade them in for a new, slightly older child. One who only reads Tennyson, bridge manuals, and your private emails.
Clare Dudman is interviewed on BBC Radio about her excellent new book 98 Reasons for Being. (Usually I prefer the US cover designs for these books, but the UK version has a woman spontaneously combusting! With kitties, very upset about this! We just get a forlorn girl. So unfair.)
Five books are being removed this fall from the Blue Valley School District’s high school curriculum, including two that had been the targets of parents.
The Kansas school district will censor Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life and Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels, and restrict Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, which is just teeming with profanity and perverted sex, to junior AP classes.
Producers of the new Da Vinci Code adaptation are running scared from controversy and making some changes. Sony is being quiet on what might be changed, but the Catholics are calling for a disclaimer that the movie is fiction (I guess for those who might think that Tom Hanks spends his nights solving crimes), the removal of references to Opus Dei, and "softening" that whole Jesus-impregnated-Mary-Magdalene thing. Or I have a better idea. Give the Pope a cameo, let him hang out on set with Tom Hanks, and I'm sure he'll drop this silly act.
August 08, 2005
Fantagraphics will publish a 25-volume series of Dennis the Menace comic strips. The first book comes out next month. Will the series include the controversial 1958 series of strips where Mrs. Wilson makes a man out of Dennis? Stay tuned.
Garrett County Press, the great Philadelphia-based indie publisher, has been having a pretty good year. Rob Walker's Letters from New Orleans has drawn positive press from, most recently, Forbes and Flak. They're set to release Even a Daughter Is Better Than Nothing, by Mykel Board, whose Maximumrocknroll columns have won him both fans and enemies in the punk world. Garrett County is preselling the book, which will release officially in November, on their site for just under 12 bucks. While you're there, you should pick up What the Hell Am I Doing Here? by Abram Shalom Himelstein, who Bookslut interviewed last year.
I haven't read Jeff Tweedy's poems. I leafed through Billy Corgan's but not long enough to make a judgment. These guys are professional musicians. It's kind of like football players in the 70s who started endorsing ballet lessons. Who am I to argue against sharpening agility?
I haven't read Berman's poetry, but I can highly recommend The Natural Bridge. I haven't been able to get "How to Rent a Room" out of my head for...let's see...seven years. Dammit.
'The calories, the VGs and the "poors" ... It did make me laugh 10 years ago. Now it's like, oh dear, get some new jokes, love.'
Bridget Jones has returned. No one gives a fuck.
Another day, another new Penguin line.
Hot Shots will debut in stores September 27, featuring six titles from Nora Roberts (as well as mystery pseudonym J.D. Robb); Jane Castle; Christine Feehan; Sherrilyn Kenyon; and Maggie Shayne. Each title will be a very manageable 92 to 128 pages of material (all of which will have been previously available, but only in anthologies) and will carry an easy-to-swallow $2.99 list price.
Because it's so hard to get through Nora Roberts' full-sized novels. The MacKade Brothers: Devin and Shane is like the Finnegans Wake of the handsome men in certain historical eras who care about their lovers' orgasmic needs genre. Penguin is shooting for a March rollout date for their next project, the "Just On the Road Repackaged Like 37 Different Ways" line.
Mike Allen is leaving the Washington Post for Time Magazine. He explained his decision, "An editor at Time told me they aim for intellectual and literary seduction." Umm, Mike? Have you even read the magazine you're going to be working for?
A student has been jailed for life for murdering a leading literary agent in a sado-masochistic sex session.
Usman Durrani, 20, repeatedly stabbed his partner Rod Hall, 53, after chaining him up at his home in Southwark, south London, in May 2004.
This actually might be the most useful Cliffs Notes I have ever seen.
Y’all ass is crazy: Your entire ass is crazy.
(Via The Morning News.)
The Booker longlist is on the horizon, and a former judge talks about this particularly strong year for literature.
What I find particularly troublesome is the extent to which evolutionists and Darwinians say, oh no, we're doing science, and if you do this you have to be an agnostic at minimum, and preferably an atheist. I want to say, "Hang on, if the position implies this, then aren't you taking what I would want to argue is a religious stand -- namely, there ain't no God?" My position is that there isn't a necessary connection between Darwinism and atheism.
Jonathan Safran Foer canceled plans to speak in Houston in January, because he and his wife, Nicole Krauss, are having a baby. This will someday make for a hilarious episode of Nanny 911.
While I'll have to wait until my friend Sparky gets back from Scotland for a full Worldcon report, it was announced yesterday that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke has won the Hugo. I don't really know who should have won, as the Mieville nominated was not one of my favorites by him, and I like Iain Banks but have not yet read the soon-to-be-released The Algebraist. All I really know is that every time I tried to read Jonathan Strange I would zone out, have to reread the first couple pages again, and then give up after calculating just how closer to death I would be if I tried to finish the fucking thing. And then I would pick up something else instead. But I'm sure some people like it.
What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.
Nicole Brodeur mourns the loss of two Seattle independent bookstores, Madison Park Books and Beyond the Closet Bookstore.
Owner Ron Whiteaker opened Beyond the Closet in 1988, selling new and used books, magazines and erotica. (You righteous types can kneel in church today and thank God: There's now one less place around here to buy porn).
August 05, 2005
Penguin is introducing yet another line of reissued classics. No French flaps on these, at least not that I know of, but you'll be able to buy the publisher's "Red Classics" in January. Included authors, according to The Independent: Brontë, Bellow, Bulgakov, Tartt, Updike and Sacher-Masoch.
The New York Press profiles Vox Pop, the Brooklyn bookstore/cafe owned by Sander Hicks, founder of Soft Skull Press. It sounds similar to Monkeywrench Books, Austin's best independent bookstore, which just added a cafe. (And, conveniently, is a block from my house. Rock.)
God bless! Alex Good has returned, and now he's commenting on the Quill nominations. Oh, how I love him so.
As I've made clear on many occasions in the past, I don't think much of literary awards. One of the few things they can do, however, is give a bit of publicity to some books that otherwise wouldn't be noticed. This is not what the Quill Awards are about. This is about the man who has being given more. Think about it: The consumers' choice book awards have already been handed out. J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Dan Brown and Deepak Chopra won. They all went home with a big prize. The consumer voters have been filling out their ballots at Borders and online for the past year. We know the results. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the consumers' choice for Children's Chapter Book. If it doesn't win the prize on October 22 then something will have gone terribly wrong. Maybe non-consumers (do library borrowers count? digital book pirates?) will conspire to somehow sabotage the vote! Perhaps there will be some genuine confusion over what it means to be the "best" cook book (best written? best recipes? easiest to follow instructions?). But then these awards aren't really about picking the best of anything. Given the context, what would such a judgment mean? The easiest to buy?
Claudia FitzHerbert deals with shoplifters in her Oxford bookshop.
Everyone I know has read Mary Roach's Stiff. I have not, but I do admit to being very curious about her new book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, even though I think it should probably read in its entirety: "Science says there is none. Ta." Roach's career has been driven mostly by powerful word of mouth, and The Book Standard takes a look at how she made it work.
Nedjma's The Almond has been getting the best reviews of any book in recent decades, and the only question now is whether the literary world will need to come up with a word stronger than "masterpiece" to describe it.
No, I'm totally kidding. It actually seems like everyone fucking hates it. The Daily Star does call it "entertaining," but notes that "it's a shame, really, that Nedjma didn't give Badra a brain to go with her vagina. It might have made 'The Almond' a more substantial read." Cairo Magazine calls the book "little more than a string of erotic scenes populated by flat characters and tied together with a poorly-crafted plot." Author Laila Lalami (Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits) finds it "unremarkable." And the book's page on Amazon indicates that customers who looked at The Almond also looked at the Oral B D17525 3D Excel Pulsating Toothbrush. I'm not sure why that's significant, but I feel that it is.
"In the book I've finished and handed in recently, I thought, shit, hardly any of the women get to keep their clothes on, and is this OK? Or is it just sexual exploitation? Should I be having a good, hard look at myself?" Still, she says, she isn't bothered by the danger of being nominated for the Literary Review's infamous bad sex award: "They're just a load of old men having lunch. But, if I got it, I would pick it up for sure."
Clare Asquith's Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare is at once a historical thriller and an astonishing work of scholarship -- a real-life Da Vinci Code for people who think.
Ha ha! Burn! Seriously, though, Asquith claims that Shakespeare's work contained "hidden, dissident, pro-Catholic content."
Is Terry McMillan "the Tom Wolfe of buppiedom"?
In a way, McMillan's failings are symptomatic of the general decline of chick lit, which in the hands of Candace Bushnell and Melissa Bank began as high-end gun-slinging riddled with bleak insights but has lately devolved into something more like wan romantic comedy. . . . McMillan's fictional world is the reductio ad absurdum of sisterhood—in which "sisters," literal and figurative, may be wronged by their men but never, ever by one another.
August 04, 2005
(Some of the links below contain suggestive pictures of a woman who is not wearing a whole lot of clothes. If you're at work, caution.)
The New York Press reviews the new and extremely controversial A Commodity Called Sex, "a twisted encyclopedia of contemporary perversion." The review was written by Travis Jeppesen, who wrote one of my favorite novels of the past few years, Victims.
"When I got down to wanting to do my own comic book, something inside me told me to do a superhero that reflected my own Mexican background. I wanted to do something I knew about. I didn't want to write about a superhero from New York because A, I've never been to New York, and B, there's too many damn superheroes in New York."
The film, directed by Brian Cox and starring Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show), opens later this year.
The great Dylan Siegler, who is one of my favorite journalists, considers the ink monkey.
"As soon as Sheriff Russell heard Bradshaw say, 'This town ain't big enough for the both of us,' he inadvertently visualized a tiny chalk-line circle with a town sign that said 'Population 1,' and the two of them both trying to stand inside of it rather ineffectively, leaning this way and that, trying to keep their balance without stepping outside of the line, and that was why he was smiling when Bradshaw shot him."
The Quill Awards (you care; you just don't know you care) has listed the top five nominees for each of their 19 categories, and the awards ceremony will be televised on October 22. So how'd they do?
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
Bone by Jeff Smith
In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
Marvel 1602 Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day edited by Billy Collins
Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath
Gilgamesh: A New English Version by Stephen Mitchell
Blue Iris by Mary Oliver
Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes
You have to read Patrick Welsh's USA Today column on how schools, along with heavy-yet-vapid textbooks, are taking the joy out of reading.
With my subject, English, special problems exist — any literature that has a whiff of controversy is kept out of texts to appease the moralists on the right, while second-rate "multicultural" literature is put in to appease the politically correct on the left.
Jessa, having had a below-average experience involving gazpacho, anchovy spread and green beans, wonders who the hell edits cookbooks. It's actually a little-known fact that Jessa's an amazing cook. She has these chocolate peanut butter chip cookies that are so perfect they make all other baked goods taste like rancid goat semen. I don't get the chance to experience her cooking much anymore, though, since she moved several hundred miles away. Thanks, Jessa. Thanks a lot.
What makes you think I read? I just finished the new translation of Don Quixote. The new one gets closer to the real Spanish humor than the old one. My wife is Panamanian, so she’s clued me in a little. And I’m reading A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s very strange.
I’m also listening to The Iliad. I put all the books in my iPod. I have one iPod that has the complete works of Proust, and I take that with me—when I’m depressed, I listen to it. And I try not to read architecture books.
Confused about the various Chris Ware storylines and how they will be collected? Fantagraphics breaks it down for you.
August 03, 2005
The Lyttle Lytton contest. It's "much like the Bulwer-Lytton, only with entrants limited to 25 words," according to the site. Awesome! This is perfect for people like me with short attention hey look at that dog! This year's winner:
John, surfing, said to his mother, surfing beside him, "How do you like surfing?"
(Via BoingBoing, with thanks to Thomas.)
Syntax of Things spends some time going through the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book online image archive. He comes across this picture of a young Ernest Hemingway, looking like a somewhat jauntier Leonardo DiCaprio.
Penguin is reissuing some of its most successful books as "Essential Editions."
Their uniform look will be distinguished by French flaps, which imitate a hardcover’s fly leaf, rough edges on the sides of the pages, and embossed texturing on the cover.
"I had worked in retail since I was 14 or 16," she recalls. "One day, I was in the shower, and a voice came to me, saying 'Open a Christian bookstore.' I looked around to see if anyone was there with me."
God spies on you in the shower. Perv.
Local nerds, rejoice! Austin is about to get another indie SF bookstore. (There's already the excellent Austin Books, which has an insane selection of graphic literature.) The Space-Crime Continuum is moving to Texas from Northampton, Mass., so its co-owner can take a job at Steve Jackson Games.
(UPDATE: Stop rejoicing. Chris Aylott, co-owner of The Space-Crime Continuum, has emailed to tell me that the store is being closed outright and is not moving to Austin. Apparently the AP story linked to above, which states that the store is "shutting down and moving to Austin, Texas," is incorrect.)
There's a debate going on over whether Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede should have been fired for violating the Florida law that forbids the taping of any conversation without both parties' knowledge. The firing probably never would have taken place, after all, if the other party of that conversation hadn't killed himself in the Herald's lobby after instructing a guard to tell DeFede to tell his wife he loves her.
Adam Langer looks back on his long career of interviewing and introducing authors and hands out some awards.
Category #1: The Freewheeling Improviser: Just about everyone can answer the obvious questions (Why did you write the book? What inspired you? What authors do you admire? Is the book autobiographical? Updike or Roth? Beatles or Stones?), but that hardly makes for inspired or original copy. As a journalist, few experiences are more pleasurable than finding a well-rounded conversation partner who can dissertate on just about everything, from today’s headlines to recipes for lemon meringue pie.
• Gold Medalist: Umberto Eco (too many books to mention). Anyone who can discuss Broadway musicals, comic-book superheroes, medieval history and mixed drinks in a single sentence without the slightest appearance of pretension exemplifies perfectly this category.
"But there are some people who only have to hear it's SF and you hear the crash of a mind closing. Margaret Atwood, for instance, writes really quite good science fiction but will not say the name."
A pirate novel co-authored by Marlon Brando, Fan Tan, will be released next month. The UPI describes the book as "the story of an overweight adventurer who is seduced by a female pirate and ends up doing her dirty work." Huh. Still sounds better than The Score.
Sweep out all this stuff, this post-modernist, structuralism stuff which hasn’t led to anything but a lot of very successful, tenure and promotion and salaries. This naivete of the alternative press about the academy. The idea that people who are mouthing leftist platitudes are leftists. Some of these people I knew in grad school. These people are crass materialists, OK?
A word of warning for book critics: Don't assume authors want your opinion.
Updike added: "John Kitner's quest is a part of a larger one: how to write a character who is different from yourself. If he can find the magic key to this age-old puzzle, he will usher in a renaissance in human literature. For the first time, crime novelists will be able to write convincingly about murderers, even if they are not murderers themselves. Non-spies will be able to write about spies. In this new type of literature, there will actually be characters who are something other than novelists. Imagine the possibilities."
August 02, 2005
I get frustrated sometimes by being categorized [as YA] because I don't really think of my books that way. However, I was just at ALA, and I won that Margaret Edwards Award and because of that, I was around these really brilliant and interesting people who are in the field and I learned it's hard to get a YA book published now without controversy, whereas in the past, when I was published, it was the opposite. I think now you have to have the blowjobs or you're not going to get the contract.
The Odessa, Texas, school board has added an elective Bible study class to next year's high school curriculum.
But a growing chorus of critics says the course, taught by local teachers trained by the council, conceals a religious agenda. The critics say it ignores evolution in favor of creationism and gives credence to dubious assertions that the Constitution is based on the Scriptures, and that "documented research through NASA" backs the biblical account of the sun standing still.
(Thanks to Christien for the links.)
In a review of Myles Weber's Consuming Silences: How We Read Authors Who Don't Publish, Jennifer Howard considers the author's thesis that writers' periods of silence can be read as legitimately as their books.
Mysterious Skin, the Gregg Araki movie based on Scott Heim's brilliant novel, will not be banned in Australia. It had been threatened with censorship by conservatives upset at the film's depictions of child sexual abuse. Tracee Hutchison at The Age applauds the decision to allow the movie to be screened, and The Australian profiles director Araki.
I'm no expert on book-to-movie adaptation (though Liz Miller is), but if you're a producer hiring a screenwriter to adapt a gay-themed book, shouldn't you look for one who isn't completely disgusted by the idea of gay sex?
He is known for “sexing up” literary classics such as Vanity Fair and Moll Flanders with bodice-ripping scenes that have verged on the gratuitous. But now Andrew Davies has balked at the idea of portraying gay sex for his latest screenplay.
The writer has omitted homosexual scenes from an adaptation of The Line of Beauty, last year’s Booker prize-winning novel, which follows the fortunes of a gay Tory in the 1980s. . . .
“The gay sex makes me rather queasy,” said Davies, who also adapted Pride and Prejudice for television.
Davies has previously written an adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters' novel, which features "a title that's a euphemism for cunnilingus and a plot awash with graphic lesbian sex," according to Publishers Weekly. He also coauthored a screenplay for Brideshead Revisited, which, while free of graphic descriptions of homosexual activity, is indisputably gay-themed.
A drawing of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath will be auctioned tomorrow, and could sell for over $30,000. Plath might have been a great poet, but I can't help but feel that her visual art skills leave something to be desired.
If I need to call up a publisher to ask a question about a book, and I'm placed on hold only to hear scary right wing talk radio about the evils of abortion where flaccid elevator hold music should be, you can bet your ass I won't be contacting you again. (Or buying your books. Good lord.)
A Concerned Citizen
Some authors are pressuring publishers to print their books on recycled or forest-friendly paper.
"If authors are working to push the publishers along with us, it sends a strong message," says Pam Wellner of Greenpeace, one of several groups calling for changes in publishing. Greenpeace wants book paper to be 100% recycled or, at least, a combination of recycled paper and wood pulp not harvested from old-growth or endangered forests.
Careful what you say, Greenpeace. The ghost of Francois Mitterand still walks the Earth, and he hasn't bombed anything in a long, long time.
Augusten Burroughs is being sued for "defamation, emotional distress, fraud, and invasion of privacy" by the family of late psychiatrist Rodolph H. Turcotte, whose family raised Burroughs for a period in the 1970s. (In Burroughs' book, Running with Scissors, the Turcotte family is evidently referred to as the Finch family.)
In the story, the "Finch" psychiatrist and family members are bizarre to varying degrees. The mother eats dog food, while a pet cat is tortured, killed, buried, and dug up again. A pedophile, who molests the boy, lives in a shed out back. The psychiatrist, described as a Santa Claus look-alike, dispenses pills recklessly and at one point helps the boy fake suicide with alcohol and Valium to avoid going to school.
A movie based on the book is forthcoming. Obviously the Turcottes realize that TriStar Pictures has some deep, deep pockets, though the Boston Globe notes that "(t)he suit does not attempt to block the release of the movie." Nice of them.
Her manuscripts go past an editor who irons out the grammar, spelling and punctuation. It's difficult for Gardner to explain what the manuscripts look like when they are sent off, because she can't really tell the difference that the editor makes. It took her a while to work out that the red and green squiggling lines on her Mac meant that the spelling and grammar were wrong. "I just thought it looked rather interesting," she says.
August Kleinzahler, author of the wonderful collection of essays Cutty, One Rock, is profiled in the New York Times.
In San Francisco, Mr. Kleinzahler once gave a panhandler a dollar. "Thanks, Jersey," the man said.
"How did you know I was from Jersey?" Mr. Kleinzahler asked.
"Are you kidding?" the man asked.
It's August 2, which can only mean one thing Edward Furlong's birthday. So you should probably send him an e-card or something. What, you didn't enjoy Pet Sematary II? Go do it. Then come back here to read Bookslut's brand new August issue, which features several fascinating pieces by the world's brightest young journalists. And no murderous kittens. What do they call situations like this? Ah yes: win-win.
This month's issue features an extensive report from Comic-Con 2005 in San Diego, courtesy of Bookslut's Karin Kross and Liz Miller. (Karin gets tired of Natalie Portman, and Liz is encouraged to mouth-kiss Peter David.) Colleen Mondor looks at frequently-challenged YA authors Natasha Friend and Brent Hartinger, and Melissa Fischer's Judging a Book by its Cover column focuses on popular glossy magazines ("The cover of this issue of Details features Tom Cruise looking so perplexed it would seem he’s just pulled his head out of his own ass, where it had been lodged for quite some time"). We've got some great interviews in the new issue, too Banana Yoshimoto, Amanda Stern, and Lisa Glatt (with her husband, David Hernandez).
We've got reviews of the latest books from Bret Easton Ellis, Ander Monson, Elizabeth Royte, Ali Liebegott and more. In columns, Girl, Interrupting Eryn Loeb tries to like Inga Muscio's Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil. (Eryn loved Muscio's first book, Cunt. For the record, I didn't.) Hollywood Madam Liz Miller takes time out from mouth-kissing Peter David (just kidding, Liz) to consider The Godfather and its film adaptation. (The Godfather was a movie?) Clayton Moore, our Mystery Strumpet, is fascinated with tough broads, and Breeder Jen Crispin wades through pregnancy reference books.
So what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Hand-delivered by Edward Furlong, with those deep eyes that just seem to look directly into your soul and see all the secrets you've been hiding for years because you didn't think you could trust anyone before but now that you've met him that's all changed? Check it out, and thanks for reading.
Is it just me, or does this Sun-Times profile of Bookslut read like it was written by my grandfather? He calls me cheeky. And a young woman. It sounded so grandfatherly in fact, I kept expecting him to refer to me as "pumpkin."
August 01, 2005
Even the Christians love the comic books! Well, uh, some of them.
This week's Guardian Digested Read: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt.
If morality is the way we would like the world to work, then economics is how it actually does work. Freakonomics works on a number of premises. 1) Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. 2) Conventional wisdom is often wrong. 3) Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda. 4) Readers' gullibility should never be underestimated.
If you ignore the fact that this reviewer seems to have missed the point entirely about Divided Kingdom (it's a trippy social commentary, not a Orwellian dystopia), this LA Weekly article that places the book into the context of Thomson's career is definitely worth reading. I did have that moment when reading Divided Kingdom when I realized it was really, really good and that the author had written several other books, and I wondered why I had never heard of the guy. It makes you wonder who else you've been missing.
Shalom Auslander (Beware of God) read Leonard Michaels's I Would Have Saved Them If I Could three times and had three different reactions.
I suspect it's that Yiddish shrug that I'm reacting to, a shrug that runs through the entire collection. A kid falls off the roof and dies? Shrug. A man gets an anonymous handjob in the subway? Shrug. Some of us are condemned to die, but the rest of us are condemned to live? Shrug...
Stanley Elkin laughed in the face of life's absurdity. Roth masturbated in it. Leonard Michaels shrugs.
If 300-year-old line drawings of naked breasts aren't appreciated at your workplace, you might not want to follow this link. But the rest of you can enjoy this story about a long-lost 18th-century book detailing sexual customs in Russia.
The author mentioned almost all, sometimes unimaginable sexual activities, including anal and oral sex, women's and men's masturbation, etc.
So if oral sex is "unimaginable," I am assuming that Russian porn must be really, really boring.
The Times suggests some summer reading "you'll actually finish," including The Go-Between, Never Let Me Go, and Brideshead Revisited. Reporter Geordie Greig also notes that "A bit of true Americana is also refreshing" (which may be true if you're not actually in America right now, and thus not enjoying the refreshing 118-degree heat) and recommends a host of U.S books including Catch-22 and A Man in Full (statistically improbable phrases for that last one, courtesy of Amazon: "rut rut rut rut rut," "dat buggah," "boy with breasts" and "motherfucker motherfucker").