November 30, 2005
I know it's the hip thing to talk about how overrated Watchmen is, but Slate (their motto: We Kill Joy) has a shiny new reason not to like the book: it's hard.
But did the comic book have to "grow up"? The last time I looked, the only ones reading Ulysses and quoting Nietzsche were teenagers. No adult has time for aesthetic "difficulty" or "self-consciousness." Life is too short. Frankly, we'd much rather be watching The Incredibles.
Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen will all guest star on an episode of The Simpsons next season.
"My kids and my father are very excited," Chabon says. He's not kidding. Reached later by phone, his father, Robert Chabon, said that he always expected Michael to win a Pulitzer (which he did in 2001 for "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay"). "And I still think he's going to win the National Book Award," said the Kansas City, Kan., pediatrician. "But him being on 'The Simpsons' is beyond my wildest dreams. You envision certain successes for your children, but this kind of success — I never envisioned."
I feel the same way. Oh, man, this is going to be great.
(Via Backwards City.)
One of Dylan Thomas' favorite watering holes, Browns Hotel in Laugharne, Wales, is now serving alcohol 24 hours a day. Not all Laugharne residents are happy, though:
"Youths and girls vomit or urinate outside my house and there is general mayhem at closing time."
Seattle Weekly recommends rock books.
Fox 2000 will develop a film based on Beverly Cleary's popular children's book character Ramona Quimby, and Dimension Films will produce an adaptation of CD Payne's masturbation comedy Youth in Revolt. The Ramona books and Payne's book are actually pretty similar, except that Youth in Revolt has something like 2,000 references to erect penises, and even the raunchiest Cleary book (the now out-of-print Ramona Goes to South Padre and Meets These Two Guys from Michigan State) only has about 20.
Garrison Keillor, who hosted the National Book Awards earlier this month, reflects on the writing life and the reading life.
Having never won a big prize, I am opposed to them on principle: They are an excrescence of commerce and a corruption of the purity of artistic creation. Nonetheless, it was good to see the brilliant young novelist William Vollman pick up the trophy for fiction, and that grand old man W.S. Merwin get the nod for poetry. If you can't be the creator of Harry Potter or the decoder of Da Vinci, winning a big prize is some consolation. It gives you reason to believe you may not have wasted your life after all.
Alice Munro has a new short story in The New Yorker.
The Grace Reading Series got very Courtney Love last night. The venue was double booked, so there was us and a Jonathan Ames event in the same space. We moved down the block, only to have crazy Ray start screaming "You have to leave now!" while Rachel Kramer Bussel was on stage reading a dirty story, in the middle of a good part. While the whole thing was eventually resolved with a large number of drink tickets and some free dessert, it did make me very grateful to have lovely people like the Hopleaf hosting the Bookslut Reading Series. As far as I can tell, they don't even employ people as nuts as Ray. But kudos to Elizabeth for not getting too Courtney Love back and swinging a mic stand or something. Although maybe she should have.
November 29, 2005
Check out passages from the books longlisted for the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award! They are all extremely entertaining, but none more so than this description of a male orgasm from Paul Theroux's Blinding Light:
...which was not juice at all but a demon eel thrashing in his loins and swimming swiftly up his cock, one whole creature of live slime fighting the stiffness as it rose and bulged at the tip and darted into her mouth.
But still. "Demon eel"?
I think Ali Smith might be my new favorite British writer. Or at least one of them. Read her "True short story" at Prospect.
The novel, he was saying, was a flabby old whore.
A flabby old whore! the older man said looking delighted.
She was serviceable, roomy, warm and familiar, the younger was saying, but really a bit used up, really a bit too slack and loose.
Slack and loose! the older said laughing.
Whereas the short story, by comparison, was a nimble goddess, a slim nymph. Because so few people had mastered the short story she was still in very good shape.
(Via The Literary Saloon.)
Books by Elizabeth Bishop and ee cummings have doubled in sales after the poets' works were featured in the movie In Her Shoes (based on the book by Jennifer Weiner). It's not the first time this has happened.
In "Four Weddings and a Funeral," the recitation of W.H. Auden's poem "Funeral Blues" generated increased sales. Sales of Pablo Neruda's "100 Love Sonnets" spiked for quite a few months after one poem was read in "Patch Adams."
It's funny, because I thought the only things that increased in sales after Patch Adams were baseball bats and maps to Robin Williams' house.
O, Canada! Colleen Mondor stands on guard for thee.
I'm not sure why each of these Canadians are such risktakers when it comes to literary form, maybe it's coincidence, or maybe something more. I wish the American lit scene paid more attention to Canada though, because it is clear to me that we are missing quite a bit.
In honor of Hey, Canada, You're All Right! Day, which I just invented, pay a visit to Bookninja and Good Reports, two of the best literary sites around. And if you're looking for good Canadian novels, you could start with Michael Turner's The Pornographer's Poem, Peter Darbyshire's Please, and, obviously, anything by Alice Munro.
Respect for civil rights? Sort-of legal marijuana? The music of Wolf Parade? Hey, Canada, you're all right!
The Christian Science Monitor lists the best fiction of 2005. Included are sections on mysteries, children's fiction, short stories, and, uh, poetry. Which is evidently a subset of fiction now.
The late John Fowles' journals reveal the author was a "misogynistic, anti-semitic misanthrope," reports Catherine Gander.
You don't even want to know what Jesus thought about The Passion of the Christ.
Roger Hodge will replace Lewis Lapham as editor of Harper's.
"This is a great time to be editing a magazine," (Hodge) said. "There is a global war on terror, a war in Iraq and we have a presidential administration that is collapsing. And we don't seem to have any politicians that know what to do about it. It is a very interesting time for Harper's."
New York! I am out the door and on my way to your city. I may get some blogging done from fair Elizabeth's couch, but perhaps not. Either way, all of New York should show up to the Grace Reading Series tonight, where my hostess will also be hosting Beth Lisick and Rachel Kramer Bussel. And despite my words last night about chick lit, I am not as mean spirited as it may seem. So say hello.
Jessa Crispin talks to Books Ireland publisher Jeremy Addis about the state of Irish literature.
November 28, 2005
From The Observer, the best correction ever:
Our interview with American literary sensation Benjamin Kunkel (Review, last week) was accompanied by a panel of quotes from US reviews, supplied by his publisher. One, from Entertainment Weekly, read: 'Kunkel has succeeded in crafting a voice of singular originality' and omitted the next line ' - one you want to punch in the mouth.'
I see. So how exactly would one go about subscribing to Entertainment Weekly? They don't still have that "Hot List" bullshit, do they? They do? Fuck.
Celebrity fiction! Excited yet?
Still someone just keeps on publishing them. The laundry list of celebs who have taken the author route includes Ethan Hawke, Kirk Douglas, Joan Collins, Ivana Trump, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando and even Pamela Anderson.
At least critics don't seem to have fallen for the hype. Hawke's "Ash Wednesday" was described by The Boston Globe as "unfinished, unpolished, as if we are hearing an early draft." The Palm Beach Post yawned that Anderson's "Star" was "tediously naive."
Here's a fun parlor game: What celebrity would you least like to see get a novel published? If you said Eddie Deezen, you're right! But it's not a good sign that you remember who he is.
Fans of Sylvia Plath and there are some over the age of 16 want Smith College to erect a monument to the poet.
"She's the reason I go on every day," said Michael Haley, a University of Massachusetts graduate student and one of the organizers of the Sylvia Plath Committee. "I see her as a beacon of inspiration."
A beacon of inspiration? More like...ah, dammit, I can't be sarcastic about this. I really do like her; I really do think this is a good idea. Perhaps the inscription on the monument could read "Sorry about that Gwyneth Paltrow thing." Because Jesus, she deserved better.
Despite claims by American and British reporters, Dmitry Nabokov has not decided whether to destroy the manuscript of The Original of Laura, his father Vladimir's unfinished novel.
Vladimir Nabokov willed to destroy the manuscript. After the writer’s death in 1977, his wife Vera put off the execution of the will. She died in 1991, and Nabokov Jr. assumed the rights on the manuscript. “This is a tough decision,” he told Kommersant and mentioned a possible way out. He is considering placing the manuscript at a library or a university archive only if it is safe and unavailable. However, Dmitry Nabokov would not say if researchers get access to the manuscript. “Perhaps, in 50 years.”
British retailer Tesco PLC said Friday it was withdrawing several far-right and anti-Semitic publications from its online bookstore after complaints from an anti-fascist magazine.
The Sunday Times lists their picks for best books of 2005, including sections on fiction, art, and history. No huge surprises in fiction Banville and Barnes are there, though no Rushdie or Ali Smith but Peter Kemp does make at least one great, unexpected call:
Poverty of spirit behind an assured, affluent facade is also probed with needle-sharpness in Stephen Amidon’s Human Capital (Viking £12.99). Tremors on the money market combine with an unlucky accident to send acutely traced moral and psychological repercussions shuddering down a storyline taut with suspense and surprises.
It's a great book that didn't receive as much attention as I thought it would. Bookslut reviewed it, positively, in February.
The Village Voice is disappointed with Jamie Oliver for, well, different reasons than the rest of us.
I got news for you: The "Naked Chef" isn't really naked. Until he shows his pudding, I won't be buying anything from him and his football hooligan "mates."
Looking for holiday presents for the biography groupie on your list? Of course you are not! But still, Janet Maslin reviews the undoubtedly trippy Autobiography of Donovan. You could also go with Andrew Delbanco's Melville: His World and Work, which has been getting good reviews, but did Melville ever write lines like "Superman or Green Lantern ain't got a-nothin' on me / I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yeah"? No, he did not. He was all "Hey, I hope you like boats and metaphors because that's all I do, motherfucker." But Donovan? That is groovy.
Tonight, I'll be talking about chick lit! With a chick lit writer! This is destined to go well, right?! I've been asked to be the contrarian (imagine that), so if you're in Chicago tonight, you might want to head up to Women & Children First at around 7:30. That way, when you hear reports of a chick lit writer hitting a blogger in the head with her chair, you can say you were there.
I just realized I have only read four of the New York Times's 100 Notable Books of the Year. I should have to give up my lit blogging credentials. I have started to read about a dozen more, but gave up when I realized I was thinking more about the Lost episode I had on my Tivo than the actual book. I don't feel particularly bad for not having read, say, Dave Eggers's How We are Hungry. Mostly I'm just surprised that some of my favorite books of the year, specifically A.L. Kennedy's Paradise, Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl, and Tom Bissell's God Lives in St. Petersburg, didn't make it. I'm not at all surprised that Charles Burns's Black Hole wasn't recognized by the NYT, however, no matter how much I love it. But I suppose that's why every week I get the Sunday New York Times, barely flip through the Books section and then discard it.
On our return to Brooklyn the sense of fluffy planets colliding in a rollercoaster of mixed metaphors and over-blown set pieces hurtling towards a series of neatly-contrived happy endings continued apace.
Here's a reason to hate Rent -- I mean, besides the fact that your college roommate wouldn't stop listening to the goddamn soundtrack and talking about how this was this first musical to define our generation, as if the little Johnson County brat had ever, say, squatted in an abandoned building, struggled to buy anything more essential than a Kate Spade bag, or not cringed when she found out the person she just shook hands with was HIV positive, but yeah, that musical TOTALLY speaks to her -- they may have ripped off writer Sarah Schulman.
A hundred years ago, the word "utopia" in a science fiction novel used to make everybody excited. Utopian writers formed organizations to ponder how to move the country toward that goal. Now, however, say "utopia" to a science fiction reader and watch them shudder. The Boston Globe considers if cynicism has ruined the chances of a real utopia. (Way to go, Orwell.)
Get your non-religion-specific-holiday-wish-lists ready, kids, because it's Best of the Year list time! Today, the Guardian asks every one who has ever lived to name their favorite books of the year.
The Guardian profiles mystery novelist Kinky Friedman on the campaign trail.
Occasionally, Kinky suffers a spectacular smash. In 1986 he ran for justice of the peace in Kerrville, near Echo Hill, and lost badly. 'I couldn't decide whether to kill myself or get a haircut,' he remembers. 'There must be a place in politics for a man of my talents.' Maybe he should run for mayor of Austin? And then - eureka! - what about governor of Texas? 'That might be therapeutic. When I meet a potential voter,' he says, 'I'm good for precisely three minutes of superficial charm.' He was certainly looking for a new distraction, and jokes now that 'by the time you've written your 17th mystery novel, if you ain't crazy there's something wrong with you. If you happen to be your own main character, it tends to be even worse.'
Look for Bookslut's interview with Friedman in next month's issue.
November 23, 2005
Mimi Smartypants' daughter is unusually precocious when it comes to verbs.
Nora: Do you need a bookmark? For your book?
Me: Um, sure. That would be great.
Nora: Okay, hold on, I will fashion one for you.
Syntax of Things has a preview of the new issue of Oxford American.
The LA Times profiles Steve Kloves, the screenwriter who adapted the Harry Potter books and Wonder Boys (which might be my favorite book-to-film adaptation ever) for the big screen. He's currently working on a screenplay based on Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. (If you're a Harry Potter fan who hasn't read the most recent book, beware: This article has spoilers.)
This party was a farce, and no one had come for the right reason. I would have Taken several of them if I had not been mindful of a publisher showing up late, only to find me Taking a guest. Instead, I politely told them to leave. It is hard to get flies off of honey, however, and they did not immediately want to go, but when I showed them my erect penis they scattered to the four winds.
What is left to do is follow-up. I have made a plan to visit many of the publishers to whom I had sent an invitation. I will go a-calling.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a Republican, wants the state's schools to ban Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Horne has not read the book, but says he's concerned about a scene depicting the sexual assault of a teenage girl. There's more at the Arizona Daily Star and the Arizona Republic.
The New York Times lists the notable books of 2005.
The Stranger interviews New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman.
I felt a little intimidated meeting you.
Because I’m really scary.
No. I mean, it’s not even related to you. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah. I carry the weight of this 80 years on my shoulders. Everyone puts the magazine on a pedestal and they spend all their time staring up at you adoringly or trying to knock you off that pedestal. There’s such an engaged relationship with the magazine because it’s been around for so long. Even though I’ve only been there for 8 or 9 years, I’m accountable for 70 years before that, somehow.
Sumana Harihareswara writes about learning Russian, in Russia.
My boyfriend didn't understand why I wanted to go. "Anything you can learn about yourself there, you can learn here," he said. I broke up with him.
Harold Pinter won't be able to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony next month for health reasons. The playwright, who is 75, has throat cancer.
Just read the first few sentences of Dwight Thomas' The War Against Toenail Fungus, and you'll understand why this is the most magical book ever written in any language:
You might think that since we were able to put a man on the moon, we would have learned how to cure toenail fungus a long time ago. Really? The fact is that when the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon in 1969 and for several decades thereafter we had only cumbersome and largely ineffective therapies for this disgustingly earthy problem.
For National Book Award winners, it's all about the Benjamins. Except for the poetry winner. It's more about the Abrahams for him.
Harper's needs a new editor, and Jim Hanas calls for "some irresponsible conjecture, dammit," on who might replace Lewis Lapham (interviewed in this month's Bookslut). My favorite longshot: Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis. He turned the Fighting Irish from also-rans to BCS contenders. Can he do the same for one of America's most beloved magazines?
Now that, my friends, is some irresponsible conjecture.
Seriously, though, the job's probably going to go to an old white guy.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper proofread his mom's book, and possibly ruined his psyche in the process.
If it had been written by anyone else, I wouldn't have blinked at the content. But it's not anyone else; it's my mom, and reading her description of her current boyfriend as the "Nijinsky of cunnilingus" was kind of shocking.
It's not really a visual image I wanted to have.
The book, Gloria Vanderbilt's It Seemed Important at the Time, was released last year.
November 22, 2005
In 2004, 43% of the short stories at the New Yorker were written by women. . . .
In the calendar year of 2004, The New Yorker printed 702 articles. Of this total, 147, or 21%, were written by women.
Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, is planning to write a new play.
Havel recalls his first exposure to the Velvet Underground, during a trip to New York in the late 60s, when a Czech-American friend told him he "must buy this record" - the Velvets' third album, with the black-and-white cover.
Graham Greene cheated at Scrabble.
The problem, according to Meyer, was that Greene's spelling was "deeply dubious", and the pair did not have a dictionary. During a stay in Tahiti, Greene produced the words "zeb", which he claimed was an Elizabethan word for "cock", and "quoign" which he insisted was Shakespearean, quoting: "Yon castle's quoign that Duncan's spirit haunts."
What's wrong with "zeb"? It's a perfectly cromulent word. (Via Maud Newton.)
A collection of poems written by Minnesota college student Robert Zimmerman later to become the "voice of a generation" as Bob Dylan sold for $78,000 at an auction of rock and pop memorabilia.
This just goes to show that the market for Traveling Wilburiana is only getting hotter. I just sold a bong that Jeff Lynne got as a present from his ELO bandmates for 15 grand.
Banks said her decision had nothing to do with the theme of homosexuality in “Geography Club.” Instead, she was alarmed by the “romanticized” portrayal of a teen meeting a stranger at night in a park after connecting with that person – who turns out to be a gay classmate – through an Internet chat room.
Don't write a letter to the editor, don't rage at all your friends. Don't bitch about these conservative times. Just go buy the book - go buy a brand new copy. That will teach them, believe me. The more those sales figure go up, the more powerful we all become.
Glance at a newsstand and you'll see so many magazine covers asking so many scintillating questions that you despair, knowing you'll never have the time to learn all the answers. But you're in luck: The Magazine Reader staff has collected and digested these magazines and now, as a public service, we will reveal the best of these cover questions -- and the answers.
Why didn't someone tell me there's spontaneous human combustion in Charles Dickens's Bleak House? And really, why isn't there more in literature? There's a scene in Banville's Birchwood... can anyone think of any others?
You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?
November 21, 2005
Curtis Sittenfeld talks to Dana Gioia: poet, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the dude who brought back Jell-O.
Guided by a belief that "art without an audience is a diminished thing," Gioia's has aimed to extend the NEA's reach as far as possible. Inside the Beltway, this has meant corralling bipartisan support for an institution not universally beloved by Republicans. Yet Gioia, himself a Republican, managed to win a $10 million increase in the NEA's budget, to $131 million.
Whoa! A Republican poet? That's like the unicorn! I guess I kind of realized this when I read his 1993 poem "A Valediction: Forbidding an Increase in the Estate Tax." It was pretty moving. I cried a little.
The store's neighbors include a record shop, an herbarium, a few vintage shops and a punk-rock pizza parlor.
MonkeyWrench's next-door neighbor and landlord is Forbidden Fruit, a woman-owned business offering products such as massagers, "Kama Sutra bathing gel" and erotic cake pans.
I've lived in the North Loop neighborhood, where MonkeyWrench makes its home, for almost a year now. It's pretty much just as insane as this article makes it sound. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were sitting on our front porch when three drunken young people walked by. One of them yelled, "Yo, Paulie! Spark that thing!" Then there was some angry whispering, I assume from Paulie, about the inadvisability of sparking that thing right in the middle of North Loop Boulevard, right in front of the house where there are people trying not to laugh at them. I don't know what happened, but I assume the thing was eventually sparked, and Paulie probably chilled out a little.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah: MonkeyWrench is great, and they sell coffee now. The punk-rock pizza place, which is called The Parlor, is pretty awesome too. Only Texas beers on tap. I've only been in Forbidden Fruit once, and mostly what I remember is a lube selection that could fairly be termed "exhaustive." And penis-shaped pasta. I didn't notice the erotic cake pans, but that sounds pretty sweet, too.
A bit guiltily, we took our windfall and treated ourselves to a delicious three-course lunch. We drank a bottle of almost chewily rich Mendoza wine, served slightly chilled to moderate the sweetness, and then took a long nap back in our hotel, Faena Hotel + Universe. . . .
We didn't love her the less, either, when we'd settled at our table at the Gran Bar and were tucking into our risotto with coconut milk, goat cheese and smoked corn, and our marinated red mullet with baby shrimp croquettes. Though the bar itself, with exposed cinder blocks and a revolving, soft green strobe, was done in a style of generic hipster minimalism, the prices were Argentine, so that the salt of a bargain was sprinkled over everything we tasted.
"Almost chewily rich"? "The salt of a bargain"? Jesus Christ, we really need to stop letting white guys go to college. In the meantime, if you're a young writer from a comparatively high social class, don't let yourself be seduced by T. There are better ways to pay off your fucking Bennington student loans. (Thanks to Leela for the tip.)
There's an almost Beckett-like purity to the tedium of Beavis and Butt-Head's serenely empty lives; in one short, "Killing Time," the boys wait out the two hours until something good comes on TV by staring at the gas meter outside Butt-Head's house. "Time sucks," Butt-Head finally observes. Beavis' response: a chuckle, then silence.
Be sure to check out Slate tomorrow for my discussion of the "Pynchonesque insouciance" of Two and a Half Men.
The Bad Plus has a list of 61 bands and their corresponding authors. (Thanks to Mike for the link.)
I'm off to tackle the huge pyramid of two weeks worth of mail, and it's frankly scaring the shit out of me. Every time my cat wanders near it, I'm sure I'm about to witness her death. I'll emerge from under the pile tomorrow. In the mean time, I wanted to recommend that everyone go read the Reproductive Rights issue of Nerve, which has excellent contributions by authors Steve Almond, Jennifer Baumgardner, and Lynn Harris, among others. Baumgardner's essay in particular delighted me. I'm really not a fan of most of her feminist writings, but whenever she writes about abortion she's dead fucking on. Especially with this essay about the tricky issue of a woman's second abortion. God bless her for writing it.
While I was away, the one thing I did pay attention to to keep up was Moby Lives Radio, at least on days when I could find a wifi connection. (Farms in West Cork, surprise surprise, don't have so much wifi. Chasing sheep made up for it though.) How did the literary world survive without this program? Today's show has an interview with Robert Gray, a bookseller at the Northshire Bookshop in Vermont, about remaindered books. As someone who drops approximately $60 a month on remaindered books at Unabridged Bookstore, I'm tickled that someone else talks about these sorts of things.
The Associated Press explains why newspapers are laying off large numbers of employees even though they're still quite profitable.
The New York Times reported that Women & Children First, sponsor of Bookslut's Reading Series and a seriously kick ass bookstore here in Chicago, had a very strict storytime for children. According to the Times, employees would kick out children for standing up, and a woman was once told to stop breastfeeding by a male employee. Well, there are no male employees of Women & Children First, and none of the other things are true, either.
Hello. Hey. Hi. I am back from Ireland. (And halfway still in Irish time, hence the 5 am posting.) I wanted to thank Elizabeth once again for guest blogging and Mike and Kenan for putting together the new issue. It made my vacation much more like a vacation. So I bought a lot of books -- so many in fact that I had to leave some of my clothing in Ireland to fit them all in my bag, hung out with SF writers (hello, Diane!), drank whiskey, and then smuggled six pounds of illegal cheese back into the country. (Also, Cuban cigars, but don't tell my dad. It's his Christmas present.) I read a lot, but mostly Elizabeth Bowen and J.G. Ballard, so I'm behind on what's new and what's been going on. Also, William Vollmann? The fuck? I'll figure it out.
November 18, 2005
This has been such a fun two weeks for me here at Bookslut. Thank you Jessa and Michael for your lovely hospitality and for your gorgeous literary institution unhampered by all the crappy books the publishing industry is still so largely chained to.
Nobody has won the free superhot Girly t-shirt for contest two (the question was: Which Grace writer gets a shout out in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and what is that shout-out?). Hint: her husband is all stellar and fabulous in the star's current TV project. Her book is one of the finest of 2005. I think you'll probably have to wait for the DVD to come out to find the line itself, but when that happens, definitely email me and I'll see what I can do.
I already provided my book picks for the weekend, but I've got another: Audrey Niffenegger's Three Incestuous Sisters just came in the mail and I can't wait, it's such a beautiful graphic novel. (Check her out at Bookslut here and here.)
Other than that, you can find me at the Lit Mag Festival events tonight and tomorrow night here in New York, and I will also be holed up in my apartment scribbling, cause the architecture of this nonfiction book on intuition, messy amazing sex, and feminism I've been trying to figure out how to write forever just appeared, all vision-y, in a cab on my way to the Upper West Side today. I love when that happens. Only once before in my life. Sluttiness always brings out the best in people, I do believe that. Lip my hose. xxoo--Elizabeth
Come one, come all, down to my digestive system, as I consume this very lovely work of asianica, which I am using to coin a new genre of fiction: Phonetic Asianica, or Phonetica for short.
Phonetica is self-explanatory. It's when a writer chooses to represent his/her characters phonetically. When Yummee from Fan Tan says she likes being pushed around, it reads "I rike-ee beeng pushed alound." When the complimentary hooker in Lost in Translation visits Bill Murray's hotel room, and wants to convey a desire to have her pantyhose ripped off her legs, it reads: "Lip it! Lip my hose!"
Funny? Yes. Relatable? oh, I'm sorry, rerataber? iyessss. Always applopliate? Possibry not.
So as for contest number one, Neal Pollack writes in that his cat Teacake is in fact alive, and plays some small role in Neal's memoir due out next year. (Neal's cat is apparently as big an anarchist as my former cat and just had to alter the spelling from Hurston's Tea Cake.)
Patrick from Chicago wrote in having found an infamous nudey photo of Neal posing with cat "Zimmy," but couldn't find a Zimmy in any Hurston novels. Who knows, maybe there's a lost manuscript.
I refrain from linking to the scandalous Zimmy pic here for the sake of Neal's offspring. The memoir is called Alternadad, coming next fall from Pantheon. Neal describes it as "basically a report from the front lines of the strange and pathetic world of hipster parenting. I didn't realize, when my wife and I decided to have a kid, that we'd be thrusting ourselves into a demographic that's trying to raise its children properly while still staying cool and creative . . . I believe that we're on the verge of a major cultural shift away from the type-A parents of the 80s and 90s, and that the shift will be healthier for American kids."
Dude, tell me about it. I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I keep hearing mommies talking about how the neighborhood parenting groups might be heading for litigation. Or then there is this line on Overheard in New York, uttered by the awesome daughter of a friend of mine:
"I'm tired of thinking about ponies! Now it's time to kill!"
If you're in St. Louis, you should really, really check this out:
Fiction writer Scott Heim will read from his work at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 in Hurst Lounge, Duncker Hall, Room 201, for the Writing Program Reading Series.
Heim is the author of the novel Mysterious Skin (1995), recently adapted to film by director Gregg Araki. The story is set in the small town of Hutchinson, Kan., where two boys on the same Little League team unknowingly share struggles and obsession — sex, loyalty, first love and aliens — that direct their adolescent lives.
The dude's one of my heroes. Scott, come to Austin, man!
Augusten Burroughs talks to PopMatters about domestication, agoraphobia and puppies.
You know, dogs have an emotional brilliance. They have a huge range of emotion. And I think they can understand a huge range of emotion. They're very sensitive to us; they definitely know. Bentley knows, for example, when I go shopping, if I've brought him a toy by the expression on my face. I'll try to hide it but he can tell, he can see something in my eyes and he'll know. He'll sit down and start barking and he'll grab at me and paw, because he'll know. He won't do that if I haven't bought him anything.
Awwww. I want a dog. Leela, can we get a dog?
(Via Largehearted Boy.)
Johnny Depp explains how poet John Wilmot, Second Earl Of Rochester, was "the Shane MacGowan of his day."
A literary magazine released a list of the 100 most important Canadian books yesterday -- and confirmed stereotypes of Canada as a land of wonks obsessed with politics and national identity, yet gave only the briefest nod to hockey.
Is "literary theory" just meaningless bullshit? I think so; Stephen Metcalf doesn't.
By never firmly establishing what it itself was for, the English department cultivated habits of withering self-reflection and so became one mechanism by which the university could stay in touch with its nonutilitarian self and subject its own practices to ongoing critique. Did the theory era produce bullshit by the mountain-load? Of course it did. But by allowing "literary theory" to turn into a pundit's byword, signifying the pompous, the outmoded, the shallow, the faddish, we may have quietly resolved the argument over what a university is for in favor of no self-reflection whatsoever.
Sarah Hepola: Is he cute or is he British?
The Book Standard has a great report on the National Book Awards ceremony.
Deborah Wiley, the chairman of the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors, kicked off the presentations of the awards themselves with remarks that harkened back to grade school, announcing, “We think all the finalists here tonight are winners.” And away we went. Jeanne Birdsall won the award for Young People’s Literature, for The Penderwicks. W.S. Merwin, who was apparently infected by a tropical disease and thus unable to accept his award, won the poetry prize, for Migration: New and Selected Poems. Merwin sent a gracious acceptance speech to the ceremony in the hands of his amiable stepson, the novelist John Burnham Schwartz, who delivered the speech and fled—leaving the award on the stage—allowing Keillor a moment of unscripted humor. “You’ll want to make sure he gets that,” he said.
So how long do we have to wait for the next one? Huh?
In the Guardian, Aida Edemariam talks to the author of Gem Squash Tokoloshe:
When Rachel Zadok was growing up in apartheid South Africa, she had, like most other white children, a black nanny, Gladys. In her early teens her family moved, but Gladys, in many ways a second mother, did not come too. Apart from one visit Rachel never heard from her again, and it shocked her to discover that people so intimate, so close, could be "so disposable", simply because, in the end, they were black and for hire. It was "such a disturbing, strange, warped thing" that it made her determined that it would not happen again: with her mother's new helper, Margaret, she made sure that she built her own, separate relationship. She and Margaret still go for boozy lunches, and, in what seems, for Zadok, a typical mixture of active idealism and earthy worldliness, do a bit of gambling, with Zadok's money: "We see if we can win some money to get her children educated."
If you're curious about what my voice sounds like (startlingly feminine, yet nicotine-ravaged), you can hear me talk about Kinky Friedman at MobyLives Radio (it's the Thursday, Nov. 17 show), where I am the new Texas correspondent. You can also read my interview with Friedman in next month's Bookslut. (I was pretty psyched that he ended the interview with his trademark farewell: "May the God of your choice bless you." I'm not sure who the God of my choice is. Maybe Lou Reed? Michael Chabon? Whoever's responsible for writing the John Locke backstory episodes of Lost? There are so many people I love.)
The Legion of Lit Mags has a festival at Galapagos in Brooklyn tomorrow night.
They promise a raffle with prizes including spa giveaways--which sounds just about right at the moment. I want the recuperation before the holidays. I am so there.
Readings begin at 6, featuring Darin Strauss, Lisa Selin Davis, Lynne Tillman, Amy Brill, David Gates, Brenda Shaughnessy, Sam Lipsyte, and Andy Friedman.
What I can't wait to hide in my house and read this weekend: Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and Witi Ihimaera's Pounamu Pounamu, which a friend from New Zealand gave me some time ago and which I finally started last night--it's really funny, smart, subtle, substantive, beautiful. It is an essential Maori text, precursor to Whale Rider, etc.
For more Li, you can check out a story at the Gettysburg Review
Michael Frank at the New York Times on the New York Public Library's new Walt Whitman exhibition:
So what is driving the show "I Am With You" other than the nice round number of years that have elapsed since July 4, 1855, when Whitman, a former schoolteacher, printer, journalist and editor, first published his bold, unruly and groundbreaking poem? Drawing on the library's extensive holdings, Mr. Gewirtz has put on display at least one copy of every authorized American edition of "Leaves," along with the separate collections of poetry that Whitman later incorporated into his work, which he expanded, rearranged and revised nearly until the day he died.
M. J. Rose on the growing popularity of erotica and the difficulties of marketing and selling it.
November 17, 2005
Andrew O'Hehir looks at Richard Lloyd's Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City.
Lloyd is certainly not the first to notice that there is a connection between the existence of neighborhoods like Wicker Park or the Mission that lure large numbers of young people with artistic talents and ambitions and an "increased concentration of high-tech enterprise." Brooks and Florida both saw this as well, but Lloyd's understanding of the relationship is far more nuanced. One should not conclude from this, he says, that young artists have abandoned all pretense of bohemian distinction and uncritically embraced capitalism. Indeed, his research in Wicker Park suggests that anti-establishment and especially anti-corporate sentiment is as strong as ever. MTV's filming of a "Real World" series in Wicker Park was greeted with angry street protests, and the inevitable opening of a Starbucks in 2001 occasioned widespread laments that the neighborhood was "over."
(Thanks to Leela for the link.)
I'm pretty shocked by the award for children's book. I read and reviewed The Penderwicks for Eclectica's current issue and I liked it a lot. It reminded me of Elizabeth Enright's books and was certainly my pick for a nice summer afternoon read. It's really a delight. But....why in the world are we giving an award to a book that is more a throwback to the 1950s than anything else? Is it well written, certainly, it is readable - again, certainly (although with Vollmann winning, I'm not sure that readability is really necessary), but why this book when Walter Dean Myers wrote a masterpiece with Autobiography of My Dead Brother? Myers's book (with his son Christopher's equally impressive artwork) completely blew my mind. This is the book that has changed the way I look at juvenile crime, inner city kids, drug dealing - all of it. Myers is not an apologist, he isn't suggesting in his story that we need to feel sorry for kids who make wrong choices, but he shows how the choices are made, and how some kids manage to avoid them. And he writes just beautifully about what it is like to lose a friend, and to be standing there, struggling, but knowing that this person you used to know better than anyone is now a stranger and there is little you can do to change that.
How in the hell did this book not win?
My review of Myers's book is up in the current issue of Bookslut. It is an amazing piece of literature and I guess it is just a little too honest for the world right now. We prefer the 1950s, even though George Clooney is hard at work exposing how fucked up life was back then as well. We want illusions for our children though, we want to give them picnics instead of drive-by shootings. I understand that, but not when it comes to this award. Myers deserved it, he deserves a lot for writing this book.
Poets CK Williams and Ted Mathys talk to Leonard Lopate about the role of poetry in modern society. Mathys' new book, Forge, has been getting great reviews from the likes of the Los Angeles Times, which called it "wonderfully, disturbingly, upsettingly real." You can read one of Mathys' poems, "Ash Wednesday," here.
UK revisionist historian David Irving has been arrested in Austria under laws against denying the Holocaust.
LA Weekly lists ten comic books "that shook the world (of comics, anyway)."
Carol Iaciofano on Hazel Rowley's peek under the surface of Sartre and de Beauvoir in her new book Tête-à-Tête (from the Boston Globe):
It's old news that de Beauvoir was sanguine in public and shattered in private over Sartre's affairs. Yet it's disturbing to read some of Rowley's new accounts of how de Beauvoir would procure women for Sartre, or have an affair with the same woman as Sartre, all in the guise of sharing experiences. The two would often target young, psychologically fragile women for their liaisons.
Although Sartre and de Beauvoir were masters of oral and written persuasion, ''Tête-à-Tête" makes the case that actions do speak louder than words. Strip away the gilded pronouncements of personal freedom and honesty, and you're left with sexual predators in philosophers' clothing.
Steve Almond on the anti-choice movement:
The problem is that unborn children eventually get born and must live in the actual world. In this sense, "pro-lifers" are like the baby daddies of the spiritual world: full of promised love for the abstraction, and nowhere to be found when the kid shows up. They don't want to deal with the fact that some children in this country grow up starved of love, and warped by poverty. . . .
In the weeks to come, the usual pro-choice suspects will dutifully argue on behalf of a woman's rights to choose. That's not going to be enough. The leadership of the left has to recognize that those who oppose choice are not simply benighted crusaders, but bullies who are exploiting the abortion issue to exalt their pathologies.
Yes, this season it’s all about faking it — i.e., carrying around the “It” book but not actually bothering to read it. Improving-your-image-by-deluding-others-into-thinking-you’re-reading-something-meaningful is the new black. It’s the literary equivalent of the Live 8 concerts, where you don’t have to actually do anything (e.g., read the book or give to the poor) — you just have to appear to care.
Simon Doonan wonders what the fuck Kate Hudson is doing reading or "reading" the works of Ovid.
Raincoast Books, one of Canada's great presses, has launched a literary podcast.
But are we surprised that this year the fiction prize goes to the gun-loving creator of "a wholly whorocentric universe" after last year's five women finalists ruffled so many macho tailfeathers?
Steve Vineburg in the Boston Phoenix: "That James Agee has somehow evaded the status of great American writer is almost certainly the consequence of his eclecticism." Let us now praise 748 pages of his work:
As the profoundly gratifying new two-volume Library of America collection of Agee makes clear, this broad range of literary output is unified by several distinctive qualities. First and foremost is the beauty of the prose — lyrical, dense, with a stunning precision of often layered detail, whether he’s evoking the mood of a scene in a film, exploring the psyche of a character — say, the torment of self-doubt in the alcoholic Uncle Ralph, which occasions one of the most extraordinary passages in A Death in the Family — or entering a sense memory . . . His style is ruminative, restless, ambivalent, self-interrogating; it acknowledges on almost every page the impossibility of arriving at a final accounting about the way in which men and women live their lives or the art they put out. This insistence on both getting close enough and pulling back far enough to see the whole picture explains the "and yet" factor in all his writing, whether he’s revealing the complicated and unspoken sexual tensions in the home of one of the farmers in Famous Men or attempting to place the achievements of a writer or a director he admires. He concludes an enthusiastic review of Faulkner’s The Hamlet, for example, by proclaiming, "In passages incandescent with undeniable genius, there is nevertheless not one sentence without its share of amateurishness, its stain of inexcusable cheapness."
The winners of the National Book Awards were named last night. William T. Vollmann won the fiction prize for his novel Europe Central, which he discusses with Tony DuShane in this Bookslut interview. The nonfiction award went to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and the young people's literature prize went to Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. The great WS Merwin won the poetry award for his Migration. The first poetry reading I ever went to was one of Merwin's, at the University of Texas at San Antonio campus. He was an amazing reader, funny and gracious you should check him out. You can hear him read from his translation of Purgatorio here. And hey, NBA time (that would be the literary NBA, not the exciting, fun one that people actually care about) is as good a time as any to test your LQ by taking this interesting test. (I am ashamed of my score, and refuse to reveal it.)
Some of the most complicated and wordy works of English literature are being compressed into the jerky speedwriting of text messages, to help students choose classics and master their revision.
The dark labyrinth of plots in Bleak House and the epic verse of Paradise Lost are among masterpieces picked for drastic slimming into a couple of lines for sending automatically to mobile phones.
The New York Times reports on Goodnight Moon:
In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand.
November 16, 2005
"The Gospel According to Oprah" at NPR.
We have a winner: Josh Allen (who has written for The Morning News and McSweeney's) put his English degree to use and guessed that the badass guy writer with a cat named for a character in a Zora Neale Hurston article is in fact Neal Pollack, and the cat's name is Tea Cake.
Okay, time for a hint for contest number one: this guy writer has recently threatened to start a daddy/parenting blog. I met him several years ago when we both lived in Philadelphia. He has also lived in Chicago. And his genius wife is the one who named the cat.
Are you ready for the second contest? Also a two-parter:
Contest will be open until this Friday 5pm--whoever answers both parts first by then gets the coveted t-shirt. If nobody gets both parts, then the first person to email me with the name of the writer gets it.
(via Kim Said.)
A woman was stabbed to death in what police say is the first slaying in the city since Hurricane Katrina.
Police said they found the woman dead inside the home of New Orleans poet Jon Newlin, 56. Newlin had been beaten, they said, and was in critical condition at a hospital.
It's a Zora Neale Hurston kind of a day (I love those, don't you?). So she is part of the first Flu Day contest--a two-parter, and the first person to get both parts right wins a free Girly t-shirt:
What contemporary figure in American literature--male, white, badass--has a cat named after a character in a Zora Neale Hurston novel? And what is this cat's name?
I had a cat by the same name (he's gone to live with a nice Christian family in Lancaster, PA where he can roam and harass cows) so sorry to friends, you're not eligible for this one.
And if you can tell me if this guy's cat is still with us or not I will throw in a fabulous Demimonde t-shirt as well.
First Flight, the controversial literary magazine published by Torrey Pines High School students last summer that featured photographs of students in their underwear, won "Best of Show" in its category in a national student journalism competition in Chicago last weekend.
Man, who'd have thought that a publication featuring half-naked teenagers would be successful? First Flight: Where sad teenage poetry and Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs intersect.
Margo Jefferson in the New York Times acknowledges the essential roles of Constance Rourke and Zora Neale Hurston in the creation of the creative nonfiction genre. On Hurston:
Always theatrical, she frames her tales with the adventures she had while collecting them. (Of her escape from a juke joint fight, she writes: "Blood was on the floor. I fell out of the door over a man lying on the steps, who either fell himself trying to run or got knocked down.") She narrates in her own vivid standardized English, but speaks black English with the people of Florida and New Orleans. When necessary she lies. One night at a dance, a man tells her that she looks wealthy compared to everyone else. She confides to the reader: "I mentally cursed the $12.74 dress from Macy's that I had on among all the $1.98 mail-order dresses. I looked about and noted the number of bungalow aprons and even the rolled down paper bags on the heads of several women. I did look different and resolved to fix all that no later than the next morning.
" 'Oh, Ah ain't got doodley squat,' I countered. 'Mah man brought me dis dress de las' time he went to Jacksonville. We wuz sellin' plenty stuff den and makin' good money. Wisht Ah had dat money now.' "
This certainly exposes the issues anthropologists still struggle with: the conflict between being a participant and an observer, the morality of being an outsider passing as an insider.
The AP is amused by James Lileks' Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice.
One of Lileks' favorites is the canned pig brains with gravy pitched as a lunch treat in a series of advertisements for Kingan's Reliable. Other products included liver spread, ox tongue, lunch tongue and wieners packed in brine. The label for the can of wieners featured a Heidi-like girl with braids and a candy-stripe top opening her mouth so wide that it looked like she was going to pop the whole hot dog in at once.
I totally have the flu, it's undeniable. So I might mix words up or be a little slow today, but the benefit is a sort of what-the-hell, drink cocoa and eat graham crackers stay home from school thing going on, which is inspiring me to offer two contests today. Yes: contests! And then maybe I'll let you make a fort under the dining room table. Anyway, the winner of each gets a super hot Girly tshirt (not just a promotional item--actually a fashion solution). I will tell you what the first contest is in a minute after I drink about 4 cups of tea.
Kate Taylor on digitization: The sky isn't falling; stop freaking out.
No, these ideas don't make a whole lot of immediate business sense, but what's encouraging about them is that they reveal how the book industry is hard at work making sure that it doesn't suffer the fate of the music industry. By sounding out readers on their digital interests and negotiating the ground rules with Google, publishers and booksellers will ultimately profit from new technology and lure more customers rather than fighting the former and alienating the latter.
Sean O'Grady reviews Waterstone's "personal shopper" service: "The idea is that you tell the personal shopper about the people you're buying for - age, tastes, eccentricities - and then they use their skill to pick the perfect books for them." Surprisingly, he has good luck.
Margot (John and Severin's daughter, three)
Suggested book gift: Princess Rosebud by Dawn Apperley.
Reaction: Great joy. She started reading it straight away (or rather, having it read to her by me). And again. A very happy little girl.
Awwww. That's pretty sweet. And it sounds like Margot enjoyed the book more than my three-year-old niece liked the book I gave her last Christmas (Henryk J. Sokalski's An Ounce of Prevention: Macedonia and the UN Experience in Preventive Diplomacy, which she found "interesting, but too glib in its discussion if you can call it that of Josip Tito's influence on the Yugoslav identity, and the Balkan zeitgeist as a whole").
The Whitbread shortlists have been announced.
Greg Behrendt has a new book.
In an interview with The Book Standard, former CBS news producer Mary Mapes defends her controversial "Memogate" report on 60 Minutes II, and discusses her new book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power.
I think CBS damaged CBS as a whole and I think they did it to help [parent company] Viacom as a whole. We now have a situation where news operations are owned by these huge corporate entities, and they are very much in the business of making sure that one arm of their operation, say CBS News, doesn’t do something that hurts another arm of operation, say MTV, or something like that. . . .
I’ve gotten new documents out of the Texas Guard headquarters in Austin, Texas, that really show that the criticisms that were launched at my story a year ago were completely unfounded in terms of typeface, font style, proportional spacing, all that kind of boring, eye-glazing stuff that the conservative bloggers accused me of getting wrong. They were wrong. And all that stuff is available on the website, TruthAndDuty.com, if people bother to pay attention.
SciFi.com is discontinuing Sci Fiction, the short story series which Ellen Datlow has edited for nearly six years. The folks at The ED SF Project are compiling appreciations for the 320 stories in the archive (here's the list), and they're inviting admirers of the fiction series to contribute. (Thanks to Colleen for the link.)
November 15, 2005
An anonymous reader has alerted me to the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. This is really making my job too easy dudes. I counted 22 bylines: 3 of those belong to one gender, 19 to the other. Guess what that breakdown might be? Hint: one of the bylines belongs to Joyce Carol Oates.
Were colleges and grad schools not co-ed when the Review's writers and editors were coming up? Certainly there must be some women writers interested in and capable of writing for this fine publication--or does a woman have to be about to win a Nobel Prize any minute to write for you?
Poet Jordan Davis on the typos on the cover of the new Gettysburg Review. Davis also notes "plenty of poems inside that won't give contrib ed Garrison Keillor the feeling that someone alive might be smarter than he is" and the "NPR violent nerdism masquerading as acceptable cultch."
Remember "metrosexual," the word that delighted the news media for about ten minutes in 2003? Now there's another meaningless term for you to not give a shit about!
The new ideal, according to veteran trend-spotting promoters Marian Salzman, Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly, as described in their new book, "The Future of Men," is ubersexuality. The word means a "return to the positive characteristics of the Real Man of yesteryear (strong, resolute, fair)," according to the writers, who helped spread the word on metrosexuality in the first place.
The New Yorker takes its act on tour to Seattle, today through Thursday. "Among the noted participants will be writers Jonathan Franzen and Sherman Alexie, cartoonist Ed Koren, indie rocker Stephen Malkmus, senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg and humorist Andy Borowitz."
Magazine editors Susan Morrison and Deborah Treisman will be there to moderate and interview the boys, and there is in fact one woman, cartoonist Victoria Roberts, whose work is actually featured on a panel.
Sam Jordison, author of The Joy Of Sects - An A-Z of Cults, Cranks and Religious Eccentrics names his top ten books on cults at the Guardian:
Literature would be considerably poorer without cults and religious extremists. They've inspired some fine novels and riveting eye-witness accounts as well as producing rainforests' worth of mad, bad and thoroughly dangerous books themselves.
The Eugene (Oregon) Public Library is offering a "Zines 101" class for middle and high school students.
Man, do you ever get the feeling that people who live in western Oregon are smarter than the rest of us? They're spending their nights hanging out at Powell's, going to Tullycraft shows, drinking fair-trade coffee in the mild weather. Meanwhile, I cannot seem to kill the cockroaches in my kitchen, and I'm pretty sure I live next to a meth lab. It is funny how life works out.
Poet Galway Kinnell (The Book of Nightmares) is interviewed at Minnesota Public Radio. It's hard not to be moved by Kinnell's work; read his poem "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight" here.
The Sunday Herald looks at the longstanding love affair between writers and alcohol.
AL Kennedy has just returned from a European tour to promote her most recent book, Paradise: a fictional portrait of an alcoholic on the downward arc of her habit. Kennedy herself doesn’t drink, she says, because it “just doesn’t agree with me”, but to be honest, she sounds like she needs one.
“This is not a great lifestyle,” admits Kennedy. “It’s isolated and isolating. You work alone, which is very quiet and intense, then you go on to do what I’ve just been doing, which is public and intense – you’re on the road, meeting endless people, searching every room for a set of eyes that look even half as mad as your own. Put it this way, I’m 40, I’m single and I’m childless, and it will probably stay that way because of my f***ing job.”
Rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson will again turn his reality into fiction with a new line of hip-hop novellas and graphic novels featuring his former G-Unit rap crew buddies, a publisher announced.
November 14, 2005
Deal Lunch from Publishers Marketplace reports this book sale today to MTV Books/Pocket:
Hip-hop star 50 Cent's line of street fiction, both novellas and graphic novels, called G-Unit Books, named after his "real life posse," and featuring them as fictionalized characters, "telling the truth about The Life; the sex, guns and cash; the brutal highs and short lives of the players on the streets."
Don't you wish that Public Enemy or the Clash or Tori Amos had thought of this in 1989 or 1980 or 1992? Wouldn't a bunch of Bjork novellas and graphic novels be amazing now? 50 Cent makes me wish I had a bunch of Kinko's/zine-y novellas and graphic novels from the time when I had an actual posse, back in New Haven from roughly 1988-1991: we were called "Never Trust a Big Butt and a Smile" and we totally thought we were trouble. It was like Ghost World, but with Metro North.
Check out Swivel magazine, one of my favorites. The new issue features work from Lisa Glatt, Aimee Bender, Trinie Dalton, editor/founder Brangien Davis, and an interview with Melissa Bank.
Do you think more books should have promotional T-shirts and tattoos?
No. I think only mine should. Because then it would, you know, sell more. At least that’s my feeling. Other writers may feel differently about what would most efficiently sell my book.
A Raleigh, N.C., bookstore was robbed during a cookbook signing yesterday. Quail Ridge Books & Music owner Nancy Olson has a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Olson lamented the increase in thefts from her store. "Why didn't he go to a Barnes & Noble and rob them?" she said jokingly.
Maybe because it would take their employees five hours to find the cash register.
The Scotsman is in love with Neil Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman is on the last leg of his world tour. He's done America and England, is about to do Ireland, and has just done Scotland. But he'll be back here soon. "Just try to keep me away," exclaims the cult novelist, who is the literary equivalent of a sexy rock star.
"Tired of blogs? Me too," begins a randomly selected edition from this week, in a drawling, sarcastic voice that sounds not all that different from the soundtrack of Reservoir Dogs.
Miss Snark, literary agent, on what to do if you've just had a run-in with the Nicole Richie novel and have a yucky taste in your mouth.
Katha Pollitt on Maureen Dowd in the Nation:
Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space.
via Feministing, where one commenter who has somehow escaped the Dowd-deluge asks:
What exactly is the deal with her? If anyone can give a fairly short summary of what she is about, I would appreciate it. I think I read a column . . . and she just seemed like a bitter, single, 40 something year old woman. Not sure if it was satire or not. Please fill me in.
"So Dave Balter, founder of the Boston-based marketing firm BzzAgent, thought it would be nice to have some nonpoisoned pens writing on his behalf when his book was published earlier this month." His book, Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing got pummeled by PW, but he managed, through his guerrilla marketing prowess, to overcome the gatekeepers:
''Grapevine" received a much warmer welcome from the amateur Amazon.com reviewers, who bestowed on the book an enthusiastic four stars (out of a possible five). It helps that many of the most glowing were written by foot soldiers in Balter's army of 117,000 BzzAgents -- volunteer product promoters who get free samples of new products. Two thousand of his buzz agents got an advance copy of Balter's tome.
For me, the lesson here is that it is good, good, good literary karma to write amazon.com reviews for books that don't suck. If you don't like the crap you're barraged with at the front tables at Barnes and Noble, then, by all means, when you read something gorgeous that has actually made it through to publication and even the bookstore, then take a second and write a review or make one of those lists or whatever. It seems that it can make a world of difference--and after all these years of the Bush administration isn't it a revolutionary concept that your voice might actually be heard?
Daniel 1,1: I get so tired writing comic sketches about gays, blacks, Jews and Muslims these days. But being thought to be avant garde has its advantages; people take you seriously and pay you shed loads of cash for any old tosh. And you get lots of pussy, too.
The ever-insightful Agent 007 goes on hiatus. But you can still spend that Monday-groggy-morning-web-hour or so reading through her archives, starting with this post on why winning is boring or this one on what happens to a cover letter once it gets to an editor's desk.
Kathryn Gursky's husband bought her all 1,082 Penguin Classics.
(You guys all know that my birthday is December 27, right? Remember, the traditional gift for a 28th birthday, according to the etiquette experts, is "an assload of books." I'm just saying.)
Weekend reading: I have a stack of new stuff, but instead I went back to two of my favorite short story collections ever (both out of print): Stephanie Vaughn's Sweet Talk and Carolyn Ferrell's Don't Erase Me. Both are exquisite, these two writers are up there with our best creators of the short story--it's ridiculous that they're out of print. But of course you can pick up a used copy easily, thank you internet.
New York Magazine handicaps the National Book Award fiction nominees. Their favorite is EL Doctorow's The March, which killed among voters who like the Civil War, but who thought Ken Burns' 187-hour PBS miniseries wasn't quite boring enough.
Pitchfork looks at the new distribution problems facing indie zines.
"Hopefully, it will go for a lot of money, the current notoriety will inspire people to bid, and some good will come out of this," American Cancer Society spokeswoman Lisa Daglian told me.
And don't forget the literary merit!
"I would just as soon forget the literary merit," Daglian quipped.
November 11, 2005
You may remember Chip McGrath from 2004 when he defended the fact that under his direction 72% of the books reviewed at the New York Times Book Review were by men by arguing that "more books are written by men than by women." Today in the Times he demonstrates his love for the "Flashman" aging superhero, but he swears it's not for the "self-proclaimed cad, poltroon, card cheat and serial fornicator" bits:
What saves the Flashman books from repetitiveness or predictability is that they are also genuine historical novels, meticulously researched from original sources and full of authentic period detail.
In his London Review of Books coverage of Mary Hershberger's Jane Fonda’s War: A Political Biography of an Anti-war Icon, Rick Perlstein describes the "anti-Fonda cult" in the U.S. military:
When Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built on the Washington Mall, well-organised veterans who criticised it as the ‘gook monument’ – Lin is Chinese-American – were allowed to open their own kiosks nearby. These became the cult’s temples, the places to buy its sacraments and phylacteries; bumper stickers, for example, saying ‘Jane Fonda: John Kerry with Tits’. Phyllis Schlafly and Tom Wolfe have both described the memorial wall as a ‘monument to Jane Fonda’.
Arrested Development, the best show in the history of television, has been canceled (basically). Fuck you too, Fox.
Terry Gross interviews Harvey Pekar about his new graphic novel The Quitter.
In the oddest footnote yet to The New York Times' post-Jayson Blair/Judith Miller credibility saga, editors at the Times Magazine recently scrapped a piece by author J.T. LeRoy over concerns he may not exist.
(Via Atomic Books.)
The Chinese oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang continues:
Chinese authorities have jailed the chief editor of the Kashgar Literature Journal for publishing a fable they regard as a veiled indictment of China’s heavy-handed rule in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Radio Free Asia (RFA) has learned. The author of the story is already serving a 10-year jail term for inciting separatism.
Voters in Salinas, California John Steinbeck's hometown approved a sales tax increase to help fund the city's endangered public libraries. (Thanks to my dad for the link.)
The California Aggie profiles Josh Clover, poet and former music critic.
“My interest really has been in the ways that people dismiss popular culture,” Clover said. “It’s more of a political decision than a choice of taste … a class bias against things that can be real expressions of human existence.”
One experience he remembers is a Backstreet Boys concert he reviewed in 1998. Walking through the audience while the boy band played, he watched as some people in the crowd wept with emotion.
“What the fuck am I to say? They weren’t having a real experience compared to my mom having an experience about The Beatles,” Clover said. “I wanted to find a way to honor that.”
Danielle Steel has just sold the movie rights to "at least 30 of her books."
Bolivian writer Edgar Ramiro Reynaga on Wednesday shot and wounded a street vendor in downtown La Paz after accusing him of selling an illegally printed copy of his book, police said.
Dean Koontz is finally getting called on his racist bullshit. The Guardian picks up the story of Koontz's anti-Japanese remarks at a recent luncheon, which was initially reported by authors Lee Goldberg and Tod Goldberg. (The Los Angeles Times reported on the story earlier this week.)
Koontz is a regular donor to the Republican National Committee he donated $1,500 to the RNC on June 27, and has given to President Bush before. You think they'll return the donations? Ha ha! Me neither.
At any rate, I'm happy to announce Bookslut's First Annual Man, Is That Dean Koontz a Prick or What? Contest. In 250 words or less, write an erotic, tender-yet-sexy story about Dean Koontz having some sort of hot, life-changing physical encounter with a Japanese guy. Send your stories as plain text in an email to mschaub at bookslut dot com, with "Man, Is That Dean Koontz a Prick or What?" in the subject line. All entries should be submitted on or before Friday, November 18.
Whoever writes the best/hottest/funniest story will receive a copy of Tod Goldberg's Simplify (read Bookslut's review here) and a copy of Lee Goldberg's Unsold TV Pilots: The Greatest Shows You Never Saw, as well as whatever Dean Koontz book is cheapest at the used bookstore. Also, I will sign the Koontz book, possibly as "Mr. Teriyaki."
Enter now! It's erotica with a cause. (The cause: my own personal amusement.)
The secondary market for novels by deposed government staffers with an interest in bestiality appears to have peaked. Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s confirmed yesterday that it will reprint I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s 1996 novel, The Apprentice, with a paperback run of 25,000 copies. Books will ship Nov. 18 and will be in stores just in time for the gift-giving season.
Your office Christmas gift exchange just got a whole lot sexier.
Backwards City celebrates Kurt Vonnegut's birthday with a sweet roundup of posts and links, including an explanation of where he gets his ideas from.
November 10, 2005
As the publishing industry tries so hard to figure out what to do about decreasing readership, it might consider starting a brand new religion as a genius marketing tool:
Beating out J.K. Rowling, Sidney Sheldon and Anne Frank to become the world’s most translated author is no small feat. But L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, has done so, according to Guinness World Records.
I thank my lucky stars constantly for Anne Ishii and now I thank them that her blog at Vertical Books is back up (thanks to Kenan). Tragically, her Finger in the Throat book reports got gobbled away when her blog had some major issues earlier this month. But I am thrilled that you will be able to find the newly reinstituted F.I.T.T tomorrow over at Grace.
If you're ready for a little late-in-the-week escape fantasy and are at the point where you're drumming up bestseller nonfiction book proposal ideas, I think you might boost your brainstorming efforts by moseying over here to Oprah.com where she lets you in on topics she's pursuing next. Currently making my day are the "Upcoming Shows":
Do you know a man who has developed breasts?
Do you suffer from extremely bad hangovers?
Do you know someone who vomits in their sleep?
Do you know someone who has "broken" their penis?
These upcoming shows will be on too soon for you to get an agent and write the book, etc., so I think the regular features are probably your best bet:
I've Been Betrayed and I Can't Let Go!
Living a Secret Life?
Is Your House Stuck in a Time Warp?
You could write that proposal in a day or two, no? Just be sure to let me know if it happens (and don't forget to thank me in the acknowledgements).
Each page of content is literally a picture of a magazine page. Readers can't copy text from a story and paste it elsewhere. They can't search for keywords within the text of articles, only within titles and abstracts. If they want to jump from issue to issue, or article to article, they first have to go back to the index and sometimes change DVDs.
Journalism is an imperfect art. I always think of it as liquid history; we're trying to write for history, but it's like that quiz show where you try to put as many things in your supermarket basket as you can in 30 seconds. Blogs have made my life difficult, because with everyone trying to have an opinion, it's hard to think of anything original to say when you have to wait three days for your column to be published. It's like now we're in a whole nation of opinion writers, so what makes yours special? You have to work even harder.
Neal Pollack is moving from Austin to Los Angeles.
George Murray of Bookninja, who is the coolest Canadian since former Prime Minister Lester Pearson (Come on! Dude signed the Canada-United States Automotive Agreement Pact!) talks about the Giller Prize at MobyLives Radio.
The media has a tendency to thrash out debates about post-sexual-revolution life in Manichean terms. Williams complicated this tendency, both in her writing about the personal realm (where she saw how easy it is to lose the gritty idiosyncrasy of life by framing one's experiences purely in power terms) and in her writing about the political realm (where she was a great anatomist of the distinctly personal ways people wield power).
Hey, cool! One of my favorite journalists (Rachel Kramer Bussel, of Gothamist and The Village Voice) interviews one of my favorite writers (Elizabeth Merrick, author of the forthcoming Girly, founder of the Grace Reading Series and guest co-blogger at a literary website whose name escapes me at the moment).
I had no interest in writing a typical first novel—it just wasn’t anything I cared about doing. I wanted to read a big-ass, epic, thoughtfully-written novel about the undercurrents of spirituality and sexuality that women are using to transform everything that echoed the stories and worlds I was hearing in Bjork, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Sleater Kinney—it didn’t exist, I couldn’t find it. I would look on bookstore shelves so hopefully. But it wasn’t there. So I wrote it. If had known how hard it would be to write something so complex I surely would have chickened out, but once you’re far enough into the writing project you just hate yourself too much if you stop.
Yeah, I'd hit that.
Best-selling author Terry McMillan and her gay ex-husband reunited on television yesterday, and he finally admitted he had sex with other men during their six-year marriage.
I really love what Sasha Frere-Jones brews up at the New Yorker. We at Grace are tallying bylines, going so far as to measure column inches for the whole year, and one of the tricky things with figuring out how women fare in book reviews at the New Yorker is that the longer pieces in the books section are sometimes, and I quote Grace's database researcher savant here, "a five-page thing on Lewis Carroll."
So SF/J's articles like this one about Houston hip hop are a welcome change. Note: someone just emailed me after this post and yes, Sasha is a dude! What I meant was that he is freshening up the musty subject matter, breathing new life, etc. etc.
Augusten Burroughs confesses to being a "lotion addict" over at Paper Magazine:
My bathroom is filled with enough lotion to soften even the narcotized face of Laura Bush.
(via the lovely Rachel Kramer Bussel)
The Wall Street Journal profiles Liz Ridolfo, who helps digitize books for the Internet Archive.
She said the job is one of the best she has ever had. She has worked other repetitive jobs, including stocking shelves at a grocery store and working in a beer-nut factory. Before she started book scanning, she took a temp job stapling sample sticks of chewing gum to fliers handed out at Toronto nightclubs. "It was akin to hell," she said.
As a book scanner, she gets to peruse old writings and illustrations and find gems between the pages -- such as a 1915 postcard from a son to his father that she recently discovered. "You get into a rhythm," she said. "If you have a really good book, you look up and a half an hour is passed. It's kind of like meditation."
Check out the new issue of Bookslut! Do it now, unless you are in the middle of rescuing a bunch of kittens from a burning house or something, in which case, you know, go with that. But the rest of you should seriously go check it out.
In this month's issue, Tony DuShane interviews William T. Vollmann about war, screenwriting and what it's like to smoke crack. Pauls Toutonghi talks to Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's Magazine, about the writing process and the '60s. The great Joe Meno tells Beth Dugan about his new book, and about why Judith Regan can fuck off. Sumita Sheth interviews Mary Anne Mohanraj about Sri Lanka and writing erotica. Barbara J. King, who must be the coolest anthropology professor in the world, discusses our inner apes. (Every time I read her articles, I wish I'd taken an anthropology class in college instead of, you know, drinking a lot.) And Colleen Mondor asks Chris Crutcher some questions about censorship, and recommends his new book, The Sledding Hill.
In columns, James Morrison looks at polar fiction, and offers the best description of HP Lovecraft I've read in a long time. ("He wrote like a thesaurus suffering an attack of hysterics in an abattoir.") Our Specfic Floozy falls "into the cheesy paperback gutter," and talks about chicks with guns. And Bookslut's Girl, Interrupting, takes a look at Dan Savage's new book about marriage. We've also got reviews of the latest from Walter Dean Myers, Uwe Timm, Trinie Dalton, Kevin Young and Eric Pinder.
See? That, my friends, is entertainment. Entertainment that cannot be equaled unless there was some TV show about a bonobo who smoked crack with the Beatles at the North Pole. Which, now that I think about it, isn't actually a bad idea...
I'll be back later. I have a sitcom pilot to write.
November 9, 2005
Maybe it's just me, but are we due for a reprise of 1992? Indicators: black is the new black/designers dressing women less like hookers, long-ignored economic and social inequality leading to riots in the streets, and a bit more feminism at the bookstore. And she says she won't, but how can Bean not start a band soon?
Today from the Guardian:
The education secretary, Ruth Kelly, was today called upon by an MP to force the withdrawal from an anthology of a poem for schoolchildren written from the viewpoint of Adolf Hitler.
San Francisco area writers Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) and Lisa Brown discuss their writing spaces:
Handler's desk is a gynecologist's table (minus the stirrups), an effect that recalls Flaubert's advice: "Be regular and ordinary in your habits, like a petit bourgeois, so you may be violent and original in your work."
Who is this Helen, anyway? I thought "Goddess, Princess, Whore" was my subtitle.
Author Robert Fisk talks to Democracy Now! about torture. You should read Fisk's Pity the Nation, which is very long and very depressing, but possibly the best book about Lebanon ever written by an outsider.
Dan Wickett at the Emerging Writers network on the phenomenon of very established fiction writers going to smaller presses to publish their work: Robert Coover at McSweeney's and Stephen Dixon at Melville House.
Novelist Caleb Carr, a Democrat, lost his election for Rensselaer County (N.Y.) Legislature yesterday. And in my neck of the woods, the Texas town of White Settlement declined to change its name to West Settlement. And while Texans voted 3-to-1 to add anti-gay bigotry to our state constitution, the good news is...uh...
Texas can be a frustrating place to live if you don't hate gay people.
And in accordance with Canadian law:
The Giller is kind of like the National Book Awards in the States, but you can totally smoke weed at the Giller ceremony.
Sara Gran writes in from New Orleans with more lit news:
My pal Ken Foster, author of the Kind I'm Likely to Get and The Dogs That Saved Me, founder of the original KGB reading series and editor of the KGB Bar Reader, is starting a reading series here in New Orleans. That's great news for all of us who live here, as things like this are keeping us alive. Poet Carolyn Hembree & fiction writer Patty Friedmann are reading 7:00 PM Thursday, November 10th @ BETH’S BOOKS, 2700 Chartres Street. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A federal judge said Monday that magazine writer Nancy Steuber will be held in contempt of court if she continues to withhold the source of a recipe for maple-glazed ham published in Redbook magazine in February.
AL Kennedy is going against the trend. Usually comedians becomes novelists, not the other way around.
It's even more common for stand-up comedians to start writing memoirs. I'm thinking in particular of Ray Romano's debut effort, While I Enjoy Having Sex, My Wife Is Markedly Reluctant to Do So, and its sequel, Here Is Something My Child Said That You Might Find Amusing. Comedy gold! (Via Maud Newton.)
November 8, 2005
Have you been missing Katherine Lanpher's co-hosting on the Al Franken show as much as I have? According to Publisher's Marketplace yesterday she sold her book, Leap Days, which "humorously examines the process of starting over in Manhattan in her forties," to Springboard, a new imprint over at Warner. Lanpher is smart, funny, and very literary--this one is going to rock.
On going to a doctor's appointment for the first time in a long time, at poet Mairead Byrne's blog Heaven:
She asked me about drug use. Marijuana. Cocaine. That made me laugh. Everyone was so interested in me. It was marvelous. Even the nurse in Reception asked as she was passing: Do you happen to know your height? Boy did I! Then the Office Manager arranged all my appointments. I haven’t had so much attention since the MLA or my first marriage. It was invigorating.
Brand-new comic Pornhounds by Sharon Lintz. It's kind of a side project for Sharon, who works by day as a porn editor and by night as a budding novelist (she's been taking some of my my classes for awhile now and her novel is irresistible, thoughtful, and compelling--plus, as you may imagine, it's really fun to make her read portions aloud. All writing workshops should find a way to say the word "lube" six or seven times in a night.)
Read sample pages and either be grateful for or consider quitting your day job.
Gothamist interviews Bookslut favorite Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment, which chronicles her attempt to cook each and every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
On a completely unrelated note, I actually just got this great idea. Any publishers want to give me an advance for this? And a really, really great lawyer? Anyone?
The new issue of Small Spiral Notebook is up online. Check out their bicoastal party action--an event with Swink in LA Nov. 12, and in New York, an all-star literary magazine fair at Vernacular Press and Galapagos Art Space, Nov. 18 and 19.
Jessa reports from Ireland on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl.
Stop #4: Dublin Tourist Center
It turns out that Oscar Wilde was gay. Also, a heavy drinker. The performers, who have been drinking at each stop, slur through a performance of a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest. The pub crawl tonight is sold out, as it is almost every night. From April to November, the crawl goes on every night of the week, sometimes — depending on demand — with two separate groups. One of the tour guides explains that the extreme popularity of the pub crawl is because Dublin is so boring. He’s obviously in the depressed stage of drinking.
Just as I was reminding everyone to count bylines yesterday, I got about seven emails pointing out this Times article on the website womentk.com which does some additional math on gender imbalance in general interest magazines:
Ruth Davis Konigsberg, a deputy editor at Glamour, began counting bylines in Harper's, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic Monthly. Since the beginning of September, she has tallied 324 male bylines and 99 female ones.
Conde Nast is "looking at it."
Unless you are Willie Nelson, or were Johnny Cash, you are probably not as cool as Dennis Loy Johnson. The creator of MobyLives.com, and the editor of Melville House, Dennis now has an unbelievably interesting radio show, all about books. And I guarantee you it's nothing like that crap on your local public-radio station where an intern awkwardly talks to the editor of the Junior League cookbook or something.
Today's installment features Jessa Crispin, who will be a regular commentator on the show. Dennis and Jessa talk about, among other things, idiot greedhead publishers who treat young people like drooling morons.
He then went on to read us the letters he'd sent to the Japanese chairman of the film company in question where he asked repeatedly to have his name removed from the film. The letters were about, generally, the US kicking Japanese ass in World War II, the inability of the Japanese to defend themselves against Godzilla, some more fascinating invective about the US defeating the Japanese, a touching bit about Pearl Harbor, another about the Bataan Death March, a touch more about the Japanese surrender and then, of course, a bit about Mothra, too. Each letter was addressed to "Mr. Teriyaki."
November 7, 2005
Applause and gratitude to Jennifer Weiner who makes the point that she admires Mary Gaitskill "tremendously," and argues that Gaitskill "should not be as broke as the New York Times Sunday Styles makes her out to be."
For me, women writers struggling to make it in a literary world defined by the bottom-line gender breakdown we're starting to document at Remedial Math are the norm, but Weiner was "shocked to open up the Styles section on Sunday and read about the plight of Mary Gaitskill, an enormously talented, deservedly acclaimed author of two novels and two short-story collections and currently finalist for the National Book Award, has spent her career as a journeyman teacher ranging from Texas to upstate New York and who is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke."
Weiner says that until reading this Sunday Styles piece, her vision of how publishing worked was that: "Critics’ pets could moan about their lack of sales, but they’d have all of the important reviews and New Yorker-published short stories they could ever want, plus the choicest plums from the groves of Academe. Everyone would be reasonably content …. and everyone could pay the bills."
Well, if you count the bylines, you will see who is paying the bills. It's not women literary writers so much, not yet at least. But that is why Miss Grace's Salon has come into being: we're working on it.
Vintage/Anchor publicist Lisa Weinert talks about wolves, drag kings and bomb threats in a column for The Book Standard.
Sara Gran, author of the forthcoming Dope moved to New Orleans last year (maybe she is the cosmic opposite/balance of Anne Rice who left for California around the same time?). Sara is still there, and she's blogging the no-bid aftermath.
Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman was beaten to death last week, and her husband has been arrested and charged with her murder.
I think it is totally acceptable to enjoy the Harajuku girls, because there are not that many other Asian people out there in the media really, so we have to take whatever we can get. Amos 'n Andy had lots of fans, didn't they? At least it is a measure of visibility, which is much better than invisibility. I am so sick of not existing, that I would settle for following any white person around with an umbrella just so I could say I was there.
Snobbery is as woven into the human fabric as the sexual and aggressive impulses it seeks to refine. It's no accident, then, that Rock Snobbery emerged just as young people started dressing in blue jeans and pretending that social class didn't matter. Adolescents simply found novel ways—ways more acceptable to their newly egalitarian pretenses—to marginally differentiate themselves from one another. Musical taste was one such method, and for a small but increasingly demented subset of the population (interestingly, almost exclusively boys), having good taste in, and encyclopedic knowledge about, rock music became an almost Ahab-like obsession.
I have a soft spot for rock snobs, which is why my two favorite cities in America are Austin and Chicago. (Also, red meat and beer are readily available both places. In Chicago, you can actually buy Polish sausage and Old Style in yarn stores and orphanages.)
Hi everybody, Elizabeth here. I'm so happy at the thought of Jessa breaking hearts all across Ireland. As she mentioned, we met at BEA--it was a sea of that particular kind of marketing anxiety and not-so-flattering lighting you get at a convention center, and Jessa saved the day. I also met Anne Ishii of Vertical there. Getting to know these two was worth the total meltdown I had after a forty dollar cab ride back to Brooklyn on the third day of the thing--at 5pm I found myself pinned to my couch by this entire new reality that I never wanted to write, help someone write, think about, or read a book ever again. But then I rallied somehow and it's amazing what a few glasses of wine at the Algonquin will do--there is a picture out there somewhere of me with a twisty animal balloon sculpture hat on my head, standing next to the dashing Lamar Herrin, whose new book House of the Deaf I haven't read yet but which Lorrie Moore calls "powerful, poetic, and suspenseful."
The Bush administration might have ruined the economy, but at least Scooter Libby's indictment might make a few people rich. People who inexplicably own his novel The Apprentice are selling it for insanely high prices on Amazon.
Another review excerpt: “This otherwise played-out story had bear rape. As a bear raper I can say that the idea of turning the tables was quite erotic. But then there was no more animal rape… what’s up with that?”
November 4, 2005
“Indie god”: It’s a term that Glaswegian arts writer Paul Whitelaw uses unashamedly in his new book, Belle and Sebastian: Just a Modern Rock Story. The biographer is clearly smitten with his subject — which is both blessing and curse. As its press demurely attests, Whitelaw’s book is “THE FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF BELLE AND SEBASTIAN — WRITTEN WITH THE BAND’S COOPERATION!” And that cooperation surely came courtesy of a couple of well-placed smooches.
November 3, 2005
Starting on Monday, Mike will be joined by guest blogger Elizabeth Merrick. She is the author of Girly and the host of the Grace Reading Series. She is also a fantastic person who kept me sane during Book Expo this year. In just a few hours, I will be on my way to catch a plane to Dublin, and I'll be back here around Thanksgiving. There should be some columns of my adventures through Literary Ireland on the Book Standard, otherwise I'll see you when I get back.
Also: Chai liqueur is not as good, evidently, as it may sound.
Harlequin Enterprises, best known for its romance fiction titles, is planning to add novels with storylines plucked from the NASCAR stock car racing circuit.
Look for Naked Came the Pit Crew early next spring.
Haruki Murakami spoke to students at Tufts University, where he used to teach.
One of the first things the audience learned is that the reserved Murakami believes the first step toward successful writing is proper physical fitness.
"First train your body. Then, your writing style will follow," the author said, is a mantra by which he lives. Murakami has run the Boston Marathon six times and will run his 34th marathon this weekend.
Oh, I am fucked. Unless some author writes to tell me that the real secret to successful writing involves cigarettes and pie. God, please let it be cigarettes and pie. Running makes my everything hurt.
"I wanted the story structured like Otis Redding's 'I've Been Loving You Too Long,' rising to a deep, deep pain," Parker said.
Because of that, some have wrongly labeled the novel as hopeless. It can be bleak.
"A lot of people talk about the music when they reference this book, but the music is a way of talking about love and talking about desire," Parker said. "And what else is there to write about but love?"
Parker is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and his novel is published by the great Chapel Hill-based Algonquin Books. I am kind of developing this huge state crush on North Carolina. It's also the home of Matt O'Keefe, the young author of You Think You Hear, which I read recently and loved. Like Parker, O'Keefe writes about music with love, conviction and a very real earnestness, which is usually an impossible hat trick to pull off. (O'Keefe also plays in The Day Action Band, and he's married to Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You & Me, which was recently reviewed by the AV Club. Also, all of the people I have mentioned have been in a movie with Kevin Bacon.)
Shah Mohammad Rais, the subject of Asne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul, told a Norwegian newspaper he would probably have to leave his home country of Afghanistan after the book's publication in Farsi and Pushtu.
Rais argues that Seierstad's book reveals details that can offend the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns, a group that still actively practice blood vengeance. Rais said that the revelation that his sisters have had boyfriends is dangerous as this is strictly forbidden.
Now Norway's immigration department might not let him and his family in the country at all.
What's really surprising about "Christ the Lord" is that it's pretty good, even if you aren't keen on Rice's tediously good-looking, well-dressed and filthy rich vampires, and even if you're not a believer. Rice's vampire novels -- initially a pleasingly ambitious, agreeably lush and atmospheric sector of popular entertainment, the perfect rainy-day diversion for the brooding adolescent who still lurks in most of us -- had grown baggy and bombastic.
I haven't read Maureen Dowd's new book Are Men Necessary? yet, but reading the feminist reaction has been interesting. Man, are they not happy. Now even the post-feminists, represented by the vile Katie Roiphe, are freaking out about the book, but of course for different reasons. That Maureen Dowd is mean to men. You should note, however, that most of them are referencing the excerpt in the New York Times, and not the whole book itself. The excerpt seems choppy and oddly edited, so I'm refraining from any opinion until I can get ahold of the book. But I like Dowd, so I doubt my opinion of the book will be quite so harsh.
Judith Miller turns to The Ethicist for advice.
Not long ago I wrote a few articles that some of my important friends found, shall we say, useful. I was proved fucking right, and it was awesome.
The Guardian First Book Award shortlist has been announced. It's mostly nonfiction (for some reason that's being called "controversial"), but I'm delighted to see Reza Aslan's book on that list.
No god but God: The Origin, 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
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
November 2, 2005
SF legend Samuel Delany spoke to Dartmouth College students about the politics of homosexuality.
In a number of frank stories that often elicited laughter from the audience, Delany described his own diverse sexual encounters. Delany estimated that he has had anywhere between 5,800 and 7,000 encounters of unprotected receptive oral sex with different men, many of whom were complete strangers.
"I enjoy a certain kind of pleasure," Delany said. "I gamble in getting it."
Bookslut's own Colleen Mondor considers war and literature at her site, Chasing Ray.
Booktastic! is sponsoring a contest for book fans who are 17 or younger. (There are some of you, right? At least like one or two? For the rest of you, books are like really long text messages but with words spelled out.) I have not yet played Booktastic!, because I am still smarting from getting my ass kicked by my girlfriend at like 27 different editions of Trivial Pursuit. But it definitely looks better than some other book-related board games, like the short-lived Hungry, Hungry Poets (you have to grab as many Watson fellowships and bottles of Scotch as you can before time runs out).
Early in 2003 we were watching a leader, a Creon figure if ever there was one: a law and order bossman trying to boss the nations of the world into uncritical agreement with his edicts in much the same way as Creon tries to boss the Chorus of compliant Thebans into conformity with his.
I bet he's talking about Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Oh, burn, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker! Seamus Heaney just burned you!
With the White House and the Pentagon in cahoots, determined to bring the rest of us into line over Iraq, the passion and protest of an Antigone were all of a sudden as vital as oxygen masks.
Oh. Oh, right. Bush. I should've guessed. Sorry, rest of the world!
I don't know why I'm surprised I did so badly at this BBC quiz about Dickens -- I've only read one of his books all the way through.
November 1, 2005
Maud Newton has something to say to Rebecca Traister:
If you want to read chick lit, read chick lit. If you see yourself reflected in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s your affair. But try to tell me Lauren Weisberger’s books are recording my history, and you’ve gone way too fucking far.
If you live in Austin and have hipster friends come visit, a really fun thing to do is to drive them around and point at arbitrary locations and claim that they somehow figured in a Linklater movie. "Hey, see that vacant shopping center over there? That's the parking lot from Dazed and Confused!" Or "Hey, remember that scene in Waking Life where Ethan Hawke and the French woman were talking in bed, and it seemed profound at the time but later you realized it was actually kind of stupid? That's the fabric store where they bought the bedsheets for that scene!"
You can basically spend a whole day in this manner.
Wenclas is now attacking Lemony Snickett and Dave Sedaris. All right, lets bring this back to reality. Lemony Snickett writes books for tweens, funny, dark, little books that entertain children. And Dave Sedaris writes books for nerdy twenty somethings, Sedaris makes sad nerds laugh. Neither of these guys are claiming to be geniuses, or that their writing is changing their world. Attacking them is absurd, caring about an attack by them is absurd. The fact they mentioned his name he should consider good.
The latest edition of Largehearted Boy's Book Notes has Peter Manseau musing on the Everly Brothers and Jesus Christ Superstar and their connection to his book Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and their Son.
At the Chronicle, Jennifer Howard considers the work of Susan Clancy, author of the new Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. And Karen Olsson (Waterloo) casts a skeptical eye at Clancy's conclusions at Slate. With respect to Jennifer and Karen, both of whom are great writers, I think they miss the real question here, which is: Does anyone remember that movie where Christopher Walken played the guy who wrote Communion? Wasn't that fucked up? Christopher Walken was all "You've broken my mind!" and shit.
Okay, so I'm a day late, but test your smarts at this ghost story quiz from the Guardian anyway.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and early '60s, there was no better entertainment for a Saturday afternoon than a visit to the Palace Theater for a showing of "Jason and the Argonauts," "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" or any number of Hercules films. These movies were studded with impossible marvels and strange beasts, mainly due to the special-effects genius of Ray Harryhausen. But they weren't scary exactly, not in the way of "The Blob," "Them!" or your typical Halloween double-feature; they were simply and mainly wondrous. You might shiver a little when the harpies attacked or the jinn appeared from the lamp, but more often you felt something like awe. At times you couldn't help but whisper to the friend in the next seat, "That's so cool." And it was.
Anthony Swofford reviews a group of books about the war in Iraq, including my favorite of the bunch, War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres. (Okay, so it's the only book in the bunch that I have read, but that doesn't make it any less good.)