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Hearsay Archive:

Here we store old Hearsay items (including their discussion links). You don't have to register or sign in for discussions, you can just click the "Post a new message" button and go.

Some of the links are likely to rot over time. Sorry about that, but our fridge isn't working.
2003: August September October November December
2004: January February March April May June
2004: July August September October November December

August 2004:


Weekend Edition:

The Book of Imaginary Beings
A very cool online version of the Borges book, complete with wild illustrations of things that don't exist but should.

The complete series of illustrations for The Book of Imaginary Beings was done by the graduate students in the Department of Illustration and Art of the Book at the Vakalo School of Art and Design in Athens, Greece. The project was carried out under the Art Direction of Hector Haralambous and Dimitris Kritsotakis and started with a few selected students. As it went on many more students insisted that they had fallen in love with the theme of the book and that they would like to do it as well.

On a related note (in my head, anyway), check out the Invisible Cities Vladmaster. (From Metafilter and Memepool respectively) (discuss)

Send more Juggs!
In his chronicle about being a Marine sniper, Anthony Swofford talks about reading The Iliad in the desert while waiting for the chance to shoot people. But not every soldier is so lucky. In fact, many soldiers have nothing at all to read during those long gaps between shooting and being shot at. Books for Soldiers is doing its part to help. Got an extra copy of Finnegans Wake lying around? There's probably a Navy SEAL out there who would love it. A spare copy of Bill Clinton's My Life? What self-respecting soldier wouldn't want to know his enemy? Bridges of Madison County? Well, those snipers need something for target practice. (From Neil Gaiman) (discuss)

Looking for information on that historical novel you're writing?
Then get the hell off this site. (But you may want to look at the Star's Pages of the Past for research.) (discuss)

Sure, you say you're a reader
But how fast can you really read? (From Metafilter) (discuss)
Penguin Putnam launches a book called, and a new mother with the same domain name finds herself in a legal mess.

Since your book was published, my life has been completely invaded by its presence. Friends and colleagues have contacted me asking if it were me that were molested. Strangers have emailed me with upsetting stories of their own experiences. Others have contacted me asking me to put dubious content on the site, and countless other intrusions.


You've heard of speed reading, right?
Well, here's speed writing.* The trouble with both is comprehension levels. (discuss)

Not just nerds, the worst kind of nerd...
Heartless academic nerds. Wait, let me add something, heartless academic OCD nerds. Yes, that's better. Heartless academic OCD nerds hold a Harry Potter conference in Ottawa and ban children - in part, I suspect, because the likelihood of any of these people finding someone willing to mate with them is extraordinarily low. And who wants to be reminded of a life beyond their social capability? (discuss)


Ninjas in the August wind...
Well, Bookninja turns a year old on August 11. To celebrate we're making a big piñata of Wubblewoo and encouraging people to bat at it with swords. And it won't be papier mache. I can't wait for the treats.

For much of August though, we'll be in low profile mode, scheming for the fall. We're still planning the Bookninja party (free beer!), but for a time when not everyone is at the cottage. Think September. Cooler evenings, hot days, and drunk ninjas littering some hip Toronto neighbourhood...

We're also working on some changes here which will hopefully culminate in the unexpected ability to PAY CONTRIBUTORS. Yes, you heard it. Having come this far on a shoestring (a ratty hightop one, too), we're feeling pretty grateful to all the people who have donated time and brain cells to participate. But now it's finally time to live up the responsibilities we hold other editors to (many at knifepoint). It's a relief, in a way, to go legit. We'll let you know.

Now this doesn't mean we won't be posting Hearsay, Review and Essay, just that we won't be pursuing them as actively. Some days everything will look normal, and other days it will look like The Rapture struck and we were sucked up to Heaven with the other saints, leaving you heathen sinners here on Earth to have your eyes bled out by Jesus. Think of it as a low activity cycle. Something mellower than Terror Code Yellow... Like Terror Code Aquamarine or Plaid.

Anyway, keep checking in. We'll be around. We'll just be doppy with heat and soaking our tabi boots in the kiddie pool. (discuss)

More on lying Aussie
I have never in my life trusted a woman named Norma. There's something about the very name that smacks of stale cigarette smoke and whiskey sours. Which in turn gets too close to my own upbringing...

We are sometimes tempted to think that truth-telling is a personal matter, a matter of private virtue. But our indignation when a politician lies or is suspected of economy with the truth, whether about an affair ("I did not have sex with that woman") or matters of public policy - think children overboard, not to mention WMDs - indicates that we also recognise that truth is a priceless public good. Deception threatens to undermine one of the necessary conditions of personal autonomy and of meaningful lives. Too much deceit threatens not only a particular individual's relationships and achievements, but also the central concerns of each of us.

I'm just sad that the (likely large number of) people who's stories are probably close enough to Khouri's novel to lend it some credence may suffer some collateral outrage of those duped. (discuss)

Merriam-Webster's gets a new coat of paint
Exciting new words pleather, MP3, and Teensploitation finally official. I'm holding out on the celebrations until Bushism makes it. (See, about the coat of paint thing above: it's just that I've been watching a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine recently and the engines who proves themselves "really useful" tend to get rewarded with "a new coat of paint"... I could really use a new coat of paint. It would be lovely not to clank.) (From GoodReports) (discuss)

Checkpoint Nicky

Nicholson Baker may not be the left's literary avatar.

Baker has what he calls "a tortured relationship" with the party-line left. During the Carter years his contrarian streak led him to work on Wall Street. "I was a neocon," he says now. "But by the time Bush One came around, I started to see that the kind of conservative I am is really soreactionary—it has to do with old trees and stuff. I am medieval in my conservatism. I'm one of those 19th-century Tories who don't believe that democracy"—he laughs—"is really the thing."

(From Literary Saloon) (discuss)

The Library of Unwritten Books
Conveniently located next to the Graveyard of Broken Hopes and the Mausoleum of Shattered Dreams.

An art project travelling the UK, this library is collecting stories and ideas for books people would like to write - but never have, and probably never will.

Its two librarians - Sam Brown and Caroline Jupp - have collected more than 400 stories over the last two years, and are aiming for a total of 1,000.

Send 'em my way next... I got a few stacked up on the backburner. And they're getting a little overcooked. (discuss)

Nancy Pearl retires
Children everywhere break into raucous behaviour and begin bullying reading sissies. Nation's libraries burn... Oh, wait, those weren't children? Ah, Republicans... (discuss)

What the hell am I doing at Maisonneuve?
When I could be working for one of these puppies*...

The traditional business model of magazines holds that publishers use distinctive journalism to assemble a tribe of readers that is then marketed to advertisers. By offering marketers a catalog-inspired environment where products on editorial pages and products in ads appear side by side, publishers may find consumers and advertisers wondering whether the articles were always somewhat beside the point.

Hot damn! It's an editor's dream! (discuss)

The left gets organized with its own bookclub
And serves tea and scones with sides of indignation. (discuss)

Steinbecks! Meet the Steinbecks! They're the modern litigious family!
Maybe the Steinbecks and the Hemigways should get together and go bowling. It could be called Kookfest2004. But instead of balls and pins it would be Bluto-esque bombs and sticks of dynamite. (discuss)

Comics, house... comics, house... comics, house...
I'll take house for $250G, Alex. (discuss)

Pamela Anderson: "actress", "author", freakish mannequin
The book is blurbed with "Find out what happens when the A-list meets the D-cup", but we all know the A-list finds D-cup so gauche, don't we darlings? Should be a big hit with the Maxim set. What? No pictures? Oh. I stand corrected. (From Maud) (discuss)

You have bad taste in music
Okay, this isn't book related, but dammit, someone should do this at a Danielle Steel book signing... (Note: the videos are the funny part.) (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)


Excuse me while I barf
Homogeneity, thy name is Condé Nast.*

But at a time when The New Yorker has more than a million readers and is contributing actual profits to the coffers of Condé Nast, Mr. Truman said that it might be a good time for a magazine that gives Gauguin — and his more contemporary cohort — the Nicole Kidman treatment. "What Condé Nast magazines do best is to democratize sophisticated, aristocratic tastes," Mr. Truman said. "That is what Vogue does, what Lucky does, what Gourmet and GQ do."

Well, I suppose it's better than people reading ... People... but I suspect this will rather quickly join the long line of magazines (see, National Geographic) out there that fool people into thinking they've learned something when all they've done is opened wide for de widdle airpwane. (discuss)

Speaking of which: What's the secret to Da Code's success?
In a word? Flattery.

The riddle-solving offers another pleasure, the same quiet satisfaction derived from reading the solution to the previous day's crossword: a-ha, so that's what it meant! As for the art history and smatterings of church arcana, publishing insiders say this works a treat with readers, flattering them into feeling smart and rewarding them with the sense that they have learned something.

Always with da flattery, you. (discuss)

Fiery speech = book sales
I wish a speech* were all it took... I blab all the time and still: nothing. But, man, isn't Obama the real thing? I may just buy the book. (discuss)

M. Night Shyamalan: Auteur/Thief?
The Village seems to be very similar to Margaret Peterson Haddix's YA book, Running Out of Time...

Similar? Without spoiling the film's big surprise, we can say Running Out of Time and The Village are both set in an insular rural town where something major happens that requires medicine. In both projects, the protagonists are tomboys and the adults are keeping a secret - the same secret, say those familiar with the works - from the young people. Haddix's book, aimed at 8-to-12-year-olds, has sold more than a half-million copies, according to Simon & Schuster.

Me smells lawsuits, preeecioussss. (discuss)

The Late Style
I got something to say... Maybe you can both burn out and fade away...

Each of us can supply evidence of how it is that late works crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavour. Rembrandt and Matisse, Bach and Wagner. But what of artistic lateness not as harmony and resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty and contradiction? What if age and ill health don't produce serenity at all?

Actually, Edward Said had something to say in this, his final article. (Or he had something he wanted "said", as the case may be.) (From ALDaily) (discuss)

I dislike Ben Stiller
I know it flies in the face of my generation, but I find him ... smelly. Now he may be making George Saunders' CivilWarLand into a film... I guess he can stay. But tell him to stand over by the Glade Plugin. (His shoulders always seem too tight and when I watch him I often get embarrassed, like I would for the class clown who tried too hard. Oh, wait, that was me.) (From Bookslut) (discuss)

Serialized novels doing well
In the NYT.

Serialization in newspapers and magazines was a common practice in the 19th century, with William Thackery, Wilkie Collins and perhaps most famously, Charles Dickens, plotting their way through the pages of periodicals before releasing the stories in book form. About a year and a half after The Globe started publishing in 1844, for example, the paper ran chapters from Dickens's Dombey and Son on the front page -- ahead of an account of the installation of the Wellington Monument in London.


Pinter wins Owen Award
For anti-Iraq war poems. (discuss)

I've got three words for you...
Deputy Executive Director. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Character Assasination
In honour of the upcoming U.S. election, I decided to devote my latest Ottawa Citizen column to politics and literature. My favourite part is the Rush Limbaugh bit:

Limbaugh went so far as to dedicate a section of his radio show to Checkpoint, which he called an example of the "vile hatred" of the left and the "dog Democrats." In the same broadcast, and without any apparent sense of irony, Limbaugh urged a journalism student to write an article in which her left-leaning professor is shot down by the Secret Service after a botched assassination attempt -- motivated by the fact she is a Democrat "concubine" and had read Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance, which focuses on saving the environment. If this were fiction, nobody would believe it.

I really wanted to end the column with Cummings' "next to of course god america i," but I was afraid people wouldn't get it. (discuss)

The Book Art of Robert Minsky
Very cool site featuring the book as an art/political fetish object using various technologies. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Verbatim Online
Language Hat points to online issues of a fascinating language quarterly, featuring such topics as the influence of James Murray on the OED and the use of language in the SM scene. You may think those topics are unrelated, but we know from personal experience that you are wrong. (discuss)

Hellblazer was one of my favourite comics
Oh, John Constantine, what have they done to you? (discuss)

You don't know Dick
Maisonneuve columnist and Ninja reader Michel Basilières examines the cult of Philip K. Dick.

It's hard to escape the growing cult surrounding Philip K. Dick; articles about the author are appearing everywhere these days. This probably would never have happened if Hollywood hadn't discovered Dick's literary canon. Three major films based on his books have already been made and another is in the works. Of course, as it always does, Hollywood picks what it can use from his work and discards everything else. Thus even the best of the films made from his work, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, is a mere adventure movie from which the typical voice of Philip K. Dick is absent. And this is a good thing because, let's face it, Dick was a terrible writer.

And Dick's fans are frothing at the mouth in the comments section below. Regardless of the fact that I'm his editor, I agree with much of Michel's argument. Besides, it's so funny to watch SF fans froth and shake. They're simultaneously cute and sad. (discuss)

Devo is offensive?
I mean, other than conceptually? It appears so, at least to Kansans...

The Kansas attorney general has withheld more than 1,600 compact discs from distribution to state libraries because officials determined the albums promote violence or illegal activity, records show.

Other acts include Outkast, Rage Against the Machine, and STP. Other than repeatedly giving Weiland second, third and fourth chances, what is offensive about STP? (discuss)

Holy Fark!
Allegations surface at Wired that Fark's been taking payments for placement of news stories...

...there is a growing trend in publishing, online and off, in which the walls between advertising and editorial are breaking down.

And furthermore...

Paid placement is a long-running issue with search engines. Google does not accept payment for ordering search results, while Yahoo does. But while newspapers and magazines have traditionally been loath to blend advertising and editorial, product placement is common on television and in movies.

It's like finding out the older cousin you admire is actually a Scott Weilandesque smackhead... Disturbing at first, but then part of you starts wondering what it would be like. (From PFW) (discuss)

The Onion adds a few layers
While many newspapers are paring back their offerings, The Onion is expanding.* God bless 'em. (discuss)

Babel rises again
English: linguistic link and bogeyman both.

The rise of English as a lingua franca will not necessarily do much to diminish arguments over national languages within or between countries, in places like the Balkans or the Baltic states. Such arguments tend to be about the division of political power between rival communities, rather than about language as such. It may, on the other hand, have a big impact on the institutions of the European Union, and even on European integration. The EU recognises an official language for every country, and translates all main public documents into all 20 of those languages. But civil servants and committees within the EU's institutions use three main working languages: English, French and German. French has long been fighting a losing battle against English for “market share” among the three, with German far behind. The arrival of more countries favouring English will threaten to render French almost as marginal as German.

(From ALDaily) (discuss)


Sweet merciful crap!
In the distance, klaxons. Closer, the smell of civilization burning to the foundations...

Next time your four-year-old has a tantrum in the high street do you: a) tell him off, b) bribe him with a packet of sweets or c) nip into Waterstones and buy him a self-help book? Increasingly, the answer might be the third option. The 'mind, body, spirit' market has found a new, lucrative and impressionable audience - the stressed out under tens and their equally anxious parents.

That's it! I quit this planet! You can have your species... And I'm taking this lamp with me when I go! (discuss)

Who wrote Shakespeare?

Will no one accept my Harold Bloom time travel theory??

Marlowe advocates introduced new computer technology able to compare authorship of work based on repetitive data found through a compression algorithm of the text. This study, performed most recently by a student, Ian Cummings, for a Discovery Channel science fair, linked the work of Marlowe with that attributed to the Bard. Many scholars presume there was some collaboration, meaning one genius was not responsible for Shakespeare, but rather a team of authors who seemed to speak from a single voice.

Philistines. (discuss)

Germans abandon spelling reforms
All words to now officially be spelled b-o-r-k.

The two companies are not the first publishers to abandon the 1996 spelling rules, which included changing the spelling of many compound words and cutting the distinctive "sz" sound represented by a beta character.

Or to translate:

Bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork 1996 bork bork, bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork "sz" bork bork bork bork bork bork.


Nadine Gordimer: author, censor, possible bitch
The Nobel laureate gets medieval on her biographer's ass and forces dumping of seven years worth of work. (discuss)

Thanks for the memoirs
Memoirs are everywhere. Come read about the time when I did not have sex with that woman, minus the story about how I did not have sex with that woman.

Of course, predicting which memoir will be a success is no easy task. As Weiler points out, memoirs only occasionally make the bestseller lists: The author has to be just the right combination of household name, but not so well-known that readers think they've heard it all before.

Or read about everyday people who seldom stain their interns' clothes. And I stress "seldom". (discuss)

Hot buns Pitt & Aniston, lit playahs
Apparently, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are the midlist author's dream... That's funny, I thought selling out your advance was the midlist author's dream. (discuss)

What do these ladies and Maya Angelou have in common?
Too much, and yet not nearly enough. (From PFW) (discuss)


Is style dead?
Or is it like a zombie, forever wandering the halls of academia and shopping malls, looking for brains?

Today in English departments in the United States and Britain, stylisticians are few and far and between and tend to be graybeards approaching retirement. What happened? In a word, poststructuralism. Perhaps the most influential of the many ideas of the deconstructionists and other theorists who emerged in France in the 1960s was that "privileging" writers, as the Romantic tradition had done for some 200 years, was a grave mistake. All they were doing, after all, was unconsciously inscribing power relations in society and other circumstances beyond their control. That being the case, wasn't it silly for critics to sit at their feet, as it were, endlessly describing their attributes, one of which was style? One might as well analyze a magazine advertisement or a comic book, and, in fact, the deconstructionists did so. In 1969 Michel Foucault closed his essay "What Is an Author?" with a quotation from Samuel Beckett: "What difference does it make who is speaking?"


Forget who wrote Shakespeare -- who cares?
After all, what does he have to offer contemporary audiences?

A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of going to see Measure For Measure at London's National Theatre.

As usual with Shakespeare's plays, the audience had to be told the plot beforehand in the programme notes, because everyone knows that Elizabethan English will leave you confused within seconds.

The woman to my left sat still throughout the whole thing, seemingly engrossed. At first, I assumed she must be a renowned Shakespeare scholar. But no, she was fast asleep.

The truth is that Shakespeare is losing his appeal in his own country.

And if you really want to check out some verse plays, give Steven Berkoff a try. (From Elegant Variation) (discuss)

Roommate from
Indie writer Jim Munroe is publishing his new book as a blog.

When Kate discovers that her roommate identifies as a demoness, she figures it's too sacrilicious a secret to keep to herself: she tells all on her blog,

This is the basic gist of my new book, An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, a tale of the urban occult told entirely through Kate's entries. Starting today, I'll be posting one a day to the faux blog until all 88 entries (the whole book) are up. After that I'll be writing a spinoff story based on how the poll on the site goes.

Check out the future of books, kiddies. (discuss)


Khouri strikes back, pauses for deep Vader breathing, offers hand to Luke
Despite supposedly overwhelming evidence against her, Norma Khouri has submitted "documentation" to prove she didn't grow up in Chicago and isn't a conwoman.

Forbidden Love tells the story of Khouri's life in Jordan and the murder of her friend Dalia, a Muslim slain in an honour killing because of her love for a Christian soldier.

But an investigation by Knox uncovered evidence that, although born in Jordan in 1970, Khouri left at the age of 3 and lived between 1973 and 1999 in Chicago.

The investigation alleged that she was in fact a con-artist named Norma Bagain Toliopoulos, married to a Greek-American, John Toliopoulos, and that the couple lived for two years on Queensland's Bribie Island with their two children, Zoe and Christopher.

Seizing on the idea, much of the rest of the population of Chicago follows suit. (Oops, sorry, I often forget that Chicago isn't Philadelphia...) (discuss)

Secretly I long for the drama club to rise up and inherit the earth...
Rise, my pasty skinned brethren! Don your masks of tragedy and comedy and clad yourselves in the raiment of kings (should the dressers have your size on hand)! The time has come to straighten those knobby elbows, point to the heavens and utter your terrible battle cry: "Rubberbabybuggybumpers! Rhubarbrhubarbrhubarb!"

"If we feel that our safety is unable to be secured, then we'll have to consider cancelling the performance," said Jennifer Deon, a spokesperson for the Shakespeare in the Park Festival.

Over the weekend, Deon says members of her troupe were attacked by a group of young people during an afternoon rehearsal.

"They were swinging skateboards, throwing rocks at us, I just said, "That's enough. I can't believe this is happening.'"

In all seriousness, I wish I had a ready contingent of ninjas on hand to send down there to stand around, all menacing-like. We'd dance fight 'em to the strains of Pat Benatar's Love is a Battlefield! It'll be just like when she throws that drink in the pimp's face! Yeah! "We are young...!" (Slow connection and still want to see Pat pout? Click here.) (discuss)

Code/nut breakers
The meatheads guarding these guys are not...

Serious new allegations about the ill-treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been revealed in a series of letters from a British detainee, who has accused US guards of threatening him with sexual assault and physical violence, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The letters from Martin Mubanga, one of the last remaining British detainees in Guantanamo Bay, were carefully written to escape the military censors, using a unique mixture of London street slang, Cockney, Jamaican patois and rap lyrics.

A sample goes: "The bully boy loves to be the bully boy, chats enough crap and giving it large. Expecting man n' man to bend over so as them there can give to man n' man real good. Boy must be thinking man n' man is some kind of rent boy." Not that I'm anything but glad these kinds of allegations are being made public, but, man, that reads more like a bad A Clockwork Orange rip off than a viable code. Who's doing the censoring here, an 80 year-old hermit? (discuss)

250 more Larkins
A hoard of Larkin's unpublished work is found. Damn. That's $50 more I'm going to have to lay out next year... (discuss)

RIP: Donald Justice
Dead of pneumonia at 78. (From Maud) (discuss)

Maxim: um, poetry?

It's unlikely you'll develop a subtle inner life reading Maxim, unless thinking to yourself "Could penis enlargement really work for me?" counts as an inner life. But apparently working for Maxim does put one at risk for introspection: There are no fewer than three "serious" literary books now in print by present-day or former Maxim top brass: Dave Itzkoff's Lads, a coming-of-age memoir; former editor in chief Keith Blanchard's The Deed, a novel; and, weirdest of all, A Glass Half Full, a book of poetry by Maxim's multizillionaire publisher, Felix Dennis.

I can see it now: "Honestly, I just read it for the poetry..." (discuss)


RIP: Czeslaw Milosz
We are poorer.* Dead at 93. (discuss)

Notes on the lyric
Carl Wilson looks at the literary icon as rock lyricist...

Despite any stigma, in recent years such authors as Denis Johnson (Jesus' Son), mystery writer Carl Hiaasen, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and Canada's Guy Vanderhaeghe have become backstage Cyranos, putting words in the mouths of those with better voices and bigger hair.
In centuries past, it was common for eminent novelists such as Henry Fielding, Ivan Turgenev or André Gide to write words for music, usually as opera librettos. But when opera was eclipsed by pop, writers staged a walkout. Poets and even music critics since then have often turned into songwriters; but serious novelists, almost never.

Novel writing was the 20th century's most upwardly mobile, bourgeois literary pursuit. You could be an author and a composer, such as Paul Bowles, or a fine singer such as James Joyce (whose wife Nora reportedly said late in life that her husband should have stuck to music). But to dally with pop would have seemed too cheap or, for the higher-minded, too commercial.

And it's nice to see him quoting from such prestigious, reliable, downright sexy sources, too... (discuss)

So, regarding the omnibus review, you gotta ask yourself...
Is it worth it? Well, we obviously disagree here but, then again, we're not the New York Times. That is to say, a positive blurb on the back of your next book from Bookninja will probably sell fewer copies (only a few fewer) than one from NYT. Well, considering that they used to review one poetry book at a time, and that said book was usually some giant name reviewed by some other name: is the advent of the jam-packed omnibus review* (SEVEN books!) a good thing? I am tempted to say... (discuss)

Khouri senses disturbance in the farce... a presence she has not felt since..........
Well, for once it seems the old liar's motto (DENY, DENY, DENY) has failed... Random House isn't buying Khouri's story.* Nor are they selling it. (discuss)

Mental note: apply at Crapters
Waterstone's employee gets first kids book published... Chain vows to do everything in its power to promote the book. How selfless, helping out their employee like that when they stand to gain nothing from millions of dollars worth of sales! Still, beats my job... Do you think my son ever says a word about my books to his friends? Noooo. It's just I'm-hungry! read-me-a-book! Why-won't-you-let-me-watch-TV?! Eat-eat-eat! Why-is-my-diaper-full?! (discuss)

Hemingway on the radio
William Burrill is still squeezing material out of Hemingway. I read his bio of Hemingway's Toronto years a long while ago and as I remember, it was okay, if a little padded. (discuss)

Beautiful Kooser
Ted Kooser the new US poet laureate. (Eight month terms? Do they get to take their coats off?) (discuss)

Creative writing discussed ad nauseum
That is to say, at all. I honestly and truly used to care. I really did. Now I forget that they go on (and on and on and on) and that people live their lives out within them. (From GoodReports) (discuss)

Teen angst poetry reading
Don't all rush out at once now... Unless you have a particularly honed sense of camp to go with your angst. (From PFW) (discuss)



I thought I was the only one who had sexual fantasies about librarians
Turns out there's a whole genre for pervs like me. (From Memepool) (discuss)

Where's Project Mayhem?
Fight Club -- the video game. (discuss)

First it was the heat death of the universe, now it's the Singularity?
Sci-fi writers Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross ponder the future.

I take advantage of a rare break in their conversation to ask, "Would the Singularity be the first such event in human history?" Collaborating on an answer, the two cite revolutionary developments such as the birth of language and the dawn of agriculture but soon agree that the Singularity would surpass all these in intensity. "The Singularity is pretty thermonuclear in terms of its finality," Doctorow says later. "It's apocalyptic in every sense of the word." Doctorow's dramatics are easier to digest in light of what Vinge has said of the Singularity: "Shortly after [it occurs], the human era will be ended"--the Singularity will usher in the "posthuman" era.

I, for one, welcome our new machine overlords. (From Bookslut) (discuss)


Hail to the moron
Philip Marchand tells us Americans like 'em smart and well-spoken or dumb as posts and misunderestimated.

Recently a story circulated about a new study of American presidents' IQ. According to the story, something called the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Penn., estimated the IQ of every president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush. Its list confirmed the widespread suspicion that the latter was plain stupid — his IQ was given as 91, below average. (Bill Clinton possessed the highest ranking, with an estimated IQ of 182.)


Grand Moff Khouri defiantly dismissive of rebel advance until camera cuts away and Death Star explodes
Norma Khouri claims all money from her fraud has gone to charity. The force is strong with this one. But she is brash and impetuous. Gosh, you know, maybe she and DBC should get together and exchange notes. (From PFW) (discuss)

Welcome back, time to go

Ngugi wa Thiong'o returns to Kenya after 22 years of self-imposed exile only to be robbed and beaten days later. (discuss)

The language of book reviewing. Yeesh!

All trades have some kind of professional jargon – hacks must have their spikes, and cobblers their lasts – but there's something different about the patois of Grub Street. Admittedly, it relies on the same sorts of abbreviations as other trades: "I couldn't put it down" becomes "unputdownable"; "It was so funny I laughed out loud" becomes "laughoutloud funny". Publishers and critics need these terms like they need terms for genres, such as chicklit, ladlit, bonkbusters, sexandshopping and killerchillers. Somehow, the way we talk about writing has become rich in clichés. It affects the way we publish books, the way we cover them, and the way we consume them. You could devise a circle of clichés, starting (because we have to start somewhere) with the publishers. Publishers have to tell journalists, shopkeepers and readers what a book is like as quickly as possible, so find themselves using an immediately recognisable language.

Yeah, I hate the way I'm always being called "masterful"... like, what does that MEAN? (From ALDaily) (discuss)

RIP: Thea Astley
Australian novelist, dead at 78.* (discuss)

RIP: Bill Martin Jr.
Children's author, dead at 88. (discuss)

Americans like Aussie-Canucks
Well, one in particular. A particularly nice review of ninja favourite, Jonathan Bennett. So if you haven't bought it yet.... (From Thoughts Dissected). (discuss)

Harlequin on the ropes
Sorry, Harlequin, tossed forcefully against the burning ropes,* hands bound with silk behind the back, bossom heaving, mouth forced open, a small cry of fear--or was it passion--escaping the slick red lips...

In many ways Harlequin's current weakness looks bad only when compared with its previous, staggering success. It published 1,113 romance novels in 2002, more than half of the 2,169 romance titles released that year by the entire industry, according to the Romance Writers of America, a trade group. The next most prolific publisher of romance fiction, Kensington, sent a mere 219 titles to market.

You'll pay Henry Montague. I'll make you my man yet! (discuss)

JK Rowling turned into a statue?
No, it's not magic you little muggles... They just put her make up on her and let it harden. (JK, I love you. Why do you insist on going in drag all the time?) (discuss)

The. Ninjinator2000. Must. Have.
This. Is. My. Robot. Voice. I. Want. This. Briefcase. And. Please. Do. Not. Be. So. Rough. With. My. Mouse. (From. Maud.) (discuss)

People Magazine
Keeping the public informed. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Just a reminder we're still on retreat with our shadowy masters here at Ninja Central, so posting will continue to be sporadic. But we'll be returning soon, to once again wreak havoc on our unsuspecting enemies -- and our suspecting but weak enemies too!

Lost in the suburbs
Ryan Bigge wonders why CanLit is so slow to celebrate the suburban.

In the Fall of 2001 I began researching a guide to Toronto's 905 region and discovered it was anything but lifeless sprawl. By the time my sleuthing was complete, I had witnessed enough signs, symbols and simulacrums to keep a cultural studies professor happily engaged in deconstruction for months. A giant theatre disguised as a spaceship. Planespotters. Barbecued pigeon. J-Town (a miniature Japanese mall). Massage parlours colloquially known as rub 'n' tugs. Life-sized terra cotta replicas of Chinese soldiers from the Underground Army guarding a washroom entrance. A mall with art replicated from the Great Wall. Muslim and Jewish worshippers sharing a parking lot. A spouse swapping publication called Tryst Magazine. Cougar bars.

I was not surprised by what I saw so much as puzzled that so few authors had seized upon this raw material. Herge, the creator of Tintin, once remarked that he had always wanted to set an entire book of adventures inside an airport. Why hasn't anyone thought to situate an entire novel (or at least a novella) inside a Canadian mall?


Can't we all just, uh, get along?
Hey, Woody Harrelson is a poet . . . or something . . . . (From Metafilter) (discuss, dudes)

A comsymp . . . or worse
Scrabble on TV? Look out, Golf Channel!

This year, the issue resurfaced because the tournament was to be televised. The National Scrabble Association made it clear that the 170 verboten words, while acceptable during the first 30 rounds, would not be allowed during the televised finals. (This was decided in conjunction with ESPN, apparently to avoid the wrath of the FCC.) The rules were made clear to all players before the tournament, and the list of bad words was provided to the two finalists the night before their match. If they were unsure whether a word they wanted to play during the game was acceptable, they were to consult an official.


You darling, darling! You wield that cane as if to the manor born!
OK, it's not exactly literature, but the Victorian Sex Cry Generator may appeal to the academic ninjas. (From Memepool) (discuss -- oh, discuss!)


Alice in Wonderland gallery
This site seems to be a pretty comprehensive collection of Alice in Wonderland illustrators, including Salvador Dali. The site owner may want to add Vik Muniz's portrait of Alice found on The Walrus website. It's brilliant -- an Alice made up of a gap in a field of toys. (On a side note, I like the direction The Walrus is taking, but something needs to be done about its copy editing. A monthly magazine trying to be the Canadian Harper's shouldn't look like the National Post. Nothing should look that bad.) (Alice site from Boing Boing) (discuss)

Terrible copy editing here too. . . .
The Star has mixed feelings about Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics, which I'm dying to read.

There is a danger afoot in the comic book realm these days, seeking to justify, to substantiate, to validate, to defend the medium's artistic authenticity. This is a false pursuit. True art provokes without need of analysis and explanation, as people like Lethem, Dyer and Gold know well; those seeking to justify the comic realm seek not to justify the medium for the world at large, but only for themselves.


Gary Ross takes helm at Saturday Night...
Perennially dead/alive/dead/free mag gets new editor.

First founded in 1887 and aimed at Toronto's high society, Saturday Night began as a weekend read about public affairs and the arts. It eventually expanded into literature, criticism, opinion and more general features designed to appeal to the entire country.

In related news: David Berlin still trying to explain where it all went wrong... (discuss)

The internet, the web, the net
Peter, don't cringe! For once I'm right! Wired eschews the capitals, why shouldn't we?

True believers are fond of capitalizing words, whether they be marketers or political junkies or, in this case, techies. If It's Capitalized, It Must Be Important. In German, where all nouns are capitalized, it makes sense. It makes no sense in English. So until we become Die Wired Nachrichten, we'll just follow customary English-language usage.

(From Maud) (discuss)

Darth Khouri's story just gets worse and worse...
Turns out she's a liar, a conman (person of con), AND a thief.* I can't even excerpt this article because every line is damning, each new piece of information sending this bitch to a lower ring of hell. She's now bunking on a bed of nails just below Frank Sinatra and right above Ronald Reagan. (discuss)

"I never make disk copies of my work because I am not a computer boffin. I prefer just to do printouts on paper after I have finished each chapter. But I had not been doing that because I had been writing in the summer house and the printer was indoors."
Ah yes, the summer house. We can all relate to that. Fifty pages stolen from rich guy who likely doesn't deserve it. The richness, that is. News. (Isn't Michael Redhill in currently in Edinburgh? Hmmmm.....) (discuss)

Big article on little magazines
Sven Birkerts on the fate of the literary journal.

Existing somewhere between the ephemerality of the newspaper and magazine (and online zine -- another subject altogether) and the four-square permanence of the book, little magazines are well positioned to broker between topical and long-range perspectives. They are fluid and open in their relation to trends, even as the best of them can achieve a certain memorable -- perhaps even striking -- capture of energies. And because they are not essentially playing the for-profit game, they can hew just a bit closer to their own self-originated standards. They represent literature and opinion in repertory, talents en route, freeze-framed; they are a staking of bets on artists and artistic tendencies by editors who dream of eventual vindication.


Race gap in kids' lit
Does recognition breed interest and understanding?

It's only been in the last decade or so that African-American children and teenagers have been able to see their experiences carefully rendered in books by African-American authors.

Before the explosion of multicultural children's literature in the early '90s, books by black authors with black protagonists were largely missing from the canon -- absent from bookstores and school reading curricula.

While few educators would suggest that this vacancy has contributed to the achievement gap -- that stubborn performance divide between black students and their white counterparts -- anecdotal evidence suggests that these books may be inspiring more black children to read, and perhaps helping to redress the pernicious divide.

(From GoodReports) (discuss)

Back to school
Why do teachers assign the books they do?*

Barbara Feinberg's Welcome to Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up (Beacon Press) conjures up memories of such youthful literary predilections. Feinberg, who runs an arts program for kids, was provoked to write this unusual hybrid of memoir and polemic by the trials of her 12-year-old son, Alex. She had seen him steel himself, again and again, for the joyless task of completing the assigned reading for his ''language arts'' class, and she decided to investigate how those books could so oppress a boy who otherwise happily gobbled up Harry Potter novels and anything by or about his idol, Mel Brooks.

I vote for spite and unaddressed cruelty issues. That and laziness. (discuss)

Sequelizing the classics...
A Peter Pan prequel? That's about as good an idea as a Star Wars prequel... Maybe Peter will have anthropomorphic, politically questionable sidekicks. Again. (discuss)

Way to go, homeboy
Ninja favourite, and Guelph, Ontario, local boy Seth has been covered by most major news outlets in recent months. Now he does some covering of his own as illustrator for the current New Yorker. (discuss)


Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos
Memepool points to the differences between the Kerry and Bush campaigns when it comes trusting the intelligence of their supporters. The Kerry campaign offers a style guide for supporters writing letters to newspapers. The Bush campaign tells people what to write. Actually, you don't even have to write anything -- you can just click on the text you want. At least they have choices.... (discuss)

Canadian Essentials has released its Canadian Essentials lists. There's a top-50 Canadian books list and then some staff picks (my list is Rewriting Canadian History). Some Ninja faves are mentioned -- Seth, Michel Basilieres, Derek McCormack (multiple times!). (discuss)


Finish him! Finish him!
Sequential Tart offers a far-too-kind counterpoint to that rather silly NY Times article about graphic novels.

[It's] not a bad article, but [it's] clearly written by someone who has never read many graphic novels before. I do love how he overgeneralizes and doesn't realize that when he says "oh media attention before on comics was so crude and dismissive" that he's doing the same thing. And for some reason the guy is inordinately obsessed with sexual frustration as portrayed in GNs.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

"I'm Going to Read Three Poems"
I read this Kroetsch poem the other day in the Walrus and rather liked it. So here you are. (discuss)

Thank God I'm not 16 now
Every time I think I'm finally hip, someone does something to point out just how ungelling I am. This week, it's eye weekly's Sasha discussing porn graphic novels. In related news, Playboy is about to feature a special spread of topless video-game vixens. I'm putting all my money into Kleenex stock right now! (discuss)


What good is the study of arts anyway?
Helen Vendler offers an answer in a National Endowment for the Humanities lecture.

The arts bring into play historical and philosophical questions without implying the prevalence of a single system or of universal solutions. Artworks embody the individuality that fades into insignificance in the massive canvas of history and is suppressed in philosophy by the desire for impersonal assertion. The arts are true to the way we are and were, to the way we actually live and have lived--as singular persons swept by drives and affections, not as collective entities or sociological paradigms. The case histories developed within the arts are in part idiosyncratic, but in part applicable by analogy to a class larger than the individual entities they depict. Hamlet is a very specific figure--a Danish prince who has been to school in Germany--but when Prufrock says, "I am not Prince Hamlet," he is in a way testifying to the fact that Hamlet means something to every one who knows about the play.

Me, I do it for the money and women. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Aimee Bender's "Fonts"
Short, short stories about, uh, fonts. I haven't read anything by Aimee Bender yet, but I'm going to read more. I think I'm in love. (From Maud) (discuss)

More Booker prize than you can shake two wide-eyed Canadians at
Two Canadian rookies make the Booker long list. Read the press release here (funny, it seems to be all original material), and read the ensuing media blitz here. (See what happens when you write your own press releases?) (Several links poached from PFW) (discuss)

A defence of the short story
Like Canuck ninja Jonathan Bennett's inspiring speech of last year, but longer. Charles McGrath looks at the form* that people love to hate forgetting about.

Almost no one makes a living from writing short stories anymore. ... Oddly, though, you can still make a pretty good living by teaching other people how to write short stories. The form survives - and even thrives, in a forced, hothouse sort of way - because it has become the instructional medium of choice in most of our writing programs. The majority of people who enroll in these programs want to be novelists, but novels don't lend themselves very readily to the workshop format, and so would-be novelists these days spend at least part of their apprenticeship working on stories. They're a little like those people who learn golf by never venturing onto a golf course but instead practicing at a driving range. The result, or so we are always being told, is a couple of generations' worth of people - a vast and somewhat underemployed army - who have been trained to write competent but profoundly uninspired short fiction that is unread except by other writers of short fiction and by the people who hire them to instruct yet more people in this arcane little craft.


Poet pleads for stolen ms, gets told to copulate with self
Maud makes some funny comments about this recent rash of stolen manuscripts. And she's right to. People need fun made of them and usually I like to be involved. So, far be it from me to put a serious spin on something that pokes fun, but I did have a building fall on my last manuscript, hard and electronic copies both, and it was the kindness of strangers that helped recover it. I emailed all the editors at journals who were either still considering or had already accepted the poems for publication, explained the situation and asked them to send originals back. Virtually every one did (at their expense) and I must have got 60% of the ms back through the mail. Many of the edits weren't up to date, but the exercise did allow me to note that of the 60% returned, about 50% of those were crap, and I let them go. Then when I finally got the actual ms back from the frozen zone, dusty and wilted but whole, I realized the other 40% were all crap and that's probably why I never sent them out in the first place. Perhaps these thefts are literary gods telling writers to look closer and/or let go. Or maybe they're just greedy, desperate people looking for loose change. One of those two. (discuss)

Russell Smith on dick-lit
Hm. (discuss)

Rowling endorses Edinburgh, Cover Girl
JK Rowling has lent support to the cause.

Organisers of the bid to be named UNESCO’s first "World City of Literature" had been cautious about invoking JK Rowling’s name. But yesterday she gave her unqualified and public backing for the first time. "It’s impossible to live in Edinburgh without sensing its literary heritage everywhere," she said.


Gore Vidal in tough bind
And he's not enjoying it. He's selling his Amalfi hut* for a few bucks and can't find anywhere to keep his modest library. (I have virtually this same picture in my Italy collection, taken from the cliffside road, only my shot was through a bus window and it was a day trip in the town. They don't let the likes of me stay there unless my mouth is attached to someone rich's genitals. A highly unlikely scenario these days.) (discuss)

File this under: I can't believe I got to it before Pete
Yes, Ninja Murray (the cute one with the Tourette's and pegleg) posting on typography. Well, I stole the link from Maud, so... Interesting piece, though. (discuss)

Not book-related but oh, so revealing
Ladies and gentlemen, I may be related to this man. I'm very serious. I still have to call my dad to confirm it's not my uncle. Funny thing is, if it is him, I'm pretty sure he had no intention of fencing it. (discuss)


"In five years, the penis will be obsolete."
What's your favourite opening to a book? (discuss)

Always came to class overprepared
Why aren't more students rating David Foster Wallace? Ah, if only they'd had Rate My Professor when I was an undergrad ... and thank God they didn't have it when I was teaching. (From Jeff) (discuss)

Maybe one day we'll do a Bookninja typeface
These days, anyone can make a typeface. But that doesn't mean you should.

Now, for well over a decade, computer programs like FontLab and Fontographer have allowed neophytes, as well as veterans, to create a new generation of digital type. During the ensuing digital typographic revolution of the 90s, a slew of designers and illustrators who had never designed an alphabet before flooded Internet sites with bizarrely named, peculiarly styled and sometimes illegible faces. Typeface design became something of an expressive art.


"You made many boys happy"
Marvel Comics Swimsuit Editions. 'Nuff said. (From Bookslut) (discuss)

Fiction kicked to the curb
Oh yeah, baby! I can feeeeel it.

Although fiction still sells in great quantities and continues to produce stars, the attention of publishers and booksellers has moved elsewhere. Everyone in publishing agrees it is getting harder to sell a new novel, even by a distinguished name, in this country; book buyers seem interested only in non-fiction.

The heyday of poetry is JUST around the corner. Yesterday it was fiction, today non-fiction. Tomorrow? What's left? Me, yo. I knew I could wait you out. Come to papa. (discuss)

In related news
Apparently prose just don't make the cut when it comes to hot monkey love.

PROSE is all very well for the day-to-day stuff. You know, the usual – the sex and shopping, the go-to-work and get-back-home-again, the ongoing affairs of war and peace which are needed to fill in the gap between birth and death.

This is the sort of never-ending flow we write down in sensible sentences and paragraphs. We chronicle and document them. But who remembers a paragraph? Next to nobody. When it comes to a line of poetry, a verse, a complete poem even, most of us, however, can manage to recite something. The fact is that for those really big moments in life – the events that demand more than a just passing acknowledgement – stodgy prose simply isn't up to the job.

Well, I could have told you that. (You just clicked on "hot monkey love"... was it the first time today? Poor you.) (From PFW) (discuss)

Poet murdered in Hollywood
Ex-husband charged with murder of 25-year-old spoken word artist. (discuss)

Twenty clams on gambling addiction to win
Those crazy Brits will bet on anything. Even the (grab your crotch and say it with an Ahnold accent) MAHNBÖKUH prize. (discuss)

Clear cutting Amazon
While guest blogging on Sarah Weinman's wildly successful crime fiction blog Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, author Jason Starr cuts loose on Amazon.

My problem with Amazon (and BN) is that the used books are sold right alongside new books. Every writer and publisher despises this. When someone goes to Amazon with the intention of paying full price for a book they should pay full price--end of story. The way it works now is akin to standing on line to purchase a book at your local brick and mortar bookstore and having the salesperson say to you at checkout, "Are you sure you wouldn't rather pay 1 dollar for that 24 dollar book?"... Of course at Amazon, when someone changes their mind and decides to purchase a book used, neither the author nor the publisher profits from the transaction. Naturally, Amazon makes a commission, which is the source of the problem--Amazon doesn't care whether they make their money off the sale of used books or new books--it's all the same to them...In fact (I don't know if anyone has heard this) but Amazon takes into account the sale of used books into their rankings! So you can see your Amazon ranking increasing because of the sale of used books, making the ranking an even more unreliable indicator of a book's overall sales.

Rise up, people! Ah, forget it... You never do. I should have lived during the French revolution... maybe then I could have rallied my people and died of syphilis in peace. (discuss)

Milosz eulogized

At SFGate. I'm surprised I haven't found* more. (From the deciduous PFW) (discuss)

Donald Justice feted
In the NYT.* I would like to get this collected. Any rich people reading? (Insert echo and crickets here.) (discuss)

George Johnston obituary
In the Globe. Nice profile. (discuss)

Kay Ryan profiled
In the CSM. Um, but she's still alive. (discuss)

Status of the E-book
For those of you looking for the all-important e-book update.

Hardware issues have become less prominent since publishers have been more willing to format e-books for the devices people already have with them--PCs, laptops and handheld computers. Instead, concern about illegal copying of material is emerging as one of the biggest roadblocks to e-book adoption. Publishers have tried a bewildering variety of digital rights management (DRM) schemes, ranging from books that expire in 60 days to hands-off approaches that rely on customer honesty.

Riveting. Really, I find it riveting. Countdown to eye-bleeding reading, baby. (discuss)

File under: sounds like my house
10,000 books forgotten in abandoned building. (discuss)

Poetry in, er... Motion?
Poetry on the Wee?* Toiletry in Motion? Poetry in Flowtion? Or should I sink so low and go with Pooetry? (discuss)

You know what we do with poetry lovers up in these here parts, don't you?
We shoot em. (discuss)


I'm spending my thesis money on a trip to Disneyland!
Canadian grad students are up in arms about having to publish their theses through ProQuest, an American company. While some students don't like dealing with the Yanks, others are concerned about having to sign away their royalties to ProQuest.

"What is copyright worth if we were writing something that is fabulously popular and everyone wants to read it? This company could make a whole lot of money on it."

Uh-huh. Look out Da Vinci Code, here comes "The Candle Relic of Anglo-Saxon Exeter: Early Medieval Ideas of the Physicality of Fire." (discuss)

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