The Book of Imaginary
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
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
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
But how fast can
you really read? (From Metafilter)
Penguin Putnam launches a book called Katie.com, 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.
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
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
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)
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."
The Library of Unwritten Books
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
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...
What the hell am I doing at Maisonneuve?
When I could be working for one of these
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
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
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,
Pamela Anderson: "actress", "author",
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)
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
Excuse me while
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.
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,
Fiery speech = book
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
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,
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)
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
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)
Serialized novels doing well
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
anti-Iraq war poems. (discuss)
I've got three words
Executive Director. (discuss)
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
Very cool site featuring the book
as an art/political fetish object using various technologies.
(From Metafilter) (discuss)
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)
was one of my favourite comics
what have they
done to you? (discuss)
You don't know
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)
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.
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)
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
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.
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
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??
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.
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
laureate gets medieval on her biographer's ass and forces dumping
of seven years worth of work. (discuss)
Thanks for the 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
Or read about everyday
people who seldom stain their interns' clothes. And I stress
Hot buns Pitt & Aniston, lit playahs
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?
much, and yet not nearly enough. (From PFW)
Is style dead?
Or is it like a zombie, forever wandering the halls of academia
and shopping malls, looking
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
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
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
Roommate from Hell.com
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, roommatefromhell.com.
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 roommatefromhell.com 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,
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
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
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:
"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?
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
hoard of Larkin's unpublished work is found. Damn. That's $50
more I'm going to have to lay out next year... (discuss)
of pneumonia at 78. (From Maud)
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)
are poorer.* Dead
at 93. (discuss)
Notes on the lyric
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,
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,
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.
Mental note: apply at Crapters
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)
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)
Teen angst poetry reading
Don't all rush out at once now... Unless you have a particularly
of camp to go with your angst. (From PFW)
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)
Fight Club -- the video
First it was the
heat death of the universe, now it's the Singularity?
Sci-fi writers Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross ponder
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)
Hail to the
Philip Marchand tells us Americans like 'em smart and well-spoken
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)
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)
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)
Australian novelist, dead
at 78.* (discuss)
RIP: Bill Martin Jr.
Children's author, dead
at 88. (discuss)
Well, one in
particular. A particularly nice review of ninja favourite, Jonathan
if you haven't bought it yet.... (From Thoughts
on the ropes
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?
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.)
the public informed. (discuss)
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,
Harrelson is a poet . . . or something . . . . (From Metafilter)
A comsymp . . . or worse
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)
-- oh, discuss!)
Alice in Wonderland
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
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.
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
Birkerts on the fate of the literary journal.
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.
Back to school
do teachers assign the books they do?*
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...
Peter Pan prequel? That's about as good an idea as
a Star Wars prequel... Maybe Peter will have anthropomorphic,
politically questionable sidekicks. Again.
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
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....
Amazon.ca 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
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.
"I'm Going to Read
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
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
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)
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
think I'm in love. (From Maud)
prize than you can shake two wide-eyed Canadians at
Canadian rookies make
the Booker long list. Read
the press release here (funny, it seems to be all original material),
(See what happens when you write your own press releases?) (Several
links poached from PFW)
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
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
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?
Always came to class
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)
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
Comics Swimsuit Editions. 'Nuff said. (From Bookslut)
to the curb
Oh yeah, baby! I can feeeeel it.
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
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
Well, I could have
told you that. (You just clicked on "hot monkey love"...
was it the first time today? Poor you.) (From PFW)
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
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)
SFGate. I'm surprised I haven't found*
(From the deciduous PFW)
Donald Justice feted
the NYT.* I would like to get this collected. Any rich people
reading? (Insert echo and crickets here.) (discuss)
George Johnston obituary
the Globe. Nice profile. (discuss)
Kay Ryan profiled
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
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
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?
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?
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
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)