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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 July August September October November December

2005:

January February March April May June July August September October November December

February 2005:

...

02/01/05:

@**$&** Joyce
Joyce and bad words.

Swearing for swearing's sake is not part of Joyce's aesthetic, "legitimate" or otherwise: anyone who appreciates Joyce's economy of language senses this instinctively, but there are any number of examples of "bad word" usage clearly not presented to win huzzahs from the sweaty-palmed reader. There is a pair of examples, in fact, which both ably demonstrate a similar scheme of swearing and represent climactic moments in the thematic struggle with illicit language.

(From Snarkout) (discuss)

Now THAT's hockey lit
Atwood gives some useful tips that only a Canadian contender for a Nobel could... Stack those pads, lady. (Second video from left) (Thanks to B) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hockey lit
Here at Ninja HQ, any mention of the Walrus is usually the signal to rush to the dojo and start sparring. While George and I battle it out in the triangle (we can't afford an octagon), why not pass the time by reading this article on hockey lit?

Hockey is our mythic game, as almost every hockey book states somewhere. It sings in our blood. Yet, unlike boxing or baseball, it has not produced a mythic literature.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Anansi Jr.?
In a clever, McDonald's-like move, Anansi acquires children's-lit publisher Groundwood Books. That's it -- get 'em started on picture books and soon they'll be gobbling avant-garde poetry and Massey Lectures in strip malls across the country! In all seriousness, glad to see the continued expansion of Anansi. Good things all around.

"We are still publishers of cutting edge poetry, fiction and of the Massey lectures -- but we felt we wanted to expand into markets we don't publish into," says Sarah MacLachlan, an industry veteran hired by Griffin as the firm's president in 2003.

"We had a strategic meeting about a year ago and one of the things we talked about was that so many bestsellers of recent years had been crossover books from children's literature, like Life of Pi, Harry Potter, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime -- we didn't have books like that on our list," she says. Shortly after, Aldana approached Griffin about the future of her company.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

And with a twinkle and click of her heels, the spry pixie cackled and disappeared
Would people actually be surprised if Margaret was faking it about the whole Frankenhand?

Just as our conversation was winding down, Atwood, a descendant of Nova Scotians who she says love to tell whopping lies just to see what you'll fall for, tells me about the latest addition to her already impressive resume. In addition to being the author of more than 40 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, the "old-age pensioner," as she likes to call herself, now also claims to be an inventor. A prototype of her remote book-signing machine that will allow authors to conduct book signings without having to go on the dreaded Author Tour, created by her company Unotchit, has already been shown to some publishers. The device, she says, will be available in six to 18 months.

(From GalleyCat) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is nothing sacred??

A little old fashioned elbow grease gets rubbed on the bestseller list and the truth comes shining through. Turns out they're more full of holes than Wubblewoo's service record. No wonder my books aren't on there! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Disney battle gets excitinzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Listen, if an article about Disney* doesn't contain at least one reference to the evil trade in children's minds and souls, I'm not interested. But you might be. (I recently picked up a Today's Parent supplement at a local kiddie hotspot only to find that EVERY advertisement in it was by Disney. Guess who will now only every pick up TP to wipe his ass... Hey, that's clever!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Voices of War
A feature length documentary* on the Poets Against the War movement is due this March.

The role of poetry, the film says, is "to serve as a brief on behalf of the living" and "to remind us of our humanity. Poetry takes us back to the center of who we are as human beings." Or as Hamill says, "Poets see things from angles that others don't pause long enough to look at."

(From Old Hag) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Blowing the dust off
The James Tait Black Memorial Prize is getting a makeover. Then it'll compete in a swimsuit competition with the IMPAC, Booker, and Orange prizes. No wait, scratch that last one... DBC Pierre to judge, Governor General's Awards to appear at coat check. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"Like acting, writing novels is a profession in which not to be very successful is to be very unsuccessful."
Should there be only one winner of big literary prizes?

Small Island it may be - but Britain has great fiction. A lot of it. But what is the prize system which now dominates the British literary world doing to that fiction? One winner means all the rest are losers. Many don't deserve that label. Fiction is, thanks to the Victor Ludorum ethos that now drives critical judgment, a gladiatorial combat.

Is it a fair fight? The assumption behind the prize-awarding system is that there is a literary equivalent to IQ which can be precisely measured. There isn't (I'm not that sure about IQ, either). Kelly Holmes competes on a level running track. Do Jake Arnott and Margaret Drabble? Is Eric Clapton a "better" guitarist than Segovia? Is chalk cheese?

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Getting into Sontag's shorts
Why isn't she being remembered for her fiction? (discuss) (Posted by George)

John Clare roundup
I haven't had a chance to read this, and I fear to link blindly to Christianity Today, but I know some of you have the hots for Clare and can sort things out for yourself. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Just greeeaaat....
And here I was naively holding out hope that once the godforsaken baby boomers died out we'd see an end to this right wing swing. Turns out they've raised themselves an army of idiot descendants. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Like a virgin
Bookclubs get the beat down at CBC. (From Q&Q) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/02/05:

The Pegg-o-tron 2000 Frankenhand model with powerful delux massaging heads - coming soon to a store near you
Is Atwood's invention a real thing? A little digging by Canada's own girl-sleuth, Sarah Weinman, seems to point a cybernetic finger to yes. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Writers' Trust Awards

The shortlists are out. Run screaming to the cash, my pretties. Start your indignity engines. Fiction finalists are:

  • Michael Helm (Toronto) for In the Place of Last Things, published by McClelland & Stewart
  • Colin McAdam (Montreal) for Some Great Thing, published by Raincoast Books
  • Jeffrey Moore (Montreal) for The Memory Artists, published by Viking Canada
  • Alice Munro (Clinton, Ontario) for Runaway, published by McClelland & Stewart/Douglas Gibson Books
  • Russell Smith (Toronto) for Muriella Pent, published by Doubleday Canada

(discuss) (Posted by George)

What's the hitch?
The Voice on politically bi Christopher Hitchens. (discuss) (Posted by George)

In the beginning, there was idiocy and God saw that it was good
Evolution*: education's new red-headed stepchild. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shaddap, why dontcha!
August Kleinzahler lays the smackdown on Garrison Keillor.

Readers may remember how the U.S. military blared Van Halen and others at the Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, when he took refuge in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City during our invasion of Panama years ago. This method of rousting the wicked proved so successful that it was repeated during the recent Afghan experience, when heavy metal chart-busters were unleashed on caves thought to be sheltering Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. The English Guardian newspaper reported last year that we were breaking the wills of captured terrorists, or suspected terrorists, by assaulting them first with heavy metal followed by "happy-smiley children's songs." The real spirit cruncher turns out to be the "Barney, I Love You" song played for hours on end. Even the most hardened, sadistic killers buckle under "that kind of hell," or so asserted a reliable source. But if that fails to work, I suggest a round-the-clock tape of Garrison Keillor reading poems on his daily Writer's Almanac show.

Ouch! (From Tingle Alley) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Eliot letters
Apparently in one he admits it was all gibberish. (discuss) (Posted by George)

No lightning bolts just yet
Christian bookstore sells Harry, survives wrath of God, makes a few extra bucks. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/03/05:

Have comics for adults killed comics for kids?
The CBC files an investigative report.

The ongoing and well-reported shift towards a more mature audience is the result of a veritable landslide of challenging, complex graphic novels over the past 10 years. As cliched as it sounds, these really do represent an evolutionary step for the medium -- there's no point in arguing that. But the new wave has had its costs, chief among them being the near vacuum that's been left in what was once a thriving market for well-crafted kids' comics. If you need proof, just take a stroll through your local 7-Eleven. You'd be hard pressed to find any evidence of kids' comics or the iconic racks they used to call home.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Amazon Prime
I had a fantasy with this name when I was younger (OK, yesterday). But this Amazon Prime only offers unlimited two-day shipping for $79 US. Still, useful for those who buy a lot of books from Amazon and want them NOW. I hope this doesn't come to Canada. I have trouble resisting speedy gratification.... (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Derrida the movie
An action-packed new blockbuster in which our hero Jack, a secret CIA agent, infiltrates the French intellectual terrorist scene and starts a campaign of covert assassinations before finally staging his own death. (From Splinters) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Pennsound
Here's a nifty little site of sound files for those of you who to like to hear poets rather than/as well as read them. Me, I'm usually looking to find ways to make poets shut up, but to each their own. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

CBC Arts
For those of you who weren't aware of it, CBC Arts has changed its look and even has a brand new books page. At last, my tax dollar is being spent on something I care about. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Should authors get a cut of used book sales?
AS Byatt thinks so. And you know we should always listen to her.

Dame Antonia Byatt has called for new rules to protect novelists using a system known as droit de suite, which guarantees artists a payment for each subsequent sale of their work. The rule is already scheduled to be introduced for visual art next year to ensure that painters receive a payment for second-hand sales of their work.

I have to jump in here and say that the reason we continue to link to Amazon (even though their American arm donated primarily to the Bush campaign during the election) while most of the other lit bloggers have moved to Powell's, is because, as I understand it, Powell's will sell you the cheapest copy of a book by default. This means if there's a used copy of your book sitting beside a new copy online, the used copy gets sold first, and you, the author, get what the French call "Jacques Squatte".

That said, you must realize that I'm talking about a "you" who is likely a poet or midlist novelist (or worse still, a short fiction writer) and who could actually use the royalty injection. It seriously frosts my cheese to think of John Grisham and Dan Brown getting royalties on used books.

Also, Michael at the Lit Saloon (from whence I ganked this article) has a take which I largely agree with, but would add to. The real problem with adding royalties to used books is that it provides yet another barrier for getting books into the hands of people. Books are already too expensive and people are stopping reading in droves. Jacking up the price on used books is not going to help writers or publishing in general. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Portrait of Heaney unveiled
Apparently, if you stare at it and cross your eyes, you see a picture of a bog. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Margaret takes more heat over the Frankenhand
Readers respond to Abebooks that they don't like it no none and would rather pass their germs to authors in person.

"We quite understand the idea behind Margaret Atwood's invention because, as she says in interviews, she is an old-age pensioner [who doesn't want to face the rigours of book tours], but the intriguing thing we found is that it's not so much the signature that fans care about, it's meeting the author in person, that's the real thrill," said Richard Davies, a spokesperson for abebooks.com.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Alice Munro
A primer for your lunch date with Franzen. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Won't somebody think of the owls?
JK Rowling pleads with her fans to stop buying owls. An We Should Have Thought Ahead animals in captivity benefit concert with Cruella de Vil is scheduled for later this month. Rowling to sing How Much is that Puppy in rounds with Ozzy Osbourne. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poetry is dead in France
No it's not! It's just resting! Okay, it's dead.

Fernandez explains how the poets are increasingly being replaced by singers in the land of Baudelaire. “They write beautiful lyrics, like Barbara, but they are not poets,” he reflects sadly, having just shared the dais with Sunil Gangopadhyay, Joy Goswami and Tilottama Majumdar. “Here it seems even the novelists write poetry.”

Fernandez lays the blame largely on publishers and the media. “Few books of poetry are printed. Poets are never featured on the television and the radio.”

But the poets are not above criticism as well. “Most of them live in intellectual ivory towers. They have become cut off from the people. Neither do they write of simple emotions like love. For that, you have to listen to songs.”

Not quite sure who Barbara is... (From that smart arse TEV) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Black writers' group reborn
Chicago writers' group rides again. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Neruda, the movie
Cue the sax music, baby. Aw yeah. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ayn Rand turns 100
If only she'd lived to experience the indignity. My favourite Rand burn goes to Incoming Signals who writes, "Today would have been Ayn Rand's 100th birthday. In celebration, I'm going to bake a cake and then not share it with anybody." Bravo. (discuss) (Posted by George)

DIY micro graphic novel
Four panels taken from a chainsaw instructional pamphlet are turned into mini narratives by... you! And Corey Doctorow. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shhhh!
Secret and complex literatures. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The truth hurts, but at least it's the truth
More and more people are catching on to the con artists at poetry.com scam. May their souls turn to charcoal in the fires of a unique hell. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/04/05:

Alice representin'
Munro is awarded the National Arts Club gold medal for lifetime achievement. I've been in this building and it's swaaaaaank. But much of its allure depends on who's there. Besides a few relics from the age in which people hung out at clubs with dark wood and dark paintings, the atmosphere owes its flavour to who ever is there. And, of course, my times there have largely been when my young pals managed to score a reading inside or something. In such cases it can seem a little run down. At an event like this, it no doubt sparkles and guys like me just take jackets or provide entertainment outside by being roughly subdued by police. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Stop throwing our children to the sharks!
Apparently kids can't learn to read anymore (obviously it's not that people aren't putting in the effort to teach them...), so the newest solution is to strap them on to the old padded assbench and have your DVD player READ TO THEM while they play games. That oughtta solve the problem, thanks for that Scholastic. You're fucking brilliant.

The Read With Me DVD! product is aimed at children 3 to 7 years old and is designed to help with story comprehension and building vocabulary.

Kids will watch a special animated DVD version of classic books like "Miss Spider's Tea Party" or "Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory." The books-on-DVD format will give kids the option of playing games and interacting with the story, or just having the story read to them.
...
In the item's primary mode, words and illustrations of the books appear on the television screen as the story is read aloud to the child. At certain moments in the story, children are encouraged to stay and play on the page where they can learn the new words and respond to questions about the characters and story.

It's a wonderful world we live in when parents aren't even needed! Um, people, get the fucking books yourself and read them to your children. There's a reason my son is recognizing certain words, knows his alphabet, and is reciting stories before he turns two (on Monday!). Because I PARENT. Hello?! I don't even do that much, really. I just spend time with him and we don't watch TV. That's it! We play games and read books. It's not rocket science! (discuss) (Posted by George)

DIY used books
A Harvard student creates an online textbook exchange. This is why some people get into Harvard. Every campus should have one. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Funny money
New Citibank comic book teaches kids about money, then promptly charges them a $7.50 service charge for doing so. Lesson learned. (From MoorishGirl) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Parents invited by principal to burn banned books from school library
Yep. Ah-yhuk!

Recently a book that was being used as part of an English assignment was confiscated from freshmen at Norwood High School due to references of paganism and an alleged magnitude of profanity.
Here in Norwood, a small group of parents sent letters to Superintendent Bob Conder, expressing their concern over, Bless Me, Ultima, a book being used in the classroom as a literature book. Conder said the books, about 2 dozen in total costing $6.99 each, were pulled from the classroom, and designated to be destroyed. The parents approached the superintendent and asked that they be able to burn the books instead of the school janitor destroying them.

Conder granted them their request, as he has the right to dispose of them. Conder informed the School Board in a letter after the fact. He further stated, “I can’t dictate morality, but my job is to protect the kids. The books should have never been purchased, and were not properly disclosed for approval.”

(Thanks to Matt) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Can books solve your problems?
Not iffen youse a Marlboro man. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Bush footsoldier: the witless cretins of middle and southern America who are conducting Wubblewoo's war on intelligence with a certain foam-in-the-corner-of-the- mouth glee. Please, no photos. You may enrage the beast to fits of cow milking. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Slackjaw post #3: Hey, I didn't say we had won...
Despite recent victories in small town newspapers, it will be a long battle, my shadowy army. We must steel ourselves against the fragile egos of these poor victims when they break like so many granny teacups on the linoleum as we penetrate the darkness that is poetry.com. Onward! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Macbeth maligned

According to Alex Johnstone, the real Macbeth – contrary to the impression given in the Shakespearean play named after the Scottish king – was not a power-hungry leader who murdered his way to the top.

Johnstone says that, in reality, Macbeth was a uniter, not a killer, who brought his country together and did much to promote Christianity.

Oops! There's that murderer thing again! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Clive Thompson riffing on Hammy Hamster
Hot. I wish Hammy were here now - though I'd likely be surprised, and not in a good way, by his politics. My favourite was Matty Mouse's boat. Dude was always crashing that thing. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

"Real men don't use thesauri"
I thought Alan Moore had decided to live as a madman in a shack in the woods someplace. So why is he doing all these interviews? I'm glad he is though, as I learned about Lost Girls, which I hadn't come across before.

I suddenly thought: "alright, what if Wendy from Peter Pan is one of the characters?", and then immediately I thought of Alice and Dorothy. I thought, all right, that's three different female characters from three different children's books, what if you had those women meet up at a hotel, or somewhere, and tell each other their stories, and their stories are sexually decoded versions of the stories that they are famous for ... And I suddenly thought: "ok, they can meet in this hotel in 1913", and then I thought: "1913, that was when the war was kicking off, and there was that Stravinsky performance in Paris of Rite of Spring when there were all the riots, and I thought: Wouldn't it be interesting if this whole story was going on against a backdrop... if we had this story happening in a beautiful place, this sort of art nouveau hotel, where everything is perfect and lovely, it's erotic, everyone's fucking, you know... it's a pornotopia. And then as a counterpoint, in the background we have the riots at the Stravinsky concert which to a certain degree show the emotional pitch Europe was at at that time... then we'll sort of take that on, we'll show the assassination of Franz Ferdinand... we'll show everything sort of careening towards war, and pretty much the destruction of European culture, or at least a massive blow to it. All the pretty things get burned.

I can't wait to read this. (From Splinters) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Linguaphiles unite
The Penny Arcade geeks speak to me. They really do. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Cuddly Menace
My Golden Book About God becomes My Golden Book About Zogg. This is why I avoid children. (From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Can books make you happy?
One man's 30-year quest for an elusive Vonnegut.

But here's the thing: Now that I have Canary in a Cat House, I'm dissatisfied. Once in a while, I take the book out and peruse it, yet this feels more like handling an artifact than any kind of reading I know. Partly that's because my edition is old, cheaply bound, and printed on acidic paper, which means that any time I touch it, I add to its decay. Partly it's because I've already read these stories, which means Canary in a Cat House can never exist for me as a text to discover on its own. Partly it's because ownership itself is anticlimactic, which means that after three decades, Canary in a Cat House has become less important for what it is than what it was: a vehicle for longing. Most of all, it's because of how I came across the collection not by discovering it in some forgotten bookstore, but through the clinical precision of the Internet.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

More Bombshells
When I was a proofreader for Harlequin, I sometimes had to read Mills and Boons romances. M&Bs are the British equivalent of Harlequins, only women tend to get sold into slavery a little more often -- when they're not being tied up, that is. Not surprisingly, women are starting to look for M&Bs without men.

In Mills & Boon new Bombshell range, to be released in Australia on January 16, romance is only a small part of the equation and the heroines are anything but weak. "They don't need a man in their life, but that doesn't mean they can't fall in love along the way," Mills & Boon managing director Michelle Laforest said. She said readers could expect to meet smart, self-reliant career women who could handle situations and think for themselves - usually with a black-belt in martial arts thrown in.

Hmm, sounds like my kind of women. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


 

02/07/05:

Ninja notes
Indulge me in some (directly) personal news: my son turns two today. We had a little party for him yesterday that was attended by the pre-school literati set. Very swank. The crayons were new and sharp, the loot bags full of bouncy things, and the juice: apple, of course. Sniff. Little tyke is just getting so big...

And on a related note, the children of CanPo, including yours truly even though I feel old and look grizzled, will be reading on Wednesday at the Harbourfront IFOA in Toronto. Breathing Fire 2, an anthology of young poets from across Canada is launching at 7:30pm in the Brigantine Room. (I think that's where they keep the pirates.)

In the mid 90s, Breathing Fire predicted the rise of the careers of some of some great young poets (Carmine Starnino, Karen Solie, Stephanie Bolster, Michael Redhill, etc.) Breathing Fire 2 hopes to do the same for the generation born between 1970 and 1980. Please come if you can to cheer on us little ones. Noogies appreciated, but unnecessary. (discuss) (Posted by George)

And so it finally comes out
Literacy levels are linked with income. The sociologists once again proving that-which-we-all-already-knew-to-be-true true. But God bless em, now its on paper, the blood that flows in the icy veins of the world's governments, and will have to be dealt with it at some point. (discuss)

Get outta here, kid, yah make me nauseous
Jim Crace writes some very funny "replies" to invasive young writers who would have his advice.

Dear Alison,
It was so nice to be recognised in the restaurant last night. I appreciate you coming across to introduce yourself to me and my wife and was touched that you then went to all the trouble of abandoning your meal and your friends to hurry home for your manuscript. I feel a bit guilty about the little scrape you had with your car on the way back. All in a good cause, I suppose.

I'll be honest, no, I have not had the chance to read much of the book. What can I say? Maybe your title - The Lizard - raised alarm bells, although normally I am receptive to wildlife fiction.

(Thanks to Susan G for the link) (discuss) (Posted by George)

A day in the life
Bookslut takes the English on a lit blog odyssy. Picture yourself in a boat on a river... Thanks for the Ninja nod, Jessa! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is there an emoticon for intellectually lustful drooling?
Geoffrey Hill interviewed and profiled - by a former, now repentant, nay-sayer, no less.

Hill is prickly, protective of his reputation, remarking that the respect he is accorded - best poet in the language etc, handsome audiences for his readings - does not seem to square with his royalty figures. He was also taken aback by the reception accorded Speech! Speech! He quotes a sample adjective of criticism that appeared in the Guardian at the time: "madness..." I fill in for him, "the madness of a first-rate mind", for I wrote the line myself. What I do not say, because I do not wish to split hairs, is that I wrote "I am tempted to dismiss this as madness," etc. But I do tell him, truthfully, that it was in order to take back such a remark that I requested this interview.

"Would you do that?" he asks. "That would be..." and I brace myself for "acceptable" or "the least you could do" but hear instead the word "marvellous". I also suggest that the extreme reaction to Speech! Speech! was not so much irritated dismissal as the reaction of someone who has picked up a plate which he did not know to be scalding.

That was my reaction to Speech! Speech! as well. Except, that I took my burn on the hand as a challenge to learn about thermodynamics and went back through his work and have tried to follow it since. It's really quite worth it, though I'm not sure I have it all figured out yet. Especially the later stuff. Sometimes I think there is no other living poet I'd like to meet so much as Hill, but even in daydreams I feel like a fool the entire time. I should really be imagining tea with Szymborska or a pint with Ashbery. Of course, Hill isn't concerned with being a cuddly poet, nor should he be. My own work isn't really funny or considered all that accessible, particularly up here where poems are supposed to tell little stories that illicit knowing chuckles or appreciative mmhmms, but I suspect I am not intimidating as a person. It feels with Hill as though, despite some of his work being very funny, every fiber of his being (that which we see in public) is dedicated to the serious endeavour of poetry. Once he'd given me the key to all his little locked doors, I'd want to chat about other things too. Like cars, or something. Maybe chicks. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Rowling vs. the US Army
My money's on the side that can muster the most goodwill, worldwide. (From the Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Bidding war over poet?
Okay, he's a celebrity of some minor stature, but apparently he's slightly insane, so this should be fun to watch. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sigh... Can a paper be dreamy?
I think I have a crush on the Guardian... When literature lives up to reality. C'mere, baby. Let's rub ink.

Consider the word houyhnhnms for a moment. It is a word that is never typed or written other than anxiously. Its orthography resists complacency. It opposes the virtual invisibility that overtakes the familiar.

Which is just as well, because this one word, on its own, demonstrates the power of language to equal the actual world.

For literary theoreticians, it is axiomatic that language is unequal to the task of encompassing reality. Its failure is inevitable, a given.

It's damn lucky this internet thing came along or I'd still be reading local rags from which literary discourse is slowly disappearing. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Newsflash: Munro awesome!
Now Hollinghurst gets into the love in. And well he should. Also in this piece, proof that Munro's book Runaway looks better everywhere else that isn't here. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Plagiarism reconsidered
Those Aussies are just so down-to-(under)-earth and sensible (when, you know, not falling down drunk as a Canadian).

If we removed everything that was a bit similar* and sounded like something else from the bookshelves, the cinema, and the record store we'd be left with the Bible, Shakespeare and a didgeridoo - (nothing sounds like a didgeridoo and you wouldn't want it to).

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Hemingway: a barrel of larfs
Have we all been loathing and envying the wrong man? (discuss) (Posted by George)

One poet's platform
A candidate for Cali's poet laureate wants a poet in every paper.* (Note the poets at bus stop reference... Orange vests. Hee hee! It's like a target. Anybody got an egg?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Nobody Here
So weird and beautiful... You just have to see it. (From Salt and Ice) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/08/05:

Is Amazon a good place to sell your books?
This guys thinks so.

I can't understand how Amazon has figured out a way to make money. It seems to be emulating AbeBooks (www.abebooks.com/), which functions as a listing network for bookstores, and it's possible that Amazon's ultimate plan is to get out of the storage and shipping of physical objects and become an intermediary for transactions, a place you order books through, rather than from. Oh, and kill off the Victoria-based AbeBooks at the same time.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

This doesn't make any sense to me at all
Alex Garland is writing the screenplay for the Halo movie. Ah, I'll still see it.

In an unorthodox move that's sure to raise some industry eyebrows, Microsoft (developer Bungie's corporate overlord) has hired screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach) to adapt its hit videogame series Halo for the big screen. Variety reports that Garland signed a million-dollar deal with the tech giant. Garland's finished screenplay will reportedly be offered to studios as a complete "turnkey" script and rights package.

(From Things) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Reversing Vandalism
I think we posted before about vandalized books at the San Francisco library made into an art show, but I don't think the gallery was online then. Pretty cool to browse through.

In early 2001, San Francisco Public Library staff began finding vandalized books shoved under shelves, hidden throughout the Main Library. Ultimately over 600 torn and sliced books, on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender topics, women's issues and HIV/AIDS, were deemed beyond repair and withdrawn from the Library's collection. Rather than discard the damaged books, the Library distributed them to interested community members in the hope of creating art. The wide variety of artistic responses to this hate crime resulted in "Reversing Vandalism," an exhibition of over 200 original works of art

(From Things) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Shelf life
Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal has an interesting piece on the shelf life of new books (see Feb. 7 entry). It's connected to a discussion about placement (Feb. 6 entry). (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Kirkus Reviews (if you pay them)
Some commentary on the dollars for blurbs scandal.

It’s a little like hearing that Consumer Reports has begun taking money from manufacturers for reporting on their tires, refrigerators and microwaves.
...
the wider spectrum in this case likely will not include small press or university publishers, but rather those with pockets deep enough to pay for what amounts to advertisements masquerading as reviews.

(From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Second winds
The uncommon nature of the Paris Review sparks some rumination* on the common nature of the literary journal. God bless someone for caring.

Every now and then a literary magazine gets a second wind, or even a third, like Granta, an ancient and moribund Cambridge University publication that Bill Buford resuscitated in 1979 and then turned over to Ian Jack in 1995, when he left for The New Yorker. (Under Mr. Jack the magazine has emphasized journalism more than fiction and has reached a very un-literary circulation of 50,000, while Mr. Buford is one of the candidates most often mentioned as a successor to Ms. Hughes.) And sometimes a literary magazine persists in a kind of lingering afterlife, like Grand Street, which Jean Stein took over from Ben Sonnenberg in 1990 and nursed along for another 14 years until it closed, or, most famously, Partisan Review, which when it finally went under in 2003, 69 years after its founding, was both a political and literary relic.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Eagleton v Heaney
Looks like Heaney and the big boys standing with cross arms at the back of the room win round one... Eagleton has been dropped as book reviewer for the Irish Times for criticising Heaney. (Actually, it's more likely for making them look like fools.) (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

LATBR Thumbnail
TEV's Mark Sarvas inaugurates the LATBR Thumbnail, a weekly report and analysis examining the LAT book review section. A great service for those not currently living in or near Planet Earth's cess pool. (discuss) (Posted by George)

BBCBC?
Vanderhaeghe makes the BBC book club short list. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Gentlemen, we can rebuild her...

Jane Austen gets rebuilt for Bollywood by Bend It Like Beckham (great film) director. Look for Bride and Prejudice at a theatre or, sadly only twenty minutes later, video store near you. (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Viewmaster madness
Handmade Viewmaster reels from great moments in literature. God, I loved Viewmaster as a kid. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/09/05:

What's behind the Quill Awards?
Besides a committee comprised of semi-literate marketing types? Money, chivato. Hold card hsac.

And speaking of publishers, guess who's partnering with NBC Universal and RBI on these tiresomely named, disingenuously high-minded-sounding Quill Awards? Not surprisingly, the advisory committee to the awards is positively lousy with some of the most powerful names in publishing. Someone unfamiliar with the book industry's altruistic dedication to quality might take one look at the Quills and see, not simple self-congratulation, but revenge on the National Book Awards for their notoriously uncommercial fiction shortlist last year. In other words, the publishers could well be saying, "Pick five books nobody's ever heard of, will you? What if we just start our own awards and bury you?" If they're not careful, the Quills may wind up the publishing-award equivalent of a company union.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Salinger jetsam
JD's uncollected writing posted online. As Maud says, get it now before it's gone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Top ten books of Scottish poetry

All poets guaranteed dead by at least eight years. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Getting her family's knickers in a schvitz
Pearl Abraham, pictured here falling out of her chair, writes about Hasidism* from a new perspective. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Small town library with big world view
A small library takes on oppression, in Cuba and at home.

In March 2003, Castro's State Security police arrested 75 Cuban dissenters: journalists, human rights workers, and labor organizers, along with independent librarians who provided access to books excluded from Cuba's censored library system. These "subversive" independent public librarians were sent to Castro's foul prisons, along with the other dissenters.

During the raids on these independent libraries, the offending books were confiscated, and many of them burned. The Dulce Maria Loynaz Library was one of the targets, but it remains under the directorship of Gisela Delgado, who was not imprisoned.

The Vermillion Public Library is now sending books to its sister independent library in Havana. The first two shipments included Spanish-language editions of George Orwell's 1984 and a collection of the works of that formidable freethinker Mark Twain.

What has made this signal of solidarity against repression most notable is that this small town in South Dakota has not only defied Castro but has also shown the hypocrisy of the national American Library Association—the largest organization of librarians in the world—whose governing council last year overwhelmingly defeated an amendment from one of its members to demand that Castro immediately release the 10 independent librarians, along with the other 65 "prisoners of conscience," as Amnesty International has described them.

This makes me hope for small town America. But it IS Cuba... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Rejecter accepted
OBE reject or gets honourary doctorate. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The storefront workshop
Chicago continues to examine its black literary heritage with a brief article on a small but influential workshop.

OBAC writers produced the city's greatest flowering of black literature since the Chicago Renaissance in the 1930s. Both movements sprang to life during periods of social upheaval: the Depression and the civil rights movement.

The group's workshops were lead by the late Hoyt Fuller, editor of Negro Digest, later Black World. Membership dues paid the storefront rent, and meetings were open to the public. Participants read from their works in order of arrival, with visitors going first.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Kiddie opera
Finally, literary adaptation for children that doesn't involve CGI. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Reading? God gave you ears so you wouldn't have to read!!

Why buy books on tape when you can download them to your uPod (the u is for ubiquity). Read full advertorial here. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sounds like fun...
... except for the, you know, accordion and spoken word thing.

Spoken word is laid-back literature, grooving to its own beat, shrugging off the immortality of print. Rooted in aboriginal and black culture and the beat poetry of the 1960s, the movement's Quebec evolution could be connected to poets like Claude Gauvreau, monologuists like Clemence DesRochers and Yvon Deschamps, or even folky chanteuse La Bolduc. But its modern Quebec manifestations became visible about 10 years ago, Kimm estimates. And it has been growing ever since.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

File under: did you know?
That Byron's daughter is widely thought of as the first computer programmer? The children of poets rock. (Especially of poets named George Gordon, ahem.) (Thanks, K!) (discuss)

Jenna confesses to Uncle Tom
In honour of Wubblewoo getting his rocks off reading about his daughter's sex and drinking life,* Low Culture brings you the new Bush reading list. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/10/05:

The Guardian profiles Alice Munro
Famed writer reveals all her doubts and anxieties.

Throughout her twenties, she would dream of writing 'my great novel' but it never happened. 'It would always go flat on me.' At 28, she became depressed, convinced she'd never be a good enough writer. 'Nobody knew it,' she says. 'I mean, I kept house. I was a grade B housewife, maybe a B minus. But when I got time to write, I would be unable to finish a sentence. I had anxiety attacks. Partly, it was a way of personifying the situation because I couldn't breathe. I was surrounded by people and by duties. I was a housewife and the children's mother and I was judged on how I performed those roles.'

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The state of Canadian magazines
Ken Alexander of the Walrus and Derek Webster of Maisonneuve give a talk on Feb. 17. (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

How much do SF/F writers make?
Hey, just as little as the rest of us! (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

The semiotic spider
When I see reading lists like this, I miss academia. My days just don't have the same humour since I left. (From Things) (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

Boom?
That's the kind of headline I would write, but I work for a tab. Anyway, apparently translation of Arab texts is up since 9/11.

Increasingly, writers, readers and publishers are turning to literature as a bridge between cultures, particularly Western and Arab societies estranged since Arab extremists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. This in turn is driving a boom in translation.

(From Arts Journal) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Canada vs. U.S.
Are we a culture fighting for independence and freedom? Or are we a second-rate society blindly emulating our Yankee masters?

Most writers who want to say something meaningful, something truly descriptive about Canada and the United States, are defeated from the start. The reason is "history." The "history" is and has been a pattern of intense propaganda; of calculated falsification of events and ideas; and of an imperial/colonial relation, the nature of which is constructed upon falsehoods and is maintained only by the continuation of falsehoods.

(From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


02/11/05:

What sound does an eraser make?
Eye Weekly has a nice piece on the evolution of sound effects in comics.

Sound effects are now a finicky artform, applied with precision. One of its most advanced practitioners is Chris Ware, who cartoons many scenes with nothing but noises to punctuate the tracts of aching silence. His technique reached its zenith in his star-making graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The book is largely wordless, relying instead on a symphony of onomatopoeia. A nose being blown: SNNZLP. Change put into a vending machine: CLTKTY. A drink falling: DNK.

In the same issue, eye has everything you need to know about sex books. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Screenwriters anonymous
There used to be a time when the writers of movies mattered. Has that time passed?

So even though several awards for original screenplays will be handed out in the next few weeks, most writers know their originals will never be produced -- instead, they use them as calling cards. "You write something original that springs full blown from your forehead in order to launch or reinvigorate your career," says Howard Rodman, dean of the USC screenwriting department. "The studios use them to figure out who's a good writer. But they don't get made. What the studios consider a studio movie has never been narrower than it is now."

(From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

"Publishing had its head up its ass!"
So says one editor about the difficulties Sam Lipsyte faced in getting Home Land published. The question is, where's that head now?

One editor who tried to buy it, only to have his editor in chief kill the sale, argued that the decision-making by editorial committee at most major houses around the city "tends to flatten out the aesthetic," which hurt Home Land's chances. "When you have a really good satire, you're not going to get everyone in the room to agree it's fantastic. Some people aren't going to think its funny; some people are going to be offended. And if you need a complete consensus on a book like this, it'll never be published."

(From Quill) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Death of a playwright
Place for Writers has a little collection of Arthur Miller obits (top entry for Feb. 11). (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

RicePaper Magazine
RicePaper is a cool magazine published out of Vancouver. Here's the editorial comment:

RicePaper Magazine is a national interdisciplinary literary and arts magazine committed to showcasing contemporary art and art practices relevant to the discussions and experiences of Asian Canadian identity (including artistic and academic discourse). It is published as a collaborative platform for and about Canadian writers, artists, performers and filmmakers of hapa, Asian Pacific and Southeast Asian descent.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Salon.com editor leaving
Does this mean it will get good again? Or, more importantly, free again?

Salon claims to have 3.4 million readers who visit the site every month, but it is not the buzz bomb of journalism it was when it was free. Slate, which was sold last year to the Washington Post Company, gave the subscription model a go a few years ago and threw up its hands. Now that advertising dollars are rushing toward the Web, it will be interesting to see whether Salon continues to charge at the door or will fling open the gates in pursuit of big audience numbers to sell to advertisers.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Ever want to get wasted with, and argue politics with, Christopher Hitchens?
This guy did. (Thanks, Roland, for the link.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Have children's authors sold out to Hollywood?
Duh. Hasn't everyone? (Speaking of which, watch in 2006 for Bookninja: The Movie! starring a beefed up Eric Stoltz as George Murray and Kevin Spacey as Peter Darbyshire. Guest appearances by Pat Morita, Shô Kosugi, and generic martial arts bad guy #1 (the one with the Def Leppard mullet and the Dr. Fu Manchu mustaches). DVD to include bonus footage in which Heather Reisman is eaten by the Rancor from Return of the Jedi. We couldn't make it fit, but wanted you to see it anyway.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

If you translate it, they will come...
Finally, a Talmud for the average Joseph.

The Schottenstein edition is not simply a word-for-word transcription, but also fills in the logical gaps in the clipped, telegram-like Talmudic language, with the insertions rendered in a lighter font. For adjoining "notes," 80 contributing scholars assembled commentaries from a variety of towering authorities. A ceremony to present a virtually complete Talmud set to the Library of Congress was scheduled for yesterday evening.

"There's no question in my mind that the expansion of the Daf Yomi today is a great deal due to the Schottenstein," said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the leader of the bumpy Long Island Rail Road class.

Students of the Daf Yomi have repaid the favor; some of the 72 volumes published so far have already sold 90,000 copies. Each volume has a list price of $50, with an entire burgundy-covered set totaling $3,650.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

I smell a movie... And a bad one too... which is why I can smell it, I think...
A heartwarming comedy about a tattooed black female poet who pits her sass-talking verses versus a school full of white rich British kids and in the process teaches them how to find the soul of poetry in their snotty, buttondown Earl Grey lives. (See, in Hollywood, this would have to be a comedy. How ludicrous! What a comedy of errors! Yet, if the roles were reversed and it were a white man or woman teaching a group of inner city youth how to appreciate life, it would be an Oscar vehicle drama for Tom Hanks. Such is the world we live in, ruled by a business in which cess meets pool.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The ties that bind... and the binds that tie...
What are the links between writing and psychotherapy? Writing is therapy for psychos. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Kansas thinks all we are is dust in the wind
More evolution warning stickers.

Atty. Gen. Phill Kline said he favored putting stickers on textbooks similar to what was done in Georgia, and he suggested the idea to conservative members of the State Board of Education. Conservatives now have a 6-4 majority on the board.

Hey, at least it's not Texas. In fact, I haven't ragged on Texas in a bit. Are you guys laying low or improving? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Librarian retires, reveals insanity
Spoooooky. (discuss) (Posted by George)

What's the difference between a newspaper being wrong about a public official and being libelous?
This. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Want a free copy of Poetry?
Have your reading group send a letter by March 1. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"A cruising albatross"
Famous Seamus gets some press on his new portrait. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The long arm of the lawless

Poetry.com stretches its cartoonishly evil talons to India to defraud children and other innocents. Where is my army of creepy flying monkeys when I need them? (discuss) (Posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

By the sunken city of R'lyeh I sat down and wept
H.P. Lovecraft -- horror hack or eldritch artist? (Salon link)

"From the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent," reads the first line of the H.P. Lovecraft story "The Shunned House," but chances are Lovecraft, who died in 1937, wouldn't have appreciated the irony of his present position as American literature's greatest bad writer. There are two camps on the subject of the haunted bard of Providence, R.I., and his strange tales of cosmic terror. One, led by the late genre skeptic Edmund Wilson, dismisses him as an overwriting "hack" who purveyed "bad taste and bad art." The other, led by Lovecraft scholar and biographer S.T. Joshi, hotly rises to Lovecraft's defense as an artist of "philosophical and literary substance."

See also Neil Gaiman's "I Cthulu." (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Perfectionist
Is this your office? (From Beautiful Stuff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


02/14/05:

Sex in the snow
Ninja Peter's article on sex in CanLit on CBC.

Back in the 1990s, Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press put out an anthology called Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions. The goal of the editors was to prove that Canadian literature isn’t all “safe and polite,” and that a new generation of homegrown writers was unabashedly embracing sex in fiction.

The anthology did succeed in displaying a modern attitude toward sex in its tales of lust by the light of CNN. But in doing so, it reaffirmed the long-standing observation that our national literature is entirely devoid of erotic sensibilities. In the tales of Carnal Nation – as in the narratives of most CanLit – sex is rarely a pleasurable event. Instead, it is often used as a metaphor for politics, identity, globalization, consumerism – almost everything but sex itself.

A damn sexy lot we are, eh? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Know thine enemy: The Lives of the Saint
That old corporate shill Valentine, that is.

IF EVER THERE was a case of a man’s sum being greater than his parts, it must be Saint Valentine; or is it more a case of the parts being all over the place? As the British greetings card industry pockets an annual £47.2 million spent on Valentine cards, confectioners, jewellers and balloon vendors go into overdrive and postmen deliver hernia-inducing loads of envelopes scrawled with silly rhymes, attempts to flesh out the saint of hearts and flowers can prove frustratingly ineffectual.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Hey, Pavlovian cur! Will you buy books today if we tack the word love onto them? Woof! Woof! Good boy!
Why a book is better than a box of chocolates when you're buying into a "holiday" invented for the purposes of selling stuff to people with too much money who are afraid of dying alone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Quoth the Huey: that's the power of love
The poetic power couple. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The most romantic novel of all time
Can you guess? Pride and Prejudice. Shit. I would have thought Cujo - a dog and his boy... a scratch behind the ears, some playful rolling, passionate loyalty, heated arguments, saliva, gnashing of teeth. Sigh. Dreamy, isn't it? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Can poor Salman find no love, even today?
Oh yes, he's got that bewigged length of doweling to call his own. And a pack of Predator drone-dodging psychos on his tail. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dashiell Hammett
Profiled. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Brendan Kennelly
Ireland's Random Act of Poetry? I guess in the land of bards it's a little more acceptable... oh yeah, and he's good. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hospital made my boy a poet
Damn, one would hope the experience would have made him want to be a doctor... A poet? What organ do you have to have removed for THAT? Oh, yeah, the brain. That's like taking your kid to hockey games all his life in hopes of raising an NHLer and ending up parent of that idiot who runs up and down the steps with a trumpet and paints Go Leafs Go on his belly. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/15/05:

Margaret's RoboScrawl 2000: 2legit2quit
I totally forgot to link to this article from Saturday's Globe, but was reminded when I saw it You no touch me...linked from Tingle Alley. Margaret Atwood explains some reasoning behind her Frankenhand device which will allow authors to sign books remotely. As opposed to just being remote when signing books... She even takes a few jabs at early critic Neil Gaiman which he gracefully allows himself to be charmed silly by. She's good. Real good. (Actually, I like some of her reasoning here. Even if this is all a hoax, I've never thought it was a bad idea.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The book club: not going anywhere
Exactly, says I. But apparently they are here to stay.

According to Professor Mark Currie, of Anglia Polytechnic University, book clubs, with their articulations of enthusiasms, are partly about "trait connotation". He said: "It's like wearing a particular shirt: passion for certain books indicates lots of things about your moral character that might be favourable."

The discourse at reading groups does not often have much in common with the language of scholarship. Prof Currie and a fellow English literature don were once barred from a book club lest they ruin the fun with talk of structuralism and the like.

Anyone know of a poetry book club? I mean, other than poets. Do tell. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

National Post gets new editor, lease on frothing
The indignant right wing spittle should start to fly any day now. Let's hope they can at least make it interesting. (Interesting the "tabloid" remark... could you imagine the TO Sun and Post their readers getting together? It would be like a sitcom in which a young mismatched couple find out at their wedding that their families, from either side of the tracks, have much more in common than they ever imagined. "Listen, Maximillian, I isn't a highfalutin financier, but even a truck driver like me knows good writing when I sees it -- and I don't see any, I repeat, ANY, tits in your paper.") (discuss) (Posted by George)

Let's get political, political...
Steve Almond's call to artistic arms on Moby.

What I am suggesting is that artists need not regard their political identities as wholly separate from their artistic ones — especially given our unique historical circumstance.

Look at what's happening: our country is being led down a path of almost unprecedented moral negligence, a kind of suicidal selfishness in which the civic discourse has been reduced to bumper stickers. Those in power stand ready to vilify anyone who threatens their power. The opposition has abdicated its duties to John Stewart.

Virtually every writer I know recognizes this. (I do not know Tom Clancy.) They are all deeply distressed.

My question is simple: when are we going to allow this grief to inform our art?

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Bloggers: know your rights
Getting Dooced is getting a lot of attention these days. That's why I prefer to stay unemployed. Will they coin "Ninjaed" when Lady Ninja leaves me for blogging? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Jenna's back in the stacks, baby

Houston mayor bends over for Jenna. It only hurts at first, Bill. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Getting books to Cuba
The movement to get Cuban librarians out of jail and books in to the hands of Cuban readers keeps on moving.

The letters to Castro fromAmerican librarians—who cannot understand why their national governing council has abandoned their fellow librarians in Cuba—have not been answered. And, as reported here last week, only one U.S. public library, in Vermillion, South Dakota, has sponsored and begun to send books to a sister independent library in Havana. That decision has been hailed by library associations in other countries.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

More on Rushdie's licence to have a cap busted in his ass
Rushdie, seen here moments before he incinerates someone with the lasers in his eyes, must just be loving this kind of press. "Thanks, guys. You know, people were beginning to forget and joke about it. Now you're reminding them that they can strike it rich by turning in my pelt. Very nice. Thank you." (discuss) (Posted by George)

Newsflash: Gay teen novel raises ire of closeted right-wing gays
And their allied trades people in the clergy. Sigh. Will it never end? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Those wacky Germans are finally using their evil powers for good
Books in vending machines, on ciggie packs and read over intercoms. I mean, it's so invasive and abrasive... It's like random acts ... of ... poetry ... Kill zem... Kill zem all.

A group of people on a street standing around the intercom of an apartment building might seem like nothing out of the ordinary. But, if they're all intently listening to a dramatic voice from the speaker reciting a love poem or raging about a political issue, then it's not your everyday occurrence.

The brainchild of a Berlin-based artist and literary group, which calls itself the "door speakers," the above scene has been played out all over the German capital since last summer. The concept involves the nine authors of the group sitting in an apartment and taking turns at reading their prepared texts into the intercom every time the buzzer rings. The authors and their audience outside never actually see each other.

Somehow it's cool when Germans do it. It's so in your face, like blown smoke. Whereas when Canadians do it, it's kind of just in your lap, like spilled luke-warm coffee. (From Ed) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side of spam...
The capacity of that odd breed of human to take lemons and make lemonade never ceases to amaze me. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (Posted by George)

A Tip for the writing types
Fuck Valentine's Day, you know what I love? Getting an unexpected fat cheque in the mail. If you have a book or books out there and aren't signed up for the PLRC programme, you're a sap. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/16/05:

Sick child + lonely ninja = a boring Wednesday for you
The baby has been a bubbling petri dish these last few, and I'm alone with him for a couple days, so you guys get an all-theft, all-aphorism Wednesday. (Posted by George)

New Plimpton essay
To appear in Paris Review. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Standardized testing for editors
Hee hee! This should be fun. Excuse me: funner. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

!!!!!!!!!

Hot article on exclamation marks that's making Peter all squidgy. (See above.) (From Moby) (discuss)

Rumble in the tundra
Canada Reads gets south of the border press. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em"

NYT goes tabloid. What about that nifty origami to read two square inches at a time? Have they even considered what will happen to that? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Beowulf
The original shakes spear (get it!?) comes to the big screen. Or in the case of Beowulf and Grendel to a video store near you. (I make this sweeping generalization based wholly on Canada's involvement.) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Talking when you can't speak
Clive Thompson looks into communicating with the disabled via computer interface. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Shitty Walmart bookshelves
Scroll down. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Evolution drawn out
New comic explains evolution. (From Ildikos) (discuss) (Posted by George)

For those about to rock...
For when you can find the umlaut for Crüe, but not the lightning bolt to fit between AC and DC: heavy metal fonts. (Um, Weezer?) (From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/17/05:

What were the best comics of 2004?
Time Magazine's picks get the good folks at Metafilter all riled up. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

They care. They really, really do.
The NY Times comments on the First Annual Tournament of Books.

The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books, presented by The Morning News (TMN), a daily online magazine (themorningnews.org/tob), and Powells.com, an online bookstore, is under way. The writers aren't hacks and they aren't in a stadium. The fans don't roar and they don't judge. But the Web tournament is set up exactly like an N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, with ladders, seeds and head-to-head contests.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

So, what do you do?
The question every author asks his characters before putting them in sexually embarassing situations and killing them.

This might surprise no one, but novelists are rarely interested in work. Almost the hardest part of planning a novel is choosing a job for the hero. What can one do, but repeat the same idiot questions as a school careers adviser: what do you think you should be? A carpenter, a soldier, a hairdresser? And you get no answer, because fictional characters don't speak; especially not unwritten fictional characters who don't even have jobs.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Dick for Faust?
Edmonton's Minister Faust, author of The Coyote Kings of the Space-age Bachelor Pad, has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick award. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Lambda award finalists announced
Ninja favourite Derek McCormack's The Haunted Hillbilly is up for Gay Men's Fiction against some pretty tough competition, including GAY NOVELIST Alan Hollinghurst. Rock on, Derek! (Um, note to world: we told you first.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The fictional Jew
Wendy Shalit clarifies her stance on Orthodox Jewish fiction.

To be sure, fiction is not sociology, and sometimes a negative slant can enliven a story. But when all your Orthodox characters are cold and dysfunctional, and unlike anything this group understands itself to be, then I think one must ask what else might be going on. Ironically, I feel my colleagues underestimate the importance of their own books, as if to say: "Oh, never mind our little stories, they have no impact anyway."

But literature matters. 18th-century French literature was a reflection of, and shaped what became, modern society`s dominant notions of the social contract. How is the treatment of Orthodox Jews in fiction affecting our society and particularly, the rest of the world`s perception of the Jews? I don`t pretend to know the answer to this, but I feel we should be permitted to ask the question.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

The problem with books
Is the type is so small. Remember back in school when you sighed in depression, opening that Heidegger to find about one centimeter of margin space and type so small it looked like the text was all caveat to the title? Problem solved. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Random sues P Diddy for breach of JLo... I mean contract!
Sean Combs is sued by Random House for return of the $325,000 advance on book memoir he never wrote. Reports are that when notified by Random's lawyers, Combs made a "Pfft" sound, removed a watch and a ring and threw them across the table before striding out. (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Post cards from the edge
Of a marketing committee's daydream.

If word of mouth kicked The Da Vinci Code into nine weeks at number one, why not try using the same trick for works such as Franz Kafka's unquestionable classic The Trial - currently in 446,000th place on Amazon.co.uk?

This logic is being pressed close to its wildest conclusion by the organisers of World Book Day. Yesterday they announced that they were distributing 8m postcards which would enable one in seven people in the British population to recommend a book to a friend, or enemy.

I got a better headline for ya: "Dead trees to promote dead trees". Catchy, no? (discuss) (Posted by George)

"Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read"
China Miéville gives us commie pinkos a list. I am frightened by two things: how many of the male authors on here I haven't read, and how many of the female authors I have. I swear, I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body. (From BoingBoing, of course) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The blurb vs. insomnia
I know reading them puts me to sleep, but it seems writing them combats sleeplessness too.

“Listen,” Almond writes. “When someone asks you to blurb a book, they are paying you a huge compliment. At the very least they are saying to you: ‘I believe your name will help me sell books.’ But more than likely they are asking you because they know and admire your work. These are not people to be shit upon.”

Right on, Steve.

Still, at this moment, I’m struggling with the blurb format, which often seems to be a particularly literate form of Mad Libs:

“This (adjective) and (adjective/noun) cuts to the bone of (evocative phrase). Reminiscent of the works of (mainstream author) and (groovy, less well-known author), this (adjective) work marks (insert writer’s name) as a (choose one: [a] writer at the top of his/her game; [b] a bold new voice of his/her generation).”

The cynic in me has always read blurbs with a sensibility borrowed from Mad Magazine: “When they say ‘ambitious,’ they really mean ‘I didn’t finish the damn thing.’ ” My favorite unpublished blurb is one that was written by a very famous Hollywood personality, who I unfortunately can’t identify here: “What do you want me to say?” the blurber wrote. “I’ll write anything!”

There's even an GoodReports nod in here! (From MoorishGirl) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Chuckles from heaven
Like any good action story, the Bible is full of laughs between all the, you know, murder and mayhem. Why do you think Mel Gibson is so interested in it? He and Danny Glover are working on a sequel to The Passion of Christ to be called "Left Behind". The melting sinners part is supposed to be hilarious. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The universal dilemma: where to put the cumshot
I vote for ... never mind. Susannah Breslin, in her quest to make the entire process of writing and selling her novel, Porn Happy, transparent, is blogging about agent response to her intial 50 page queries. She tweaks the pages to place the porn part of Porn Happy in higher traffic areas (the first few pages), but no luck. (discuss) (Posted by George)

D-? But it came in a fancy report cover!!
Mark Sarvas gives us his latest installment of the indispensableLATBR thumbnail. (discuss) (Posted by George)

I heart Chaucer
I missed AN Wilson's Valentine/Chaucer piece on Monday. I respectfully submit it to you now.

The Parlement of Foules is a marvellously witty poem, in which three eagles come to their fellows and bid for the hand, or claw, of the most beautiful female of their species. The birds of prey, as well as the seed-eating and worm-eating birds, all squawk their opinions about which of the eagles is worthiest of her. In the end, dame Nature allows the female bird to make up her own mind.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Bob Newhart memoir
Apparently it's mostly empty pages of significant looks and choked indignance. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Want to ensure the permanence of your thoughts?
Very useful information, should you be planning a long out-of-body experience. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sweet merciful crap

When will the madness end? Not only does she have an article written about her "rise to fame" at the crooked site poetry.com, she also has a picture. I could feel sorry for this poor girl if I hadn't read the poem at the end. Avert your eyes! Avert your eyes! (Does anybody know where I can find stats about how many people might currently be suing Poetry.com? I'm interested in writing an article.) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/18/05:

The renaissance of the trade paperback original
Fresh Eyes and Soft Skull's Richard Nash share some thoughts.

From a bookseller's perspective, it's a hell of a lot easier to build an audience for an unknown author by asking the customer to take a chance on a $15 book than it is a $25 one. And even though I can anticipate all the usual arguments against paperback originals, I don't think the learning curve would be that extreme if we committed to the process.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Ottawa micro presses
Matt Firth has an informative piece on the scene in our national's capital.

Ottawa's literary publishing underground is alive and well among micro presses. A micro press is just what it sounds like: a smaller-than-small independent press, producing zines, chapbooks, broadsheets and pamphlets in tiny print runs for a few feverishly faithful readers.

Above/ground press, Mercutio Press, Hand Maiden Press, Sorrowland Press might not roll as freely off the tongue as HarperCollins but they're viable enterprises all the same. From the perspective of the new and emerging writer, micro presses are the door to the publishing universe. A lot of writers would never see their work in print-blurry ink or otherwise-if not for micro presses.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Silmarillion revisited
Salon thinks Tolkien's bible of Middle Earth is worth another look. Not quite sure why the article talks about John Gardner like he's alive though. (Salon link)

By virtue of aesthetics alone, this new volume of "The Silmarillion" should bring a great many more readers into fuller appreciation of not only the book but also Tolkien's universe at large. Exquisitely illustrated by Ted Naismith, who worked on Robert Foster's "Complete Guide to Middle Earth," this new edition is the model of what a 21st century, ancient cosmological text should look like, if that makes any sense. I feel almost silly for saying it, but it's a really pretty book: From the typescript to the spacious layout -- not to mention the extremely useful appendixes of genealogical tables, notes on Elvish pronunciation, indexes of names, and linguistic elements of Tolkien's two Elvish tongues -- the publishers have done well to give Tolkien's saga a tangible feeling of the momentous mythological history its author meant it to be.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

There's no Culture in America
Iain Banks talks about the anti-America streak in contemporary UK SF. (Salon link)

It's hard to remind yourself it's not the American people; it's not everybody. It's a difficult thing: You've got to draw a line between the state, the figurehead, the symbols, like the flag or the president. And then it comes down to terms: Is it anti-American to be anti-capitalist? I certainly feel that the stuff I'm writing, the Culture stuff, in its own subtle way is anti-capitalist.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

But shouldn't bush and a hotmilitarystud go together naturally, anyway?
I mean, that is how God intended it, right? An op-ed look* at how the Bush administration is so desperate for lackey journalists that they'll let a porn site operator into the press gallery but deny a pass to a long time correspondent. (My spellcheck tried to correct "hotmilitarystud" to "homilist"... heehee.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lit bloggers fill a niche... great
Yeah, the I-really-should-be-doing-something-more-
productive-with-my-time
niche.

The explosion of blogging among book lovers corresponds with a general rise in the use of blogs among the computer literate. A recent study by the Pew Foundation finds that 8 million people have created blogs, a 58% jump in the past year, and about 25% of all Internet users read them.

I'm starting to grow progressively more disillusioned with this whole process. My stats tell me we have hundreds, even thousands, of readers, but I wonder... (Sorry, cranky morning.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

It's like stumbling onto a meeting conducted in white hoods

In the words of Bookslut Michael Schaub: "Meet the enemy". (discuss) (Posted by George)

Random House phones it in
Speculating that the foreign success of the cell-novel may come to North America, Random acquires a significant stake in a cell-tech company. Hey, I thought publishers were all in trouble and had no money... How about acquiring a significant stake in me? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Arkansas: next to go
Arkansas defeats anti-gay book bill. Well, technically. It was more of a tie than a defeat. How creepy is that? (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Mao of Pooh
Just like it sounds... (From IncomingSignals) (discuss) (Posted by George)

More to come later today. I'm just too tired now. Meh.


02/21/05:

The end of gay...
...theatre in Canada?

In his controversial 1999 treatise, The End of Gay, Bert Archer proposed, essentially, that mainstream acceptance of homosexuals, the Will-and-Grace-ing of the commonweal, meant the end of gay and lesbian distinctiveness, that identities forged through oppression would dissipate in its absence. If this season's offerings reflect a coming trend, he's right. At least in the special enclave of the theatre, identified gay and lesbian playwrights, actors and directors have arrived. But what do they have left from the long slog to professional eminence? Is this the endpoint of liberation -- at last, to have the chance to produce work resembling everyone else's?

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What will become of our heroine?
Harlequin struggles with slipping sales. Is there anyway to stop the decline into spinsterhood? Of course -- China.

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., famous for its bodice-ripper novels, is under pressure to reverse a slump that is denting its parent Torstar Corp.'s profit picture. The romance fiction publisher has been suffering from soft sales, and investors are holding their breath to see how -- and if -- the company can turn itself around by embracing more international markets and adding new lines of books.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

We really need to start a ninja cult
Is Dan Brown getting a cut of membership fees?

Secret societies such as the Knights Templar, which features in The Da Vinci Code, are experiencing a huge increase in popularity because of the success of the book. The magazine Freemasonry Today says that membership of these semi-masonic groups has risen by more than 20,000 in the past two years.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Outram eulogized
A longer obit in the Star. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Hunter S Thompson

Thompson committed suicide last night.

Journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson, who unleashed the concept of "gonzo journalism" in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself in the head Sunday at his home near Aspen, Colorado, police and his family said.

Without trying to be funny at all, I think it's telling that I misread part of this lead paragraph as "... Loathing in Las Vegas," finally shot himself in the head Sunday at his home near Aspen..." (discuss) (Posted by George)

Don't you guys get it?
You pick on my Little Sister, you pick on me.

In a decision released Friday, Justice Allan Thackray of the B.C. Court of Appeal reversed a July 2004 ruling that would have given Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium an unspecified sum to wage its book battle against the government agency. Little Sisters argued it couldn't afford another court fight with Customs, which has seized several books at the United States border since 1985.

I regularly get (non-pornographic) books sent to me from the US, and I can attest to the overzealousness of customs. Book packages from anywhere other than Amazon arrive at my house opened (only sometimes resealed) and quite often leafed through, bent, or otherwise molested. Note to bored customs dudes: once you've seen there are no drugs or bomb parts in it, WTF? Get your own books. (Aren't you reading Dean Koontz anyway?)

On the other hand, crossing the border quite consistently, as I have been the last five years, I know Canada customs officers to be a few latex gloves short of invasive, at least compared to their American counterparts.

But, regardless, Deva is right: these frontline workers should have no authority to make snap judgments on reading materials at the border -- not without more definite guidelines and some fucking sensitivity training (preferably involving ropes and meatmen.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that The Da Vinci Code is pure fiction... That's right! A "Novel", as it were...

Hmm. How do Christians know anything about conducting trials...? Oh, yes: the killing and burning. Riiiight. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Subtitles: The Idea that Changed America
Subtitles are taking over the world* and it's up to Ben Kenobi and Yoda, or some strange combination of the two, to stop them.

Nobody really notices subtitles. They are a sort of lottery ticket in the economics of nonfiction book marketing. Publishers throw all kinds of elements in them -- vogue words and phrases, features of the book the title didn't get around to mentioning, talismanic locutions like ''An American Life'' -- in the (almost always) vain hope that something will pay off.

What's changed recently is that the subtitle has been asked to bear ever more weight. So many books are published nowadays that each one needs to proclaim its own merits; and with advertising budgets shaved away to nothing, the task falls to subtitles. As a result, they have become ubiquitous, hyperbolic and long.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Booker Light: tastes great, less American
Well, it seems to me the hooplah around the International Booker is unfounded. Barely an American on the list... Unless you count Saul Bellow, but isn't he a Mexican poet? We were so quick to judge. I've barely heard of even one of these writers. I have no doubt this list will be dominated year after year by obscure books the English speaking world will never buy. Absolutely no doubt. (Seriously, though, I nearly fainted when I saw Lem on the list. Hawt!) (Note: for those regular writers to Bookninja, and you know who you are, who can't seem to get written sarcasm, every preceding the bracketed text is to be read with dripping sarcasm. No need to inform me Bellow isn't Mexican. We all know this particular poet hails from Iceland.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

British set to give up on classics
Well, unlike dental care, they did at least give classics a good long try.

Currently one Shakespeare play must be studied by 11 to 14-year-olds, and one more by those on their two-year GCSE course. Other plays must be studied from a list of 10 playwrights. They range from William Congreve, who wrote in the 17th and 18th centuries, to 19th and 20th-century authors such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and JB Priestley.

Four out of 28 listed pre- 1914 poets and two out of 19 novelists from before that year must be studied. From the years after 1914, four out of a list of 16 poets and two out of 11 novelists must be studied.

Um, carry the one... Um, times pi? Does the answer have something to do with "integers" or "sigmas"? (Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston pie, why does a chicken? I don't know why...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Kazuo
Okay, we don't usually link to reviews, but this just looks soooo goooood. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Short stories in short omnibus
The NYT looks at eight short story collections in one short article.* Now that's coverage. I was looking at the end of the bit that read, "Oh yeah? You're lucky with cover this penny ante shit at all, Mr. Midlist. Shoe's untied. Pffst! Sucker." (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poetry therapy for road rage
Drivers are encouraged to choose poetry, just like Frankie might have chosen life.

The key is to train drivers to "respond consciously" to an incident on the road, rather than merely "react" with knee-jerk anger, he said. "Part of my intention, too, is to encourage the concept of gratitude. You know, if someone cuts you off, pause and be grateful they didn't cut off a little sooner, and [you're] still on the road."

The course will cost $375 for six 2½-hour sessions, including materials such as the poetry, a special "Sorry" sign to wave in the window to make amends for road-rage behaviour and a CD of relaxing driving music.

It might be interesting to watch the statistics for traffic fatalities among former road ragers. I have a feeling they might be on the rise. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

File under: only in America (or possibly Alberta)
Man watches HeeHaw, writes Missouri state poem.* TS Eliot spins in grave, scratches ass, returns to blissful sleep.

It was Heindselman's daughter who told him (after he woke up from snoozing in front of "Hee Haw") that "Missouri — Just Waitin' For Me" sounded more like a poem than an article. Impressed with a talent he didn't know he had, he sent copies of the work to every dignitary he could think of — and saved their responses, even the form letters, with pride.

Beware, the full text of the poem is at the end. Have a big sip of coffee before reading to ensure properly voluminous spit-take. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/22/05:

Place your bets
The Complete Review offers odds on the Man Booker International and a handy guide to each of the authors on the longlist, as well as the judges. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Superman is a dick
Funny collection of Superman covers in which the Man of Steel is a dick. (From Neil Gaiman) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The passing of the New Yorker's grammarian
She once found four grammar mistakes in a three-word sentence. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Volume 2 of the Trade Paperback Original saga
In which readers write in with their plot suggestions.

On the whole, I say more TPO's, please! They're more fun to sell because they play to an independent's handselling strength, and it's fun to get your shovel into the ground first, as it were. For what it's worth. lots of unreal crime stuff never sees cloth and sells just fine across the board. Why not try other books too?

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Hunter S Thompson links
The great writer left a lot behind, some of it on the web. (discuss) (Posted by George)

File under: Pay no attention to the dirty druglord, children... He's just here to strip the asbestos from the duct work
Book of songs glorifying drug traffickers makes its way into Mexican grade schools.

Mexico's school libraries are stocking a book that includes the lyrics of "narcocorridos" - folk songs that glorify drug traffickers - causing a storm of criticism in a country where the drug market and its violence have become part of life in thousands of communities.
...
"That's bad, because we have a problem in this country where drug traffickers sometimes pave a town's road, build its school or hospital, and thus have a much better reputation among some people than the police. We have to work against that."

Barney... Thomas... Pooh... Motorcycle Mouse... Puffy the Civic-Minded Toothless Crackhead... Elmo... (Actually, Elmo is one piece of drug paraphernalia away from an arrest record in my estimation... Did you know that until the meth habit formed he was just a 38-year-old white broker named Tad?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Writing the snob
The snob in recent literature... I think. I'm actually not sure what the purpose of this article is, as it contains very little text that isn't description of one of the several books mentioned (but that seems to be the way the NYT is going, doesn't it... all the same books mentioned all the time.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Translators of Pashtun poetry hope to broker peace, roll well against their Wisdom
After years of work, the Jihad-free text is finally translated from the original and given a horrible cover. One can only hope the inside isn't the translation equivalent of a sketch from the corner of a D&D fanatic's character sheet. (discuss) (Posted by George)

A book for children that helps instill a sense of what's important
Now here is a book I will buy for the boy.

The book [The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq] was inspired by a July 2003, article in The New York Times about Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of Basra's Central Library, who was determined to protect the library's holdings when US troops entered Iraq and fighting and looting broke out.

When her own government refused to help, Ms. Baker began spiriting the collection to safety herself, book by book. She carried the books to her home and to a neighboring restaurant, managing with the help of friends to preserve 70 percent of the collection before the historic building burned to the ground nine days later.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Man takes a trip, becomes a writer
Of course, the trip was the bottom of a set of stairs, crushing half his brain. Yep. That oughtta just about do it. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/23/05:

Font Leech
A new blog dedicated to the dissemination of free fonts. And they said the Web was a waste of time. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

CBC Alternative Canadian Walk of Fame
It's an odd little collection, but Canuck comic artist Chester Brown is a nice addition. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Satanic Curses: Rushdie goes batty
Apparently, Salman threatened a reporter (who said "mean things" about his wife) with a baseball bat (last item). Gulp. I guess I better not mention the wizened-gnome/wig-on-a- stick thing again. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Angooglo Saxons?
The head of France's National Library is worried about Google Print.

The President of the National Library of France is a worried man. Jean-Christmas Jeanneney,the President of the National Library of France (BNF), recently wrote an article in Le Monde alerting France and Europe to the dangers of the Google Print project.

Jeanneney says that by concentrating on making overwhelmingly English-language books available through the Google Print project, the Internet's culture would be skewed towards an Anglo-Saxon cultural view of the world.
...
He warns of the `risk of a crushing domination of America` but says that quotas and protectionism didn't work for cinema and TV and are unlikely to work on the Internet.

Jeanneney admits that equivalent French projects can't compete with the resources of Google.

Listen, I realise it's your natural instinct, but until Google develops an army, you should refrain from surrendering. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"That's linguistic anarchy"

The go-to guy on pronunciations for audio book recordings, and audio doppelganger for Peter, gets some press at the NYT. Cute article. I'm growing more and more interested in recordings and audio books. A new friend just handed me a fantastic recording of Larkin reading from his work. This cheap recordable CD now feels like a treasure I should hand down to my child. Other than Rattling, a much-apprecited advertiser here at Bookninja, does anyone know of other companies in Canada (or the US, for that matter) that record and sell poetry? (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Lion, the Switch, and the Wardrobe
Maud brings our attention to an interesting NYT piece from the weekend* dealing with Disney's adaptation of CS Lewis's classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.

That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.

Strange, Hollywood pulls back on the Christianity in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, but here they're talking about whether or not to pump it up. Funny thing, money. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Internet v language
The internet is not killing language.

Traditional linguists fear the internet damages our ability to articulate properly, infusing language with LOLs, dorky emoticons and the gauche sharing of personal information on blogs. But some researchers believe we have entered a new era of expression.

"Resources for the expression of informality in writing have hugely increased -- something not seen in English since the Middle Ages,"

Au contraire, it has given it a new home here at Bookninja. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"A book that has been writing me for 30 years"
Gary Geddes profiled in the Globe. (It only takes one line to put me off, but otherwise The Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things sounds like an interesting book...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Spelling off
Pete used to get mad at me for some of my spelling and grammar gaffs, but now, instead of getting angry, he just loves me less.

I AM THE WORLD'S WORST SPELLER. I have been all my life. My homework -- from Miss Pedrow's third-grade language arts class to Dr. Gurevitch's doctoral seminar in persuasion and attitude change -- all came back with the measles, solid red marks from top to bottom. "Good writing, atrocious spelling" was the verdict of just about every essay contest I ever entered (even those I won).

I don't misspell just hard words (diaphanous, anyone? soliloquy?); I misspell words like "maybe" and "because" and "famous." I misspell my own mother's name, Elfreida. My misspelling is epic. It's rich and vibrant and ever changing. It can even be fun.

I once forgot, for several hours, how to spell the word "who"... I kept writing it down as "hoo" and saying, "Nope, that can't be right..." "ho?" "Nope... What's wrong with this pen?!?" (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Foetry v Iowa
Foetry, the poetry contest watchdogs, are launching a class action lawsuit against the University of Iowa and their allegedly crooked contests, which seem to often go to grads, employees and the mice in the corn fields. (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The copyright battle
Korean-style. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Getting stewed(ious)
Reading among children not in danger.

According to a Tesco study that asked 2,600 parents about their children's reading habits, the perception that children spend their lives glued to a computer screen playing games is either a myth or a huge exaggeration.

Or, more likely, parents are lying. The child-to-parent/parent-to-child recommendations at the end are interesting. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Boink bonked
The launch for Boink (not worksafe), a glossy sex mag for Boston University students, gets broken up by stormtroopers. To the surprise of everyone present, no sax music was cued and the cops proceeded to arrest people instead of stripping to thin-blue-line g-strings and doing the Macarena (now THAT's web design!). (From Nerve) (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/24/05:

Hope is not lost... For Frodo still has the Ring!
In my little world up here in Canada, articles like this, about federal funding for the arts, are usually read in the prophetic dulcet voiceover tones of Cate Blanchett, a la the beginning of the Lord of the Rings movies...

The budget did little to reassure artists doubtful about Ottawa's long-term commitment to funding the nation's cultural sector, as it contained only one one stand-out, financial commitment.

While pleased no major new cuts were announced, there was only faint praise among arts groups for Ottawa's pledge to spend $688 million over five years on Tomorrow Starts Today.

Where's Tom Bombadil when you need him? Sucking face with Goldberry, most likely. Get out here and magic jig me up some cashola, fairyboy! (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Tom Patterson
Stratford Festival founder, dead at 84. (discuss) (Posted by George)

I am so getting ready to hit Canada Customs with a saucy middle-finger emoticon
More on Little Sister's losing battle.

Little Sisters' current challenge is actually the second time the bookstore has targeted Customs. The first case concluded in 2000, when the Supreme Court flayed Customs for following arbitrary and inconsistent seizure policies. However, instead of striking down the agency's power to seize and censor, the court ordered Customs to clean up its act.

Mr. Arvay said that since then, Customs has done "almost nothing" to address the shortcomings cited by the Supreme Court, and more than 5,000 titles of "expressive material" are seized each year.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Is that chicken grease or booze you got there?
They've been claiming it for years now, but it looks like the OED is finally ready (use bugmenot.com to get a password) to embrace the uniform worn by 87.6% people appearing in COPS cameo roles. Of course, the Wubblewoo set, past their all-fired-up-in-the-blood-by-coke-and-wife's-smart-mouth days, have already moved on to another term for the undershirt: bib. (discuss)
(Posted by George)

Does that make the kid a Duck-Bat? Cause that would be kind of cool... like a Disney Halloween special...
Pushing the limits for "young adult".* And I don't mean turning 17.

Weetzie Bat wears vintage clothes decorated with sparkles. She has a boyfriend she calls "My Secret Agent Lover Man." They live with Dirk, Weetzie's gay best friend, his lover, Duck, and Weetzie's daughter, Cherokee, possibly conceived during group sex with Dirk and Duck. There is also Witch Baby, Lover Man's child with a witch. The family works in the movie business. And they become involved with seamier elements of Los Angeles: rough sex, pimps and drugs.

Everyone please step to the side to allow any nearby religious zealots room to pound their heads against the wall behind you. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Booker betting tips of the distant future
Don't bother playing the odds until Nana, seen here sporting a SHREK (Sealed-Hermetically Rowling Economy Kosmetic-o-mask -- maybe it's just a British thing...?), comes out with her book. Apparently it's a natch for the top spot. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Mormons under fire from one of their own
Dr. Martha Beck has written a memoir in which she accuses her father, a very prominent Mormon scholar, of sexually abusing her as a child. As one might expect, this has gotten the church's back up a bit...

The Mormon Church issued a statement condemning the book, calling it "seriously flawed in the way it depicts the church, its members and teachings." Dr. Beck and her publisher have said she has received e-mail messages containing death threats.

More than enough reason to buy and read the book right there... The church is freaking out, which in turn takes valuable time away from producing nuisance commercials and converting people after they die. (Thanks, Russell) (discuss) (Posted by George)

And then, as poor crippled Timmy watched, the vampires ate the angels...
No such luck. Goth goddess and Amazon crybaby Anne Rice hooks up with an angels-among-us freak to promote said freak's new book, My Descent Into Dying (which was, it seems, unfortunately followed by his ascent out of it). This is like the literary version of a hard-core metalhead turning 40 and developing a hankerin' for the Nashville Network. (From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Abusive Dad abusive to everyone
Including the good people at Amazon. Says Stephen Elliott:

Here's something weird. My father, who was an awful and abusive father, is leaving bad reviews of my books on Amazon.com. The most recent one being for Happy Baby, posted under the name Blum732, blum being his last name before he changed it and 732 being the last three digits of his email address. If there's a lesson here I guess it's that abusive parents don't stop being abusive just because they get older. Abusive relationships are psychological in nature and if you know an abuser, someone who lashes out and can't control their emotions, get away from that person. Cut the cord and never look back.

Now that's gotta suck. It's one thing to find that some schmo who hated you in your undergrad creative writing class is sniping at you on the internet from behind an anonymous handle, it's another thing to see old Dad just won't give up... I feel like buying a book just to make a point. (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

New Shelley letters up for auction
In which he says Jesus didn't exist. God must have killed so many kittens when He read that... (discuss) (Posted by George)

LATBR Thumbnail
Now ready for your enjoymenting pleasuration. (discuss) (Posted by George)

You know, the one where he is clever and earnest just for you...
Dave Eggers: the sex dream. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/25/05:

Do you read Bookninja with one hand?
It's Friday, enjoy an orgy of books, compliments of the staff and faculty at Bookninja.

Bloggers blow

Pompous ass librarian expounds upon the state of pompous associty. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Returns suck
Are returns killing publishing?

The answers to these questions, in part, is that a lot of smart people believe returns are a necessary evil—lousy, yes, but needed because their disappearance would make bookstores more risk-averse, less willing to carry wider numbers of different titles and even likelier than they already are to focus the majority of their efforts on promoting only the biggest and most commercial releases. Many fear the loss of returns would just give more leverage to the biggest of the corporate publishers and retailers; the people who would suffer most would be—you guessed it—independent publishers and the independent bookstores, who’d find it that much harder to compete.

With the current system, of course, no one suffers returns more acutely than small presses like mine, which don’t have the clout to push out six-figure advance orders, or the deep pockets to withstand the cost of 40 percent, 50 percent or even higher percentages of those books coming back. Even garden-variety returns of 20 percent (and as one successful small press distributor told me, “If you’re not getting 20 percent returns, your books aren’t well-enough distributed”) of a four- or five-figure advance order can be punishing to the bottom line and devastating to cash flow. But even thinking beyond my own self-interest, I believe that many of our industry’s strange inefficiencies would go away if returns went away.

I can tell you they kill me. How painful is it to see from royalty statement to royalty statement your numbers slowly slipping away... Sigh. (From Bookslut, bearer of good news) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Bloggers fluff
Up sales. Did Sam Lipsyte's hysterical (I'm reading it now) Home Land receive a boost from bloggers? I'm loving this Newsday books editor. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Brontë licked
Charlotte Brontëgets stamps for her 150th. She looks remarkably well for a woman of her age. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sappho comes
To Ottawa. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Thompson to get blown
Out of a cannon. Bust a cap in his ash, so to speak.

Dozens of cannon owners, from Civil War re-enactors in Pennsylvania to an Eagle pilot, who has specified in his own will that he be shot posthumously from a cannon, have offered the use of their weapons to Thompson's family.

I love the man. If I had a cannon, I'd offer too. (discuss) (Posted by George)

iPods have heads cocked
To the sound of MP3 audio books. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Teen(s cream)
Their own poetry. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Money shot
At CBC contest winners. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Edinburgh swallows
The bill for the International Booker. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

Using books as furniture
I already do this, but none of it LOOKS LIKE furniture. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

A cry from the dark

How to get your self-published book on Amazon. (From BoingBoing as well) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Debunking the Wikibunk
Remember how the ex-head of Britannica sent a haymaker in Wikipedia's direction? His arguments are being debunked here in an interesting piece about free knowledge. (At this point you should pretty much just go read BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

They're so cute!

Six first time authors write about launching their books. (discuss) (Posted by George)


02/28/05:

Rejoice! It's not a leap year
We don't have to spend an extra twenty four hours in this damnable month.

She can make it there
Sarah McNally's Manhattan-based Canadian bookstore seems to be doing just fine. Who'd have thunk it? I still haven't been able to find it when I'm there. The article says Soho, but I think it's technically in Noho. Whereho? Someho? Whoho? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Whither the Taiwanese?
Taiwan wants to figure out we're interested in their movies but not their books.

Academics may point to the turbulent and confused history of Taiwanese literature to explain its lukewarm reception abroad. But others feel that the roots of the problem lay not with overseas readers concepts and ideas of what Taiwan is, but, instead, with the changing face of local reading habits.

At the annual Kingstone (???) "Most Influential Books of the Year" awards, considered by many in the publishing industry to be the most significant indicator of the nation's reading habits, local literature often plays second fiddle to foreign works.

It seems to me that if their books incorporated a little more wire-work kung fu and flying severed limbs, they wouldn't be in this mess. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Never hoid of the guy
Now I must have. Gore Vidal on James Purdy.*

''Gay'' literature, particularly by writers still alive, is a large cemetery where unalike writers, except for their supposed sexual desires, are thrown together in a lot well off the beaten track of family values. James Purdy, who should one day be placed alongside William Faulkner in the somber Gothic corner of the cemetery of American literature, instead is being routed to lie alongside non-relatives.

Wait a minute... Did the NYT just sell me a book? (discuss) (Posted by George)

In the shadow of the great boozehound
Wales to get poet laureate. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dickensing around

Dickensian sidebar humour from The Star. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Monowi, population 1
Witness the rural library,* heartiest of institutions.

Monowi may be the smallest town in the nation with its own library, but the bounty of books here for the taking is very much in the spirit of rural America.

All across the Great Plains, towns that have long since lost their schools and their banks still keep little libraries going.

Nearly 30 percent of the nation's libraries serve communities of fewer than 2,500 people, including almost 3,000 libraries in towns where the population is measured in the hundreds.

Because they run on volunteer labor, making do with the books at hand, rural libraries survive even in tight times such as these, when big cities are shutting branches.

Monowi, population 1, has a library - okay, that's surprising. But you know what would be even more surprising? If it had a strip club. (discuss) (Posted by George)

This guy could doodle on a napkin and it would be good

Simon Armitage has been commissioned to write "lyrics" for a "poetic film" commemorating 60th anniversary of VE Day. Anyone in the UK want to tape this for me? (discuss) (Posted by George)

When academics attack!

Are academics their own worst enemies? Surely this is true at parties and in bed, but in academia itself??

Paradoxically, direct attacks on academic freedom often come from within the university. There is a mood of intolerance towards those who hold unconventional, unpopular opinions, especially in the area of politics. Some academics do not simply challenge views that they dislike; they often seek to ban them and to prevent individuals who advocate them from working or speaking on their campus.
...
Academic freedom has become negotiable. Consequently, only the more grotesque attacks on this freedom tend to provoke a reaction on campus. One such example is the recent revelation of a memo issued to colleagues in arts and humanities at Durham University, which said lecturers would have to obtain approval from an 'ethics' committee if they wanted to give lectures and tutorials on subjects that might offend students - including abortion or euthanasia.

I already know which of you regular readers are going to particularly love this essay... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sneaky poodle
Stuart Ross's allegedly Torontocentric surrealism anthology, Surreal Estate, gets the tilty hand motion in The Star. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Come on, it begins with April Fool's Day...

Dan Nester looks at the history of and criticism of National Poetry Month. (discuss) (Posted by George)


 


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