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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.


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January 2005:



Lit bloggers rule!
Well, in Denver at least. A good survey of lit bloggers with Maud Newton at the helm (as she should be), and even a brief Ninja mention (we provide a funny name example for the people at home...)

In their energy and occasional outrageousness, the blogs recall the golden age of literary magazines in the '60s, when at least one in Madison, Wis., was printed on paper stolen from a school English Department, run off on a mimeograph machine in a garage and handed out free. Today's literary magazines, like their editors, have become in many cases middle-aged and comfortable, more taken up with fundraising than publishing cutting-edge fiction and poetry.

Hell, I do this out of a garage now! Well, my office... which looks like a garage... if cars were made of paper... (discuss) (posted by George)

Licking the Devil's Nether Bits Tour '05!
Rock on! Cynthia Ozick goes on tour.* Hotel rooms left a-shambles, strings of exhausted groupies naked and spent in wake of tantrum and profanity.

Thirty-eight years after the publication of my first novel, I (hereinafter to be referred to reticently, humbly, as Author) did it. What made it happen? A change of publishers; a munificent proposal to go on the road, all expenses paid; a lightning revelation -- enough of silence and exile! What, after all, have silence and exile ever done for Author but get her scorned as midlist, damned as a writer's writer, omitted between ''Oates'' and ''Paley'' on Barnes & Noble's shelves? As for cunning -- ah, let Author grasp this at last! Does Author, with all her white hairs, mean to kowtow forever before the footstool of Art? Or languish eternally as No. 543,972 on Amazon?

Funny stuff. (discuss) (posted by George)

Some down-to-earth SF
The Mundane Manifesto. Do you like your scifi to take place here on earth a few years in the future? I do. And so do these guys. And they have a blog, too. (From Beatrice) (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: Every little bit helps
A rather slender article on a fella who publishes what look like really nice (cardboard?) broadsides. Relevant if you are a collector or, like me, are amazed to see anything dealing with micropresses. (discuss) (posted by George)

The year in culture
Must hate everything Crouch likes... Damn. Can't. Blogs get a mention here too. We done come up.

The movie that most blew me away this year was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the book, probably Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby. But if I really think about the precise wording of Slate's request, which asked about the "one cultural happening" that most affected my year, I'd say that the single biggest change in the way I experience culture can be summed up in one word, which is by now such an oversaturated media buzzword I can barely bring myself to type it: blogs.


Ah, Proust
P-diddly meets Monty Python. (From The Rake) (discuss) (posted by George)

Happy Don Quixote year!
Spain celebrates the 400th anniversary of the most famous character of literature.

The public broadcaster, RTVE, will air documentaries on the theme throughout the year. It has recruited celebrities and members of the public from across the Spanish-speaking world to read a section of the book each day. Besides organising readings and debates, the ministry of culture will promote new works of music, theatre, film and dance based on Don Quixote. Companies that sponsor such events in the coming year will receive a tax break from the government.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Didn't get a calendar for Christmas?
You can always print off this sci-fi calendar (PDF link) complete with the birthdays of all the major writers and cover art from the old-school books. (From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

No one scared me as much as Susan Sontag
The designer of some of Sontag's books has posted a nice memorial to her over at Design Observer.

She always wanted to see what we'd propose, but it was hard to compete with what she had chosen, her selections suggesting, from her perspective at least, deep relationships to her writing. As a result, her first series was art-laden, boasting works by Isamu Noguchi, Andrea Mantegna and George Seurat.

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


Some people just can't get enough Don Quixote
Especially profs.

In my personal library, I have some 80 different versions, including ones produced for children, as well as translations into Yiddish, Korean, Urdu, and part of the novel that I translated into Spanglish. I guess my collection is proof of my passion. I can't think of a book that better illustrates the tension between private and public life, one that speaks louder to the power of the imagination in such an ingenious, unsettling fashion. If ever I wanted to live my life like a literary character, it would be as Cervantes's sublime creation.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

"What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?"
Edge.org posed this question to science writers such as Richard Dawkins. Great stuff.

I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all "design" anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

If you like this feature, take a look around Edge. It's a pretty fascinating site for science nerds. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Metacritic Books
Looks like the Complete Review has some competition. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

A glimpse of bill bisset's time in the crowbar motel
Alexandra Gill visits a medium security prison to find out what creative writing classes are like in the clink. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they are not much different. The overly earnest, the terribly psychotic, the barely competent and time travel. Who'd a thunk it.

Day Two: 12:30 p.m.

During lunch, Pat sits down beside me to recommend a few more books. "This one's pretty good too," he says, tapping a tattered paperback copy of Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness.

Without warning, he reaches down into his parka and pulls out what looks like a dirty wool sock. I realize, with horror, that it's his beard.

"This only comes out for special occasions," he says, ceremoniously pulling off an elastic band as he unrolls the matted rope of hair and tries to bend it flat. It hangs down to his waist! I don't know whether to scream, vomit or try to pretend I'm honoured. Griffin, bless his soul, appears just in the nick of time and herds us back to class.

(Note to American readers: bill bisset is a Canadian poet who has been doing the phonetic English schtick for about 30-some-odd years. And while it hasn't landed him in prison, it has qualified him for ... um... grant money.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Heroin(e) in the parlour
Irving Welsh owes a debt of gratitude to Jane Austen. Apparently it was she who first got him high. On life, man. (discuss) (posted by George)

Walkman lit
A professor confesses his life long love of books-on-tape. While I love to hear old recordings of dead authors, I've always found recordings of longer contemporary works to be a somewhat passive experience, but this guy actually makes a case for it.

I have to admit that I love the sound of my own voice, which I often compare with my mental recordings of the narrators I remember from my childhood. Can there be anything more fun in an English class than reading the gravedigger scene from Hamlet with different accents for students who are bored to tears with lifeless reading assignments in seemingly archaic prose? How many more of them could get hooked on literature by hearing Paradise Lost read aloud in all its magniloquent glory rather than slogging through it in resentful, somnolent silence?

Though I can't imagine the Tom Wolfe being read (or heard) with a straight face. (Related: a website makes recordings of children's classics available for free. This last from BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: useful endeavours for taxpayer money
Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit is being translated into Egyptian hieroglyphs by the British Museum. Sweet. Now all those dead boy kings will finally be able to read it. (From GoodReports) (discuss) (posted by George)

Tea leaves
The Boston Globe looks at what books are coming in 2005. I myself prefer to be surprised. Holy shit! A new Harry Potter! Score! (discuss) (posted by George)


Bookclub turns twenty, makes paper in Sacramento, where real news doesn't happen and reading is exceptional.

Part of their success comes from the understanding that modern communities often are sought out or created. Two founding members of this local group, Melanie and Steve Mopsick, took a how-to class on starting a book club at the Learning Exchange as a way to meet people when they moved from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento in the early 1980s.

Just kidding. But, still, I'm jealous. I'd love to sit around a table and talk books with the right group of people. Said table should be populated with large glasses of Creemore and plentiful baskets of chicken wings. (discuss) (posted by George)

Epic homemade SF
Interesting piece of (Flash) SF on media conglomeration.

In the year 2014, the New York Times has gone offline. The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned. What happened to the news? And what is EPIC?

I somehow remember seeing this before, but I don't know where. Or maybe I just dreamed it. Trippy. (discuss) (posted by George)

Want your very own PDF copy of Cheney's lesbian epic to point and laugh at? Get it now before it disappears. (From Brutal Women) (discuss) (posted by George)

Poet, Cabdriver
Two great tastes that taste great together. (discuss) (posted by George)

Women still get naked for Neruda
Sigh. Long after I'm gone it will be 28 dogs pissing on my front lawn. (discuss) (posted by George)


Confessions of a Sestinas Editor
It's not all coke and groupies.

Life as a sestinas editor has its drawbacks. You must be vigilant for the missing stanza or the end-word scheme gone awry. The exchanges I have had with writers whose sestinas I have solicited range from "I'd be embarrassed to show mine to anyone" to "Will you accept a Pindaric sestina with a modified envoi?" to the rather succinct "I fucking hate sestinas."

(From Rake's Progress) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What's the defining characteristic of Southern literature?
Apparently, it's dead mules.

The novel Blood Meridian (1985) establishes Cormac McCarthy as unchallenged king of literary mule carnage. No fewer than fifty-nine specific mules die in the book, plus dozens more that are alluded to in groups and bunches. Mules are shot, roasted, drowned, knifed, and slain by thirst; but the largest number, fifty out of a conducta of 122 mules carrying quicksilver for mining, plummet from a single cliff during an ambush, performing an almost choreographic display of motion and color

(Pic taken from The Dead Mule)(From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Baker Street Irregulars
Street urchins, writers, same thing.

Drawing its name from the street urchins Holmes occasionally employed to help in investigations, the BSI has numbered among its members former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, any number of prominent lawyers and doctors, a former president of U.S. Steel, a former vice president of General Motors, the Marquis of Donegall, and such noted authors as Rex Stout, Isaac Asimov, Vincent Starrett, Christopher Morley, Alexander Woolcott, Ellery Queen, and sportswriter Red Smith.

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Rare book room
For you collectors, Abebooks has a rare books room, a first editions room and a signed book room. (From Things) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Cranks and Lurkers
For those who missed the link on the boards, check out Cranks and Lurkers, the world's first self-editing poetry journal. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Hear hear!
Brazil cuts out all taxes on books. World doesn't end. Economy doesn't collapse. Rich stay rich. Poor read, have a better chance to get rich. Somewhere, a dog barks. A butterfly lands on a flower. Fin. (From Moby) (discuss) (posted by George)

A Good year-in-review

Like last year, Alex Good has organized an excellent year-in-review panel discussion for GoodReports. This year's allstar cast includes Maud Newton, Jessa Crispin (Bookslut), Michael Orthofer (The Complete Review), and Robert Birnbaum (Identity Theory). (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Guy Davenport
Renowned author, academic, dead at 77. (discuss) (posted by George)

New editor at Publishers' Weekly

New editor means new initiatives!* Re-branding! E-commerce! Cross-over appeal! Paradigm clarification! Other naive buzzwords hoping to stave off death for a few years!

"The magazine might not be for everybody who buys books," Ms. Nelson said. "But I do think there is a good size 'civilian' population that is fascinated by books and the book business. Find a group of three people, and two of them want to be writers or have a book idea. Everyone I know belongs to a book group. There is a crossover population that we should be able to add to the mix without sacrificing our appeal to people in the book business."

Um, you're the editor of Publishers' Weekly... I sure as shit hope everyone you know is in a book group. (P.S. I made "paradigm clarification" up myself. Like it? 20 bucks and it's yours.) (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Will Eisner
Comic book hero,* dead at 87. (discuss) (posted by George)

Peter Davidson panegyric
Old news already, but this obit on Davidson is nice coverage of his career as a poet and editor.

In fact, "midwife" should have been added to the professional attributes listed above. Peter delivered hundreds of people into careers, and millions of words into print. His editorial ministrations could be relentless.

(discuss) (posted by George)

The play's done when someone agrees to produce it...
David Gow talks about his writing process and life in the theeeatuh.

"It's nothing to do with craft," he said in a recent interview. "I just get this channel, like an FM dial. Just tune in the playwright's network."

Fuck. I just get Q107. (discuss) (posted by George)

Criminal sues Stephen King
Claims King ripped off The Green Mile. Because we all know King is so desperate for storylines that he's willing to risk his longstanding career to cop an idea. (discuss) (posted by George)


I'm having massive computer problems today. It's very difficult for me to do this (I have to keep prodding the hamster with a stick). So posts may be light until tonight when I have time to figure out what's going on. Please send hardware from the last five years. Egad.

Here are a few tidbits to tide you over:

(posted by George)



Problem solved...
So, my computer is up and running. For now. Who says outsourcing to India is a problem? (These racist pigs, for starters...) I've never had a more helpful support person than the lady who helped me today. Sure it took us a quite a while to figure it out, but damn, she was methodical and utterly polite. Frankly, I was relieved to hear the accent. It meant I was likely not talking to someone in Texas. And that's always good. (discuss) (posted by George)

The bargain table

Are book sales killing booksales?

The danger is where a half-price discount on a hardback becomes endemic, and the perceived value of the product ebbs away. Instead of stimulating more book buying, the offer merely encourages everyone to wait for a half-price offer in one chain or another. Once an expectation of discounting has become embedded in a consumer's mind, it is very hard to dislodge: the carpet and furniture retailers, with their endless sales, ensure no one except the deluded buys a sofa at full price.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Funny business in poetry
The Academy of American Poets features manifestos from younger poets. One of my favourite young Americans, Matthew Rohrer is featured writing about humour in poetry. A long while ago when I wrote that surrealist Stuart Ross would be famous if he were publishing south of the border, I was thinking of the success of young poets like Rohrer. Both of them manage to capture a kind of kinetic rapture in their work, a kind of ecstasy that might only be attainable through laughter. I was particularly delighted with both of Matthew's books (forgive me if he has another since I left), and, as you know, all of Stuart's work. Buy these poets. (I am particularly grateful for Rohrer's words on Ashbery - my hero.) (From Beatrice) (discuss) (posted by George)

Poetry and music
I was actually listening to "Famous Blue Raincoat" when I came across this article.* Some keywords to pique your interest: Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, Birth of a Nation, Nick Cave, William Burroughs, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tom Waits, and Francis Bacon. Hot. (discuss) (posted by George)

Claudia Dey
Playwright/poet, Claudia "Double Brrrowr" Dey, profiled in eye weekly.

"I believe that the nipple, the tongue, the lips, the place where the ear meets the neck, our eyelashes, as well as our sensual parts, are nature's most gracious offerings.... I believe that the soul can have orgasms. I believe that we're all animals; and that anything worth anything comes from the beast within."

Ms. Dey, I am yours to command. (discuss) (posted by George)

A different kind of year end review
The top 25 censored stories of 2004. Some interesting stuff in here. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (posted by George)

Don't get rid of books...
A Herald reader writes in to challenge an article about the obsolescence of books.

However, there is another compelling reason not to abandon the book. What seems like a very long time ago I attended a conference in Glasgow on what was then known as library automation. The librarian of the Glasgow City Libraries – I'm sorry I can no longer remember his name – was one of the speakers. He concluded his talk on how he saw the future, or it seemed he had. But then he leaned forward towards his audience with what seemed like a conspiratorial air and said: "That's aw verra weel, but whit are ye gaen tae dae when the electricity gaes aff?"

Perhaps my favourite argument yet. (discuss) (posted by George)

Newsflash: writer still uses typewriter for novel
Oh, wait, it's on the cover. To me this is interesting simply for the willingness of the editor to take design suggestions... I have a rule: if you don't absolutely hate your cover, don't get involved. But it's still nice to see someone trusting their writer's instincts. (discuss) (posted by George)

Anatomy of a city
How did Roddy Doyle* manage to recreate 1920s Chicago without actually being there? Well, he IS a writer, you know...

"You know, in the place where they were storing goods, the stage is still there," Doyle says, "and there was a mural behind a whole pile of cardboard that had been there for years, this mural of a band playing. That was marvelous. That, more than anything, really -- I just wanted to go home and write."

(discuss) (posted by George)

"The value of a J.M. Coetzee book is different to the value of a Star Wars book, but there's still some value."
Um, yes... $9.95. (From The Rake) (discuss) (posted by George)

Own a piece of British literary history
Ted Hughes' birthplace is for sale. Not included: shamanistic glimpses into eternity - but still a relatively good deal. (Why do English houses all look as though there should be a thunderhead in the background? It's as though the very bricks are soaking wet.) (discuss) (posted by George)

"Arabic is the only language in the world with grammatical rules that have not changed for 1,500 years"
An interesting piece on the debate raging in the Arab world about language growth. (discuss) (posted by George)

Now, kid, it's up to you to not shame him
Coetzee leads a PEN charge for 15-year-old California poet's rights. (From Conversational Reading) (discuss) (posted by George)

Now batting for Team Underdog... Stephen King!
It's an age-old story: Man writes novel; man is rejected repeatedly; man writes novels and plays for 30 years supporting himself as a voice over actor; man auditions for Stephen King tv show; man is rejected yet again; man is signed to book deal two weeks after King endorses him in national column.

" 'The Memory of Running' is the best novel you won't read this year," King wrote in Entertainment Weekly. "So why can't you read it? Because— so far, at least— no publisher will touch it with a 10-foot pole."

The column worked like an expertly crafted provocation. Within two weeks of its publication, McLarty had his contract.

It's almost like it's not news... (It's funny to see the Post run even wire stories on literary matters. Though I suppose a quick keyword search would reveal the piece as suitable. It does contain the words, Danielle, Stephen, Steel, and King, after all.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

Welcome NYC: a brief tour
If you're here because you read the piece in Newsday, welcome! Take a look around. We have rants and essays, inverse omnibus reviews, comics. A word of explanation though: we run the show here with tongue firmly in cheek. Facetiousness is our stock in trade. This means we often make snide comments about places and things like Texas, Alberta (Canada's Texas), American politics, and ridiculous literary behaviour. We run the site as though it were part of the conversation you'd have with friends at a bar: full of jokes, exaggerations, and passionate declarations. Rest assured, when we portray Americans as slack-jawed Bush voters, we know full well most of you aren't. Especially you, dear reader of Newsday. If this were a link from the NY Post, well then.... It's all in good fun and meant to blow off a little steam until you elect someone with a brain as well as a drive towards violence. Consider it a loving shoulder chuck from your little brother up north. (discuss) (posted by George)

Pictorial guide to Dante's Inferno
Just click on the image to see where you belong. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The complete corpus of Anglo-Saxon poetry
A handy place to test your Old English skills. (From Wood's Lot) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Damn libraries
How dare they give people what they want?

Behind the bright smiles of the librarians, there is tension. They've worked their tails off to earn master's degrees, only to be forced to subdue the ancient art of shushing and become mere clerks. The humiliation they must feel checking out an Ashlee Simpson CD to some punk who could care less about Melville Dewey is probably unbearable.

Doubtlessly, they ask themselves: Is this what a library has become -- a ghastly postmodern structure filled with espressos, listening stations and "Buffy" DVDs? I ask: Is the state now on the hook for my entertainment, too?

(From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Where's a deus ex machina when you need one?
The Toronto Star finds some similarities between the Aegean Empire of The Iliad and the Bush administration.

Says Queen's University classics professor Caroline Falkner, "the fact that Troy is so relevant today is probably why the film was made. When Agamemnon talks about his Aegean empire, I see George Bush."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Return of the living dead
For those of you who, like me, missed it: Alienated.net is back online... in blog form. I've spent months just clicking refresh and waiting for something to come up. (discuss) (posted by George)

I heard a fly buzz, so I shot it
Video games just got a whole lot hotter, baby.

The Game Design Challenge returns for a second year of innovative and provocative on-the-spot game design. Last year, the Game Design Challenge asked three veteran designers to present a concept for a game that told a love story. This year, returning Game Design Challenge champion Will Wright returns to face off against two new competitors. The theme? Design a game around a highly unusual “license” – the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

I am so there that my wrists and thumbs are hurting already. (From Clive) (discuss) (posted by George)



We don't need no education
Salon discusses the battle over anti-evolution textbooks in a U.S. school district. Guess who won.

DOVER, Pa. -- It was an ordinary springtime school board meeting in the bedroom community of Dover, Pa. The high school needed new biology textbooks, and the science department had recommended Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine's "Biology." "It was a fantastic text," said Carol "Casey" Brown, 57, a self-described Goldwater Republican and the board's senior member. "It just followed our curriculum so beautifully."

But Bill Buckingham, a new board member who'd recently become chair of the curriculum committee, had an objection. "Biology," he said, was "laced with Darwinism." He wanted a book that balanced theories of evolution with Christian creationism, and he was willing to turn his town into a cultural battlefield to get it.

The article also links to the National Center for Science Education, a handy site detailing the struggle to keep the Taliban out of the classrooms. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Should every book published in Canada be put online?
Law professor Michael Geist thinks so.

A national digital library would provide unparalleled access to Canadian content in English and French along with aboriginal and heritage languages such as Yiddish and Ukrainian. The library would serve as a focal point for the Internet in Canada, providing an invaluable resource to the education system and ensuring that access to knowledge is available to everyone, regardless of economic status or geographic location.

From a cultural perspective, the library would establish an exceptional vehicle for promoting Canadian creativity to the world, leading to greater awareness of Canadian literature, science, and history.

(From Boing Boing) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What are you reading next?
In case you missed it yesterday, Bookninja got a wee mention in Newsday. The books editor there is starting a new column inspired, in part, by book blogs. So if you're new here from Newsday, hello! Look around, read some back posts (archived below) and drop a note either by email here or on our discussion boards here. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: yeah, right
Mississippi libraries ban Jon Stewart's America because of the "nude depictions of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices". Ya-huh. Won't somebody think of the children??? (discuss) (posted by George)

I'll be going to this (at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto). Anyone want to come on a date?

The first thing you see when you enter the show is a huge black-and-white photograph by Cuban photographer Abelardo Morell called Big Book. And that's what it is: a photo of one seriously gigantic book (one of the volumes of Audubon's Birds of America, in fact), which, because of the way Morell has photographed it, looks like a portal. Where Morell is massive and almost architectonic about his books (one photograph of a big open children's book is almost enterable), American photographer Victor Schrager, by contrast, photographs books as if they were delicate sculptural objects, title-less, information-free, and glowing with soft pale colour. German giganticist photographer Candida Hofer, best known for her crystalline views of vast public spaces, has contributed a stunningly encompassing photographic gaze upon the whole of Teylers Museum in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, an exquisite 18th-century library dedicated to a veneration of the book so graceful it approaches the status of a shrine to books and bookishness.

Seriously, we should organize a Ninja field trip. Who's in? (discuss) (posted by George)

Toronto lit gossip, London-style
That is to say, battered and deep fried. Gatenby, Toews, Smith, and our poet laureate, Sally. (discuss) (posted by George)

English: alive and kicking
If we don't strangle it first...

People who speak English perfectly well* start treating it like a foreign language the moment they get within sight of a pen, even as we find ourselves in a time of perhaps unprecedented creative opportunity for the language: as new cultures, and especially Hispanic cultures, feed into the American mainstream; as English spreads across the globe, breeding new dialects in places like Singapore (''Singlish'') and the Philippines (''Taglish''); and as electronic media enable the dissemination of spoken language as never before. ''The limits of my language,'' Wittgenstein said, ''are the limits of my world.''

Good points all, but what happens to the "creative opportunity" and energy when one cell of creative production literally can't understand another? Does all this empowerment then revert back to the academics who act as translators anyway? Just a question. (discuss) (posted by George)

The low down on poetry, wot?
A helpful look at the nominees for the TS Eliot and Whitbread poetry awards. I'm waiting on the Michael Longley and the Kathryn Gray. (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Edward F. Meade
Author of Remember Me, dead at 92. (discuss) (posted by George)

Is plagiarism so bad?
Apparently, as the Pet Shop Boys remind us, it's a sin - but one that should be taken in context.

Copying somebody else's work is not nearly as egregious as acting as a stenographer to politicians' lies, for example.

Of course it's wrong to make stuff up. That's a firing offence, no question about it.

We are in the news business, offering facts, analysis and opinion, about current events. We don't write fiction, although some folks might think we do when it comes to, say, more bad news from Iraq.

That's why, when Evenson created fictional patients to illustrate stories about medical treatments, he might have influenced some readers to choose a course of action with respect to their health. That's not only a blot on journalistic credibility; it's downright unethical and even dangerous.

But lifting a few unattributed lines from elsewhere?

To be honest, I was not always so phlegmatic on the subject, harshly judging colleagues who could not be bothered to paraphrase what they borrowed from elsewhere. Because, make no mistake, most of us are in the borrowing business, seeing as we are not always at the scene of the crime, accident, fire, war, or tsunami when it happened. We rely on the accounts of others, whether we're talking the survivors, eyewitness, wire services or even the competition that got the story first.

It's not as if we portray ourselves as academics presenting original research.

I don't know how I feel about this. Not having worked in an environment where I have to organize thousands of pieces of information and then write about them in an original way, I don't know how I'd fare (yes, I do: I'd suck). But I've always said this is a matter of laziness or fatigue rather than malicious intent. Mostly these people (the plagiarising fourth estate) don't want to steal and/or get fired. They just get lazy. Or forgetful. I mean, all it takes is a system. When I read something I like and transcribe it into my notebook, it goes in square brackets. That's my system for telling my future self (who's scrounging for something to riff on) that this particular phrase is off limits. It's not that difficult.

It's sad that some people lost their jobs for what are possibly innocent gaffs, but a line has to be drawn in situations like this. Perhaps the recent spate of charges has done some good though, reminding the people that words are serious business and that someone somewhere is watching them carefully. That can't hurt either. (discuss) (posted by George)

The death of the literrrarrry jooorrrnal
Scotland's literary magazines are in trouble. Of course, I have no way of knowing, but I suspect there's a distinct zine culture there that isn't being considered. That's how it goes here, anyway. (discuss) (posted by George)

Trouble in Toon Town
It's young vs old in a no-holds-barred steel panel match. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

Libraries feeling the times
It's getting late in bun and blouse land. And in the distance, the wolves are howling...

Librarians truly are the "ultimate search engine," an incredibly knowledgeable human resource far more responsive and interactive than virtual commercial ones. Combine library staff with the services libraries provide -- including free loans of books, music, and videos; free Internet and e-mail service; computer classes; and free adult literacy, GED, and SAT prep classes -- and the value of the public library cannot be overestimated.

Oh, wait, those are frat boys, not wolves. (discuss) (posted by George)

Was Chaucer murdered?
Maybe. But whether it happened in the past, it's pretty certain he will be murdered in the near future... (discuss) (posted by George)

"It is nice to have a bit of normality -- rude customers and things like that."
To help you through your Monday... Yes, it does happen for some people. (discuss) (posted by George)

August Kleinzahler
Profiled. (discuss) (posted by George)

Zen Buddhism's influence on poetry leads to...
Nothing . Get it? I crack me up.

Being that mindfulness is key to both practices, it hardly should come as a surprise that poetry and Buddhism overlap in American letters. During the Beat Era, a generation of poets tuned in, turned on and dropped out. Others simply tuned in, and the results ranged from the profound to the silly.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Get a room, my dear Watson
Gosh, I wish old Sherly and WatWat would just fuck and get it over with. (discuss) (posted by George)


"A barely rational industry"
When it sucks so bad to be a publisher, why do people do it? Because it's important.

Most titles on a publisher's list lose money and sell at most a few thousand copies - editors are perpetually searching feverishly for the elusive bestseller to subsidise all the flops. It is a winner-takes-all business. Occasionally, there are windfalls from foreign or film rights, and backlists provide a degree of long-term income. But even giant trade publishers only make 5 per cent operating margins, despite spin-off benefits and global scale at multi-media conglomerates like Bertelsmann, News Corporation, Pearson and Time Warner.

Of course, that is one of the reasons book publishing is so tough: it is ferociously competitive because so many participants do it for uneconomic reasons. They understand that books are central to civilization.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Depression and books: not just for writers anymore
Books are being prescribed for depression in Britain... Better not be anything by Coetzee. I could barely lift my arms after reading Disgrace. (discuss) (posted by George)

Pardon me, do you have a razor blade I might borrow?
Actually, I really want to read this book now.

Now a second-year undergraduate reading social and political sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Oyeyemi wrote the novel in seven giddy months while studying for her A-levels in a south London comprehensive. She sent the first 20 pages to agent Robin Wade who phoned her the next day, and in a tale fast becoming urban myth, Oyeyemi signed a two-book deal with Bloomsbury for a reported £400,000 (the figure is exaggerated, insists the publisher) on the day of her A-level results.

If the book's good as well as lucrative, then I will be forced to commit suicide. (Lucky for me I can find fault with anything...) (discuss) (posted by George)

Googling the libraries
Moby guest columnist Christopher Allen Waldrop looks at the Google entry into the field of books.

In many ways Google is expanding the traditional library's boundaries but keeping the ideal of making information freely available to anyone. The increased emphasis on scanning books will, hopefully, push this technology and make it cheaper, faster, and more effective. Space and time have always been the biggest enemies of libraries, and scanning means versions of the most rare and fragile documents can be made freely available while the originals are kept in controlled environments. It may even be in Google's interests to help libraries fight legislation like the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act and its restrictions upon the public domain.

On the other hand, Google is a profit–driven corporation, whereas most libraries (including the ones currently working with Google) are non–profit. Since Google's revenue comes from selling ads it's not clear whether search hits will lean more towards results that push products.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Graphic novelists on parade
Booklust reports that the Toronto Reference Library will be showcasing leading graphic novelists including Chester Brown and Guelph's own Seth. (discuss) (posted by George)

Get ready, here comes the bandwagon
Scary books are the new trend in literary publishing according to this Guardian article.

Sad-eyed clairvoyants, the waking dead, and ordinary people gifted - or should that be cursed? - with second sight. Publishing trends are in themselves something of a phantom juggernaut, ephemeral yet overbearing, slow to get going and slower still to halt, but over the past 18 months, the occult has been oozing from the 'kidult' and horror shelves and into literary fiction.

Kidult? I'm frightened already... for the future. (discuss) (posted by George)

We are family
That's why we fight so much. A brief history of the women's movement in Canada.

One big happy family, it was not.

The women's movement in Canada was rancorous and chaotic for much of its 35-year history. But it achieved more, lasted longer and became more racially and ideologically diverse than any feminist coalition in the world.

(discuss) (posted by George)

T.C. Boyle interview
At The Morning News. (discuss) (posted by George)

The boy who owned the Bible
A very funny short story by SF writer Will Shetterly. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)


David Bezmozgis a Soviet writer?
Well, not quite, but the Moscow Times likes him enough to pick him as best debut of the year. (Thanks, Paul) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Copyright reform and Google
Lawrence Lessig says Google's plan to put libraries online may run into rights problems and uses that as an argument to push for changes to copyright laws.

But the excitement around Google's extraordinary plan has obscured a dirty little secret: It is not at all clear that Google and these libraries have the legal right to do what is proposed. For work in the public domain, the right is clear enough. But for work not in the public domain, Google's right to scan -- to copy -- whole texts to index is uncertain at best, even if it ultimately makes only snippets available.

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

V for Vendetta movie
I put together a weekly books page for the Province newspaper in Vancouver, and for this Sunday's issue I've written a piece on upcoming film adaptations of graphic novels. Turns out there are three films based on Alan Moore works coming out. Looks like Natalie Portman is going to star in V for Vendetta. Full text from Sci Fi Weekly below:

Natalie Portman is in final talks to star in the Wachowski brothers' film based on Alan Moore's graphic novel V Is for Vendetta for Warner Brothers and producer Joel Silver, Variety reported. The Matrix creators wrote the script for the film, and their longtime first assistant director James McTeigue will make his helming debut on the movie. The Wachowskis will produce Vendetta with Warners-based Silver. Vendetta takes place in an alternate future in which Germany wins World War II and Great Britain becomes a fascist state. A terrorist freedom fighter known only as "V" begins a violent guerrilla campaign to destroy those who've succumbed to totalitarianism, and recruits a young woman he's rescued, or possibly kidnapped, from the secret police to join him, the trade paper reported.

I've also got a piece complaining about the Canada Reads reading list, but that's another story.... (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Bad book covers
There are some pretty bad ones here, but this is my favourite. (From Things) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

C'mon, fight already!
Authors Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowiecki debate the fine points of each other's books over at Slate.

Malcolm, I spent a lot of time trying to come up with an appropriately inventive way to start this unusual version of a "Book Club" (unusual because we wrote the books we're going to be talking about). I failed, so instead I'm just going to jump right in. (Requisite disclaimer: You and I are friends, you blurbed my book, and I think Blink is a terrific book. Now let's argue about it.)

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

File under: oh my god you have to see this
I know the humour usually goes at the bottom, but you just have to see this right now. Now. Go. Hopefully you have a fast connection. Come back, though, 'kay? I live for stuff like this. (From Booklust) (discuss) (posted by George)

Goodbye Wilson-Smith, from the young man in the 22nd row...
Maclean's editor Anthony Wilson-Smith, seen here breaking sweatily into song for his big closing number "750 Words or Less!", has resigned. (discuss) (posted by George)

Only the ignorant people called them communists...
The Miss. library system has America at its heart once again. Perhaps the shortest book banning of all time. Except for when I told my wife she could no longer haul that 400 pound Georgia O'Keefe book between houses when we moved. That lasted about 10 seconds. (discuss) (posted by George)

Quick and savvy (or "Quavvy") is new smart
Haha! He landed on brown again! Just don't call him stupid.

Those of us who've grown up in the Internet age, have -- at least in our own minds -- reinterpreted the meaning of intelligence. We've largely replaced our parents' traditional knowledge-based book smarts with resourcefulness -- the ability to navigate through reams of information quickly and effectively, and isolate what's important.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Harry Potter fans see blood... well, half-blood...
The internet scams have begun. Fans in a tizzy. Society breaking down around desire to make a cheap buck off gullible children and adults of low intelligence. Mattel declines to comment. (discuss) (posted by George)

Newsflash: Queer folk can write about things other than being gay

Shakespeare book gets major play.* Conspicuous mentions of lesbian status provide... context? (discuss) (posted by George)

Speaking of heavy tomes...
A book about books. Imagine!

Booker compiles a Jungian taxonomy of stories, distilling the entire history of the fictive arts into a handful of flexible but unbreakable archetypes—Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth—and then extracts from those seven imaginative drops a single battle royal between Dark and Light.

Hm. Now that I have all literature labelled, I think I can begin to organize the rest of my mind. Seriously, I think I might read this. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: abso-fucking-lutely cool
The Rosetta Project. The people of the future won't need computers to decipher our languages, but they will need microscopes, so lets hold off those dark ages for a bit. (The ruling apes of the future will be able to communicate with all of their slaves now.) (From Maud via Max) (discuss) (posted by George)

And so it begins...
Many lit-bloggers are also writers. Some have already published books, like Pete and I, and some are gearing up to. One, the extremely articulate and pleasant Laila Lalami of Moorish Girl, just signed a two book deal with Algonquin. I suspect you'll see more from the cabal of A-list bloggers in the next few years. Unless, that is, they end up like me, dividing time between child and smart-arsed remarks. (discuss) (posted by George)

"How do books sell?" "When people buy them"
A funny account of the guerilla marketing of a book.

Our sentimental education in the ways of publishing began two months before our book of humor, Sense and Nonsensibility, was to be issued by Simon & Schuster. Over lunch at the publishing giant's corporate headquarters in Manhattan, our publicist revealed a highly confidential fact: "Advertisements don't sell books." When we registered our surprise, he assured us that this was the typical reaction of first-time trade authors. "Ads are totally passé," he said. We were therefore immensely relieved when, over dessert, he revealed that Simon & Schuster was not planning on running any ads for our book whatsoever. "Let the publisher of Eats, Shoots & Leaves waste its money on full-page color spreads in The New York Times," we snickered. We knew better!

(discuss) (posted by George)


Coming up...
Later today, hopefully before lunch, I'll be posting an essay from TS Eliot Prize nominee Kathryn Gray. Ms Gray's first book, The Never-Never, was a surprise nomination (mostly to her) this year. She gives us a sense of what led up to the fantastic hooplah for her fantastic book. Keep your eyes peeled.

Update: look to your left. (posted by George)

The Oates Effect

Screw writer's block. I can't stop this crazy hand* from scrawling!

The "fast" novel tends to take shape when a writer is young and in possession of stamina and an uninterrupted sequence of thoughts and big ideas. These books bristle with the writer's excitement. I first experienced this myself in 1981 when I was in college and writing my first novel, Sleepwalking. I applied the same all-nighter skills that I'd used to fashion term papers. Whenever I stopped to eat, I needed only ramen noodles and peanut M&Ms to keep me going. Sleep wasn't particularly necessary, except every once in a while, and if dark circles were scalloped beneath my eyes, I was convinced they only gave me a sensitive, Goethian, Sorrows of Young Werther quality.

(discuss) (posted by George)

"The central questions are who's the boss going to be and what kind of magazine are we going to have?"
My vote is for a better one. Maclean's staffers get all wired up about the departure of their editor. Now focus that passion into an article. (discuss) (posted by George)

And not the baby seal type, is in a state of decline. Warehouse prices, internet sales and the proliferation of big box chain stores in every corner of Jesusland has chopped away at the membership of the Book-of-the-Month club. The answer? Dumb it down, baby.

And where literary lions like Wilfred Sheed, Mordechai Richler and J. Anthony Lukas once set the country's reading agenda, choosing the club's monthly main selection over lunch and brandy in Midtown Manhattan and discovering writers like J. D. Salinger, that role has been largely usurped by Oprah Winfrey and the book recommendations of morning news programs, leaving general book clubs as little more than relics of a bygone era.

Intellectuals: the first to go. (discuss) (posted by George)

I'm torn

On one hand, I'm pleased to see that any work of literature or theatre can still rouse people to violence. On the other hand, I think, are you fucking crazy?! Death threats!? It's a fucking play! (discuss) (posted by George)

Caution: lawsuits ahead
Ambulance chasers, start your engines!!*

But the excitement around Google's extraordinary plan has obscured a dirty little secret: It is not at all clear that Google and these libraries have the legal right to do what is proposed. For work in the public domain, the right is clear enough. But for work not in the public domain, Google's right to scan — to copy — whole texts to index is uncertain at best, even if it ultimately makes only snippets available. When permission has been given by the copyright holder, again there's no problem. But when permission has not been secured, the law is essentially uncertain. If lawsuits were filed, and if Google and its partner libraries were found to have violated the law, their legal exposure could reach into the billions.

Thank god the North American lawyer is there to stop our crazy attempts bringing literature to the masses. What we they thinking? (discuss) (posted by George)

It's funny (and scary) because it's true
A comic once again says more in one panel than the entire American mainstream media has been able to say in thousands of words. (From The Rake) (discuss) (posted by George)

Sin City trailer
As a followup to my recent post about film adaptations of graphic novels, here's the trailer for Sin City (Quicktime link). Don't know about this one. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Al Pacino is ... Shylock!
Also in film, Slate reviews the Merchant of Venice film with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons. I still want to see it.

Pacino, as is his wont, is pretty buggy from the get-go. The point is that this Shylock is so beaten down that he positively revels in the opportunity to enact an Old Testament vengeance on his chief antagonist, Antonio (Jeremy Irons), the devout Christian merchant of the title. Radford drives the enmity home with a prologue in which Antonio literally spits on Shylock in the course of a demonstration (outside the Jewish ghetto) against non-Christians. As Pacino's Shylock stonily wipes the spittle off his face, the last ember of hope seems to die in him.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)



Do the underprivileged read the classics?
Hell, the only people I know who read Dickens are my fellow proles.

In 1988, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, authoritatively stated (as something too obvious to require any evidence) that classic literature was always irrelevant to underprivileged people who were not classically educated. It was, she asserted, an undeniable "fact that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare do not figure significantly in the personal economies of these people, do not perform individual or social functions that gratify their interests, do not have value for them."

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

Letterpress Museum
Everything you ever wanted to know about letterpresses but were afraid to ask. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Edmonton poetry face-off
Looks like it's that time of the year again. (From Literary Art News) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Publish and perish
Is academic publishing killing academia? The article also includes the bonus word "profscam."

The drive to scholarly overproduction which now reaches even the least selective institutions and touches every corner and niche of academia is a key underlying source of the degradation of the entire scholarly enterprise. It produces repetition. It encourages obscurantism. It generates knowledge that has no declared purpose or passion behind it, not even the purpose of anti-purpose, of knowledge undertaken for knowledgeís sake. It fills the academic day with a tremendous excess of peer review and distractions. It makes it increasingly hard to know anything, because to increase oneís knowledge requires every more demanding heuristics for ignoring the tremendous outflow of material from the academy. It forces overspecialization as a strategy for controlling the domains to which one is responsible as a scholar and teacher.

(From Scribbling Woman) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Tapping the steepled fingers: "Hello? Is this thing on?"
Prayers go unanswered for thousands of yokels as a federal judge (read: Satan) orders anti-evolution stickers removed from Georgia text books. Christian parents turn attention to stickering their children's nipples with "Sexual arousal is a theory, not a fact, regarding the filthy urges of living things." (I'd like to see some natural selection at work in Georgia before I buy into this whole "Evolution" thingy myself.) (discuss) (posted by George)

My name is Midlist and I have a problem...
Midlist goes into publishing lingo rehab over at BookAngst 101.

Seems there's no insult more insulting than being characterized as a midlist author... But why? When did the term cease to mean "dependable seller" (similar in this way to "backlist"), as it had for generations? And is there any hope of "rehabilitating" the term, giving it a make-over, a face-lift--of returning to it, if not glory, then at least a modicum of its former dignity?

Hopeless, you say? [Yes, a lot of you do...More posts on this subject to follow.] I say, maybe not. Let us consider the parable of the Tortoise and the Hare..

I, for instance, have several midlist friends. You know who you are. (discuss) (posted by George)

One Nation, Under Odg: Opiate of the illiterate masses
That's just what I've been SAYING!!

In Europe, religious education is the rule from the elementary grades on. So Austrians, Norwegians and the Irish can tell you about the Seven Deadly Sins or the Five Pillars of Islam. But, according to a 1997 poll, only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts, the four Gospels, and 12% think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. That paints a picture of a nation that believes God speaks in Scripture but that can't be bothered to read what he has to say.

Fixing America's ignorance through education? Why, that's so crazy it just might woik! Woop! Woop! Woop! (discuss) (posted by George)

Szymborska in Israel
Wislawa visited Israel recently and no one noticed. Sigh. I would have noticed. Please visit Canada next. Please. I even have books of yours in languages I can't yet read! (From The Saloon) (discuss) (posted by George)

Green Eggs and Canadian Bacon
Canadian celebs (ie, anyone here who's made it onto TV (ie, that which is filmed with a Sony Handicam and called programming)) pick their favourite children's books. My favourite is Mastroianni trying to claim that David Eddings is for children... Well, it is childish... (From PFW) (discuss) (posted by George)

Translating Proust... Ah, Proust...
I haven't had time (or eyepower) to read this rather long piece, but have seen it recommended on several other blogs and would feel remiss if I let it slip past my loyal ninja readers. Let me know if I should continue, please.

Let's not kid ourselves: everyone hates translations. The evidence is everywhere in the history of literature. Cervantes wrote that reading a translation was "like looking at the Flanders tapestries from behind: although you can see the basic shapes, they are so filled with threads that you cannot fathom their original luster." Goethe took issue with translators themselves, whom he likened to "enthusiastic matchmakers singing the praises of some half-naked young beauty: they awaken in us an irresistible urge to see the real thing with our own eyes."

An inauspicious beginning for someone who's currently trying to translate... (discuss) (posted by George)

Chin above water
Bloomsbury clings to publishing flotsam while waiting for HMS Potter to come to the rescue. (discuss) (posted by George)

CK Williams
Is the subject of a Public Lives piece* in the NYT.

He decided he wanted to be a poet. Poets, as he imagined them, lived in garrets in Paris where they ruminated about life and lived in genteel poverty. A bit of suffering would not hurt. So he dropped out of school, got some money from his father and moved into a small hotel on the Left Bank. He unpacked his typewriter and set it on a table. The muse he had expected to guide him never arrived.

She was trying to bang out her own book in the next room, I suspect. (discuss) (posted by George)

Words of the Year: A How-to
Ever wonder how those Word of the Year lists are produced? Well, here's your answer, in excruciating detail.

The WotY process has two stages: a morning meeting, in which nominations are sorted into categories, and the afternoon vote, when things get decided. Turnout is light in the morning, when we're usually clustered around a table; by the afternoon, we generally move to an open room to accommodate the crowds. At this year's morning meeting, the suggestions were plentiful. Military terms were prominent—we saw hillbilly armor and backdoor draft. Blog, 2002's Most Likely To Succeed, returned in forms like blogosphere and blogorrhea. The culture of blogging has also spawned related words like pajamahadeen, which refers to bloggers in their bedclothes who criticize the mainstream media and which won Most Creative later in the day. In the Most Euphemistic category, Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction seemed like a lock until Bill Frawley, the dean of the Columbia College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University, suggested badly sourced, which was used by Colin Powell and others to mean "false."

Hello!? Can I get an editor in aisle six, please? We've got a reader down. I repeat: reader down. (discuss) (posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

PBS: Public Bookreading Service
I was poking around the (sponsor of the TS Eliot Prize) Poetry Book Society's website in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement (which will hopefully nab our Kathryn Gray the international spotlight), when I found this little list by one of my favourite poets, Simon Armitage. It's a poetry testing kit and is aimed at people who are afraid of contemporary poetry. What a nice thought and great public service. It's kind of cute and a good read for the fiction-only ninjas, of which there are a silent few. (discuss) (posted by George)

To sing is divine...
Have you ever looked through the karaoke book and wondered, what's this all about then, eh? These philosophy songs can help. New lyrics for old songs (scroll down for the funny stuff). Absolutely brilliant silly stuff. Such as this one, sung to The Beatles' "Yesterday":

It’s a catch-all word to turn away
nagging doubt that one cannot allay—
all critics’ points are recherché.

Stunningly, logic is not what it used to be,
if it’s carefully put glibly,
the recherché will get by me.

What I think I know, blow by blow,
I’d rather say—
But that takes too long so I’m strongly

What I need to say I cannot say—
Ludwig says I’m silent anyway—
Oh my beliefs are recherché.

I love things like this. Someday I'll post the list of Canlit porn titles my old pal Chris and I came up with and distributed around Toronto like a flyer for an adult store. (Thanks to Lady Ninja, long may her shurikens shine) (discuss) (posted by George)

Album cover art
The worst cover art of all time. I clicked onto this page from BoingBoing and actually crumpled over with laughter. It was a giggle that turned into a deep belly laugh and settled back to an all night chuckle. I still think it's an injustice that "Joyce" wasn't in the top five. More here and here. (discuss) (posted by George)

Did you get the memo, FUKNUT?
Your American tax dollars, what you didn't get back, hard at work. The Pentagon's searing research into and iron-fisted terror-fighting control of acronyms. (discuss) (posted by George)

Boing Boing now a book publisher
Boingboing.net has released its first book -- an e-book for $2.50. It's written by "Anonymous," who apparently has put out a number of books and articles, and it's about Anonymous's road trip through a hurricane area in the U.S. Great idea. I'm going to order a copy as soon as I have $2.50! (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Tom the Dancing Bug -- the book
Tom the Dancing Bug is my favourite comic strip -- except for Litterati, of course. I had no idea the comics were released in book form. Another add to the wish list. Anyway, Salon interviews Ruben Bolling about how he balances the life of a cartoon mastermind with his day job.

"If only I could make enough money selling my art so that I didn't have to go to this stupid job every day ... "It's every young artist's dream that the passion they pour into their work will ignite a magnificent inferno of fame and fortune, right? Maybe Ruben Bolling, creator of the comic strip "Tom the Dancing Bug," is bending the truth a little when he claims that his position as a banker is the reason he's able to churn out week after week of provocative, edgy comics. Or maybe, at 42, Bolling has figured out the key to creative freedom.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The anxiety of turning into your idol
Terrible headline aside, this is an interesting New York Times piece about current writers and their influences.

A little more than 20 years ago, the Book Review asked a group of fiction writers, age 40 or younger, to name the writer or writers who had most influenced their work and to explain how. It seemed like a good time to put the same question to a new generation of young writers.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Hello St. Louis! Are you ready to rock?
The third airing of CSPAN's Literary Blogs and Their Influence seems to have brought more than a few new readers in. Please look around and drop us a note to say hi. (discuss) (posted by George)

Is this thing on?
Audio book actors revealed!* Seamy world on faceless reading shocks and repulses onlookers! What goes on behind the mic stays behind the mic. (discuss) (posted by George)

The romance is gone...
Sally Beauman learns that less is more.

"What I like about writing is the anonymity of it but the whole process became intensely public. I had just wanted to see if I could write something popular. Suddenly the phone rings about 45 times a day with people banging on about dollars. I really, really hated it." It can't be easy to complete a manuscript knowing what sort of sales figures are expected for such an advance. "I don't know how I ever managed to finish it. Now I never sell a book until I've written it. I don't do a deal and I don't do an advance."

(discuss) (posted by George)

Oy gevalt!

Is Yiddish with Dick and Jane a parody or copyright infringement? (You gotta wonder at Amazon's little bot that pairs books for their "buy together" programme... I don't know that the same people with a hankering for Yiddish will want to hunker down with The Plot Against America... (From TEV) (discuss) (posted by George)

Free J.D. Salinger
Get it while you can! (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I'd like to buy your hot grammar
I buy most of my T-shirts these days at Threadless (my most recent purchase was Zombie Donkey). Now Threadless is having a contest for some new shirt designs. My credit card is ready and waiting for Fun with Grammar. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Dance, writer, dance!
I'd go to more poetry readings if they involved more moonings.

While humiliation is not unique to writers, the world of books, writes the English poet Robin Robertson, seems to offer a near-perfect microclimate for embarrassment and shame because of the inherent absurdity, she theorizes, "of trying to bring private art into the public space." Robertson edited Mortification, a book of cringe-making anecdotes about book tours and public readings. Robertson herself was once mooned through the window of a bookstore where she was reciting her poems by a passing group of football hooligans with pants down.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Ninja field trip - permission slips for parents now available
We'll be conducting an excursion this Thursday morning, to see and film the Bibliotheca exhibit at Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto. Interested ninjas should apply to me here for more information. Weaponry will be optional. (discuss) (posted by George)

Biting the hand that signs you
The marketing-machines behind books are killing the work by keeping the writer from thinking. Robert McCrum tacks a (well-taken) rant onto the front of a brief book promotion...

To put it another way, a McEwan or an Ishiguro will devote almost as many months promoting his latest work as he spent writing it. This is the condition of the writer today, as itinerant as a medieval troubadour, with air miles. If, for example, you are fortunate enough to win a big prize - Booker, say, or Whitbread - you can easily spend as much as a year on the grey brick road of book promotion.

This has absolutely nothing to do with good writing and almost certainly inhibits its free, mature expression. Now, more than ever, the book-promotion machine is working against the interests of the writers it has been set up to promote. Now, as never before, the marketplace is devouring the hand, the arm and the head that feed it.

Surely we can come up with a healthy median here... Maybe someone needs to invent a machine whereby the writer can sign books remotely and chat via videophone.... (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Elizabeth Janeway
Novelist, critic, feminist, dead at 91.* (discuss) (posted by George)

Tsunami gig
New Beginnings is a powerhouse anthology with proceeds going to Tsunami relief. It'll contain the first chapters of new books by a range of major authors, including: Coetzee, Atwood, King, Coelho, Haddon, Hornby, Turow, and Binchy. Normally I am suspicious of celebrity gatherings (why do we hold massive parties for our people in order to help out those who barely cling to life? Would it be too much to just GIVE the money?), but I couldn't help but think, wow!

Then I got to this line, "And from the authors’ point of view, it is also good to let the public know what direction their work is taking." That's when I remembered that nothing really gets done for altruistic reasons. There's always someone making money.

I'm sorry, a) it's not the authors' point of view, it's the publishers', and b) neither the author nor the publisher get a fucking point of view on this unless it's crying in front of the TV. That's your point of view. That or standing in a hangar somewhere stuffing boxes with water purification pills. And crying. That's what you're allowed. A tear-blurred POV that has nothing to do with your work.

Disaster is not an opportunity for nifty collaboration to amuse the masses and move a few books. So just get your fat celebrity chequebooks out and starting writing whoppers instead of trying to make the pages of People. (Sorry, most of this is directed at that disgrace called the music industry.) (discuss) (posted by George)

While I can't ever imagine called someone "Knipperschitz" in a romantic way...
A bit of a sappy article about a lovely romance conducted in letters between Chekhov and Olga Knipper. I'd like to read these, but I'll probably just wait for the bio-flick that should be coming out... right... now.

The circumstances under which they corresponded were extreme, owing to the exigencies of her career, the trials of his illness, and the logistics of their "commuter" marriage. She wrote from Moscow, either from her dressing room, covered in greasepaint, or from her flat, enervated after all-night partying, or from the train, rushed after a hasty visit to the south. He wrote from Yalta, bored in isolation, desperate for news of the theatre, or exhausted from pain.

I can't help but flinch at "covered in greasepaint"... I know, I know, but STILL... (discuss) (posted by George)

Thomas Flanagan
Retrospective in the LAT.* (discuss) (posted by George)

Wanna bet he loses?
Dostoevsky the Relatively Younger is insulted his great-grandpappy headshot is being used, somewhat ironically, I would guess, on gambling tickets, and he's suing. £4,000? That'll learn 'em. (discuss) (posted by George)

But all the best books are written by "Anonymous"
Anonymity in book reviewing leads to dancing, loitering, heavy petting, and the "toking" of marijuana cigarettes. Surely a life of crime for these lower class, money-scraping hooligans cannot be far behind?

The Kirkus Review is one of two trade magazines for publishers and booksellers that employ anonymous reviewers. The other, much larger, one is Publishers Weekly. Both have licensing agreements with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, so that not only booksellers but also many ordinary book buyers will be guided by the opinions of, well, who exactly? A librarian in Dubuque? A schoolteacher in Detroit? A graduate student at Duquesne? Whoever else it may be, it is unlikely to be a world authority on the subject, as writers are paid about $50 per review.

(From Goodreports) (discuss) (posted by George)

Copyright issues, Israeli style
The copyright on popular Israeli poet Haim Nahman Bialik's work ran out at the beginning of the year... what happens now? Well, first of all, I faint to think that a culture cares enough about poetry to be speculating. My copyright should run out right about the time my great grandchildren are finally paying off my debts. (discuss) (posted by George)

"Palm Beach Poetry Festival shows growing appreciation of verse"
And well it should. Now that's a headline with multiple readings... I have two scenarios for the genesis of this rather long article on said poetry festival: 1) it was a slow newsweek in Wrinkle City or 2) the festival organizer has some friends at the paper. How else to explain so many words dedicated to the collected wisdom of Billy Collins? (discuss) (posted by George)

A ticket to midlist hell don't come cheap
Publishers and editors weigh in on the redefinition of "midlist" over at BookAngst 101. (discuss) (posted by George)

"The doctors said, 'If you're going to have a nail in the brain, that's the way you want it to be'"
No, we're not talking about the latest Stephenson novel. (discuss) (posted by George)


TS Eliot Prize Awarded
George Szirtes takes the £10,000 for his book Reel. Ninjas everywhere are shattered that Kathryn Gray's The Never-Never didn't win. Next book. Do you hear us, George Szirtes!? NNEEEXT BOOOOK! (Actually, Szirtes is really really good.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Copyright is killing the documentary film
Often glued together with archive footage, documentaries are particularly susceptible to this kind of crap where red tape meets greed.

Before the digital and documentary explosion, a clip of President Nixon speaking, for instance, usually could be licensed "in perpetuity," meaning that the film could continue to use the footage indefinitely. Now the incentive is for copyright owners to grant only limited permission. "Increasingly, it's harder and harder to get 'in perpetuity,' because rights-holders realize that somebody will have to come back in five years or 10 years and pay more money,"

(discuss) (posted by George)

Black Bird goes silver screen
Novelist and ninja reader Michel Basilieres's fantastic book Black Bird has been optioned for a feature film. Way to go, Michel! (discuss) (posted by George)

Speaking of Michel...
His new Outer Edge column is up at Maisonneuve. It deals with his love of and correspondence with sci-fi grandmaster Fritz Leiber. (discuss) (posted by George)

Shocking poet laureate news!!
Frank Ledwell, chosen from the pool of ten people who comprise the non-Green Gables artistic community, is P.E.I.'s new poet laureate. Mr Ledwell joins Sally Struthers, his national counterpart, in an effort to ... something. (discuss) (posted by George)

Zoo Press update
Long time readers will remember last year's brouhaha over at Zoo Press where they charged an entry fee to enter a fiction contest and then decided to both not award the prize and not refund the entrants' money. The reasoning? None of the entries were good enough to bother passing along to the judge. Well, at least two books have gone on to be published, with awards no less, punching some holes in this excuse. MoorishGirl updates us. A good reminder to be wary about where you send your work and money. (discuss) (posted by George)

Don't think they aren't watching us...
With all the swipes we take at old Wubblewoo and his raggedy band of slack-jawed voters, surely there's some FBI bot crawling the site every now and then and recording our every move. If we disappear, picket the 49th parallel. And contact these guys. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: D'oh!
Note to self: never steal intellectual property from an expert on combating intellectual property theft. They might notice. (discuss) (posted by George)


When bad ad ideas go badder
I know Mother's Day is months away, but this may not be around by then. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Has anyone sued Desperate Housewives yet?
IMDB.com reports Peter Jackson has signed on for a movie version of The Lovely Bones. Full text below:

Director Peter Jackson and his screenwriter wife Fran Walsh will follow up this year's King Kong re-make with a screen adaptation of Alice Sebold's best-selling novel The Lovely Bones. American movie trade publication Daily Variety reports the Oscar-winners used their own money to buy the feature film rights to the grim tale from British production company Filmfour. The 2002 book is narrated from heaven by a 14-year-old girl who has been raped and murdered, as she follows the lives of those left behind to deal with the tragedy. Jackson and Walsh will begin adapting the screenplay with their partner Philippa Boyens next January, and will promote the project to studios when it is finished. Jackson says, "It's the best kind of fantasy in that it has a lot to say about the real world. You have an experience when you read the book that is unlike any other. I don't want the tone or the mood to be different or lost in the film."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

E.E. or e.e.?
This should finally put an end to the dilemma. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

My thesis is on Amazon reviewers
Well, I guess everything else has finally been done. (From Literary Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Freshman poets are so easy
More bad sex with Neal Pollack.

I picked up the freshman poet and threw her on the bed, setting my phaser for "ravage." Her blouse tore open, seemingly by itself. Her panties dissolved.

"Oh, baby," she said. "Yes. At last."

"Tell me I'm Edmund Wilson," I said as I mounted her.

"Yes!" she said. "You are Edmund Wilson! You are Edmund Wilson! You're, you're . . . better than Edmund Wilson!"

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Job hunting
I'm pretty much full time job hunting for the next few days, so my posts might be a bit lighter than normal. There's something about hurling resumes into the void that just turns me off all other endeavours. I may seem slightly more crotchety than normal. If this bothers you, find me a lucrative position within your organization. I do everything except windows. (discuss) (posted by George)

New Saskatchewan poet laureate
Having beaten outgoing champ Glen Sorestad in a high-stakes game of Reap that Wheat, Louise B. Halfe takes over gracefully, with only one or two "in your face" devil signs. (discuss) (posted by George)

More Saskatchewan newzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Regina Library Director Sandy Cameron gets the heave-ho from the board. (discuss) (posted by George)

Newbury and Caldecott handed out
Like pixie stix scrambled at recess. (discuss) (posted by George)

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

The most slip-slap-tacular, dip-dap-tastic, bim-bom-bastic, rip-tip-toodliest award ever! (discuss) (posted by George)

34 Bush scandals

Print it out, send it to Harry Reid, or just read it and weep. Here are 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency -- every one of them worse than Whitewater.

How far can you read without indignant noises unintentionally escaping your pursed lips? (I normally don't link to Salon, because a) they're behind registration and b) they're not all that good anymore, but this is a must read. So watch the ad for a free day pass.) (From BlogTHIS) (discuss) (posted by George)

A worm in the Apple
Apple finally manages to compete with Microsoft. Too bad it's in the "being dickheads" department. (discuss) (posted by George)

Ah, the internet. You are useful after all! (discuss) (posted by George)

So THAT's my problem...
Apparently, I don't watch enough TV. So I can't tell you about all the latest gossip surrounding the Family Ties cast (that little blond kid is headed for trouble. Mark my words.) (discuss) (posted by George)

"I'm pretty sure I know why the caged bird sings"

Before last semester, I didn't have any black friends. I still don't, but I do have some black classmates. And if I ever meet any black people socially, I will totally be up for hanging out, now that I know where they are coming from. When I was in high school, I only knew about black people from seeing them on television. But the book versions of their lives tell you so much more about who black people truly are. Through the spiritual, soulful, and musical quality of their lyrical writing, certain universal themes transcended the cultural barrier, and I came to realize that I can totally relate.

(discuss) (posted by George)


New Geist
The new issue of Geist is online and features the winners of the first annual Postcard Writing Contest: Mark Jarman, Rhonda Waterfall and Cathleen Kirkwood. Also in the issue, Alberto Manguel wonders what book America today would be and Stephen Osborne wonders if there's any merit to "lowbrow lit."

The Bertonian world offers a challenge that our highbrow writing, our Literature with a capital L, refuses to take up: it reminds us that we have origins in myth, and that we have forgotten them. He and his fellow lowbrows represent a voice, a cultural demiurge that does not reappear in the universities, in the creative writing departments or the English and history departments, where the gaze is turned resolutely away from the mythic: "fiction" departs from the people and approaches the global perfection of a literature without readers, a literature designed for consumers of a commodity (i.e., a narrow spectrum of "Literature experts") and defined by university-trained arbiters of culture.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Thanks to those ninjas who could come on our wee field trip yesterday to Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto to see the Bibliotheca show. It's an interesting exhibit. Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, who has just joined the Bookninja team as Special Projects Coordinator, arranged the whole thing and even managed to get a cameraperson to come out and film it so some non-Toronto ninjas can see. Hopefully we'll have the edited footage and some stills available in a couple weeks. (discuss) (posted by George)

Quoth Rushdie: Bring 'em on
"Yadda yadda yadda, kill me dead. Heard it! Um, I'm the one riding around on planes and schtupping the broomstick with the wig here, people. Priorities." (discuss) (posted by George)

Raincoast: the good(er still) guys
Hey, hitching our trailer to Bloomsbury worked last time... No, seriously, they're real leaders in trying to do good things with what money there is. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: I could just poke my eye out with a stick
Seven figure movie deal follows seven figure advance for romance novelist cum kiddie writer. "Just throw it on the pile," says she. (discuss) (posted by George)

Suspicious number of poets on non-fiction prize list
If Chris Dewdney gets nominated for one more non-fiction prize, I think he's going to have to turn in his badge and decoder ring. (discuss) (posted by George)

I find your lack of faith disturbing...
Grand Moff Tarkin and hulking masked robot dude from the Paris Review's board use the force and George Plimpton's name to choke the living shit out of the departing editor. (discuss) (posted by George)

Alex Good: choking on bile
Good comments on Atwood's robo-me invention and McCrum's piece on publicity circuses.

Life is very hard! As soon as a writer gets famous and people start buying his or her books, they are doomed! The good fortune of a major literary prize is the kiss of death. Pity the success of an Atwood or a McEwan. They are really being exploited, eaten alive. And they are unpaid dupes!

No really, they don't make a cent off of their writing. They all have day jobs.

This is too much to stomach. If any of these writers don't like signing books they can simply refuse to tour. They can have it put in their contract. If not, they can go elsewhere. They are still going to be published. They don't have a gun to their heads. There are less well-known authors who would gladly trade places and eat the Pringles.

Hey, welcome to my world, Alex! Focus that indignity into a short, rage-filled session at the local pub and you're practically violating my copyright! (discuss) (posted by George)

Booker and Orange prizes get new chairs
The big kind made of bones and with skulls at the ends of the arm rests. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: Hell in a hand basket
Just in time for the crowning: a reminder of how things are going in the current US monarchy. They whittle and chip away at rights until crap like this starts to go down. Luckily, some people are articulate and have 200,000 daily readers to fall back on for support. (No, not me, silly. Though I can see how you might have made that mistake...) Ten years from now, even they might not be enough and Mr. Doctorow might have found himself in a holding cell. Five years? (discuss) (posted by George)

Reporting live, with tiger
Our man The Rake reports on a Yann Martel reading, Stateside. (discuss) (posted by George)

Citing violent lyrics and irreparable damage to minors...
Rolling Stone refuses to run ad for the Bible. (discuss) (posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

A giant of Canadian poetry is gone
Richard Outram committed suicide on Thursday. He was 74. A couple years ago, Richard and his beloved wife and collaborator, Barbara Howard, moved from Toronto to Richard's hometown of Port Hope in an effort to escape the bustle of the city and reconnect with Richard's roots. Shortly after, Barbara died in a tragic hospital accident. Richard had been at a loss ever since. I saw him this fall in Port Hope and he was very much still deep in his grief. I remember thinking, and talking with my friend about how he was obviously in a bad way. But grief is so private and needs to be worked through on one's own terms. All the onlooker can do is lend an ear and have patience. He had lost the centre of his life and was just living on the edges. Last week he went out into the night snow and didn't come in. Richard was a good friend and a poetic grandfather to me. I don't know anyone who doesn't crack a fond smile when his name is mentioned. He was a generous mentor and a poet of the highest order. His work is obscure and difficult, yet lauded by the greatest critical voices in the country as some of the only work that will ever make it out of the twin wells of Canada and history. His is the first suicide at which I'm not angry. It was unexpected but not surprising. I can see reason behind it. He held on quite a long time to make sure, and was in terrible pain during that time. I wish him well and hope he knows he's missed. Hopefully I'll have something longer to say later. I wouldn't normally do this, but here is a poem for him.


I sit in my day as though it were made
of china, eyes shifting from tock to tick
as if the weight of a rested glance might break
the view into pieces. Gone are all instants,

and in place, memory. The night was a bull
with eight muleta in his shoulders, a dog
stumbling in the last moments of rabies,
a bleeding wolverine caught and harassed.

To lay down and sleep under a full wolf moon
and end the quiet effort with snow;
I have seen your heart in your eyes, shining
with the fever of loss and a squalling

doubt about how long this could continue.
You held on quite some time. I saw. Good night. Go.

(Permanent Link) (discuss) (posted by George)

Book -- the art show
Artists send a sketchbook back and forth, each one responding to the previous artist's entries. Some gorgeous stuff here. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Tom Stoppard makes me swoon
Especially when he's talking about libraries.

Literary culture as we have known it and understood it since scribes were writing on papyrus is not the bonus of civilisation but intrinsic to civilisation itself, and the printed book, mysteriously, is the form that turns out to be irreplaceable. In the great libraries or the bookshelf at home, knowledge roots itself and imagination flowers. The availability of books, from poetry to textbooks, makes the garden grow and it's everybody's garden.

(From Literary Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Rick Moody reviews the French graphic novel Epileptic in the New York Times. Looks like a good read.

In short, Epileptic constitutes something new: a graphic intellectual history. A design-oriented history of ideas. There are entire dreams illustrated here in a disturbing and rococo illustrative style, with interpretations included, as if David B. were channeling Jung's ''Memories, Dreams, Reflections'' or Freud's writings on the oneiric. There are allusions to May 1968 and the role of the French intellectual in contemporary Gallic life, and there are ghosts in profusion, ghosts of Europe past. These include the ghost of the author's grandfather, a man of somewhat dubious ideas, depicted so he resembles one of those beaked denizens of hell you find in Hieronymus Bosch.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Trainspotting on mead
Neil Gaiman gives the lowdown on how the upcoming Beowulf movie is based on an old script he wrote with Roger Avary.

In 1998 Roger Avary asked me to cowrite a script for Beowulf for him to direct. We went off to Mexico together and wrote it as a sort of Dark Ages Trainspotting, filled with mead and blood and madness, and we went all the way from the beginning of the poem, with Beowulf as a hero battling Grendel, to the end, with Beowulf as an old man fighting a dragon. Robert Zemeckis really liked the script, and his production company, Imagemovers, bought it, for Roger to direct.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Is the EU better than the U.S.?
More books on my favourite question! (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The horror!
Ryan Bigge reviews Andrew Pyper's The Trade Mission and wonders if commercial fiction and literary fiction can co-exist.

Sadly, an APE Inc. factory does not yet exist. Eventually, monkeys in $1,000 eyeglasses and gin-soaked black turtlenecks will slouch in their Aeron chairs, pausing to filch drags off Stuyvesants between paragraphs. For now, APE is a one-chimp operation, which means Andrew Pyper shareholders -- or, if you prefer the more colloquial term, readers -- have no one to blame but the bossman for this unsatisfying trip into the heart of darkness.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Writing has nothing to do with common sense
Common sense says teaching grammar to children will improve their writing. But, says Philip Pullman, common sense is wrong.

And the crazy thing is that the common sense brigade think that they're the practical ones, and that approaches like the one I'm advocating here are sentimental moonshine. They could hardly be more wrong. It's when we do this foolish, time-consuming, romantic, quixotic, childlike thing called play that we are most practical, most useful, and most firmly grounded in reality, because the world itself is the most unlikely of places, and it works in the oddest of ways, and we won't make any sense of it by doing what everybody else has done before us. It's when we fool about with the stuff the world is made of that we make the most valuable discoveries, we create the most lasting beauty, we discover the most profound truths. The youngest children can do it, and the greatest artists, the greatest scientists do it all the time. Everything else is proofreading.

I like Philip Pullman plenty, especially when he writes like this instead of selling out to movie studios. If you haven't yet, you have to read the His Dark Materials trilogy before it gets ruined by the film version. Start here (this is my favourite cover art too... there's one American edition that makes it look like a David Eddings set...) (discuss) (posted by George)

Think you're smart? Have a go at cracking the code that CIA agents can't get -- and it's on their property. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

Atwood on inventing
Margaret explains a few things about her Frankenhand invention here* and her predilection for darkness here. (discuss) (posted by George)

This is nice, I like nice things...
Kids' bookstores rely on the handsell to draw readers in a way the big box chains can't. That's nice. (discuss) (posted by George)

On doing nothing
Deadline coming = spotless house.

At its worst, procrastination is a form of slow suicide, a kind of stand-off with life. Why act, when we know the end of all endeavour? Days, weeks, months creak past, but still no attempt to advance the work is made. Procrastination is surely worse than writer's block, less involuntary: you see what you need to do, you know you can do it, and yet ... and yet.

But can this be a good thing? (discuss) (posted by George)

Ian McEwan
Profiled by McCrum. (discuss) (posted by George)

A complicated kickass
Homegirl Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness gets its due in the NYT. (discuss) (posted by George)

Buyer beware
The vanity press* gets a makeover with PublishAmerica. Once these predators are brought to bay, let's go after those cheating fuckers at the International Library of Poetry. (On the other hand, these people ARE keeping a lot of trash out of the slush piles... it's a toss up.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Rowling promotes reading to kids
It's the gift that keeps on giving. (discuss) (posted by George)

Diamonds are for Heather
Not satisfied with merely driving Canadian book retailers out of business, Heather sets her sites on Canadian jewelers.* (discuss) (posted by George)

And in 50-year-old news...
Hemingway wins Nobel for Old Man and the Sea. Slow day at Reuters. (discuss) (posted by George)


One hundred percent all male!
Shakespeare, that is. Mark Ravenhill, author of Shopping and Fucking, wonders if it's really necessary in 2005.

"Sure, the rehearsals can be boisterous," he says, "but for Henry V that served us pretty well. You got these lads doing this martial play and then finally you got the wooing scene between Henry and Katherine. It became absolutely gripping, because the audience were thinking, 'Are these two blokes going to kiss?'"

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

So does this mean we'll see an ad for Rolling Stone in the Bible?
The rock mag backtracks on its bible-ad ban. Yeah, Christian rawk! Yeeeaaahhhhhrrrrgggggg!

The bible of rock 'n' roll, Rolling Stone magazine, will run an ad for the Holy Bible next month -- the same ad it rejected two weeks ago for its "spiritual message."

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

He's big in Japan
The Rake sobers up long enough to post about the meeting of Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami.

In the waning of that quiet afternoon, I remember with what distaste he was sipping black tea. Holding the teacup in his hand, he looked as though he was doing the wrong thing in the wrong place. Sometimes he would get up from his seat and go outside to smoke.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Glad Day gives up the good fight
Eye Weekly reports that Toronto's Glad Day, one of the country's better-known gay and lesbian bookstores, is bowing out of the censorship battle.

For most of Glad Day's more than 30 years in business, they have been fighting either Canada Customs, the police or the OFRB for the right to freely import and sell gay and lesbian books and videos; the fights, like most fights for freedom of expression in this secular but sexually ambivalent society, were fought about porn. The Criminal Code states, for instance, that it is illegal to possess or purvey "any publication a dominant characteristic of which is the undue exploitation of sex." It goes on to single out standard characteristics of S/M material for specific scorn. But, says Kuwabara, the tiny store was finally no match for the essentially unlimited resources of the government.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The end of days for bookstores
But what about the cafes and the couches? The cafes and the couches are staying, right???

The book trade tends to enjoy long, stable periods of operation punctuated by seismic upheaval. The next big upheaval is imminent. Go into any high-street bookshop today and you are confronted with a dizzying profusion of wares. There are more books on display than any normal person could read in a lifetime. Where to start?

It used to be that patrons (never "customers") went into a bookshop, browsed for hours on end and bought one book or perhaps no book at all. Now booksellers want you to "load your cart" with three for two, or an armful of "50% off" items. It's the Tescoisation of the British book business. Nowadays you would no more think of going into a bookstore and old-fashionedly browsing than taking a tin-opener into the local supermarket and sampling the baked beans.

Despite the healthy Christmas sales, the walk-in, walk-round bookstore is doomed. "Cyberglobalism" is about to happen. International copyright is already a dead letter. You want the book everyone is reading in the US? It won't be published in the UK for months, but Amazon.com will send it to you, copyright restriction be damned.

(discuss) (posted by George)

National Book Critics Circle Awards
Dylan vs. Shakespeare. We truly are in the last days. (discuss) (posted by George)

Rare books thief
Well, he's more of a dealer than a thief. And not in the sleazy crack sense. But the German government wants him dead. (Hell, who don't they want dead?) If just screwed up some of the grammar and made the sentences a little more awkward, it would sound like a Dan Brown novel. (discuss) (posted by George)

Copyright terror story
Is Doubleday violating Osama's copyright? (From MoorishGirl) (discuss) (posted by George)

Scots take care of their own...
But Burns's cottage is a fixer upper. (discuss) (posted by George)

And want to see Sean as Rebus...
Connery in a Rankin movie? No, sonny. (discuss) (posted by George)

And seem to be happy Heaney is getting in on the action
It's a Scotstravaganza! (discuss) (posted by George)

Beware the mailman

So this guy gets a job at Random House in the mailroom, sends out a few funny emails, then ends up across from an editor at the Christmas party. She practically drags it out of him that he's a writer and...

Mr Carter showed her the first few chapters of Hand of the Devil. It was bold and bloody, and Ms Sheppard knew immediately the company had a genius in its midst. She took the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting and showed it to her colleagues, giving the new writer a pseudonym. "It's brilliant," they said. "We've got to have it." "When I told them who the author was they were amazed," she says. "They couldn't believe he hadn't approached anyone."

It's always the quiet guy in the mail room... And I'm not just talking about the perv who installed the video camera in the ladies loo. (discuss) (posted by George)

"History belongs to everybody; it shouldn't be locked away in dark rooms... It should be on everybody's laptops at Starbucks."
Um, coffee history, at least. Especially the part about the exploitation of foreign workers. You know, to make the upholstery? But, I digress. More on the e-archive. (discuss) (posted by George)

Rowling does it again!
Give birth, that is. (You know, if Rowling gave half her makeup and tan to her husband, they'd both be gorgeous.) (discuss) (posted by George)

At Walt-fucking-Disney World?!? (discuss) (posted by George)


Whitbread awarded
Andrea Levy takes the prize. But we all know Hugh Grant is the real winner here. Celebrities. Is there anything they can't do? (discuss) (posted by George)

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

David Kipen examines Wubblewoo's speech writing.

Where once speechwriters used to strive for the rhythm, cadence and crescendo that would singe a line into everlasting memory, nowadays the perfect speech is the one so inert that we don't even have to forget it, because we hardly hear it the first time.

So it might be instructive to look at which of history's wordsmiths the president's outgoing chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, has been cribbing from -- if only to get a baseline for comparison with former Wall Street Journal editorialist William McGurn, who'll take over for Gerson in the coming weeks as ghostwriter-in-chief. During all the fawning inaugural post-game shows last Thursday, only one commentator had the temerity to wonder over an open microphone whether it would be asking too much for the leader of the free world, just this once every four years, to write his own damn speech, without any help from the West Wing term-paper mill.

That commentator, I was just as surprised as anybody else to discover, was Dan Rather. In television as in politics, watch out for the lame-duck with nothing to lose.

(discuss) (posted by George)

The Nora Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
Remember that review in the Times that dealt so neatly with the Best American Poetry series? Well, it's writer, David Orr, has won a bigtime award for reviewing. David came out to the CSPAN blogging panel I participated in late last year and I'm happy to report he's a nice guy who can hold his liquor. There's nothing like a late night of drinking to solidify my worship of a good critic. Here's his archive on the NYT site. (P.S. Welcome back to Old Hag) (discuss) (posted by George)

First time author gets near million dollar advance

Illness spurs author to get cracking. Bidding war erupts. Author walks away with £500k.... You know, same old story. Well, the same in that it wasn't you. (From Moby) (discuss) (posted by George)

Poland finally joins the 19th century

The Poles are working on their public image by trying a newspaper editor for what amounts to blasphemy. (discuss) (posted by George)

Dame Helen
She can make or break you. Read up, kiddies.

Her approach is, so to speak, rigorously untheoretical: A poem speaks to her, or it doesn't, and the critical essay is Ms. Vendler's preferred medium of reply. "When I was writing my dissertation on some really abstruse works by Yeats," she once noted, "my notion, which is still my notion, was that if what I write pleases the poet, then what I have done is all right."

(discuss) (posted by George)

Being cheeky pays off
Canadian screenwriter Annmarie Morais declines 10 pages of typed suggestions by famous director, re-enters big Hollywood contest and wins with the script that was turned down last time. Fame and fortune are so fickle. Luckily they're sometimes fickle in your favour. (discuss) (posted by George)

See, if she were just Czech, the headline could be "The Czech is in the mail..." but NoooOOO, she had to be Austrian...
Elfriede Jelinek turns down stamp honour, citing battle with Melissa Etheridge over copyright on her hair. (discuss) (posted by George)

Do business and reading mix?
Only at the Christmas party... What exactly IS book marketing? And does it work? And how about we at least GIVE IT A TRY on my next book...?

There are some really smart people in the book business, which is why it’s such a mystery that so little is known about the basics, such as why anybody buys a book. Wal-Mart can predict with great specificity that hurricanes in Florida will mean increased demand for batteries and flashlights, but also, based on past correlations, beer and pop-tarts. (Beer, understood, but pop-tarts? Don’t they need toasters for that? Wouldn’t the electricity be out?)

The book business has nowhere near this forecasting expertise. Instead, there’s a somewhat desperate reliance on the few things that are known with confidence, such as an author’s past track record, or received truisms like the idea that mass market fiction sells better in summer. When I present books to buyers for their consideration, the most persuasive thing I can do is to offer up a comparison book: “This book X is a lot like that book Y. It will have the same sales pattern and you should order it.” The problem is, these comparisons are notoriously unreliable. No book is truly like any other. And despite informed give and take over the prospects of a title, it often comes down to intangibles and guesswork. As my friend Arsen at Boulder Bookstore once remarked, “I just can’t picture anyone bringing this up to the cash register.”

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (posted by George)

Not work safe
Bad Mags is a site dedicated to exploitation mags from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It's pretty gross and often funny. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

"Someday, I Will Copyedit The Great American Novel"

Most of my coworkers here at Washington Mutual have no idea who I really am. They see me correcting spelling errors in press releases and removing excess punctuation from quarterly reports, and they think that's all there is to me. But behind these horn-rimmed glasses, there's a woman dreaming big dreams. I won't be stuck standardizing verb tenses in business documents my whole life. One day, I will copyedit the Great American Novel.

(discuss) (posted by George)


It's only a matter of time
Before the Poe Toaster (so clever) gets his ass kicked by some fucked up "spectator". People just can't respect a mystery. (discuss) (posted by George)

This is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen in my whole life
How to kick someone's ass with your cane or umbrella. From Pearson’s Magazine, 11 (January 1901) (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (posted by George)

Here's a Quill in yer eye
Quill Awards to celebrate downfall of civilization by heaping praise on John Grisham and Danielle Steel. Hugh Grant to host. If the public is seriously going to vote, be ready for an acceptance speech by Richard A. Knaak. (Dress code? Not what writers wear...) (discuss) (posted by George)

Take that! You... you... winner
AN Wilson is not at all impressed with Szirtes's TS Eliot Prize-winning book. In a somewhat snide article, Reel is picked apart at first and savaged at the last. While it's admirable, in my estimation, to call any attention to Geoffrey Hill (whom Wilson seems to think should win everything... okay, I can't disagree), the whole exercise seems somewhat small-minded to me. But then, this IS how Brits have at one another. (discuss) (posted by George)

Paris often smells funny...
More dish on the Paris Review dustup. (discuss) (posted by George)

Hey, Egghead! Nice library! Ha Ha!
Science library essentials. You'd be surprised how many of these I actually have!! Nhoy, glavin! (discuss) (posted by George)

Gore Vidal
Stylin. Profilin. (discuss) (posted by George)

Sylvia, The Show!
I hope there's a scene with lasers and dry ice. Maybe she stretches her arms out, Christlike, at the end and ascends to a chorus of angels made up to look like feminist icons. I can see the wire! I can see the wire! (discuss) (posted by George)

I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind...
Or maybe I did. Maybe I better get someone to fact check that for me... (discuss) (posted by George)


Because they just don't make enough money
And, frankly, neither do we. If the NYT starts charging for access to their new stories on the web, you can kiss them goodbye here at the Ninja.

...the Times may be considering charging for certain online offerings. A survey sent yesterday to some registered users stated that Nytimes.com plans to charge people who don't subscribe to the print edition for some content in the future. The survey outlined pricing options from $13.49 to $15.99 a month for full access. Daily access might be obtained for $1 a day.

There are plenty of other places to read for free and, considering that travesty of a books section, many are better. (You'll note we rarely link to the Washington Post, even though it's coverage is often quite good, because they force readers to jump through ridiculous hoops to get in... And somehow we survive...) (discuss) (posted by George)

"I'm sick of this damn war: the blood, the noise, the endless poetry."
Teens act as editors for a poetry anthology directed at... teens! It's so crazy, it just might work!! (discuss)

The book is divided into five themed sections, each compiled by a group of 10 teenagers from a different part of the UK. Every group was joined by a poet whose role it was to help them decide upon their theme and be on hand to oversee the selection process and provide advice or direction, should it be needed.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Danger! Seals and hugging
God, what are we? American? Canadian publishers attempt to censor a wildly successful kids' book from those barbarians in Iceland.

When Magnason recently presented a manuscript to a Canadian publisher based in Toronto, they offered to publish the book provided he remove references to grilling a seal that had been hunted for food, as well as a scene where a grateful child hugs and kisses two other children who saved his life.

Egad. I hang my head in shame. (discuss) (posted by George)

Know your copyrights
Bookforum looks at maze that is copyright law and "digital environmentalism"...

Who owns the words you're reading right now? if you're holding a copy of Bookforum in your hands, the law permits you to lend or sell it to whomever you like. If you're reading this article on the Internet, you are allowed to link to it, but are prohibited from duplicating it on your web site or chat room without permission. You are free to make copies of it for teaching purposes, but aren't allowed to sell those copies to your students without permission. A critic who misrepresents my ideas or uses some of my words to attack me in an article of his own is well within his rights to do so. But were I to fashion these pages into a work of collage art and sell it, my customer would be breaking the law if he altered it. Furthermore, were I to set these words to music, I'd receive royalties when it was played on the radio; the band performing it, however, would get nothing. In the end, the copyright to these words belongs to me, and I've given Bookforum the right to publish them. But even my ownership is limited. Unlike a house, which I may pass on to my heirs (and they to theirs), my copyright will expire seventy years after my death, and these words will enter the public domain, where anyone is free to use them. But those doodles you're drawing in the margins of this page? Have no fear: They belong entirely to you.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Texas... it's always Texas

Thank God and Wubblewoo somebody is thinking of the children! (From Bookslut) (discuss) (posted by George)

So what's this all about then, eh? My weirdness bone is aching...
Anyone? (Large Quicktime file. If you're on dial up, you might want to skip this one. If you love muppets, you might not.) (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

Haruki Murakami website
The other day I was talking to someone about what makes a good author website, and I made the observation that most were just half-assed ads. Murakami's website, on the other hand, is a work of art. (Contains ambient music.) Also, the Guardian has an excerpt from Murakami's new novel, Kafka on the Shore. (Thanks, Kurtis.) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

CanLit on Canada Reads
A little while ago I wrote a piece in the Province newspaper about Canada Reads in which I wondered why there was only one book from this millennium on the shortlist. The current issue of Canadian Literature expresses an uneasiness about the contest from an academic perspective.

It celebrates the shortlisted novels rather than engaging critically with them. Or it damns them on spurious grounds. The novels are pawns in a game. With the watered-down aestheticism of the readings, most often it has been the politics of the novels that is lost in the commentary on the texts. The depoliticized discussions have effectively joined the "aesthetic / humanist and the national" ideologies that Frank Davey argues divert readers, critics, and writers from the political dimensions of literature.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

It's open season on Colin Powell
Harper's has an all-too-accurate cartoon on what Powell may do now that the neocons have won. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Happy birthday!
National Capital Letters, a site dedicated to exploring Ottawa's literary heritage, celebrates its first anniversary with a new look. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

ACME Novelty Gallery
A salute to the works of Chris Ware in the form of homemade toys. (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

Interview with Alan Moore
The mad genius of the comic world talks about his development as an artist and his relationship with Hollywood.

I've decided I don't want anything more to do with films at all. After all the stuff with The League, there'd been some minor lawsuit with somebody claiming that I had gotten the idea from an American Hollywood screen writer and you can imagine how I felt about that. So, I felt, if I'm going to react I might as well over-react. (audience laughs) So, I said, right, that's it, no more Hollywood films. And if they do make films of my work, then I want my name taken off them and I want all the money given to the artists. I thought, God, that sounds principled (audience laughs) and almost heroic! (audience laughs) Then I got a phone call from Karen Berger the next Monday, she's an editor at DC Comics, and she said, "Yeah, we're going to be sending you a huge amount of money before the end of the year because they're making this film if your Constantine character with Keanu Reeves." I said, "Right, OK. (audience laughs) Well, take my name off of it and distribute my money amongst the other artists." I felt, well, that was difficult, but I did it and I feel pretty good about meself. Then I saw David Gibbons who I had done Watchmen with and he was saying, "Oh Alan, guess what, they're making the Watchmen film." And I said, with tears streaming down my face, "Take my name off of it David."

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Don Quixote -- not the first novel?
The Danforth Review has an excerpt from Douglas Glover's book on Don Quixote, in which Glover wonders how to categorize the classic text.

Walter Benjamin called it "the earliest perfect specimen of the novel."

But other critics tell us that it's not the first novel or not even a novel at all. Ian Watt, in The Rise of the Novel, begins the history of the novel with Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in England in the early eighteenth century because it reflects the common-sense realism of the rising English middle class. Andre Malraux said Madame de Lafayette's La Princesse de Cleves (1678) was the first novel because it concentrates on depicting the inner emotional life of a character. In From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun gives credit for inventing the new genre to the anonymous author of La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes (1554).

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Greg Hollingshead interview
The Danforth also interviews Greg Hollingshead about his new book, Bedlam, and whether or not university is a good idea for writers.

Some academic training in reading literature might still be a good suggestion for a young writer, though with university English departments over the last twenty years caught up in a politicized, thematic approach as opposed to an artistic one, the benefits are possibly more limited than they once were. I do believe in the value of the writing workshop, at least in the early stages of a writer's development, and of course in the kind of one-on-one editorial feedback available at places like the Banff Centre.

The important thing otherwise is to follow your literary interests and pay close attention to why the works you love are working for you, i.e., to technique. Otherwise, the important thing to know is that the chances that you will ever be sufficiently rewarded for this work--other than by the pleasure and the understanding that come of doing it--are infinitely small. So you'd better like doing it--or, as for most writers who keep at it, emotionally you have no choice. If you're doing it just to "be a writer" or to have published a book or a story, then you're coming at it as a consumer, not an artist.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


The short story dilema
Heather Birrell offers some words of wisdom on the short story.

Part of the problem with the popularity of short story collections seems to be in their presentation and packaging. With no single kernel of plot or thematic hook, a grouping of stories is frequently shoehorned for marketing purposes into a unity or sameness by an editor.

This is unfortunate, since a well-conceived collection's variety of voices — its grab-bag quality — is what attracts writers and discerning readers alike. Annual story anthologies can offer not only the cream of the year's crop but also a wide assortment of unpublished (in book form) goodies, culled from magazines large and small. The only directives spring from the editors' particular tastes and appetites.

See also Jonathan Bennett's defence of the short story, here on Bookninja. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The computer/indexing software combination allows writers to better record and track their ideas.

What does this mean in practice? Consider how I used the tool in writing my last book, which revolved around the latest developments in brain science. I would write a paragraph that addressed the human brain's remarkable facility for interpreting facial expressions. I'd then plug that paragraph into the software, and ask it to find other, similar passages in my archive. Instantly, a list of quotes would be returned: some on the neural architecture that triggers facial expressions, others on the evolutionary history of the smile, still others that dealt with the expressiveness of our near relatives, the chimpanzees. Invariably, one or two of these would trigger a new association in my head -- I'd forgotten about the chimpanzee connection -- and I'd select that quote, and ask the software to find a new batch of documents similar to it. Before long a larger idea had taken shape in my head, built out of the trail of associations the machine had assembled for me.

And yet there doesn't seem to be a function for recording who thought of the idea originally, so still they plagiarize... (discuss) (Posted by George)

The radiation leak that is Ayn Rand
A look back at 100 years of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Pegg-o-tron 2000 raises eyebrows, hackles
The furor over Peggy's wee invention continues, this time making use of good old fashioned American condescension-for- anyone-not-American. Though there's something in this, but I'm not sure how much. I think I need William Gibson to put it into perspective for me...

The oddest thing about Atwood's spleen toward authorial performance art is its shortsightedness. You'd expect this writer - a merchant in symbols - to recognize that signed copies also serve as symbols.

They signal that rare, probably unique, moment when fan got to speak to revered author, maybe even share a joke or story, in person.

P.S. Dude, you reveal yourself in more ways than just the cheap hook (ask for more time if the deadlines are killing you)... She's not Canada's foremost female novelist. She's Canada's foremost novelist. And, by some reckoning, she might be North America's foremost novelist. Try to keep up with the century, eh? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sex sells
So read this article on the trends in racy books and then go buy something in our store. (Better than sex selling, would be sex donating...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Seen and not heard
A very even-handed piece exploring the difference between the printed poem and the poetry reading.

A poem read aloud becomes a victim of its own recital. There’s no chance for the poet or listener’s eye to pause, slow down, or linger over a line. How many times have you wanted to ask a poet to decelerate or reread a poem? A recited poem vanishes faster than a vapor trail. Perhaps the failure to understand a recited poem is a virtue of sorts, an insistent indication that the poem contains more than meets the ear.

(From GoodReports) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Beautiful Kooser
Dan Wickett (who's been on a tear lately with interviews) chats with US poet laureate Ted Kooser, in part about his The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Virginia on the rocks
Woolf's lighthouse may be turned off. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Ephraim Kishon
Author, satirist, dead at 80. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pushkin in the bushkin
I don't even know what that means. But some people think Russia's answer to Jesus was a naughty boy.

...serious scholars did believe that Pushkin wrote erotic verse during the early phase of his career. He said: "It is known that he wrote some erotic poetry, and these verses have been analysed over the years.

"There is no real dispute that the verses are his. If anything, it would be strange if he had not written about the subject as part of his literary development and to show his sheer skill with words. Most other poets have written about it."

Oh, come on... Who hasn't rhymed something with Nantucket? More frightening than 200 year old raunch verse would be the ridiculous Russian law that even brings its value into question... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Go deep
Like citizen journalism? Having trouble keeping your shit together? Try deepblog. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Cover to cover
GalleyCat has an interesting hobby: keeping track of the literary doppelganger. (discuss) (Posted by George)

And so the revolution begins, my pretties. Fly! Fly! And bring me back the head of this "society"... Just the head. (discuss) (Posted by George)

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