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Hearsay Archive:

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

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

July 2004:

...

07/01/04:

In honour of Canada Day, we bring you bad Canadian sex with Neal Pollack
Neal Pollack visits Canada and decides to get a "massage."

Generally, when I tell strangers that I'm a writer, their first response is, "What kind of stuff have you written? Books?" But my randomly chosen "massage therapist" in Toronto said, "A writer, huh? Interesting. I just finished my master's degree in literature at the university. My thesis was on, oh, I can't remember his name now. Isn't that stupid? He wrote White Noise and that book about Lee Harvey Oswald."

Don't forget to do the Nerve crossword while you're on the site. (Discuss)

Play the Wrapped Up in Books game!
It's kind of like Tetris, but with a bookworm. Damn it, I was just starting to get things done. (From Bookslut) (discuss)

Someone please hire me Douglas Coupland's publicist (and see if he's interested in buying any of MY shirts)
This guy is always in the news... His publicist must be a magical elf with enormous powers of persuasion. I mean, this article is basically just a "what's ol' Dougie-boy up to these days" kind-of-thing. I would be happy to just get a voice on the other end of the line. I would even settle for having someone lie to me like they used to. I would appreciate it if someone plagiarized my last book's press release and stuck the text under a picture of the latest. I would be happy if someone in a subbasement was licking a stamp and accidentally had my book cross their mind. That would make me quiver. Excuse me, I must expel my bile. (P.S. Douglas Coupland is my hero because he managed to buy poet Chris Banks's shirt right off his back. This has far reaching social implications and is a perfect illustration of the novelist/poet division.) (First link from PFW) (discuss)

Killing Bush
If someone published a book running through a multitude of ways to assassinate Bush, would you buy it?

More incendiary than Jay's assassination fantasies, in the end, may be the deep expressions of anger against the administration the book dwells on. In that respect it is not unlike Joseph Heller's 1979 novel Good as Gold, which included an extended rant against Henry Kissinger. The difference, though, is that Kissinger had been out of power for two years when Heller's book was published; Mr Bush is in the middle of a bruising re-election battle.

Shh. Ey-thay ight-may e-bay istening-lay........... (Actually, given the editorial around here, that's not improbable.) (Discuss)

Up your wa-Zoo
Remember that Zoo Press fiasco south of the border? The small press (yet very prestigious, with ties to the Atlantic, and Kenyon and Paris reviews, not to mention publisher of my old pal Ross Martin) charged people $25 to enter a fiction contest and then cancelled the contest without refunding the money. Maud breaks down the entire story here, linking to various articles written about it. Plus she goes ballistic (for Maud) at the end and provides a letter template for ripped-off entrants to write their attorney general. There's been a sub-text of anger in her posts lately. And it makes us warm and fuzzy inside our black, cold assassin hearts. (Discuss)

Rehash of Nash
Here's yet another article about small press dreamboat Richard Nash, to whom something like the above would never happen (he's too smart, for one). That just leaves me about ten short of feeling sated. (Someone get me his publicist too, and lock them in a room with Coupland's so they can mate and produce an uberlicist...) (discuss)

O Brave new world...
Welcome to the future. Students can't write by hand and are flunking tests because of it. The old codger in me says, Well good! The young technophile cries, Foul! The eschatological nut in me says, We should have listened to Philip K Dick when we had the chance (say in one of the last six or seven movies...) (discuss)

"It's not just freaks that are obsessed with comic books."
And this is from someone with the title "Director of Public Relations" of Indigo... Hmm. You know what to do... But I digress. Young girls obsessed with manga. Hm. It sounds like the plot of a manga novel. It's just missing the betentacled robot/monster rapist... I'm sure great values are being taught, even in the non-porn titles. How to titter and giggle just right, how to bend your knees together to form an innocent little x with your legs, how to use eating disorders and plastic surgery to ensure your legs comprise 70% of your body length and your eyes 3/8ths of your face... And remember girls, keep those mouths tiny! (discuss)

Penn + pen = novel
Penn, the loudmouth from Penn and Teller, has written a novel.

But, true to Penn form, this is no ordinary work of fiction. The book’s narrator is Dickie, a sock monkey - yes, really - who belongs to an NYPD diver he calls the Little Fool, and the book’s structure is pure stream-of-consciousness adventure, peppered with pop-culture references and philosophical wit.

(Discuss)

Rowling reveals past life lived as Suzanne Somers
Have I done this joke before? It's uncanny! Mind you, she's moving in on Tammy Fay Baker... Ew. Seriously, I like her too much to have her wear this much plastic explosive on her face. (Oh, and something about Harry Potter being a half-wit ponce...) (discuss)

Awards Fever

This is so painful and inspiring it just had to go in the comedy slot...

Having made it on to the longlist, I would regularly log on to the competition's website to check my progress. Sadly, I saw myself sliding down the rankings. "You were doing well, getting threes and fours out of five," explained Gwen. "Then, someone read it who just didn't want to know, and gave you a nought."

(Discuss)


07/02/04:

Why are the technology companies run by Luddites?
In an earlier post I said I was looking forward to the Sony Librie, a new e-book thingy. The technology is apparently what we've all been waiting for, but the suits behind it seem to have confused bookstores with Blockbusters.

Reading Librie isn't anything like flipping through a paperback, but it is a breeze. You just push a button on the side of the display to go to the next page, and the button above that to go back.

Skipping around a book is easy. A cursor button featuring a picture of a dog is scrolled at the bottom of the display. The Librie has a memory function that can place up to 40 bookmarks.

But you can't copy and paste passages to another computer or device. And copy protection built into the software garbles your books into useless data after two months. There's no way to digitally archive texts for later reference. That's a lot of restrictions, though the books available for this first Librie do cost only $3 per download.

Guess we'll have to wait for someone to come up with a version worth using. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Seussground
Just before I left Toronto, the city's governing council decided playground equipment was somehow unsafe for children and had all the jungle gyms, swings and tetherball posts removed from playgrounds across the city. At first it was a little depressing to walk past schools and see children playing in the dirt because that's all there was, but my sadness faded when I moved.
In Vancouver, the schools have playground equipment, and I can't help but notice the children are less likely to throw used hypodermic needles at me as a result. In fact, near where I live there are two playgrounds set between the rainforest and the ocean, one of which even has an automatic drying booth for kids who get wet (not only do these playgrounds have waterparks, but there are seals to chase in the ocean!). But these playgrounds pale in comparison to this:

A bizarre-looking vehicle recently drew slack-jawed stares from the normally jaded Manhattanites on West 83rd Street. Occupying a flat-bed delivery truck, it looked like a white and neon-red locomotive, but with so many crumples and curves that it resembled melted marzipan. This was part of a train, all right, but not one that had ever chugged into New York, except in young imaginations. It was the locomotive from Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham," and it has now found a station: the Children's Museum of Manhattan, where it stars in "Oh, Seuss! Off to Great Places," a 4,000-square-foot exhibition that opens today.

(discuss)

Piled Higher and Deeper
In her ongoing struggle to complete her PhD, my partner Ailsa comes up with this. It's nice to see she's being productive. Mind you, after having witnessed the depression, anxiety and eventual insanity of several friends working on their theses, I can see how this would help. It seems to make her feel better, much like the Litterati comics do for some of us.... (Psh... Cartoonists who can "draw"! Oh, look at me! I can draw! I'm natural in the form! Nah nah nah! Let's see you lay down a sonnet, pal!) (discuss)

Magazine-a-go-go
Mags are a big business (one that's apparently way too easy to get in to). And if you don't buy them, the terrorists have already won.

Husni notes that 949 new magazines launched last year, and about 400 more debuted in the first five months of this one.
...
With 6,000 periodicals out there, it's a challenge to grab readers' attention. Many periodicals roll out slowly, as quarterlies, then become bimonthlies, then monthlies, as Justine, Conceive and Plenty are doing. Justine printed 100,000 copies of its premier issue, plans 150,000 for its fall issue, and hopes to go bimonthly next year.

(Keep Canada free! Buy Maisonneuve!) (discuss)

Poet likes being on list
He's a next generationer and very happy about it. Hell, who wouldn't be? This kind of recognition is like crack for poets.

"This is a fantastic opportunity," said Dr [Matthew] Francis, who works in the university's English department.

"My work will reach a much wider audience now than I could have hoped and the publicity should also attract more creative writing students to the university."

Um, no, the desire to not work for a higher degree will bring them there. (Discuss)

Prisoners get a break on books
A proposed rule would have barred (ha!) prisoners in Oregon from having more than 10 books in their cell at one time. No more.

Walker and other inmates warned that tensions were bound to rise within the 12,200-inmate prison system if officials imposed a tight lid on books, magazines and other property.

Bravo. Common sense rules the day. Now, just take away their cigarettes to make up for the allowance. That oughtta even everyone right out... ("Magazines" .... ew!) (discuss)

Okay, about film, but dealing with some interesting ideas
A discussion with filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev* yields some interesting "should"s.

"Let me tell you, there is an old Eastern parable about a Buddhist monk who once went out to teach under the trees and just before he started speaking, a bird started singing," Zvyagintsev says.

"He stood there silent, not saying a word, listening. When the bird finished singing, he told his pupils that the lesson was over.

He rose up, went away ...

"Communication is not just speaking using words, notions, ideas, because we don't know much that way. We cannot express much that way. It's not the fullness of understanding.

"And there is such an idea - Plato, quoting Socrates, says that an artist, a poet should create myth. An artist should create images, not thinking patterns. A poet should create images, not trains of thought."

And a playwright?

"The playwright or a novelist, they're also poets. But they are dealing only in words, and cinema has other means of expression. How could you describe with words, convey with words, a pause, a silence, a glance?"

Isn't that what all those funky line breaks are doing? (discuss)

Zoo let the dogs out? Woot, woot woot!
So the Zoo Press scandal continues down there in Bushlandia. People are getting angry. With reason it seems. This letter was sent out some of the bloggers who first broke the story and whose cultural reportage brought it to the mainstream via Poets & Writers magazine. Fight the good fight, people! (discuss)

Drunk as poets
There are plenty of people who don't plan this.

There were five daily rules.

1. Each poet must be drunk by noon.
2. A poem must be composed by closing time.
3. The poet must not leave the pub until closing time, unless the bar staff eject him.
4. If the bar staff eject the poet before closing time, he must go to another pub.
5. Only alcoholic drinks may be consumed. Water and mixers are banned, but ice is allowed. Food is also permitted.

This makes me sad. And thirsty! (discuss)

Book thief gets six

University Library Director Deborah Carver said Collver's thefts were the first detected at the University in 15 years.

Obviously not a very GOOD book thief, but one more off the streets nonetheless. (Discuss)

CanLit Cafe
Ubertoonist Patricia Storms gives a Canada Day present. (Discuss)


Weekend Edition:

Typeface vs. font
The other day, someone asked me the difference between a typeface and a font, and I didn't have a clear answer for him. In order to prevent you from suffering the same embarrassment, I've found these sites. If you're a nerd like me, you may also want to add this book to your reading list. And if you're dyslexic, you may want to check out this typeface. (discuss)

At last, Canada has more to offer the world than poutine!
Let's have a double double to celebrate.

"We had to determine if it was used only in Tim Hortons doughnut shops or more widely," Barber said. "We found evidence in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and the book Men with Brooms, based on the curling movie."

Researchers also surveyed Canadians across the country and were sent to eavesdrop in coffee shops to gauge whether people really use the term.

(discuss)

Comics Roundup
I'm going to see Spider-Man 2 today, so I thought I'd post a couple of comic-related links to get in the spirit of things. First, the Star has a good piece on the way the Web is changing the comics industry:

In the world of comic books, superheroes get remade all the time. There was the campy Batman of the 1950s who turned grim and gritty in the '80s. Green Arrow gave up his gimmicky toys. Superman's appearance and backstory have been tweaked many times over the years. This malleability of characters has served comics companies well, as it keeps them relevant for a new generation of fans. Now, comics are facing their fiercest foe yet: technology. The two-dimensional, paper-based medium -- essentially unchanged for decades -- is slowly, reluctantly adapting to a digital world. Illustrators have put away their pencils, online artists are proliferating, comic heroes are crossing over into an increasing number of effects-laden movies and comic fans are downloading pages illegally. Needless to say, not everyone is happy with the transition.

Then again, there are those who embrace the Web as a new artistic medium, such as the people at the Webcomics Examiner. But back to Spider-Man... Snarkout links to an overview of the Spider-Man "Clone Saga," which I've never read but sounds pretty nifty. And don't forget, today is Free Comic Book Day! (discuss)


07/05/04:

Reader Poll
Bookninja's first anniversary is fast approaching (Aug 11) and I'm hoping to throw a big party in Toronto. I have a brewery interested in sponsoring the event (read, FREE BEER), but I suspect they're going to want something in return. Perhaps not, but I was wondering how you readers would take to a tastefully small ad on the site for a period of about a month. Pete and I have never hoped to make a dime off this thing (in fact, we lose money on it), but I thought it might be nice to thank you all for tuning in with a great big party. Free beer is the only way to go. So before I enter into negotiations, what do you think? If it comes down to it, should I sell a smidge of the soul for this? Post your thoughts in the discussion area here: (discuss)

"Get in, get out, don't linger."
Book review space is getting slimmer every year, so should we be putting up with the space taken by the ego of the reviewer?

Reviewing is an important craft, and good criticism is a way of enjoying literature more completely. Still, reviewers should keep in mind the famous comment by the late Randall Jarrell to the effect that criticism is like a telescope: It allows the viewer to see the stars, but it can never be the stars. Academic critics already have discarded this notion in making themselves the point of their literary essays, and intellectual wannabes like Peck aren't far behind.

How about we start by cutting the little bios at the end where reviewers get to plug their own books? (discuss)

Penn on paper
Penn Jillette's grocery store theory of writing:

In the old days, about 150 years ago, Jillette says, a writer needed to reach about 3 to 5 percent of the public in order to make it. Now, with so many more people in the world, a novelist can thrive by attracting just a fraction of that population.

"You really can do the gay Catholic fisherman and make a living," Jillette says. "When you go to the supermarket, not everything is Coca-Cola or Frosted Flakes. You also have those really weird, dry, crinkly olives."

I just like that he swears so much. It makes me laugh when people swear. I find it funny. I laugh. When people swear. 'Sfunny. (If you, dear reader who is likely a writer, were to be found in a grocery store, what section would it be? Me? Organic tinned marshmallows.) (discuss)

"2lazy 2teach"?
Tupac has been canonized by the poetry establishment (that is to say, the academics).

Since his death eight years ago, there has been a stampede to include him on American college syllabuses: not just the "we take anyone" community colleges, but institutions such as Harvard and Dartmouth solemnly cogitate on the inner meaning of Tupac's lyrics and the printed volume of his verse, The Rose that Grew from Concrete.

I, on the other hand, have only been cannonized. (discuss)

Gibberish?
New analysis of the Voynich Manuscript says it may be nothing but gibberish. Philologists and cryptographers set to tackle Coach House backlist next... (I kid because I love, guys.) (discuss)

Faster, Pussycat! Shill! Shill!
How did all those papers manage to have Clinton's nigh-1000 page behemoth read and reviewed within 24-hours of receiving the book? Is that humanly possible? If not, what value does that place on the reviews, and for that matter, the reviewers?

Are the book blitzers Evelyn Wood speed-reading graduates, vampires who never sleep, corrupt book-skimmers, or hacks? All of the blitzers who spoke about their instant reviews defended their velocity, with some saying their assignment wasn't to judge a masterpiece of literature but to assess a public figure's retelling of events with which everybody is mostly familiar.

I can dig the blitz review becoming fashionable for poetry... Ten poems in and over the shoulder it goes. In my head I'd hear the buzzer from Family Feud - MAH! (discuss)

Phillis Wheatley
A strange little article that seems to only use last names (as though it refers to something meatier in the paper - maybe a poem?), but a nice bit on poet Phillis Wheatley, the first published black American writer. (discuss)

If I had this book I would immediately flip to look for the word "dirty"
The hippie dictionary. (discuss)

Rule no. 6: For God's sake, don't talk to each other
Rules for what books to bring on holiday with your loved one so you might lie on the beach together reading in peace. A sample:

4. There are many books that he might like but which you definitely won't, and must therefore be banned: anything by Paul Auster; sci-fi by Philip K Dick; anything involving Nearly Falling Off a Mountain; all 'cyber-punk' (whatever that is); Titus Groan; business books. Then again, if he wants to pack any of the above, ditch him and go away with a Carol Shields-loving girlfriend instead.

Um, my partner and I would kill for some time away to actually TALK TO EACH OTHER! No baby, no thesis, no poetry, no magazines, no fackin' Bookninja - just the opportunity to remember we like each other's brains. This list, even though meant in jest, just makes me sad. People who dig this article should consider separate vacations, minus the "te vaca". (discuss)


07/06/04:

National Post swallows bitter pill
Our very own Jayson Blair. How charming. A medical reporter at the National Post fabricated quotes and names over a lengthy. A "brief note to readers" appeared in Friday's paper as announcement. (From PFW) (discuss)

Meet me at the barricade...
More on the situation at Coach House.

To say that Coach House "publishes" books would diminish the magic of what really happens within the old brick walls of these interlinked buildings on bpNichol Lane, named for the late poet who is now its patron saint. It is an amazingly resilient little factory where some of the most famous writers in Canada first learned to read proofs and glue bindings. Paper and ink go in one door and art comes out another.

This is really a ridiculous state of affairs. How could anyone even question whether Coach House is a historical/cultural landmark? We should all be rising up with pitchforks and torches, people. In another time, and perhaps not so diffuse a country, we would. This is the kind of thing people should put differences aside for and march on City Hall. Is anyone organizing a program of protest or resistance? Can you post information to our boards about it? Thanks. (Thanks to JPF for the link.) (discuss)

Shocking News!

Stephen Joyce considers legal action to stop sale of James's love letter (though, I don't know how much love was involved when he called Nora "a strange-eyed whore" and basically wanted her to fart in his face...) (discuss)

Books as agents of death
I've learned some valuable lessons from this article: you can either get high or get asthma from old books, the Chinese push their school-aged children too much, and my bad neck is likely a result of reading too much (as opposed to staring at this screen three hours a night.)

Books are an often overlooked hazard, sending more people to the emergency rooms than many common sports. In case you were looking for an excuse to put down that copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace, here it is: in the United Kingdom more people are hurt by books (2,707 a year) than by training weights (1,884), trampolines (1,902) or cricket balls and bats (1,174).

That's not even taking into account the number of weightlifters who fell off trampolines while reading books on cricket. (discuss)

Fight the Power!

Some academics love rap, as we learned yesterday, class. Some hate it. As academics go, guess which ones are more popular....

I ask McWhorter the question he's been asked countless times since throwing his hat into the ring several years ago: why does he hate rap? Surprisingly, he says he doesn't. "I like listening to rap, actually; the problem is that it's very, very catchy. The poetry is interesting, the rhythms are fantastic. But when I hear it, I hear it from a distance. For some people this music is a religion, and I don't mean religion in a hyperbolic way. It's at the point where a lot of people have never known the world without it. It's all the music they listen to. They wake up to it, they lose their virginity to it, they go to sleep to it, it's what they hear when they go to clubs. They have a vague sense of it as part of some political movement. It's a body language, it's a way of speaking. It's a creed. It's literally a religion."
...
He has little patience for intellectuals who seek to canonise rappers such as Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. "Why must Tupac Shakur be celebrated as Jesus Christ? The sucking noise that you hear when you mention his name in a room full of engaged, smart African-Americans is the same thing you hear in church when Jesus is mentioned. That's a problem. Tupac Shakur was a moderately talented thug who died. That's it. The idea that he is some sort of Byron is just theatrical."

Um, can you say, "drive-by"? Someone is definitely going to bust a cap in this guy's ass. (From ALDaily) (discuss)

"See Dick throw the ball. See Spot chase the ball into the street and get killed by a car. See Dick and Jane grieve."
Grieve, Dick, grieve. (discuss)

File under: Only in America...
I can't even begin to summarize this tiny piece. (discuss)


07/07/04:

Everything Zen -- I Don't Think So
Once again, poets demonstrate their tranquil, live-and-let-live nature.

If there is ever the slightest possibility of our finding ourselves in the same room or general vicinity, I want to advise and plead with you to get away from that place, fast, because if I find out about it, I assure you it is distinctly possible that I will not be able to resist giving you the crippling beating you so clearly masochistically desire. I do not wish to kill you or hurt you, and so I beg you to get away from me, without delay, if you realize we are in the same room somewhere. Best, Franz.

If Franz Wright believes such threats will intimidate anyone, he is to be pitied. I assure him that I will come and go as I please, and would be glad to provide him with an itinerary.
William Logan

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

'There are 6,000 non-entities in this book.'
I never read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, but lots of people I know like Louis de Bernieres. These people, however, do not like his new one.

It's full of references to hook-nosed Arabs and Jews, it is a hatred of the Islamic world balanced in a pseudo way by saying "oh yes, the Christians did some wrong things too". It is rotten with orientalism. I had just finished reading Orientalism the other morning and I picked up this wretched book. I wanted to throw it out the door. It is a stinking rotten book written by a pseudo hopeless novelist.

(From Splinters) (discuss)

Some Russian poets
The Russian Legacy project has some translated poems online. I don't know Russian poetry, so I'll leave it up to you to determine if the selection is worthwhile. (From Language Hat) (discuss)

Now I finally know who to kill
Wired finds the source of that Bill Gates chain email.

Bryan Mack was no longer a student by the time I came calling. He'd graduated in 2001 and had taken a job programming databases at the Colorado School of Mines. He's a regular guy. He answers his own phone. "I wasn't trying to trick people," he told me. "It was just a joke between a couple friends." Then he described how the joke got a little out of hand.

(discuss)

Agent Provocateur...
What good is an agent? What bad? Has s/he even read your book?

Every working writer has a trunkful of humiliating stories about their first attempts to get published, so here's one of mine. Years ago, back when I'd never sold a word, my new agent called me one morning with great news—an editor at a certain large Manhattan publishing house was intrigued by the book I was working on. Yes! I thought. Success at last!

Mere hours later, a thick manila envelope thudded through the mail slot of my San Francisco flat. And, lo, the return address was for this very same publisher. My, they were eager. Impressed by their lightning speed, I tore it open and pulled out a sheaf of battered papers. It took a moment until I realized that I was looking at the proposal for my own book—only, in an extraordinary coincidence, it was one I had sent into their slush pile, un-agented and unsolicited, a full 18 months earlier. This proposal was accompanied by a brief but stunning handwritten note from their submissions reader: She could not ever see my book being published. Not by them—and not, for that matter, by anyone else.

I often ask myself whether I should bother going the agent route for my next collection of poetry. Then I bust out laughing. Then the laughter turns maniacal and slowly descends into tears and sobbing. (discuss)

And the plagiarism continues...
But now, taking a cue from the Writers' Onion perhaps, journos are just plagiarizing themselves. (discuss)

Harry Potter: Neo-liberal capitalist

...all representatives of the state (the Ministry of Magic) are lampooned as ridiculous, or incompetent or sinister. Harry goes to a "private" school, whose "micro-society" is a "pitiless jungle" which glorifies "individualism, excessive competition and a cult of violence".

Public institutions are unable to protect individuals. Au contraire, Harry Potter and his friends find they have to break the magical state-imposed rules constantly to protect themselves from evil forces.

I couldn't make that shit up, people. But the French could... (From PFW) (discuss)

Robert Burns's junk found!
Apparently most of it was down back of the couch, aye! (If they ever find 36,000 items from my life, I suspect the majority of the collection will be comprised of outrageous fuel receipts and Chipwhich wrappers.) (discuss)

King & King & Family...
Books for gay parents, children of gay parents, and parents who are children of gay parents. Get that? (discuss)

So when you're writing erotica, is it your arm you type on?
Microsoft, ever the bastion of ethical rightmindedness, has been granted a patent for turning the human body into a computer.

Many people today carry a range of portable electronic devices, each with its own keypad, speaker, display, processing unit and power supply. The idea behind the patent is to get rid of some of these items. If such gizmos were networked, it would be possible to have, say, just one keypad for a mobile phone, an MP3 music player and a PDA. The keypad might even be a person's forearm. As the patent puts it, “The physical resistance offered by the human body can be used in implementing a keypad or other input device as well as estimating distances between devices and device locations. In accordance with the present invention, by varying the distance on the skin between the contacts corresponding to different keys, different signal values can be generated representing different inputs.” In other words you can, in theory, type on your skin.

There's something creepy about this, in an I'm-not-Christian- but-I-was-raised-as-one-and-feel-like-God's-going-to-get- angry-and-fall-on-us-like-a-bag-of-hammers-kind-of-way. (discuss)

Linguistic map of the world
How cunning! It's a map that lists the countries of the world in their own language and scripts. (From Language Hat) (discuss)


07/08/04:

There's something about Alice
The producer of There's Something About Mary has, uh, adapted Alice in Wonderland.

Beddor said: "I guess I didn't realise how beloved Lewis Carroll's classic was. I was just seeking revenge. My grandmother and my mother made me read this book when I was 10 or 11 and I thought it was a terrible girls' book. This is my revenge; I wanted to rewrite it as a book boys would also enjoy."

I think I'll stick to the video game. (discuss)

A New York typeface
The choice of the Gotham typeface for the cornerstone of the... Freedom Tower... God, I hate typing that... anyway, the typeface embodies the New York spirit.

The typeface, Gotham, deliberately evokes the blocky, no-nonsense, unselfconscious architectural lettering that dominated the streetscape from the 1930s through the 1960s in building names, neon signs, hand-lettered advertisements and lithographed posters.

(discuss)

The Brits love their political theatre
Meanwhile in Canada, we have Stratford and Bard on the Beach. And let's not forget Shaw. Pushing the boundaries, we are.

In theaters all over London these days, debates rage about power and justice, about leadership and its abuses. From the National's production of Euripides' 410 B.C. Iphigenia at Aulis to the New Ambassador's up-to-date Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, curtains rise on works that confront the morality of the coalition's invasion of Iraq and inquire into government's dubious motives.

(discuss)

And then my character is going to stick a bomb up George Bush's ass... where it will no doubt kill Cheney
We all know we're not supposed to say "bomb" on airplanes. But really, what's wrong with writing it on a note to yourself so you can remember a character's dialogue?

Without further explanation, they took me to the onsite police station, where I waited for an "interview" with the Transportation Security Administration. By then I was being accused of writing "bomb" on a piece of paper and waving it around for people in the back of the plane to see. While two policemen guarded the door, the honcho behind the desk informed me that my choice of dialogue was unfortunate, that life was not a stage play and that the tiniest thing can ignite fear in American travelers these days. He wanted a summary of my novel's plot to get the context for why I'd written what I had.

(From Elegant Variation) (discuss)

Fewer Americans reading
This is what passes for news?*

Oprah's Book Club may help sell millions of books to Americans, and slam poetry may have engendered a youthful new breed of wordsmith, but the nation is still caught in a tide of indifference when it comes to literature. That is the sobering profile of a new survey to be released today by the National Endowment for the Arts, which describes a precipitous downward trend in book consumption by Americans and a particular decline in the reading of fiction, poetry and drama.
...
"In an age where there's no canon, where there are so many other forms of information, and where we're returning to medieval-like oral culture based on television," he said, "I think that's pretty impressive, quite frankly." Mr. Starr continued: "We should be alarmed, I suppose, but the horse has long since run out of the barn. There are two distinct cultures that have evolved, and by far the smaller is the one that's tied up with book and high culture. You can get through American life and be very successful without anybody ever asking you whether Shylock is an anti-Semitic character or whether `Death in Venice' is better than `The Magic Mountain.' "

Yes, and it's good to be obese, loud bullies and we should embrace our over-privileged inner imperialists. (discuss)

Poet slap-fight!

I love it (last item) when the Americans sink to our level. Here it's recent Pulitzer winner Franz Wright (who we know, from the multitude of articles a few months back, is unstable) and "the most hated man in American poetry", William Logan.

If there is ever the slightest possibility of our finding ourselves in the same room or general vicinity, I want to advise and plead with you to get away from that place, fast, because if I find out about it, I assure you it is distinctly possible that I will not be able to resist giving you the crippling beating you so clearly masochistically desire. I do not wish to kill you or hurt you, and so I beg you to get away from me, without delay, if you realize we are in the same room somewhere.
Best, Franz.

Well, truth be told, it's a whole lot lower than we tend to go in print, but it's pretty damn funny. I wish a few of us would threaten each other.... in writing. (From Tingle Alley) (discuss)

Iraqi history almost sold for same amount as A-list author's advance...
Just to put it in perspective for you... What an obscene world we live in, eh? (discuss)

BHL
Sound like a hockey league or delivery service to you? Then you aren't a Frenchman* - pardon me - you ain't a Frenchman.

The strength and weakness of Levy's work probably emanate from the same root: It is neither traditional journalism nor traditional philosophy. Unlike conventional reporters, he says he does not hesitate to use pretexts or undercover identities to get stories in high-risk environments or to blur fact and fiction by imagining a protagonist's thoughts.

(From ALDaily) (discuss)

Poet loses face
Defaced fresco causes ruckus. (discuss)

More 2Pac ichor
Now everyone's looking to take an uzi slug in the ass. (discuss)


07/09/04:

For the last time, "artistic merit" doesn't mean we want to see children peforming unspeakable sex acts... adults, yes, children, no.
A big issue in the recent Canadian election was the proposed reworking of the country's child-porn laws. The debate went something like this: "If you're not against a complete ban of all representations of youth in sexual situations, or hey, even non-sexual situations that some reader/viewer could perceive to be sexual, well, then you must support child porn!"

Unfortunately, in both Canada and the U.S., this has been the position taken by many media types as well, who have written angry editorials about judges defending child pornography by refusing to strike down "artistic merit" laws, etc., without looking critically at the issues. Thankfully, the comics media has understood what's really at stake -- freedom of expression.

Their latest cause has been fighting the Child Online Protection Act, which was intended to protect children from viewing online porn by limiting people's ability to post material online that may cause our children to go astray.

Retailers, publishers, and comic art dealers would have faced potential chill on what kind of work they could show on their sites. Could someone selling an original R. Crumb, Reed Waller, or Milo Manara page depicting sex show that page on their website? Would Last Gasp, which presently requires all browsers to state that they're 18 to enter, need to get a credit card from anyone entering their site or risk prosecution? Could Bud Plant face prosecution because he shows samples and covers of adult products on his website?

The answer is that all of the above examples would be vulnerable to the lines drawn by COPA, and we feel that's unconstitutional. The businesses mentioned above are responsible businesses, and shouldn't have their rights to responsibly sell protected speech chilled by this law. Likewise, creators shouldn't need to worry that they could lose their livelihood and freedom if they post a story speaking to adult themes in a responsible fashion.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

Golden Age comics covers
These are so bad they're funny and then not... but then funny again! (When I was in grad school I always had my suspicions about James Joyce, but who knew he was the Anarcho Dictator of Death?) (From Snarkout) (discuss)

Old-style wikipedia
Welcome to the 20th century, with the 1913 Webster's Dictionary. (From Memepool) (discuss)

Welcome to America, the Year 1984
What a shame. What a crying shame that country is becoming. And now it's making the leap from bully to tyrant.

The Republican-led House bowed to a White House veto threat Thursday and stood by the USA Patriot Act, defeating an effort to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that helps the government investigate people's reading habits.

The effort to defy Bush and bridle the law's powers lost by 210-210, with a majority needed to prevail. The amendment appeared on its way to victory as the roll call's normal 15-minute time limit expired, but Republican leaders kept the vote open for about 20 more minutes as they persuaded about 10 Republicans who initially supported the provision to change their votes.

Note: trawling conservative scumbags looking to pick a fight can save their hate mail. It will go unopened. Your country is falling to pieces - you and your willful ignorance are the reason. Go do something productive. Maybe read a little. (discuss)

Ninja Rein's in Top Eight Percent!
I heard the grocer's putting his apostrophe in places we don't even want to know about....

One of the epidemic errors of the past 30 years - unnecessary, misplaced or omitted apostrophes in the words "its"and "it's" - has dwindled to only about 8% of people, possibly because the mistake has drawn so much ridicule. It was dubbed "the grocer's apostrophe" because of its unnecessary use in plural words on shop signs or placards (Price's Slashed).

There are plenty more mixed up homophones where this comes from. (discuss)

One "strange-eyed whore"? £240,800
Getting her to fart in your face? Priceless. (discuss)

Yusef Komunyakaa
Profiled in the NYT.* (Has there yet been a significant story on the details of his wife's murder/suicide? This is the first mention I've seen of it since it happened.) (discuss)

Iraqi writers still oppressed, but now by situation instead of Saddam...

During the decades under Hussein, poets and other creative writers practiced their craft secretly or not at all. For all his brutality, Hussein was intelligent enough to recognize the power of language when infused with ideas and with passion, and he silenced writers suspected of using words as their weapons to oppose his regime.

Oppression still exists in Iraq, for bombings have made many people afraid to leave their homes, and fundamentalists who would oppose the honesty of literature that touches on the honesty of humanity - sensuality, sexuality, religious skepticism, spiritual exploration - remain a threat.

But in the steamy, broken building that serves as the offices of the Iraqi Writers Union, in the capital's busy Karada District, poets, novelists, essayists and short-story writers now gather daily to read their work aloud. They share photocopied versions of manuscripts that under Hussein would have led to a slashed tongue, a severed hand, years of prison, maybe death.

(From TEV) (discuss)

Old news is still news to us
Well, remember yesterday we linked to (for a second time, no less!) to Franz Wright going around the bend on William Logan? Well, it seems the story is somewhat stale and most of us mainstream bloggers are only coming to it late. Bookslut digs up an old blog entry from someone who got to the story before us... and got punished for it - by WHACKJOB WRIGHT HIMSELF. I'm no fan of boorish Logan (well, not always), but Wright makes it hard not to sympathize with anyone he's currently at odds with. (discuss)

"Modern politicians don't read"?
Whatever do you mean? What about Hop on Pop? I ask you again, what about Hop on Pop?!!?

Modern politicians don't read. Tony Blair may claim Ivanhoe as his favourite book, but he is clearly a John Grisham man. His bibliophilic reputation is unlikely ever to recover from the tale of him meeting Ian McEwan at a party and telling him he had several of his works hanging on the walls of Number 10. Margaret Thatcher said she liked to "re-read" Frederick Forsyth novels on holiday. William Hague had a weedy fondness for The Wind in the Willows. John Major predictably liked Trollope. Oh, for the days of Gladstone's classical scholarship and Disraeli's novelistic nous.

But suddenly there is hope. Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister-in-waiting, this week delivered a lecture which suggests that he will soon need a larger red box - to accommodate all the texts he is apparently devouring. The list of citations in his British Council lecture on national identity was formidable - Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837; Adam Nicholson's God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible; Norman Davies's The Isles: A History; Andrew Marr's The Day Britain Died; Bernard Crick's biography of George Orwell. He may have got the title of Marr's book wrong and given rather sketchy details of the others, but if this were a university essay it would surely merit an alpha.

(discuss)

Hughes to get poetry trail
Which is a switch from the regular trail of dead wives thing... (I hate myself for going there.) (discuss)

Dick unreliable?
I think this is supposed to be a negative review, but having read it, I desperately want to get a copy of this book...

French novelist and screenwriter Emmanuel Carrère takes unprecedented liberties in his startling and disorienting "biography" of renowned American sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Carrère gets so far inside the head of the deeply troubled author, who died in 1982, that he re-creates in great detail Dick's visions, hallucinations, thought processes and at one point, even a forgotten dream. That raises the question, variations of which arise often in reading this book: If the dream eluded Dick, how was Carrère able to capture it so faithfully?

Carrère approaches his subject less as a portraitist than as a psychic partner, a fellow traveler. He writes with such conviction and authority, it almost obscures the fact that much of his information is obviously manufactured. The resulting text is remarkably vivid, intimate, often haunting but breathtakingly presumptuous.

(discuss)

Saddam the new V.C. Andrews?
It appears his novels are still coming. How lucky for us. The laughter can go on! (discuss)

It is clear that Nick Hornby must die
William Shatner, of Tambourine Man fame, is set to release his second solo album. It appears kitsch IS a kind of currency...

Captain Kirk teamed up with Ben Folds (yes, that Ben Folds) to create this pop-driven new album. The majority of the album was written by the duo, with the exceptions of "Trying," co-written by Folds and novelist Nick Hornby (yes, the guy behind High Fidelity)

That which we have long feared has finally come to pass. Go to plan Zeta, code Blue. (discuss)


Weekend Edition:

There's no place like home
The Aussies wonder if it's all right to make fun of the Brits.

Let's get some of the racist insults out of the way first.

"Send Slopes back, police course told." "Pity a poor Jap: envied at home, insulted abroad." "Japies still fighting the bore war." "Am I a racist Paki-basher? No, I just hate pomposity." "Finally, real fun with a Chink." Offended? Surprised that a newspaper as reputable as the Herald would use such loaded, pejorative language?

Don't be. All the above are genuine headlines, taken from mainstream Sydney newspapers. In each one word has been changed. Instead of slope, Jap, japie, Paki or chink, the original headline writer used another term: "Pom".

(discuss)

Are comic books the way of the future?
This article puts forth a pretty simplistic idea of what comics are, to say nothing of novels and poetry, but hey, it has nice pictures.

Comic books are what novels used to be -- an accessible, vernacular form with mass appeal -- and if the highbrows are right, they're a form perfectly suited to our dumbed-down culture and collective attention deficit. Comics are also enjoying a renaissance and a newfound respectability right now. In fact, the fastest-growing section of your local bookstore these days is apt to be the one devoted to comics and so-called graphic novels.

(discuss)

Ostrogoths! Vandals!
Publishers in Iran have had to alter Tintin comics to avoid having them banned.

This means they have "censored" a lot of stuff out of the Tintin stories. They have "islamified" Tintin, and had they failed to do so they probably would never have gotten permission to publish the books.

A lot of people, certainly those like me who have read the original editions, hate these new ones though. Imagine Captain Haddock drinking "lemonade" all the time instead of whiskey, or imagine Castafiore wearing stockings and long-sleeves, and then you will know why we hate them.

Tintinesque also points readers to Tintinologist, home of the "Cult of Tintin" and pics of Tintin shops. (From Metafilter) (discuss)


 

07/12/04:

"A recreational fire"
A planned book burning ceremony by The Jesus Church (there are others?) has been thwarted by county fire codes.

Officials said the county's air quality division prohibits the transporting of materials from the city to the county for burning.

Breedlove said a city fire inspector suggested shredding the offending material, but Breedlove said that wouldn't seem biblical.

Sweet merciful crap. This has to be something from a Coen Brothers film... Nope, it's just the good ol' Xtian right being ornery agin. (Thanks to ninja reader Susan for the link.) (discuss)

Now where did I put my teeth?
Robert McCrum says there's too much innovation in literature these days and we need to return to the classics. Yes, it's a scary world out there, full of wolves and Nazis and books that make my head hurt.

During recent years, we've seen novels in verse; novels composed without the vowel 'a'; novels narrated from the point of view of pets; novels of gothic slaughter; novels of colossal lust; novels heaving with obscenity. And, painful though it is to admit this, a lot of these books have been astonishingly bad, not to say frightful.

I say we don't have enough novels of gothic slaughter, colossal lust or heaving with obscenity. I'm waiting for the one that combines all three. (discuss)

I see Gatsby as a Lexus man myself
The New York Times and BMW bring you The Great Gatsby online (PDF link). (From Maud) (discuss)

Are young people reading the daily newspapers?
At the dailies I've worked at, the grey-haired editors have always worried obsessively about how to capture the young-readers market. For some reason, they always assume this means articles about bikini waxes and teen sex rather than good news stories. To which I usually say from my cubicle far, far on the other side of the newsroom, "But the people that would read those articles don't read. Why not write stories for readers?" Shortly thereafter, I find myself at a new paper....

But the most pressing issue relates to the reason why young people don't read dailies. If you've already seen the news (or laughed at it with The Daily Show), and you're faced with a banal paper, wouldn't you rather peruse The Onion on the way to work? Young people are drawn to attitude, Nieman Reports concludes. They like being provoked, as long as it's not gratuitous, and they enjoy writers who express strongly held beliefs, whether or not they agree. My generation is much more intolerant. Maybe that's why we're so quick to see media conspiracies, and why we require such studied -- and phony -- neutrality from the dailies.

(discuss)

There's a new kind of crazy person taking over Washington Square...
Forget that whacko with the sword and cape - the fall's latest fashion in crazy is "the booknut". A Midtown bookfair is headed south* and some of the Greenwich Village residents aren't pleased. (Which just goes to show how dead the West Village really is...) (discuss)

Allow me to illustrate my point...

Illustrating another author's text (as opposed to doing your own picture book) is very close to acting, or rather being a whole company of actors, stage director and costume designer rolled into one. You do not always meet the author. Sometimes, if you do, it can be a disadvantage because the person you encounter socially may turn out to be disconcertingly unlike the possessor of the imagination at work in the text. The job involves trying to get a feeling for the story, the essence of themselves which all authors leave in what they write and which shapes the characters they invent. The aim, though you may not always achieve it, is to give your author, publisher and reader not what they want exactly, but what they never dreamed they could have.

(From GoodReports) (discuss)

Eggers falls short
I wish everything The Dave wrote was this short. Some of them are actually pretty good! (From PFW) (discuss)

Take Heart, Loser!
Every now and then we all need to read one of those rejected-a- million-times-and-now-famous stories. Here you go. Put the razor down for another day... (discuss)

Neruda turns 100, beds many beautiful women from grave
Chileans go wild! (discuss)

Fatwarama: the opera
Bartender, can I get one of them Death By Association cocktails? I'll never cease to be surprised by the lineup of people dying to associate themselves with Rushdie. This time in making an opera of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. (discuss)

The dawn of "Liberati"
I am so suing this guy...

The Oxford English Dictionary is monitoring the infant word's progress and reports that its vital signs are good: with repeated usage it could grow up to become a proper dictionary word. Its entry will no doubt cite "liberal" and "literati" as its derivations, but it is its evocation of Liberace that truly gives it life.

(discuss)

Ah, Proust...
All he is saying, is give Proust a chance... (discuss)

In da guttah
The Cultural Gutter is an interesting concept.

This site is updated Thursday at noon with a new article about an artistic pursuit generally considered to be beneath consideration. The geeky triumvirate of science-fiction, comics and videogames forms the core, with a fourth week given over to a guest to discuss another variety of intriguing trash.

While the writers have considerable enthusiasm for their subjects, they don't let it numb their critical faculties. Tossing away the shield of journalistic objectivity and refusing the shovel of fannish boosterism, they write in the hopes of starting honest and intelligent discussions about these oft-enjoyed but rarely examined artforms.

The current article is by occasional ninja, frequent personality, Nathaniel Moore, and deals with his desire to beat the snot out of his best friend in celebration of turning 30. (Trust me, Nathaniel, tequila is just a better idea.) (discuss)

Corrected Index
You know, it's pretty darn easy to make fun of Cheney's slack-jawed possibly-former-cokehead-drunk oven-mitt Bush. But you've got to be pretty clever to come up with this baby.* (discuss)


07/13/04:

What for are English professors?
I thought I used to know. Now I don't know. Whatever they're for, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with literature anymore.

And this is the weird thing: they don't even mean "what for is a university?" -- they mean "what for are English professors?" There are tons of answers to the first question: to teach students, to examine political configurations and economic policies, to study earthquakes and tsunamis, and of course to help build fighter jets or antigravity rooms or more muscular bionic arms. But what are English professors for? They teach, of course, but they don't help out with economic policy, they have little to say about natural disasters, and they can't build futuristic prostheses. And the better the applied sciences get at answering these lurking purpose-questions -- "Hey, check out this new laser-equipped invisibility frock we just made in the lab" -- the more their colleagues over in the English building seem like starry-eyed, impractical romantics, or, less charitably, anachronistic buffoons. Despite her clotted jargon and fustian grammar, Ghazoul is making a serious point: more and more people are wondering what the hell English professors are doing and why they should be allowed to keep doing it, and they need to reformulate their answers.

(From Maud) (discuss)

Booktown
This place is trying to be a physical Abebooks.com. How quaint.

It was a year to the day since Blaenavon, the small coal and iron town in South Wales, launched an audacious experiment -- to build a new prosperity based on second-hand books in a post-industrial graveyard of dead jobs.

(discuss)

Harold Bloom takes out the cork for another "back in my day" call to arms
These kids today, I tell ya...

Who are the readers and who are the nonreaders? It's not as simple as you might think. It's not a distinction that goes by social class, and it doesn't go by income group. It isn't a male thing or a female thing or a matter of sexual orientation or so-called white or so-called black. It's a broad generic distinction between the people who have a fundamental passion for books and those who don't. We haven't yet found an adequate way to explain it and, frankly, I'm not sure that even education can affect it.
...
If there is a drop-off in reading today, it's partly because it's so much harder to become a reader than it used to be. In my generation (I'm going to celebrate my 74th birthday soon), we had radio. We had movies. But there was no television. There were no computers. So, as a child, I read all the time. I read in bed and out of bed. I read whenever I could sneak off, whenever I could get to a corner by myself.

Some of this makes total sense, but god, would someone save him from himself with the "blah blah blah, two miles, blah blah blah, snow three feet deep, blah blah blah, over hot coals and broken glass, blah blah blah, just to get a slap in the face and we liked it!" (discuss)

Keeping America safe...
... from foreign writers.

...as a journalist, even from a country that has a visa waiver agreement with the United States, I should have applied for a so-called I (for information) visa. Because I had not, I was interrogated for four hours, body-searched, fingerprinted, photographed, handcuffed and forced to spend the night in a cell in a detention facility in central Los Angeles, and another day as a detainee at the airport before flying back to London. My humiliating and physically very uncomfortable detention lasted 26 hours.

You can bet this would be national news in the US if it happened to one of their reporters. In fact, it would be called a hostage situation. (discuss)

Digital decay
What you're getting right now from reading all this sugar, baby! But seriously folks, it's a very grave situation...

Movies are no longer "films" except through historical accident, for every frame that hits the public's eyeballs has been treated by digital effects. Yesterday's Japanese transistor radio is today's iPod crammed with 10,000 songs. Television, architecture, industrial design: scarcely a field of creative endeavour goes uncyberised.

There's a dark side to this, growing darker every year. Consider that ongoing tumble and scramble inside your own computer: processed words, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, email, websites, jpegs, mpegs, MP3s... Try to imagine conveying that mess to your grandchildren as your heritage. The computer is a fantastic gizmo: your great-grandparents probably never saw one. But the ultimate gizmo is a clock. Computers obsolesce quickly and are miserably vulnerable to clocks.

I actually have a diskette of files so old they were written in a processor called "First Word" in the early nineties. My opus could be in there... It could be a heart wrenching tale of Bradford, ON, and the inbred yokels I knew there. I can't open these files, yet I keep the diskette around as though I might one day find the "opener", probably down the back of the couch with some bottle caps. (discuss)

Gay bookstore gets a break
The judge overseeing the 20 year feud between the knuckledragging bigots at Canada Customs and Vancouver's Little Sister's bookshop has granted "advanced costs" to the bookstore.

In her funding decision, Justice Elizabeth Bennett said advanced costs are ordered in "rare and exceptional circumstances."

She said Customs may not be applying the artistic merit test as decided in the obscenity writings case of B.C.'s John Robin Sharpe when detaining books.

This seems to be a good thing. Can someone explain it to me? (discuss)

Amazapster

Mass-market publishers are not certain the used-book phenomenon is a problem worth addressing, but others in the industry have already made up their minds.

"We think it's not good for the industry and it has an effect, but we can't measure it," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, a trade group. "There has always been used-book sales, but it's always been a background noise sort of thing. Now it's right there next to the new book on Amazon."

I've always found it disconcerting to see four or five copies of my book for sale, "used", at Amazon for half the retail price.* Presumably these books are part of what my publicists calls "publicity" -- the book thrown into the vacuum and then likely sold by a disinterested reviewer. I knew a guy who used to review art books and lived on the proceeds from his sales of review copies he didn't want to keep. He made many times more money off these than the reviews themselves. (discuss)

RIP: Fred Cogswell

Poet, editor, and mentor dead at 86. (discuss)

No one talks about this side of professional wrestling...
Mostly because it's major boring shit... Gosh, these anabolic, porn-pushing dimwits are doing so much to shape the minds of our youth. We should thank them and then put them down with tranquilizer darts. (discuss)


07/14/04:

Typophilia
The other day I was reading Nicholas Basbanes' Patience and Fortitude, a comprehensive book about great libraries of the past (bought for me by the ever-thoughtful Press Gal), and I came across mention of the Cassinese script, which had its origins in the Monte Cassino abbey that was destroyed in the Second World War. Intrigued, I started browsing online and was immediately sidetracked by the articles about graphic design and typography on Typotheque, which led me to a consideration of typeface fashion, which then resulted in me reading about the history of serif and sanserif fonts at 4 a.m. I've revealed too much about myself, haven't I? (discuss)

Double your nerd pleasure
A gallery of Ace sci-fi double-novel covers. I think I had some of these as a young 'un. (From Snarkout) (discuss)

The Philip Larkin-Radiohead connection
Apparently it has something to do with a rabbit disease.

Before Radiohead's "Myxomatosis," off last year's Hail to the Thief, no prominent artist had dared speak of that blindness-inducing, genital-swelling rabbit disease. Or had they? Philip Larkin (1922‚1985) prefigured Thom Yorke & Co. by nearly 40 years in his poem of the same name, published in The Less Deceived and featured in the recent Collected Poems (FSG). It sounds even more like Radiohead than Radiohead ("Caught in the centre of a soundless field/While hot inexplicable hours go by/What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?"), which could be why the song sounds less like Radiohead than anything else on the album.

(From Rake's Progress) (discuss)

The problem is he Crouched when he should have ducked...
Stanley Crouch, the bigot who called Peck "a troubled queen", apparently took a shot at Peck... literally.

At Tartine, Crouch shook Peck's hand, then, as a follow-up, smacked him in the face, saying "if you ever did anything like that [presumably referring to the review] again, it'll be much worse."

According to Gawker, who lives with Peck, Crouch has a long history of arguing with his hands. If I were Peck (and I were living in a litigious country) I'd have punched his lights out and then sued his fat ass. (discuss)

We don't need another hero
Isn't it about time someone told the stories of the people who are in danger of being crushed by superheroes like Batman and Superman as they toss cars and boomerangs around in the pursuit of truth, justice and... aw, forget it. The rest doesn't apply anymore... (discuss)

Write what you know?
Should minority writers be steering clear of writing about minority issues?

...it seems that writers who happen to be members of minority groups are getting pigeonholed. I think it has become understood and expected, at least by book editors and English teachers and perhaps by society as a whole, that minorities write about minorities and that white people write about everything else. With very rare exceptions, any essay about a nonracial issue - such as history, politics, science or nature - comes from a Caucasian.

(discuss)

Plagiarism: it's not just for students anymore...
After all that work, to see someone else walk away with a degree... There are times I can sympathize with the impulse to commit crimes of passion...

While I was resigned to fighting plagiarists in my classroom, I had not expected to have to fight one for credit for my own dissertation. A doctoral student at Northeast Urban University -- I'll call him Mr. X -- presented my dissertation as his own. He received a Ph.D. and took an excellent research job at Prominent African University. Through my subsequent efforts, he lost his degree, his job, and his reputation.
...
While gathering evidence to prove that my dissertation was actually mine, I confronted many dark thoughts about this profession. Mr. X must have thought that he would get away with his theft because nobody reads dissertations. Was he correct? Was all that work simply a hoop to jump through to get the Ph.D.? What is the value of a doctoral degree if dissertation committees take as little care with their students as Mr. X's did with him?

And from a colleague. I do declare... This could never happen in the poetry community. Could it? Could it?! (discuss)

Decode this
Check out the Onion's top item in the right column, under "In the News". Get that? And while you're at it, read this, just because it's so hysterically fucking funny. (discuss)


07/15/04:

At the Quinte Hotel -- the movie?
Has anyone seen this movie version of "At the Quinte Hotel" where Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie plays Al Purdy? (discuss)

When did the CBC become relevant again?
Words: Woe and Wonder is a cheesy title for this site, but it's full of great info ranging from the use of split infinitives in Star Trek to the history of the word "work." (discuss)

I'm beginning to think America is divided less between Democrats and Republicans and more between the literate and the illiterate.
McSweeney's presents the Future Dictionary of America. My favourite: Author T.C. Boyle offers several definitions of "environment," including "a conceptual space, like the airspace over Iraq, which will create a sucking void if not filled to repleteness with high explosives." (From Elegant Variation) (discuss)

POD people invade Canada
There's something fatally flawed in this hook:

You have a story to tell, an important message to impart. You think it would make a good book.

But you're not a celebrity or well-known outside your immediate circle. Your walls are papered with rejection letters from mainstream publishers.

Here's a secret: Print-on-demand publishing.

See, I would rewrite it thusly:

You have a story to tell, an important message to impart. You think it would make a good book.

But you're not a celebrity or well-known outside your immediate circle. Your walls are papered with rejection letters from mainstream publishers.

Here's a secret: You probably should take a hint from the rejection letters and get into "business" or whatever it is your parents always wanted you to do; editors have always been a barrier to publication for a reason, hack.

But I'm in a foul mood tonight, so take that with a grain of salt (and a pound of aspirin). (discuss)

Speaking of DIY
In a more charitable moment, I give you the opposite of the above opinion: the DIY author who hits it big. Guess who'll never have to self-publish again... See, there are exceptions to the rule that most self-published stuff sucks. And you are an exception too. And next it's you. You're the one. Spend the money, spend the dream-time, spend the heart beats. You're going to be the next big thing, I swear it. (discuss)

Chekhov and Charlie Brown
I wonder if there is a point in Chekhov's oeuvre in which his one of characters says, "Waah wah, waah waah waah waahh."

As self-effacing, disciplined and celebrity-shy as Schulz, and no less prolific, Chekhov shared a similarly wry view of the world. His understated works continue to enjoy a worldwide appeal today because of the universality of their subject matter. Chekhov was a Russian through and through, but the problems of human interaction which he explores transcend national boundaries, and have not changed essentially since his death.
...
Chekhov's astounding range, his ambiguities, his glorious sense of the absurd, have won him followers among writers as diverse as Somerset Maugham, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever and Eudora Welty. Raymond Carver, whose own late story, Errand, deals with Chekhov's final hours, unequivocally described him as the greatest short story writer who has ever lived.

Odd access point for the subject, but... whatever works. (discuss)

Books dying, William Shatner somehow to blame
Must... read.... books.... Can't... seem to... type at normal.... speed... Another what a shame books are losing out to computers bit, but it's kind of cute. (discuss)

Kook Crouch gets best publicity of his life
You gotta wonder if he just wanted to make headlines, or some friends... Sounds like this nutbar could use both. (discuss)

Googlewhacked
Some guys have all the luck.

"I'm the luckiest man alive," Gorman said last week, in Toronto en route to Montreal for his 16-gig performance at JFL. "I ended up with a best-selling book about my inability to write the book I was supposed to be writing."

I bleed envy - from self-inflicted wounds. (discuss)


07/16/04:

New award for ... something
It may seem somewhat loosely defined, but Maggie de Vries has won the inaugural George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Canadian Literature. (From PFW) (discuss)

Save the Book! Americans aren't reading!
More on the decline of the American reader... (And we all know that when Americans stop something, it just disappears from the planet as though it never happened.)

Underlying the questions what is happening and why is a deeper question: Who cares? Why is literary reading important? Gioia's answer, in a telephone interview, emphasized the social and political importance of literature. "Reading a novel puts you in the mind of another person," Gioia said. "It develops your ability to imagine the world from another perspective. It helps us work together to build a society in which all people prosper together."

Relax, America. The Book isn't in danger. Only the American book is... (discuss)

Parental ninja units, listen up!
Here's a list of books for your summertime burdens. You know who I'm talking to and who your kids are.... Go read somewhere! Do you see this thing I've got attached to my ear? It's called a phone! Go! Go! Read! (discuss)

The bookseller of Tel Aviv
Profile of supposedly reclusive antiquarian bookseller to drum not sales, but buying opportunities.

"This article has a purpose," Robinson comments coolly. "Not for people to buy books from me but for people to call and sell me the books they have at home. For that end I will tell you all the truths and half-lies of my life. People have books at home. For many people they are objects. For a few they are nostalgic items which they find hard to get rid of, and for others they are a continuing source of knowledge. The latter won't sell to me. I want all the others to call."

I have a feeling I would be penniless in about 20 seconds if I were to visit this store. (Correction: pennilesser.) (discuss)

Writer in the bookstore
Um, is it just me or is this not uncommon. Don't many writers work in bookstores? See, because we need day jobs and we don't want to take a step lower and become a publicist...

The curious sight of a writer employed in a bookstore is not lost on Shea: "Not unlike a farmer hanging around the dairy section. A fashion designer lurking in the boutique. . . . The quarterback hiding in the back seat during the fans' ride home."

Uh, get over yourself, lady. Running back, maybe. Quarterback? That's always the blonde guy. (discuss)

Blake's roots run deep
Vats roight, guvnah! But no one's quite sure where they run to. (discuss)

New Cohen album at 70
Leonard is giving us a new album for his 70th... apparently the record consists of two one-tonne boulders being rubbed together for 86 minutes. That or else he's still "singing"... (discuss)

Oh, the pain! The pain of it all!
I just can't bear it. These poetry.com crooks have hoodwinked another poor sucker into believing he's an international star when everyone they publish gets their poem on the first page of an individualized book... It's one thing to get a boost if you're never going to find out, it's another when your local paper is broadcasting your naivety all over the county. I say again, when is someone going to stop these people? Or wait a minute... is the so-called International Library of Poetry doing real poetry editors everywhere a service by maintaining the largest slush pile on the planet? (discuss)

The funny lives on
Comedian bequeaths jokes to fellow comedy writer. Let's hope said jokes don't have expiration date like most humour from the last fifty years... (discuss)


Weekend Edition:

Think the Left Behind books are harmless idiot tracts written by one idiot for more idiots?
Think again.

Of course, there have always been preachers on the margins of the religious right thundering on about the end of the world. But it's doubtful that such a fanatic believer has ever had such a direct pipeline to the White House. Five years ago, as Bush was gearing up his presidential campaign, he made a little-noticed pilgrimage to a gathering of right-wing Christian activists, under the auspices of a group called the Committee to Restore American Values. The committee, which assembled about two dozen of the nation's leading fundamentalist firebrands, was chaired by LaHaye. At the time, many evangelicals viewed Bush skeptically: Despite his born-again views, when he was governor of Texas, Bush had alienated many of the state's Christian-right activists for failing to pursue a sufficiently evangelical agenda. On the national level, he was an unknown quantity.

That day, behind closed doors, LaHaye grilled the candidate. He presented Bush with a lengthy questionnaire on issues such as abortion, judicial appointments, education, religious freedom, gun control and the Middle East. What the preacher thought of Bush's answers would largely determine whether the Christian right would throw its muscle behind the Texas governor.

(From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Alice's Adventures Underground
A Dutch university student has scanned the precursor to Alice in Wonderland and put it online. That Alice sure did get around. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Vancouver Word on the Street is in trouble
The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch has cut them off because of a change in funding guidelines. That's it, no more slots for me!

Organizers said they have until July 23 to prepare the appeal. WOTS project coordinator Sherry McGarvie told the Straight the main issue her team is focusing on is the commission's contention the group does not constitute an ongoing program, but is a once-a-year fair. Recent changes to the guidelines require all events to be "part of an ongoing program being delivered by an eligible organization" with a "direct benefit to the community throughout the year". "The people who perform at Word on the Street get much more media coverage and contracts to perform, and that affects our writers all year round," McGarvie argued, adding the festival annually launches and then runs the Family Stories adult-literacy project across the province. The Writers' Union of Canada is the latest group to weigh in with a letter arguing its case: "We are intensely concerned when we see increased cutbacks to money originally earmarked for culture when gaming revenues continue to rise," stated executive director Deborah Windsor. (WOTS has received the funding since 1998.) WOTS is inviting other supporters to write letters to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch via WOTS Vancouver, 901-207 West Hastings Street, Vancouver V6B 1H7, or faxed to 604-669-3701.

(From Places for Writers) (discuss)

On the cover of Rolling Stone
That would be, what is Doonesbury, Alex? (discuss)

Updated! Coach House saved?
Shadowy minions report that the Globe carried a small piece (link found by PFW) yesterday announcing that Coach House Books has been designated a cultural heritage site by the Toronto Preservation Board. The fate of the Press is still in the hands of Council. Luckily they are stalwart cultural activists devoid of ties to corporate interests, every one.... (PFW also links to this petition, which you should sign, just in case.) (discuss)

American literacy hobbled by Dr. Evil... I mean, Seuss
Is The Cat in the Hat to blame for a lost generation of readers?

Ever since the 1983 report A Nation at Risk (issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education) sparked neo-Sputnik alarm about illiterate young Americans, reading promotion has resurfaced as a national priority. Over the last decade (during which the pace of reading's decline has accelerated, according to the NEA's figures), book boosterism has generated yet more publicity—from efforts like the "Read Across America" program to Oprah's Book Club. You might be forgiven for asking whether the civic-minded crusade to promote "active and engaged literacy," in the NEA report's phrase, might be part of the problem.

That's not a new question, either. Check in with your average middle- or high-school kid this summer, and you'll find him avoiding his "recommended" reading—and not because he hates books; he feels bossed, and bridles. He surely hasn't read Virginia Woolf's "How Should One Read a Book?" but she's on his side in balking at literary prodders and pokers. In the essay, she warns that "to admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries."

What Woolf couldn't have anticipated was a very furry authority—wearing a weird red-and-white-striped cap instead of a gown—barging into the library: the Cat in the Hat.

I find much of this article quite compelling. But that cat is just so darn zany, I can't hate him. Though he used to give me nightmares. PUT THE FISH DOWN! YOU'RE GOING TO KILL THE FISH! (discuss)

Walt Whitman, the musical
An opera profiled, poetry caught in crossfire.

Whitman's free verse, with its immensely long lines, demonstrated that poetry could do well without metre and rhyme, and could rely solely on diction and cadence. The diction alone identified it immediately as a sort of poetry, and all its thoughts (in the passages Vaughan Williams had chosen from Leaves of Grass) were elevated. So it did not seem to overthrow the notion of what poetry was. Rather it seemed to constitute another as yet unfamiliar category of what poetry might be.

(discuss)

Yet another article wittily titled "Found in Translation"
Chang-Rae Lee profiled. (It's like the artisan shops that are sprinkled about my hometown like pock marks on a diseased orphan: a pottery shop named "You're Fired!", a tailor called "Just Sew", a bakery called "With the Grain"... Yeesh.) (discuss)

I, Robot(ic writing unit)
Asimov profiled at Slate.

Isaac Asimov was the steak-and-buffet restaurant of American authors: What he lacked in quality, he made up for in volume. If you didn't like what he was serving, you could wait a few minutes for him to bring out something else. By the time he died in 1992, at the age of 72, Asimov had published more than 470 books, ranging from science-fiction classics to annotated guides of great literature to limerick collections to The Sensuous Dirty Old Man, a defense and celebration of lechery. "His first 100 books took him 237 months, or almost 20 years, until October 1969, to write," his New York Times obituary observed. "His second 100, a milestone he reached in March 1979, took 113 months, or about 9 ½ years—a rate of more than 10 books a year. His third 100 took only 69 months, until December 1984, or less than 6 years." By the end, Asimov achieved the Grand Slam of book writing, turning out at least one volume for each of the 10 classifications in the Dewey Decimal System.

(discuss)

Newsflash: Hughes smelled, Plath liked smelling
Oh, Ted... Is that Drakkar Noir?

"But oh, Sylvia Plath liked the smell of Ted - any of his smells"

I just knew there was a Joyce connection here somewhere... (You know, as I age I realize: fart jokes will just never get old for me.) (discuss)

Find a happy place...
Illustrator Jackie Norris profiled. (discuss)

Hey! You got your Milton in my Blake! You got your Blake in my Milton! And my Wordsworth is covered in peanut butter! Mmmm!
Milton, Blake and Wordsworth, together at last... again... for once... not on a syllabus... finally.... together... under one roof... um, Wordsworth's. (I am so not interested.) (discuss)

Everyone wants a look at Vita Sackville-West's flower...
First it was Virginia, then the tourists started coming too... (discuss)

File under: Way too cool
Graffiti archeology. (From Clive) (discuss)


07/19/04:

"Doom is, like, nigh, dude"
More on Americans not reading. And some on Canadians...

The situation in Canada isn't as dire. In 1998, the last year Statistics Canada collected such data, roughly two-thirds of Canadians had read at least one extracurricular book (of any kind) in the previous year -- versus 57 per cent of Americans, and 45 per cent of Europeans. The Swedes, 72 per cent of whom read, are the most literary of us all; the Portuguese, at 15 per cent, have been concentrating on soccer. Even so, 35 per cent of Canadians don't read even one book a year. The Canadian Publishers Council was alarmed enough to start conducting its own study of national reading habits.

I think this is all way out of proportion. Do beer mats count as reading? Some of them are very clever! And, um, the TV guide is, like, filled with things I have to read in order to know what's what in the world..

...the NEA blames the Internet for literary reading's decline, and with some cause. Reading rates were stable from 1982 all the way to 1998 -- the same year Internet use vaulted to 42 per cent from 26 per cent of the U.S. population. That is also when the precipitous decline in literary reading begins, especially among younger adults.

Or, at least, that's where reading declines if you use the NEA definition of "literature" -- novels, short stories, plays and poetry read in book form outside work or school. But what about non-fiction? What about magazines and newspapers? And especially what about reading on the Internet? All are excluded from the NEA's definition of "literary reading."

See, Cosmo counts as reading! FoxNews.com counts as reading! Everquest counts as reading! We have nothing to fear! As long as our eyes are passing over words of some kind we are bound to continue to develop intellectually, culturally, and spiritually. (For the those of you challenged in the art of recognizing dripping sarcasm, reread the last paragraph while sticking two fingers down your throat.) (discuss)

Naming names
Remember Foetry? The site that catalogues nepotism and sycophancy in American poetry and poetry contests? It's thriving on a healthy juice of zeal, outrage, and bile. (The saddest line in this article? "There seem to be more people willing to pay for a chance to have their own book published (i.e., contest reading fee) than there are people willing to buy a book of poetry by someone else." There's the problem.) (discuss)

NYT comics roundup
If I shouted out my window right now, there's a chance Seth would hear me. He lives two streets over in quiet little Guelph here in Canada. What's he doing in the NYT?*

Seth loves silent panels, often lingering on an empty building on a cold night, a hat upon a chair, a desolate road, empty save for Simon's constant trudging, and I think it would be hard for text or even film to convey the same sense of shoe- and spirit-ruining legwork. ''Simon and I,'' says Abe, ''our lives didn't have much of a plot. Perhaps all lives are like that -- just a series of events with little meaning.'' You won't sell a lot of fans that way, I suppose. But Seth truly believes in his wares -- the little meanings of regular lives. Though it may take some time before the second ''Clyde Fans'' collection comes out, I am sold.

Kicking ass, is what. (I'd like to point out that fellow Ninja Darbyshire fingered Seth as one of the best new things in Canada last year. A visionary, Pete is.) (discuss)

The evils of French... immersion
Is French immersion to blame for poor reading performance in teens? (From PFW) (discuss)

Peck pounded, in review this time
Another scathing review of Peck, but this time more a review of Peck as a person than of Hatchet Jobs as a piece of writing. I like this bit:

I was going to suggest some hard-won guidelines for responsible reviewing. For instance: First, as in Hippocrates, do no harm. Second, never stoop to score a point or bite an ankle. Third, always understand that in this symbiosis, you are the parasite. Fourth, look with an open heart and mind at every different kind of book with every change of emotional weather because we are reading for our lives and that could be love gone out the window or a horseman on the roof. Fifth, use theory only as a periscope or a trampoline, never a panopticon, a crib sheet or a license to kill. Sixth, let a hundred Harolds Bloom.

Is no one thinking of poor Dale's feelings in all this? (discuss)

All is not lost!!
San Jose, even though I despise you with large sections of my heart reserved for nothing other than hated for desert climate hockey teams, I have to commend you on moving to your own stand-alone book section when others are disappearing around the continent. Bravo! Now someone smack Mike Ricci in the head for me. (discuss)

I can just see it now: Beowulf 2... Grendel's Got a Blender!
No, Virginia, nothing is sacred. (discuss)


07/20/04:

The National Post says it doesn't want to turn its plagiarism scandal into another "Jayson Blair-like spectacle."
But the Star points out the Post contributed heavily to that spectacle.

Pretty funny considering how the Post alone, according to a database search, mentioned the Blair scandal 43 times, sometimes in the most sanctimonious of terms. There is also nothing from the Post about Evenson's suspension for plagiarism in the mid-'80s while he was at the Ottawa Citizen. The only published reference to that appeared in an Edmonton Journal book review -- of Blair's Burning Down My Masters' House: My Life At The New York Times.

(discuss)

Spider-Man 9/11
I do like Ruben Bolling. (discuss)

Behind the Comics
Passion, sex, drugs and tragedy! OK, maybe not. But this history of Image Comics is interesting anyway.

The true story of Image Comics would seem to offer the kind of dramatic arc beloved of classic Hollywood movies: Young men united in a burst of heady idealism revolutionize the comics industry and rise to the top of their field before succumbing to hubris, corruption and conflicting egos and becoming the very thing they had led a revolution against.

It's the kind of story an older, wiser Rob Liefeld might tell the camera as he expires slowly from a gunshot wound to the chest. Or picture Todd McFarlane lying in his palatial bedroom, an autographed baseball dropping from his lifeless fingers.

(From Snarkout) (discuss)

Artists of New York unite!
And join the Artist Pension Trust.

The Artist Pension Trust invites up-and-coming artists to contribute 20 pieces of their work to a tax-protected fund over a 20-year period on the theory that some of the art will appreciate significantly. All the artists will share the profits, even if their initial promise never translates into increased value.

(discuss)

All my exes are right -- I am a dumbass!
As this etymology game proves. (From Language Hat) (discuss)

Neruda: an alternate homage

There is probably no more chance of halting this current binge of Neruda worship than there is of banishing the cicadas, but, still, the truth does need to be said: Pablo Neruda was a bad writer and a bad man. His main public is located not in the Spanish-speaking nations but in the Anglo-European countries, and his reputation derives almost entirely from the iconic place he once occupied in politics--which is to say, he's "the greatest poet of the twentieth century" because he was a Stalinist at exactly the right moment, and not because of his poetry, which is doggerel.

(discuss)

Poetry and POTUS
Poetry as political tool.

If he's your candidate, he's charming and smart. If he's the other guy, he's a pretentious smart aleck. It would be fun to have two poetry-quoting candidates as opponents - imagine the debates - but for some reason, that rarely happens.

(discuss)

Writing as treatment for Parkinson's
At least one Parkinson's sufferer believes writing has pulled him back from the brink. (discuss)

You gotta have some Balzac....
Don't know much about art, but I know what I don't like, and this guy's work sounds like it just might be up there with a crappy painting I bought from a former friend (a pity buy at a show years ago) which now actually lives behind a door that never closes.

The imposing bronze monument, which was made in St. Petersburg's Monumentsculptura foundry, depicts Balzac on a throne, surrounded by 40 characters from his novels against a background of famous French landmarks and cities with a Balzac connection.

Still, I think we could definitely do with more monumental work dedicated to our cultural icons. (discuss)

Take heart, America
Apparently mobs make great decisions! (Um, stoning or burning? BURNING! Peaceful dispersement or wild rampage? RAMPAGE! RAMPAGE!) Oh, wait...

There are flaws with group wisdom, Surowiecki says. The best collective ideas come out of diverse contributions, but some groups might have individuals so strong that others play follow-the-leader instead of thinking for themselves.

Hmmm. I wonder how that comes into play... (discuss)

Mine says "Get yer paws off me, just kidding"
Maud points us to Canadian braille tshirts... Why hasn't this been thought of before? Now it's on to the braille pants. (discuss)


07/21/04:

Just the other day I turned to Press Gal and said, "Whatever happened to Sebastian Bach of Skid Row?"
Thankfully, the Globe and Mail has the answer.

The former lead singer of hair-metal band Skid Row has re-invented himself as a Broadway star, most recently touring the United States in the title role of Jesus Christ Superstar.

You'd think an article on rock stars would at least get the spelling of Axl Rose right though. (discuss)

Incoming!
A little while ago, Noah Richler took Ryan Bigge to task in the Toronto Star for a review of Bigge's. Now Bigge counterattacks.

You've never been a details man, Noah. You're good at dropping names, but less proficient at spelling them correctly. I recommend you petition McClelland & Stewart to hire an extra fact-checker for your upcoming book A Literary Atlas Of Canada. Lest you think me nasty, consider this: if I was incubating any malice toward you, I wouldn't make such a helpful suggestion. Indeed, I take your attempt to besmirch my good name with a milligram of sodium. This kind of literary catfight, is, after all, a sign of progress in the hermetic world of Canadian letters. Indeed, if I continue to work hard and write provocative essays, perhaps I can look forward to a Trudeau denigrating me someday. Then I'd know I've really made it.

(discuss)

Ladies and gentlemen, your new Heritage Minister...
Despite "Frulla is seen a strong supporter of the arts", I see no mention of "art"? Dear me. (From PFW) (discuss)

American, why for you not reading?
Why are Americanos reading fewer books? Because "Almost nothing in [their] culture encourages the private moment of reading."

So we're left with a general media environment in which the readerly commit a kind of cultural suicide in pursuit of the less readerly. In magazine and newspaper offices across the country, well-educated editors stuff their publications with pieces about trash movies, hip-hop hotties, reality-TV spinoffs, and ingénue profiles -- then go home and read a book. As print people drive their hordes toward nonprint media, TV folks -- supposedly a dimmer breed -- cleverly ignore the competition, rarely acknowledging what's in the local papers and almost never devoting a minute to a nonpresidential book.

And on it goes.... (discuss)

White America: routinely surprised by Black America
Publishers smell money and descend like hungry sharks on the Harlem Book Fair...

The mounting appeal of the uptown festival - 330 exhibitors will take over 135th Street between Fifth Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard on Saturday - suggests to Rodriguez and other publishing industry insiders and trend-trackers that black authors and black readers are steadily influencing a marketplace that had once discounted black reading preferences and buying power. Chicago-based Target Market News, a marketing, media and research firm, reports that dollars spent by blacks on books rose to $326 million in 2003 from $258 million in 1996. (Its reports are based on U.S. Department of Commerce figures.)

Hmm. I didn't see them pushing B&N to set up a store there 10 years ago, but now that the money is there... But this can be good for the community (my old hood, believe it or not), in many respects. (discuss)

Editors... Hmph... Hew needes thim?
Always have been a problem, haven't they...? Twisting our werdes, all scall under those longe locks. Chaucer's copyist revealed! (discuss)

Can I get some Starsky and Hutch music please?
Waka-chika, waka-chika! Quick, throw the stash out the window, man! (discuss)

Sweet merciful crap
And lo, there on the hill, a rider on a pale horse cometh. (discuss)

So finally someone says it....

Bad writing begins with Martha Stewart. (discuss)


07/22/04:

"Television and movies have short-circuited reality"
Comic guru and witch doctor Alan Moore has really got a hate on for the media.

One of the reasons we singled out media in V for Vendetta was because it is one of the most useful tools of tyranny. We invite it into our own home every night; I'm sure that some of us think of it as a friend. That might be a horrifying notion but I'm sure there are people who think of television as perhaps one of their most intimate friends. And if the TV tells them that things in the world are a certain way, even if the evidence of their senses asserts it is not true, they'll probably believe the television set in the end. It's an alarming thought but we brought it upon ourselves. I mean, I think that television is one of the most diabolical -- in the very best sense of the word -- inventions of the past century. It has probably done more to degrade the mind and intelligence of its audience, even if they happen to be drug addicts or alcoholics; I would think that watching television has done more to limit their horizons in the long run. And it has also distorted our culture.

(discuss)

Want to spice up that game of strip poker?
Why not try these font playing cards? Now drop those undies and show me your Garamond, baby! (From Typophile) (discuss)

History of the Ampersand
I wish Adobe would make this sort of topic a regular feature.

When creating a new typeface, a designer can inject the most artistic flair into the ampersand character. The term ampersand, as Geoffrey Glaister writes in his Glossary of the Book, is a corruption of and (&) per se and, which literally means "(the character) & by itself (is the word) and." The symbol & is derived from the ligature of ET or et, which is the Latin word for "and."

(From Language Hat) (discuss)

Ondaatje says Save Coach House
You know, it often doesn't FEEL as exciting as 30 years ago... (P.S. Has anyone ever seen Michael open his eyes this wide in person?) (discuss)

I-brarian
Sure, it starts with robotic librarians, but where does it end, I ask you? Where does it end?? I think we all know the answer to that... (discuss)

Hemingway family can't agree
On anything but insanity and suicide, it seems. Surprise, surprise. Small towners in Ketchum, Idaho* want to keep tourists from visiting the house that caught his brains. I bet there's a dark secret in Ketchum and the "people" don't want Papa's minions to disturb their sacred blood sites... or something. (discuss)

Only in Tex-ass
Small town agog over porno in the community centre can. (discuss)


07/23/04:

Public Newton Announcement
For freaked out Newtonians: please don't worry, Maud is experiencing technical difficulties and hopes to be back up by the weekend.

"People are here to brush up on bruises, strangulations, decaying bodies and false identifications"

No, it's not the Florida Everglades, it's a forensic seminar aimed at writers. . Coooooool.

John Fullerton wants to know about cut carotid arteries, for instance. How long until death? How far does the blood spurt? Jamieson allows us to do the calculation for ourselves: 100ml through the heart at each beat, 65 beats a minute. With a completely severed artery you've probably got about 30 seconds and the blood isn't going to spurt much higher than your head. If the artery is just nicked, on the other hand, you've obviously got longer but the blood will be coming out under pressure and spraying much further.

I repeat: coooooool... (Hell, I want to take this for my poetry!)(discuss)

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour....
The End of Books!!!

"Revenues are up, but that's mostly because publishers raised the price of books... The bottom line is, people are reading and buying fewer books. This is an industry that's being kept afloat by price increases."

(Please add thunder and lightning effects and slap yourself in the face repeatedly while yelling, "The Rapture! The Rapture!") (discuss)

In Macleans?
When I first saw it on PFW, I thought, holy flurking snurt! An article about feminism in Macleans? WTF? That's like finding an article on chaos theory in Sports Illustrated. Then, I read it.

NEIL BOYD KNOWS how to stir a pot. In the past 16 years, he's denounced mandatory minimum sentences for murderers, promoted decriminalizing marijuana, and argued that biology, not culture, is primarily responsible for male aggression. You might think this last position, which he staked out in The Beast Within (2000), puts the Simon Fraser University criminologist in league with another group of biological reductionists, radical feminists. Think again. With his most recent book, Big Sister (Greystone Books), Boyd, a self-described equality feminist, takes on what he calls "extreme feminism." Its doctrine that women are victims of an aggressive male sexuality, he argues, has infiltrated North American laws regulating pornography, sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence. In the process, it's spawned a "sexual McCarthyism" that undermines feminism as a whole.

Bad feminists! Bad bad! It's your own darn fault things aren't equal. Luckily the reviewer takes a(n overly) diplomatic swipe at this load of crap. (discuss)

"It’s not acceptable to threaten somebody with violence. Just skip ahead to the violence!"
A look at the slap heard round the books sections.

By turning the literary dispute into a physical one, Mr. Crouch was bowing to the power of words. As antagonists, Mr. Crouch and Mr. Peck share a similarity of outlook: In his review of Mr. Crouch’s novel, Mr. Peck declared that "the rightness or the wrongness of his evaluation always gives way to getting over, getting a rise, scoring points off his opponent."

I know you are, but what am I? Mr. Peck’s reviews, Mr. Crouch said, are "stepping stones to bring attention to himself," and his primary critical message is "that he’s so much better than whoever it is he’s talking about."

In a showdown between two competitive writers, taking a swing means you’re the loser.

Stanley Crouch was a two-bit loser before he hit Peck. All the slap did was devalue his dollar. (discuss)

Biographers: please feel something
Advice to would be biographers.

The history of biographies is full of examples of books conceived in love, but completed in disaffection; or books whose authors have developed a degree of respect, even of liking, for subjects they'd planned at first to disparage.

(discuss)

The 99 is about all they agree on...
The intense difficulties of translation revealed. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)



07/26/04:

How about 15,000 books then?
I recently finished Patience & Fortitude, a pretty interesting book about libraries by Nicholas A. Basbanes. It was full of all sorts of interesting trivia, such as the fact that Umberto Eco has 30,000 books in his apartment. When I pointed this out to Press Gal, who is waging an all-out war to limit the number of books in our apartment, she said, "You're no Umberto Eco." Hmph. Anyway, I also found this interesting bit of trivia about Ripley's Believe It or Not, which led me to more library trivia.

Norbert Pearlroth, the Ripley's Believe It or Not! researcher from 1923 to 1975, found all the information for the newspaper feature using the huge collection in the Library's Main Reading Room. A speaker of several languages with a prodigious memory, Mr. Pearlroth came to the Library each day, and relied on serendipity to find his amazing facts. It's estimated that he reviewed 7,000 books each year (that's 364,000 in 52 years!)

(discuss)

So when's the movie?
Reptilian neolettrist graphics presents Eunoia, "Chapter E." (discuss)

A Softer World
These clip-photo comics are actually kind of funny, in a creepy sort of way. And the clips are pretty. I'm looking forward to the book. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Librarians Against Bush
Is there any group that isn't against Bush? Although Canadians against Bush is my favourite. (discuss)

CanLit's not so bad after all
Newsweek thinks there may be something to this government support of the arts thing. (discuss)

Slated for sale!
One of the original web magazines, Slate (launched in 1996 - that's paleolithic in web reckoning), and one of the only web magazines in the world to be read by more people than Bookninja (ahem), is on the block. If you're idly rich and a meddlesome liberal sort, you would do well to purchase both Slate and Bookninja and, using radiation or perhaps gamma rays, meld to the two into a raucous, monstrous hybrid to defend against the rumoured Republican menace, code-named "Mothra". (discuss)

Runaway bestseller
What's the hottest title in the book industry?

Online booksellers Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com both ranked it No. 1 on Friday and many local stores were already reordering. Its publisher told The Associated Press that stores had already ordered more than 80 percent of its 600,000-copy printing, selling a quarter of them Thursday alone.

No, it's not the new book of poems by George Murray, though you can be forgiven for making such a mistake, it's the 9/11 report. (discuss)

"Whenever I can, I try to put poetry in a speech. If it's appropriate, I think it lifts it up, it can touch the audience in a way that prose can't"
Amen, brother. But maybe you oughtta throw in a limerick or two to court the swing voters who might be leaning toward Bush. Kerry's poetry-loving speech writer Terry Edmonds profiled. (discuss)

Crouching Fat Man, Hidden Penis Issues
The numerous indiscretions of bloated numbnuts Stanley Crouch laid bare at his old stomping (slapping?) grounds.

This was not a moment of hot-headed indiscretion. Crouch may use his perch at the Daily News to inveigh against gangsta rap with all deliberate fury and alarm ("Hip Hop's Thugs Hit New Low," "Hip Hop Gets The Bruising It Deserves," or "Morally, Allen Iverson's a Bad Guy"), but his habit of violent exchanges with writers and editors puts him a notch above Snoop on the ne'er-do-well scale. In most cases gangsta rap is just talk--Biggie and Tupac are the exceptions. But while Crouch has yet to peel caps, the gangsta ethos is realer for him than it is for your average gun-talker.
...
Much like the acts he derides, Crouch has a taste for swinging that is nothing short of a variation on the "I ain't no punk" theme seemingly encoded on the DNA of all black males. "I have a kind of Mailer-esque reaction to the way some people view writers," Crouch once told The New Yorker. "I want them to know that just because I write doesn't mean I can't also fight." Put another way, Crouch wants you know he keeps it gangsta.

(discuss)

Eye-melting goodness for the soul
The great thing about the headline over this wry article examining the insane Xtian bloodbath that is the Left Behind series, is that you just have to add an exclamation point to the end to use it over a rebuttal piece in a Chrissie mag.

No, I don't think the readers of Glorious Appearing will ram planes into buildings.

But America did imprison thousands of Muslims here and abroad after 9/11, and ordinary Americans displayed a lack of empathy for the Muslim prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib prison.

It's harder to feel empathy for people if we regard them as infidels and expect Jesus to dissolve their tongues and eyes any day now.

(discuss)

"We have it on the authority of RSS chief K.S. Sudershan that to educate our children in English is to expose them to lesbianism and free sex."

Wha? Indians debate the good (and evil) of English. (discuss)

Her Life as a Fake
A few words of warning to those writers who would adopt a past for a good story (and you know who you are)...

But now the Jordanian-born author Norma Khouri is battling claims that Forbidden Love, and the life story she has recounted to book groups and journalists on three continents, is a fake.

Far from being a Jordanian who fled her home in the late 1990s after the "honour" killing of her best friend, Khouri is accused of being an American passport-holder who lived in Chicago from the age of three.

"This women has ruined our cause," said Rana Husseini, a Jordanian journalist and human rights activist who has documented the country's "honour" killings for 10 years.

Yeesh. (discuss)

Lord Jeffrey Lecher
It appears someone has been taking their spam email too seriously... (Last month I got an email with the headline "Heighton Sensation!" and naturally assumed it was a press release from Anansi touting Steven's fantastic new collection, Address Book. How wrong I was...) (discuss)

"Winner" of Hemingway lookalike contest!
Many nutbars attend contest in hopes of being Papa for a day. (Which begs the question: they know they remind people of Hemingway and they're PROUD of it?) In related news... (discuss)

Fauxkner: The Sound and the Curly
And the Faux Faulkner parody prize goes to... Hear some of it here. (First link from GoodReports) (discuss)


07/27/04:

This fall, vote Stalin
John Kerry comes under fire for his use of a Langston Hughes poem.

"Let America be America again" comes from a poem published in 1938 by the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes. But Hughes intended the line ironically. A black man living in the pre-civil rights era would have had to be insane to look back to a golden age of freedom and equality in America, and Hughes was not insane. Hughes was, rather, an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Soviet Union at the time he wrote "Let America Be America Again," which explains the poem's agitprop tone.

Well, a Stalinist dictatorship still has to be better than Bush's America. (discuss)

Bookninja: a gang of two
And other oxymorons. (discuss)

Are poets a waste? Opera!
Ah, palindromes.... (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Wordcount
A cool little site that tracks the popularity of individual words and ranks them numerically. There are some interesting found poems in here. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

American civil liberties: finally free for all
You know, like Pepsi Free?*

Congress recently voted against repealing a portion of the USA Patriot Act that allows the government to monitor Americans' reading habits. What clinched the vote was information provided by the Justice Department that a suspected terrorist had used e-mail services at a public library.

As terrifying as this idea might be, what's even more terrifying to former Watergate counsel Samuel Dash are the incursions already made on Americans' rights. Indeed, the Patriot Act allows the government to tap phones and search homes without probable cause. Government agents may also sneak into homes of Americans and seize evidence without telling the residents until the search is over.

And guess what, folks: that's not all. Rambling idiot and quite-likely-psycho, Daniel Rakowitz, had titles from his book collection brought into court as evidence of his likelihood to commit harm if released from prison.

Then the prosecutor cited a list of the books in Rakowitz's library as yet more proof that he was a dangerous maniac, crazy as a loon, a man "fascinated with evil" who would surely be dismembering someone else within half an hour of being released.

Undoubtedly, this one IS a nut, but surely this sets an ugly precedent? (Yeah, New York Press is a rag, but it's a scary article, nonetheless.) (From Maud) (discuss)

More poetry in politics
Can more poetry in politics ever be a bad thing? (The answer is so subjective....) (P.S. Now taking bets on how far into this article the first reference to Shelley's "unacknowledged legislators" bit appears...) (discuss)

"It’s like Partisan Review, except not dead"
A good start! Where to now, gang? Golly! The world is our oyster! Aw, shucks, I just want to hug you all! And maybe pass out a few noogies.

The first issue of n+1 is engaged in demolition, and a buoyant literary pugilism pervades throughout.‘“I think it’s the kind of magazine that Stanley Crouch would want to slap in a restaurant,” said fiction writer Sam Lipsyte.

Damn. Here's my money. When can I get the issue. (discuss)

More Dick
Can more Dick ever be a bad thing? (The answer is so subjective....) (discuss)

Translation deficit
The lovely Zach Wells gives us his new column about the lack of a proper translation tradition here in Canada.

Canada’s ethnic map contains more bumps and hollows than a two-dimensional chart of mutually ambivalent solitudes can convey. Obviously, the production of literary works in English, French and aboriginal idioms, and of translations from each of these languages into the others, is and will continue to be of central importance. But in order for cultural policy to keep pace with cultural actuality, more room needs to be made for distinctive voices from other lands. As renowned poet and translator A. F. Moritz put it to me, “If you don’t bring over the most central speech of a people, its poetry, you’ve denied its essential humanness access to the pith of the culture into which you are supposedly welcoming it. You’ve denied the most important contribution it can make to the basic ethos of its new home and the native place of its future children. And you’ve blocked the greatest contribution it can make to the ongoing health and intelligence and development of Canada and of English and French.” Moritz notes that “this nation is a-crawl with literarily talented and ambitious people who have native access to literally hundreds of languages.” Why, then, is this bonanza of talent not translating into more activity?

God, I love that boy. He's critical gold. (You can blame the crappy title on me, his over-worked, under-achieving editor.) (discuss)

More fiction
Can more fiction ever be a bad thing? (The answer is so subjective....) (discuss)

Some call what they write "poetry"
This guy thinks it's gospel. (discuss)


07/28/04:

"If we had a choice between doing dope and working, we'd do both"
Ah, Coach House's hippie roots. Some things never change. Except the dope part. And the work being about art. And the fact that my neck hurts pretty much everyday and occasionally I find white hairs in my beard. Oh, and my shirt is covered in grimy paw prints that could be banana or cream cheese, I'm not sure because I don't remember breakfast. And I don't have time to write or do anything but edit and post things here. Yeah, sometimes my wrist feels like it will just explode from the repetitive stress, but otherwise it's all art and pot. (discuss)

Oh no! It's K-K-Ken come to k-k-kill me!
Stammering in literature.

However, for the stammerer who wishes to express himself without the risks inherent in speech, there is an obvious alternative: writing. On the page, even the most unruly words can be brought into line, so it may be no coincidence that many of the finest writers have suffered from a stammer: Lewis Carroll, Arnold Bennett, Somerset Maugham, Aldous Huxley, Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Larkin, Henry James, Charles Kingsley, Leigh Hunt, Margaret Drabble, and many more."

Sometimes the writer's stammer produces clear literary side-effects. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, for instance, introduces a mournful private joke with the appearance of the Dodo, because the stammering author Charles Dodgson, who used "Lewis Carroll" as his pen name, also enjoyed, or endured, "Dodo" as his nickname ("Do-Do-Dodgson"). Other side-effects are more elusive, such as Henry James's snaking sentences, full of measured subclauses and self-qualifications, which may or may not have emerged from the way that stammerers learn to avoid words likely to snag their voices, nimbly sidestepping danger with an alternative word, a new direction.

Note: not the same as waffling in literature. (P.S. I can never quote from A Fish Called Wanda without snorting at least once at the thought of those ketchupy french fries up Michael Palin's nose... hee hee... funny.... ) (From TEV) (discuss)

Wordsworth cottage so high tech it will kill you with built-in laser beams if you try to touch his shit
I on the other hand have a custom built cardboard box to house my vast archives of poetry... (discuss)

"Would Moby Dick be better if Melville had used a word processor?"
Well, Jonathans? Would it? (From Maud) (discuss)

And what would Victorians have done with the Internet?
I suppose the humour slot isn't the place to get into how our society is just the tail end of Victorianism, is it? (Also from Maud) (discuss)


07/29/04:

Snuff films for kids
I never realized pop-up books were so creepy. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

I can't imagine Russell Smith on a camping trip
But I too am puzzled by the botany obsessions of CanLit.

I am often floored, in reading fiction, by the names of plants. I find this in Canadian fiction in particular, since so much Canadian fiction has to do with gardening. But even in the parts that aren't about gardening. You have a character who is a sea captain or a railway engineer or a prostitute, and he or she looks along the railway tracks behind the old house (you know, the one that he/she is going to find his/her mother's old letters in), and this person's gaze casually registers milkweed, burdock and something-wort (dusty, in poignant decline, this ragged, humble, valiant greenery). Or he/she notes the receding vistas of spruce and cedar, occasionally punctuated by elm and beech.

(Discuss)

How many cha-chings in a kaboom?
Norton stands to make a pretty penny* from sales of the 9/11 Commission report.

Under the conditions of its contract with the commission, Norton had four days to print and bind the book and deliver it to retailers. The contract called for the book to be available in stores at the same time on Thursday morning that it was released to members of Congress and the news media.

Normally it would take a publisher 10 months to go from the receipt of a manuscript to the date of publication, Mr. McFeely said, with four to six weeks of that for shipping alone. That, of course, includes time spent editing the book.

Or, in the case of many books, not editing. (discuss)

Sword wielding maniac poet

'Member him? He got community service. Preferably not gardening or anything else that requires he use blade-like tools... (discuss)

Tired of knowing things?
Sell those pesky books and be done with intellectual engagement! Who needs all that thar learnin' when you can get cold hard cashola for your libarry. (discuss)

Chick-lit king
And this ain't about gum.*

On a recent sultry Thursday evening in Manhattan, when the summer weekend had already started sucking out the city's energy, Mr. Dickey drew a mostly female crowd at Barnes & Noble that included mothers with babies, older couples and Bergdorf blondes.

God, I would just so love it if that paragraph finished, "And the tiger traps worked like a charm." (discuss)

Minneapolis' comic book hero
Is it Parka Man? What about Long John Silver Surfer? Could it be The Polite Lawyer? (For our Minnesotan reader...) (discuss)

Akhmatova opera sounds interesting, less screechy than usual
Is it just because a poet is involved?

The 56-year- old Akhmatova's meeting with the man (20 years her junior) she called a "guest from the future" epitomises the intellectual contact between Russia and its former allies that the cold war made impossible.

Probably. Hell, I'd watch Fear Factor if they had a poet on... ("Ok, the challenge is: you must read this entire collection of poems about Elvis in one sitting..." "Noooooo!") (discuss)

Rare books burgled from Kiwi library
Ok, there've been a few articles lately about rare book thieves and book vandals and I have a confession that combines the two... Once, when I was about 13, I became a "some prick" when I took the map out of the back of a my library's hardcover LOTR and posted it on my bedroom wall. It was just so cool and I needed an easy reference tool... Plus, I wanted to stare at Edoras where I knew the lovely Eowyn was likely waiting for me... (discuss)

Elmore Leonard
Stylin', profilin'. (discuss)

One more reason you should be subscribing to Maisonneuve
If Paris Hilton Wrote Poetry... (discuss)


 


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