And the Winner of
the 2004 Danuta Gleed Literary Award Is...
Where's the Envelope?
Anyone See the Envelope?
By popular demand, and because we can't find the info on the
Writers' Union website,
here's the press release announcing the winner of the 2004 Danuta
The Writers' Union of Canada and
John Gleed are pleased to announce that Jacqueline Baker is the
recipient of the $5,000 DANUTA GLEED LITERARY AWARD for A Hard
Witching & Other Stories (Harper Flamingo Canada, ISBN 0-00-200534-4).
Judged the best first English-language collection of short fiction
by a Canadian author published in 2003.
In making their decision the jury
of award-winning short fiction writers Nino Ricci, Sharon Butala
and Fred Stenson confirmed that A Hard Witching & Other Stories
provided, "An exciting play with language: Jacqueline Baker
whether describing brutality or tenderness, creates characters
who, like most of us, are often baffled by what life presents."
The jury agreed "Jacqueline Baker's brilliant stories stretched
the boundaries of language and form, without losing their focus
on character and situation."
Jonathan Bennett, of Port Hope
Ontario, receives $500 for Verandah People (Raincoast Books,
ISBN 1-55192-649-0). For their second choice the jury found, "Jonathan
Bennett's powerfully built stories are exceptional and downright
believable." The jury was impressed with "the maturity
and craftsmanship of Jonathan's stories, that manage to do everything
Susan Rendell, of St. John's Newfoundland,
also receives $500 for In the Chambers of the Sea (Killick
Press, ISBN 1-89494-66-1). The jury praised Rendell's intense
stories for their "individual vision." They indicated,
"Susan Rendell's stories create worlds that are intense and
evocative while showing us the conflicts that can arise between
starkness and elegance."
The judges commented: "These
first collections of short fiction break through to that next
level of understanding. They demonstrate a massive talent and
are of a very high caliber, a cornucopia of well crafted delights."
The jury felt that the level of the 20 titles submitted was very
high and that many of the individual stories showed great promise.
They also stated that the 20 submitted titles contained "an
impressive selection of entries, many of which deserve special
mention and that they look forward to further works by the authors."
They especially commended Cory Doctorow for A Place So Foreign
and 8 More (Four Walls Eight Windows, ISBN 1-56858-268-2),
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer for Way Up: Stories (Goose Lane Editions,
ISBN 0-86492-368-6) and Melanie Little for Confidence: Stories
(Thomas Allen Publishers, ISBN 0-88762-119-8)
From Hell's Heart I Serenade
-- the opera! Of course, why didn't I think of this?
A new English-language opera based
on Herman Melville's classic Moby Dick premiered in Amsterdam
for a one-night performance in the Stadsschouwburg, or city music
Named after the book's famous
opening line, Call Me Ishmael drew a full house Sunday
and standing ovation for composer Gary Goldschneider, who had
worked on the piece for nearly twenty years. Goldschneider said
the opera will now go on tour to several European summer festivals,
and is discussing a trip to the United States with the American
Landmarks Festival series.
I don't know -- this sounds fishy
to me. Hello? This thing on? (discuss)
Is It April Fool's Already?
Apparently book stores are
valued in some parts of the world. (Play Deliverance
theme music... now.)
In an ever-tougher business environment
for independent booksellers, the town of St. Johnsbury, population
7,571 as of 2000, is offering startup money and a break on rent
to a qualified person willing to open a bookstore downtown. The
word is out in the book trade, and St. Johnsbury officials say
calls are coming in.
I Hear You
Curse of the Second Novel strikes again! I knew I should have
listened to that shrunken, twisted man when he told me not to enter
the cave and search for treasure... oh wait, that was grad school,
and the shrunken, twisted man was my t.a. Anyway, you're all doomed!
Jenny Minton, who worked as an
editor for Knopf for 10 years, has seen the problem afflict her
writers over and again. She identifies several reasons why second
novels are particularly tough -- as compared to the first. "Some
writers have been living for years with a story they need to tell,
and once that story has been told it is difficult to start over
Minton also observed that the
pressures of the literary marketplace can take a toll. "A writer
works on his first novel, in privacy, for years," she says. "If
it is well-received, his agent may shop the second novel-to-be
around. With a new, and usually expensive, contract under his
belt, there can be an enormous amount of pressure on the writer
to come up with the sort of book that will earn the money out
and to write it in a timely fashion, give or take a year or two."
Double-Tongued Word Wrester
So where the hell is Language
Hat in all these articles about blogs? It's one of the smartest
ones out there. After all, it gives us sites like this:
Double-Tongued Word Wrester records
words as they enter and leave the English language. It focuses
upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new,
foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words. Special attention
is paid to the lending and borrowing of words between the various
Englishes and other languages, even where a word is not a fully
naturalized citizen in its new language.
Who Knew Math
Could Be So Fun?
Princeton student has proven that the sky is blue, rivers flow
downhill, and bears do indeed shit in the woods.
Katherine L. Milkman,
22, decided to turn rigorous mathematical analytics on an even
more mystical topic: the selection of short fiction for The New
Yorker. In applying scientific metrics to an ineffable process,
Ms. Milkman will no doubt set off a small, discreet tempest among
a cadre of authors who would gladly saw off their (nonwriting)
hand to be the next Jhumpa Lahiri, a young writer who won the
Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000 for her book of short stories
after her work was plucked from the pile by the editors at that
According to Ms. Milkman, the number of male authors rose to 70
percent under Mr. Buford, compared with 57 percent under Mr. McGrath.
She also found that Mr. Buford was much more likely to publish
stories set in the New York area: the number of stories set in
the mid-Atlantic region rose to 37 percent under Mr. Buford, compared
with 19 percent under Mr. McGrath. The study also found that the
first-person voice rose mightily under Mr. Buford, which may reflect
the growth of memoir in the 90's more than anything else.
Under both editors the fiction in the magazine took as its major
preoccupations sex, relationships, death, family and travel. Mr.
Buford was relatively more interested in sex, a topic in 47 percent
of the stories he published as opposed to 35 percent under Mr.
McGrath. Mr. McGrath's authors tended to deal with one of the
occasional consequences of that act, children, more frequently
than Mr. Buford's writers: 36 percent under Mr. McGrath, 26 percent
under Mr. Buford. (History, homosexuality and politics all tied
for the attentions of Mr. Buford at a lowly 4 percent.)
So, it's now obvious
why you can't get in. Corruption, plain and simple (and the fact
that you aren't remotely sexy enough). It has nothing to do with
talent. You're a genius, don't ever forget that. Keep sending your
stories to people who appreciate good writing like yours... B&A...
um... B&A... and... um... Oberon. (discuss)
Wee Bobby McCrum
Reflects on 25 Years as a Hamster on the Wheel of British Publishing
years seems like a long time, but he's still a young man.
Probably, it was
Margaret Thatcher who saved my bacon. The Thatcher boom changed
everything. Ironically, it was the most right-wing Conservative
government in memory that liberated a torrent of creativity. I
found myself, by accident, in the right place at the right time.
Another irony: it was a philistine decade that saw the restoration
of the book. The figures tell the story. In 1980 there were 48,158
new titles published in the UK. By 2000 this had risen to a staggering
100,000. Today the figure stands at a record-breaking 119,000:
in the world of books, we are all Thatcher's children.
Perhaps not one who,
in struggling to make an impression on his bosses, accidentally
shot a gravy-covered quail across a restaurant, but young enough.
With a rise in demand for books with black characters, settings,
and themes, I suppose this
Like its white counterpart,
black chick-lit often centers on single women with dream jobs,
precariously balancing the personal and professional. Similarly,
too, these new authors write with insiders' knowledge about the
glamorous worlds they chronicle.
Neither racially charged
nor didactic, these books seem meant to be read on sandy shores
from Sag Harbor to St.-Tropez. The protagonists, educated and
decidedly middle to upper class, effortlessly mingle with both
black and white characters. Love, not privilege, is the only real
Oh, so it's fantasy,
not romance... (discuss)
Discussion Has Been
So in hopes of drawing out some new discussants, and maybe drawing
back a few old-timers (Killer, Zed, Silas, Sopwith, Claude, Thin
Girl, Fish Fish, Mads, Twinks, where are you?), I give you this
quote (from a
longer review that I don't care much about):
When the poet David
Lehman chose to title his book about the New York School of Poets
"The Last Avant-Garde," he had a point; the point being
that an avant-garde needs a mainstream tradition to be "avant"
of and that the canonical New York School grouping of John Ashbery,
Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler had not only pushed
the limits of language as far they could be pushed, but had pushed
the project of pushing into the mainstream itself. It is, at this
point, no longer possible to establish one's poetic legitimacy
by being more experimental or irreverent toward the tradition
than your predecessors; you can't go further than those guys have
already gone. Ezra Pound's command that poets must "make
it new!" was itself, once, a new idea. But by now, all the
new ideas are really kind of old.
What do you think?
Clive James Looking for Magic Sentence
"You don't expect to find one of this country's most
glamorous stars rehearsing a play about one of history's legendary
actresses in a church basement, but sometimes that's how things
happen in Canadian show business."
Who doesn't expect
it? I thought the Gemini Awards were being held in a Lions Club
this year... or at Avril's dad's Legion hall. (discuss)
Updike Performs Some Foreign Policy Damage Control
One of the lion kings
of world literature, the silver-haired, bushy-eyebrowed American
author John Updike, last night earned the gratitude of British
writers when he assured them that they no longer have an awe-stricken
inferiority complex about US novelists.
I've not been following
fiction as closely as poetry lo these many years, so I don't quite
understand why the British ever had this
complex in the first place. What I have read from both countries
makes me wonder whether this has to do with sales figures. (discuss)
The Long, Ugly History of Alliteration
I myself find it offputting and forced, probably because I grew
up in this:
are awash in alliteration.*
We are victims of anxious advertising executives and publicity-hungry
politicians. Desperate to sell their messages quickly, they repeatedly
load their slogans with words whose first sound repeats. They
do this crudely and self-consciously, these villains, cheapening
a subtly beautiful literary technique.
Here's where I'm supposed
to write something alliterative. (From ALDaily)
Seeking Designer with Shadowy
In anticipation of a tastefully small line of Bookninja merch we're
looking to rejig our logo and are hoping one of you can do it. So
let's have a contest.
We want something that would look
cool on either a T-shirt or a thong, something you might see sauntering
hiply about in Williamsburg, Brooklyn or on Queen West, Toronto
(said sauntering involving the T-shirt only, most likely). We'd
like to keep two ninjas in cool poses, but somehow incorporate a
book or books into the look. Send
your entries to us here (preferably as a manageable jpeg --
we'll come looking for high res files later) and the winner gets
$100 and some free ninjawear. Also included is the goodwill of much
of the North American book community. You NEED this gig, man. (Note:
if you've ever sent me spam about logo redesigns, you're automatically
disqualified from this contest. And I've been keeping track.) (discuss)
Damn You, Jane Austen!
The New Yorker has an interesting
article about the state of gay marriage in the U.S., as well
as an overview of the history of marriage itself. Fascinating stuff
for a recently engaged gent like myself.
In Gay Marriage
(Times Books; $22), the journalist Jonathan Rauch means to persuade
such people that same-sex marriage will be good not only for gay
people but for marriage in general. Rauch is a conservative --
how many books garner blurbs from both George Will and Barney
Frank? -- and his argument for the benefits to gay people is based
largely on the social discipline he thinks it would impose: once
gay men and lesbians are allowed to wed, society can begin expecting
them to do so, as it does straight people. "The gay rights era
will be over and the gay responsibility era will begin," he writes.
This soft coercion is a civilizing force, because "no other institution
has the power to turn narcissism into partnership, lust into devotion,
strangers into kin." We shouldn't expect results too soon, however:
"As with the coming of capitalism to the Soviet empire, so with
the coming of marriage to gay culture. Freedom and responsibility
take time to learn." With analogies as inviting as this, one wonders
whether snuggling gay lovers ought to take a bus tour of Putin's
Russia before heading to the altar. Though clearly a true believer
in matrimony, Rauch doesn't make it sound like much fun.
Breaking the Rules
The Onion interviews
book designer Chip Kidd.
One of the things I learned while
majoring in graphic design in college, that I've always taken
very much to heart... The teacher one day drew an apple on the
blackboard, and then wrote the word "apple" underneath it. He
pointed to the whole thing and he said, "You should never do this."
He covered up the picture and said, "You either just have the
word," then covered up the word and said, "or you just have the
picture. But don't do both." It's insulting to the reader, or
the viewer, or whoever. I think that's true. So what did I do
on the cover for All
The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy? I showed a horse.
I showed a pretty horse.
That cover was my first exposure
to Kidd, in a publishing seminar. It's still one of my favourite
covers of all time. But I really want to know who designed this.
(From Snarkout) (discuss)
Want to Learn About Sci-Fi Without
Having to Read the Books?
You can always listen to the sci-fi
history lectures. Warning: the site uses RealPlayer, so the
focus must be on dystopia. (From Beautiful
Was Barrie as Innocent as
Nowadays we get a little squidgy when people take an unusual interest
in children (think of Charles Dodgson, William Mayne, etc.), but
back in JM
Barrie's day childhood, in particular, boyhood, was idealized
Barrie seemed emotionally buttoned
up in adult company, often sinking into long, brooding and unnerving
silences, but he revealed himself with startling, and perhaps
unconscious, candor on the page. It is in his books and plays,
and more particularly in his notebooks, that he gives himself
away and unlocks the secrets of his heart. Barrie’s passion for
George, for example, is on reckless public display in The Little
White Bird (1902) – a book that makes uncomfortable reading nowadays
when any expression of interest in other people’s children is
regarded with suspicion. Birkin convincingly argues that Barrie’s
attachment to the Llewelyn Davies boys was without any sexual
element. Looking back on his involvement with Barrie, Nico said:
“I don’t believe that Uncle Jim ever experienced what one might
call a stirring in the undergrowth for anyone – man, woman or
child”. Indeed, it was Barrie’s essential innocence that allowed
him to be so heartbreakingly unguarded.
So, given the complete lack of evidence
for any nefarious scalawagery, the question remains only in the
minds of people who are instinctively mistrustful. Like me. (From
Beckham Wrote His Autobiography with Great Spirit... er,
um... I Mean, a Great Ghostwriter...
Collecting an award for the book
last month, the England captain said: "When I decided to
write my autobiography I never expected to be breaking records.
I just wanted to give my side of the story."
In reality it was the actor-turned-broadcaster
Tom Watt who wrote the book. But seeing the Real Madrid star
collect the prize and the bulk of the glory is not something that
bothers Mr Watt.
He says: "I was just
delighted for him. It does not matter to me, I have got a life
to get on with."
Like most ghost writers,
Mr Watt, who is currently working on a paperback edition of the
book to include Beckham's difficult months in Spain, insists the
story does not belong to him.
"Why should David have
a literary voice? I'm the writer. It's just the need to get things
down on paper."
He was also determined to
make sure the words on the page really were those of the England
"What surprised me
about it was how close it is to acting. When you act you take
someone else's words and do your best to bring them to life on
stage or camera," says Mr Watt.
"Ghostwriting a book,
you're taking someone's words and trying to give them a voice."
Sweet Merciful Crap
I shit you not: some knob who was booted out of school for rampant
plagiarizing is SUING
THE UNIVERSITY BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T CATCH HIM SOONER. This is
the kind of thing I use as a hyperbolic example of the litigious
circus that is the United States. I guess I'll have to up my audacity.
Hm.... How about a robber sues a bank for not having enough money
on hand to have made his five year pen visit worth it. The land
of the free and home of the depraved. (From Scribbling
Everything is Illuminated
If I were in LA, I would go see this
Around the year 1400, a new aesthetic
emerged at the courts of Paris, Prague, London, and Milan, finding
expression across Europe in books commissioned by the social elite.
The new exhibition “Fit for a King: Courtly Manuscripts, 1380–1450,”
at the Getty Center, June 29–August 29, 2004, looks at the figures,
fashions, and forms of the courtly art that dominated art and
taste for almost a century.
The popularity and portability of manuscripts facilitated the
spread of ideas among European courts. Artists also traveled between
cities, actively studying the techniques of fellow illuminators.
These interactions resulted in a number of visual similarities
among manuscripts produced during the period. This common style,
also known as International Gothic, was characterized by the presence
of tall, graceful figures in fashionable costumes; naturalistic
landscapes; and bright, intricately patterned backgrounds. At
the same time, certain aspects of illumination varied from region
to region. The works on view highlight the stylistic differences
that reflected the geographic range of artistic centers, while
revealing their shared international style.
Anyone want to fly me to LA? (discuss)
For those of you tweaked into remembrance of your Alden Nowlan love
by our links a few days back, here's
something to look forward to. I'll be reserving a copy early.
The legend of the Beats pivots
on one of the counterculture's hoariest clichés: Sensitive,
creative misfits—Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs,
and their muse and frequent bed-warmer, Neal Cassady—are reluctantly
seduced by the mainstream values they abhor, and prove too fragile
to resist the corrosive fame that comes with the deal. Madness,
burnout, and mediocrity ensue.
There's truth to this myth, of course, not the least being that
the Beats did craft a singular, shockingly new literary voice
and were subsequently feted and forgotten. And, yes, mediocrity
did ensue—boy, did it ensue. But far from being quaint, helpless,
occasionally icky nocturnal creatures lured into the sunlight
only to wither in its rays, the Beats worked as fiercely to achieve
their celebrity as they did to craft their poems and novels. In
a sense, they created the cliché and then offered themselves
up as its casualties.
from people invested in the lasting fame of others... (discuss)
Remember that Aussie Fight Between Editor and Publisher
at Quarterly Essay?
continues. It's practically a Walrus, except that people there
seem to care. (discuss)
Scrabble, Steel Cage Deathmatch Edition
The Guardian staff challenge the entire Hay-on-Wye line up to a
The premise was simple, although
another word you could have used to describe it might have been
"foolhardy". The starting point was this: Britain's
pre-eminent literary festival surely constitutes the greatest
concentration, in a single small space, of some of the most talented
authors, and other such creative types, in the world. Point two:
for all their clever talk about characterization, plot, and research,
these writers know that good writing, ultimately, is all about
knowing lots of fancy words. Point three: Scrabble is another
thing that is all about knowing lots of fancy words. Point four:
writers are notoriously competitive. Perhaps you can see where
this is heading.
Even more Scrabble
news here... Calloo Callay! (discuss)
The Election Will
I recently wrote an article for the Ottawa Citizen about
blogs. They seem to be the best source for real information
and discussion of the issues re the upcoming election, so check
them out before you cast your vote and change the world. (discuss)
Tales from the Crypt
When I die, I'm
not going to channel myself into some silly, poverty-stricken writer.
I'm going to take over Usher and make him translate my work into
hip-hop. Why Usher, you ask? Did you see his place on MTV's Cribs?
Death was a similar creative catalyst
for V.C. Andrews, the writer of dark teenage thrillers who passed
away in 1986 but has written ever since with the help of one Andrew
Niederman. Mr. Niederman once said he believed he was channeling
Andrews, a belief he seems to take literally--in fact, he even
makes appearances at writers conferences as V.C. Andrews.
The original Booker
(or Booker Classic) could only be entered by civilized
Commonwealth countries (and rough and tumble, yet loveable,
Irish folk). Now any savage country with a penchant for overrunning
unarmed nations and harvesting their natural resources can go for
the Booker International
(I , for one, refuse to add the "Man" before the "Booker".
And not just for reasons of nostalgia/snobbery . It gives me the
creeps. Like there's this swaggering, hairy book somewhere with
a heavy, dangling ribbon. It feels like the award is going to piss
in a circle around good literature, and maybe throw its feces at
Abebooks Taking on Amazon!
Abe-y! Go Abe-y! Go, go, go abe-y! (From Thoughts
Bohemians Inherit the Earth (as Well as a Dose of the Clap)
the author of Among the Bohemians, told the 600-strong audience
that when the performance takes place on July 7 the London crowds
will nearly all be the heirs of Bohemia in their lifestyle, morals
"We're all Bohemians
now," she said.
Mrs Nicholson is the great-niece
of Virginia Woolf, whose Bloomsbury group of artists was only
part of a tradition of Bohemian "experiments in living"
which flourished in Britain from 1900-1950. Some of their lives
ended in suicide, fatal illness, alcoholism, drug addiction or
the despair of late middle age, fates that befell artists including
Woolf herself, Katherine Mansfield, who caught gonorrhoea and
died of tuberculosis, the poets Roy Campbell and Dylan Thomas,
and the painter Augustus John.
Just great. Now that
Bohemian, I'm going to die drunk, on the nod, and riddled with
crotch crickets. Nice. And I was trying to have a family here. (discuss)
Aaarrrggghhh, Hand Over
Your Harry Potter and No One Gets Hurt
The New York Times has an article
on book pirates.* No, they're not talking about Bookninja's
rowdy cousins. We haven't talked to them since that Book Expo incident
Yet a quick survey conducted with
peer-to-peer file-sharing software revealed the digital availability
of dozens of titles currently on the New York Times best-seller
list, including The Da Vinci Code, The South Beach Diet
and, of course, hundreds of copies of any Harry Potter titles.
Even the official audio-book versions read by the authors or celebrities
are easy to come by. Computer and technical books that can cost
as much as $100 in print are also a mainstay. Other recesses of
the Internet are also rich in illegally traded literature.
A visit to a group called "#Bookz"
on the Internet Relay Chat network revealed a multitude of titles
being offered or sought every second.
Group of Tolkien Nerds Manage to Replace "Nerd"
with "Scholar" and No One is (Gandalf) the Wiser...
So Tolkien "Obsession" becomes Tolkien "Studies"
and a whole range of sci-fi nerds get academic postings in English
From there we move on Humanities and so-called "Comparative
Lit"... (This year, dear students, we will be comparing The
Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales Parts 1 through 100...)
(From Goodreports) (discuss)
"I thought so much about the ways we were different.
If somebody gave me a bottle of codeine and it said, take one every
eight hours, I would take one every eight hours. I do what I'm told.
And Lucy would take one every 20 minutes, you know? She would see
what she could get out of the codeine, and I mean that metaphorically
as well as literally.''
I like it when the NYT
does gossip column. So classy and tear-filled. And poets make
appearances... Take THAT Page 6! (It's like that page of pictures
in the Quill, but with important people...) (discuss)
Young New York writer/editor and Maisonneuve blogger Jarret McNeill
with what it means to be a big W Writer:
There are writers, and then there
are Writers. There are also classes of writers. Authors write
books, and can pretty much be anyone. Plum Sykes is an author.
She’s not much of a writer (or storyteller, for that matter),
but she has a book, so that makes her a writer. John Grisham is
an author. A hack, but he has a book too. A couple thousand, actually.
But J.D. Salinger was a Writer. William Faulkner, Jonathan Carroll,
Raymond Carver, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, these men were
Writers, Authors, Artists, Storytellers, Masters. (I linked to
the lesser known of my personal cannon.) They are my heroes, and,
as humbly as I can, what I aspire to when I say that I don’t know
how to define myself. I am a writer. Hopefully one day, perhaps,
with the grace of whatever muse is out there, to be a Writer.
But then there is also the work I get paid for, and that, for
me, is writing.
Jarret's blog, In
Earnest: An NYC writer's Downtown diary, is part of our
ongoing blogging experiment at the
new Maisy site. I like the concept of these artists in various
cities thinking "aloud" about what they're doing and why
they're doing it... (discuss)
Note to Self: Never Disagree with AN Wilson
Rebuttal to self: I
All language, even scientific
language, is figurative, but Mr Hayman hasn't figured that out.
Poets are people who use language more vividly, more acutely,
with greater range and depth than other people. Fundamentalists
are bores who take their words and try to apply to them tests
based on post-"Enlightenment" criteria. Since Bacon
was one of the first Two Cultures men, dividing up the arts and
the sciences, Blake saw his essays as satanic.
Human beings think in many ways other than those of scientific
classification. Dante is the supremely great poet that he is because
he revivifies and transforms the conventional images of mythology
and religion and recharges them in the light of real experiences
- primarily our own, though also the historical, political and
actual experiences of his contemporaries.
What can I say? It's a
hold-over addiction from my time in the trenches... er... cubicles.
for a Loop!
Simpson and August Kleinzahler win the Griffin Prize for Poetry.
Gwendolyn MacEwen Fet on Saturday
And all this despite
the poet's own warning. "Avoid monuments," Gwendolyn
MacEwen advised in her famous poem Letter To A Future Generation.
"Do not excavate our cities / to catalogue the objects of
our doom / but burn all you find to make yourselves room, / you
have no need of archaeology / your faces are your total history."
Fortunately, MacEwen and
her poetry – her true monument – seem to have moved far beyond
such forgetting. Since her death in 1987 at the age of 46 in the
Annex, she has been the subject of an NFB film, a CBC biography,
an award-winning literary biography, a hit play, music compositions,
dance choreography and an untold number of poems.
Almost unique in Canadian
literary history, she also has a public park named in her honour.
But none of this is quite enough for her growing legion of fans.
They want that monument. Ardent MacEwenist Randy Resh and his
partner, Virginia Dixon, who run the Pteros Gallery on Dundas
West, have been trying for the past couple of years to raise the
$15,000 necessary to finish casting and installing the bronze
bas-relief designed by MacEwen's lifelong friend the late John
I'm glad to see her
influence growing more prominent. Maybe we can reclaim her from
some of the bad poets she's inspiring. I'm going to try to be there,
but if I can't make it, could someone pick me up a CD? (discuss)
Profiled and reviewed
in the NY Observer. (discuss)
"I'm probably more a Torontonian than I am a Canadian"
said it. And there's no reason not to be proud. Well, mostly.
He won't say that
he finds the interview process irritating or over- (or under-)
whelming. Instead, Bezmozgis takes a philosophical stance, allowing
that he understands the practical necessities of publicity and
promotion. He claims that he doesn't pay attention to what's been
written about him, instead letting his friends fill him in.
I like this guy! (From
Born Into This: Bukowski Doc
Bukowski didn't always
revel in his outsider status. A pariah in high school, he suffered
from severe acne vulgaris, which covered his face with running
sores that left his skin deeply pitted. He recalls standing miserably
in the dark outside his senior prom, too humiliated to show himself.
Okay, Chuck, you can
of our gang.* (discuss)
File This Under: About Bloody Time
Fearing an interruption of planned "Rejoyce" events, the
Irish government hamstrings
Joyce's litigious grandson. (discuss)
Dub Poetry Gets Its Day in the Sun
Red letter day! Ladies and gentlemen,
I give you: A
POETRY-RELATED ARTICLE FROM THE TORONTO SUN!!!! Toronto's PC-voting,
Du Maurier-smoking, pencil mustache-wearing, pickup truck driving,
rotweiler owners must be a-scratchin' theys heads... (My personal
favourite dub poet is Lillian Allen! Twitch... twitchtwitch) (discuss)
Audio Books are Never Sold Out
That's because no
one's buying them... (discuss)
Books into Movies = Stupid Americans
And it's written
by an American!
The recent trend
of books being adapted for the screen is making America stupid.
More stupid than it already is. It's a phenomenon with a tag line
(sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace"): "I once
was worldly, but now I'm ignorant," or "I once was literate,
but now wouldn't pick up a novel and read it if I was being forced
by a pitchfork-wielding Truman Capote." Basically, this trend
is making the stories that first appeared in books-many of them
award-winning-too easily accessible. Our society is all about
convenience. Why go to the book store and choose one based on
its pretty cover (admit it, we all do) when you can go to Cinemark
and watch the same book acted out for you, in a comfortable two-hour
You know, I'm hard
on Americans right now, but that's mostly because, despite the minor
key organ music and the ever present thunderstorm, they haven't
risen up with pitchforks and torches and stormed the dark, bat-infested
halls of their pinhead leader. Mostly, I love Americans. Above a
certain parallel... Particularly Daniel
Nester. He's so cute. (discuss)
Groucho and Eliot
like a great sitcom. (From Scribbling
I Wanna Be Your
Bruce Serafin is moved
to contemplation by Cormac McCarthy's Blood
Meridian. I myself was moved to a giddy nausea -- I almost
didn't finish it because it was so grotesque.
And that summer in Ashcroft reading
McCarthyís masterpiece I disovered the same thing: an archaic
power as terrific as that in Homer's poem of war. Some writers
I would later read deny this side of the Western hero. They assert,
for instance, that the cowboyís attractiveness lies in his air
of leisure, as if he were a Peter OíToole in boots, a kind of
aristocrat who goes around shooting people and repairing widowís
fences. But I had known even as a boy that the cowboy hero "fronted"
like an aboriginal convict facing a judge: his foreknowledge of
death was the central fact he carried aways before him.
As an antidote, may
I suggest George Bowering's Caprice?
It's All About the
Eye weekly's Guy Leshinski pays
tribute to the pen.
Rock guitarists have their Les
Paul; cartoonists, their rapidograph. The pen is a rite of passage,
an instrument that lends their line instant character and plugs
their work into comics' striated heritage, which trails back to
the days when illustrators dipped before they drew.
We're All Feeling
the Arts Funding Squeeze, and it Seems the Writers' Union is Dealing
with it by Cutting Back on Original Press Releases (You Have Got
to Check This Out...)
(Another Bookninja scoop!) Is this a study in what awards mean,
even to the people who administrate them...? An anonymous, but well-placed,
reader tips us off to the fact that the Writer's Union press release
for the 2004 Danuta Gleed Award (see below -- a week later and they
still haven't announced it to the public on their website...) bears
a striking resemblance to the press
release for the 2003 Danuta Gleed Award. In fact only a few
words per section are changed!
(2003 press release)
The Writers' Union of Canada
and John Gleed are pleased to announce that Lee Henderson is the
recipient of the $5,000 DANUTA GLEED LITERARY AWARD for The Broken
Record Technique (Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-100568-8). Judged the
best first English-language collection of short fiction by a Canadian
author published in 2002. In making their decision the jury of
award-winning short fiction writers Carmelita McGrath, David Homel
and Gary Geddes confirmed that The Broken Record Technique provided,
"An exciting play with language: Lee Henderson whether describing
an incensed desire or a vicious fear, creates characters who,
like most of us, are often baffled by what life presents."
The jury agreed "Lee Henderson's brilliant stories stretched
the boundaries of language and form without losing their focus
on character and situation."
Timothy Taylor, of Vancouver,
British Columbia, receives $500 for Silent Cruise (Vintage Canada,
ISBN 0-676-97443-0). For their second choice the jury found, "Timothy
Taylor's powerfully built stories exceptional and downright believable".
The jury was impressed with "the maturity and craftsmanship
of Taylor's stories, that manage to do everything well."
Nancy Lee, of Vancouver,
British Columbia, also receives $500 for Dead Girls (McClelland
& Stewart Limited, ISBN 0-7701-5250-2). The jury praised Lee's
intense stories for their "gritty elegance." They indicated,
"Nancy Lee's stories create worlds that are intense and evocative
while showing us the conflicts that can arise between starkness
(2004 press release)
The Writers' Union of Canada
and John Gleed are pleased to announce that Jacqueline Baker is
the recipient of the $5,000 DANUTA GLEED LITERARY AWARD for A
Hard Witching & Other Stories (Harper Flamingo Canada, ISBN
0-00-200534-4). Judged the best first English-language collection
of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2003. In making
their decision the jury of award-winning short fiction writers
Nino Ricci, Sharon Butala and Fred Stenson confirmed that A Hard
Witching & Other Stories provided, "An exciting play
with language: Jacqueline Baker whether describing brutality or
tenderness, creates characters who, like most of us, are often
baffled by what life presents." The jury agreed "Jacqueline
Baker's brilliant stories stretched the boundaries of language
and form, without losing their focus on character and situation."
Jonathan Bennett, of Port
Hope Ontario, receives $500 for Verandah People (Raincoast Books,
ISBN 1-55192-649-0). For their second choice the jury found, "Jonathan
Bennett's powerfully built stories are exceptional and downright
believable." The jury was impressed with "the maturity
and craftsmanship of Jonathan's stories, that manage to do everything
Susan Rendell, of St. John's
Newfoundland, also receives $500 for In the Chambers of the Sea
(Killick Press, ISBN 1-89494-66-1). The jury praised Rendell's
intense stories for their "individual vision." They
indicated, "Susan Rendell's stories create worlds that are
intense and evocative while showing us the conflicts that can
arise between starkness and elegance."
Hmm. Now that's an org that cares
about its people, init? None of this should reflect, of course,
on the quality of the work highlighted... These are some great books.
It should just reflect on the state of affairs in our awards system,
and the Union. (I wonder how the jury feels about being "quoted"
like this...) (discuss)
No Wonder Euro Disney
Moorish Girl points
to a nice parody site that uses
Tintin to comment on the Iraq conflict. In the spirit of the
recent Tintin celebrations I've been rereading some of the comics,
which got me thinking about another childhood fave: Asterix. I did
a little searching and found this 2002 article
celebrating Asterix's 40th anniversary. Which informed me there
is an Asterix theme
McSweeney's has fallen out of vogue with a lot of writers,
the designers still love the Eggers crowd.
The McSweeney's phenomenon is
a force to be reckoned with in American graphic design. It began
as -- and still is -- an online journal with an admirably understated
visual presentation: while website designers worked themselves
into grand mal seizures of hyperactivity in the late twentieth
century, McSweeneys.net never abandoned its plain vanilla format.
But it was when founder Dave Eggers moved into the world of conventional
publishing with McSweeney's Quarterly Concern that the
design world took notice.
to Yuksville Boarding at Platform 4
Remember that you only have until Saturday to enter the Bookninja
Litterati Caption Contest. It's about time you wrote a good
line, don't you think? Email
us your witticisms and half-witticisms here. (discuss)
So, In Case You Did Something Valuable with Your Weekend...
Union is mad at us (see message 170) because we pointed out
that they plagiarized their own
press release from 2003 for a press release for the 2004 Danuta
IMO, this is unutterable
pettiness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with updating and
re-using a standard news release. In the first place, ALL news
releases follow a fairly rigid format: 5 W's, quotation, exposition,
quotation, standard bottom paragraph that identifies the organization.
In the second place, anybody who has ever served on a book awards
jury knows that the awards agency requests the jury to provide
descriptions of all the short-listed books precisely for the purposes
of using them in news releases. (posted on our discussion boards
under the name Penney Kome, a former TWUC Chair)
Um... Hello? Not a
big deal, you say? Press releases are often recycled? Sure. But
does one set of judges recycle another set of judges' citations
from a different set of books by different authors? Confused? So
is the Union, we think. I wonder what the judges think of it? And
the winning writers? And the membership? And Mr. Gleed? I think
people would have dropped this if the Union had had the guts to
admit someone made a colossal blunder. But instead they circle the
wagons and strike back like cornered bandits. Peow! Oh, and by the
by, before you admonish us for being snide and facetious, ask around
- we're always facetious. (discuss)
Lampert and Lowther Announced
Adam Getty and Betsy Struthers take bragging rights and the
lovely macrame plant holders. Hearts go out to Ninja fav Chris
Banks, but he already won the Jack Chalmers so he should just be
damn satisfied. (discuss)
Most Exciting Young Poets Announced. Excited Yet?
this thing where they announce the most exciting young poets
of a generation (10 years). The chosen ones are profiled
here. The previous selection (84 to 94) hit it right on the
head with more than a few, including Armitage, Maxwell, and Paterson.
Canadian expat Todd Swift is working on an essay for us about it.
When You Can't Even Give It Away...
Clark called out to anyone within earshot of his table. "Would
you like a book?"
Clark would explain that there was no charge, no strings attached.
Then he would describe his new novel, "Plain Heathen Mischief,"
as " 'The Scarlet Letter' meets 'The Sting.'"
It took some work, but Clark
managed to put a few copies in strangers' hands. He confided to
the rest of us that at the Lexington, Ky., stop of his 26-city
book tour, things had gone worse.
"I tried to give the
book away and no
one took it," he said.
Griffins meet the Powerballers in Toronto's one good gossip
night outside the Film Festival... And still nothing interesting
happened except some sweaty dancing, which I could get into... (discuss)
NYT Thinks Your Vacation Lasts 18 Weeks
There's about a thousand books on this
list,* including Matthew Sharpe's The
Sleeping Father. (discuss)
Did They Strip the Covers First?
An Edmonton school is apologising for tossing
a chunk of its library into a dumpster. (discuss)
Should Politics Be on the Funny Pages?
Garry Trudeau has always
done so, almost never so well as now. You work with what you're
That's a key to
Trudeau's success: He is telling a story. He's not just mouthing
off his opinions. Doonesbury characters grow up, get married,
have children, lose jobs, get depressed. One was captured by the
Taliban in Afghanistan. One died of AIDS.
"The readers really connect with these books, so it
almost doesn't really matter what the critical establishment has
to say about these books, because they're finding an audience."
vs. "It's not traditional at all, it mixes a little bit of
fiction in there somewhere, and it's just life on the trail -- but
from the point of view of a novelist."
judge a book by the lineup in front of the author... (discuss)
Ideas, Not Money
The 2004 ReLit shortlists
have been announced. Congrats to the nominated ninjas.
Ashland, Gil Adamson (ECW)
The Vicinity, David O'Meara (Brick)
Small Arguments, Souvankham Thammavongsa (Pedlar)
House Built of Rain, Russell Thornton (Harbour)
Still Life with June, Darren Greer (Cormorant)
The Speaking Cure, David Homel (Douglas & McIntyre)
Kameleon Man, Kim Barry Brunhuber (Beach Holme)
A Love Supreme, Kent Nussey (Mansfield)
Universal Recipients, Dana Bath (Arsenal Pulp)
Broken Accidents, Phlip Arima (Insomniac)
Fiction for Lovers, Tony Burgess (ECW)
Way Up, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer (Goose Lane)
When You Can't Give 'Em Away 2
I like the
title of his book though...
A POET preached
his work on a tractor in a bid to reach new audiences but his
efforts fell on deaf ears.
No-one turned up to hear
Halifax-born poet Craig Bradley while he was sitting on the Fordson
Super Six agricultural machine outside Queensbury Library.
Poor fella. I prefer
to watch my books fail from a bar down the road... (discuss)
Poetry and Doughnuts?
Canadian dream! (Except for the poetry part...) (discuss)
Reagan's Dead and My Adolescent Self Finally Breathes a
Sigh of Relief
Did anyone else grow up in the 80s thinking they were going
to be eating tinned beans in a bunker with their parents while their
hair slowly fell out from radiation poisoning? It's very difficult
for me to not burst out into song right now (tune from Wizard of
Kim Brunhuber, CTV
reporter, soap-opera star and ReLit nominee, is interviewed
by Canadian Content. Apparently he's working on a film:
The film traces the life of a
novel from contract to bookshelves and beyond, and will also offer
a candid look at the writing life. We will hop across the country,
going behind the scenes of the Canadian publishing industry, getting
an intimate look at an author's and publisher's struggle to sell
a novel. Like in Halifax, where I was accosted by a hostile audience
of black women at a reading. Or in Vancouver, where my tearful
publicist was accused of being a racist. The film switches between
serious and comical moments, such a reading in Montreal where
only four people showed up, and a book signing in Calgary, where
I found out they were selling my novel from the inside of a closed
drawer. Some of the biggest problems I've had doing the film have
been technical, like when I tried to interview Yann Martel without
a microphone, or when I pretended I was still filming Austin Clarke
when I had, in fact, run out of batteries half an hour earlier.
It's Funny Because
For those of you unfamiliar with Adam
Johnson, may I suggest "Trauma
The Body Armor Emporium opened
down the street a few months back, and I tell you, it's killing
mom-and-pop bullet-proof vest rental shops like ours. We've tried
all the gimmicks: two-for-one rentals, the VIP card, a night drop.
But the end is near, and lately we have taken to bringing the
VCR with us to the shop, where we sit around watching old movies.
Or the story that
hooked me, "Teen
Like me, Cedric and Henry came
out of the target-match circuit, with Cedric riding a full sniper
scholarship to B.Y.U. and Henry touring Asia for Team Adidas.
But Twan is different. He's self-taught, on the rooftops of Oakland,
and, like they say, the Lord looks out for left-handed snipers.
Twan's an ayatollah with a rifle, completely composed, but he's
touch-and-go as a police officer because he refuses to shoot women.
Any of us could probably make
the shot, but I don't want to look like a puss in front of the
guys. Besides, not that I'm stuck up or anything, but I'm the
one with the gift. I won the Disney Classic at age eleven, scored
a perfect 1000 at the North Hollywood Open, and took gold in the
summer Snipathalon in Bonn, all before the age of thirteen.
Men Who Read, and Yet Here We Are....
Hey, Good Booking...
Penguin UK takes a cue from
Maxim magazine in a desperate bid to woo
libidinous young males by pretending they stand a chance with
hot young women (who have a £1,000 hooker's prize being dangled
in front of them like so much raw beef - classy!) It's like The
Swan for publishers. (Thanks to BP for the link.) (discuss)
Frankenstein - the Mode of Production
Stitching together a
novel out of short stories*... Hmm... (discuss)
"The function of such reviews, I suggest, is to shake
a book vigorously and see if the sawdust flies out. If the book
is any good, it will survive the review, however harsh. If not,
it doesn't deserve to."
A bad review hurts. Seeing
your reviewer get a bad review sooths. We're a complicated species...
By happy coincidence,
my enemy has himself just recently brought out a biography of
Orson Welles. Even happier, Conrad's book has been minced, pounded
and sliced into kebab in the latest London Review of Books. It's
an immensely long piece by David Bromwich (God bless him. Is there
a Nobel prize for reviewing?). The reviewer's scathing comments
are music to my ears, and balm to my wounds: "a maddening
book to read ... All, here, is gimcrack-gimmickry ... grinding
whimsy". I particularly like that last phrase. I can see
it, in neon red, on the back of the paperback reprint: "
'Grinding whimsy', LRB".
All and all he took
it rather well, I think. I'd still be working up the courage to
allow daylight to touch my skin. (discuss)
Tolstoy's Translators Get the Oprah Treatment
What? They appear on
her show* to listen to her talk about herself for an hour? (discuss)
American Fame Comes at a Price, Indian Author Finds
Four easy installments of $24.95 plus shipping
and handling*... (discuss)
Nerd Crap Behind Amazon
about bar codes and programming. (discuss)
This guy pulled
his books from Amazon because Amazon wouldn't pull one by someone
else. Way to stand up for your beliefs, po' man. (discuss)
is Dead! Long Live Captain America!
It's good to hear some
in all the Reaganmania white noise.
He should have died alone--a long,
long time ago. But oh, no, not him: outliving his century by four
years, his presidency by 16, and his own mind by a decade, Hollywood
legend Ronald Reagan was 93 when he went to rejoin his makers--Thomas
Jefferson, Louis B. Mayer, Lew Wasserman, and Barry Goldwater,
in that order--on Saturday. A noted fantasist, Reagan is perhaps
best remembered for the eight years he spent believing he ruled
an entirely fictional United States. To the old trouper's delight,
this was a delusion shared by most of his compatriots, which is
why his imaginary nation still subsumes ours to this day.
And don't forget to
check out the Zombie Reagan
The Constitution offers no specific
prohibition against zombies serving their country. In fact, the
majority of the Administration is already composed of the undead.
It is a little known fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell
is the only cabinet-level member that still has a beating heart.
Zombie Regan, however, cannot
become President, because he has already served two terms in that
office. If George W. Bush were to die during his second term (say,
by being eaten by Zombie Reagan), three options exist: the Speaker
of the House would be elevated to the Presidency, Congress would
convene to elect a new President or the President would undergo
the zombification process and complete his term.
(Zombie Reagan link from Boing
Of Nihilism and
Bookslut has some new interviews up, including one with Chuck
I secretly know my work is very
romantic, and ALWAYS about returning a lonely character to community
with other people. There's a BIG difference between "not caring"
or being "nihilistic" about a topic and simply not being enrolled
by the drama presented by other people. Just because my characters
CHOOSE not to react in standard, socially-appropriate ways --
that does not mean they don't care. They just reject ordinary
And if you haven't
read Palahniuk's story "Guts" -- the one that's supposedly causing
people everywhere to faint -- you can read it here
or listen to Palahniuk read it before a live audience here.
Bookslut also interviews
comic artist Seth:
I have no illusions about the
superiority of the past. People have always been miserable and
life has always been difficult. However, I can honestly say that
I don't think much of this present time. Certainly, here in North
America, things couldn't be cheaper, uglier or more vulgar than
they currently are (well, they could, and probably will be --
in the near future). I think that the early to middle 20th century
was aesthetically more pleasing time period. While I personally
have no desire to live through the Depression or World War II,
I do think that culturally, the quality of many things was superior,
especially design. Things were created for actual humans (with
genuine care and effort). You cannot look at a popular medium-priced
radio, or clock, from that period and compare it with the same
popular, medium-priced, item from today and not come away convinced
that things are just much shittier today.
Wins Canadian Newsstand Award
Best Newsstand Issue, Small Magazine for issue
6, Sex and Death.
No link available online, but I know because I just accepted
the award on the staff's behalf in Toronto. We were up against some
flexible and political competition but prevailed with our cover
of two preying mantises going at it. Just goes to show you, sex
sells - even if said sex ends in a gruesome cannibalistic beheading.
News of Writers' Union Blunder Spreads ...
Quill and Quire, which
has SIGNIFICANTLY expanded and updated its website (kudos!), reports
on the Bookninja story of "Cannibalgate - The Writers'
Union's Fall from Gardening Tips and Recipe-Trading to Self-Plagiarism
and Panicked Finger Pointing" (12-part miniseries coming this
fall to CBC - may contain scenes of graphic whining and not be suitable
for younger viewers who need positive role models.) (Note: almost
two weeks later and there's still no press release, plagiarized
or otherwise, for the Danuta Gleed Award on the Union's site. In
fact, their last press
release is dated May 20th. Members, do you ever ask yourself
what you're paying these people for?) (From Thoughts
Orange Prize Won by Someone!
Levy's Small Island takes home the... gold? What do
they win? Oh, cash! 30,000! And it's that fat, double-money that
looks like fancy Ls and has stern, patrician faces on it instead
of John MacDonald who looks like his day job might have been teaching
in a clown school. (discuss)
Neat New Telegraph Series on the Myths of English Sure to
Make at Least One Ninja Drool
to the nines
Somebody who is "dressed
to the nines" or "dressed up to the nines" is dressed
to perfection or superlatively dressed. Writers have run up a
whole wardrobe-full of ideas about where the expression comes
from, which indicates clearly enough that nobody really knows
One very persistent theory
is that the British Army's 99th Regiment of Foot were renowned
for their smartness, so much so that the other regiments based
with them at Aldershot in the 1850s were constantly trying to
emulate them – to equal "the nines".
The big problem with this
explanation is that the phrase "to the nines" is actually
a good deal older – it was first recorded in the late 18th century
in poems by Robert Burns. In its earlier days it wasn't linked
to high standards of dress but to any superlative situation: people
could refer to "praising a man's farm to the nines",
E-Books Seller Says UK Publishers Ignoring E-Books
So what, they're just now joining
the rest of the reading public? Get me one of them funky paper
sheets that can hold 100+ books and I'll start buying them. (discuss)
File This Under: Money-Grubbing Necrophiliacs
The death of Ronald
Reagan has triggered a whirlwind of action among publishers, who
are speeding up books in the pipeline and dusting off a wide choice
of works already available on the 40th U.S. president
You know, I personally
hope there's a special corner of Hell reserved for Reagan, one in
which there are no all-powerful destructo-buttons for him to fondle
longingly and in which all the jelly beans are the barf flavour
from those abominable Harry Potter candies that co-workers think
make amusing jokes (Here, try it!), but this
kind of story just somehow makes me queasy. (discuss)
Scottish Teens Seldom Caught in a Bind (Get It? Like a BOOK
Bind? I Crack Me Up!)
I h8 illiteraC amung tEns, dnt U 2? (discuss)
Born to Be Wild
Ormsby: nascitur poeta. Jenny Boully on why Ormsby is better
than just about anyone. (And he is...) (discuss)
Here Come the Dylan...
You know, I knew this
would be the crap that followed Ricks' appointment to the Oxford
Poetry Profession position....
of "Dylan's Visions of Sin" may strike some readers
as over the top, as when Mr. Ricks devotes four pages (and four
footnotes) to the lyrics of "All the Tired Horses,"
a song that is only two lines long — or maybe three, if you count
the long "Hmmmm" at the end.
Fucking articles about
Bob Dylan as a poet. Just great. (discuss)
Vote Liberal or
You'll Have to Work for a Living!
Margaret Atwood worries
about what could happen to Canadian culture if the Conservatives
win the upcoming election.
In the absence of out-front cultural
policies from the neo-Conservatives, I'm basing these assumptions
on their stated wish to abolish all subsidies. I guess that would
include culture, as well as farming and forestry and anything
else. I can't speak for other sectors, but nuking the pump-priming
apparatus would not make sense for Culture. You might as well
mow it flat. These neo-Conservatives are not pragmatists, they're
ideologues, and ideologues, whether left or right, will ignore
any fact if it doesn't fit their worldview.
and Quire) (discuss)
Yeah, But That Book
Bruce Serafin concludes his tribute
to Blood Meridian over at Dooney's:
But though the land was hard,
it contained no evil. Evil existed only in men. In none of my
Westerns did I detect a trace of that theological darkness that
was associated with the landscapes of crime fiction and horror.
The cowboy's world was innocent. Even in Blood Meridian,
where nature's extremes were evoked with an intensity that made
the book one of the five or six greatest novels of the twentieth
century, it was innocent.
Toys for Rich Kids
Kurt Vonnegut is getting
all political again.
My government's got a war on drugs.
But get this: The two most widely abused and addictive and destructive
of all substances are both perfectly legal.
One, of course, is ethyl alcohol.
And President George W. Bush, no less, and by his own admission,
was smashed or tiddley-poo or four sheets to the wind a good deal
of the time from when he was 16 until he was 41. When he was 41,
he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce,
stop gargling nose paint.
Other drunks have seen pink elephants.
More Mints and Candles Are On the Way!
Indigo, being the class act it is, is upping
its point-of-sale consumables. This means even fewer
stuffy old things like "books"...
chief executive officer at Indigo, said yesterday the country's
largest bookseller is looking at a number of new initiatives to
transform it into "a cultural department store," rather
than just a book store that sells other merchandise.
Don't they mean "cultural
departion store?" Um, now that you've killed all the other
booksellers in Canada, Head (may I call you Head, Head?), where
exactly are we going to go to buy BOOKS? (discuss)
Lambda Literary Awards Announced
Christopher Bram received the Gay Men's Fiction Award for Lives
of the Circus Animals, a witty and poignant comedy set in the
New York theater world. The Lesbian Fiction Award went to Nina
Revoyr's Southland, a study of the intersections of race and class
in Los Angeles.
list here. (From Scribbling
Woman who has a
great set of Lambda links here) (discuss)
The Book Quickened, Cheapened
mean instafun! For me this is like removing the waiting period for
gun registration - it will only end in tragedy.
Take a floppy disk
or CD-ROM to Bookends in Ridgewood, N.J., or e-mail the store
a file, and pow! - in as little as 17 minutes a perfect-bound
paperback version of your novel, family memoir, or favorite Bulgarian
desserts can be printed.
Every book comes complete
with a customized cover chosen from among several thousand designs.
For an additional fee, it can also be trademarked and registered
with a machine-readable ISBN number, essential for any author
hoping to get the work stocked by a major chain and on its way
to becoming a best seller.
Of course, the chances of
best-seller status are as likely as sudden world peace. Which
is why Victor Celorio, president of InstaBook in Gainesville,
Fla., created his print-on-demand machine in the first place.
are so outside the norm that they're an anomaly," said Mr.
Celorio, who comes from a long line of inventors. (He says his
uncle created an automated tortilla-making machine.) "Real
bookselling means selling a book here and a book there over a
Why am I so hungry
for Mexican? (discuss)
Judging a Lit Contest Can Put You on (Over?) the Edge
Orange Prize judge talks about reading 71 books in a short period
There were two particularly
low points. One was when I had a run of books about nothing. These
were usually by authors from the US, who have attended prestigious
creative writing courses, often at the University of Iowa. They
are books with 500 pages discussing a subtle but allegedly profound
shift within a relationship. They are books where intricate descriptions
of a man taking a glass out of the dishwasher, taking a tea-towel
off a rail, opening out the tea-towel, then delicately drying
the glass with the tea-towel, before pouring a drink into the
glass, signify that he has just been through a divorce. At one
point, I rang a friend and shouted at her, "I wish some of
these bloody writers would write about Iraq!" Or anywhere
with a bit of politics or meaning.
Nancy Pearl Comes With Gasmask
It would be great if you could change the
finger she uses... Or if the finger could go into her mouth
so she was like Conan the Bulimic Librarian or something. (discuss)
Lad Mags - Gateway to Wanking
It seems Britain too is awash in skeezy
are heaving with magazines devoted to the rough magic of being
a bloke. On first sight you think they are what my friends used
to call scud mags; the girls who adorn the covers - legs wide,
breasts atumble, nipples fit for pegging a couple of wet dufflecoats
on - tend to be among the nearly famous, a tribe of models admired
by laddish editors for their friendly shagability and the hunger
in their eyes. The market for male 'general interest' magazines
has grown massively in the UK, as if young men suddenly needed
to be celebrated and serviced in a new way, as if there were a
new demand among them for reassurance about the wonders of male
normalcy. They look for all this in the way people like Tony Parsons
have taught them, in a spirit of soft-core irony and hard-core
sentiment. But apart from reassurance and a sort of avenging pride,
what are these magazines selling to their readers? With their
grisly combinations of sensitivity and debasement - 'How to Bathe
Your New Baby' v. 'Win the Chance to Pole-Dance with Pamela!'
- it may be time to consider whether these men's magazines aren't
just the latest enlargement on the old fantasy of men having everything
they want to have and finding a way to call it their destiny.
(Who in the name of
all that's holy would actually want to "pole dance" with
Pamela? I'd be afraid her skin would rub off on me or something
and there'd be the carnivorous lizard underneath who eats rodents
like Diana did that time she and her people (mostly Freddy Krueger)
invaded earth and told us it was for water but really it was for
food -- and you COULD SEE the hamster going down her throat! Damn
it was so gross.) (discuss)
Sweet Story About Kunitz and Pears
hope I make it 98. Hell, I already did. It's 2004 and I could
go any time. (discuss)
17,000 Britons Try to Finish Short Stories
In a series to be
broadcast this autumn the writers will get to meet the author
whose story they completed. Each author will select his or her
personal winner, who will receive a hand-bound edition of their
efforts under a joint credit.
island, hundreds of thousands try to finish a hideous melange
of greasy, vinegary battered fish and oil-soaked potatoes wedges.
Gastronomic havoc ensues, death rates continue to rise. (Have you
ever tried to finish some of these writers' short stories? No easy
Angelou in Punch Up Over Crappy Greeting Card Verses
I'd sue her to get OUT of the
Seeks Ambitious Soul
Last chance to get your Litterati entries in! The deadline
is tomorrow. Take a look at our back
list of cartoons and then provide
us a caption for the panel found
"We are all about culture and ideas."
The Toronto Star has a nice little tribute
to Stephen Osborne and Geist magazine.
"Geist expresses a kind
of post-nationalist Canadian nationalism, which is unheard of
in a magazine coming out of the West. That peculiar vision that
is Steve Osborne's ... He encourages his writers to be cosmopolitan
and write about other places but he wants to know what it means
gets involved. And very articulately so.
Now for a mental
exercise. Remember that map of North America after 9/11, with
the vanishing planes? Think of all arts events just disappearing
from the face of the Canadian map. Poof. Gone. No more Stratford
Festival, or Shaw Festival, or Blyth Festival, or Annapolis Royal
festival with its renowned costume ball, or Edmonton Symphony,
or Royal Winnipeg Ballet, or Blue Metropolis, or poetry slams,
or jazz singers, or Canadian literary publishing industry, or
Alanis Morissette, or . . . Feel bereft? Well, hey -- you could
always watch movies. Movies about the Second World War with no
Canadians in them. Why do you need your own art, anyway?
Those calling themselves the Conservatives are really the Body
Snatchers. They've eaten the comfy old Tories and peeled off their
John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker skins and put them on,
and now they're prowling the earth with destruction in their hearts.
When these neo-Cons hear the word Culture, they reach for their
nugs. (Guns turn into nugs when you pretend you didn't want Canada
to join in the invasion of Iraq, although you did, too, want it.)
Be very afraid!
Best Read vs. Best Sellers
Library Journal is releasing a
Best Read list intended to track and record the top book US
library users are borrowing, giving a better sense of what's actually
being read. This should get interesting. (discuss)
"One by one, they massacre them, these poems I love."
The poetry reading as boring terrorism.
Any poetry aficionado
will have had more than their fair share of evenings straining
to catch the words, and drift, of the figure hunched over the
lectern. During a reading by Auden at the South Bank in the 1960s,
Patrick Kavanagh even fell asleep on stage. In my own years of
presenting and promoting the stuff, I've developed a polite smile
that friends tell me later can, at times, look rather fixed. There
was the poet who spent the entire reading jangling the change
in his pockets in a metallic symphony that drowned out all the
words. And the one who, after too many vodkas, lurched up to the
microphone and launched her reading with a loud burp. And the
Aboriginal poet who, if I hadn't started clapping and leapt up
to thank him, would clearly have gone on all night.
Perhaps the nadir is an extraordinary rendering of Fenton's charming
gay love poem, "In Paris with You". Tonight it's given
a spectacularly literal-minded and heterosexual interpretation
and, for some reason, a cockney accent. Sharp and Arbury writhe
together on the floor, pausing for kisses, caresses and more.
"I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,/" intones
Sharp, his face hovering dangerously over Arbury's crotch. "I'm
in Paris with... all points south. / Am I embarrassing you?"
Yes, Mark, Sara-Jane and Pauline, I'm afraid you are.
"I am so bored
I could die." (Now that's synchronicity...)
(From ALDaily) (discuss)
You Mean All that Shrieking MEANS Something?
trials and tribs of a librettist. (discuss)
Lost Me When You Lost the Commas...
cottage industry around Ulysses greater than the book itself?
Is “Ulysses” as great
as its reputation suggests? Some of its 18 episodes are so bizarre
that they might have been written in a secret code, but the narrative
becomes compelling; the language is sharp and brilliantly coloured.
Reading it is hard work, but the book is not inaccessible. It
helps, though, to have a good guide.
Some think the best way to approach it is back to front, starting
with the silent monologue of Molly Bloom, Leopold's wife, and
then turning back to Bloom's catechism in the penultimate episode.
Mrs Bloom's thoughts stream powerfully through her consciousness
for 25,000 unspoken words, without any punctuation at all. In
her soliloquy she contemplates Bloom's flawed character, their
unhappy marriage, her lovers, men's frailty and women's vulnerability.
Her memories are saturated with eroticism.
My eyes still glaze
over at the mere mention of no "punctuation at all." (From
Literary Saloon) (discuss)
Oprah, Patron Saint of the Semi-Literate
Here's a theory: Oprah's only choosing a few books a year now because
it takes her minions that much longer to finish a work of depth.
tender, poorly-written ode is unintentionally funny and revealing...
But I love it that
Oprah is using her money and power in so many positive ways, and
in particular that she's giving priority to encouraging people
to read some classics we may have missed. Anna Karenina was published
126 years ago, but Tolstoy's hefty tome is hardly what I'd call
high-brow literature. Oprah's Web site, for example, describes
it as the "Harlequin Romance of its day." And that,
dear people, is right up Oprah's alley.
The only thing that's
up Oprah's "alley" is Oprah's head. (discuss)
Do We Really Need
More Hatchet Jobs?
The Walrus thinks so, but
it's not an easy task in the CanLit village.
The real reason these writers
didn't want to review their peers was that it's a small community.
The most honest ones would come out and admit as much: writing
a negative review could hurt them in the future, either at grant
time (many grant juries are composed of writers) or when one of
their own books was sent out for review. The least honest would
turn down opportunities to review -- and then publish articles
or give interviews in which they called for higher standards in
It's hard to believe, but a
lot of reporters are more concerned with fame than writers.
The news business often rewards
people who get the story not quite right -- reporters who allow
errors of fact, judgment, and emphasis to subtly shape their work.
I say "subtly" in order to make a distinction. I'm not talking
now about the outright liars and fabricators; they are monstrous
caricatures of a more common and insidious type. I'm talking about
some of the smartest, hardest-working people in the news business,
individuals who have a record of basically getting things right
-- and, in many cases, doing so before anyone else.
with 8 Nominations for the National Magazine Awards, Wins Almost
as Many as 11 Times Nominated The Walrus - Yet Doesn't Exist as
Far as the Media is Concerned
Can you tell I'm
bitter? Sometimes it seems as though the Globe goes out of their
way to ignore us. But I'm happy too. Two
solid awards off eight nominations on our first time out. Very
nice. I was there last night and the cheer for the introduction
of the poetry award was enormous. Thanks to everyone who protested.
Sam Hiyate Continues to Make Ass of Self
engaging article following the process and politics of who will
replace Dennis Lee as poet laureate of Toronto, the punchline comes
from the class clown, of course. One has to wonder why so many articles
about poets and poetry need to end with facetious one-two humour.
Oh wait. I do that too. (discuss)
At last: something in depth about Lynn
Truss's phlegm. (discuss)
Did We Run This Article Last Year?
I feel like I remember the gases. I seldom forget a book eating
gas. But if not, here's a useful primer on how
to care for your books. (discuss)
There Should Be an Emoticon With Green Cheeks and Two Fingers
Shoved Down Its Throat
as poet-genius.* And it's not even that I fully disagree. It's
just that I hate how TIMED and trendy all this is. It's like leg-warmers
- hot in the right situation, but you should only have to live through
their ubiquity once. (discuss)
Ireland, the Boxed Set
the Bloomsday fry-up in Dublin just the latest round in the
Disneyfication of Ireland? Aye.
Now, to the horror
of many intellectuals, it is James Joyce's turn to be repackaged
and mass marketed. That process begins with the aforementioned
'Traditional Denny's Centenary Bloomsday Breakfast', which, despite
its tortuously constructed moniker, is neither traditional nor
Joycean. Instead, it comprises, not mutton kidneys, but a full
Irish fry-up with, as the novelist John Banville witheringly puts
it, 'that quintessential Irish accompaniment - hash browns'. In
this instance, God - or indeed Joyce - is emphatically not in
(P.S. the spellcheck
offered "insemination" in place of Disneyfication... an
all too frightening coincidence.) (discuss)
We're rapidly becoming the source of pen
news here at Bookninja. Which is ironic, considering I use the
computer so much I've actually forgotten how to write. Seriously.
There are, first of all, pros
and cons to each type of pen that you'll want to take into account
when choosing your writing instrument. Ballpoints, which use the
same mechanism as a roll-on antiperspirant, contain an oil-based
ink, which is relatively thick and pastelike. They are water-resistant
and last longer than rollerballs (a typical Bic is good for up
to two miles of writing) but tend to spot and can take a while
to get started. Rollerballs use a thin, water-based ink, which
means not only that they write more smoothly and with less pressure
than ballpoints, but also that they blur when wet and smudge and
bleed in the best of circumstances. Followers of etiquette favor
them over ballpoints for formal correspondence. Gel ink, developed
in the 1980s, is a hybrid of oil- and water-based inks: Gel pens
are water-resistant like ballpoints but write with the smoothness
of rollerballs. They're fade-proof and thus good for archival
projects, but they smudge egregiously before they dry.
Working for the Week End Rhyme
Mysteriously silent ninja and Maisonneuve star columnist Zach Wells
greasy-fingered work of the blue-collar poet. (discuss)
Little Mag Wins Big
Border Crossings won
the President's Medal at the NMAs on Friday. The woman who accepted
was very kind and gracious and articulate, if somewhat quiet. Sounds
like the magazine. (discuss)
Divided by Pi
Yann on life
after the Booker.
to dwarf you," he said. "They reduce you to insignificance.
Prairies elevate you, they heighten your sense of who you are
without making you arrogant. And because it's so isolated, because
the climate is harsh, you reach out to others. There's a sense
of the importance of relationships, which might account for the
political history of this province -- we need to help each other,
we can't just get by on our own."
Bardot, the Picture of Tolerance, Fined for Hate Lit
How could a
face like that hate?? (discuss)
McWhiney's Cartoon Issue?
The Brits take
issue with issue.
One of the last editors
of the old Punch, before it was revived, briefly, into a kind
of living death by Mohamed al- Fayed, rather usefully coined the
collective noun for cartoonists as a "whinge". Cartoonists
aren't the only group of artists who moan ceaselessly about the
neglect and ingratitude the towering edifices of their genius
suffer at the hands of editors, publishers and the public; poets,
obviously, are just as bad. It's just that cartoonists do it better
than anyone else.
Except that comics aren't and shouldn't be respectable. The closest
they should come to the adult world is as a kind of foul-mouthed,
filthy-minded and grubby adolescence, with adolescents of all
ages duly sequestered in that teenage bedroom and, between bouts
of what teenagers do, thumbing through thin, flimsy funnies instead
of damaging their wrists trying to hold this latest over-weighty,
I Would Walker 500 Miles
My friend in New York has a huge crush on both Rebecca Walker and
her butch, rock star partner. It's easy to see why when you read
I am at a point where
I want to explore the possibility of being a writer who is deeply
mindful of the importance of taking care of people, and holding
them in a way that isn't harmful. I don't know if it's possible,
but I am going to try.
(She literally goes
mute with lust when she sees either of them in the East Village...)
Ninja fav Found
Magazine profiled via book review. (discuss)
The Etgar Keret Roundup
Everyone is talking about Etgar Keret's new
book, so I thought I'd link to some of his older stories and
nonfiction for those of you unfamiliar with him:
Interview with Etgar Keret"
"Fatso" and "Halibut" (audio versions)
Sense of Warring Narratives"
in 600 Words or Less"
CanLit Hold 'Em
Toro puts Timothy Taylor, Steven Galloway, Kevin Chong,
Lee Henderson, Rick Maddocks and Kevin Kerr into a room and lets
them live out every
writer's dream of playing high-stakes poker. Well, high stakes
Tonight's poker is pugilistic.
Unlike previous nights, there's no bluffing, and when a guy hits
you, he hits hard. No one wants to lose chips playing foolishly.
I get dealt a pair of pocket tens and finally put real money on
the table. On the flop, another ten appears, and now my three-of-a-kind
is horrifyingly good, enough for me to feel nauseous. I raise
and scare out everyone but Kerr, who calls, then folds at the
turn. I win about ten dollars. Hours later, I haven't won a single
other hand. Then I get my jacks and Galloway pulls out a full
house. He asks, "Did anyone think when we decided to play 'last
man standing' there'd ever be less men standing?"
(Click "Red-hot Poker" for the
Suicide Girls --
Suicide Girls, an online
mix of nude, tattooed, pierced girls; interviews with writers and
other artists; and cultural news (I've heard it called a 21st-century
version of Playboy, but that doesn't quite capture it), now
has a book.
Definitely not worksafe, unless you work for eye
weekly. (I used to proofread for eye, and a large
part of my job was checking porn sites to check up on our columnists'
references. Nothing like sipping a latte at 10 a.m. and watching
enema fetish videos online while shiny new interns watch you out
of the corners of their eyes, wondering if you actually work there,
and what exactly they've gotten themselves into.)
The link comes from
Fleshbot, which also introduces
us to bardcore
-- hot Shakespeare porn videos. Even more comical is the wacky collection
of article titles by this prof
who specializes in Shakespeare smut. (discuss)
What do you do when even the "liberal" media doesn't
question the government?
On May 26, the New York Times
published a lengthy editors' note belatedly acknowledging that
the paper's pre-war coverage "was not as rigorous as it should
have been." According to the note, which appeared at the bottom
of page A10, accounts of Iraqi defectors were not analyzed with
sufficient skepticism, and "articles based on dire claims about
Iraq tended to get prominent display" while follow-up articles
that called the original ones into question "were sometimes buried.
In some cases, there was no follow-up at all."
Everything You Ever
Wanted to Know About Pinocchio
didn't want to tell you.
In other words, his story will
be grounded not in a world of high-flown fantasy but in the harsh
economic realities of working-class life in Italy in the late
nineteenth century. It is a place of constant, grinding poverty,
eased only by love and self-sacrifice. Pinocchio begins life as
a rebellious, inconsiderate, self-centered little boy who disobeys
adults and disregards rules, always with dangerous results. Instead
of going to school, for instance, he sells the schoolbook Geppetto
has bought him and buys a ticket to the puppet theater. There
he is entrapped by the terrifying Puppet-Master and nearly burned
alive on a kitchen fire.
Willingness to work and sacrifice
himself for others is Pinocchio's eventual salvation. At the theater
he escapes death when he impulsively offers himself as a substitute
for another doomed puppet, briefly touching the Puppet-Master's
heart. His final transformation is the result of his agreeing
to work long hours at an exhausting job to earn money for his
ailing foster father, Geppetto, and his supernatural mother, the
The History of Writer's
The New Yorker has an informative piece on writer's
block. Apparently it's mainly a North American phenomenon.
In the United States, the golden
age of artistic inhibition was probably the period immediately
following the Second World War, which saw the convergence of two
forces. One was a sudden rise in the prestige of psychoanalysis.
The second was a tremendous surge in ambition on the part of American
artists -- a lot of talk about the Great American Novel and hitting
the ball out of the park. Some of those hopes were fulfilled.
The fifties were a thrilling decade in American literature (Norman
Mailer, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee
Williams). But, as the bar rose, so did everyoneís anxiety, and
the doctor was called. Many, many writers went into psychoanalysis
in those years, and they began writing about the relationship
of art and neurosis. Early on, in 1941, came Edmund Wilson's book
The Wound and the Bow, which reinvoked the ancient Greek
formula of the mad genius. After discussing the psychological
harm suffered in childhood by Dickens, Kipling, and others, Wilson
concluded that "genius and disease, like strength and mutilation,
may be inextricably bound up together."
RIP: Jack McClelland
of McClelland & Stewart dead
at 81. (discuss)
Truss's Top 10 Books for Writers
Of course, I own several
of these books and use them every day. They hold doors open
and prop up disabled furniture.
7. The Elements
of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White
The classic American style guide, with its emphasis on "cleanliness,
accuracy and brevity" and teaches "Omit needless words!"
Marvellously out of touch with modern usage, it won't allow "contact"
as a verb. The entry for "clever" reads: "Note
that the word means one thing when applied to people, another
when applied to horses. A clever horse is a good-natured one,
not an ingenious one." Well, I didn't know that.
Toronto Book Awards
Great summer reading!
And don't forget your candles, mints, and magnetic things! (From
He's the One They Call Dr. Feelgood
It turns out some publicity is bad publicity after all
(though I wouldn't know after my last book...). Apparently, this
Christian "doctor" was telling patients that if they
bought his books and tapes (mostly about Armageddon, as Xtian books
seem to be) they could get extra prescriptions. Chrissies, like
their god, are so giving and so taketh awaying. (discuss)
USernational Booker Prize
Wood in New York Magazine (huh?) about prizes.
Prizes are the new
reviews. Prizes now do the old business of literary selection
and evaluation, the croupier’s rake that sorts the winners from
the losers. We are choking on prizes: At the back of their books,
the biographies of famous authors have become nothing more than
congested lists of prizes—essentially, an accountant’s happy column
of monies received. It is becoming hard to find a writer who has
not won a prize.
Um... Hello!? (discuss)
JK Rowling: Donut Shop Writer
billionaire still sits in a cafe to write. Of course, the omlette
uses Dodo eggs and the coffee is made of actual Colombians. (discuss)
Dismissive, but at least different, article*
about the origins of Bloomsday. (discuss)
Just Keep Your "Inner Weather" Inner, Buddy
Quinn interviews Vijay Seshadri. (discuss)
"It's kind of like being struck by lightning but it's
On the strength of that remark, someone should yank that $100G
Lilly prize right out of her hands. (discuss)
11 Books for a Penny? (Oh, and Your Soul, Mwahahaha!)
club pesters 93-year-old blind woman with credit threats for
a £30 book she neither ordered nor received. Who knew Death
had changed his outfit from the robe and scythe to a pinstripe accounts
payable suit and cheap cologne. (I heard they recently added a new
ring to Hell. It's called "the Columbia House and Readers'
Digest Day Spa" and its motto is "Come for the Stiletto
Facial, Stay for the Molten Lava Bath".) (From Moorish
Harvard Thesis on Faulkner
At first I thought this
was a joke, but he did mention it in his commencement
speech. This is why I avoided writing anything in grad school.
(From Language Hat) (discuss)
My People! Take
Me Back to the Mothership With You!
day in the life of OED editors. I so want this to be an actual
On Monday I edited my way through
eighteen entries, from pinkishness to pinlock. En route I found
six new antedatings, including a 1917 example of the verb pink-slip
(meaning to fire someone, and previously only known from 1953);
I also learned that it is better to be pinkish (fit, well) than
a pinkling (a weak or delicate youth), that pink lady cocktails
can be made with cream instead of egg white, and that in Australia
drinking too many such alcoholic beverages may make one pinko.
the Literary Version of Invented Holidays like Valentine's/Mother's/Father's
Days. After this Year, Hallmark is Sure to Take Over
(I wasn't going to link, but JB shamed me into it.) (discuss)
Newsflash: BookExpo One Hundred Per Cent
Fiction and Non-Fiction
According to long,
gossipy article, no other genres apparently exist. Highlight
of show is Heather Reisman with torch ceremoniously setting ablaze
a gasoline soaked pile of poetry and drama in an effort to exterminate
it once and for all and save the book industry from art. (discuss)
A Computer Program to Write a Novel?
No, it's not Christian... It's your worst
WORST nightmare. (Think of this puppy flying off the shelves
and the flagrant abuse of slush piles two years later.... Egad!)
Hitching a Read
Here's a page full of mp3s of Douglas
Adams reading from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (From Incoming
Gallery of Pain
Maud links to a
great gallery of rejection letters. It looks like a checklist
for my filing cabinet. (discuss)
Newsflash: Rowling to End Potter Series in Favour of Chasing
"For many years,
writing the Harry Potter books was the most important thing in
Joanne's life," said publicist Mark Knowles, who is "just
good friends" with Rowling. "She's been experiencing
a lot of changes lately. She still wants to keep in touch with
her fans, but she doesn't feel she can sit in a room at her computer
all day while there are so
many cute boys running around."
Many of Rowling's fans disapprove of the author's decision to
quit writing the Harry Potter series. Some here also complained
about the amount of makeup Rowling has begun to wear, her choice
of friends, and her recent decision to get her belly button pierced.
The Bigge Bagel
is writing a Montreal
diary using the Fibonacci Sequence as a guide. No, I don't understand
it, but I like Montreal, so I'll keep checking back. (discuss)
More Candles! And
Yoga Mats! And Yoga Candles!
Eye Weekly calls for somebody
to do something about Chapters/Indigo.
Now that Reisman has made it clear
that though she's been a reader since she was "literally a child"
and likes to read both biography and non-fiction, she fully intends
to make the Canadian Bookstore as extinct as she's made the Commercially
Viable Canadian Publisher, it's time we, through our government
reps, stepped in and set a few limits on this runaway underseller.
I've pretty much given
up on buying books at Chapters/Indigo. If it's not brand new and
from a big publisher, they're not going to have it. The one exception
I've noted is the Vancouver Chapters on Robson. It's got one of
the best fiction sections I've seen -- it's where I discovered Matthew
Derby. Good people there. I can also buy smoked salmon at that Chapters,
but I never have. (discuss)
Money for Nothing,
and the Chicks for Free
Jim Munroe defends
Canada's system of arts grants.
Arts grants fund the R&D wing
of our cultural operations. Just like research and development
in the scientific community, this allows for new methodologies
and new strategies to be investigated without having to turn a
profit. But in science, experimentation is a valued part of the
process. When an artist is called "experimental," it's often derogatory.
There's this idea that if it's not understandable to a mass audience
or a layperson, it's fraudulent.
not a loophole and that sort of U.S.-style fearmongering isn't a
cultural policy and as Canadians we deserve better."
gather to call attention to the lack of focus on cultural issues
in the current political debate.
The gathering was
organized by the Toronto branch of ACTRA, the actors' union. It
was also addressed by performers Wendy Crewson, Shirley Douglas,
Gary Farmer, Jessica Holmes, Sarah Polley, Leah Pinsent, Fiona
Reid, Mag Ruffman, Tonya Lee Williams, Nicholas Campbell, Rick
Mercer and novelist Susan Swan.
My question, and a
question emailed to me by several others, is: where are the writing
organizations in all this? What has the Writers' Union done to educate
the candidates on behalf of their membership? What has the League
done? Have they already admitted defeat? They're supposed to represent
their membership in this forum, yet there's been scarcely a word.
What are they being paid for? Webpages for members? A Conservative
government will likely treat arts and culture like an appendectomy
- a cure all excision for the abdominal pain of budget. Yet these
organizations haven't even laid out a plan to their membership for
what they'll do if this happens, much less tried to stop it. The
Union's website says:
"The Union regularly represents writers' interests by making
presentations to the Canadian government on matters such as inequitable
taxation, copyright, the state of the book industry, detrimental
international trade agreements, and other issues of concern."
Um, when? I'm pretty concerned. The latest
briefs to the government are dated September 2003 and the
latest politically motivated press releases are from January
of this year. If they are indeed doing something about all this,
they're not doing a very good job of letting people know. This is
why I, and others like me, don't join these organizations. They're
not only out-gunned, they're outmoded and, it seems, out to lunch.
On your dime. (I would love to have to retract this statement. Rather
than being offended by this, please do something to make me eat
my words.) (discuss)
That's the Problem with "Opportunistic Poets"...
They're everywhere. There are usually several remoras for each great
white. Bookbabe Michele Agnew's great blog Thoughts
Dissected posted some
dissected thoughts about the Gwendolyn MacEwen Park fet in Toronto.
Big-time poets read and the small fries tagged along hoping for
a taste from the chum bucket. I myself had posted a comment on Michele's
blog about how MacEwan is a particularly abused stepstool. I'm mixing
metaphors here, but apparently the
organizer of the reading agrees. (discuss)
Being Bilingual Saves Your Brain
As I see it there are two
news stories here: one, so this is how Quebeccers (many of whom
are tri-lingual in English, French and Joual) who smoke three packs
a day manage to hang on so long, and two, there's something important
being studied at York University? (From Language
More Work Lit
After ninja Zach's blue-collar
poets bit on Monday, AN
Wilson follows up with a look at Orwell's commitment to reporting
on the plight of the common man:
In his direct reportage
of what life was actually like for working-class people in the
depressed industrial districts of northern England, Orwell has
no rival. Who, having read The Road to Wigan Pier, can ever forget
his description of a coal miner's working day, in which he points
out that in order to start a seven-and-a-half-hour shift, the
miner has to make a subterranean journey of at least an hour,
sometimes several hours, through dark, low dripping passages?
Ba-bum ba-bum ba-bum ba-bum... the Libraries Grow
Joyce Carole Oates, the woman who writes at the speed of a heartbeat,
(120 books and counting...) (From Rake's
More Jack McClelland
This one's at least
not just a list of accomplishments and dates. (discuss)
The Web is the Way to Go
Painted Bride knew
this before almost anyone else.
“We're taking money
out of the argument,” said Senior Editor Daniel Nester in my interview
with him one Sunday afternoon in early November. Nester echoed
Wrenn's view that poetry subsists, and will likely always subsist,
in a “gift economy,” borrowing Lewis Hyde's term from The
Gift: Imagination & the Erotic Life of Property. That
is, because literary publications historically do not make money,
the greater objective becomes distribution, passing the gift of
poetry to the largest number of readers possible. Having weighed
the pros and cons of print and Web -- reading a hand-held book
versus viewing a computer screen, the rise in reputable Webzines,
increased Internet access and literacy -- PBQ's 15-member, two-city
editorial team easily reached their consensus to go electronic
sometime in 1998 when faced with yet another full double-issue
Painted Bride Quarterly “all dressed up but with no place to go.”
British children not
taught to love books, toothbrushes. (I kid because I love.)
Hip-Hop Shifts from Focus on Dead Presidents to Focus on
of Hip-Hop will be televised. (discuss)
This is a Joke, Right?
I've been fooled before, but here goes anyway: The secret life of
Newt Gingrich, Amazon
Reviewer. Funny, I would have thought him the polar opposite
of anything Amazonian... (From ALDaily)
Books and Booze
my desk. (From Maud)
Neal Pollack Wants
You... to Pray
When even the
fundamentalists turn against Bush, you know the U.S. has problems.
President Bush prays every night
as well, and sometimes during the day. David Aikman's book, A
Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush, tells
the story of a courier making an important delivery to the Oval
Office only to find the president "lying prostrate on the floor
in prayer." The very image gives me the chills, but if you're
a true believer, you might find it warming.
Is Supposed to Suck
It has something
to do with marketing. Maybe that explains why I never buy anything.
Today, Garfield the comic
strip appears in nearly 2,600 newspapers around the globe, and
its readership is estimated at 260 million. If the readership
number is right, then 4 percent of the world's population reads
Garfield every single day. Garfield products -- sold in
111 countries -- rake in between $750 million and $1 billion each
year. This was not accidental: Davis meticulously plotted Garfield's
success. And part of his calculation was to make the strip so
inoffensive that it's hard to hate it even for being anodyne.
Personally, I don't
think the readership number is right. Who reads the comics pages
in newspapers? (From Snarkout)
Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar
Ben Jelloun takes the IMPAC.
Why No One Cares about Lynn Truss's Colon
As most of you know, Crouching Ninja
Peter is a word nerd of the highest caliber. Pretty much daily
he sends me withering emails about my posts, and he can get quite
rough (the latest an unapologetically terse line tacked on to the
end of an otherwise civilized email - BTW: "fete" not
"fet"). So when Truss's book was coming out, Pete spent
all night in line outside a local bookstore (alone, of course) only
to find that the book was so basic it was useless to him. Same
situation for this fellah. And he believes no one else who matters
will really learn from it either.
Some people botch
their punctuation because they lack a proper education, typically
because they lack sufficient money to acquire one. Some of them
botch it because English is their second language, and you never
know your second language as well as your first. But the bulk
of them don't know because they don't care. I wish they did, but
they don't. And unless they plan on earning their living as writers,
it isn't likely to hold them back very much, if at all.
So why did everyone
buy it? Because it's the latest talisman to ward off the stupid
Neruda Properly Feted
fete* fetes him quite well, as fetes go.
to be a tendency to decaffeinate Neruda, to take away his political
edge and just leave the poet who wrote about nature and love,"
said José Miguel Varas, a friend of Neruda who last year
published "Neruda Clandestino," an account of the years
the poet lived as an underground dissident in the 1950s. "Now
we have gotten beyond that. We have come to appreciate the entirety
of his character. Like any human being, he had his contradictions."
Cowboys and Idioms
make use of British idioms. (In the case of Tony Blair, "idioms"
should be spelled with a "t" instead of an "m".)
Anatomy of a Bestseller List
How do so many books make it to different bestseller
lists, and for that matter, how come most bestseller lists aren't
the same. It has to do with publishers keeping quiet on sales.
The reason for all
this secrecy is itself the worst-kept secret in the literary world:
Hardly anyone buys books. Hyping a book as a "national best
seller" creates an illusion of momentum and critical consensus
that the phrase "over 25,000 copies sold"—which would
actually be a pretty good figure for literary fiction sales in
hardcover—does not. Thus, the industry's modesty is protected
by the fig leaf of relative sales: The current No. 1 on every
fiction list is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, but there's no
way to tell from the ranking whether it is selling 1,000 copies
a week or 1 million.
The publishers' unwillingness to part with hard data forces those
who compile best-seller lists to aggregate point-of-sale figures
from booksellers across the country. It would be prohibitively
difficult to survey every bookseller in the United States, so
list-makers survey a sample of them and extrapolate to estimate
national sales figures. Since each compiler tries to capture the
truest picture of overall book sales by drawing on its own data
pool and employing its own methodology for extrapolating national
figures, the major best-seller lists rarely agree.
This is why our plans
to start a poetry bestseller list never really got off the ground.
At one point I said, be ready to find out the bestselling book of
poetry in Canada is by Rumi, and that the bestselling Canadian book
only sold twelve copies this week. It's frankly better that we don't
Term of Endearment?
Varsity sports are creepy enough to begin with. They're filled with
frat people. Ew. But getting the (female) president of a university
involved in testifying on behalf of football players accused of
sexual assault, creepier still, especially when under intense questioning
about the use of the word "cunt" she tries to say its
meaning is contextual and it can be a "term of endearment".
Then the backpedalling begins and she drags Chaucer in. The poor
More Dylan via Ricks For Those Who Actually Care
I published a Father's
Day roundup in the Ottawa Citizen. (discuss)
Think Your Life
Will Change When You Sell Your Novel?
It will, but probably
not for the better.
"I want more than anything
else in my life to be published -- to read my reviews and to see
people buying my book. That would be a thrill on a par with losing
my virginity, getting married and getting my first job." So said
a student on a well-known creative writing course, but sadly the
likelihood is that at the end of the process she will feel more
like she has caught a nasty STD, discovered her partner in bed
with her sister and seen her employer go bust on pay day. Signing
that elusive publishing contract can often be the beginning of
recurrent nightmares rather than of dreams coming true.
of an Idiosyncratic Mind) (discuss)
knew vanilla had such a colourful history?
This is a robust foundation for
a superstructure of globalised trade in a very valuable commodity.
People die, people cheat, fortunes are made and lost, companies
have interesting history: all this happens and Tim Ecott is there
to tease out its meaning -- with a ready writing style, energetic
research and wide reading. He needed energy and determination
because dealing in vanilla seems much akin to international espionage
and/or gun running. Quiet Americans in sharp suits wander the
globe with infinite amounts of cash in hand striking deals with
shadowy suppliers, middlemen and fixers. Their movements are kept
secret, for fear of upsetting the price or attracting rivals intent
on spoiling the bargain. Stocks are guarded in bombproof sheds
by private armies of heavies (at $400 a kilo, a shedload means
riches). And all this in a region of decidedly shaky politics.
I always liked Christopher
Marlowe -- I found his characters had a little more psychological
depth for me than Shakespeare's. If I had to pick a favourite though,
it would be John
Webster. The Duchess
of Malfi was the best thing to hit English theatre until
In reality, of course, it was
Marlowe who died at 29, leaving behind only seven plays, while
Shakespeare lived to the ripe old age of 52. Marlowe's reputation
is further shadowed by the fact that Shakespeare deliberately
re-imagined each of his major plays (in an act of "anxiety of
influence" much studied by Harold Bloom), reducing Marlowe's works
to the unhappy status of precursors. Yet as the new Penguin Classics
edition of his plays shows, Marlowe was far more than a failed
or forestalled Shakespeare. He was an entirely different kind
of writer: narrower and less gifted than Shakespeare (who wasn't?),
but for that very reason more pungently personal. To read Shakespeare
is to enter a universe; to read Marlowe is to meet an individual
Need a sci-fi font? How about a buccaneer font? Or Lord of
the Rings? This is the place
for you. (From Boing Boing)
Your worst nightmare or your dream
site? You all come here, so I must only cross your mind when
you're awake. I find it intensely interesting and a fantastic example
of what focused blogging can do. An education conducted in public.
(From Languagehat) (discuss)
What's Bred in the Bone
Jeannette Winterson interviewed.
I think books were
not important in my house, we only had six and one of those was
the Bible and the other was the Concordance to the Bible. But
I loved books from an early age. I found in them whole other worlds
which were not possible to me, and which were denied to me in
this tiny restricted, small home town with the religious fervour
wrapped round it. And I used to smuggle books in and out of the
house so that my mother couldn't find out, so I'd hide them under
the bed. And if you have a single bed, you'll discover you can
fit 77 per layer under the mattress. But my bed was rising visibly,
and I thought one day she'll notice that I'm sleeping closer to
the ceiling than to the floor. And indeed, one day she did, and
she burned the books.
Flesh-Wolfing Slaughterhouse Magnate Meets Hairy-Legged
Vegan - Ah, Electric!
Romance novels apparently aren't
bodice rippers anymore. Mostly because the majority of women
reading them couldn't even fantasize about possibly fitting into
a bodice, me thinks, perhaps unpopularly. (From PFW)
"Who knew there were superstar librarians?"
The Bookninjas, that's who!
"Everything I've ever written is really about an area
of 20 square miles"
John Kinsella profiled.
Kinsella's most recent
book, Peripheral Light, is a selection of his poems with
an introduction by American critic Harold Bloom, to whom one of
the poems is dedicated. Bloom traces Kinsella's development as
a poet from the lyrical early poems to his densely concentrated
later poems, and notes an abiding pessimism. But what Bloom reads
as pessimism is perhaps more protest, an intended goad to action.
"Ninety-five percent of what religions teach is valuable,
good and true, but 5 percent is not that. It's a mistake and it
Um, I'd like to see your sources for those stats... Ladies and gentlemen,
introducing the NEW
GOD (aka, God2000 v2.0). Redesigned to match your new age furniture!
S/he's the God you've been looking for!
For Walsch, that
means letting go of "yesterday's God" -- as in an omnipotent
and separate entity from humanity. For Walsch, God represents
Creation itself. "Tomorrow's God," as described in the
book, is without the characteristics of an individual living being;
separate from nothing; and "the extraordinary process called
"Tomorrow's God says that every church is 'his church,' and
every faith is 'her faith,' and every soul is God's soul, because
it shares the same soul with God!" Walsch writes. "And
no person or living thing in the universe stands outside the community
So, basically you're
saying we should all become Quakers? Have you ever read anything
about Quakers? Besides the hippy cum spiritual guide thing, they're
probably the only stomachable religion on the planet. I'm in. Pass
the Birkenstocks, friend. (But if I see even ONE crystal or tarot
card, I'm going Old Testament Lucifer on your ass. Got me?) (discuss)
of alphabet books. (From Maud
who got it from Woodslot)
And You Think I'm
I was disappointed with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, but my
disappointment was nowhere near the level of the New Yorker's.
The first punctuation mistake
in Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
(Gotham; $17.50), by Lynne Truss, a British writer, appears in
the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded
by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there. Eats, Shoots
& Leaves presents itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning
rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon,
a stickler for the rules of writing. But it's hard to fend off
the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax.
How Would I Know
Which Writers to Avoid Reading?
Ever wondered about the point of a byline
strike? Ever noticed one?
Byline strikes have become a popular
form of protest -- there have been more than 10 at large newspapers
in the last two years -- and they're probably prevalent because
they offer reporters a way to go on strike without actually risking
their jobs. As the American Journalism Review noted last
year, regular newspaper strikes have become increasingly dangerous,
since today's large newspaper corporations are capable of easily
replacing striking workers. Byline strikes, on the other hand,
are often explicitly permitted in union contracts that give a
reporter the right to control his or her byline.
I was surfing Artbomb
the other day and I got kind of a chuckle out of the Superidol
comic by Warren Ellis
and Colleen Doran. (discuss)
The Escher Alphabet
Someone's gone through the trouble to create a tessellating
alphabet. (From Metafilter)
to Shuriken the Vote
picks offer both an alternative to the raging terror of the
current campaign and a rock-solid statistical picture of which CanLit
character will be our next PM. Vote
now! Vote often! (discuss)
Ray Bradbury has Officially Reached Crotchethood
And now he's Wubblewoo's chief demographic, it appears. Old, white,
rich man. He's angry that Michael
Moore stole the title for Fahrenheit
9/11. Can Moore help it if Bradbury has lived longer than copyright
should allow? (discuss)
"Depending on how the election goes, I could just be
heading out to the dark heart of Mordor."
Bök, cöwpöke. (It's like sending a rabid timberwolf
into a henhouse full of blind, legless chickens... Good luck, Calgary.
Good luck, Christian! Throw the fucking ring in the lava, man!)
Griffin List Could Have Been, Says Sutherland
I've heard this
before somewhere... Now where
Hard questions must
be asked. Was the national short list the best that last year's
Canadian poetry output could muster? I doubt it.
Webb says that not all of the more than 400 books submitted were
sent to her. In reducing the entries to a manageable number for
the judges to discuss, how was the screening done, and who did
it? We're not told.
Is anyone else disturbed
by the alleged pre-selection that seems to have gone on before the
jury received books for review? Is anyone on the inside who can
explain this to us? If so: (discuss)
The Writer's Life
There is a common
myth about writers - namely, that we can do what we do anywhere,
anytime, without having to worry about the kinds of things that
the rest of you worry about: health and safety, air conditioning,
overtime, childcare, the photocopier, the boss with the evil eye.
It is widely believed that all we need is something to write with,
something to write on, and a reasonable relationship with that
sentimental disorder known as inspiration. That we can move home
in an instant, drift in and out of different cities and cultures
like elegant spores, flowering every so often with a nice new
Personally, I think
of myself more as a virus than a
Birds Without Wings
Otherwise known as the Murray family Christmas turkey. (Can't they
just breed those meatless nubs off?) Louis
de Bernières, in part responsible for providing Nicolas
Cage with another role to squander, has after 10 years come out
with a follow up to Captain Corelli's Mandolin. A hush
has fallen over large parts of the artistic nowhere inhabited by
Oprah's Army of Mediocrity. (Stonking?) (discuss)
Yes, but Can You Be More Specific...
Peck wants to save us all from contemporary fiction.
What does Peck want
from living fiction? Less "conceptual air" and more
substantive text. Less "Freshman Comp" and more meaningful
language. Less technique and more heart. Less pretention and more
honesty. Writers writing less for each other and more for the
reader. Gay fiction and black women's fiction that quits boxing
itself in by investing in tired "assumptions based on a writer's
As a poet, I'm already
saved. Hallelujah! (discuss)
A Yen for Feminism
The Japanese have finally put
a woman on their money, instead of putting money on their women...
Note: Not About Screwing
No, keep reading. It may get dirty soon. Praise
for older book, In Praise of Older Women. (discuss)
Journalist with Inferiority Complex Reviews Palahniuk's
negative review, Chuck comes off pretty darn good.
"If you haven't
noticed, all my books are about a lonely person looking for some
way to connect with people ...What's funny is, you'd be amazed
at the amount of time a novelist has to spend with people in order
to create this single lonely voice. This seemingly isolated world."
Someone might want
to get the reviewer and pair of tongs to search for the cork. (discuss)
What the Hell Are
Karl Siegler, publisher of Talon Books, is
pissed at the Danforth Review.
What, exactly, are Mr. Neilson's
qualifications as a "poetry editor?" Are they academic? Are they
editorial credits (other than for TDR, of course)? Are
they publication credits? His "bio" says he's published ONE CHAPBOOK
with a small press?!? Excuse me, with that kind of publication(s)
credit list, at his age, what does he base his own critical credibility
in poetry and poetics on? The fact that he (like so many other
aspiring wannabes in the craft) has published "many" individual
poems in "literary magazines," in his 'special' case, not just
in Canada, but "also in the UK?" Are we still in the colonial
1950s here? Does publication of even the most occasional ephemera
outside Canada, especially in a country that's one of Canada's
former colonial masters, automatically confer a patina of credibility
on the "critic" in question? Has anyone at TDR ever heard
of the phrase "post-colonial?" Or is TDR, as an institution,
still adrift in the fascist-imperialist flotsam & jetsam of "modernism?"
Cory Doctorow has a piece in Wired about the legacy
of Isaac Asimov and the new I, Robot film.
Isaac Asimov wrote some 500 novels
and short stories in his lifetime, and more than a thousand nonfiction
essays. He was a gentleman. A scientist. A mensch. He graciously
received the fans that flocked to him at conventions, giving each
a moment of his time. He penned dozens of stories devoted to androids
with positronic brains, a term he invented to suggest an intelligent
being, and coined the neologism robotics in the process. He lent
his name to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (now
published as Asimov's) and answered correspondence in the
magazine's letters column from its founding in 1977 until his
death 15 years later. The magazine has won more Hugos, science
fiction's greatest honor, than any other publication in the history
of the genre. Asimov's is the first place that many writers
(myself included) ever approached with a story idea.
Badges? We Don't
Need No Stinkin' Badges!
The Ottawa Citizen asked Canada's top constitutional
experts what they thought of the Conservative platform. The answer:
get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmmbbbbbllllleeeeee!
The Conservative platform is a
legal minefield that contains at least 12 items that either violate
the Charter of Rights, are ripe for serious court challenges or
would require amendments to the Constitution, say several of Canada's
top constitutional experts.
Scout via Maisonneuve)
Just When I Thought
America Couldn't Get Any Stranger
Salon reports a
bunch of senators crowned Reverend Moon in a secret ceremony.
You probably imagine your congressman
hard at work in the Capitol debating legislation, making laws
-- you know, governing. But your newspaper probably didn't tell
you that one night in March, members of Congress hosted a crowning
ritual for an ex-convict and multibillionaire who dressed up in
maroon robes and declared himself the Second Coming.
On March 23, the Dirksen Senate
Office Building was the scene of a coronation ceremony for Rev.
Sun Myung Moon, owner of the conservative Washington Times
newspaper and UPI wire service, who was given a bejeweled crown
by Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill. Afterward, Moon told his bipartisan
audience of Washington power players he would save everyone on
Earth as he had saved the souls of Hitler and Stalin -- the murderous
dictators had been born again through him, he said. In a vision,
Moon said the reformed Hitler and Stalin vouched for him, calling
him "none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord
and True Parent."
Welcome to the vaguely futuristic world of ten years ago. The
slush pile goes digital.
While it's long
been part of the culture of the romance-novel business to accept
unsolicited proposals, some publishers are making the process
easier. News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers, for instance, accepts
e-mail pitches on its romance Web site -- and gets a mind-numbing
10,000 online queries annually. "We're starting to get them
from other countries, sometimes in broken English," says
Morrow/Avon Executive Editor Carrie Feron. E-queries have arrived
from Italy, eastern Europe and Asia.
At least a few top editors are frankly irked. Diana Baroni, an
executive editor at Time Warner's Warner Books imprint, says she
deletes e-mail queries as soon as they arrive. "I don't know
how they get my e-mail address, but I'm getting so many I don't
I can't promise you
we'll respond to everything you send here, but I can promise you
we'll likely not read it. (From Publishers Lunch) (discuss)
Hill and Billy
How to survive the two
writer household blues.* (discuss)
Point of Note: Fat Conspiracy Theorists Use Libraries
Journal's Best-Borrowed list is topped by Da Vinci Code
and South Beach Diet. (discuss)
More McClelland Encomium
to Macleans makes my teeth ache, I guess it's a step up from
Known as "Jake"
to his wartime naval buddies, McClelland risked his life captaining
a torpedo boat in the English Channel. "I lived every day
as if it was the last," he once said. "I had fun all
the bloody time." The appetites for danger and fun never
left him. In the staid world of Canadian publishing, McClelland's
tolerance for risk was unheard of. He didn't merely raise the
industry's temperature -- he changed its climate. Taking command
of M&S from his teetotaller father in 1952, the charming,
golden-haired, chain-smoking heir revolutionized it, launching
authors' careers on oceans of liquor. He transformed the cozily
self-styled "Home of Good Books" (largely imported)
into "The Canadian Publishers."
Michael Moore vs. Ray Bradbury
The quickest, messiest wrestling match ever. Splat. Moore's
doing everything he can to not say, "Listen, old man -
I'm doing something important in THIS century... so buzz off."
Bradbury, on the other hand, is taking one last stab at selling
the old workhorse Fahrenheit 451. (Surely everybody on
the planet has a copy by now... Are people losing them? Burning
them? Why do they keep republishing it?) (From PFW)
Languagehat points to
of "findable" terms.
This website is being
developed as a record of new and evolving words and phrases in
the English language, with special reference to UK English usage.
One of its prime aims is to act as a repository for new words
and phrases which are not otherwise listed on the Net - or at
least not found by Search Engines. Hence the working title: Dictionary
of Findable Words and Phrases.
At the Risk of Waking the Sleeping Idiotbeast...
Remember those U*L*A guys? (I put the asterisks in because they
routinely google themselves and they're like all vermin, hard to
get rid of.) Well, normally I would let them rot in the purgatory
of their little fedora-wearing, nerds-turned-badass world, but I
blog piece about them and their "methods" was quite
articulate, if somewhat late on the scene. (From TEV)
Dylan Holdout Remains Unwon
For someone who thinks the attention that Ricks's Oxford chair has
dumped on Dylan is scandalous, I sure give a lot of column space
to the mumbling man himself,
Cherish the cultural
moment: Just as Bob Dylan sells his soul for a Victoria's Secret
Venetian holiday, the academy ushers him into the Great Hall of
Poets. With Dylan's Visions of Sin, Boston University's Christopher
Ricks, the eminent Milton and Eliot scholar, delivers his long-awaited
Dylan treatise, Visions of Sin. (It was published last year in
Britain.) Organizing his thoughts around the traditional seven
vices—and virtues—Ricks burrows deep into Dylan's lyrics for intriguing
comparisons to Keats, Tennyson, and other canon members, with
enough gusto and substance to win over any remaining Dylan holdouts.
I just can't believe
it goes on. (discuss)
Scottish Rock and Roll
better than Scottish cooking. But so is a tub of rotten lard.
Lego My Books
I hope Christian Bök gets a cut of this...
Maybe he can quit cowtown
and head back to civilization. (discuss)
Ever Wonder What's
Going On In the Rest of the World?
Why not go to Newseum
and read the front pages of papers from pretty much everywhere.
Don't Pie Your Type
in the old days must have really sucked.
All twenty-six letters of the
alphabet, punctuations and numbers were allotted a different size
partition in the drawer according to their order of significance:
i.e. how often they turned up in words. A line of type was set
by hand, letter by letter, character by character, one at a time.
Words and the resulting sentences and paragraphs were compiled
using an iron composing stick which was just over eight inches
long and two inches broad. This the typesetter held in his left
hand while the other was free to go for the necessary letter,
piece by piece.
The good compositor could work
on six or so words at a time, about a line, and would often have
to rearrange with space at the end of a line to justify the type,
so that the lines came out even at the margin. The line was then
carefully set into a metal galley which would be inked and rolled
on the small proof press. The resulting copy was proof-read for
errors before the next story could be started. Typos were commonplace
and fine-tuning was time consuming. Spell check was your principal
labor. The first-class compositor set about 30 lines per hour
when everything went right, which was a rare circumstance indeed.
If you spilled your type, or worse, your whole drawer dropped,
you created PIE. That's a typesetters' nightmare: A pile of anonymous
type with little inclination to assist in their own capture.
Lover Derek McCormack in the Village Voice
And so it begins - Soft
Skull's Canadian invasion. Take THAT Christian right! Nice work,
Derek! You're officially cool in NYC! (discuss)
Clinton: Man, Lover, Husband, President, Lover, Author, Blogger
Yesterday I had a
wonderful day. I did it. I made love. With Hillary. It was the
first time in a long time. I have no idea what happened. We were
both in the mood I guess. I was listening to a jazz record.
Take time to read the
comments. Some people are so blissfully unaware. (From Maud)
File Under CanLit
Gossip: The Danforth Review Steel Cage Match, Part Duh
So here's the saga so far: back in April of this year editor/poet/critic
Michael Holmes called editor/poet/critic Carmine Starnino an "assclown"
(wrestlingese for jerk) in a TDR interview. Several
Sensing that Holmes was perhaps engaged in some wrestling psych
tactics, I asked Michael to write an
impossible to misconstrue wrestling "call-out" of Starnino
for the Essay section here at Bookninja.
Oh! Michael was joking... Case closed. This month Karl Siegler,
editor of Talon Books, stumbled across some old
TDR interview/bio of TDR poetry editor Shane Neilson in which
Neilson derides the poetry and "followers" of multi-book-per-year
poet rob mclennan. Siegler
(admirably, if somewhat shrilly) gets downright hysterical in a
letter to TDR (I think I got vehemently spit on just reading
it) and his letter is followed
up by a more even-tempered one by rob himself. Now, I like mclennan
as much as the next guy, but I have to say, if Karl tried to respond
to every one of rob's critics he wouldn't have time to edit Talon.
So why take on Shane? Well, as many ninja readers who follow the
boards here know, Shane can be a tad... direct. My personal opinion
is (here is where my friends like Jonathan
would advise me to keep my personal opinions to myself, especially
in this kind of volatile fray - but I am genuinely interested in
the mechanisms and motivations behind these kinds of things - I
live with a sociologist who studies poets...) that he's often got
the right instinct, but, at least on the web, doesn't always back
his opinions up with the same kind of hard evidence that other contentious
critics like Zach
Wells, Carmine Starnino, and Christian Bök do. In the case
of the bio bit, it appears to have been a matter of brevity and
space, trying to communicate as much as possible with as few words
as possible. It seems to me that in the close quarters of Canadian
poetry, where everyone knows everyone else (pretty much), saying
you like or blatantly dislike poets such as rob mclennan or bill
bissett or Christian Bok or Lorna Crozier or David Solway (the heavy
hitters in their fields) DOES INDEED set a kind of editorial/poetic
standard. At least a general one to frame a conversation, which
is what Shane's mini-interview was presumably designed to mimic.
It's not a nice tactic, but it's a valid one. It's also not good
criticism, but in fairness it wasn't an article. And everybody knew
what he meant. That all said, now TDR
editor Michael Bryson is fretting about whether he should be posting
this kind of banter. Please send
him a message telling him he should. (Hey, this section IS called
Hearsay...) (P.S. rob mclennan has followers?) (discuss)
Eduspeak: One Step
Removed from Doublespeak
Have you ever heard two (or more) blow-hard grad students going
at it in a pub? Habitus. Post-Constructionism. Intertexuality. Well,
it's apparently subject to a
trickledown effect... (From PFW)
Richiespeak: One Step Removed from a Presidential Address
And to follow up... The rich can now afford their
own language. (discuss)
Britain's 100 Top Intellectuals
At least SOME artistic
people included. (discuss)
Flip Books Making Come Back
in time. Have you seen the ads for I,
Robot? If I don't have something equally geeky to concentrate
on I may just end up ponying the $12 to see that dreck.
Achingly simple to
make, flip books are like portable short films, sans camera or
display mechanism (no screen required). An art form that evolved
from zoetropes (rotating 19th-century toys that showed moving
pictures) and thaumatropes (rapidly flipping discs that showed
a moving image), the flip book was used by photography pioneers
like Thomas Edison to understand the concept of capturing a moving
RIP: Mattie Stepanek
He was a
brave little kid in that eerie way kids with terminal illnesses
often seem to be. Mattie died at 13. I feel like complete shit.
The Used Book as Cultural Archeology
We store things in our book jackets and forget about them. Then
the books get passed on or sold. Ever
come across some piece of another person's life tucked into a used
book? Fascinating, isn't it.
At the Strand --
New York's oldest and biggest independent used-book seller --
the most gripping finds produce new enigmas. Adam Davis, a 25-year-old
from Oregon, took a job as a Strand clerk when he came to New
York three years ago to write fiction. One day, he opened a copy
of Barbara Tuchman's medieval history, "A Distant Mirror,"
and discovered a birth certificate. The baby's father was listed
as "not known." An attached rider, dated years later,
named the father.
An old friend of mine
(whom I've since lost touch with and would like to find - artist
Chris Magee) used to have a guerrilla poetry group called "Perhaps,
a Self-Centred Geisha" (hey, I was young). We used to do crazy
things like mail unsigned poems to random people from the phone
book or ask celebrities to write the last two lines of a sonnet
of our composition, etc. One time we made 25,000 tiny poems on coloured
slips of paper and in one weekend went around Toronto's bookstores
slipping them into jacket covers of used and new books. There were
so many left over we began slipping them into parking meter slots
and under car windshield wipers. The idea was people would get these
little bits of poetry sprung on them when they least expected it
and might be more open to a new experience. In fact, that stunt,
circa 1996 or so, is how I met rob mclennan. He tracked me down
through an address on the back, if I remember, because he wrote
about it in some Ottawa paper. (discuss)
Remember to Pick Up ALL Your Print Jobs
could end up like the author of erotic vampire screenplay Darkness
of Passion. (discuss)
Yeah, What About
A Vancouver man manages to sneak discussions
about the arts into the election campaign.
A Vancouver man disappointed by
the lack of debate about cultural issues during the election campaign
took matters into his own hands and organized an all-candidates
debate about the arts Tuesday night. Duncan Low, manager of the
Vancouver East Cultural Centre, was impressed with Bloc Quebecois
Leader Gilles Duceppe's vocal support for the arts during the
televised French-language leaders debate. But he was disappointed
by the lack of cultural discussion during the English-language
debate the following night. "The only time the words 'artistic
merit' were mentioned was in relation to pornography," he said.
My PhD Was on Superman
A fun, way-too comprehensive site
tracing the evolution of Superman's superpowers.
For approximately the first decade
of Superman's career, the texts advanced the thesis that Superman's
powers were merely those possessed by all the inhabitants of his
native Planet. These texts described the men and women of Krypton
as a "super-race" who were gifted with X-ray vision and other
powers and who were thousands of eons ahead of earthlings, both
mentally and physically. By the late 1940s, however, the texts
had begun to describe the people of Krypton as more or less ordinary
human beings and to attribute Superman's powers to the vast differences
between the gravitational pull and atmospheric conditions of Krypton
and those of the Planet Earth.
Gentlemen, Ms. William Shakespeare!
a woman? Well, I DID get called girly boy back in high school
for being in the drama club (president, actually... shudder), so
maybe those meathead jocks who now work in "the service industry"
were right.... I vow to never underestimate the mental power of
the flat-top buzz cut / Vuarnet shirt combo again. (From Tingle
Western Magazines Doing Well
I really like HoBo and Toro. I'd like to check out this Butter,
if someone wants to send me a copy... Some
of the others have dipped under my radar, but are perhaps looking
to buzz the tower. Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full. (discuss)
You know you had
an impact when a Leonard Cohen comes down from the mountain
Dirty But Clean (Slate)?
DBC Pierre gives us, his collective parole officer, an
update on what restitution he's made from his literary windfall.
Exposed as a swindler,
drug addict and car smuggler, D B C Pierre vowed to use the proceeds
from his Man Booker prize to right his past wrongs.
Eight months later, he has
fulfilled his unlikely pledge. The friend who was conned out of
his £30,000 home to fuel the author's drink and cocaine
habit has been repaid and a host of family members and associates
have been reimbursed.
Dirty (But Clean) Pierre, real name Peter Finlay, stepped up to
collect the £50,000 winner's cheque last October for Vernon
God Little, his story of an American high school massacre. Since
then he has found himself settling old scores - an experience
he likens to having a stroke in reverse.
Sounds like all is
forgiven and the credits are ready to roll... Ha ha ha (knowing
laugh of 1960s nature film narrator who has just watched an black
bear cub get a nose full of quills from a porcupine piglet - but
in this case it was a snout full of coke). Oh, that scoundrel. It
looks like he's learned the hard way to his nose out of trouble!
Is Music Like Language?
Rather than try to encapsulate what Clive has said so well and then
steal his links, I'll link
you straight in to Clive's post and let him fill you in. Trust
me, it's really interesting. Just come back afterwards, 'kay? (Thompson's
a great writer, and very successful too, but I gotta ask - where
the fuck does he get the time?) (discuss)
interesting review/article about the affairs of Patricia Highsmith
and Marijane Meaker.
Much of Meaker’s
memoir of her relationship with novelist Patricia Highsmith reads
like lesbian pulp fiction from the post-World War II hey-day of
paperback originals. Meaker, already in a relationship, was immediately
smitten, and that night they began a two-year horizontal tango
that would last longer than their romance. When it was over, and
they finally split, each woman found closure by brutally murdering
the fictional counterpart of the other in respective novels.
tango"? Come on. Everyone knows lesbians can't dance...) (discuss)
Shlimazl? Have I Found My People?
Languagehat points to
about the most untranslatable word. Shlimazl comes second. Now
forgive me a moment... isn't that the second word of the Laverne
and Shirley theme song? (discuss)
"Is his prescience born out of prophecy, or is it the
product of something else?"
JG Ballard interviewed.
are much more difficult to explain than the 9/11 attacks, and
say far more about the troubled state of the western psyche. My
novels offer an extreme hypothesis which future events may disprove
- or confirm. They're in the nature of long-range weather forecasts.
As I've often said, someone who puts up a road sign saying "dangerous
bends ahead" is not inciting drivers to speed up, though
I hope that my fiction is sufficiently ambiguous to make the accelerator
seem strangely attractive. Human beings have an extraordinary
instinct for self-destruction, and this ought to be out in the
open where we can see it. We are not moral creatures, except for
reasons of mutual advantage, sad to say...
Gay Bash or Robbery?
writer Paul Willis was severely beaten in the New Orleans French
Quarter. He may lose the use of his right eye. The police have classified
it as a simple robbery, even though the man's jewelry wasn't stolen.
Anne Rice, whose son Christopher (also a novelist) is gay, is getting
involved by offering five times as much as Crime Stoppers for information
leading to the arrest of the five teenaged suspects. (discuss)
File Under: Wouldn't That Be Ironic
A decorated WWII vet in New York state has
been charged for defacing hundreds of library books by crossing
out swears and adding little ditties about God. His wife claims
he's being "crucified"... (discuss)
Weekend in Research and Contemplation as well as Drunken Porch-Weighting
Okay, it's Friday, and given the fact that you're sequestered for
another eight hours in that horrific little box your lascivious
boss calls your "rumpus cube" you probably don't want
to think about any day other than Saturday. But Monday
is D-Day for the Arts. Really. Yes, we made some
fun of the whole process here (something many of my most loyal
readers haven't participated
in yet, thank you guys), but I can't urge you enough to get out
and vote for real. If you can't decide who to vote for, think of
who you want to vote against. If you haven't already, try to find
out which parties in your riding are likeliest to win and then vote
for the one you think will serve you, the artist and arts lover,
best. I personally vote NDP, and dislike strategy voting, but this
time around if the Liberals were close to a Conservative upset in
my riding you can bet I would be out canvassing with a big L on
my chest. People ten, twenty, fifty years from now could consider
this a pivotal turning point in Canadian cultural history. And that's
not hyperbole. Make sure you have the right to be outraged if things
The literary zombie: a dead
author reanimated by a living author* for the purposes of revisiting
the dead author's ideas. Otherwise know as "graverobbing".
are shameless hustlers ... especially when exchanging plugs
for each others' books.
This column comes
with a valuable reader bonus: It's not hawking a book we've written
or a book written by a colleague, a former colleague, someone
we hung out with in high school or our dentist.
There's no wading through effusive praise of a high-priced hardcover
you've already seen publicized to an excruciating degree. You
won't be forced to endure our jolly verbal high-fives for the
But this is a brief respite. Turn on the television and you're
thrust into a twilight zone of disturbingly manic book promotion
- and we're not talking about the attention to Bill Clinton's
Hmm. Sounds like the
tv equivalent of the blurb: meaningless praise from an invested,
"impartial" reader. (discuss)
Rowling Refuses to Give Character Drawl...
All well and good, but I was kind of hoping for a
Cajun wizard, cher. (discuss)
More Shakespeare Disagreement
He was a man, he was a woman, he
was THIS man, he was THIS woman...
The de Vere Society
simply believes that Shakespeare got lucky.
Arriving penniless in London, their story goes, he was seized
upon by de Vere who, as an aristocrat, needed a cover for his
writing and acting.
Let's face it: William
Shakespeare was Harold Bloom sucked back in time through a painful
device that involves colorectal surgery, a portable toilet, and
an enormously powerful vacuum. Or at least he will be if everything
goes according to plan... (discuss)
What Should Gay Readers Be Reading Right Now?
Um, a subway map of Toronto?
This is getting ridiculous.
Where are the
good summer books for gay readers? There should be a yearlong
ban on self-help books on how to help a lover with a substance
abuse problem, footnoted histories of the gay rights movement,
and erotic fiction featuring man-on-man—or woman-on-woman—vampire
action. I'm talking about down-to-earth, fabulous writing and
storytelling that makes me laugh until I cry. I want campy novels
with gay characters that don’t make me think too much. I want
to read about the famous and politically connected and their fabulous
gay friends, especially if they secretly sleep with their gay
friends. Where are the books by gay authors that make me rush
to the next page? Where are the titles that keep me up until 3
a.m.? We’re almost into July, and my favorite weekend reading
is still the Sunday wedding announcements in The New York Times.
Gay readers should start a national book club and trade tips on
what to read at the moment. We could call it Gays Into Reading
Literature Seriously (GIRLS). A Web site in the spirit of Craigslist
could be formed where we could trade lit tips. Heck, I'll even
start the ball rolling.
Indigo Narrows Loss
Cites elimination of poetry section as key
to success. (This headline should read: "Indigo Hones Loss")
Remember for Monday...
is what goes first... Even in Detroit, where it should probably
be violent crime that goes first. (discuss)
Hot Lips Houlihan
Long time ninja readers will remember a link last year to the Joan
Houlihan "How Contemporary American Poets Are Denaturing the
Poem" essay on Boston Comment. Here's
part eight of the ongoing saga. (From Unpleasant
2004 ReLit Awards
Congrats to this year's winners:
Small Arguments, Souvankham Thammavongsa (Pedlar)
Fiction for Lovers, Tony Burgess (ECW)
Still Life with June, Darren Greer (Cormorant)
Ryan Bigge reviews Alberto Manguel's With Borges for
the Toronto Star and
finds it lacking.
At barely a hundred pages (including
a handful of photos), With Borges does not pretend to be
exhaustive; it is a mini-moir. It serves as an adjunct to the
half-dozen pages Manguel spent discussing Borges in his critically
acclaimed A History Of Reading, published in 1996.
Remember, they always
shoot the intellectuals first
Richler discusses Idiot Proof and talks about the state of
Canadian culture on the eve of the election.
As Canadians prepare to head to
the polls, I find myself pondering one of the more extreme moments
of Stephen Harper's cool mendacity. The fate of the arts was this
campaign's great afterthought, as the whole place of culture is
in a morass these days, but when Harper was finally asked about
cultural policy recently, he told CBC Radio: "I think you can
assume that as there are no proposals there will be no changes."
Or, as HergÈ's Captain Haddock
would have said: "@$#%^!"
What's good for
Gotham is good for India
I always thought comics were modern mythology, but Spider-Man
fighting Indian demons? Sure, why not?
"A lot of people will always want
the same Spider-Man as everybody else," said Sharad Devarajan,
head of Gotham Comics, which will produce the series in India
under licence from Marvel Comics. "But there will be a definite
audience that will find it exciting to see Spider-Man dealing
with the same problems they deal with in the Indian culture."
To that end, Peter Parker, becomes
Pavitr Prabhakar. The radioactive spider is replaced by an Indian
mystic, who bestows the spider powers on Pavitr to fight not New
York City crime, but ancient evils from Indian mythology. The
Green Goblin, Spider-Man's nemesis, comes across in translation
as a traditional Rakshasa, a classic Indian demon.
As The World
Well, for those of you still interested in the
kerfuffle over at TDR, word on the street has it that Shane
Neilson has resigned as poetry editor of TDR
in protest of the removal of his (questionable?) comments. Furthermore,
it appears some masked bandit has started up a dissecting-Leah-Mclaren-esque
blog called Fahrenheit
Rob Mclennan. It's amazing how much everyone cares! It's like
a crack in the dyke. Oh! And Happy Pride! (discuss)
Remember, a Vote for the
Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Anyone Else But the Conservatives Is a Vote
for "Artistic Merit" and the "Public Good," I Mean, Child Porn
In the wake of all the election child-porn accusations, the
Globe and Mail revisits
the Eli Langer case.
What I remember most about that
show was a painting dominated by a red-velvet curtain, behind
which a diminutive person is trying to hide. The curtain hangs
from the ceiling, but is too short to reach the floor or to conceal
the skinny little legs shod in a pair of children's black-patent-leather
shoes with a strap across the instep. This is a painting depicting
a terrified little girl being stalked by a predator, a predator
who we sense, as we look on helplessly in horror, is about to
pull aside that curtain and grab her. It arouses fear, not rapacious
"That series was my toughest work,"
Langer says. Since then, he has moved "into more subtle ways to
represent danger, violation and vulnerability." While he doesn't
recommend being arrested as a fun activity, he insists the experience
didn't muffle his creativity, although it "definitely taught me
a different way of understanding language and the implications
of language," he says. "It was a learning experience but it didn't
Stage Direction: Dies
I thought poets were bad when it comes to squabbling, but
this theatre group takes centre stage. Ba-dum.
"In a flourish, his Arden
copy of Hamlet is ejected from his nicotined fingers and
misses my head by a whisper. Laertes-like, I hurl my copy (heavier
due to notes) straight back at him, wounding his shoulder. Proverbial
hell now ensues, hot with expletives as the Dane leaps Fairbanks-like
at my throat and would surely have garroted me had Osric and Horatio
not leapt to my aid."
of Evil to Brotherhood of Dada
The Guardian reviews
Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th
The strange fact that superheroes
always live in big cities persuades him that the liberating sight
of Superman flying, Spider-Man swinging or Batman leaping through
the skylines is again an attempt to domesticate the dehumanised
concrete sprawl. Superman, Bukatman says, "represented, in 1938,
a kind of Corbusierian ideal. Superman has X-ray vision: walls
become permeable, transparent. Through his benign, controlled
authority, Superman renders the city open, modernist and democratic;
he furthers a sense that Le Corbusier described in 1925, namely,
that 'Everything is known to us'."
My Spidey Sense
is Tingling -- Cops Must Be Kissing Somewhere!
I don't know what to make of this comic-sampling
thing, so I'll leave it up to you. (From
Boing Boing) (discuss)
goes caution in that last gust of wind...
People, get out and vote! Now is the time to make sure our country
doesn't go American with a Harper gov't. You let him in and we'll
all be shaking our heads in disbelief inside the year. Even those
of us who already hated him will be surprised. So, what are you
reading this for? Go vote! And if you read the Sun, stay
at home and scan those classifieds some more, slackjaw.
"Fritz! They killed Fritz!"
Ralph Bakshi, the animator behind Fritz the Cat, the
animated Lord of the Rings and the totally whacked Wizards
-- featuring an army of goblins overwhelming elves in trench warfare
by distracting them with Nazi propaganda films -- apparently was
producer of the Spider-Man TV show. But the superhero
biz always has a price:
"Can you imagine a young man staggering
home from the studio burnt out every night of the week?" Bakshi
recalls in a fit of laughter from his home in Silver City, N.M.
"My girlfriend left me, my cocaine dealer left me ... I lost more
girls to Spider-Man than I can count -- I wouldn't do it
again no matter what I was paid."
You Go, Ghoul!
Legendary comic artist John Byrne is running a free
comic strip on his site. It's kind of a Charlie's Angels
thing, only with sexy ghouls, vampires and werewolves. (From Memepool)
-- we'll have none of it
the Conservatives get their way. Get out and vote. If there's
even a smidge of a chance of the Cs squeaking through in your riding,
vote Liberal. (Discuss)
Two editors later, the Walrus still sucks
says Robert Fulford in July's Toronto Life (direct link
not available online).
deemed the Walrus promising. But in the July issue of Toronto
Life he says the magazine, having published all of six issues
and run through two editors-in-chief in the process, "badly
needs a change of course." The Walrus lacks focus;
it's pretentious; it tries too hard; it's visually uninteresting;
its longer pieces "badly managed lumps of prose, compilations
of unremarkable facts and obvious ideas, put together without
wit or skill." In short, it is a failure, and for this, Fulford
lays much of the blame on Alexander.
I, on the other hand,
lay much of the blame on the editorial sensibilities of old people...
Them and the 30,000 sheep who subscribed (not you, of course, dear
reader) because the advertising, rather than the content, convinced
them to. (Thanks to Dan for pointing the story out.) (Discuss)
Us? Any time we fucking-well feel like it
When do papers use the
F-word? Newsworthiness seems to be key. Like when Cheney, mad
with power and frothing at the mouth that anyone would challenge
the emperor's puppet master, told a senator, "fuck yourself".
That's newsworthy. It's a good thing all those Christians are voting
for him, eh? (discuss)
The NYT focuses on the
allure of the short story,* including David Foster Wallace,
Julian Barnes, E.L. Doctorow, and homeboy David Bezmozgis. (Discuss)
The Treasure Island of SF
Basilières's Maisonneuve column looks at what
Samuel R Delany's Nova did to him as a child.
"I gave a copy
of Nova to an early creative writing teacher of mine when
she asked us to bring in material we admired. At the next class,
she handed it back and said dismissively, 'It's a young man's
And she's still teaching
creative writing, no doubt. (Discuss)
Scotland has intellectuals?
intellectuals look well and good on a list, but...
The bigger question
is whether we think intellectuals have any significant role to
play in public life today, and whether they influence society.
This is not a country with a strong intellectual tradition. Unlike
France, Britain has preferred men of action, pragmatists, doers
rather than thinkers. These days, we tend to worship celebrities,
not scholars, people who can communicate with the widest possible
audience rather than those exploring esoteric ideas, however vital.
Here we now keep our
intellectuals in hermetically sealed pods, ready to be awakened
when Canadian Idol finally folds. (Discuss)
Cutting the cost of science
journals are ridiculously priced* and this is costing us all.
The Public Library of Science
aims to fix this by offering content online for free.
for science," said Dr. Nicolelis, whose article in the October
issue of PLoS got worldwide attention. "We have the
technology, we have the expertise. Why is it that the only thing
that has remained the same for 50 years is the way we publish
our results? The whole system needs overhaul."
At the big-sticker end are publications like the Journal of
Comparative Neurology, for which a one-year institutional
subscription has a list price of $17,995. Access to Brain Research
goes for $21,269, around the price of a Toyota Camry XLE.
According to the Association of Research Libraries, journal prices
went up 215 percent from 1986 to 2003, while the consumer price
index rose 63 percent.
Though the highest-priced journals are in the sciences, libraries
have had to offset those price increases by buying fewer books,
often in other disciplines like literature and the humanities,
association officials and librarians at the University of California
(And to think someone
recently told me they found the cover price of many journals prohibitive.)
Lady who smells like crocodile calls consciousness a poem
and their "science"... sheesh. (Discuss)
Inside Saddam's (dick)head
I imagine it's about as clean as that "spider hole" he
got hauled out of. Saddam
the author examined in relation to Dick lit.
It is easy to see
why the CIA, MI6 and Mossad have analysed these outlandish tales
of heroism and sacrifice in detail. Avi Rubin, an ex-Mossad agent,
believes that Saddam's past is at the core of his anger against
seemingly broader targets such as western civilisation and Jews.
"In reality," Rubin argues, "he is speaking about
the pain of his own childhood and upbringing."
See, we're not alone in our pettiness
Brits are at it too. Here's a chip in your eye! Agh! Vinegar!
Comic book fan?
Then you've heard some version of these questions before... "Who
would win in fight between Spider-Man and _____?" (Well, how
about this one: How
do Spider-Man's powers compare to those of an actual spider?)
And "Who's going
to play Superman in the perpetually upcoming film?" (From
You know, all things considered, our Bookninja political picks poll
seems eerily close to the predicted results.... (look
right) I wonder if Paul Martin will get eaten by a pack of wild
pigoons. Or maybe just Jack Layton.
"Ball Hockey on a Short Street"
latest column Zach Wells takes on Canada's parochial, isolationist
publishing tradition and the unfortunate lack of foreign titles
on Canadian lists.
The reasons for this
dearth are manifold, but they can be boiled down to just one:
insufficient funds. As Carmine Starnino, editor of Signal Editions,
puts it, “We just can’t afford to routinely publish non-Canadians.
What's frustrating is that quality Canadian poetry presses like
Signal and Anansi are poised for such projects: we have the contacts,
we have the distribution, we have the readership.” Almost all
English poetry published in Canada is printed by small presses
like Signal and Anansi, which depend on grants from the Canada
Council for the Arts for their subsistence. And the Canada Council
does not subsidize the publication of works by non-Canadian authors.
I'd love to meet the knob in charge of this in a dark alley
some day... POW!
Well, those bottom-feeder, rip-off artist scum at the "International
Library of Poetry" have broken another heart. It's only funny
when it happens to someone who thinks they should know better. When
to little girls and moms, kittens die in my heart. Aren't there
laws against this kind of misrepresentation? (I'll take a brightly
lit courtroom if the alley is unavailable.) (Discuss)
Oprah and Jimmy Carter eulogize Mattie
Well, I see a pattern developing here... Warning: this
is one of those human interest stories designed to jerk tears.
Me? No, I just have something in my eye... (discuss)
The best way to get readers off their asses is with a club
A cracking good read with Richard
"The key difference
between Oprah and us is that she makes money out of it,"
says Ross. "Ofcom rules mean that we can't make any money.
So we are more critical, less mass-market. It can't help but have
an influence if you've going to make money." So far, the
R&J show hasn't had a Franzen moment. "Zoë Heller
was slightly bemused, as she'd been out of the country and didn't
realise that Richard and Judy had metamorphosed," says Ross.
She does now.
Bonk-bonk on the head.
Anthony Burgess getting some attention in hometown of Manchester
10 years after he's dead, but attention
Books by the neighbourhood
The Times did an
informal survey of bookstores in NYC* and came up with a demographic
map of the city, by taste. I wonder how this would look in Toronto?
Pecking at Peck
The axman cometh...
What is worrisome
about contemporary book commentary is not that someone with Peck's
habitual mean-spiritedness has carved out a name for himself -
though it does suggest that criticism is now as much a part of
the entertainment industry as gangster rap and extreme makeovers.
People laugh at his jokes, or at the skinhead Paul Bunyan impersonation
on the cover of his book, or both. Yet they overlook his efforts
to be thoughtful, which are, if anything, just as funny.
The third rule about
Fight Club is you don't send mail to Tyler Durden's house
Looks like some designer had
a little fun with these Staples mailing labels. (From Boing
looks to be a pretty comprehensive list of Spider-Man villains.
My favourite: Typeface.
Typeface has a variety of letter
theme weapons including explosive letters he calls letterbombs
and scrabble-like letters he uses to create words such as "sleep"
to put his enemies asleep and such. Also has use of a razor sharp
P-shaped letter opener as well as other letter-shaped weapons
that adorn his costume. Gordon is also very well spoken.
Yes, beware the well
spoken. (From Snarkout) (discuss)
I thought all writers
Mediabistro has an interview
with Leelila Strogov, the editor of Swink, which recently
published Maud Newton's "Post-Extraction."
When Swink launched last
March, editor Leelila Strogov said her new literary magazine was
looking for work that was "new in concept, form, or execution,
and that reflects a diversity of thought and perspective." In
other words, this was not to be, as so many new literary mags
are, yet another poor man's New Yorker. Strogov was looking
to create a publication that would showcase new blood, rather
than the usual smart-guy writers.
"When I see something
beautiful, I want to eat it."
Douglas Coupland on Canadian
culture, including Canadian
"Youth culture is completely globalized;
it's only when you are in your 30s that you are allowed to be
Canadian," he says.
A conceptual artist as well as
a writer, he locates this identity mostly in the artifacts of
our commercial culture -- objects, places, bilingual packaging,
buildings and logos that resonate for Canadians as they do for
no other peoples.
Billy Bee honey, the Massey-Ferguson
tractor, the Sherwood hockey stick, the Robertson screwdriver,
Oka cheese, the Eaton's catalogue, the purple Crown Royal bag,
plastic Canada geese, and the moose-patterned sweater are to Coupland
what the wind-twisted pines of Georgian Bay were to the Group
of Seven. Soul food.
What happened to
The Chronicle of Higher Education ponders the
question of whether serious criticism is dead.
The democratization of criticism
-- as in the Amazon system of readers' evaluating books -- is
a messy affair, as democracy must be. But the solution to the
problems of criticism in the present are best not discovered in
the musty basements of nostalgia and sentiment for the cultural
criticism of a half-century gone. Rather the solution is to recognize,
as John Dewey did almost a century ago, that the problems of democracy
demand more democracy (against the corporatization of culture),
less nostalgia for a golden age that never was, and a spirit of
openness to what is new and invigorating in our culture.
What the font?
The other day I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 and arrived
at the cinema early with no reading material. As a result, I was
forced to watch those movie ads that quiz your knowledge of ...
well, I'm not really sure, because I was too busy wondering what
font those ads used. If you're like me, this
site may help you sleep at night. (From Memepool)
Busy Day, Busy
Hi, sorry about the lack of posts today. I'm swamped with a bunch
of Maisonneuve-related deadlines and won't be able to get
much up until tonight. Pete may add something later, but he's swamped
too with post-election coverage at the paper. We'll check in as
time allows. Apologies again, my shadowy minions (somehow the illusion
of our invisible army of darkness gets ruined by the intrusion of
everyday life....) Check back later to see if some Hearsay goes