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Hearsay Archive:

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

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

June 2004:



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 Gleed award.

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 well."

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 Thee
Moby Dick -- 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 hall.

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.

(From Rake's Progress) (discuss)

I Hear You
The 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 from scratch."

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."

(From Moorish Girl) (discuss)

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?
A 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 weekly magazine.
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
25 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. (discuss)

Black Chick-Lit
With a rise in demand for books with black characters, settings, and themes, I suppose this was inevitable.*

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 speed bump.

Oh, so it's fantasy, not romance... (discuss) or (discuss)

Discussion Has Been Slow...
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? Please: (discuss) (From Shanna)

Clive James Looking for Magic Sentence
No, seriously! (discuss)

"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:

Americans 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) (discuss)


Seeking Designer with Shadowy Illustration Skills
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 Stuff) (discuss)

Was Barrie as Innocent as Peter?
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 and revered.

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 ALDaily) (discuss)

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 captain.

"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 Woman) (discuss)

Everything is Illuminated
If I were in LA, I would go see this exhibit...

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)

Nowlan Update
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. (discuss)


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.

Ah, books from people invested in the lasting fame of others... (discuss)

Remember that Aussie Fight Between Editor and Publisher at Quarterly Essay?
It 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 game of Scrabble.

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 Be Blogged
I recently wrote an article for the Ottawa Citizen about election 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.

(From AL Daily) (discuss)

Booker Prize Goes International
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 me.) (discuss)

Abebooks Taking on Amazon!
Go Abe-y! Go Abe-y! Go, go, go abe-y! (From Thoughts Dissected) (discuss)

Bohemians Inherit the Earth (as Well as a Dose of the Clap)

Virginia Nicholson, 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 and ideas.

"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 I'm 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 anyway.

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 departments... Exxxxcellent... 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)

Age-old Dilemma
Young New York writer/editor and Maisonneuve blogger Jarret McNeill struggles 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 seldom do.

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. (discuss)


Griffin Goes for a Loop!
Anne Simpson and August Kleinzahler win the Griffin Prize for Poetry. Commentary here and here. (discuss)

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 McCombe Reynolds.

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)

James Wood
Profiled and reviewed in the NY Observer. (discuss)

"I'm probably more a Torontonian than I am a Canadian"
There, someone 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 PFW) (discuss)

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 be part 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) or (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 timeframe?

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
Sounds like a great sitcom. (From Scribbling Woman) (discuss)


Weekend Edition:

I Wanna Be Your Cowboy
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? (discuss)

It's All About the Line
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 and elegance."

(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 well."

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 Is Struggling
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 park. (discuss)

Complex Simplicity
McSweeney's has fallen out of vogue with a lot of writers, but 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, 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.

(From Jeff) (discuss)

Last Train 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...
The Writers' 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 Gleed Award.

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?
Britain does 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. (discuss)

When You Can't Even Give It Away...

"Hello!" 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.


The 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 given, methinks...

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."
Don't 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?
It's a 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 Oz...)


Kameleon Man
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 It's True
For those of you unfamiliar with Adam Johnson, may I suggest "Trauma Plate"?

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 Sniper":

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.


Women Prefer 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
Something about bar codes and programming. (discuss)

Fighting Amazon
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)


Captain America is Dead! Long Live Captain America!
It's good to hear some dissenting voices 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 website:

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 Boing) (discuss)

Of Nihilism and Nostalgia
Bookslut has some new interviews up, including one with Chuck Palahniuk:

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 dramas.

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.


Maisonneuve 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. (discuss)

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 Dissected) (discuss)

Orange Prize Won by Someone!
Andrea 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

Dressed 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 for sure.

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", for example.

(From GoodReports) (discuss)

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!)
Seriously though folks, I h8 illiteraC amung tEns, dnt U 2? (discuss)

Born to Be Wild
Eric 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....

Certain passages 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.

(From Quill and Quire) (discuss)

Yeah, But That Book Is Evil
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.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

Everybody Relax! 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"...

Heather Reisman, 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

Veteran novelist 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.

Complete list here. (From Scribbling Woman who has a great set of Lambda links here) (discuss) or (discuss)

The Book Quickened, Cheapened
InstaBooks* 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.

"Best-selling books 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 long period."

Why am I so hungry for Mexican? (discuss)

Judging a Lit Contest Can Put You on (Over?) the Edge
An Orange Prize judge talks about reading 71 books in a short period of time.

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 glossies.

Britain's news-stands 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
I 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.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on said 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 task...) (discuss)

Angelou in Punch Up Over Crappy Greeting Card Verses
I'd sue her to get OUT of the agreement... (discuss)


Brass Ring 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 here.

"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 for Canada."


Atwood's Latest Dystopia: Canada
Our Margaret 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?
The trials and tribs of a librettist. (discuss)

Lost Me When You Lost the Commas...
Is the 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. This 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)

Weekend Edition:

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 book reviewing.


Byline Hounds
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.

(From Press Gallery) (discuss)

Underdog Maisonneuve, 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. (discuss)

Sam Hiyate Continues to Make Ass of Self
In an 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)

Comma Chameleon
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
More Dylan 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
Is 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 the details.

(P.S. the spellcheck offered "insemination" in place of Disneyfication... an all too frightening coincidence.) (discuss)

Pen Ninja
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.



Everybody's Working for the Week End Rhyme
Mysteriously silent ninja and Maisonneuve star columnist Zach Wells explores the 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.

"Mountains tend 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, overproduced whinge.


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 this interview.*

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...) (discuss)

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:

"Shooting Clint"
"An Interview with Etgar Keret"
"Pipes," "Fatso" and "Halibut" (audio versions)
"Crazy Glue"
"Making Sense of Warring Narratives"
"Israel 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 for writers.

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 link) (discuss)


Suicide Girls -- the Book!
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)

No Kidding
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
But Disney 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 Blue Fairy.


The History of Writer's Block
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
The heart 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 PFW) (discuss)

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
James 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
Apparently the billionaire still sits in a cafe to write. Of course, the omlette uses Dodo eggs and the coffee is made of actual Colombians. (discuss)

Irish Wanking
Dismissive, but at least different, article* about the origins of Bloomsday. (discuss)

Just Keep Your "Inner Weather" Inner, Buddy

Alice Quinn interviews Vijay Seshadri. (discuss)

"It's kind of like being struck by lightning but it's gold, instead"
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!)
Book 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 Girl) (discuss)


Conan O'Brien's 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!
A day in the life of OED editors. I so want this to be an actual daily feature.

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.

(From Language Hat) (discuss)

Bloomsday: the Literary Version of Invented Holidays like Valentine's/Mother's/Father's Days. After this Year, Hallmark is Sure to Take Over
Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah, blah* blah blah blah. (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!) (discuss)

Hitching a Read
Here's a page full of mp3s of Douglas Adams reading from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)

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 Boys

"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
Ryan Bigge 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.


"Art is not a loophole and that sort of U.S.-style fearmongering isn't a cultural policy and as Canadians we deserve better."
Artists 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 Hat) (discuss)

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, profiled. (120 books and counting...) (From Rake's Progress) (discuss)

More Jack McClelland
A bunch of links to obits* about 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.”


Children's Laureate?
British children not taught to love books, toothbrushes. (I kid because I love.) (discuss)

Hip-Hop Shifts from Focus on Dead Presidents to Focus on Live President...
The mobilization 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) (discuss)

Books and Booze

Sounds like my desk. (From Maud) (discuss)


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.

(From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Apparently Garfield 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) (discuss)

IMPAC Awarded
This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun takes the IMPAC. (discuss)

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 cooties. (discuss)

Neruda Properly Feted
And this fete* fetes him quite well, as fetes go.

"There used 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
Americans make use of British idioms. (In the case of Tony Blair, "idioms" should be spelled with a "t" instead of an "m".) (discuss)

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 know. (discuss)

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 cock. (discuss)

More Dylan via Ricks For Those Who Actually Care
Yawn. Here. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Happy Dysfunctional Father's Day
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.

(From Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind) (discuss)

Espionage, Murder and... Vanilla?
Who 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.


Marlowe Narrower?
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 Tom Stoppard.

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 human being.


Fantasy Fonts
Need a sci-fi font? How about a buccaneer font? Or Lord of the Rings? This is the place for you. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Oulipo, the Blog
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) (discuss)

"Who knew there were superstar librarians?"

The Bookninjas, that's who! (discuss)

"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 disserves us."
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 Life."

"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 of God."

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)

A gallery of alphabet books. (From Maud who got it from Woodslot) (discuss)


And You Think I'm a Stickler
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) (discuss)

Don't Forget to Shuriken the Vote
Bookninja's political 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."
Yeehaw! Christian 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!) (discuss)

Griffin List Could Have Been, Says Sutherland
I've heard this before somewhere... Now where was it...?

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 novel.

Personally, I think of myself more as a virus than a spore. (discuss)

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...

Dale 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 identity."

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... (discuss)

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 Journalism
For a 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 'Continentals'?
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?"


I, Asimov
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: Let's 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.

(From Media Scout via Maisonneuve) (discuss)

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."


The E-Slush Pile
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 respond."

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
Library Journal's Best-Borrowed list is topped by Da Vinci Code and South Beach Diet. (discuss)

More McClelland Encomium
Though linking to Macleans makes my teeth ache, I guess it's a step up from USA Today...

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) (discuss)

Languagehat points to a dictionary 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 thought this blog piece about them and their "methods" was quite articulate, if somewhat late on the scene. (From TEV) (discuss)

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, don't I?

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
Looking better than Scottish cooking. But so is a tub of rotten lard. (discuss)

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. (discuss)

Don't Pie Your Type
Typesetting 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.

(From Language Hat) (discuss)

Hillbilly/Carnie 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)

Bill Clinton: Man, Lover, Husband, President, Lover, Author, Blogger
Yes, 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) (discuss)

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 poets responded vociferously, strenuously, and gleefully. 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) (discuss)

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
And just 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 image.


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. (discuss)

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
Or you could end up like the author of erotic vampire screenplay Darkness of Passion. (discuss)


Yeah, What About the Porn?
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.

(From Snarkout) (discuss)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. William Shakespeare!
Was 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 Alley) (discuss)

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)

Jack's Pull
You know you had an impact when a Leonard Cohen comes down from the mountain to praise you. (discuss)

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! (discuss)

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)

Pulp Dykes
An 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.

(Um, "horizontal tango"? Come on. Everyone knows lesbians can't dance...) (discuss)

Shlimazl? Have I Found My People?
Languagehat points to an article 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.

...meaningless crimes 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...

(From TEV) (discuss)

Gay Bash or Robbery?
Gay 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)


Spend Your 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 go poorly.

Brains! Braaaaaaaiinns!
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". (discuss)

Trading Buylines
Journos 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 lucky author.

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 memoir.

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") (discuss)

Remember for Monday...

Poetry 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 Event) (discuss)


Weekend Edition:

2004 ReLit Awards announced
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
Noah 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 Turns...
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 sexual appetites.

"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 chill me.


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."

(From Arts Journal) (discuss)

From Brotherhood of Evil to Brotherhood of Dada
The Guardian reviews Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century.

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)


Well, there 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 also the 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) (discuss)

Artistic merit -- we'll have none of it
Especially if 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
So says Robert Fulford in July's Toronto Life (direct link not available online).

Initially, Fulford 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)

Short Focus
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
Michel 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 book.'"

And she's still teaching creative writing, no doubt. (Discuss)

Scotland has intellectuals?
British 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
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.

"Society pays 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 said.

(And to think someone recently told me they found the cover price of many journals prohibitive.) (Discuss)

Lady who smells like crocodile calls consciousness a poem
These poets 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."

(From ALDaily) (discuss)

See, we're not alone in our pettiness
The Brits are at it too. Here's a chip in your eye! Agh! Vinegar! (discuss)

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 Incoming Signals) (discuss)


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
In his 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 it happens 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 and Judy.

"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. (Discuss)

Anthony Burgess getting some attention in hometown of Manchester
10 years after he's dead, but attention nonetheless. (Discuss)

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? (discuss)

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.

(From ALDaily) (discuss)


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 Boing) (discuss)

Spider-Man Rogue Gallery
This nerdfest 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 were obscure
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.

(From Press Gallery) (discuss)

"When I see something beautiful, I want to eat it."
Douglas Coupland on Canadian culture, including Canadian stamps.

"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 cultural criticism?
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) (discuss)

Busy Day, Busy Life
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 up.

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