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Hearsay Archive:

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

Some of the links are likely to rot over time. Sorry about that, but our fridge isn't working.


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March 2005:



Stephen King a Hard Case
Well, this is a coup for the new noir publisher.

A new novel by Stephen King, to be published in October, will begin the second season of the Hard Case Crime line of noir thrillers, a series that is bringing back classics of the pulp paperback genre as well as publishing new pulp fiction. Mr. King's new novel, "The Colorado Kid," is the story of two newspaper reporters and their investigation of the death of a man on an island off Maine.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Page 1 of White Noise, annotated
A blow-by-blow account of the first page of DeLillo's classic novel. (From the Rake) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Suspension of Disbelief
Normally I'm happy when I can find the hidden typo in the latest New Yorker issue. But these comic-book nerds put me to shame.

It's during Hawkman's direct testimony that we get our one look at Carl Sands in the courtroom, dressed in orange prison garb and sitting in a tube. No one goes to trial in a prison outfit; it's too prejudicial to the defendant for the jury to see him dressed like a felon. A good lawyer would have him well-groomed and dressed in a suit. And I don't know what purpose the tube serves, unless Sands has retained his Neron-induced powers (in which case Hawkman's testimony about the shadow belt seems even more irrelevant).

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

The open-to-buy system
I've never heard of this book-purchasing deal before, but I don't like it. But I do like the title "stockmistress." Mm-hm. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

"We can't change reality; that's why we became writers."
The Independent profiles Israeli writer Etgar Keret.

"I don't feel a representative of my generation," he says. "I feel an example of it. There could be a settler my age, or an ultra-Orthodox my age or an Arab -- all these groups are my readers. I have had fan letters from both settlers and Arabs. The anxiety, the feeling of an uncertain future, the struggle to grasp what your identity is, is common to all of us."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Chuck M wins Chuck T in gangland non-fiction turf war
Missionary tale, The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia, wins the $25G Charles Taylor Award for non-fiction. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Brit crowbar (mo)tell-all in jeopardy
British Tories cracking down on jailhouse memoirs (aka, the Tory pension fund).

The party has announced a plan to make it illegal for criminals to profit in any way from writing about their crimes or subsequent jail sentences. "Who have they got in mind?" asked Peter Bradley, the Labour MP for the Wrekin, who complained to the Press Complaints Commission about books by both the former Tory minister and the former party chairman. "There are possibly one or two East End hoodlums - but the two most well-known books have been by well-known Tories."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Say it ain't so!

Pinter giving up on writing plays. (discuss) (Posted by George)

8,000 items missing from British Library
I love the part where the management tries to justify the thefts in terms of percentages. Um, 8,000 things! That's either a few very motivated people or a whole lot of unchecked gym bags. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Tired of thinking for self?

Don't forget to pick up your copy of Canada Conforms winner: Rockbound. (Naw, I'm just joshing... nice, surprising choice.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

And while we're on picks
TMN's Tournament of Books has ended with Cloud Atlas beating out The Plot Against America. (discuss) (Posted by George)


We've been to the powder room
And have some minor touch-ups to show for it. Why didn't anyone tell us we had broccoli in our teeth? I wondered why you were licking your teeth so much.

We give you The Bookninja Magazine. A space not unlike those that came before, yet wholly different in that we intend to keep it updated. So far we have included the articles to date from 2005 as well as this new piece from Kevin Chong. Upcoming will be more articles, reviews, Bookninja TV episodes (we hope), and assorted pieces of e-phemera.

In case you're wondering, all the old stuff is still here, just the clutter is hidden. Combining the old "Books" and "Essays" columns into one new column called "Magazine" allows us a cleaner look and a slight squeeze to pull the entire page into view for people who insist on using monitors set at a Lego-sized resolution (Pac-Man is dead, people, let's get with the times).

We thought it might be nice to start with a clean slate, so we've moved the aging material off to archive pages for Reviews and Essays/Rants (permanent links to these pages at the bottom of the Magazine column).

Want to write for the new magazine? Send us your ideas. Want to "work" for Bookninja as an editor? Send us your resume. Want to intern at Bookninja? Same as previous.

Our PayPal donation jar (upper left corner) is now working with credit cards, so please try again, if you had trouble before. Also, remember to visit our advertisers, as they're the ones who are paying for all this new material. And lastly, if you're thinking of buying one of the books we talk about and you do it after clicking on one of our Amazon links, we get a percentage of the sale. Coming soon will be a page of all the book links we've made, so you can browse and make your choices there. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Journalism: The Dumbening
Michael Buerk, BBC god, lectures Ryerson students on what's wrong with journalism today (presumably so they can fit in).

"I am an old croak," he cautioned at the beginning of his talk. "Old croaks think everything was better in their day. Ever since their withered hands were prised from the controls, everything has gone tits up. We all turn into King Lear, railing uselessly into the gale of modernity. You are starting on your career and are full of hope and optimism. I am coming to the end of mine and am probably full of bullshit."
"A flawed media, I suggest, leads to a flawed democracy," he warned. "Ill informed citizens cannot make proper judgments about their leaders' actions, about the actions that take place in their names, about the laws that govern them. The media matter."

He was also flogging his memoir, The Road Not Taken. (discuss) (Posted by George)

It's always the children's authors...
Arthur Ransome, author of kiddie book, Swallows and Amazons, was spied on by the British. The Red Menace made us all do crazy things in those days. Back then, we called turkeys "walking-birds" too -- eating a pair of drumsticks was called the hoochie-coochie two-step, and could earn you quite a thrashing. (discuss) (Posted by George)

DH Lawrence's wife
Was the cheater behind Lady Chatterly's Lover. In his new biography, The Life of An Outsider, John Worthen claims that Lawrence's inability to have sex drove his wife Frieda (were they all named Frieda back then?) into the arms of an Italian soldier. Nice theory, but I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people who have partners raring to go who fling themselves willingly into the arms of Italian soldiers. They're ITALIAN! That's what they do: cuckold guys like Lawrence. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Mario Luzi
Italian poet, dead at 90. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is that what kept me from getting the garbage out last night?

Primarily set in a nursing home, Half Life maps out the course of a romance between Clara (Carolyn Hetherington) and Patrick (Eric Peterson) that blossoms despite memory loss, death, transience, a previous encounter during the Second World War and the discomfort of their children. Math scientist Donald, Clara's son, encapsulates the play's underlying philosophy in the first scene: "We wouldn't survive if we remembered everything," later adding that "the way information is lost is as important as the way it is retained." At a time when "memory plays" have exhausted their possibilities and audiences, Half Life is a defiantly "anti-memory play."

I have Mighton's The Myth of Ability and it's quite a good read. Nothing spectacular on the mathematics front, but good for parents, and more than a few teachers, I would think. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of...
AN Wilson rereads The Idiot. (discuss) (Posted by George)

I so should have gone to school in China

Martial arts books make the grade. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Creep-factor 10

Pedophiles suspected in damaging of children's library books. Special ring of Hell... (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Idiot Powered Pen
A pen that... well, it kind of... you see... They turned a pen into a fucking video game. And it's coming after your children. I don't think I'm being too alarmist when I say we are all going to burn a fiery hell for being part of the civilization that invented this idiotic device. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

GMail user pities Hotmail user...
It's so true... And I have like 100 invites, so if you want to join Team G... (discuss) (Posted by George)


World Book Day
Confuses me. Isn't there, like, another World Book Day in April? Or am I totally losing it? Anyway, the Brits seem to be celebrating with surveys and editorials and speeches and articles and such (the Canadian list here is a sad thing). Anything that lets their collective hair down is cool with me. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Mouth-selling books

Word-of-mouth is apparently key to selling books (see next post). Radical thinking here.

One in four of those polled said the last book they read was on the basis of what a colleague or family member had told them, with almost a third of under-35s citing it as the most important factor.

Only loyalty to a favoured author counted as much, with 26 per cent of readers saying their last choice of a book for pleasure was because they had read others by the same author.

Like me and David Eddings. I just can't wait for the next installment of his Daggers In My Half-Elven Ass trilogy of five books. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Home Land wins Believer award
Sam Lipsyte's Home Land, which has just won some award from the Eggers satellite compound, is the best novel I've read in at least a year or two. I'm really glad all the blogdwellers turned me on to it. It is laugh out loud funny. In fact, the last book I laughed out loud while reading was Pete's. If you enjoyed Peter's Please, you'll love Lipsyte's book. So buy it. And buy Pete's book too, while you're at it. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Book publishing by business plan
Book publishing doesn't have to die.

A few years ago, the reliably dyspeptic columnist Michael Wolff suggested (to predictable outrage) in New York magazine that book publishing was the media industry's equivalent of the short bus, a refuge for overeducated romantics who, from a careerist's perspective, are practically autistic. "This isn't where a kid with heart and imagination is going to end up," Wolff wrote. "Rather, the book business is logically getting a dimmer bulb."

Charlie Melcher is that kid from an earlier era. He was only 27 when boutique publishing house Callaway Editions hired him as publisher and set him to work on the most important project in the company's history: Madonna's Sex book. He's been busy ever since. Over the past 10 years, he's built Melcher Media from a simple book packager -- the publishing equivalent of a production company selling finished films to studios -- into the industry's most interesting incubator.

Melcher, at age 40, still strikes me as too young to be in book publishing, which these days is an old man's game. The youngsters currently shaping the book business are the software engineers at Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) who are busily scanning the world's greatest libraries for searchable inclusion in their infinitely expanding databases. While the managers at big publishers' corporate parents seem bent on running their book divisions like packaged-goods businesses -- dumping products into the sales channel, wrangling with retailers, squeezing out costs where they can -- the geeks are threatening to Napsterize publishing. And all the authors, editors, and publishers who genuinely love books are at a loss to discover an alternate path.

No, it just has to get implants and sell its ass on the street for two dollar rocks. Wait till you get to the part about the popup books... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Famous last word?
Hunter S Thompson had typed "counselor" in the middle of a blank sheet of paper from an agency engaged in protecting from unwarranted search and seizure. Conspiracy theorists, start your engines! Surely there is more to come from this strange, sad tale. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The backdoor to becoming a novelist
Success eluded William Nicholson the novelist, until he became William Nicholson the screenwriter of films such as Gladiator and Shadowlands. Now he's writing novels again.

As a young man, Nicholson worked during the day as a BBC documentary filmmaker. In his free time, he wrote fiction. But his novels were repeatedly rejected, and when he finally got one published in 1979, it quickly became a bookstore remainder.

"I failed, I failed, I failed," Nicholson said during an interview at his pied-à-terre in central London. Considering he had a literature degree from Cambridge University, it was "heartbreaking."

That all changed when he began writing and producing TV dramas for the British Broadcasting Corp. Working as a collaborator, as opposed to a loner, and beginning with dramas about such real-life figures as "The Chronicles of Narnia" novelist C.S. Lewis, Nicholson soon found success.

The lesson here, kids? Never be afraid to sell out for a paycheque you really believe in. That, or: good things come to those who quit. (discuss) (Posted by George)

But they sound so smart...
1.2m British kids fail to meet standards for age-based reading levels. Maybe reading's just not for them... Maybe they should try wizard school, or, like, something. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Panda Sex
Panda Sex sounds appealing, especially if you have a thing for, you know, bears who hardly ever fuck.

Beijing banned her collection of short fiction La La La along with Candy after a reportedly furious Jiang Zemin, then president, himself recited to the Politburo a passage describing casual sex.

Mian Mian was one of the first writers to address China's underworld of drug addicts and social misfits as the country began in the 1980s to race away from decades of communist dystopia and headlong to full-blown commercialism and self-nihilism.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Foetry strikes a match
Foetry's latest accusations against Iowa (and others) and it's contests has set the shit ablaze in a community of related tradespeople: academics, writers, and "professors" of creative writing. Moby is even getting hate mail for covering the story. Nice, Professor 1984. What class do you teach? Freedom of the Press? I'm not saying I totally dig Foetry's m.o. (I do partially dig it), but you know something's rotten when everyone immediately starts pointing fingers. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Speaking of pure-as-the-driven-snow contests
Oil of Olay had a poetry contest. It was won by a series of surprisingly normal-looking women. Wait a minute! These are all women! Foul, criest I! Discrimination! What about my piece, entitled, "The Spackling of Francis McGuillicutty: an Haiku Sequence in Earth-Tones"? Is there no justice? (From Old Hag) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Peter Davison
Remembered fondly at The Atlantic. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The scoop on Barbara Taylor Bradford
You know you want it, my pretties. Fly! Fly! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Rejected by Tom Ridge
A rejection letter from a reject's reject. That gotta hoit.

As Director of the Department of Homeland Security I made it my top priority to protect the American Homeland from another vicious terrorist attack, and I like to think we achieved some success in that regard.

But with the beginning of a second term it was time to move on, and so I have. But I still hope to continue my vital work for our country in my new post, which is that of Assistant Short Story Editor for the LaGrange Literary Review.

Which is why I'm writing you today. I'm afraid we cannot accept your short story for publication in the Review.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Yoga Death Match
Jim Munroe turns his hand to filmmaking. Very funny.

I've just finished making a video about the similarities between the ancient Hindu art of spiritual discipline and the rather more modern art of online gaming. Watch the higher self rack up high scores getting to the next level of consciousness in the transcendentally physical world of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch! It's a little over four minutes and change, keep reading for the download links and screenshots.

(discuss) (Posted by George)


82% of Americans want to write a book...
(I wish there were a way to convey a John Stewart/Jack Benny-length pause here...) Which is funny, because the same percentage of the rest of the world want them to refrain from such activities. Badum bum! Can 82% of Americans read? But, seriously? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Campaign finance reform targets bloggers
Grassroots journalism under attack by law designed to promote grassroots politics and remove the influence of big (corporate) money from US elections.

How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign?

I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign.

Corporations aren't allowed to donate to campaigns. Suppose a corporation devotes 20 minutes of a secretary's time and $30 in postage to sending out letters for an executive. As a result, the campaign raises $35,000. Do we value the violation on the amount of corporate resources actually spent, maybe $40, or the $35,000 actually raised? The commission has usually taken the view that we value it by the amount raised. It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.

After almost three years working for the New York City Campaign Finance Board, I shudder to bring you this news. Mostly because I am scarred from knowing people involved in campaign finance reform. They all have the theme song from Law and Order playing in their heads as they strut around like hens in the yard. Oh, and what a small little yard it is... But that's neither here nor there. After how blogs were used in the last election, what I can tell you is this situation is going to get ugly. I've noticed the attacks on bloggers and blogging heating up these last few months, much at the same rate war chests are already starting to fill for 2008... (From DailyKOS) (discuss) (Posted by George)

NYPL goes ... more ... digital
The New York public library has put a collection of "prints, maps, posters, photographs, illuminated manuscripts, sheet-music covers, dust jackets, menus and cigarette cards" online. And unlike the New York Times, it's free! Enjoy. (discuss) (Posted by George)

This is what passes for news?
I'm moving to Israel. Israeli literary supplements are undergoing changes. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The say copyright can't pay the rent, but if you love Proust you can go get bent... babe
You'll burn in Hell for what you've done, Sonny Bono! Oh, and for this too!

Only the first four volumes of the new translation—from Swann's Way through Sodom and Gomorrah—are available here. For this we have Sonny Bono to blame. Just before he died in 1998, the congressman sponsored a bill to extend the term of copyright by 20 years: According to the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, passed later that year, rights would expire 95, rather than 75, years after an artist's death. Since Proust died in 1922, only those four volumes first published during his lifetime had passed into the American public domain by the time the Bono Act became law. It will therefore be at least 2018 before readers in the United States can find the final three installments of the new translation (The Prisoner and The Fugitive, and Time Regained) in their local bookstores.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Shuffle... that's how I make it through most books...

A library at which you can check out an iPod Shuffle with one mp3 audio book on it. It might be interesting to hit random on some of the works and see if they come out any better. (discuss) (Posted by George)

He's hostile to celebrity culture?
Russell Smith doesn't like readings. Just a little background for you.

We know from hard reality that artists are generally unsuited to the role of media personality. We will disappoint: Days spent in front of a computer do little for one's complexion or fitness or social skills. Furthermore, in cruel self-contradiction, the very same public tends to mock those writers who try to make their own lives into works of art. We call them blatant self-promoters or posers if they seem to have cultivated their personality or media appearances or entertaining shtick too deeply. And yet, we are told frequently that we must do this in order for anyone to even contemplate approaching our work.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

"Mmmm... we can't afford to shop at any store that has a philosophy..."
Eggers interviewed on his publishing philosophy. (Thanks Kurtis) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Knob arrested for overdue books
When he could have justifiably been arrested for not grooming his facial hair. I think the cops made the right call. (Watch the video if you can. He's more of a wanker or perhaps a buttwad than a knob. Asswipe? No, too harsh. Pud? Perhaps. Knob is good, but it just doesn't capture this particular flavour of skid... Let me think on it and get back to you.) (discuss) (Posted by George)



Elizabeth Bishop, down east
And her Bluenose roots get incorporated into a choral concert to... for... um, to provide... something? Awareness. Bishop awareness. Yeah. And subject matter. Choral subject matter. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"If we know what artists are going to do, they can achieve little or nothing."
Is art being killed because the internet is faster?

The only way to achieve "decency" without "censorship" is if artists make their own choices. Tell them what to do -- or, worse yet, tell them what they are going to do before they do it -- and you have censorship, pure and simple. It may well be desirable censorship from some people's point of view, but politicians such as Stevens should at least call it by its proper name.

Free, empowered artists make their own agendas. And in so doing, they don't necessarily undermine the cultural fabric of society.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Ooo! New Ashbery!
Charles McGrath writing in the NYTBR looks at Ashbery's new poems, Where Shall I Wander, and his Selected Prose.

In the early essays especially, there's a contrarian impulse; the young Ashbery practically brags about how much he loves the kind of writing that at first or even second glance doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Ashbery was also greatly influenced by painters like de Kooning, Pollock and Jasper Johns, and it's meant to be high praise, for example, when he talks about Johns's ''organized chaos'' and ''arbitrary order,'' and how his painting ''seems to defy critical analysis.'' His own work strove for just that kind of artful abandon. Some of the poems from his 1962 collection, ''The Tennis Court Oath,'' were so dense and allusive, and so full of wild leaps and jarring discontinuities, that they should have come with a surgeon general's warning. Reading them gave you a headache.

I have no idea what this is all about. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Kazuo Ishiguro

Profiled in Time as part of the blitz for his new book, Never Let Me Go. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Writers revolt!
Interesting piece on how funding is conducted in Scotland. The writers feel their cause is underrepresented in the Scottish Arts Council and have proposed a separate funding body. Could you imagine this situation here? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Thompson party
A Hunter S Thompson tribute draws only the coolest stars. I am a big fan of both Depp and Cusack, but, dudes... the hats... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Focus-group poetry
Who/what is the audience for a poem? (discuss) (Posted by George)

"It's good to have someone to keep you on track. Otherwise you would disappear up your own arse."
Those Aussies really have a way of just saying it, don't they? John Tranter, 62, editor of the online journal Jacket, has gone back to school for the paycheque.

The University of Wollongong gets an increasing number of applications each year for the creative arts doctorate and the more demanding PhD in creative writing, said Anthony Macris, acting head of the school of journalism and creative writing. "But the number of places is level, so we get a better field and pick the best ones."

The doctorates have existed for just a decade or two and student numbers are small. At UTS, 12 of 58 candidates for the creative arts doctorate are writers, and four of 84 PhD students are creative writers.

Interesting... So you say that rather than opening it up and granting vanity degrees as a money-making scheme for the university you keep it tied to quality and scholarship? How radical. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sex by the book
This article about a British film that pushes the boundaries of explicit camera work makes an interesting point near the end about why books are often more erotic than film. (discuss) (Posted by George)

We need mental downtime in order to be creative.

But when was the last time you lay in bed all day? Indolence, or slothful behaviour, is not generally regarded as a positive attribute. Clutching on to the Calvinist work ethic we feel guilty if we are not on the go 12 hours a day and consider lounging around to be nothing more than a waste of time.

We couldn’t be more wrong. Bosanko believes that lazy periods in our day allows all our thoughts to percolate in our heads. Eventually they will filter through to our consciousness and result in a problem solved, or a chapter written. "I think everyone needs staring into space time because original ideas will come to you in moments when your brain is in neutral. You could be out walking, gardening, doing the washing up or just sitting relaxing."

Finally, I feel vindicated. Now get up, I want to put my feet up where you're sitting. (discuss) (Posted by George)

But where are the milk crates and cinderblocks?
Two home libraries to make you hurl with jealousy. (Well, I suspect the Brinkers' home library is made up primarily of Time/Life and is designed for maximum decor effect. So that one just makes me hurl...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lonesome Shelf
Larry McMurtry is closing his bookshop, as you likely know and are considering how to best deal with. Sad whistlers and cigar store Indians from around Texas are headed to Archer City, hoping to provide ambience for this tragic event. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Book Lovers' Trivial Pursuit
Bookslut reviews Book Lovers' Trivial Pursuit and recommends it for the uber-geeks only.

While none of us knew which university Blue attends while spying on Black and White in Paul Auster's Ghost (A: Brown), we all agree that Smoke was a great movie. It's reminiscences like this (in addition to slagging the competition) that make the game work. Overall, I feel vexed, but I enjoy feeling vexed. I think the game has a fine balance of contemporary and classic, at least for English grads who still read the review section.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

No Country for Old Men cover
The Rake draws our attention to the cover design of the upcoming Cormac McCarthy novel. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Gorge
Oh yeah, here's that Umberto Eco story that everyone's arguing about. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Do writers deserve grants?
Interesting how that question always makes writers turn on each other.

"It's part of the business of proving yourself," he says. "Some people think writers over 35 shouldn't get grants, but in my opinion writers under 35 shouldn't get them. They should get a book or two under their belt, do the hard yards."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Holy dirty nukes, Batman
Batman takes on al-Qaeda. (Full text below)

Comic-book legend Frank Miller told SCI FI Wire that he's currently at work on two new Batman titles. "One of them I'm 120 pages into right now, and it's called Holy Terror Batman," Miller said in an interview while promoting the upcoming film version of his comic film Sin City, which he co-directed with Robert Rodriguez. "It's a 'propaganda comic book' of Batman versus of Al Qaeda. Come on, somebody had to do it."

Miller, who's best known for creating Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, added: "And I'm working with Jim Lee on a new series called Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. That's the early training of Robin." Holy Terror Batman and Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder will be published later this year.

Sure, somebody had to do a comic about it. But did it have to be someone I used to respect? (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Martha Sharpe leaves Anansi
A press release from Friday made ripples over the weekend when House of Anansi announced the resignation of uber-editor Martha Sharpe. This is akin to your head getting up and deciding to leave your body. One of the best out there. Bookninja wishes her well in everything. (Thanks to everyone who wrote in about it) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Is the Orange Prize discriminatory?
I thought all prizes were discriminatory. Or is that discriminating? I can never tell the difference.

In the week of the Orange launch, one broadsheet newspaper carried 20 reviews, 19 of them on books by men. Women publish about 70 per cent of novels in Britain. Were they so bad?

At the root of this is a debate about whether literature is above gender; and whether, if there is such a thing as women's writing, it is subconsciously deemed to be inferior. 'I stand by what I thought then,' John Walsh says. 'The prize was launched on a ridiculous premise. There is nothing more condescending than the idea that there is women's fiction. It's extreme bigotry.'

Yet, as Lady Ninja says, the reason we don't have a Straight Pride Day because every day is straight pride day. (discuss) (Posted by George)

9/11 fiction
Read all about it.* Again. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The once and future publishing

Backspace brings us parts one, two, and three of an a look at publishing from now into the future. (From Salt and Ice, where JM conducts his own examination of his will to blog.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Waiting for the barbarians
Too many books means the death of culture. Pshah! says Robert McCrum.

Too many books? It's true that Britain alone publishes about 120,000 new titles a year, a 10-fold increase on 1905. So what? Most of these new books have the shelf life of yoghurt and get recycled into lavatory rolls and wallpaper quicker than you can say The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle .

We all know the only thing that can kill culture is the tin bullet known as Limp Bizkit. (A few years back I used to drive my little sister nuts by referring to every band she liked as Korn Bizkit. It's one of the many solid pleasures of ageing while retaining a sense of irony.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Comics journalism
Bookslut points us to the Columbia Journalism Review's article making a case for cartoonists as journalists. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The horror... the horror...
Did you know Orson Welles tried to adapt Heart of Darkness in the 40s? Neither did I. Now we do. Isn't this internet thing like magic?!? (discuss) (Posted by George)


Bookslut spins off a Foodslut site, Saucy. Var nice! Bon appetite. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Adaptation mania
The Book Standard's book-to-film adaptation report. (Danny Glover? Is he still alive? I was under the impression Mel Gibson and Jesus smothered him in his sleep one night...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Karmic shift
So this is how Doonesbury was going to handle the situation... (Thanks, Art) (discuss) (Posted by George)



What are the kidz saying, mum?
In case you don't already know, in case you lost years of your life, like I did in childrearing, and now find you can't understand a damn thing they're saying, try this. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

The emancipiation of the funny pages
The newspaper comic is dead. Long live the web comic. So says the CBC.

"Newspapers were a flawed mechanism for getting this sort of entertainment to people anyway, but they were the only way. Not anymore. It's easier to send the link to my strip to your friend than a cut-out clipping."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Writers festivals are a waste of time
Agree or disagree? (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Ninja appearance
Because of the nature of our trade in shadows and secrets, it is more common that you don't see us ninjas out and about. That will all change tonight though, as ninja Murray appears at Harbourfront in Toronto to host an International Readings event featuring Gary Geddes (Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things), Paul William Roberts (A War Against Truth), and Jessica Warner (The Incendiary). 7:30pm, Brigantine Room. Hope I see some of you there. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Two Canucks on IMPAC list
Canadians have been doing quite well on the IMPAC shortlist for some time. (Remember Dennis Bock with The Ash Garden? And that other guy...) Now two new shortlistees: Douglas Glover for Elle and Francis Itani for Deanfening. Not making the cut from the longlist are: Atwood's Oryx and Crake, David Adams Richards's River of the Brokenhearted, Ann-Marie MacDonald's The Way the Crow Flies, and M.G. Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. All good books that could have made it, one would think, had all the variables of decision-making gelled in a slightly different manner. It's no crop to be ashamed of, anyway. It seems highly unlikely either of our hometown heroes will prevail though, against the likes of Edward P. Jones and Damon Galgut. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hell, I'd like to sue the Post for making fill out that dumb-assed form every time I want to read a story there...
An interesting case of cross-border libel that has a coalition of newspaper knickers in quite the twist.

At worst, the media fear the case, which goes to court in Toronto today, could force them to block access to their websites and electronic databases from some countries, shrinking the Internet's global reach. Some news organizations, they say, may have to shut down their websites altogether.

(From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

File under: now there's something you don't see every day...
The Oulipo movement getting coverage from a major American broadcast network. (From Lit Saloon, where, they point out, quite a few Oulipo works are under review.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Um... yeah... Jonathan Strange... About three quarters through... I fully intend to get back to it though... Um... soon...
On not finishing books.

It is a dark burden to bear, this business of not finishing books. You start out with all the goodwill in the world. You flip the pages diligently. Your circle of acquaintances expands by a dozen or more as this cast of made-up people enters your life. And before you even find out how it all turns out for them, you set them aside. What's your problem?

(discuss) (Posted by George)

If books can't be banned for stinking, should people?
Smelly people are banned from a California county's library. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Moms always know just what to say...
Moms. Is there anything they can't ruin? (discuss) (Posted by George)


CBC Poetry Faceoff 2005 -- game on!
Now that the NHL is on strike, is poetry Canada's new national sport?

This week, "Canada's game" finally comes to Calgary. I'm not talking about NHL hockey, I'm talking about CBC-backed literary showdowns. Is it only in Canada that we line up writers and other articulate people, like Olympic fencer Sherraine MacKay, to champion chunks of the national literature in events such as Canada Reads?

Watch out for Christian Bok -- he likes to go for the knees. (From Arts News Canada) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

And now there's absolutely no reason to watch this channel at all...
TVO is cancelling Imprint. Apparently it will be replaced by a show about eating sheep's eyes and bathing in cockroaches, tentatively titled: The Rita McNeill Variety Hour. (What do we pay taxes for? Roads?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Guilty of murder AND review
An inmate convicted of murder posts an Amazon review of the book that details his crime and punishment. Three stars. That's pretty even-handed considering he still claims he didn't do it. (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Writers' Trust Awards Announced
Many writers who won, including Engel, are very happy (um, Howard not Marian who was off rolling in a grave with her hirsute friend and unavailable for interview). (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Make way for the Blue-rinse crowd
The girls are getting older and more demanding than ever. With canes, and wheelchairs they descend, shouted, screeching, "A room of one's own!" (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)



A lesson in accuracy
Sloppy typists beware... A typo causes a nukular scare. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Depending on your positioning: "Good on him" or "WTF?" or "John Who?"
John Metcalf, "one of the most colourful and passionate voices in Canadian literature", is being made part of the Order of Canada today. Our tipster says, "There must be some people out there who think this a bloody outrage"... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Call to arms against cancellation of Imprint
Camilla Gibb says it most eloquently:

As writers, people in the publishing industry and patrons and supporters of the arts, we understand the social, cultural and educational importance of publicly accessible programming about books, publishing and ideas. As taxpayers, furthermore, we have the right to express opinions as to how our dollars are (not) spent.

Express your displeasure at TVO's decision by sending an email to BookBusiness@gmail.com. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

What to do about literacy
I know, get rid of the fusty teacher-librarians and all those dust-collecting books and buy computers. If you want to know what the kids are reading these days, look over their shoulder at the console in your local public library. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

The good old days when writers got to be spies
Not all surpirsing that Arthur Ransome might have been a spy. The entire plot of Swallows and Amazons centres on espionage. Well, that and lithe youngsters punting about, going native.(discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

File under: Sign of the times

The top headline on CNN today: "Jackson late for court". Runners up for important news include: "Funeral suicide bomb kills 47", "U.N.: Darfur toll far over 70,000", "Pakistan: Iran did get centrifuges". Just so you know. (discuss) (Posted by George)

What to do with Thompson's body
Archive fetishists are drooling over Hunter S's still-cooling corpus. There's a veneer of class here that would seem much more believable to me if the genteel feeding frenzy were taking place six months or a year down the road. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"What a pity nobody had the chutzpah to write a book about Newton's penis"

A decade and a half later, there are signs that the popular science boom is running out of steam. Unlike scientists, the public has a limited appetite for facts. That is, to my mind, a healthy state of affairs. The eternal curiosity of the scientist may appear touching, like the enthusiasm of a schoolboy for collecting conkers, but what is cute in a child is often quite pathological in an adult.

Nobody could put it better than Oscar Wilde. In his essay The Decay of Lying, he decries what he calls the "monstrous worship of facts". There is something truly monstrous about scientific curiosity because it seems to extend to facts something they do not deserve. Facts must be respected but never worshipped.

I, nerdboy, on the other hand, will never run out of enthusiasm for science books - or conkers. Call it unhealthy, then. I love my eggheads and chestnuts. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Aw-shucks-taint-nothing laureate cops to How Poems Work idea
US poet laureate Ted Kooser is starting a national poetry column that will be given free to any paper that wants to print it. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The speech accent archive
A very cool little site that has catalogued and analysed samples of 414 (so far) people of different linguistic backgrounds reading the same passage of text.

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded. The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different english speakers. It allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech.

(From Salt and Ice) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Roight ven, luvvy, 'ow's about a spot o tea wif yeh stories?

Sir Ian McKellen has signed up to play a "dodgy novelist" on Coronation Street. Oh, Magnandalf! How your new fans will cry! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Go Lloyd! Go Lloyd! Go! Go! Go Lloyd!
Who ever thought the opportunity to chant behind Lloyd Axworthy as though he were a prize fighter would ever arrive? I mean, you hope and you dream, but never really think it will happen...

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed -- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.

(Thanks, Yankee Doodle Jon.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

The differences are so much the same
Israel, looking at its bookselling industry, sees some familiar things.

When books are distributed to independent bookstores, the publisher keeps a bigger share of the catalog price of the book to himself. There are few brave publishers who will not give in to Steimatzky's discount demands. At the end of the day that chain stocks books by all of the local publishers - but displays those on which it got at a bigger discount more prominently.

(My favourite part is the mention of Aharon Appelfeld, fiction god.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

I heard a fly buzz so I switched to the chain gun and fragged it
Remember that challenge made to designers to develop a game concept based on Emily Dickinson? Listen to NPR to hear some of what they came up with. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"The bitch is still dead"
Why writers should get more respect on the movie set. (From Tingle Alley) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Weekend Edition:

Textual tattoos on Flickr
I've been using Flickr to host my Vancouver pics, and I think it's a great service. Lots of handy features and some very cool ones, such as the ability to view other people's photos that have been marked "public." Now Vancouver blogger Darren Barefoot has used Flickr's public pics to assemble a collection of textual tattoos -- "tattoos comprised mostly or entirely of English words and sentences." My favourite is "bibliophile" (pictured above), but there are some other nice ones here. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Million Writers Award Finalists reveal all!
About what inspired their works, that is. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Did the University of B.C.'s creative writing program change the face of Canadian literature?

Just look at some of its graduates over the past few years: Annabel Lyon (Oxygen, The Best Thing for You), Christy Ann Conlin (Heave), Lee Henderson (Broken Record Technique), Madeline Thien (Simple Recipes), Kevin Chong (Baroque-a-Nova). It's one of the country's most coveted master of fine arts degrees. Sure, there are other schools -- the universities of Victoria, New Brunswick and Windsor prominent among them -- but UBC was first (founded in 1965 by poet Earle Birney) and it's earned the kind of cachet that must drive its rivals to distraction.

Well, I don't see any other schools producing advice columnists. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Give me strength
Tina Brown, former New Yorker editor signs contract to write a book about Princess Di. The desperation is palpable. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Sure to be turned into a buddy movie
Fodder for an industry that shouldn't exist. Stalin's little chappie being turned into gold. Who gets the royalties? (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)



For the better motels
The British library will digitalise the oldest Bible in existence. This sounds amazing.

On Friday 11th March, the British Library in London announced an ambitious historical international project to reinterpret the oldest Bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus. A team of experts from the UK, Germany, Russia, Egypt and the United States will combine efforts to make the Bible accessible to a global audience using innovative digital technology.
The Codex is the ancient Greek Bible, written between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D., which is the period when the Roman Empire split and the Emperor Constantine, who ruled the Eastern Empire, adopted Christianity. The Codex was produced as the Greek version of the principal Jewish and Christian scriptures to match Greek heritage.

(discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

It's the headline that kills me
John Lennon's two wives, or, um, lovers, no, partners are not going to give peace a chance and neither are the fans. Cat fight! Cat fight! It's obvious who will win -- I mean Yoko against a mere 'paperback' writer? No contest. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Now, that's the American spirit
I thought it was lost forever.

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik accepted thousands of dollars in royalties from a book published to raise money for the families of heroes killed on Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Daily News has learned.
Kerik contributed an 11-sentence foreword to the book of photographs, titled "In the Line of Duty," in which he praised police and firefighters who "desperately fought and struggled and bled and died in a noble effort."
"Theirs is a story beyond words; a story of bravery, fidelity and sacrifice; a story that must never be forgotten," Kerik wrote.
Kerik's royalties on the book have so far totaled $75,954.52, sources told The News.

(discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

The competition just got nasty
It's not enough we have to fight with the patriarchy for spots on all the awards lists everywhere, now we have to fight with biker chicks for the biggest girl prize of them all. Jillie, get your gun... (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Shill for the man (and you)

You just have to find your corporate niche.

The days when it was enough for an author to launch a Web site and give away some tote bags are over. An unknown writer today has to be an imaginative entrepreneur, with strong marketing skills -- not just a wordsmith.

Now go gettem, tiger. Oh, that squirmy feeling? Your soul leaving your meat case for good. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Or you could, you know, hook up with a rock star
Ah, the rich and famous. Is there no one they won't exploit to their own benefit? If one had about six more plastic surgeries and the other was 70 years younger, we'd have some competition for courtroom drama of the day. (Other collaborative efforts include: "Shake that Conga-Poem Booty", "Blood, Sweat, Poetry and SALSA!", and "Mambo Sin Los Dientes".) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hiding, storing, full of shavings... I always knew they were trouble...
You know, you write things like SLAYER and MEGADEATH and I ♥ Megan on them... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Books in Beijing
Are a baffling ordeal. And that's just for the publishers.

At Book City, shoppers face an entire floor of English-learning materials. One, ''Love English,'' offers pick-up lines and pillow talk with cultural hints. Among its instructions: that '' 'I'm bored' really means: 'Do you want to have sex?' '' Practice cassettes are included.

For the language part, right? (discuss) (Posted by George)

All you need is love...
The greatest words of all time? Nuh-uh. Shows how good an internet survey is... I got four little babies right here that beat that hands down: "all you can eat". (discuss) (Posted by George)

Drinking and writing
The production company. As opposed to the condition. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Auction houses of the future quake in fear
What constitutes an original? What's the piece of history when it's all created in RAM and stored on a hard disk?

When all our documents are generated by digital means, the nature of what consists of an "original" becomes fuzzier and fuzzier. (Is it the first copy from the printer? The electrons on the hard disk?) And if search companies like Google succeed in their mission to get all human knowledge online, available to everyone, we'll have the power to peruse existing documents like those in the Christie's auction from the comfort of our dens. Why drop $72,000 for Eckert's business plan, with the worry that you'll spill coffee on it, when you can flip through it on screen free of charge?

I was thinking about this just the other day. I wrote a poem and, as it sat open in Word and in my computer's RAM, made about umpteen changes to it over the course of a few hours. That first draft that I composed on the screen is now gone, for better or worse. Anyone have a way around this that doesn't involve twenty files for each poem, a typewriter or a pen? (Sometimes it plagues me: what if the first version was the best?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Drop jaw (a) to floor (b), allow drool (c) to trick to chin (d)
Gorgeous hand-bound books from the special collections at Princeton. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

What's going on over at Esquire?
Let's have a peek, shall we? Oooh! Price hike! Yummy! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Did you know things were better in her day? Well, did yeh, youngun?
Camille Paglia points out what's wrong with contemporary poetry writers and readers.

For me, poetry is speech-based and is not just an arbitrary pattern of signs that can be slid around like a jigsaw puzzle. I sound out poems silently, as others pray. Poetry, which began as song, is music-drama: I value emotional expressiveness, musical phrasings, and choreographic assertion, the speaker's theatrical self-positioning toward other persons or implacable external forces. I am not that concerned with prosody except to compare strict metre (drilled by my Greek and Latin teachers) to the standard songs that jazz musicians transform: I prefer irregularity, syncopation, bending the note.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

"The first and greatest mythmaker of the machine age"
Jules Verne, author and likely time traveller.

Verne, the author, was incomparable. His 80 novels, written from 1854 till 1904, foreshadowed space travel (even identifying Florida as the launch-site for moon shots). They predicted, amongst other things, artificial satellites; large submarines; helicopters; television; video-players; and the development of plastics.
Above all, Verne, the scientific visionary, understood little about science. He had a weed-like imagination and an inexhaustible capacity to absorb facts. He created a triumphant new genre of "novels of science" by lifting ideas from a voracious daily reading of scores of books, newspapers and scientific journals. As a result, Verne got a few things right and many things absurdly wrong. His moon-rocket is a giant shell implausibly fired from a gun. The rocket is fitted out internally with plush armchairs and cupboards.

See, how did he know I would build and fire that very rocket this very spring?? Coincidence? I think not, you earth-bound saps. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Finally! I can take off this damn tinfoil hat!
Getting your message out there has never been easier. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Eye of newt, fang of middle-aged writer, salt...
If my spell works out, he'll be back to haunt you regardless... (discuss) (Posted by George)


Eugenides talks to his Alma Mater
On writing and Pulitzers.

I don't think people should think too much about the career of the writer, or the idea of being successful. You really just have to worry about the work itself, and hopefully the rest will follow. ... I proceeded about being a writer in a very serious way but never in a careerist way at all. I never worried about when I was going to get published or what age I had to get published by or anything like that, but I knew I wanted to write books that hopefully would be like the books that I admired and made me want to be a writer. In a way, it was a kind of imitation of my idols, and I wanted to do what they had done. I didn't really think about the financial or professional side of writing that much.

Pul-lease. C'mon Jeffrey, 'fess up. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Catholic fatwah? Or the last papal act of desperation
This has been up for a few days but it got me thinking. What if Dan Brown's publishers made a sticker like Oprah's and Reisman's that said something like, "The Pope finds this morally abhorrent"? Would they sell even more books? They could pop little relics under the sticker. God, the marketing possibilities are wonderful. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Villa Villekulla invites in Pullman
British author, Phillip Pullman and Japanese illustrator, Ryoji Arai win Lindgren Award. They better watch out or Pippi and her Cannibal King dad might steal it back. Or Ronia and her Robber dad. Gosh, I love Astrid Lindgren; she's the cream. Oh, I guess Pullman's okay, too. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

"Frodo still has the ring..." "How do you know?" "I can hear him singing about it..."

"Laaaa! I have a Riiiing! The one Riiiing! It's the Ring that makes my heart beat so that I can barely speeeeeak! But even Sauron's Ring can't stop me when I want to Siiiiing!"

The $27-million show, co-produced by Toronto's Mirvish Productions, will open in March 2006 at the Princess of Wales Theatre with a largely Canadian cast, said producer Kevin Wallace, a former Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborator who produced Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar and Sunset Boulevard.
The show had been scheduled to debut in London this spring to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the publication of the complete trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. However, there was no theatre available to accommodate the massive and technically complex three-hour production, producers said. The London debut is now set for fall 2006.

The Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Dance. Unprecedented numbers of nerds, killed by fits of apoplexy, wash up on the stoops of comic book shops across the planet. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Oh, I don't know... I'd buy the story of the bear suit lady...
Adapting to film is particularly difficult for writers like John Irving, whose characters are a shade... odd. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Peter Pan meets the Nintendo generation
Oh, thank god! Someone's finally going to "fix" that damned classic that's been boring children forever.

All Barrie's main characters - Peter, Wendy, Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and the crocodile - will be retained, though she may add some more and definitely wants to include more animals. She also plans to pack more action into her book than Barrie.

"I shall speed up the pace," McCaughrean said. "In all my books, as a rule something happens on every page. You can't, in these days of television, introduce longueurs. Children demand pace."

That's funny, my child doesn't. He demands long, rather wordy stories told in separate voices, usually involving the consumption of honey, haycorns or thistles. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Getting books to speak up

More on large print books killing the mass market paperback. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Foetry takes on Harvard
Foetry accuses Jorie Graham of nepotism (and Harvard of covering things up by quashing a student paper article) after an Open Records Act request reveals she apparently made some questionable choices while judging contests.

Yeah. Things aren't looking good at Harvard. Star poet, Jorie Graham, is on the list of judges recently exposed through an Open Records Act request at the University of Georgia Press. It's bad enough that she's awarded prizes to everyone including babysitters, lovers, and friends. The disclosure that Georgia was trying to hide showed that Jorie Graham judged a contest in which she selected her own Harvard colleague, Peter Sacks, as winner of the "open" series. Sure, that looks pretty bad, but even worse is the fact that Sacks is the latest Mr. Graham.

(Note to Foetry web designer: please lighten up or move that Cave Canum graphic. It's hard to read the text.) (From Moby) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Lit Idol has coolest name for George Carlin look-alike ever
Otis Twelve. That's so street, yo. Lit Idol finally gets some cred. (discuss) (Posted by George)

It's a good time to be a poet, says Billy Collins
Yeah, poverty and the ridicule of your peers just doesn't carry the kind of stigma it used to. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Laura Bush says boys are stupider than girls
Well, given her personal experience, I can understand. But even scientists (scientimatitions, for young trouble-with-reading Wubblewoo) are saying boys lag behind girls.

Exactly what should be done, however, is unclear, because there is no consensus on how much genetics, environment and culture are responsible for the gap. And it is not strictly a U.S. phenomenon: Stephen Gorard, education professor at the University of York in England, reviewed scores for 22 countries and discovered gaps in every one, despite differences in school setups and curricula.

In my experience, boys always lag behind girls because, frankly, the view is better from back here.. Badum bump! I'll be back on at 11, folks. Remember to tip your waitress. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Three for two
No, not that little tryst you've been dreaming of with the stock boys and/or cash girls at Zehrs... A common model of British bookselling that may be on its way here, like a bird flu or mad cow.

The three-for-two promotions, advertised in large front-of-store displays, have become ubiquitous in all major U.K. chains, such as Waterstones and Books Etc. According to a 2004 story from The Bookseller about the phenomenon, the “multibuys” serve three basic purposes: “to give value back to the customer, boost the perceived value of the brand and put more books in the hands of customers.” The promotions, which take a variety of forms (for example, in the form of two-for-£10) are most popular and successful in the three-for-two variation.

Though the practices are considered beneficial by many British publishers and retailers—some argue the promotions provide a much-needed way to boost sales of backlist titles—there are consumers and industry insiders who find the three-for-two model both annoying and disconcerting. Book-buyers complain that the discount themes become repetitive and are, ultimately, limiting.

Squawk! Moooo! (discuss) (Posted by George)

This all began when that fucking leprechaun started twisting my wishes around...
Because of my disdain for all things shamrock and my general displeasure at watching idiots claim Irish heritage from the bottom of a pint glass of green LAGER, I bring you, a day early, a history of the Irish people. You'll hear nothing from me on it tomorrow, as I'll be out with my shillelagh bashing in a few obviously-not-Irish windows and heads. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Joseph Smith takes another bullet
Another ex-saint pens tell-all. Aren't the Mormons ever going to figure out the difference between polygamy and pedophilia? Also for a good read try Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Fat bottomed girls make the world go 'round
Leonard Nimoy has a stoic thing for the movers and the shakers. The flesh made flesh. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

"Put simply, human beings determine their destiny through what they do rather than who they are."

Thus, tonight I will meet my destiny in a flurry of hot tea and honey, bunny slippers, over-the-counter flu drugs, and a copy of Sky & Telescope Magazine. Nay! Do not attempt to dissuade me from this path. Sartre has chosen it for me.* Well, his ghost. Well, I think it was me. Could have been the guy a few feet over to my right. (discuss) (Posted by George)

This has something to do with Austen
You see, after reading a few paragraphs through eyes that feel like rotten grapes, I scrolled down to the end to get a sense of how long it was and found a bibliography. I pretty much stopped reading at that point. My sinuses made a long squealing noise that I took to be a sign of approval. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"We are always told not to be direct"
The trials of being an Arab writer. This is pretty direct:

Two months ago, a group of men entered a bookstore on one of the capital's broad avenues, lined with designer boutiques and glass-and-steel shopping malls. They seized copies of "The Bottle," which includes an unflattering portrayal of an Islamic militant, after it had sold 500 copies in just three days, a feverish pace in the kingdom. Although the government had approved the book for sale, the men warned the shop not to carry it again.

This is, of course, from an American paper, so keep that in mind. (discuss) (Posted by George)

From hostage to author in seven hours flat

This woman is the washed out bottle blonde of Mother Theresas, I tells ya. Converts a killer with a wee chat about Jesus and some flapjacks. Give her a book, says I. Aargh. Just be getting her a good ghostwriter who can jazz it up with some poison and car chases or something, matey. (How did I turn into a pirate so suddenly? Must be the Nyquil. Mmmmm. Nectar of the gods... ... ... Pirate gods...) (discuss) (Posted by George)

"When I meet with the cast for our first rehearsal, I'll describe the phenomenon of how everybody in the Canadian middle class gets in a car and drives two and a half hours north ... and spends anywhere from a week to two solid months in something dilapidated or slightly better than dilapidated"
Canadian playwrights get some bumph in London. (discuss)

Reading program helps get kids excited about reading...
Comics books and dub get kids excited. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Super librarian hero of two kiddie books
Alia Muhammad Baker, the Basra librarian who saved 30,000 books before a bombing took out the library, was surprised to learn she is the star of two books: The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq and Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq. (discuss) (Posted by George)

£60,000 goes a long way in a miner's shack

Reclusive poet Gillian Allnutt hits it big, buys new roof. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Finally, a poetry contest for everyone!
Just watch Foetry doesn't get all riled up about a judge and a contestant both liking muenster. (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Still sick, and cry for help...
Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm a walking nasal drip. I've ceased to appear human in any regard and now look like the fluke man from that freaked out Xfiles episode where the guy gets sucked down the outhouse, like that so freaked me out, man, I could never possibly go to the cottage again and... wait... what am I saying? Ah, the NyQuil... Yah, ride the wave, baby! The wave. The whale. Did you guys see the movie Whale Rider? So this trippy kid is like "I'm dancin, I'm dancin, I'm doing what my daddy don't want," and then she totally rides a whale...

But seriously, if you happen to know of a good, reasonably-priced two or three bedroom apartment in Toronto (house, non-smoking, near subway, and preferably in BWV/High Park, Parkdale/Roncesvalles or Annex areas), please let me know. We're jumping ship from Guelph. Nice town, but sloooooow. If you find us an apartment, you get a free Bookninja T-shirt.

(Addendum) More signs o' the times: the top headline on CNN right now is "Irish sisters meet Bush". Runners up for important news include: "IAEA chief: N Korea bigger threat" and "'Gaping holes' in oil-for-food". (discuss) (Posted by George)

Copyright battles

The sleeping pills of the literary world? God, how I wish they were sleeping pills. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Fack! I know contests blow, but...

You know, my whole next book is about this. How come I hear about these contests after they're over? I could really use a new telescope. My old one's alternator is shot (actually Baby Ninja put honey in the focuser tube). (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pele: the Autobiography
Subtitled: Your Lover Likes My Balls. Apparently the first 200 pages are dedicated to explaining to North Americans that his name doesn't rhyme with Neal. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Salman Rushdie, Boy George, Pamela Anderson, and Kazuo Ishiguro
You just knew there had to be a connection somewhere. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"More euthanasia than tragedy"
Dooney's weighs in on the cancellation of Imprint. As does Alex Good, who has a few choice words about the intersection of television and literature.

Television is not the enemy of the written word. They are such very different things they never really compete. But a television show about books is first of all a television show. Which means it has to be fairly snappy and play to personality. And here is the biggest problem: Authors are not always snappy and tend not to have telegenic personalities. When you see authors being interviewed on television it's almost always disappointing. This is so even when the format allows for a long discussion. I have seen Douglas Coupland interviewed on TV, at length, twice and both times he struck me as -- what used to be called -- retarded. This isn't to blame the authors (though in Coupland's case I might make an exception). Their job isn't to be interesting or even articulate in person. But we're talking about making a book show.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Here's one for the Harry Potter fans
An interview with the woman who draws Harry.

"It's a challenge to take a character ... and make sure he ages correctly and make sure he looks like he would look if he were to get a year older," she told The Associated Press. "I feel like I'm his mom. I comb his hair or I mess it up, I make sure he looks good before he goes out the door..."

... with his gold-plated lunchbox. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Kind of an art thing, involving book covers and words. Imagine what they could do if they put their power toward making something useful. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Watchmen movie
Chud (?) interviews Paul Greengrass, the director of the upcoming film. (He's the guy who did The Bourne Supremacy, if the name doesn't ring a bell.) I'm actually a little optimistic about this one.

How do you deliver the Citizen Kane of comic books to screen? That is basically the problem. It's a bit intimidating to be honest. I believe two things, really: I do believe, obviously because I am here, that you can make a film based on Watchmen the novel that is both truthful to the novel and also works in two hours. I really do believe that, I wouldn't be here if I didn't. The second point is that I believe in an odd kind of way that it's twenty years since Watchmen, give or take a year or two -- certainly twenty years since it was set -- and I think in many ways a lot of what Watchmen was about is very, very relevant to today.

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

Last chance to get yourself in a Neil Gaiman book
He's auctioning off naming rights to a cruise ship in Anansi Boys. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Cellphone novels...
...are big in Japan. Of course, so is tentacle porn.

Several mobile websites offer hundreds of novels -- classics, bestsellers and some works written especially for the medium.

It takes some getting used to. Only a few lines pop up at a time because the phone screen is about half the size of a business card.

But improvements in the quality of liquid-crystal displays and features such as automatic page-flipping, or scrolling, make the endeavour far more enjoyable than you'd imagine.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Egad - Toronto really does suck... for poor people
After a full weekend of searching, Lady Ninja, Baby Ninja and I are seriously thinking of staying in Guelph. What dumps. Maybe we're just looking the wrong places, but the vast majority of apartments we saw were just disgusting. The first place we saw was divine and a few hundred dollars a month out of hour price range. Sigh. Such is life. Plus, have you ever tried to have lunch in the Annex with a two-year-old? The hipsters look at you like you've brought a hobbit-sized Ebola virus into the joint. One of the great things about New York was how welcome the kids are everywhere. Get over yourselves, kids. If the place is called Mel's Family Diner, it means that, besides dirty, hungover, tactically messy young lads and plucked punker girls, families are welcome.

And thus the ninjas develop a new crush
Oh dear sweet lord, how I love nerd girls. Is there anything hotter than pointy glasses and bangs? When is the pinup calendar coming?

She is one of the youngest editors in chief of one of the "Big Five" American dictionaries: At 33, she is in charge of the Oxford American Dictionary. (The others are American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, Webster's New World and Encarta.) She was appointed last year, and the first Oxford dictionary created under her auspices will hit stores next month. And she is not alone. Ms. McKean is part of the next wave of top lexicographers who have already or may soon take over guardianship of the nation's language, and who disprove Samuel Johnson's definition of a lexicographer as "a harmless drudge."

He's not so bad, either! (Encarta?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poetry for fools in love
The good people at the Telegraph hired four poets to come up with verses (in anticipation of laureate Motion doing the same) for the wedding of Prince Charles to his longtime piece of dried beef - I mean lover - Camilla Parker Bowles. It just so happens that one of the poets attempting this task of questionable merit is Canadian Todd Swift. Hell, I liked his poem on the death of Charles Bronson. This is about the same, right? (Here are the poems.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Uneducated drunk conquers the world
Coetzee on the Parini Faulkner bio, One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner.

The acid test is what Faulkner's biographers have to say about his alcoholism. Here one should not pussyfoot about terminology. The notation on the file at the psychiatric hospital in Memphis to which Faulkner was regularly taken in a stupor was: "An acute and chronic alcoholic." Though Faulkner in his fifties looked handsome and spry, that was only a shell. A lifetime's drinking had begun to impair his mental functioning. "This is more than a case of acute alcoholism," wrote his editor, Saxe Commins, in 1952. "The disintegration of a man is tragic to witness." Parini adds the chilling testimony of Faulkner's daughter: when drunk, her father could be so violent that "a couple of men" had to stand by to protect her and her mother.


RIP: Andre Norton
Scifi master Norton, dead at 93. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Bite-sized books

The art of the mini-book. A tiny article followed by a lot of interesting-looking links. And speaking of art - more on altered books. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Physician help thyself

Leah McLaren on self-help books.

This is the power of self-help books: They remind us of what we already know to be true but are too embarrassed, self-conscious or angry to admit.

And I wonder what those reminders would be... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Conversation with John Ashbery
On NPR. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Picasso the poet no Picasso the painter...
No, but better than you'd think. Hm. Painters as poets. Who'd have thunk it?

Picasso's literary output has been little more than a footnote to public awareness of his artistic contribution, but "it's the work of an accomplished poet," says Mr. Rothenberg. "It was not trivial work. It's part of the history of experimental poetry in the 20th century."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

From mouth to the page
First Nations publisher honoured. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Web eggheads take on paper eggheads
Is The Chronicle of Higher Education in danger of losing out to insidehighered.com?

The insidehighered.com founders say early response to their Web site has been gratifying. They have registered approximately 4,500 subscribers to their e-mail service, which, when the site is fully functioning, will provide users with news alerts and service announcements. The goal is 100,000 registrants by the end of 2006.

Stay glued to your monitors, kiddies and watch this space for breathtaking updates!! (discuss) (Posted by George)

New York Review of Comics
The New York Review of Books is conflicted over comic books. On the one hand, there's this positive article about Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis:

there is more variety of architecture and decor, more of the drama of physical interaction, and as in the work of Felix Vallotton, clearly an influence, Satrapi is engaged in an intense exploration of pattern. Through the changing relationships of shapes, facial expressions, costumes, and dialogues of light and dark, she explores the patterns of human behavior, Eastern and Western culture, of history and incident.

On the other hand, there's this call for Jonathan Lethem to stop writing about comics.

But it is time this gifted writer closed his comic books for good. Superpowers are not what magic realism was about in Bulgakov, Kobo Abe, Salman Rushdie, or the Latin American flying carpets. That Michael Chabon and Paul Auster have gone graphic, that one Jonathan, Lethem, writes on and on about John Ford, while another Jonathan, Franzen, writes on and on about "Peanuts," even as Rick Moody confides to the Times Book Review that "comics are currently better at the sociology of the intimate gesture than literary fiction is," may just mean that the slick magazines with the scratch and sniff ads for vodka and opium are willing to pay a bundle for bombast about ephemera.

Wonder how they feel about cellphone novels. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


On reviewing
Nice guy, and postively super review/critic, David Orr, received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the Nation Book Critics Circle. In a speech he outlines his thoughts on place of criticism and book reviewing in contemporary literature. Really great, generous stuff.

...English literature isn’t just a matter of personal griping and schmoozing among writers and reviewers and agents and what-have-you; it’s a running battle fought in trailers in Columbia, South Carolina by people who are always underpaid and often underappreciated. It’s an ugly, wearing fight in which the great enemy isn’t “snarkiness,” but indifference. This enemy doesn’t care whether you’re a literary critic or a book reviewer. This enemy doesn’t care, period. And we are all – writers, reviewers, readers, teachers – allies against this enemy. Reluctant, squabbling, elbow-throwing allies, maybe. But allies. And honesty – as artists, as critics, as educators – is one of our greatest weapons.

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

What are those little brown people saying
I can't hear through that weird accent. I went to a mesmerisingly brilliant katak/tabla classical Indian dance/drum solo the other night and on the bulletin board of the studio was a clipping saying "329 Dead, 0 Responsible". Turns out Canada knew the Sikhs were up to something but we didn't want to be racist. Or something. Ex-spy and former diplomat Maloy Krishna Dhar spills the beans. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

My Da can lick yer Da anytime
Writers related to other writers go on about how hard it is to be related to writers. Publishers trip over their banal explanations and one small voice says it all. Richard Bachmann od A Different Drummer: "Having a name's a start, but pobably even better would be having a good editor." And sure I'm jealous. And sure I'm bitter; the closest thing I have to artistic heritage is my Grampie, who was an extremely accomplished velveteen paint-by-numberist. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Who's gonna save us from Bush?
Shaft! Well, technically, it's comic-book hero Nick Fury of SHIELD. Only SHIELD is SHAFT in this comic. And Nick Fury looks like Samuel Jackson thanks to some serum he took that made him black. And, uh, Bush is the emperor from the Star Wars movies. And Gauntanamo Bay is used to imprison superheroes.... But the important thing is this may be the first comic to mention the Raelian church! Of course, it's in a reference to Bush's faith-based cloning initiative, but still.... (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

You think we have it bad here? Try getting whipped for what you write

It's a good thing the US supports Saudi, the forward thinking Arab state it is... I mean, 275 lashes and four months in prison is hardly a beheading. Someone should give them the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ali Al-Mizeini, an Arabic language professor at King Saud University, was charged by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice with allegedly questioning the religious institution’s abilities and knowledge in an article written for the Al-Watan newspaper.

(From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Newsflash: Frothing poet claims establishment poetry is dead
Run for the hills, Ma Parker! A poncy armageddon is upon us! The four horsemen of the jazzy avant-garde are here to lay waste to the kings and peasants of establishment poetry. Again! (Turner Prize?) (Mime? Is he related to that airplane lady here in Canada?) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Stevenson took trip to get to Hyde park
Treatment with a derivative of a hallucinogenic fungus to stop lung bleeding may have given Robert Louis the bad trip he needed to come up with Dr. Hyde. I love the baffled outrage of his wife. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Who are you writing for?
The guy with the gun, is my answer.

One of the most searching questions you can ask of any writer is: who are you writing for? There are various answers to this inquiry, which can be summarised as ranging from my bank manager to my muse to, the best of all possible audiences, myself.

I wrote for myself once. It was a whole page of my own name. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The best newspaper in the world...
A newspaper that devotes scads of space to a crash course on the sonnet? I swoon. (Gosh, I love her matronly attitude. Please look down your nose at me and tell me I'm good!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Don't never grow up, Jonny. Never ever!
Dude totally rags on Jonathan Lethem because he wants him to stop reading comics. Retreat to your Fortress of Solitude, JL. I'll tell you when the Kryptonite is gone. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Kazuo Ishiguro
Profiled in the Globe. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Philip Lamantia

Beat poet, dead at 77. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Rhymes with Orange
Borange? Some prattling on about the relevance of women-only book prizes. Is it really such a big deal? It's been ten years of prizes to women. Does it hurt so much? Does it sell a few extra books for some authors who statistically can't get properly reviewed, for whatever the reason? Does it serve as a reminder that regardless of talent, things still aren't equal? Or is everyone under the illusion that humanity is "fixed"? Just forget about it and enjoy the award. (I'm reminded of that quote from the Simpsons: "Oh Lisa, the whole reason we have elected officials is so we don't have to think all the time. Just like that rain forest scare a few years back. Our officials saw there was a problem and they fixed it, didn't they?") (discuss) (Posted by George)

Truss 2: This Time She's Got a Knife
Well, I'm sold.

Even the title of Truss's book rails at a culture in which, she says, rudeness is considered amusing. It is to be Talk to the Hand, half of a saying which ends " 'cause the face ain't listening". (In today's teenage lingua franca, it is often accompanied by a gesture in which the arm is held, palm forward, at the speaker.) Truss's subtitles are more to the point: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door.

I'll consider it a field manual for familial relations. (discuss) (Posted by George)

If you're wondering what to get a ninja for his upcoming birthday...
I want mine to read "Numb Lock". (I bet I could work an ass groove into it. If only it came in bean bag form... I think that about a lot of things. Toasters. Cars. Books. Fire hydrants. Telephones. Tuesdays. The number six. Wouldn't life just be so much better if things were in bean bag form?) (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Updated: hacked?
Ealier today it appeared the Foetry website was replaced with a message from a hacker, reading: "Hacked by F3R4_R4PP3R - Sala_14@bsdmail.org / Brasil 2005 Hax0red !" It's like a little poem in itself, init? What did they ever do to earn anyone's wrath? Oh yeah.... Who knew there was a poet out there who could earn a living? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Only in Canada, you say
Shaughnessy Cohen prize for political writing turns out to be named after, well

the outspoken and popular member of Parliament from Windsor, Ont., who died suddenly in the House of Commons in 1998 after collapsing from a brain hemorrhage.

Oh yeah, Jane Jacobs is nominated. I got a bit distracted by the visceral imagery. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Getting Johnny to read
Nova Scotia has discovered something really new, here. They can get little girls to read. Wow. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Eviscerating Noddy
John Wilson, author of Battle Scars and The Flags of War, weighs in on what makes little boys tick. I asked my two youngest sons why they liked violent movies so much and they said it was good training for war. Unsettling but there you go. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

My only concern in pleasing my dad is remembering how to tell the difference between the left- and right-handed hammers...

I'm what they call a "first-generation writer", so I wouldn't know, but it seems being the child of a famous writer ain't as easy as it looks.

The publishing world is seemingly witnessing a boom in the population of writers whose parents made their living in literature, and not just in America. In Canada, Anne Giardini, daughter of Carol Shields, is making the bestseller list with her first novel, The Sad Truth About Happiness; Emma Richler, daughter of Canada's legendary Mordecai, releases her first proper novel, Feed My Dear Dogs, this month; and David Layton, son of Irving Layton, releases his first work of fiction, The Bird Factory, after his memoir Motion Sickness.

Okay, so it is. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Rock finds $8M for arts
Which is to say: The Rock "finds" $8M for arts. The ten people left on the island are ecstatic, if somewhat chilly. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Apparently it will be titled: Almond Joy
New Dumas novel discovered in Paris. Merde. I cannot tell you 'ow mooch crap we 'ave joost lying around zis fricking city. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Henry Miller is moaning in his grave
Nerve.com, which I haven't visited since my free contributor subscription ran out (I guess I'll have to write something saucy again), has launched the Henry Miller Award for Sex in Fiction. And it's monthly. (Sam Lipsyte's Homeland is up for the first round. I know I've already harped at you, but you HAVE TO BUY AND READ IT.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Remember, G8 rhymes with "great"!
A grant to watch the G8 summit and write a book of poems about it. Eh, there's been worse. Remember the guy who got a grant to get drunk and write poems while wasted? (discuss) (Posted by George)

To brighten your day

A glimpse into a world you'll never have access to. The rare book auction. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Pumped on power

Colin Powell to publish tell-all book about rampant White House steroid use. Ah, so that's what they're calling the old can of Pabst with a line of coke chaser these days. (discuss) (Posted by George)


You heard it there first: women authors suck
This is sure to win friends and influence people. Especially in this anti-intellectual, neo-conservative, keep-mamas-in-the-home-like-god-says day-and-age (that's a lot of dashes!).

In the introduction to 13, a collection of poetry, short stories and extracts from novels, published by Picador, the authors Toby Litt and Ali Smith make a sweeping condemnation of the subject matter, writing style and preoccupations of female writers. Litt, the author of several books including Corpsing and deadkidsongs, and Smith, the Scottish writer who has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize, sifted through numerous submissions from women writers. Few impressed them.

In the introduction to the collection the authors write: "On the whole the submissions from women were disappointingly domestic, the opposite of risk-taking - as if too many women writers have been injected with a special drug that keeps them dulled, good, saying the right thing, aping the right shape, and melancholy at doing it, depressed as hell."

Um, I believe the pharmaceutical designation for that drug is "patriarchal hegemony". (Some responses.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

10,000 wooden mice
A life in bookstore management with the lonely wind of the prairie whistling in your ears. Just goes to show you, you never know where you're going to find yourself, of what kind of vermin you'll have to deal with. (From AOABS) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Poet Nick Flynn
Author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, interviewed at TMN. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Let's hear it for the board!
The Paris Review board appoints New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch editor, and people seem to think that's pretty groovy. (discuss) (Posted by George)

One less killer, poet stalks Chicago's mean streets
I'm not sure which is more relieving. And to think it was Spider Man's boss all this time... Who CAN you trust?

In Chicago, J.J. Jameson's voice resonated deeply on poetry stages. He marched for peace and even helped set up chairs at community policing meetings in his Far West Side neighborhood.
Porter, 65, appears to have been in Chicago for at least the past decade and possibly the whole time he's been a fugitive. He made a name for himself as a poet, local handyman and quirky neighbor. He occasionally talked of family and growing up on the East Coast, but neighbors said the anecdotes were short on details.

(From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

It gets boring after awhile all this winning... I assume...
Ha Jin wins second PEN/Faulkner Prize, last time for Waiting, this time for War Trash. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Motion sickness

Pity Andrew Motion, says CNN. (My god, every time I see that 500 bottles of Sherry figure, I have a moment of sympathetic liver failure.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

On Trial

We don't usually post events on Bookninja, but this seems like it might be a worthwhile time to break a rule.

ON TRIAL: Canadian Writers and Performers Read from Kafka's The Trial
Monday, April, 4, 2005, 7:30 pm
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas West
(two blocks west of Dufferin)

Featuring: Ann-Marie MacDonald, Nino Ricci, Linda McQuaig, Gordon Pinsent, Charmion King, Avi Lewis, Bernard Behrens, Heather Mallick, Stuart McLean, AND MORE! Music by: Ken Whiteley, Evalyn Parry

Tickets: $25, a benefit for the Esperanza Fund, which aids the families of Canada's secret trial detainees. Five men have been detained a collective 15 years in Canadian prisons without charge or bail, on secret evidence neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see, and all are threatened with deportation to torture.

Tickets available by calling (416) 651-5800 or tasc@web.ca

(Thanks, Matthew) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Woody Allen wants to be a tragic poet

He has the distinction of being one of only a handful of actor/directors I've gotten up and left the theatre on (Scenes from a Mall - though it might have been Bette Midler, who I react to like turned dairy products), yet with all the stuttering and neuroses, I suspect he would blend right in. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Ethan Hawke, Amazon reviewer
Very funny bit from Gawker about "Hawke" reviewing Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. (discuss) (Posted by George)


"What good is a dead narrator?"
On postmortal fiction.

Really, the question of why so many dead are turning up in fiction could be answered more easily if being dead offered a new tonal range or somehow made it new, but the voices of the new literary dead sound chilly but normal ... Current literary practice tends to substitute for any attempt to render the uncanniness of death a chummy, ironic ordinariness, the central irony being the fact that though the voice is dead it sounds okay.

(From the Rake) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

But I thought Jesus was supposed to be cool again
The CBC reports on the Jesus comic scandal in Europe.

In January, an Athens court convicted Haderer of blasphemy and gave him a six-month suspended sentence -- in absentia -- for creating the tongue-in-cheek comic, which features an often inebriated Jesus whose miracles happen because of luck rather than by divine intervention. The book, which has sold more than 100,000 copies across Europe, also includes appearances by such contemporary characters as late rock icon Jimi Hendrix and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Weekend Edition:

$83,000 a year to read books
And she quits?

A woman, looking to do more than sit and read books at her $82,789-a-year job with the State Liquor Authority, has settled her federal court lawsuit against the state and will move to a new job with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Patricia Freund, a 25-year state employee, had said her superiors at the SLA sent her to a back room and gave her nothing to do for the past three years after she questioned the practice of state employees attending Gov. George Pataki's annual prayer breakfast.

Prayer breakfast? This story keeps getting weirder. (From Literary Saloon) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Am I hot or not?
Do you prefer books with or without author photographs?

on the whole, author photographs tend to be bland: the only creative decision is whether the chin should rest on the hand or not. Props, though popular, are always a mistake: the pets, the pipes, the hats and flowers. A photo of James Joyce appears to feature a game of pocket billiards -- a very bold statement.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The best of Belgium
Unfortunately, it doesn't include Tintin.

Famous Belgians, it is often said, are few and far between. So, it came as something of a disappointment to the organisers of an exhibition marking the best of Belgium that they could not include one of their favourite, if fictional, sons -- Tintin.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


PEN American Center announces a new literary festival
I guess it was only a matter of time (scroll down). This makes me wish I lived in New York. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Australian raconteurs dance the Matilda
Aussies have a group hoe-down. Crowd is huge, everyone's drunk, and no one notices that one man is ceremoniously slicing another's throat (see photo). Not to worry; it's all in good fun. And besides, you have to sex it up to get people out to poetry events.(discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Haunted bookshelf
Okay, I so want one of these. It'd be like Scooby Doo everyday in your own library. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Heti rocks Montreal

Hometown hero Sheila Heti is now in Montreal. But she loves and misses us all. And we miss her. Of her latest, the 109 page, buzz-worthy Ticknor:

"It's not beans, you're not getting fewer beans," she says. "It's a misunderstanding of what a book gives you, because when you're done with the book, you have it in your head, it's not long or short, it just exists. What you want is something that you can carry around with you in your head. I often think if something is short and well shaped and kind of perfect, it just kind of sits there." And Ticknor feels like it is exactly the length it needs to be.

Rock, rock on, Sheila! (discuss) (Posted by George)

19thC author lauded by 20thC washed up pop stars
Tina Turner is taking her vocal stylings and weave to Copenhagen in honour of Hans Christian Andersen, who is undoubtedly puzzled to find that David Hasslehoff is not on the bill. Hell, throw Sting and Rod Stewart on the bill and you've got a K-Tel classic. A perfect tribute to... a... fairy tale... writer. Um... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Here's how the banning of ideas works
School boards that buy text books in large blocks control the content of those books, as evidenced by the conservative school boards in Texas. This means things like abstinence-only sex ed books...

Texas is one of 21 states that use a statewide textbook adoption process, thereby wielding the power to rewrite textbooks to meet their priorities. “When you create a new edition,” says Steve Driesler, president of the American Association of Publishers’ Schools Division, “you’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of investment, and obviously the publisher wants to recoup that as soon as possible.” Driesler notes that a big state adoption enables a publisher to recoup its investment within a year. So most publishers hold off on writing new editions until that particular subject comes up on the adoption calendar of the largest state-adoption states.

California’s market size outstrips that of Texas, yet Texas has become far more powerful. Most state-adoption states are in the South, a result of banding together after the Civil War to pressure educational publishers to supply them with pro-Confederate history textbooks. Officials in these states treat Texas as the lead steer, often adopting and purchasing the same textbooks that have been adopted and purchased in Texas. Also, California adopts locally at the high school level, leaving Texas as the only big player in that market.

Guess what's next? Evolution disappears from science texts. (From BoingBoing) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Anarchist bookfair: still working together after 10 years...
There are pages everywhere! And the glue! Crazy anarchists. (From GoodReports) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Quit yer yappin'

Everyone has a life, but do we all have to write about it?

The memoir has been on the march for more than a decade now. Readers have long since gotten used to the idea that you do not have to be a statesman or a military commander - or, like Saint-Simon or Chateaubriand, a witness to great events - to commit your life to print. But the genre has become so inclusive that it's almost impossible to imagine which life experiences do not qualify as memoir material.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Dick inducted
Philip K Dick is being inducted into the Sci-fi Hall of Fame (actually, just a circa 1975 rec-room full of broken Beta VCRs, Pong machines, and empty packets of Tang). (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dear Booker judge: will you read them all?
A book a day for five or six months. I can only imagine the pain.

"If you send me to Tahiti with a box of books of my choice, I'll read a book a day for years. That's my idea of absolute bliss. But these are not books of my choice. And I would presume that a certain number of them will not be of my taste either."

Which begs the second question: will he really read all of them? The already controversial chairman of this year's judging panel, academic and columnist John Sutherland, recently got himself in trouble by announcing it was unlikely that any of the judges would do so. "I think the way you would say that if you were trying to be careful and judicious" - not things one immediately expects of Gekoski, whose gifts as a raconteur include his fine sense of fun and fabulous indiscretion - "is you say that you try to do justice to all of them. But you don't get to be my age and have my background and not know a bad novel when you've read 150 pages of it. And you have a fail-safe, because if you say to your other judges, 'Boy, that was a stinker' and two of them say, 'What are you, stupid? That's a terrific book,' then you would go back and look at it again."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Common People
Bookslut points us to Scans Daily, which has scanned in the comic Tank Girl's creator Jamie Hewlett did for the lyrics of Pulp's "Common People" (perhaps the single greatest pop song of all time). (discuss) (Posted by George)


Cthulu cereal
Now available in both Original flavour and Non-Euclidean. (From Metafilter) (submit!) (Posted by Peter)

Where are your non-fiction novels?
How about your novels by Moby Dick? (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Indian found in cowboy book
Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, or, well, an old ticket stub referencing him, slides out of a Jesse James pulp. Time warp.

Artifacts of Thorpe's athletic career, generally conceded to have ended in 1928, are rare and valuable. Nearly every authority on Thorpe's life and times, including his son, did not know he had played basketball at a high level as an adult. The ticket has helped uncover a 45-game barnstorming tour centered in Pennsylvania in which Thorpe, then 39, led a team of American Indian all-star basketball players.

"I didn't know what any of it meant," Barone said of the ticket. "But I kept thinking that some 14-year-old kid thought enough of that game that he didn't even let the usher rip the stub off. He had gone to see an American hero, and then he stuffed the ticket in his favorite book about the old West, and that's where it's been for 80 years.

(discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

What's a girl to do?
Taslima Nasreen's life must suck. First the death threats, then incarceration and forced exile. Now, India won't grant her citizenship. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

I share this passion
Sly romance writers have tapped pure peat moss here.

Linnet’s cheeks grew warmer ... as did the rest of her body, but she fought to ignore the disquieting sensations. She didn’t want a MacKenzie to bestir her in such a manner. Imagining how her da would laugh if he knew she harboured dreams of a man desiring her chased away the last vestiges of her troublesome thoughts.

Now if only you could tell a man's worth by the size of his, um, sporran. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Ninja pulls through for Ninja
It's a wonderful world. A helpful reader has directed Lady Ninja and I to a nice apartment in High Park - with great landlords. Do you know how rare that is? I wish I had thought of this media-darling blog thing ten years ago. Wait... there was barely an internet ten years ago.

Anyway, all this is to say that posts have been light because we've been desperately trawling for a place to live and that now that we have one, they could remain light for a couple weeks until we actually move in and get set up. But after that I expect to burn this cyberspace up, baby. Unless I get a job, in which case things will be reassessed at that time. So, for now, thanks Roland. I present you with the Supersecret Ninja Star of Distinct Honour for Valour in the Field of Bookjitsu. (Posted by George)

More She-devil
Sheila Heti gets more bumph for the buck. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Are bestseller lists killing culture?
Maybe, but they're fer sure killin' my pocket book. Badum bump! Wakka wakka. Ahem. Bookninja's grandpappy, the proprietor of MobyLives, takes a chunk out of the bestseller list.*

"To my mind, the best-seller list is ruining the book culture," said Dennis Loy Johnson, a publisher and editor of the literary site: www.mobylives.com. "The Grishams, etc., don't reflect the culture. They reflect the entertainment industry."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Want to know what happens
After The Graduate? Go off the author. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Know your setting
More landscape.

Landscape cannot, on the whole, be mocked up; cannot be dreamed into descriptive being. Light, water, angles, textures of air, water and stone, the curves and straights of horizon and slope: these are the basic components of natural places, and they combine in ways too subtle and particular to be invented.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Gordon Roper
A great scholar and godfather of CanLit is gone. (From PFW)
(discuss) (Posted by George)

Hugo shortlist announced

Nhoy glavin! Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is also up for a Murray for Best Book I Didn't Finish Last Year and I Can't Remember Why -- it really is a great book and I have no idea why I can't finish it. (Note also: hometown hero Robert J Sawyer up for short story -- the competition for Best Dramatic Presentation is far less auspicious.) (From Bookslut) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Books produced like eggs from factory farming
Do they come printed with that funky "Omega 3" thing on them? (How do they get the little printers up the chickens' arseholes?)

Imagine you were in a lonely underground station, late at night, when a dodgy-looking bloke began to walk towards you. Wouldn't you feel a whole lot better if he suddenly whipped an Ian Rankin paperback out of his pocket, put on a pair of specs, and started to read? It might only be a cunning ruse to make you drop your guard and loosen your grip on your wallet, but at least you'd be in a happier frame of mind when the fatal blow was delivered.

Why do books, and their readers, have this hallowed image? Is it because they're a quiet lot who rarely roam in packs, who are more likely to stay at home than create mayhem on the terraces, and are less noticeably anti-social than the music lover whose tinny headphone buzz can turn docile commuters into a lynch mob?

Whatever the reason, it is wholly bogus. Books are as mixed a blessing as free school dinners. Whoever thinks otherwise has no idea just how influential or dangerous they can be. Anyone so deluded must know nothing about them.

What are you saying? [Blogger grabs lapels of journalist and shakes dramatically] What are you SAYING??!?! (discuss) (Posted by George)

Librarians: evil thieving scumbags?
You know, I think the thieving librarian is, like, some ancient Sumerian archetype or something. Didn't that Joe Campbell soup guy write about them or something? (And to use an honest service like Amazon to hock your dirty wares. For shame!) (P.S. What's some rich-assed college president doing buying used books on Amazon? You fucking cheapskate.) (discuss) (Posted by George)


Holy Robin Hood, Irving
I love this story. Ne'er-do-well steals from Holy bookstores and sells, at a discount, to Holy synagogues.

According to police, in the pre-dawn hours of the
morning, Ya'acov Oksankrug is suspected of making off with piles of Holy Books dropped off at the store-fronts of Jerusalem Judaica bookstores in early-morning deliveries, and then reselling the NIS 100 books for as little as NIS 12 each to synagogues and yeshivot across the country.

Jeruselum's own Sam Slick. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

He's got you on his wavelength
Crooner/lady's man/Buddhist/poet/novelist/icon Leonard Cohen a Nobel prize worthy writer?

But alongside the question of whether Cohen could win the Nobel Prize in Literature is the question of whether he would want it -- or even accept it. The Montreal-born scribe did after all turn down the Governor-General's Award in 1968, after, he claimed, his poems told him not to.

There should be a Nobel for neurotics. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

And in cowboy news
Allow me this little indulgence. I just love chaps. When the Zane Grey Cabin Association got word of this 'rare' book donation, why they just about had conniptions. They was slap happier than a steer on the range. (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

Meet Amazon's No 1

Reviewer Harriet Klausner. 8,649 reviews as of March and a four-book-a-day habit. This woman needs a twelve step program. (I can just see the movie now. Do you think Kathy Bates will get the part or will they sex her up for Julia Roberts and add a befuddled love interest like Hugh Grant - an average Joe with great hair who's just trying to crack through the bibliomania to the sexpot inside? It'll be called "Five Stars" and the teaser line will be "She'd read every book but the Book of Love".) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Little people win one
Freelancers of the world rejoice.

The settlement, which could net qualifying freelancers a collective minimum of $10 million and maximum of $18 million, is the result of a lawsuit meant to remunerate writers for work that had been published over the years in online databases without their approval.

Undoubtedly there's someone out there who knows more about this than me, and in my experience things to do with copyright that look good to half the writers often get the other half all riled up about how the alphabet is being killed by being smashed repeatedly with baby seals and kittens or somesuch, so please tell me which one this is. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Oedipal thing gets more complex
Mother and son release books on the same day. In my family that means I have a new book coming out and my mother has just finally passed out and let her latest Dean Koontz fall to the floor. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"Marketing are bad for brand big and small. You Know What I am Saying? It is no wondering that advertisings are bad for company in America, Chicago and Germany. ... McDonald's and Coca Cola are good brand. ... Gates do good marketing job in Microsoft."
Are you getting all the grammar checking you paid for?

Krishnamurthy, a professor of marketing and e-commerce at the UW's Bothell campus, isn't convinced that the software giant is doing everything it can -- and he supports his point with eye-catching examples.

He has crafted and posted for public download several documents containing awful grammar. Depending on the version and settings, the Word grammar checker sometimes detects a few of the problems. But it overlooks the majority of them -- skipping misplaced apostrophes, singular-plural inconsistencies, missing articles, sentence fragments, improper capitalization and other problems.

As artificial intelligence goes, grammar checkers are pretty stupid. And yet they never fail to amaze me. I mean, how does it KNOW? (Every day I become more like my dad. Lately I've been staring at the blue light flashing on my gigabyte ScanDisk memory key and just saying, "How does it DO IT?") (discuss) (Posted by George)

Comics vs. the academy

If you called comics "intellectual marijuana" today, the kids would... um... what were we talking about?

Genteel critics writing in high-toned literary journals denounced these early comics as lowbrow and demeaning. In 1906, Atlantic Monthly described comics as "a thing of national shame and degradation." Three years later, the Ladies Home Journal labelled comics "a crime against American children."

For those early critics, comics were a symptom of everything that was going wrong with the world: the new-found preference for visual stimulation rather than time-honoured literary traditions; the growing strength of "disorderly" immigrant cultures in the United States and Canada, which they thought would overturn Anglo-Saxon supremacy; and the increasing acceptance of slang, which endangered norms of proper grammar and refined diction.

I'm so freaking hungry. (discuss) (Posted by George)


Porcupine on endangered list
Due to loss of habitat and human disregard, The Porcupine's Quill will be extinct by 2007.

[Inkster] says that last year Indigo cut its orders dramatically, ordering only 2,797 units of his press's 11-book list, which included critical favourites So Beautiful by Ramona Dearing and Emma's Hands by Mary Swan. Meanwhile, Indigo's returns of unsold books were 1,415, more than 50 per cent of its order. By comparison, Inkster says that, in 1998, Indigo and Chapters (absorbed by Indigo in 2001) ordered 13,293 copies of the press's books and returned 4,052, or less than 30 per cent.

Field study analyst and environmental celebrity, Annika Van Binder suggests that the small, but clever, creature just wasn't flamboyant enough to meet the changing climate. She sniffed, bit her lip and choked out, "I'll miss the ugly little things. They were too damn intelligent for their own good." (discuss) (posted by Kathryn)

On packing books

As you might expect, we have a lot of books. As in many. As in too many. Every time I move I ask myself the same thing: why can't we come up with a standard size for poetry books? Why do we have to get so damn artsy about them? What looks quite chaotic and pretty on the shelf, is a nightmare for stacking in boxes. The spines are everywhere. It's like teeth in a British mouth. I have half a mind to just sit here with an industrial paper cutter. Getting all fancy and square, Pedlar Press? Snip. Too long, Rampike? Slash. Who do you think you're kidding, Coach House? Cha-chunk. (Moving makes me grumpy. And itchy. I am swiffering dust from my books as I pack them.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP Robert Creeley
Black Mountain poet, giant of American poetry, dead at 78. (discuss) (Posted by George)

We'll Ms. you so much: old feminists oust new feminist

Infighting at Ms. leads to editorial change. What I can tell you is that I never really noticed or picked up the copies of Ms. lying around our house until about two years ago... hmmm. (I so wanted to bait Lady Ninja by stacking this post with terms like torrid, wild abandon, hot and bothered, Sapphic machinations, but then I decided that I like breathing in my sleep.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Border clash

Will Ian McEwan get back into the US? Will he want to? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Want to feel better about life?
And worse at the same time? Check and see how rich you are. Trust me, you're richer than you think. Even if you use your income from a part time job you had ten years ago. It's very frightening. (Thanks to Lady Ninja) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Plagiarism to make you squirm
Predatory intellectual feeds on blood of desperate moron. (Don't get me wrong, she deserved to be caught, but to have her pants yanked down in public for the amusement of others is just wrong.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

For discerning idiots
If you need this, you shouldn't be blogging. You're what's wrong with the entire endeavour. (discuss) (Posted by George)


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