Besides the regular new Litterati 'toons
that go up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this week we've got an
uncaptioned tableau we want you to fill out. Click
here to see the panel and then send
your entries to us by Friday, March 5th. The funniest entry
will be added to the Litterati archives (with full credit to the
writer) and there may even be a prize! Your fame awaits. (discuss)
"I am the wisest man alive, for I
know one thing, eh? And that is that I know nothing. Hoser."
Dudek is getting
his due - apparently as the Canadian Socrates... (From PFW)
Tibor Milks His Amis Kneecapping Publicity for a Good Gig
Fischer is going to be a Booker
Prize judge in 2004. If this is a trend, I think we might see
Dale Peck working the Pulitzer next year. Maybe he's interested in
the karmic value of lauding someone? (discuss)
I Wish I Could Tell You This Were About Gum...
than you can shake a sticklit at. (discuss)
''Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life: & it
ought not to be.''
Ladies and gentlemen, The
Brontë Sisters!* (discuss)
Black Buying Power Changing Publishing
Black authors forced to self-publish their initial efforts are getting
picked up by some big companies. Random House, William Morrow,
Ballantine, and others are developing Black imprints. When I was in
New York, I often saw street vendors specializing in books for Black
readers. The line ups were deep, but the books themselves often had
that self-published look (the one you get when you let your cousin
design the cover...) I remember thinking, aren't the publishing folk
this? There are twenty people crowded around a table selling awful
looking books. Put a decent cover on those and some publicity behind
it and... voila. (discuss)
James K. Bartleman, Book Saint
books donated by Ontario residents are headed to remote
communities in the far north. 40,000 books have already been
transported and the rest are waiting in army bases. Now if we can
just go through them and take out the Bonnie Burnard... (discuss)
Rider on Pale Horse Spotted Near Philly
Wow. Self-publishing "houses" run by large book-based
companies such Borders, Random House, and Barnes and Noble, are
responsible for 45,000
extra crappy books... Shame! (discuss)
The World's Longest Poem
If you can call a
series of random lines a poem. Hey, it works for a lot of
Canadian poets I know. And there are some good lines here. My
favourite: "Everything smells a little worse underground."
So true. (From Collision
roughly three kinds of book available to writers in their twenties:
Look Mum, I'm Dancing, All Men Are Bastards, and What I Did on My
I know one
of each of these! Some of them are two! Oh, my friends... "Then
there is that almost-forgotten figure: the writer, who stays at
home, keeps regular hours, does the work, accumulates a readership
and is virtually invisible." But I also know several of these,
though they're mostly in their thirties... (discuss)
Want to protest the U.S. Treasury Department's decision that
works from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Cuba can be published but
not edited, under penalty of imprisonment? Why not edit the work of
a writer from one of these countries and post
it on Rebel Edit? (discuss)
Ten Long Years - One Long Novel
I love these It-took-me-ten-years-to-write-this
stories... Don't ask me why. (discuss)
Buying Ad Space in
Ford has bought
ad space in a new novel by Carole Matthews. We are Bookninja are
taking up a collection to buy a mention in Margaret Atwood's next
sci-fi book - something about how in the future people will read us
on strange and wonderful devices such as "computers" and
"The Internet" and will send our articles around via
£33m Deal Struck to Save Murray Literary
"They included a letter from Charles Darwin telling the
publishers to print only 750 copies of the first edition of The
Origin of Species, in which he outlined his theory of evolution,
because he thought it would attract little interest." And to
think I'm not
going to see a shilling of that. It all
goes on lawyers, brokers, and Grey Poupon. Tut tut. (discuss)
Scottish Detective Writer Brings Undesirable Element to Rich
for him! (discuss)
We Are Basically Alone in This Universe
Apparently there aren't
too many people blogging... Then where the hell did we steal all
these stories from? Seriously, I probably read about twelve blogs a
day - and I am constantly seeing links to others that look
tantalizing, but I haven't the time to check. Here
A Little Extra Brontë Never Hurt Anyone
Another take on
sister romp. (discuss)
George Saunders Speaks Out
on Same-Sex Marriage
guide to live by. "Because my feeling is, when God made man
and woman He had something very specific in mind. It goes without
saying that He did not want men marrying men, or women marrying
women, but also what He did not want, in my view, was feminine men
marrying masculine women. Which is why I developed my Manly Scale of
Absolute Gender." (discuss)
do this to yourself? Because you'd never do it otherwise. The
aspiring amateur novelist promises himself he'll get around to it
"someday," but that day never comes. The 30-day deadline
is intended to provide focus so you actually get the thing done, for
better or for worse. (Odds heavily favor "for worse.")"
"Coetzee seems ill at ease with people, as if fearing he
will be tricked into falseness by a casual remark or exchange. He
was also reluctant to tolerate the overwrought meanings others might
seek to find in his work."
I'd love to chat with him but would be loathe to interview
him. Why does his personality come as a surprise to people?
Haven't they read his books? (discuss)
Bloggers Apparently a Bunch of Drunken Kids
story by a reporter who got in way too deep. She's awfully proud
of herself for digging up the trash on a bunch of normal people.
Coming this summer - Blog
People: The Betrayal. Is it too much to hope The Voice will
teach her a lesson in opening her big yap? (discuss)
Baraka's Daughter's Killer
"A Newark man killed the daughter of former New Jersey Poet
Laureate Amiri Baraka and her friend in order to torment his
estranged wife, authorities
centennial of Theodor Geisel,* otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. The
NY Times has a piece describing the festivities, but I think I'll
just listen to Jesse
Jackson do "Green Eggs and Ham" one more time. (discuss)
Stephen King: Television Magnet
Though apparently with a polarity too much like this
critic's. King's foray into television is Kingdom
Hospital, where the all the patients are DOA and the
prescription for television boredom is for another injection of
HORROR HORROR HORRORRRRR! OooOoo! Rowr! Boo! Agh! Reuters' prognosis
Gibson's Passion Responsible for Driving Book Sales
Um, but not Stephen King's.... It seems the new movie Passion,
which many have hailed as
anti-Semitic (and from the reports I've read, I offer no
argument in his defence), has driven closet Christians
out to the bookstores in mobs. (discuss)
RIP: Jerome Lawrence
the Wind playwright dead
at 88. (discuss)
Roam If You Want To
I like these
kinds of stories. Though hardly original, the idea remains
enchanting. Like that bicycle exchange that was going on in Europe.
So civilized. (discuss)
"Masters In Writing Fails To Create Master
PALO ALTO, CA—Despite completing all the requirements for a
Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from Stanford University in
January, Jeremy Craig Kessler somehow failed to become a master of
creative writing, sources reported Monday. "Mr. Kessler's short
stories, all written in the style of T.C. Boyle, show little more
than excellence in spelling and grammar," said literary agent
David Conrad. "Somehow, Kessler advanced to the very highest
level of the academic program and has only an average body of work
to show for it." Photocopies of Kessler's short-story
collection can be purchased at jckessler.com." This is from The
Onion but is unavailable as separate link. This, however, is
available, and is dedicated to Ailsa and Zach. (discuss)
Commonwealth Writers Prize
Frances Itani and Globe columnist Kate Taylor take
Speaking of religious publishing... Holy
Poetic Pontiffs! The main thing I want you to take away from
this, besides a healthy dose of jealousy, is the knowledge that we
all should have been born Polish. Man, do those people know how to
buy poetry. (discuss)
Suppose She Doesn't Like Lewis Carroll Either.
Jennifer Graham hates
Dr. Seuss. "I always thought the point of reading to
children was to teach them about language. How does Dr. Seuss help?
Heck, he knew so few words that he had to make most of his up."
But she does point us to the Center for
Seussian Studies. (discuss)
Browning's Soul Laid Bare
than in poetry... Yeesh. Grave robbers. (discuss)
Speaking of Grave Robbing...
Up Lorca (doesn't that sound like the title of a poetry book by
some recent CW grad?) Yeesh. (discuss)
"I'm a trainer working with young athletes"
Carole Oates on ...snort... teaching ...guffaw... creative
writing. Actually, I really respect and envy her work ethic, but how
can anyone take that line seriously? (discuss)
Couldn't Get into Arc?
Now you can't get into Malahat! Well, not that you could have
piece of Eastern scum. Also: "About once every three to
five years, a special issue of the journal throws the regular format
for a creative loop. The most recent example was the fall 2003 issue
(#144), co-edited by Cookshaw and UVic writing professor Lorna
Jackson, who is also a member of the editorial board. The issue,
which contained 116 pages of essays about the art of book reviewing
in Canada, received a warm response from readers..." Um... look
to the right. >>>
(From PFW) (discuss)
"He splits his infinitives and fills them up with adverbial
stuffing. He presses the passing colloquialism into his service. His
vast paragraphs sweat and struggle; they could not sweat and elbow
and struggle more if God himself was the processional meaning to
which they sought to come. And all for tales of nothingness It is
leviathan retrieving pebbles. It is a magnificent but painful
hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity,
upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den. Most
things, it insists, are beyond it, but it can, at any rate,
modestly, and with an artistic singleness of mind, pick up that
Ladies and Gentlemen: Henry
The Pain! Somebody Stop the Pain! These Poor People!
I suppose Lit
Idol is better than the lady who was off
to Orlando to "compete" in the International
Society of Ripoff Artists, but... Little universes of
self-congratulation and mutual backpatting like this (and BA's and
MFA's in creative writing) can only actually hurt most of the people
involved. It doesn't hurt until they find out it's a scam. I feel
sorry for the terrible poets who are really serious about their
work. What if they grow? Call me heartless, but somebody's gotta
Lenny their dreams! Quick and painless to the back of the head
before they stroke any more kittens to death. (From Maud)
While I Find Baseball Colossally Boring as a So-Called
"Sport" (They Don't Call It "The Timeless Game"
for Nothing - Yaaawnnnnn)...
guy is riveting. What will he say next? So whacky! So almost
articulate! So well read (mainly from Bartlett's
Quotations, but still!) (discuss)
Change is Good
We're changing where you link to the index of discussion topics.
It's being moved from under the header dates in the Review, Hearsay,
and Essay columns to the upper left corner of the home page - right
under the "Bookninja" title. (discuss)
No Big Surprises
Thomas, Fawcett, Harvor, Vanderhaeghe take
home Writers' Trust Awards totalling
Ah, Retailers/Publishers... How Do You Sleep at Night?
On big piles of money? No, no - everyone's struggling, I
suppose. But now publishers
and retailers want to take the printed prices off the covers of
books, a move that "could usher in an age where
"supermarket disciplines" are imposed on the book
industry... Leading authors, most of them prize winners, who have
joined the Society of Authors' campaign include Monica Ali, Julian
Barnes, William Boyd, Linda Grant, Mark Haddon and Michael Holroyd."
Just what we need, lost
leaders on John Grisham next to the eggs in aisle three while
the rest of us rot on the shelves beside the tofu. Wait - how's that
different, again? (discuss)
The Case for Literature
Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian speaks
out against the politicization of literature.
"Controversies about literary trends or a writer's political
inclinations were serious afflictions that tormented literature
during the past century. Ideology wreaked havoc by turning related
controversies over tradition and reform into controversies over what
was conservative or revolutionary and thus changed literary issues
into a struggle over what was progressive or reactionary. If
ideology unites with power and is transformed into a real force then
both literature and the individual will be destroyed." (From Elegant
Accountants Do It Additionally
read more than anyone else, including teachers. And it seems
everyone likes Jane Austen. Sigh. (discuss)
Tiff's Archives Go To Guelph U
A good portion of Timothy
Findley's theatre memorabilia is headed to the theatre archives
here in sunny Guelph. (discuss)
Does This Guy Need an Editor? Because I'm Free!
A Philadelphia judge lowered
a lawyer's payments because of typos.* "Had the defendants
not tired to paper plaintiff's counsel to death, some type would not
have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the
defendants, thus they should not case stones." The lawyer was
charging $300 per hour, but the judge knocked it down to $150. (discuss)
This Is Just Like the Nine Billion Names of God
monks meet digital technology.* "Inside the sixth-century
Monastery of St. Catherine, with its small stone church, its rickety
buildings covered in centuries' worth of white paint, where bearded
monks wear black robes, the modern world seems terabytes away. But
here at St. Catherine's, in the world's oldest continuously
inhabited Christian monastic community, a Greek Orthodox monk from
Texas is working with some of the world's highest-resolution digital
technology to help preserve the monastery's 3,300 priceless and
impressively intact ancient manuscripts." (discuss)
I haven't checked out S1ngularity::criticism
for a while, which is a shame. It has a great discussion of Donald
Barthelme, one of my favourites, including a weird comment from John
Barthelme? Is he read now, by people of your age...? He's become
a curiosity.... There are fads in critical fashion, but a writer at
his peril strays too far from realism. Especially in this country,
where realism is kind of our thing." What the fuck is that
supposed to mean? They also link to a couple of commentary pieces on
science fiction. Jonathan
Lethem has an interesting essay on where sci-fi went astray:
"It's now a commonplace in film criticism that George
Lucas and Steven Spielberg together brought to a crashing halt
the most progressive and interesting decade in American film since
the '30s. What's eerie is that the same duo are the villains in SF's
tragedy as well, though you might want to add a third name, J.
R. R. Tolkien. The vast popular success of the imagery and
archetypes purveyed by those three savants of children's literature
expanded the market for "sci-fi", a cartoonified,
castrated, and deeply nostalgic version of the budding literature, a
The Oscar Wilde Exhibition
Wilde, Querying Spaces commemorates the 100th anniversary of the
trials of Oscar Wilde. I've always been a fan of Wilde, for various
reasons, especially this: "Wilde's was a life dedicated to art.
He lived through art and treated life as an aesthetic, operating,
perhaps perversely, through constant, self-conscious confounding of
categories of meaning. When the verdict of guilty was returned for
Oscar Wilde, it represented the violent reassertion of convention in
response to the threats posed by his life and art." (From Elegant
The Rest of the Gestures are Purely International
primer on Japanese gestural language. (From Incoming
Is This Legal?
most comprehensive Calvin and Hobbes site yet. (From Boing
We Have a Winner!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... le
comique parfait. To those who didn't enter, your silence robbed
you of meaning this week. I pity you and those who know you. No,
seriously, we'll have another contest next month, maybe. (discuss)
Can you drink an
embargo? Snort it? I wonder if the author will care? (discuss)
File This Under: Well, Duh!
You know, despite loving a brilliant sociologist, I am of the
opinion that social "scientists" often get away with bloody
murder. They publish entire books devoted to statistically proving
true something everyone already knew. They are in the business of
codifying common knowledge. Like this: apparently nursery
rhymes have dirty double entendres. Well, well, well! Jack and
Jill? Doing something up that hill?! Gasp!? Call the cops, Ma Parker!
(In fairness, I think he's got a sense of humour around it, but
still....) This guy's next book is going to be about the links between
retaining blood and staying alive. (From GoodReports
-- welcome back Alex!) (discuss)
Tintin - The First Avant-Garde Comic?
Forget the theories about Tintin comics being pro-fascist, pro-capitalist
or pro-queer. They're
pro-art. "By the time HergÈ died in 1983, avant-garde painters
had caught up with him. Pop Art dissected the conventions of the
comic strip cartoon, which he had been doing for half a century;
accepting the compliment, he acquired a collection of Roy Lichtenstein's
grainy blow-ups - frozen frames from spurious cartoons, in which
girls weep oceanic tears and fighter jets belch out fire."
"As a folksinger once sang, how many roads must an individual
walk down before you can call them an adult."
Just like the NYPD, the New
York Language Police are kicking ass. "New York identified
as biased such male-based words as 'masterpiece' and 'mastery.'
Among the other words singled out for extinction were white collar,
blue collar, pink collar, teenager, senior citizen, third world,
uncivilized, underprivileged, unmarried, widow or widower, and yes
man. The goal, naturally, is to remove words that identify people
by their gender, age, race, social position or marital status."
(From AL Daily) (discuss)
"The best comedy in Shakespeare is King Lear."
"There's something enchantingly comic about it, and this
is what makes the tragedy so unbearable. The imperceptible slide
into wickedness, which is the other thing I find so interesting.
It's what Hannah Arendt calls the banality of evil-the dismal suburban
commonplaces of those sisters and their husbands." Jonathon
Miller also thinks it's a Jacobean play. I think he's right
Stock Up on First Editions of Potter
The books are fun to read (I only got through two and then lost
interest... sorry, it's true) but are also, like nerd magnets worldwide,
collectable. Should be the type of collector who buys books on speculative
value, I think your first, second, third, etc., editions of Harry
may have just gone up in value... Rowling
plans to "revise" all of the books in the series,
for some reason. I have no idea what she could do, besides adding
literary value, but: cha-ching! (discuss)
"Some critics said the selection was a ploy by the book
industry to counter the declining interest in and sales of serious
Japanese literature, especially among young people, or that it represents
a drop in standards for the prize."
"Nonetheless, marketing and publicity strategists appear to
be capitalizing on the two
women's youth and beauty, depicting them in stark contrast —
Kanehara, a Tokyo native and high school dropout, being a portrayed
as a free spirit, and Kyoto-born Wataya, a second-year Waseda University
student, being somewhat more demure and old-fashioned." And
people are confused by Japanese culture? It's just like our own!
Hey, This Isn't a Game. This Is Learning!
Dickens game would be so much better with a rail gun. (From
"In this country, the word "romantic" usually
implies unreality, a lack of judgement. Foolishness, in fact. What
would she say to people who call her a romantic? "The easy
path is to wander through the madness being dictated to by your
fears and doubts. The harder path is to follow what feels right
for you, but that's where the beauty and satisfaction lies.""
tattooed on the back to prove love. Ahh. I love it. I collapse
in a sorrowful joy. I weep. Well, I sniff. Okay, so I am unmoved,
but I can see how others might be. (discuss)
Iron Maiden Rules!
Artists for Literacy present songs
inspired by literature. Oh, the time I spent as a youth listening
to Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." (From Moorish
I like the fact that Chuck Palahniuk is a writer who interacts with
the world rather than hiding away somewhere trying to be a Writer.
Now he's teaching
writing online for free. "Chuck's
Workshop, as it is affectionately referred to on the Web site,
offers essays and homework assignments written by Palahniuk, regular
question-and-answer sessions, and a forum where writers can share
their own writing and practice the formal techniques that the author
applies in his best-selling novels." (From Maud)
I Feel So Old and Conservative When I Read This
Breslin, author of You're
a Bad Man, Aren't You?, has a short
graphic story about bukkake on Artbomb.
Not really worksafe. If you don't know what bukkake is, read
this. If you're offended by what you read, you probably shouldn't
click through to Breslin's piece. Or maybe you should. Whatever.
More Changed, Less Visibly
As many of you know, one of the long-time snarls in doing this whole
thing has been the fact that Ninja
Pete, way out dere in Vancooover, BC (that's a long time ago),
hasn't been able to manually update the pages here. He's been sending
changes along to me and I've been updating them through the craptacular
No more! We have switched programs and are now both able to make
changes and updates. How does this affect you? It doesn't, really.
Changes will now be made over the course of a day, rather than all
at once at night. So, if you don't want to miss anything, you should
check back several times to see what's new. Also, because we're
working in a new program, there are bound to be inconsistencies
and oddities that pop up (and not just in the text). Would you be
so kind as to point these
out to us, should you notice any? (discuss)
Canada finally gets a decent
media commentary/review website. And I'm not just saying that
because it's run by my girlfriend. "Press Gallery aims to offer
an intelligent perspective on Canadian media, with an emphasis on
recognizing outstanding investigative and literary journalism while
ceaselessly belittling those who willfully degrade the craft."
Toronto Libraries in Danger
A budget crisis in Toronto has prompted city hall to warn the Toronto
Public Libraries it's time to get out the scissors. Short by
$1.7M, the libraries
are considering some drastic measures, including buying fewer
books (egad! no! my PLRC payment!) and closing earlier on Friday
nights, sending thousands of ugly people out into the streets. This
just might be the most significant blow to the socially awkward
this millennium. (discuss)
Apparently There are OTHER Good Reasons to Get With Zadie...
Zadie Smith's boyfriend gets £100G
deal for two books. Suh-wheeeet. (From Maud)
RIP: Spalding Gray
body found. Enough said. (discuss)
A single Londoner responsible for driving
booksellers mad. You gotta have some nerve. (discuss)
Death Row Poet
In 1977, while intoxicated by drugs and alcohol, Stephen Todd Booker
sexually attacked and murdered a 94-year-old woman. Can this gruesome
act be redeemed through art? I say no. Not because murder cannot
be redeemed, but because it is not something to ask of art. "His
story does, however, raise questions about poetry (what is it? what
is it worth?) and poets (who are they? what do they need?), and
about the value of individual lives and capital punishment."
Can you say it's
a shame to lose his poetry,* but perhaps not such a shame to
lose him? (For the record, I don't believe in capital punishment...
It's just that I don't believe in redemption through poetry either.)
Battle of the Plaths
she would have been a better Sylvia
than Paltrow. I myself am inclined to not give a fuck. (discuss)
There's no trend
toward one word titles, is there, Pete? (discuss)
The Next Testament
What texts would we use to make the Bible today? I like the selection
"The biblical books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are largely collections
of laws, rituals, and recommended practices -- the ingredients of
a coherent social order. The Next Testament version could be fashioned
from several sources -- Jane Brody's Good Food Book and the
Joy of Sex, perhaps, but also the Internal Revenue Service's
Form 1040 information booklet, The Rules, the U.S. Army's
Ranger handbook, the columns of Ann Landers, and the Mayflower Compact."
But it's missing that Old Testament-style bloodthirstiness. May
I suggest Cormac McCarthy's Blood
Dead Thesis Society
A nice little academic
site that serves as both a discussion forum for beleagured grad
students and a long-overneeded call for change of the way humanities
programs are run. It's full of depressing stats, such as the following:
"In some humanities programs, only one of every three entering students
goes on to earn a doctorate. No comprehensive national statistics
are available, but studies suggest that the attrition rate for Ph.D.
programs is 40 percent to 50 percent." If you're a grad student
and don't feel like slitting your wrists after reading that, you
may want to head on over to Invisible
Adjunct. That should finish you off. (discuss)
The long lists for the 2004 ReLit
Awards have been announced. (discuss)
Bill C-12 Protested
gathered Monday to protest controversial Bill C-12 (so
adequately summed up last week by our own Peter Darbyshire).
"The Toronto rally against bill C-12, set for third reading
in the House of Commons in Ottawa this week, was scheduled by the
Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, and
other arts and culture groups to take place at the Ontario College
of Art and Design." Okay, no more slagging the Writers'
Union for a while. They seem to be under new management. Or
on Viagara or something. (discuss)
RIP: Miriam Waddington
Giant of Canadian letters dead
at 86. We are less for the loss. (discuss)
"Not Canadian nobodies"
Nice. Thanks, Jimmy. That is to say, not us. But he's right. Atwood,
Shields and Munro will save
Canadian television. Much to their collective artistic dismay,
I'm sure. (discuss)
Zadie, Zadie... Where Did It Go So Wrong?
Bookslut has an
interesting take on a rather depressing Zadie Smith. Depressing,
maybe, but I agree with her. (discuss)
Hemingway Swearing (Warning: Foul Language and Male Bravura)
An early Hemingway letter
eviscerating Ford has recently surfaced and is up for auction.
Literature Butchers Get Their Hands on Judy Blume
Disney has bought
the rights to Blume books such as "Are You There God?"
and "Deenie." Wave bye bye to your youth, ladies. (discuss)
'PS, I Love You follows 30-year-old Holly Kennedy
in the 10 months after her husband Gerry's death from a brain tumour.
Gerry has left behind envelopes for Holly, one for each month, which
are filled with reassurances and advice. No wordy Abelard, Gerry's
letters urge her to bid goodbye to his old clothes, to learn to
love again, to buy that bedside lamp they really needed, to face
her fear of karaoke and so on. Each note ends with the postscript
"I love you."'
Survey says? BLAAHP!
"Ahern tells me the book only took her three months to write.
And the publishers bought it after the first several weeks, solely
on the basis of her first 10 chapters. (The finished book has 51.)
I ask, in as neutral a tone
as I can manage, if this quick success surprised her. "I was
surprised that everyone else was surprised," she says, adding
in a tone that will be familiar to anyone who has ever interviewed
a recent college graduate for a job: "I was 21. My friends
and I were all like, are we really all supposed to be that stupid?
I didn't know 21-year-olds weren't supposed to be writing books.
You know, we do all have degrees."' BLAAHP!
Mischevious Potter Gets Into Dumbledore's Secret Stash and
Finds Out Why the Old Coot Was Always So Calm and Easy on Him...
want to see this. (discuss)
Is the National
Five columnists from Ken Whyte's days at the Post
weigh in on Trudeaupia,
stupid columns, schmoozing with Conrad, and the future of the Post.
My favourite comment is from Adam Sternbergh: "Yes, I believe
the Post made its name by being a lively and controversial
read. And, yes, I believe it shook the city's long-slumbering editors,
who could no longer rely on a readership delivered to them simply
through habit and birthright. But it's one thing to say that the
Post is a better read than all the other papers. It's another
to say the Post made all the other papers a better read.
To the contrary, I think the Post touched off a pan-industry
plague from which the papers, and their readers, have not yet recovered.
Thanks to the Post, there are now way too many damned columnists."
Note: To access the article, click on "Post Mortem." (From
Press Gallery) (discuss)
It's an Amis Clearance Event! Everything Must Go!
"According to Nielsen BookScan, through the first week in March
Yellow Dog has sold 10,200 copies in the United States, a
figure that trade-book editors say is very low for a writer of Mr.
Amis's stature. Even the long-shot winner of last year's Booker
Prize, DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, a scathing satire
of America considered by many in publishing to be a hard sell here,
has a Nielsen BookScan total of 18,700. (Nielsen BookScan measures
about 60 to 70 percent of total sales, people in the industry say.)"
Martin appears to be up
for sale.* (discuss)
Drew Gets a Makeover
Worse still - George
gets a makeover too... "You have to attract the kids -
they're not (voluntarily) picking up Nancy Drew in the store,"
says Katherine Axt, who used to faithfully read the detective series
when she was in elementary school. Instead, says Axt, while kids
are still introduced to Nancy through parents and older relatives,
she faces stiff competition from the slick, media-savvy Mary-Kate
and Ashleys of the world. But
Nancy's makeover gives her a fighting chance, says Axt, 24, of Dallas.
Whereas other age-old children's figures might seem stuck in a time
warp, Drew "can remain a literary icon as long as she's updated."
(From PFW) (discuss)
Speaking of Makeovers...
Danforth Review is looking new. If you haven't been by in a while,
check out the granddaddy
of small press webmags. (Whose logo has always looked like it
was scrawled by Freddy Kruger -- a design choice I don't think I've
ever understood. But who can complain when the editor has been updating
the site weekly for years?) (discuss)
Lynne Cheney Dare Not Speak Love's Name
Her 1981 lesbian
romance novel - "a breathy, gothic romance, horribly written.
It's celebrating lesbian love and promotes the value of preventative
devices, condoms, to women who want to remain free. It features
a woman who has unmarried sex with the widow of her sister - all
this by Lynne Cheney, the culture warrior of the right" - gets
a revival. I shit you not, amigos. (From Maud)
The high-drama world of Ken Sanders, book
detective. "Sanders' investigations, however, have undeniably
led to results. He has shut down gangs in Belgrade operating with
stolen credit card numbers and eBay accounts -- though not before
they managed to scam dealers of about $40,000 in rare books. Sanders
has also disrupted gangs of credit-card fraudsters based in Nigeria
and Ghana, baiting them by accepting orders and then shutting down
their stolen card numbers. Sanders takes pleasure in asking for
another card, and then another, until the fraudsters realize he's
on to their schemes." (discuss)
Is Maisonneuve Porn?
Barnes and Noble seems
to think so. "How noble of this largest of bookstore chains
to take a stand against full-frontal nudity, thereby protecting
all the impressionable children who (security cameras have shown)
can't stop themselves from riffling through literary periodicals
in search of smut. Sorry, kids, no Maisonneuve for you, only
the whole wheat goodness of Maxim, Blender, FHM,
Razor and Stuff." (discuss)
"I didn't want a poet's novel that would continually run aground
on beautiful epiphanies."
you, Don Coles. (I have been collecting Coles' poetry for a
few years -- having been at York but not in his classes, I developed
a love of his work -- and I wrote to him at one point years ago
regarding something or other. After we corresponded, two of his
older books, missing from my collection, made their way mysteriously
into my mailbox. Not just one of the greatest, he's also a doll.)
Combat des livres
Quebec's Radio-Canada launches its
version of Canada Reads. "The week's live debates will
revolve around three French Canadian novels -- Gaetan Soucy's La
petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes, Gil Courtemanche's
Un dimanche ala piscine de Kigali and Une histoire americaine
by Jacques Godbout -- and two novels by English Canadian authors:
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Yann Martel's Life
of Pi." (discuss)
E E! rotica
Everyone's favourite erotic poet, E.E. cummings, inspires music
porn! "A West Coast musician has composed a racy musical
tribute -- complete with simulated sounds of squeaky bedsprings
-- to avant-garde poet E.E. cummings." (discuss)
Dead Books, Live Students
A not-for-credit course that brings readers together to learn about
that have fallen out of favour.* Nice. "Not that the crew
that shows up Tuesday nights at Wilbur Wright College for the Scholars
at Wright program has any shortage of personal experience. Its 75
students range from hip-hop high-schoolers to Gladys Pledger, a
101-year-old avid reader who likes to correct writers she feels
are wrong." Crap, I think she went to York, and was somehow
always seated next to me. They are a species unto themselves, these
old women. (Hey, maybe the people who started this course can get
my work on a reading list about books that never were in favour.)
People Still Attached to Their Maugham-ies
Somerset has survived
the test of time. (But will he survive the part where he has
to eat a sheep's eye and then jump off a radio tower into a bucket
of spicey condiments? Find out on the next Fear Factor.)
for the Charles Taylor Prize for non-fiction were announced
yesterday. Stop it! You're making me yawn too! (discuss)
Invented Languages (And No, We're Not Talking About
Esperanto, Ehmay ghee chah, UNI -- deliberately
constructed languages meant to bring the people of the world
together. And they did, but largely in apathy. (discuss)
Books That Changed the World
Bible, Koran, Origin of Species, the Dragonlance
list goes on. (discuss)
Now Why Couldn't Sleeman's Do This Instead of Axing Awards?
beer mats (coasters). The world just got slightly, if imperceptibly,
better. (From Elegant
It's Funny Because It's True
Simmonds gives Litterati
for its money! Well, if we had money. And were in shape enough
to run. (discuss)
Kim Stanley Robinson on the history of Mars
science fiction. "Mars and science fiction came of age together
in the 1890s, and ever since they have had a tight relationship, a
feedback loop that has made both famous." (discuss)
You Know What You Have to Do
Apparently the Brits prefer
their poets dead: "About 96 per cent of poetry bought in
the U.K. is by dead writers, fewer than 30 of the poets published
by the eight major publishers are under 40 years old, and the value
of sales has fallen by 15 per cent in the past five years." (discuss)
Canerder vs. Oz
Malouf is (right now) giving "the fifth annual LaFontaine-Baldwin
lecture at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall, the first
non-Canadian to do so ... Significant differences between our two
countries, he says, stem from the fact Australians experienced the
possibility of losing their land to the Japanese in the Second World
War. Another difference is our less brutal historical relationship
with our native population." I know at least one little excited,
accented ninja who is there. Seriously, if you haven't read Malouf,
you're missing out. He's Australia's Ondaatje -- a simply beautiful
writer. My good pal Jonathan
Bennett introduced me to Remembering
Babylon and I was absolutely floored. It may be the single
most memorable book I've ever read. An
Imaginary Life was also incredible. (discuss)
Gabo and Harpo
"Television book clubs have scaled back from their headiest days
a couple of years ago, but even brief on-air segments now have flourishing
afterlives online. The
Oprah site is by far the richest, but Today and
Good Morning America also have online extensions of their book
clubs, where readers can find substantial excerpts from books along
with interviews and online chats with authors." My guess is that,
were they to live to 120, the people who spend time flitting between
Oprah's show and bookclub website will most definitely experience
hundred years of solitude.* (Do you know how hard it was for me
to type "Oprah book club" into Google to get you that link?
I feel like I've got hidden porn on my computer. Ew!) (discuss)
In Related Bookclub News
Over at the Guardian Bonnie Greer looks at serious authors
vs. daytime TV. "Last year, I was asked to take part in the
live grand final of BBC2's the Big Read. I had my doubts. Books on
television just didn't seem like a good idea to me, especially books
endorsed by celebrities and TV 'personalities.' The fact that I had
appeared on television for the Booker (as a pundit) and for the Samuel
Johnson prize for non-fiction (as a judge) did not feel like the same
thing. The way I saw it, celebrities and broadcasters were not integral
to the reading process. Nor was a public vote appropriate. So, like
Jonathan Franzen, who famously asked to have the Oprah Winfrey Book
Club logo removed from copies of his novel The Corrections,
I struck a blow for high culture and said no." (discuss)
interesting summation of the whole "Joyce sucks" brouhaha.
File This Under: No Shit, Sherlock
in Britain is run by white men. Hmm. "These are the findings
of the industry's first survey of cultural diversity, published in
today's Bookseller magazine. It says that nearly half those
questioned felt they worked in a white, middle-class ghetto whose
employees were drawn from a small ethnic pool. The findings in the
survey, which was conducted by the Arts Council and the Bookseller,
are supported by several senior publishing executives who say that
nothing will change until recruiters look beyond Oxford and Cambridge."
Why the Pressure?
Giving up hopes of ever writing a novel (and, therefore, of ever making
money) was very liberating for me. I hope it works for already-stinking-rich
Frank McCourt. (From TEV)
"When the U.S. State Department designated a Pulitzer Prize-winning
novelist as a 'cultural ambassador,' it probably did not plan for
him to go around the world calling his president a 'moron' who governs
an 'evil empire.' Nor did it expect him to boycott Israel because
of U.S. foreign policy, nor to warn Australia that its culture would
be 'gobbled up' by a free trade agreement." Also: "So if
Bush is not really a baby boomer, what is he? 'He represents a paternal
system, an oligarchy whereby his own course has been guided ruthlessly
and covetously by his elders, and it goes on now, not only from his
father but from Vice-President Cheney as his father's surrogate ...
Bush is what he always has been: a son.' Nothing more? 'He was a better-than-average
executive for a slightly less-than-average baseball team.'" Richard
Ford, patriot. (discuss)
Esta una Spanglish Conference, Amigo
The First International Spanglish
10 type "poetry"
20 goto 10
as poetry? Um, maybe in certain corners of the old Coach House,
you know? Seriously, this is actually pretty interesting. Clive Thompson,
journalist cum blogger, links to a host of sites around this issue.
(Clive's Collision Detection
site is fantastic, for those
of you who haven't checked it out. It's largely technology based,
but very eclectic and well-written. I hung out with him a few times
in New York: two ex-pat Canadians on the town. When I first started
reading blogs, I thought, Clive would kill at this. He's extremely...
energetic... and is always taking notes. One time I was saying something
about video games to him and his eyes glazed over like he was kicking
in an extra processor or something. He whipped out a notepad and said,
"Fuck! Do you mind if I have that?" I said, "Have what?"
He said, "That idea." I said, "That was an idea?"
This is why he's a very successful journalist and I am poet.) (discuss)
Author? Or Nut?
Alice Flaherty discusses
hypergraphia, graphomania and reader's block at Identity
RB: [laughs] Right. Trying to get published is more like robbing
a convenience store: a lot of aggression and anti-social behavior.
AF: Yeah. It's also a way of justifying and proving to others you
are not crazy. You may be hypergraphic and say, "Well, if I
can turn this into a book, then I have transformed myself from a
nut into an author."
Yeah, I used to think like that. (discuss)
Hear That Banging?
nail going into the coffin of the blurb. Who can lend credit
to anything anyone has to say in this least of self-serving forms
when we all know this kind of stuff is going on? (Who the hell is
the crack interviewer who got these people to admit this?) (discuss)
"Have you ever read a few pages when your mind was elsewhere?
Or finished a book and then are unable to summarize its plot? If
so, you're not alone. In fact, kids in Colorado are famous for it."
I can solve this
problem in about two seconds - hook them up with all the fake
Everything is OKAY! Return to Your Book Buying Immediately!
Do Not Heed Dire Warnings! This is Only a Text! Everything is OKAY!
"I am optimistic about the book industry and the future of
books because, in their unflamboyant way, books penetrate the cynicism,
confusion, and anxiety of the age." So
says Gail Rebuck - someone I will never meet, but whom, I am
told, I must fawn over at parties should the chance arise. (discuss)
Muldoon in Montreal
Muldoon, the heir apparent in Irish poetry, will be at the Blue
Metropolis Festival. (discuss)
" Japan, more than other nations, faces a crisis of
written culture due to the relentless publication of ideas presented
in a conversational mode. This conversational style of communication,
which seeks compromise, conformity and consensus, is replacing real
intellectual critical discourse, [Kenzaburo] Oe said. He pointed
out that there are no longer any national magazines catering to
an intellectual audience, and that the remaining outlet for criticism--the
newspaper book review--has become shorter and seems to include less
and less analysis of theme, methodology and style."
"The superficiality and celebrity culture engendered by this
conversationalism in publishing is beginning to infect other areas
of culture and even politics, Oe contended, citing the "frantic
support" enjoyed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he
first took office on the basis of structural reform slogans that
offered little substance." Once again, I ask you - how
is this different? (discuss)
Danforth Review to Curb Reviewing
Editor Michael Bryson has sent
a letter to publishers indicating his intention to steer the
ship in a different direction - towards publishing original work
- and has asked that no more review copies be sent. As Alex Good
reports, this is no
small loss. As far as we know, The
Danforth Review is the only consistently updated site specializing
in the Canadian small press scene. Many of the books reviewed are
highly unlikely to ever see an inch of column space anywhere else.
This announcement follows an earlier RFP posted on the Review site
which called for interested parties to submit applications to take
over completely. Bryson seems done with Danforth, a least as it
currently stands. Who's going to take over reviewing all these books?
"Far as I'm concerned, Dylan Thomas' "Fern Hill"
is one of the two greatest 20th century poems in the English language
(the other being T. S. Eliot's "Perforce")"
bio reviewed. Earle Birney namedrop worked in to article. (discuss)
Sex, Nazis, Accusations of Thuggery
He claims it's humour, his publish claims it's right wing propaganda
and has withdrawn the title... I'm sure
none of this will hurt sales. (discuss)
Bookninja.com - Always Ahead of George Michael
The real news here is not that the
Internet is becoming society's prime method of pop culture consumption,
but that George Michael has finally finished cooking and needs to
be removed from the oven right now before we end up with another
Siegfried and/or Roy.
Architecture v. Literature
for shelf space.* (discuss)
Egad. Po-faced Might Have Been Better...
Motion produces the
limerick that wouldn't die to honour rugby champs... This reminds
me of Lorna Crozier's flub a couple years back, when she tried to
extend her Angels franchise by blasting one off about the Canadian
Women's Hockey team winning - "Angels on the Ice" (or
something to that affect - can anyone find me this online?). (discuss)
Maybe He Should Run for President
mayor likes the author Uptown Sinclair.* (discuss)
Writers Fest Hit by Cutbacks
The popular OIWF is scaling
back from 10 to five days this year after being hit by budget
Against Creative Nonfiction: A Manifesto
Brian Fawcett really, really doesn't
like the term "creative nonfiction." "'Creative
non-fiction,' which has been recently promoted vigorously by some
Canadian writers as a legitimate writerly genre and by others as
a commercial market niche, is really just definitional vagueness
piled atop philosophical imprecision. It is an intellectual embarrassment".
Richard Ford Dumps Agent, Signs with Don King
No, not really, but he did spit
on Colson Whitehead, so we hope there's some serious ear biting
ahead. There's not enough ear biting in contemporary literature.
(From Jeff MacIntyre)
Orange Prize Longlist
suspects, plus some
younger folks. (But no Anne-Marie MacDonald...) (discuss)
Newsflash: The Rest of the World Better Than Here
Holy crappola. I nearly fainted
dead away when I read this. Italian newspapers bolster their
profits by including books of literature - lately, the poems of
greats Montale and Neruda. Neruda's edition sold for over $7 and
250,000 copies went. In a bold move, the Toronto
Sun will distribute copies of poems written in Grade 9 (four
years ago) by Sunshine Girl
Missy Brown. Missy is an Aquarian with eyes of brown who likes to
keep fit and tan by dancing and sunbathing on the beach. Missy would
like to be a cardiologist someday. What the fuck am I doing here?
Could two more boring words be combined? ... Um... Beef... Stew.
come close. (I once won a shirt, in part, because I hadn't read
Proust.) (From TEV)
This is a
fantastic little dictionary (guess how many pages long) of one-letter
titles in the series read like a Christian Bok tribute. (From
Note to Self: Magpies Bad (But Sell)
More than 30
rejections later he's on the top of the British bestsellers
and has sold film rights to Disney for $1,000,000. (But, see, I
LIKE magpies...) That's got to feel good. He "is still working
part-time at the supermarket, where he has become something of a
celebrity. His dream is to
become a full-time writer and to build a home in Ireland..."
Um, I think you're a full-time writer now, dude. Top o' the marnin'
to ye. (discuss)
Clive Thompson on the M-Novel
Which he and Al Gore basically invented (but he
really did!) (discuss)
And in Follow-up News
Andrew Motion's doggerel has inspired
a country to verse
(last item). (discuss)
Not Bookish, but Wordish (in a cautionary sort of way)
Beware the dangers of dihydrogen
monoxide. It's an odorless, tasteless chemical in more things
that you'd think and can be dangerous if inhaled in quantity. Is
it in you right now? (discuss)
Is Philip Larkin
Adam Kirsch thinks the
answer lies in the poems, not the poet: "The central fact
about Larkin is that he accepted, with harrowing seriousness, the
challenge of W.B. Yeats: 'The intellect of man is forced to choose
/ Perfection of the life or of the work.' In 1944, at twenty-one,
Larkin wrote to a friend: 'I feel that myself & my character are
nothing except insofar as they contribute to the creation of literature.
. . . To increase one's value as a pure instrument is what I am
trying to do.' If every great poet essentially feels the same way,
Larkin was unusual in the extent and ferocity of his renunciations."
Bring Back the Salon?
Andy Brown, author of I
Can See You Being Invisible, is interviewed
at the Danforth. He's got some interesting ideas on new ways of
publishing: "The real solution I believe is the revival of
the salon. Get rid of bookstores altogether and have publishers
sell directly from their own 'salons,' which will also be focal
points for the artistic community in general. Look at Hogarth House
and Bloomsbury. We need to reclaim the book as a cultural artifact.
Of course the problem arises because how do I sell my books in Saskatoon
if my salon is in Montreal? Well, it is through groups like the
LPG that I can envision a network of publisher salons which will
act co-operatively in different cities." (discuss)
Happy St. Patrick's Day
On this festive day, the Toronto Star would like to remind
you of all the great
playwrights Ireland has given to the world. The Star
would also like to introduce you to Irish
"Leading the chick-lit pack is Marian Keyes, whose seven novels
(among them Sushi For Beginners, Angels, and Last
Chance Saloon) have sold millions of copies in 29 languages.
They feature jaunty young single women in Dublin, agonizing about
their waistlines or hair, bedding a lot of unsuitable men while
looking for Mr. Right and holding down trendy jobs on fashion magazines,
in advertising or as event organizers. Another representative of
this featherweight genre, Cecelia Ahern, was in Toronto last week
to promote her first novel, P.S. I Love You, a 424-page story
of Holly, a weepy widow of 30, whose too-good-to-be-true husband
Gerry secretly wrote her a series of letters as he was dying of
a brain tumour, to be opened at intervals during the year after
his passing." (discuss)
Is it ready to hit
the mainstream? "Most urban literature comes from the presses
of independent publishers such as Triple Crown Publications, Black
Print Publishing and Toronto-based Urban Books. But recently, larger
publishers have spun off subsidiary publishing houses called 'Black
Imprints.' Doubleday has Harlem Moon, for example, while Random
House has One World and HarperCollins owns Amistad. It's all to
launch the growing number of urban books that young people are demanding."
Brit Lit Idol
Monday, after the weekend's story about difficulties
selling CanLit fiction surfaced, several other bloggers made
snide comments about Canadian fiction being ... shall we say ...
light ... in the excitement department. Now a
Canadian has won the Lit Idol contest in London. In typical
Canadian fashion, I'll admonish these assorted naysayers with an
apology. I'm sorry your writers suck and spit on people. And for
the British: I'm sorry you have to live with Tibor Fischer, but
cultures get the writers they deserve. Ah, I'm just kidding. We
all suck equally. And here's where the whole Idol thing can't possibly
play out further. In the Pop Idol circles, a record contract and
distribution follow a win by, what, weeks? months? Well, this guy
hasn't actually finished writing the novel! Now he's in the same
predicament as so many of my friends have been - sold on 60
pages and scrambling to meet deadline. What happens when the
story comes in and the rest of it (that hasn't had virtually unlimited
time and attention from the author) looks rushed and/or anemic?
And even if it's finished by the fall, when will it be published?
Next spring? You can bet the reading public who might be swayed
by an Idol win will be saying, "Mail it to last year, pal,
when we might have given a damn." (discuss)
But Who Gets The Knife He Used to Stab Marlowe?
will is now
online (PDF). This is how the Internet was meant to be used.
Other famous wills are also available from the
National Archive's DocumentsOnline. (discuss)
Lambda Lit Awards Can Finalist...
"Written by J. Michael Bailey, chair of the psychology department
at Northwestern University, and subtitled, "The Science of
Gender-Bending and Transsexualism," the book has been under
fire from transgender activists and academics since its publication
last April. Critics have derided it as lacking in science, perpetuating
stereotypes about transgender women and casting gender-bending as
a perversion. A panel of Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) judges
reviewed the finalists in the transgender category and deemed the
book "not appropriate for the category." LLF then made
the "difficult and humbling" decision to remove the book
from consideration altogether, according to a
press release on the LLF Web site." One might reasonably
ask how the book made
it on the list in the first place. Poor reading? A critic notes,
"It would be like nominating 'Mein Kampf' for a literary prize
in Jewish studies" Still, is removing it, at this point, itself
an ethical violation?
The Good People at
Coady begins, "The culturally minded of Vancouver are a
particularly dogged, tenacious tribe — they have to be. I've heard
colleagues describe efforts toward fostering a vital, thrumming
arts scene in the "City of Glass" as being like trying
to get a really good cup of tea at Starbucks. That is to say, you
can get tea, and it's not bad tea, but this doesn't change the fact
that tea, ultimately, is not what Starbucks is about. It will always
be an afterthought, a begrudging concession to us mulish, unfashionable
tea-drinkers. So it is with Vancouver as brewer of artistic ferment."
Walcott Backs Out of Festival Appearance
After a measly Paris
robbery in which his entire life was likely ruined. Wimp. (Can
you spot the major typo in this piece? Not you, Pete.) (From PFW)
Holy Frolicking Novelists!
are getting into writing comics* - as sure a sign as any that
the genre is growing up, we are told. I don't think it's actually
growing up - I think the age at which people come into serious income
and at which mental maturity is reached are no longer in synch.
This isn't to say that comics shouldn't receive a wider audience,
or that "high" artists shouldn't get involved, but to
suppose that nerd culture has begun to dominate the West because
our adolescence, particularly among males, now extends well into
our thirties. Dude. (discuss)
God is Just Up There, Rubbing His Hands
'Member that story about the bible mag for girls? Ooh, goody! Here
come the boys! This is the biggest religious coup since DC
RIP: Cid Corman
Prolific American poet dead
at 79.* (discuss)
We Don't Normally Link to Reviews
book, combining medieval lit and video games, sounds insanely
"What happens when you cross a St. Patrick's Day parade with
a literary walking tour?" Um, I think the answer to this should
be apparent to any sentient being: it becomes a
literary stumbling tour. (discuss)
Pam Gets a Smidge of Help Spelling the Big Words
How Many Words
Do the Inuit Have for Snow?
Seems there have been some
spread about this. "The story about Inuit (or Inuktitut, or Yup'ik,
or more generally, Eskimo) words for snow is completely wrong. People
say that speakers of these languages have 23, or 42, or 50, or 100
words for snow -- the numbers often seem to have been picked at
random. The spread of the myth was tracked in a paper by Laura Martin
(American Anthropologist 88 (1986), 418-423), and publicized
more widely by a later humorous embroidering of the theme by G.
K. Pullum (reprinted as chapter 19 of his 1991 book of essays The
Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax)." (From Language
Cloak and Gown
I just stumbled across this
article about how the CIA was influenced by literary scholarship.
"Mole-hunter James Jesus Angleton, the most controversial figure
in CIA history, began his career as an apprentice of the New Critics
on Yale's English faculty, and his literary training in 'close reading'
may have shaped his hyper-skeptical (some would say paranoid) approach
to counterintelligence." (discuss)
Mordecai and Ye
conference in Montreal is trying to "jump-start" criticism
on Richler. Yet, from the rest of this article I get the impression
it's going to be a bit of a circus. Some
quotes from a new biography. (discuss)
Hey, Winnipeg Ninjas, it's time to step up and perform your duty
as a (virtual) card carrying member of this ragtag band of balaclava'd
superheroes. A schizophrenic book lover has gone missing in your
frozen berg of a town and the authorities need help finding him.
is real. Normally I wouldn't advocate cooperating with the authorities,
but the guy is a protected under the Bookninja Booklovers Statute
of Reciprocity. That is to say, we'd find you if you were missing.
St. Patrick's Day
See, unlike my Teutonic friend, Pete, I don't really dig St. Patrick's
Day. Imagine the same festival but with First Nations People...
We could all stagger around in feathers and buckskins, hooting and
beating drums, drinking cooking wine and sniffing glue. The
Irish that drank did so because they were starving and self-exiled,
subjugated and unwanted, unemployed at all but the most menial tasks.
They didn't name their newborn children right away because so many
died at under a month. Take that tradition of pain and suffering
and co-opt it to sell plastic hats and beer. Nice. But what do I
know? (My racially radical pal Kym from New York doesn't consider
Irish people White for these very same reasons - something the glare
off my skin might argue with). Anyway, here's
an anthology celebrating Ireland's link to the Rock - another
place we should think about celebrating with a day to buy things.
We could dress up like cod fishermen and wear nooses around our
necks. Oh, yes - and drink. (discuss)
that could easily slide into our comics (discuss)ion
on the boards.
Note to Self: Thrillers Are Better When You're Stoned
Hey! You got your drugs in my book! You got your book in my drugs!
(Significant look) Prisoner gets his potboilers
and pot in the same envelope... (discuss)
Something About Dylan Thomas, Hammered at the Pub...
The pub where a man drank himself to death is up
for sale! Tourist dollars - cha-ching! (discuss)
And in Related News: The House that Jack Built
If Kerouac had shat on something it would today be a mecca for people
wearing tams. Now people
live in a shack in Florida in order to capture some ethereal
essence of his spirit's ghostly manifestation, or some shit. "I
would still not say I am a huge fan - I think there is a lot of
macho shit in his writing that you have to wade through. But I have
been thinking about him and I suppose what I like is that Kerouac's
view was that he wanted to have adventures and write about them.
That is what I also want to do." (discuss)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I'd like to have a drink with Kaufman
sometime. We wouldn't even have to talk or anything. We could just
look perplexed at each other over a table full of peaches or something.
Right before I leave, I'd say: "Why, Charlie? Why Carey?"
As we discussed on the boards, nerdism
knows no bounds. And remember
this? (Pray for Mojo) And a
verb conjugator (significantly, Basque is included). (discuss)
me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism...
at least it's an ethos..."
While a lot of people really don't like The Big Lebowski,
it's my favourite Coen brothers film. Now you can read
the script online, or use the Big
Lebowski Random Quote Generator. (From Rake's
Take the Seuss Quiz!
In my next life, I want to make quizzes
for the Guardian. (discuss)
The Art of Translation
A translator of books speaks
out on her craft. "Translation involves not only knowing the
country and the language spoken, but also their different 'languages,'
their literary language, their vernaculars, their speech, their
literature, their way of life, the way they make coffee, their schooling,
their political system, what 'nature' means to them, what 'industry'
means to them, what distance means to them, what climate means to
them, what everyday life is actually like. Then comes what translation
actually is: putting all of that into your own language in a way
that the reader in your own language will be able to absorb and
somehow realize not only that languages are different, but that
language is rooted in 'culture' -- that difficult word which has
not the same connotation in English as it has in the Germanic languages.
Not for nothing have we British, mistakenly perhaps, called culture
'the arts.'" (From Langauge
Comedy for Kids
I'm not sure
kids' books aren't funny - do they need to be? This all smacks
of gimmickery to me. (Sorry for the link to USAToday - it makes
me feel dirty too.) (discuss)
The Blog as Political Power Tool
This is mostly about political
blogs and cautions against a form not bound by journalistic
"ethics" - a valid concern - but I think as a form of
reportage, blogs will only get better over the years. As with everything
else, reliable work will find a readership and crap will sink to
the bottom like so many PCBs in the Hudson River. (discuss)
Writers' Papers Highly Sought After
And here I would love it if someone would just throw all mine in
a garbage bag sometime... I had to clear
papers from my keyboard just to type
this. (From PFW)
Biggest Poetry Reading Ever
Don't shudder yet... It's a
bunch of kids trying to get into the Guiness Book for reciting Wordsworth...
Gioia Is Changing the NEA
From "an organization which has traditionally seen itself as
serving the arts community into an agency which serves the American
people.'' I guess what
he means to say is that those who have ponied up to the trough
for the last little while will be feeding next to some new folks.
I just find it so hard to trust anyone who has W's support. (discuss)
For all you radical activists and/or corporate whores out there,
font made of corporate logos is for you. (discuss)
Twenty-five Years of Anarchy
Toronto's eye weekly has a piece
about This Ain't the Rosedale Library: "Established 25 years ago,
This Ain't the Rosedale Library is the definition of quirky -- a
neighbourhood literary bookstore in the heart of gay Toronto that
also has an impressive baseball section. Run by two Americans who
fled Nixon-era politics in favour of Canadian diversity, the shop
has weathered Mafioso landlords (at a previous location) and, more
recently, upheavals in the book business. It expanded in 2001 to
include the upstairs gallery space/classroom." (discuss)
Some Respit from a Blessing in the Skies
most often misprounced words and phrases. Some of these are
pretty hard to believe (Old Timer's Disease?), but I have been guilty
of a small number myself. All that said, the big news here is I've
just won a long-standing argument with my wife about the word "respite".
Boo-yah! (From Goodreports)
You know, I'd like to
say something worldweary and cynical about this, but I can't. After
nothing wrong with kids reading adult books. It's better than
adults reading kids' books....
"More than ever, authors and publishers are chasing lucrative crossover
markets. But how to ensure books reach all possible readers is an
inexact science. Harcourt Publishing, the American press that publishes
Canadian author Yann Martel, is trying to do something about that
by tapping into a new market for Life Of Pi. It is reissuing
Martel's Booker prize-winning novel next month for teens, using
the same text but a more naive jacket design."
Note the misspelling of McCormack's name at the end of the piece.
At Least It Kept Him Off the Streets
A Joyce scholar has spent seven
years translating Finnegans Wake into Japanese.
"In this remarkable work, a seven-year labor of love and a masterpiece
in its own right, Yanase made constant use of furigana to add new
layers of meaning to words written in kanji. Furigana allowed him
to emulate -- while not literally reproducing -- the puns, double-entendres
and allusions that fill every sentence of Joyce's original text.
Indeed, furigana enabled Yanase to layer meanings in an even more
elaborate fashion than Joyce could within the phonetic constraints
of the English language." (From Language
Dying as Art
Would the Plath industry exist if Sylvia hadn't committed suicide?
has that industry turned her into a series of caricatures?
"Would we believe in Plath's poetry as much as we do had she not
followed it with suicide? It's a distasteful question, and to answer
it in the negative would seem to imply some untenable things: first,
that she did well to kill herself, and second, that her poetry might
not have made the grade without the violence in its history." (discuss)
Is Hip-Hop Saving Poetry?
Its emphasis on spoken word performances may save poetry --
"Whether you like the forms or not, spoken-word and the poetry
slam have resuscitated poetry for popular consumption. 'I think
poetry is more popular now than it has been in the last 100 years,
at least,' says Eleveld. 'Poetry Speaks, published by Sourcebooks,
sold 100,000 copies because of three CDs that had canonized poets
like [Walt] Whitman, [e.e.] cummings and [Sylvia] Plath reading
their own work. Spoken Word Revolution sold 20,000 in its
first run. In poetry, these numbers are unheard of. The National
Poetry Slam in 2003 ran for four nights, taking up eight clubs in
Chicago's Wicker Park area, and boasted 1,100 people at the individual
finals at the Metro, which is where the Rolling Stones, Smashing
Pumpkins and more have played.'" (Note: This is a Salon article,
so you'll have to watch an ad. But it's quick and painless.) (discuss)
Arthur Miller: Experimental Playwright?
The London Review of Books has a nice review
article about Arthur Miller and the politics of realism. I've
always had a soft spot for Miller, and think he kind of got lost
in the avant-garde trend. Glad to see someone else thinks the same
"Death of a Salesman supports the anti-realist-from-the-start
thesis thanks to its remarkable form. The original title was 'The
Inside of His Head', and its action is the unravelling of the dreams
that the failed salesman Willy Loman had for himself and his sons.
The contrast between Loman's dreams and present-day reality is exposed
not through reminiscence or the arrival of a character from the
past, but by dramatising Loman's memories at the moment they come
into his mind." (discuss)
"We're very resourceful and strong as a race. We should cheer
ourselves up by thinking of the horrors we've survived. We should
You know, Doris
Lessing says this and they call her a tribal leader. Me, I walk
into a crowded theatre and shout, "Remain CALM!" over
and over through a bullhorn and they just put me in prison. What
gives? (A month after I moved to New York, I saw Lessing read at
NYU. There were only about 100 people there. I was very surprised.
She read beautifully, of course, and then proceeded to talk mostly
about politics. At first I wanted her to get back to fiction, but
she's so persuasive a speaker... This is a nice, if fawning, profile.)
Hey, Cancer-Seekers - Your Salvation Awaits
Hate those warnings on yer smokes, dere chief? Get yourself a "cigarette
novel" to cover em up! (I remember when the ones with pictures
of smoking related illnesses first came out - kids were collecting
You Need an Agent, Trust Her
ad for agents. You just can't get by without one. Unless you're
a poet, in which case, reread the last sentence, but omit "by
Soft Skull Does It Again (Or, Rather, Is Still Doing It
"This kind of success almost never happens in contemporary
publishing." No shit. The
Sleeping Father continues to rack up unprecedented
kudos for a small press book. This is partly due to the power
of the story, but the book would never have seen print (it was rejected
by 20 publishers, including the author's former press) if it hadn't
been for Nash and his
ragtag band of bookheroes. (discuss)
article is icky, anyway... Just write the facking story and
let some grad student with nothing better to do label it. (discuss)
No, no. We don't get to dump them in a pit and watch them tear
each other to shreds... It's a
story from Russia illustrating how things aren't really so different.
"The main obstacle to putting together this year's celebration
of International Poetry Day was a matter of logistics. Not the usual
kind of logistics, since Moscow's lively literary scene ensured
organizer Yevgeny Bunimovich both fail-safe venues and a devoted
set of listeners. No -- here, the challenge lay in getting all of
the festival participants to tolerate being in the same room for
more than five minutes." (discuss)
That's a Whole Lotta Daffodils
quarter million kids recite Wordsworth. Blake spins in grave.
You Can See How Much Better Things Would Be If the Press
Actually Did the Damn Job They Signed Up For
video is so sweet it will make you squirm. Rummie caught in
an outright lie. Not book related, but let's hope some journalists
who might otherwise be cowed by a strong personality see it. (Worth
the wait to download if you're on dialup) (discuss)
Personally, I'm Not Such a Big Fan of the Words "Hit"
and "Train" in the Same Sentence...
CBC BC (BCBCBCBC) reports that the
Poetry Train is a hit. "Vancouver poet Kate Braid is delighted
by the response. "You get the feeling that people have been
hungry for this," she says. "They're a little bit embarrassed
at first, and then they're into it."" Um, I don't want
to be a downer on this little parade, but bill bisset is on that
thar train. I can't imagine any unsuspecting rider trapped
on a train with bill bisset not being "embarrassed."
I sure hope fantastic poets Jay MillAr and John Paul Fiorentino
can bring em round. (discuss)
Google Publishes Print Edition
"The 2,481-volume "A" set can be pre-ordered online
now and will be in bookstores later this month. Google plans to
release a new letter of the alphabet every two weeks." Very
funny. (From Maud)
The Death of the
anonymous Salon piece makes me sad -- mainly because this author's
life looks good to me. (Note: You'll have to watch an ad to read
"In the 10 years since I signed my first book contract, the publishing
industry has changed in ways that are devastating -- emotionally,
financially, professionally, spiritually, and creatively -- to midlist
authors like me. You've read about it in your morning paper: once-genteel
'houses' gobbled up by slavering conglomerates; independent bookstores
cannibalized by chain and online retailers; book sales sinking as
the number of TV channels soars. What once was about literature
is now about return on investment. What once was hand-sold one by
one by well-read, book-loving booksellers now moves by the pallet-load
at Wal-Mart and Borders -- or doesn't move at all." (discuss)
Joyce and Beckett Take on the Krauts!
series of comics featuring everyone's favourite duo, Joyce and
Beckett. (From Rake's Progress)
"I honestly don't think (if I'm wrong I'll be corrected), but
I don't think any writer in this country has had the critical success
that I've had. Not Atwood, not Ondaatje, not Munro, nobody"
Weeehehehellll.... Let's not get ahead of ourselves, cowboy. But,
indeed, Trevor Ferguson had done well - critically. ""The
publishers believed in me," he says. "With each new novel,
they felt, 'this is going to be the breakthrough, this is the one,'
but the most I ever sold was 500 copies. The Fire Line
(1995) sold 192 copies. And it just got worse and worse. You sell
under 200 - I mean, your career is over. You're done." But
only really got going once he changed his name and started pumping
out potboilers. "The windfall for a famously talented, but
financially challenged colleague electrified Canada's writing community.
Paperback readers all over the world were thrilled, too. City
of Ice zoomed up the best-seller charts and was translated
into 18 languages." Hm. Encouraging anecdote or cautionary
tale? The money has allowed him to try
his hand (rowr) at writing for the theatre... (From PFW)
"Over the last 30 years, feminists have raised questions
about all aspects of society - religion, education, psychology,
health, literature. There are no sacred cows. We've been free to
challenge everything except superheroes, which are treated as icons."
need superheroes, too. Especially now that Wolf is in the doghouse.
People don't often mention or think of it, but some of the most
interesting interdisciplinary work these days is being done by sex
and gender theorists. (discuss)
"Is performance any way to judge a novel? Writers are
not actors, yet a festival-rich literary culture which demands an
increasing degree of interface between author and reader seems to
require that they should be. Just because Dickens, or the late Timothy
Findley, or Pat McCabe could turn readings of their books into captivating
dramatic events doesn't mean that the two talents automatically
It seems there's some scuffle around the judging of lit idol. And
perhaps rightly so - if what this
article implies is true: "There have already been suggestions
that the voting was of a Florida election standard (one audience
member admitted to voting four times in various empty seats). More
significantly perhaps, the online vote, based on reading the posted
extracts from the five shortlisted works, came up with a different
winner: Tom Easton, a children's book publisher, and even the most
cursory glance explains why." (Excuse me while I do some nerd
trash talk: someone at the Guardian doesn't know how to close their
HTML tags...) (discuss)
"The rest of us looked on in astonishment and envy
at the lawsuit," recalled New York Observer columnist Joe Conason,
author of "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and
How It Distorts the Truth." "Everyone who wrote a book
that fall wished they had been lucky enough to have Fox sue them."
as publishers' bread and butter. And MORE PRESS for "the
scrappy Brooklyn-based publisher" (and longtime Ninja fav)
Soft Skull. (discuss)
"We do need to address this because we have got a number
of people coming out of jail who are intending to write books at
this very moment."
More on the
question of whether criminals should be allowed to profit (through
book sales) from their crimes. Again, I offer the following answer:
only if said criminal is me. (discuss)
"The fictional leader-for-life, Felix, is impotent,
lecherous and politically desperate. But he has a plan to squelch
the opposition in his country, now in its 38th year of civil war.
Felix will crucify the rebel leader whom peasants view as their
messiah. And if he broadcasts the execution worldwide, the dictator
will pocket $25 million from an American advertising agency eager
to televise the big event."
"I wish Dr Whitehead no harm: I have no idea what the
pay is like up there at Keele University, but it could surely do
with a boost from the proceeds of a self-help best-seller. The book
itself sounds like fodder for at least 15 minutes of armchair entertainment,
as women jovially attempt to shoehorn their men into unappealing
categories such as "Trainspotter" and "Neanderthal",
while men campaign to be seen as "Achilles", the flawed
charmer, or the sexy-but-dangerous "Backpacker"."
"What worries me, however - all the more so since
Dr Whitehead is a member of the rather grand-sounding Cabinet Office
Forum on Gender Research - is the idea that anyone might actually
take this pop-anthropology seriously, and seek to apply its dictates
to real men. Sadly, there is no more fertile territory for the proliferation
of lucrative nonsense than the muddy
ground between the sexes." (discuss)
"The tough-guy image for which Palance is famous falls
by the wayside when he speaks about his poetry and new book, The
Forest of Love. He said he draws from his life for his poems but
stops short of calling himself a poet."
""As you write poetry, it gets easier," he said."
Believe it, or not he's a
poet as well as a professional cowboy impersonator. Ah, Curly,
wilst thouest be minest? (discuss)
Takes a Stand on Commas
OK, they're a bit behind on the Lynne Truss book. But still,
"It's not hard to understand that a tiny electrical short-circuit
can cause a jumbo jet to plunge into the ocean. It's less obvious,
though probably no less true, that inattention to the proper use
of puncutation can inconspicuously help to undermine a civilization,
because it weakens the mortar -- language -- that holds our civilization
And the Latest Maxim Cover Girl Is... Marge Simpson. Oh Yeah,
and Paris Somebody-or-Other
I've never actually read this mag, but I find its split
cover amusing. (From Ryan
Having Trouble Making Ends Meet as a Writer?
about Nathaniel Hawthorne won't make you feel any better. This
about romance writer Melanie Craft, however, will probably make
you weep. (discuss)
It's Not Every Day Canadian Stage Gets Play on CNN
Stratford's stellar Lear has stormed
Broadway and people are fools for it. (discuss)
UK's Poet Laureate Fights War with Words
Whereas our Laureate... Um
... Whereis our laureate? (discuss)
It's funny, I was just talking with my local bookdude, Dan, about
this yesterday. One
Story magazine* gives you, you guessed it, one story every three
weeks. There may be 2400 subscribers (about to be a whole helluvalot
more), but don't let it and the NYT coverage fool you -- this is
a zine. And a very cool one. (discuss)
And the Moral of the Story Is: Give Me Money
Pre-Potter, struggling single mum Rowling
was saved by a "£4,000 loan from a friend" and
able to complete her bemuggled opus. (In related news: Rowling will
apparently be starring with Suzanne Somers in an upcoming twins-separated-at-birth
flick, "Two for the Show: The Thighmaster Trilogy".) (From
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that authors in need
of perking up their plots turn to matters carnal because sex sells."
of famous books might raise a few eyebrows, but from the relatively
tame gallery (at the bottom) I can't imagine that those eyebrows
would have been on the planet for any less than 80 years. Though
the fig one makes me hungry. (discuss)
Camus and Sartre
Our day has an "anti-Sartrean
sentiment"? Why wasn't I informed? (From ALDaily)
Ah, Ignorance and Bigotry - Thy Name is the American South
Mother cries when daughter reads a
kiddie book called King and King - citing
"God made Adam and Eve -- not two men." Bush rubs hands,
twists mustache. The
South marches on. (discuss)
I Guess This Would Bust a Blood Vessel in MommyAmerica's
It's a little known fact that gay people aren't necessarily smarter
read than everyone else. (discuss)
Marginalia: the Great Satan
A gallery of library
book damage. (From Incoming
Naked Came the Stranger
In 1969, a bunch of Newsday reporters banged
out a purposefully crappy novel and got it published. "They
marketed the book as a finger in the eye of a publishing world that
was pumping out garbage and reaping millions for mediocre writers."
Good thing times have changed. (discuss)
Was it Mark Perry who said that punk died the day the the Clash
signed with CBS? Nuh-uh. It's just been in a coma. It
actually died today.* Not bookish, but I couldn't resist...
"I'm a novelist and I expect to be treated as such."
Which famous author uttered
these words? (discuss)
to the "Confessions of a Midlist Author" piece on Salon. Not a lot
of sympathy for Jane Austen, especially from Neal Pollack:
"Cry me a river, Endangered Midlist Author without the guts to reveal
your name. Boohoo. You only got $80,000 for a book it took you two
whole years to write. Do you know that, according to the National
Writers' Union, the average writer in America makes $4,000 a year
from their writing? And that's when you figure Stephen King and
Nora Roberts into the equation." (From Maud)
"A lot of comic books are very literate -- unlike most films."
Alan Moore has
decided to take a stand on film adaptations of his comics.
"If I write a crappy comic book, it doesn't cost the budget of an
emergent Third World nation. When you've got these kinds of sums
involved in creating another two hours of entertainment for Western
teenagers, I feel it crosses the line from being merely distasteful
to being wrong." (discuss)
Our stats tell us our hits have gone up significantly in the last
couple days (likely due to Pete's
Bill C-12 piece getting mentioned on Neil
Gaiman's blog). If you're new to Bookninja, welcome. A big part
of our community is the discussion taking place on our boards. Each
item has a link to its own board and a
complete index of topics is always available by clicking on
the "Discuss" link in the top left corner of this page.
Please drop us a line to let us know you've been here and what you
Mistry Up for IMPAC
shortlisted for prestigious loot-fest. Go Rohi! Go Rohi! Go!
Go! Go Rohi! (Nice to see Cisneros on there.) (discuss)
The Onion Wins a Pulitzer?
have been. They were in the running for their
first issue back after 9/11. "As it went around the table,
you could see that people were blown away by this work, but it was
a little too different, a little too risky. I voted to make it a
finalist, but nobody else did." (From Maud)
Faith Begins Article on Self-Publishing
I suppse that's somewhat fitting. POD
is changing the way we read crappy books. Get
used to it. It'd be interesting to see some big name authors
try this for a book or two, just to see what their verdict would
be (extra work vs. control/profit). (From PFW)
Anne-Marie Kicks Kilted Arse
"IF YOU had tried to assess the reaction to Canadian poet and
novelist Anne Michael’s reading at the Byre Theatre in terms of
applause alone, you would have had to conclude that it had been
a disaster. But that wouldn’t have been fair - the colossal intensity
of her poetry built a silence whose surface tension it would have
been sacrilege to break." I almost didn't include the second
sentence to leave
you hanging... (discuss)
There's a new
6000 word short story coming down the pike. (discuss)
This Is Horrifying
children's author from the 60's accused of grooming young girls
for sexual assault. (discuss)
Vancouver Gay Bookstore Battles Canada Customs
The feds are still at it, legislating
taste. And things can only get worse if Bill
C-12 goes through. Kudos to Little Sister for having the balls
to fight. Now send them some money. (discuss)
I Can't Vouch for the Books in Advance
But buying The
Very Best of Elvis Costello was one of my better mid-30s
music decisions. (discuss)
Battle! BATTLE! BAAATTTLLLE!
Of the encyclopedias! Pedias! PEDIAAAS! Wikipedia
vs. Britannica in the mismatch of the century! (But I still
like da Wik better.) (discuss)
The Noive of Some People
"Did you not receive my phone message of 1:43 a.m. Tuesday
last? Oh, you received it. Then, as you well know, you are no longer
welcome in the Homer reading group." This
is sad because it rings so true. And then there's this:
"New York Times Seeks Court Order To Remove Tuesdays
With Morrie From Bestseller List
NEW YORK—The New York Times announced Monday that it will
seek a court order to have Mitch Albom's book of discussions between
himself and his dying mentor, Tuesdays With Morrie, forcibly
removed from the paperback non-fiction bestseller list. "We've
tolerated the old dead guy's ramblings for the past 66 weeks,"
Times Sunday books-section editor Mel Constantine said. "But
now it's simply gotta go. I want Morrie out of my list—permanently."
Should the order be successful, the book's slot on the list will
be replaced by a line urging readers to donate to the Fresh Air
Fund." From The Onion.
artist Seth thinks so. Among other things, he's the designer
of the 25-volume Complete Peanuts, the first instalment of
which is set to hit stores in May.
"I guess I've always been a little disappointed with how Schulz
has been presented. In the '60s, his work was considered sophisticated
adult humour. But with all the TV specials and merchandising, I
think in the public's mind it has been reduced to a children's product.
I wanted the book to be something that could lead the reader into
Schulz's work and let them judge it for themselves, hopefully removing
some of the pop-culture associations." (discuss)
One of my favourite stories, Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain"
(from the simply unbelievable collection Close Range), is
being made into a film by Ang Lee. When I first heard the news
I wondered if "Brokeback Mountain" was actually filmable, as so
much of its strength is its language. But I think Lee is a good
choice, given the way he turned Ride With the Devil into
a clever film about sexual politics (it's a queer film, if you ask
me). If you don't know "Brokeback Mountain" you're
in for a treat. (discuss)
Wanted: Poet Laureate
George Bowering's term is up this fall, and the search
is on for his replacement.
"Bowering used the modest power of office to help nudge Canadian
poetry towards the centre of cultural life in the country. While
the Government of Canada's poet laureate Web site puts no performance
quota on the office holder -- 'Creativity cannot be quantified,'
it states -- Bowering has set the bar high. Poetry readings, interviews,
appearances and the launch of a Web site featuring a new Canadian
poem every week were among his initiatives." (discuss)
"The perfect crime is the murder of reality"
"It will never again be given to us to return to the idea of an
ambiguous, undecipherable world; it will be totally deciphered.
This is integral reality, which, as I see it, is entirely unbearable.
At some point, there will surely be a massive counter-transference
against this total integrism of reality, which isn't even objective
any more, since there's no longer any object! " (discuss)
The New "Literary Business"
The New Republic has a
charming piece about book publishing in the 1920s. Oh, how times
"Some of the newer firms are inclined to regard publishing as one
of the luxury trades. They seek their customers in the 'milady'
class, among the people that like exclusive products, French soaps,
modern furniture, Viennese chocolates, and also among people not
quite sophisticated enough to protest against being called sophisticated.
To please this type of buyers, who may or may not be readers, they
sometimes transform their books into bibelots, into bright packages
like candy-boxes or cartons of perfumed soap. They publish testimonials
from society women. They specialize in limited editions, numbered
and autographed. And they follow the business policy of the luxury
trades, which depend on high prices to compensate for a lower volume
of sales." (From Maud)
Do Amazon Reader Reviews Matter?
seem to think so.
"Amazon readers provide early and almost instant signs of breakout
success; writers tend to obsessively check up on their reviews and
ranking. Publishers also can be swayed to change their books based
on the reviews, an Amazon spokeswoman said. For instance, a computer
book publisher might decide to add a chapter on a particular feature
of a software in a book's revised edition based on the feedback.
Quirky small-press books, ones that rarely get any media attention,
have a chance on Amazon, where readers love to hunt for and pluck
out overlooked page-turners. In 1999, writer M.J. Rose landed a
contract with Pocket Books after the publishing industry noticed
the reader buzz on her self-published novel, Lip Service."
(From Arts Journal)
Artist Antonia Lancaster owns offthemap. She says running a
public comic jam at an art gallery is not just a barrel of laffs
also a challenge to established concepts of art, artist and audience.
"'There are not many galleries where the viewer can take the
art off the wall and complete the idea,' she explains. 'It presses
the edges a bit; toys with the preciousness of art.'" (discuss)
points us to an earlier
piece about the crises of the midlist author, which proposes
some fixes to the problem before books go the way of Hollywood,
or even worse, radio.
"Commercial book publishing has never been an egalitarian business.
Those authors who sell a lot of books get a lot of respect from
their publishers (even if not from reviewers). Yet there was a time
when writers of serious books not destined to become bestsellers
could expect to get contracts from publishers that included decent
terms and large enough advances to survive until the next book.
They could also expect that the publisher would make a reasonable
effort to publicize and promote the book. Today such expectations
are rarely met." (discuss)
Like the benefits of a computer but miss the old-style typewriters?
Now you can
have both with this mod! (From Boing
"It was not even the first story that had somebody slicing off someone's
A student at a San Francisco school is
expelled for writing a violent, sadistic story about a serial killer.
Then the teacher is fired. And then Homicide is called in. But apparently
everything would have been all right if the student had just written
his tale of murder and sexual torture in a more aesthetically pleasing
manner, such as in The Lovely Bones. (From Maud)
Does Scotland Need Its Own Amazon?
The Scottish Arts
Council thinks so.
"With locally controlled stores such as James Thin and John
Smith gone from the high street, Scottish publishers find themselves
driven into the arms of aggressive international competitors, and
part of an increasingly tough battle to get space on the shelves
and window displays. They find that dominant bookstores, such as
Waterstone's, Borders, Ottakar's and WH Smith often demand large
discounts before they are willing to stock Scottish titles. There
is also criticism that too many public libraries source their books
centrally and pay insufficient attention to Scottish and local interests."
(From Moorish Girl) (discuss)
The Great Masturbation Crisis.
Go on, click
it. You know you want to. (discuss)
Remember the Days When the Media Mattered?
So does Your Media.
"Your Media is a gathering place and a rallying point for those
who cherish Freedom of Expression. Acting individually or together,
we can expose unethical media owners who use their considerable
powers to further their personal or corporate interests. Utilizing
the world's only remaining (for now...) free medium, we will support,
encourage and embolden the elected, the appointed and the decision-makers
to act in the public interest." (From Press
Who's Afraid of Doctor Strange?
Well, I am a little. But Jonathen
Lethem thinks there's nothing to worry about. He's a Marvel
hero, after all. (Doctor Strange, I mean, not Lethem. Although...)
"Marvel was an allegiance, a credential. And it seems to me now
that Marvel's extra coolness curdled, in grown remembrance, into
something extra embarrassing. Among writers more or less my age,
the credential is practically never brandished." (From Rake's
Paul Auster Is Granted
the Blue Metropolis Grand Prize
And the title
of most French American author. (From Maud)
Can't She Just Start a Multimillion-Dollar Clothing Line Like Everyone
Alicia Keys wants to write
mystery novels. And poetry. And literary fiction.
"Could Alicia Keys be the next Nancy Drew? As if writing one book
weren't an ambitious enough plan, the singer has expanded upon her
earlier vision: According to a written proposal, Keys now plans
to release a volume of poetry and a series of young-adult mystery
novels in which she will be a teen detective character, in addition
to a book based on her diaries."
If that doesn't upset you, consider this: she's already been offered
$1.5 million -- for the diary alone." (From Literary
"You're Not Fighting a Woman Now!"
Haven't read Action Comics #1, where a rough-and-tumble
Superman is introduced to the world? Now some kind soul has put
the $75,000 comic online for your reading pleasure. (From Memepool)
"I'm coming to grips with the cold; I had not been told it would
go on for so long."
The Star has a short
profile of David Davidar, the new head of Penguin Canada.
"There were more than a few raised eyebrows in the book world when
Penguin Books Canada announced it was bringing in a new publisher
from New Delhi. What would a person from so far away know about
Canadian literature or the challenges of Canadian publishing?
Quite a lot, it turns out." (discuss)
The Poet of Heartbreak
The NY Times thinks
that Anne Carson is the perfect translator of Greek for modern audiences.
"In The Autobiography of Red Ms. Carson transformed the Greek
poet Stesichoros' account into a modern tale of a red-winged schoolboy
called Geryon who is bullied by classmates because he is different.
'This would be hard/for you if you were weak,' his mother says,
sending him off to school, 'but you're not weak, she said and neatened
his little red wings and pushed him/out the door.'"
what about this guy? (discuss)
Yeah, But He Likes Everything
Bert Archer, who is, um, tough to please, sings
the praises of Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's debut collection, Way
Up, in the Toronto Star.
"Kuitenbrouwer's phrasing is unassuming, her vocabulary uniformly
quotidian and her syntax is so uncomplicatedly, conversationally
and apparently artlessly varied (though she could do with fewer
subordinate clauses here and there), that when you hear one of her
narrators describe her lover's erect penis as an exclamation mark
(an image that's at once so obvious and so original) it takes you
More Comic Journalism
Peter Bagge is a nice
alternative to the hard-hitting but often horrifying works of Joe
Sacco. And who else is doing informative, opinionated comics
rock? (From Boing Boing)
Looking for Independent Booksellers in the U.S.?
Booksense can help.
The Believer Mob
The Guardian wonders
if the McSweeneyites are a cozy little club or a creative hub.
"To point out these connections, as well as noting in passing some
of the multifarious examples of in-breeding and insouciant log-rolling
(Heidi Julavits, Vendela Vida's co-editor at the Believer,
is married to Ben Marcus; Ben Marcus interviews George Saunders
in the current issue; George Saunders nominates Ben Marcus as one
of his favourite writers in a recent interview and puffs a new Julavits
book--'a terrific and important addition to our literature'; Hornby
puffs a new collection of stories by Vendela Vida's good friend
and recently -anointed true Believer, Julie Orringer, as well as
talking up the latest novel by friend-of-the-magazine, Jonathan
Lethem ...) is to risk being branded a 'snark'." (discuss)
The title of an ECW anthology about Italian-Canadian women's writing
protests about ethnic stereotypes.
"'When your sales reps tell you that they could sell 1,000 copies
of one title and 5,000 of another you'd be a fool to ignore their
advice,' says Gugeler. 'This is a trade book. We are not in the
business of just selling books to the authors' relatives.' After
the parties reached a stalemate, Valle says she received a letter
from ECW Press that her services as editor were no longer wanted.
Eleven contributors withdrew their essays, leaving the publisher
scrambling to find replacements. Gugeler and David began to receive
scores of messages from Valle's supporters accusing them of insensitivity
and racism." (discuss)
"Snark is, I believe, prompted by the terrible vacuum feeling of
Sven Birkets, the target of Dale Peck's last negative review
soon from Maisonneuve), speaks
out about negative reviewing and the sorry state of contemporary
"And this is more or less where we find ourselves now. Psychologically
it is a landscape subtly demoralized by the slash-and-burn of bottom-line
economics; the modernist/humanist assumption of art and social criticism
marching forward, leading the way, has not recovered from the wholesale
flight of academia into theory; the publishing world remains tyrannized
in acquisition, marketing, and sales by the mentality of the blockbuster;
the confident authority of print journalism has been challenged
by the proliferation of online alternatives." (From Maud)
Invisible Monsters -- the Comic!
Yep, now there's a
comic adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Check out the
Gap parody ad too. (discuss)
Please Tell Me He Didn't Really Write As I Lay Dying in
Faulkner had an interesting
"His father had got him the position at the power station after
he was dismissed from his previous job as post office clerk at the
University of Mississippi. Apparently one of the lecturers there,
quite reasonably, complained: the only way he could get his mail
was by rummaging around in the rubbish bin at the back door, where
the unopened bags of post all too often ended up. Faulkner did not
like having his reading interrupted, and the sale of stamps fell
alarmingly; by way of explanation, Faulkner told his family that
he was not prepared to keep getting up to wait on people at the
window and having to be beholden to any son-of-a-bitch who had the
two cents to buy a stamp." (discuss)
Is Disney Killing
Well, certainly nothing good has come out of Disney since Walt
climbed into his cryogenic tank to await the apocalypse. But
does the Evil Empire have to destroy the pre-Disney classics?
(Note: It's Salon, so you'll have to watch a brief ad.)
"But the Disneyfication of The Wind in the Willows is more
insidious. Because, as Evil Clones are wont to do, Disney's Toad
has gone back to wipe out the original, replace it with himself
and cover his tracks. Only those who know to poke around will discern
the plunder, and by that time the real treasure may be long gone.
When our library's vintage copies of The Wind in the Willows
finally wear out, the Great Illustrated Classic, with its sturdy
library binding will be all that's left. And the only hint of the
desecration will be the ambiguous but friendly 'adapted by' bit
on the title page. We'll find Mole sick of cleaning. Toad flinging
horrid little wagons. Mole sitting in his chair with a bubble of
Badger over his head. Cleansed of 'divine discontent and longing,'
bereft of 'poetry of motion,' with Mole never taking time out to
smell Home, Little Portly neither lost nor found, and no Pan pipes
to be forgotten by Rat or reader. Greatly diluted and poorly illustrated
'classics' will be the literary legacy left to our children." (discuss)
Toronto Festival of Storytelling
I've been to a couple of these events, but I
had no idea that storytelling was so popular.
"The longest-running city festival after the Toronto Film Festival
now attracts up to 6,000 during its 10-day run. The majority of
performers, most of them professionals, are local citizens, with
about seven or eight coming in from the U.S. and other parts of
'It's certainly one of the largest urban festivals of its kind in
the world, of the highest quality, and certainly the most diverse
-- Toronto is the crossroads city of the modern world,' says Yashinsky,
who grew up in Detroit, a self-admitted 'first-generation child
of the television age,' and fell in love in his youth with the romantic
notion of the traveling bard." (discuss)
The Line Between Writers and Rock Stars Just Got a Little Thinner
New York Metro has a
sampling of lyrics written by lit celebs for One Ring Zero's
"You find us in the bathroom / You find us in the sink / You
find us in the toilet, having ourselves a drink." -- Jonathan
Lethem "When I was a little boy, I was very troubled / I had
a bad back and an elevated testicle." -- Jonathan Ames
"I'm nine feet tall and my skin is gray / All the girls scream
when I come out to play." -- Margaret Atwood (From Maud)
Lost in Translation
When you say "altar," do
you mean marriage or sacrifice?
"Both equally invested, the rapport between writers and their translators
is doubtless one of the most passionate working relationships: a
potential clash of artistic sensibilities, talent, cultures and
viewpoints -- made all the more curious by the fact that, most often,
they never meet."
The article contains an interesting link to a discussion
between Ondaatje and his translators. (discuss)
is the latest site dedicated to providing literature to the masses
for free or on the cheap (in this case the niche is audio texts).
"Telltale Weekly seeks to record, produce, and sell performances
of at least 50 public domain texts a year, with the intention of
releasing them under the Creative Commons Attribution License five
years or a hundred thousand sales after their first appearance here,
whichever comes first." (discuss)
An artist uses
PowerPoint to chart his malaise. I so want this book.
"'Every single one of these images is a protest against the brute
fact that I have to work for a living,' explains Michael Lewy, a
Jamaica Plain-based artist who spends his days as an administrative
assistant at MIT's Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems."
(From Cup of Chica)
Is It True Short Stories Don't Sell?
Or is just that publishers don't sell short stories? Either
way, apparently things
are worse for short story writers in Britain than in Canada.
"In Canada, there is a high level of national and provincial government
support for short stories as a way of developing the country's writers
of the future. Collections have been a standard route for making
a publishing debut for writers before they go on to novels -- the
reverse of the situation in Britain." (discuss)
Of Fathers and Fan Salesmen
Comic artist Seth launches
two books, Clyde Fans and Bannock, Beans and Black
Tea, the latter a book inspired by his father. Oh yes, the article
also reveals Seth's secret identity.
"As a child, the artist had enjoyed hearing the stories over and
over, but as an adult, he perceived the pain and neglect submerged
within his father's spirited retelling. These were tales of a life
of extreme poverty lived in P.E.I.'s harsh climes. For years, Seth
thought about preserving the stories in some kind of book, going
so far as attempting to record them, before finally asking his father
to simply write them down. To his surprise, he did." (discuss)
Solace? Or Schadenfreude?
Lynn Coady notes the
popularity of Salon's "Confessions
of a Semi-Successful Author" piece and wonders
why writers are drawn to such depressing stories. Featuring
guest comments by not one but both bookninjas!
"I read the piece, nodded resignedly, and promptly sent it out to
other writer friends. Then I sat back, puzzling over what I had
just done. Hi there! Isn't this depressing? Enjoy!
But I wasn't the only one. The piece was burning across the ether
like the most efficient of viruses, plopping into the inboxes of
everyone I knew. It got me thinking what twisted creatures writers
can be, so eager to disseminate gloom amongst themselves." (discuss)
Are Dr. Seuss's Books a "Masculine Attempt to Overcome Womb Envy"?
a secret Kabbalistic text? Or, even worse, learning?
"In his essay 'The Secret Alchemy of Dr Seuss,' Fenkl warns that
there is 'far more going on in the book than meets the casually
analytic eye.' Suspend disbelief again. The names in the book all
apparently 'resonate with ... Alchemical and Kabbalistic logic.'
To show how much we are expected to read into the untidy anagrams
that could be made from each name, I quote Fenkl: 'Finally, the
Brown Bar-ba-loots are also linked with the anti-logging rhetoric,
by anagramming into the phrase, "Ban blows to arbor," and to the
crucifixion narrative: "Barab's loot." ... The prefix "barba" also
means "bearded," linking The Lorax and Christ through their appearance,
not only their ascension, and "barb" suggests the crown of thorns.'"
Invisible Adjunct, a great site for wannabe and/or recovering
academics, is shutting down.
"A few months ago, I made a vow to myself that this would be my
last semester as an invisible adjunct. Since I've failed to secure
a full-time position in my final attempt at the academic job market,
what this means, of course, is that I made a vow to leave the academy.
Six more weeks of teaching, and I head for the nearest exit."
I'm going to miss this site, as it had great discussions not only
on jobs in the humanities, but also on the way the discipline is
taught and run. It was a great discussion forum, and in that respect
it was probably better in some ways than the subject it covered.
Will You Miss the Hatchet Man?
"Twelve essays by the bad boy of contemporary book reviewing reveal
a passionate, committed commentator who definitely has an axe to
grind. So what? Like any truly interesting critic, Peck has a coherent,
openly stated aesthetic position that informs everything he writes,
including his novels." (From Rake's
"I must be cruel only to be kind"
Looking for an oxymoronic or paradoxical quotation by a famous
writer? Oxymoronica may
be the site for you.
"Any compilation of phrases or quotations that initially appear
illogical or nonsensical, but upon reflection, make a good deal
of sense and are often profoundly true." (discuss)
for Ontario's Trillium Awards have been announced. Good to
see David O'Meara's The
Vicinity made the cut.
"The English finalists are Di Brandt for Now You Care,
Pier Giorgio Di Cicco for The Dark Time of Angels, Barbara
Gowdy for The Romantic, Thomas King for The Truth About
Stories, Djanet Sears for Adventures of a Black Girl in
Search of God, and M.G. Vassanji for The In-Between World
of Vikram Lall.
The French finalists are: Franco Catanzariti for Sahel,
Margaret Michele Cook for En un tour de main, Serge Denis
for Social-democratie et mouvements ouvriers, Francois
Pare for La Distance habitee, Gabrielle Poulin for Ombres
Finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry were also announced:
Adam Getty for Reconciliation, David O'Meara for The
Vicinity, Adam Sol for Crowd of Sounds, Angele Bassole-Ouedraogo
for Avec tes mots, Marc LeMyre for Gaga pour ton zoom."
for Writers) (discuss)
Should Freelance Writers Charge by the Syllable?
Everybody's linking to this,
but no one's looking at the date....
"The spaces between words should also count as billable syllables,
given the laborious job of tapping the space bar. The same would
apply to hyphens, dashes, colons and parenthetic constructions."
"When I look at life today, I can't see nothing but a raw
The Globe and Mail has a
nice article about Bannock, Beans and Black Tea, the
new book by Seth and his father, John Gallant. Columnist Charles
Mandel avoids the easy route -- talking about Seth -- and focuses
instead on his father. Looks like an interesting but tough book.
"A typical anecdote involves Gallant working all day in the local
priest's field picking potatoes. At the day's end, the priest's
maid gave Gallant and his friend a bowl of cold mashed potatoes
for a meal. As he left, Gallant looked into through the priest's
window and 'saw just what we expected. There he was seated at
a nice table and at its centre was a golden chicken surrounded
by roasted potatoes and vegetables.'" (discuss)
2004 Griffin Poetry Prize
have been announced.
-Now You Care by Di Brandt
-go-go dancing for Elvis by Leslie Greentree
-Loop by Anne Simpson
-Notes from the Divided Country by Suji Kwock Kim
-The Ha-Ha by David Kirby
-The Strange Hours Travelers Keep by August Kleinzahler
-The Owner of the House by Louis Simpson
World Book Capital
I didn't know there was such a thing, let alone the fact that
it changes every year. Oxford
is lobbying to be the capital in 2007, but it faces stiff
competition from Edinburgh.
"What, though, makes a place a 'world book capital'? The number
of bookshops and libraries it boasts? The public visibility of
its writers? The city's devotion to its literary heritage, and
nurturing of respect by younger generations for the great writers
of its past?
Well actually, none of the above. The criteria announced by the
Unesco judges are stolidly prosaic. The judges want to see, they
say, 'municipal, regional, national or international initiatives
aimed at enhancing the impact of books and fostering reading during
the period between one World Book and Copyright Day and the next.'
They want 'specific or ongoing activities organised by the candidate-city
in co-operation with the professional organisations representing
writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians.' The title, in
other words, will go to whichever city can promise to get more
is the World Book Capital of 2005. (From Places
for Writers) (discuss)
The Next Big Thing in SF?
If you like the dirty SF realism of William Gibson, you may
want to check out Richard Morgan. I've only read Altered Carbon,
his first book, but it was a treat, featuring a noir world of
the future, downloadable consciousness and a UN that actually
works -- through insane levels of violence. The book earned a
film deal, and also generated a sequel, Broken Angels,
which is next on my reading list. Check out an interview
with Morgan as he talks about his books and the leisurely
life of a full-time writer. He also talks
politics a bit over at Infinity Plus. (From Confessions
of an Idiosyncratic Mind) (discuss)
A brief but interesting overview
of the history of French science fiction.
"Art in the future was a central theme in the eighties and it
is making a serious comeback. It is interesting to note that the
so-called art defined in the future is either a terrorist way
to change society -- art as a means to move the masses and to
control them -- or the ultimate expression of freedom versus totalitarian
states. In the just released line Musees, Des Mondes Enigmatiques
(Museums, Enigmatic Worlds), most stories describe fugitives
from the outside world seeking refuge in a museum. Some of them
are trapped and destroyed, some find help from other refugees.
Almost no character is interested in art for art's sake. As a
possible metaphor of actual French SF, this is quite frightening."
Looking for a Good Murder Resource?
Why not try Crime
Fiction Canada, the Canadian detective fiction database? (From