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Hearsay Archive:

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

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

May 2004:


Weekend Edition:

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy
Snarkout has a nice entry today (May 1) about words of the year, portmanteau words and mondegreens. (discuss)

Making the Cut
Ever wonder how literary prizes work? Surprise -- it's politics!
"'If Martel had been published by one of the big houses, I guarantee the book would never have been entered [for the Booker].' Franklin has such literary giants as Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan on his list. 'If you have a lot of established authors and they find out you haven't entered their books you will soon discover you no longer have them.'" (discuss)

Literature of the EU
The Guardian surveys the literature of newer EU members.
"There is no Europe without literature, without poetry and that mongrel art of the Renaissance, the novel; without that landscape on which, in Eliot's words, 'All time is eternally present.'" (From Literary Saloon) (discuss)

The POD People

"Previously, anyone wanting to get into print would either try the professional route or venture into vanity publishing, where authors often have to pay several hundred pounds to a printing and layout company. In return, they get a box of 200 books, 194 of which usually sit and gather dust in the garage." Hell, that's not just with vanity presses. My first book is still sitting in someone's basement... (discuss)

I'll Tell You Something, This Thing Both Weighs and Costs More than a Pound...
This is how freakishly weak-willed I am... I walk into The Bookshelf today and see Pound's ugly mug on the front of Bookforum. I read the essay (during the last 250 words of which the boy is yelling at me from his stroller and people are looking at me like I'm committing some form of academic neglect), walk up to the counter and say, "How much is the Pound collected?" When the clerk checks the computer and says, "$69.95" I swallow hard and reply in the raspy voice of the walking damned, "Can you please order it?" I have no money. I know I have no money. And yet the man's name compels me... When I got home I held my hands out plaintively and justified it like this: "But it's everything! EV-ER-Y-THING!" I have a real problem. (discuss)

The Book is an Object, Not Its Author
"A copy of Vogue will cost the same as a paperback of Wuthering Heights. You can chuck the mag with impunity, but I have yet to meet the person who can toss a paperback into the bin as if it were a crisp-packet. It's one of the few things that is still sacrilege, riddled with emotional associations. It's a powerful taboo from a time before reproduction, when a book was not a copy of a book, but an original, like a painting. The object and the content were the same thing. Now they are not, but the taboo lives on." Interesting subject, but did anyone else find this piece poorly constructed? (discuss)

Asian Heritage Month at the TPL
Chinese books are in great demand. (From PFW) (discuss)

Queen's Produces Literary Royalty
Queen's U in Belfast has produced some of the best writers of the last century. Now it's looking to the future... (You know, I don't expect you to believe this, but this shot of Seamus Heaney looks so strikingly like my father that had I been drinking I would have done a spit take. I never noticed the resemblance before, but Shay's been grey so much longer than pops. I guess my dad finally caught up to him... Come to think of it, I have never seen the two of them in the same room.... Hmmmmmmm.... I knew my dad was faking it with them wrenches! I just KNEW IT!) (discuss)

"Of course, my own father was absolutely horrified by the character of Eugene, and rather worried that people would think it was based on him."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie profiled. (discuss)

"The following pages are real, unmanipulated examples of Scrabble-tile-chooosing ineptitude, hands so mind-bogglingly unfair in their horribleness that pictures just had to be taken." (From Clive) (discuss)


In Retrospect, It Looks Postively Optimistic
David Banerjee looks back at Generation X.
"I asked a friend of mine recently to confirm a hunch of mine: that my generation's moral compass is broken. He agreed that he felt as though 'something deeper' was missing. Perhaps the thing most common between my generation of 25-35 year olds and those of ten years ago -- Generation X -- is the lack of narrative, the absence of a grand myth that explicates our collective beliefs and values." (discuss)

Urban Nation? Or Boring Nation?
Noah Richler takes issue with Ryan Bigge's review of Miriam Toews' new book, and offers a few opinions on the state of contemporary Canadian literature.
"Toews' new novel, Bigge goes on, 'serves to illustrate the conundrum many younger Canadian authors face -- how to mash up our literary tradition of rural geography with the urban nation we have become.' This, frankly, is the sort of self-regarding metropolitan article that gives Toronto a bad name -- with none of the 'edge' Bigge thinks is missing in CanLit." (discuss)

"I have a mild case of everything"
I love the above line, taken from Al Moritz's Night Street Repairs.
"You could call these erudite poems depictions of civilization and its discontents. Often, the speakers seem in search of their bearings -- moral and philosophical, as much as geographic or personal. The poems are full of disquieting images, such as towers of commerce that loom 'over ancient steeples / ... Surmounting the beauty of lights in clogged cement forms and spaces, echoing, empty, shining to die away / into shadow' and 'a loudspeaker with a voice of uniform / and blank-eyed pages.'"
The Star article points out how Mortiz's fretting about the state of civilization is shared by Griffin nominee Di Brandt:
"Now You Care is her fifth collection, and its reined-in, lyrical compression differs markedly from her earlier run-on, orally based style. The poems are often a fragmented catalogue of signs, some hopeful ('grass between the cement blocks of the sidewalk: grin of the wild'), others more ominous ('Tractor tracks through the shorn wheatfields. PCBs in the river'). They also shuttle between southern Ontario (Brandt now teaches at the University of Windsor) and the Manitoba prairie (where she has lived most of her life). The poet places humanity not at the top of the food chain, but as a link in it ('this open / field, fall and rise, and we mere grace notes, / small decoration to this huge symphony')." (discuss)

Editor of Maxim the Foremost Poet of His Generation

See, the great thing about the web is that I don't even have to try to keep a straight face when I say things like that. I can guffaw and stick my finger down my throat repeatedly while posting and you can't tell if I'm serious or not. "In a picaresque career, Mr. Dennis has played drums for Eric Clapton, gone to jail for publishing Oz, a crudely satirical magazine, and written a biography of Bruce Lee. In his newest chapter, the British multimillionaire is on a crusade to challenge the obscurity of modern poetry, by reclaiming old-fashioned values of rhyme and meter." By the by, I already checked the date on this to make sure it wasn't a leftover from April Fool's... A fool, yes, but in May. (Did I say "Foremost"? I meant, "Foreskin"...) (From Maud) (discuss)

National Magazine Awards Finalists Announced
Seriously, how could they ever have even thought about cancelling the award for poetry when you get a list like this (including, McKay, Heighton, Ormsby, Solie, Steffler, Lilburn). Maisonneuve is also up for several awards. (discuss)

The Unbearable Slightness of Being
Why can't John Banville remember Kundera's novel (which is celebrating 20 years of being forgotten this year)? (discuss)

Pow! Biff! Zang! Hallelujah!
The life of St. Emidius, patron saint of Ascoli Piceno, Italy, rendered in sequenced panels. I wonder if all the female characters have superhuge hooters and tousled manes of porn hair. (This is Italy after all, where public affairs debates often get interrupted for spontaneous bikini contests...) (discuss)

"A bit rap, a bit spoken, a bit Gainsbourg, a bit Leonard Cohen"
"It's time you met MC Solaar. Solaar is France's biggest-selling rapper, with more than 5m albums to his credit. A star and role model across the French-speaking world, he has been compared to the poet Verlaine, invited on to the festival jury at Cannes and praised by culture ministers. But there's no sign of it going to his head. He's polite, even diffident, and doesn't clank when he moves. He's definitely not bling-bling." I love the way the French do their intellectual merde. (My wife's thesis supervisor was a friend of Bourdieu's and tells a story about getting into a Paris cab with Pierre and the cabbie freaking out, saying, "Mon Dieu! You're BOURDIEU!" and then debating theory with him for the entire ride. I love that story.) (discuss)

"Without books, on a trip you'd be trapped inside your head with only your own thoughts, assaulted by strangeness, doomed to awareness. Traveling bookless is like Sartre's hell - a place without eyelids. No blinking, no sleep."
I guess this woman* really doesn't like either her husband or herself. After reading the article, I don't really like her either... OCD never seems to sits well with others who suffer it. (discuss)

"The backgrounds to my Rebus novels have always had a social conscience but at the moment there is this racial tension in Scotland which is the whole reason for writing the book."
Ian Rankin, apparently the Lynn Crosbie of Scotland, on his right to base novels on real-life tragedies. (discuss)

Newsflash: Heaney Does Better Laureate Work than Laureate
Seamus on May Day. (I hope those Harvard bastards aren't overburdening him with teaching...) (discuss)

The Four-Letter Word Was "Utah"
I so desperately wanted the clue to be "Hell's armpit where cousins marry", but alas, it has something to do with WWII and beaches and stuff (seriously, this is pretty interesting stuff). (discuss)

Plum Sticks in Her Thumb
You know, I really wanted to live my life without ever linking to a story on nitwit Plum Skyes (in her 14th minute of fame -- ripe for a reality TV show, people -- someone sign her up!, but this "interview" is so deliciously nasty that I just couldn't help myself. (discuss)


Eats, Shoots and Misses
I've been looking forward to reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves for months, so when it finally became available here in Canada I rushed out and bought it -- in hardcover, no less. I have to admit I was disappointed. It is indeed a passionate defence of punctuation, but it's really just concerned with the basics. If you already know where apostrophes and commas belong, then it will be of little use to you. And if you don't know where they belong, and you live in North America, it may not be the best buy for you as it follows the British rules of punctuation, which are substantially different from our own. The book is interesting in its history lessons -- for instance, the development of italics -- but these moments are infrequent. My advice to you is to read the The Chicago Manual of Style. And if you've already read it, read it again. (discuss)

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Food
The Guardian is running excerpts from Not on the Label, which looks like it should be required reading alongside Fast Food Nation.
"A team of researchers and volunteers at the Rome Institute of Food and Nutrition had conducted an experiment. They took lettuce grown by a cooperative and gave it to volunteers to eat on the day it was harvested; lettuce from the same source was then given to volunteers to eat after it had been packed in Map and stored for three days. Blood samples of the two groups were analysed after they had eaten the salad. The researchers noted that several anti-oxidant nutrients -- which protect against ageing, degenerative disease and cancer -- such as vitamins C and E, polyphenols and other micronutrients, seemed to be lost in the Map process. The volunteers who had eaten the fresh lettuce showed an increase in antioxidant levels in their blood, but those who had eaten lettuce stored for three days in Map showed no increase. The researchers noted that nutrient levels fell at a similar rate in lettuce stored in normal atmospheric conditions, the difference being that a lettuce stored normally showed signs of limpness after a few days, whereas with Map the illusion of freshness is preserved." (discuss)

Canadian Uberwriter Gallant Wins PEN Award

Mavis wins the PEN/Nabokov Award, a $20,000 US prize for an international author of "enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship." (discuss)

Newsflash: When Ondaatje Writes Novels, He Engages in "Fictionalization" and "Interpretation" of "History"
Apparently the real English patient was gay and lost his Nazi lover to a landmine. I might have got through THAT book. (There's an air of smug superiority here, the kind that seems to go hand in hand with academic "sleuths" who think they've uncovered some sort of deception on the part of a famous author or figure. I guess that'll show 'em for creating something meaningful for you to write about so eight other people in the world with the required specialized vocabulary can listen to you present it at a conference you had to pay to attend, you smarmy ivory tower bastards...) (discuss)

Motion Fetes Gunn
"For those of us who grew up reading Gunn, the news of his death feels like watching a part of the cliff of our own lives fall into the sea. And it deprives every poetry reader, whatever their age, of one of the most forceful, memorable, bracing and tender voices of our time. A voice which stretches across country-barriers as well as generation-barriers." (discuss)

Hey, Nature Poets!
Now there's a nature font for you. (From BoingBoing) (discuss)

But What About Hosanna?
Bruce Serafin reflects on the universal appeal of Michel Tremblay.
"But it wasn't this huge crowd of characters -- all of them vivid -- that amazed me. What amazed me was this. Though Tremblay was writing about a city thousands of miles away, so closely did his storytelling methods resemble those that entranced me during our nights sorting, so homely and familiar was the book's feeling, that as I read it I seemed to see section after section of the old Vancouver that for me the postal plant had long since come to represent. And like those folded paper cities that pop up when you open the pages of certain children's books, as I read there appeared before me the projects near the Hastings Viaduct where Ann Jack lived with the son who had punched her in the face, the old stucco houses on Glen Drive that I passed when I went to visit Toni Leigh, George Vincent's gloomy hole on Lakewood full of copies of Vogue magazine, Jen's apartment up on Graveley where her one-armed mom made her pancakes when she came home from work and finally, connecting all these places, the city I saw when I pedalled home from the plant down Hastings and Powell: the Woodbine Hotel, the bus wires overhead, the wet skies and the North Shore mountains." (discuss)

Unearthing Brazil's Women Writers
"The book Brazilian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century runs to almost 1,000 pages, and represents a true labour of literary archaeology. No fewer than 52 unknown women authors were uncovered. They wrote from letters and diaries, albums and notebooks to novels, poems, essays and criticism." (discuss)

"It helps not to read the books in question in the first place."
How can filmmakers/moviegoers better pick which movies-based-on-books they film/see? "The House of Mirth isn't one of Edith Wharton's better-known novels, but I'd written my college thesis on it. I'd lived with that book. I could try to describe my response to the casting of Dan Aykroyd as Gus Trenor in the film version, but a gurgle of rage doesn't quite convert to print." (discuss)

I Think a Few of These Poems Won Student Awards at York...
These found grocery lists are oddly compelling in a way that much of the poetry that resembles them isn't. (From Scribbling Woman) (discuss)


Bookninja a TopBlog in Canada
We had to put Vaseline on our teeth and hairspray on our asses, but after the swimsuit competition we prevailed! Finally our parents can be proud! (discuss)

Bad Sex with Neal Pollack
Neal Pollack has a new column with Nerve. It goes something like this:
"This may be hard to believe, but I didn't hesitate. I really wanted to fuck her right there. Halftime was running out. So damn the herpes! I plunged in. The sex was rough, fast, but incredibly pleasurable. She shrieked. Though I can only speak for myself for certain, I think we both came. I lay panting on top of her for a few seconds. But we quickly unclenched and put clothes back on. For some reason, we tacitly understood that we shouldn't watch the game naked." (From Bookslut) (discuss)

Stroked... the Dog?
The White House releases excerpts of Lynne Cheney's lustfest. She says she was experimenting back then, but weren't we all? (From Bookslut) (discuss)

National Anti-Poetry Month
Charles Bernstein doesn't think much of supporting poetry for poetry's sake.
"National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally 'positive.' The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an 'easy listening' station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. 'Accessibility' has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn't be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry." (From Spike) (discuss)

Fritzy, Fritzy Dumb Ass
Moorish Girl's mini-review of Funny in Farsi really makes me want to check this book out.
"In Berkeley, people were either thrilled or horrified to meet an Iranian. Reactions included, 'So what do you think of the fascist American CIA pigs who supported the Shah's dictatorship only to use him as a puppet in their endless thirst for power in the Middle East and other areas like Nicaragua.' Sometimes, mentioning that I was from Iran completely ended the conversation. I never knew why but I assume some feared that I might really be yet another female terrorist masquerading as a history of art major at UC-Berkeley." (discuss)

But Data on Star Trek Was a Singular...
The Globe and Mail ponders the usage of "data" and "media."
"The discussion is far from new. For their Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage (second edition, 1985), William and Mary Morris invited 28 word mavens to approve or disapprove of a singular verb after data, as in the expression, 'The data is inconclusive.' They noted that agenda, though technically plural, is now considered a collective unit and invariably takes a singular verb. The panel was evenly split on the use of 'data is' in print, and two-thirds favoured its use in casual speech. Author Isaac Asimov was forceful in his view. 'What's the use of saying "The data are" when to say it will cause everyone who hears it to consider you illiterate? "Data" is plural in Latin, singular in English.'" (discuss)

"Masturbatory Prose Style Fails To Reach Climax"
"NEW YORK—Writer Terrence Hendrie's debut novel I, Me, Eye, with its lengthy sentences and elaborate footnotes, failed to result in a climax, sources reported Monday. "Hendrie really works himself into a frenzy, massaging his love for obscure vocabulary," bookstore owner Robert Silvers said of the 385-page novel, which opens, "Adam, his serpentine ponytail flapping freely in the wintertide dithers, frostbitten grapewine bouche pursed around a smoldering Camel, hands gripping a Dachshund-eared copy of Hesse's Damien, which he recalled borrowing from his Cambridge roommate Geoffrey—young Geoffrey, how Adam chided him for his nostalgie de la boue." "Then, after 385 pages, the wanking-off ends abruptly, leaving the reader unsatisfied." Silvers added that the book's attempts at humor were too dry." From The Onion. (discuss)

"Literature isn't high art, spun from the wild, webbed gossamer of the imagination? It's mere profane gossip?"

'While gossip has long churned beneath the pages of the finest literature, the current crop of books is slightly different. "What is new is the fact that the public is less demanding in terms of quality when it comes to social reportage disguised as zeitgeisty fiction," said the literary agent David Kuhn. "Right now, it seems as though someone who has a sexy concept or milieu to exploit can get away with being a less-than-stellar prose stylist, whereas before, it was more important to deliver on both the idea and the execution."' (discuss)

"Paper-and-ink dictionaries are so 1985."
This nerfty little paper-thin electronic dictionary is designed to act as a bookmark and keeps 80,000 words at your fingertips. The important question is: can it run Tetris? (From PFW) (discuss)

Chicago Zine Scene
Apparently Chicago's zines are becoming quite successful.* A likely story coming from the hometown newspaper. (discuss)

Hey Big Spender
It's a Stephen Spender bonanza. "The New Collected Poems and John Sutherland's "authorised" biography appear at a time when Spender's reputation is in a trough. None of his poems are included in Christopher Ricks's Oxford Book of English Verse or Paul Keegan's New Penguin Book of English Verse, both published in 2000, five years after his death. The new books are attempts to retrieve that reputation." I find that hard to believe. (discuss)

Nabokov's Son Sells Dad Out
Naw, he's just selling all his pappa's books. (discuss)

"Walt Whitman was an awful child molester who was born in ancient Hong Kong. He is over 3,000 years old and remembers the names of all the forgotten Gods."
Ah, school... I hated everything then too. Including Walt-freaking-Whitman. I would guess this isn't real, but it could have been, couldn't it? I was always giving smartass lip back to people in positions of authority. Sometimes I got away with it too. I don't know about now, but back in my day once we were 18 we were allowed to sign ourselves out of school (as our parents would have before 18). I would write a note that said, "As a tax-paying adult, I give myself permission to leave school early today." But the ladies in the office were so nosey and all concerned about our well-being 'n' stuff, so they would demand I include a reason for leaving. That's when notes like this started appearing: "Please excuse George from class today, he is experiencing acute menorrhea", or "George has a very important appointment with destiny this afternoon ", or "George's genital warts are flaring up and need laser treatment", or "George has become incontinent and is suffering from violent bouts of dysentery brought on by exposure to conformist curriculum and unhygienic front office staff." (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)


Adam Sol Wins Trillium
While it's sad to see ninja favourite O'Meara lose, he couldn't have lost to a better book, or a better poet. I was rooting for them both. The other Trillium winner was Guelph local Thomas King. (discuss)

Writing Bush Out of Office
Foer, Eggers, and others team up to create an anthology of powerhouse writers (fourth item down) dedicated to getting Bush out of office. "So far, most of the 120 writers have agreed to contribute, including Stephen King, Art Spiegelman, Paul Auster, Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Muldoon. "If you name somebody, they've probably said yes," said Mr. Foer, who spearheaded the project. The book, to be assembled in coordination with Mr. Eggers' publishing house, McSweeney's, will come with a CD with new music from about a dozen bands. They've invited Pearl Jam, Bright Eyes and the Beastie Boys to contribute. So far, he hasn’t publicized the book much, but "word will get out when the time comes."" It's a good thing they're donating the money to PACs and organizations dedicated to liberal values because if they were relying on the strength of their arguments to convince Republicans to switch they'd be in for a nasty surprise. It's about time American liberals hopped on the money train - it's the only way to win down there. Trust me, I used to work for a campaign finance agency. The biggest spenders almost always win. (discuss)

Atwood Online
Hometown gal Margaret is being interviewed at the Telegraph - by its readership. Send in a question. (The Blind Assassin was "universally admired"??) (discuss)

Thinking of Oprah Tossing Salad is Making Me Want to Toss My Cookies...
Okay, so this isn't totally book related, but it's pretty funny. An annoymous tip (BWTFL) comes into the Bookninja front office (my inbox) with a link to The Smoking Gun and a series of emails sent to the FCC complaining about an episode of Oprah's idiot-fest in which she explicitly describes, and chats saucily about, teen sexuality (including rainbows and tossed salads). While there's nothing wrong with any of the acts described (in fact...), the particularly vicious letters decry the double standard of fining shows like Howard Stern while darling Oprah "gets off" the hook for talking about anus-licking at 4:30 in the afternoon. Screw the book club, I gotta watch Oprah for the felching... Now if only Oprah were Angela Bassett... Brrrowr! (discuss)

My Ephemera!
Some interesting ephemera links to explore. (From Scribbling Woman) (discuss)

William Mayne, Children's Author/Molester
Two-and-a-half years? And then we keel-haul him? (discuss)

Completely (Pea)Nuts!
Finally Schulz is getting a collected.* I can't wait. Wait a minute. Yes I can. In the later years didn't it more closely resemble Family Circus than anything else? My mouth always tasted like pixie sticks after I read one of those... Which isn't always bad. Mind you, if I had been alive in 1950... "While "Peanuts" strips have been published in books before, the new volumes, published by Fantagraphics Books, are the first complete "Peanuts" compendium. Many people have seen the very first Peanuts cartoon, which shows two kids sitting on a curb watching Charlie Brown walk by, with one commenting: "Good ol' Charlie Brown. . . . How I hate him."
The second one, not as frequently reprinted, shows a girl walking down the street saying to herself: "Little girls are made of sugar and spice . . . and everything nice." Then she pauses to punch a little boy in the eye before concluding the poem, "That's what little girls are made of."" (discuss)


It Won't Be Long Before This Site Gets Nuked
All the Donald Duck comics you could ever want, online, for free. (discuss)

First the Peasants and Students, and Now...
Are librarians the new enemy of the right?
"A Shakespeare character famously said, 'Let's kill all the lawyers.' This gibe has lost none of its relevance through the centuries. But today we might reply to that acerbic line, 'Sure -- but only if we can kill all the librarians next.' Librarians have recently let down their hair -- usually wrapped in a tight bun, of course -- to become some of the most vocal opponents of the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act, prompting Attorney General John Ashcroft to take a public swipe at them. Librarians now constitute one of the country's main centers of thoughtless and unreconstructed leftism. It is the sort of ideology that you expect to find among naive college students and destitute Latin American peasants. But librarians?" (discuss)

More Media Convergence
The Star is quietly going the Southam route by buying up small newspapers across the country. But not everyone is happy about the trend.
"Within Torstar's large group of community weeklies, there are undoubtedly some winners. But it's the obvious failures that have staff at its newly acquired papers worried, their readers on edge and critics of regional convergence raising red flags. Take the case of the Canadian Statesman, the community paper in Bowmanville, Ont., a lakeside community about as far east of Toronto as Stoney Creek is west. For four generations, the James family owned the Statesman, before selling it to Metroland in 2000. Now, most locals now regard it as a wrapper for flyers. Metroland closed the office in Bowmanville and moved it to Oshawa - at the prophetic address of Farewell Avenue. People still come in to the James family printing business to complain about what Metroland has done to their community paper.
When this example is brought up to Cripps, he winces. 'Do the dailies understand the community paper?' he asks rhetorically. 'It's not about managing assets, it's about managing a community. People's emotions are involved.'" (discuss)

Toro... Deep... ?
We've talked a lot about Canadian magazines here on Bookninja, but we haven't really said much about Toro. Luckily, someone else has done it for us.
"Mark Kingwell, philosopher, writer and Toro's 'Drinks' columnist, says he doubted the need for another men's magazine when Finkle first called him up. But eventually he began to understand Toro's distinct sensibility and place among men's magazines. Kingwell believes that Toro is a space where the idiosyncratic Canadian notion of masculinity is worked out. It is witty and smart-assed, but also heartfelt and serious. 'It's a men's magazine with a twist to it,' he says. 'You still get gadgets -- but it's deeper than that.'" (discuss)

'"I like being in the fray, I love to win, I hate to lose this kind of stuff," he says, still showing pain over losing out years ago on Fast Food Nation, one of the first books he bid on at Crown. "But here, you can lose it, just -- boom!" He snaps his fingers. "When everyone's in there, you're battling away, you're at 150 [thousand dollars], someone's at 200, somebody else is at 250, and you're all jockeying it out, you're trying to figure out from your own house where you should be, and you're running the numbers, and then wham! Somebody comes in at 500 and boom! Off it goes.
"You know," he says, sitting back and taking a sip of retsina, "There's less of that in Canada."'
No shit, Doug. No shit. (discuss)

New Book Prize Treats Authors Right!
Imagine, just for being shortlisted you get a week for you AND YOUR FAMILY at this five star resort "on Mauritius, a former spice island in the Indian Ocean." I gotta write more about love. Hang on... Nope. Not gonna work. Guess it's Georgian Bay for me. (From PFW) (discuss)

"Known as the 'African Booker', the $15,000 (£9,000) prize is awarded to a short story published in English by an African writer whose work has reflected African sensibilities."
Short list announced. (discuss)

The Rise of the Third Grade Triads, a New James Patterson Thriller
Mystery novelist Patterson will be writing the tale of Chrissie, Santa's booze hound PI daughter and her battles with the bottle, ex-husband numbers two through five, and her arch nemesis District Attorney Malone. Illustrated by Lynn Johnston. (discuss)

The White Jays Scandal
The Ryerson Review of Journalism examines in detail the controversy over a Toronto Star story about the ethnic makeup of the Toronto Blue Jays. I didn't know people still cared about baseball.
"It was the Saturday morning of the 2003 Canada Day weekend and Don Sellar, ombudsman for the Toronto Star, was in for a big shock. Sellar, who was on vacation at his brother-in-law's Balsam Lake cottage, had decided to pick up a copy of the Star from a nearby newspaper box. That's where he saw the headline: 'The White Jays? In a city of so many multicultural faces, Toronto's baseball team is the whitest in the league.'" (From Press Gallery) (discuss)

First We Take Berlin
TRRJ also looks at the controversy surrounding David Berlin's exit from the Walrus.
"Putting a brave face on the shake-up at the top, Alexander says, 'The magazine is going great guns and we're in terrific shape!' As the Walrus travels the bumpy road toward commercial viability, one question remains: how will it challenge readers and stir up the public without its insouciantly confrontational leader who, once again in his peripatetic career, has moved on? Until the sudden exit, it might have been possible to believe that, at age 52, David Berlin had finally found his vocation - as editor of the Walrus magazine. Not any more." (discuss)

More Thom Gunn Eulogy
A nice profile in The Economist. (discuss)

"It's reasonable to assume that there is a gender gap between a book called "The Bases Were Loaded (and So Was I)" and anything with "Shopaholic" in its title."
Mother's Day books* highlight a perceived gender gap in reading tastes. Once, when I was 15 and working at Coles (a Canadian bookchain bought out by WH Smith which was then bought out by Chapters which was then bought out by Indigo) a woman came up to the counter with a book called The Yeast Connection. I looked at it blankly and said, "What is this, some kind of cookbook?" She went white and my assistant manager hauled me to the back room for a long talk my mother should have already had with me. What I'm trying to say here is, of course books are gender-coded! If it had been a guy, that book would have been about bread or beer. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Let's Get Ready to Rrruuuummmmmbbbblllleeee!
Michael Holmes, author of Parts Unknown: Wrestling Gimmicks and Other Works, calls out Carmine Starnino.
"Winnipeg's own Chris Jericho coined my favourite wrestling neologism, the an all-purpose insult, 'assclown.' Pretty much self-defining, but here it is in a sentence: Carmine Starnino is an assclown. Many things can earn you the assclown's mantle, in this case it's self-aggrandizing ad hominem attacks on other, more accomplished writers and thinkers; a Palaeozoic allegiance to the most parochial, chauvinistic tenets of high modernism; and the unmitigated gall to attack the poetics of Al Purdy as a way of making his bones when Al was gallantly living out his life's course."
But look out, the match just spilled out into the letters pages. Cage match, anyone? (discuss)

Now Drop and Give Me a Stanza About Poodles... Maggot!
Stuart Ross has found a new career path for the struggling poet: Poetry Boot Camp Instructor.
"I call them 'boot camps' because they don't take the format of most poetry workshops. A workshop usually consists of a buncha folks sitting around a table reading their work and then critiquing it. This often results in poetry being written by committee, with all the cool edges of spontaneity shaved off the poems of the inexperienced and the insecure.
In my workshops, the emphasis is on producing new poems, and producing them quickly and in new ways. I inflict exercises on the participants, give them limitations and rules, make sure they don't write any first-person 'feeling' poems. I want them to try all sorts of new ways of writing in a concentrated period of time.
I've come to enjoying leading workshops more and more. I like the feeling of turning someone onto some new poetry, or new approaches to poetry. I like when I can get people to surprise themselves. Doing workshops also always makes me think about poetry, and about process, in ways I don't when Iím actually writing. And, finally, especially when I'm working with high-school kids, it brings me back to the things that first excited me about writing. It's like giving myself a refresher course several times a year." (discuss)

Canada's Only Storyteller?
Part 2 of the Michel Tremblay story is up at Dooney's.
"When you read a story by Alice Munro, or Mavis Gallant, you read it alone; in a certain very real sense you don't share the experience with others. Brilliant as they are, these are inward writers, and they address the inwardness of their readers. Tremblay, however, is nourished by the popular imagination. He 'belongs' to Quebec in the same way that Dickens 'belonged' to nineteenth century England. He speaks for it; he tells its stories. So much is this so that the story he has been telling in the Chroniques and his plays has for many Quebeckers now supplanted the official records; it has become the actual history of Montreal." (discuss)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham?
Timothy Taylor rounds up the "masters of the foodie mystery." (Go to Web Extras, click on "It Was the Cook.") (discuss)

Litterati Caption Contest Reminder!

The competition is stiff. And by that I mean neither dead nor erotic. We've already had more entries for this contest than the last two combined. But there are still a few of you out there who are harbouring riotous knee-slappers. I can feel it. It's like a disturbance in the farce, b'y. So take a look at the panel here and enter a caption soon! And if you've thought of something better than the last one you sent, enter again! (discuss)

"It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity."
Madeleine L'Engle, whose ovarian work, A Wrinkle in Time, will finally reach adaptation on Monday (ABC), is interviewed, astonishingly well, at Newsweek. "NEWSWEEK: So you've seen the movie? Madeleine L'Engle: I’ve glimpsed it.
And did it meet expectations? Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is." (discuss)

Shouldn't it Have Been: Top Ten Utopias, Bottom Ten Dystopias?
The Guardian has a top ten list for the politically oriented spec fan. (From Maud) (discuss)

SF Libraries to Track Books, and Perhaps Patrons, with Microchips
"Critics of the proposal argue that the microchips, called radio-frequency identification devices, or RFID, could be used by the government to track San Francisco residents, their reading habits and their personal information. Opponents also argue that the library already has an adequate system, using magnetic strips, to prevent theft." Relax, it's only temporary. Soon the chips will be implanted in the backs of your necks and your books will be free. Sheesh. You people panic so much! (discuss)

"There's obviously money in literature"
So says you, pal. The Financial Times on how to treat your books like the fiduciary investments they are. (Might I recommend a vintage Carousel? Not to be found in any stores! Even though hundreds of copies likely remain, moldering in a basement in Rosedale!) (discuss)

EU! Poets!
Slovakia's Mila Haugová profiled. (discuss)

As opposed to MasticatePrint... A nerfty, FREE public domain library also pointed to by Stephanie at Maud. It's nice to see a free resource like this that doesn't look as though it were created in 1993 to be run on LYNX. (discuss)

More Gunn
James Fenton in The Guardian. "From time to time, he said, it had occurred to him to regularise his position by taking out American citizenship, but whenever he was about to do so it always seemed that America was engaged in some gross foreign policy abuse, which he did not want to be taken to support. So he had never got round to it." (discuss)

"All The Great Books (abridged)"
The Reduced Shakespeare Company does 90 books in 90 minutes. (discuss)


"Why subject yourself to an irksome book when so many sublime ones are available? Nevertheless, every reader recognizes the threshold my correspondent has yet to cross: the moment when you decide that you don't have to finish every book you start."
"For some, it's like a loss of virginity; you never forget the book that defeated your naive faith in the contract between an author and his or her reader, the promise that your time and effort, even your irritation, will be fairly repaid. (In my case, it was ''A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man''; I had had about enough of Master Dedalus, thank you very much.)" I would like to add that this advice* should be taken to heart by writers as well as readers... The world will be a nicer place if you don't finish every book you start. (discuss)

"The characters are described as if they are humans, but in the end it turns out they're not humans."
Fiction's cliches... In the creative writing programme at York there was someone who submitted a story in which this "guy" had to undergo a series of "tests" to join this "gang" called "The Squirrels" - tests that included running through traffic, etc.... And guess what? In the end the "gang" called "The Squirrels" was actually a gang of squirrels. That guy probably went on to get a BA in Creative Writing. Supply and demand drives value, if you get me. Also, a similar list, but for science fiction... (From Scribbling Woman) (discuss)

Interested in A.S. Byatt?
Begin here.* (discuss)


The Poetic Reversal
When rock stars want to be poets, for once. I wish they'd move o to whatever the cool celebrity thing to do is going to be... May I suggest extreme piranha swimming or Grace Jones licking or a little thing I call "over-dosing". (discuss)

When the Words Just Can't Cut It...
When the performance* is so dang good, who has time to notice anything about the writing? I simply refuse to dance like a monkey for my supper. (discuss)

Good Ol' Nick
Nick Hornby to donate the money he makes from an upcoming film sale to a school for autistic children.
"I simply feel that film money is like free money." Yer swell, Nick. (discuss)

Fitz and Zelda
The original celebrity couple. Funny, I don't ever remember hearing about them... I guess they were big behind the iron curtain or something... (discuss)

Letter and Word Frequencies
Tuck this site away in your bookmarks, people. It will come in handy someday. Like when the Rapture breaks... Tuesday, from what the little people are telling me. (From Clive) (discuss)

Jonny Hurst! Jonny Hurst! If He Played a Half His Lungs Would Burst!
Armchair player becomes football's chant laureate. The juiciest tidbit in this piece is about the discrimination: Jonny's getting paid double what Motion does -- for the same work! BAdumBUMP! (discuss)

The Worst Romance Covers of the Year
Wow. I knew it could get bad, but... (From GoodReports) (discuss)


Triple Take! Ninja Award News
Ninja regulars Jonathan Bennett and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer (and some other people) make the Writers' Union Danuta Gleed Prize shortlist. Congratulations, stealthy killers! May your shurikens shine as you battle to the death. Late breaking is news that Nightwood author and part-time Ninja Chris Banks has won the CAA Jack Chalmers (website not up to date, surprise, surprise...). Congrats, Chris! (discuss)

A Sorry State, We Are
When our writers are receiving grants for artists working under repressive regimes... "Williams, who wrote Invisible Darkness and Karla: A Pact With the Devil about the couple, was charged by Ontario Provincial Police in October 2003 in connection to a website on which he posted information about the case." (discuss)

English Still Taking Over the World
Apparently other supervillians getting short shrift. Actually, while the code's a wreck, this piece is quite interesting. "At Europe's main international book fair in Frankfurt each October, the non-Western world is increasingly irrelevant, and even continental Europe has difficulty maintaining its own publishing businesses in a market dominated by the English language. The Frankfurt Buchmesse brings together 6,000 traders from 115 countries at the most important date in the literary calendar, when translation and reproduction rights for almost every kind of book are bought and sold. Some 400,000 works, more than 100,000 of them new, are represented there each year. But the vast Frankfurt fair cannot hide the two problems of authors, booksellers and readers worldwide. The spectacular decline of publishing in poorer countries (which includes most of the former Soviet bloc) can be seen at the Asian, African and South American pavilions, ever smaller and further away from the centre. Fewer publishers from these countries are present each year and those that are there receive less attention from buyers. And Frankfurt reflects the increasingly one-way flow of trade between the United States and its sidekick, Britain, and the rest of the Western world. French, Spanish, Italian and German publishers all go to the fair with a single and near-impossible dream: to sell a book to the Americans even for a derisory amount, or to a British publisher as a first step to the paradise of the US market." (discuss)

Here's a Verb: To Suck
Pseudonymous author Michel Thaler has written a 233 page novel without a single verb. "The verb is like a weed in a field of flowers. You have to get rid of it to allow the flowers to grow and flourish. I am like a car driver who has smashed the windscreen so he cannot see into the future, smashed the rear-view mirror so he cannot see the past, and is travelling in the present." Come on, man! Get with the times! Canadians have been writing novels in which nothing happens since the 60s!! (From Maud) (discuss)

"Did the women's movement ever happen?"
More chicklit stuff. '"To feel that every piece of literature has to empower women to come out on top, well - what I write is just real life, about those days when you aren't empowered and winning corporate wars or whatever. You're losing your pantyhose and you're lusting after a bag you can't afford. I mean, there's room for both," says author Sophie Kinsella, 34, best- known for her amusing trio of novels known as the "Shopaholic" series.' (discuss)

How Erotica Changes (Over Time... Not in the Back Alley)
Though it wasn't always so, it now apparently has something to do with Britney wanting it hard and long... Or so says the overflowing Bookninja inbox. (From ALDaily) (discuss)

No Laugharne Matter
Dylan Thomas's old town* has become an investment property location. "Times passes. Listen. Time passes." The more things remain the same, the more they change. (Thanks to JD for the link.) (discuss)

Found Type and Tape Covers
Sounds like a Coach House novel, I know, but it's actually some nice pictures of ambient type and homemade illustrations for mixed tapes. (From Scribbling Woman) (discuss)

Steward Laureate
Woman gets free WestJet flights in return for her artistic integrity. "In 2001, I decided that if I was going to make any kind of impact as a poet, I would need more than a book of poetry, because I knew that it would be real easy to sink into obscurity as many poets do." Survey says? MAH! Too late! (discuss)


Everybody Just Shut Up
Neal Pollack has had enough about this Iraq jail controversy. It's actually worth reading for the lunatic comments of various right-wing cult leaders.

"In the gutter, doing the daily hack-and-slash necessary to keep the angry-dickhead vote in line with our colonial adventure, is Rush Limbaugh. He has said something unbelievably offensive about the Abu Ghraib scandal every day since it broke. It began on May 4: 'We are going to really hammer [these American soldiers] because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You heard of a need to blow some steam off?'"


OK, I Thought I Was a Geek
Welcome to Phrontistery, home of obscure and rare words. (discuss)

See, If I Had Been There, I Would Have Stuck a Stake Through His Heart
Chekhov reads at a Barnes and Noble. (discuss)

It Wouldn't Surprise Me at All If This Is How It's Actually Going Down
Saddam's interrogation logs.

"Interrogation commenced: 0735 hours

Colonel Beckwith and I decided to play Good Cop/Bad Cop again. I came into the room as Bad Cop and yelled at SH. He immediately laughed at me because last week when I came in I was Good Cop and had given him a sandwich. I tried to play it off that I had some heartburn and was still Good Cop but 'just a little cranky.' Colonel Beckwith tried to cover for me by entering the room as Bad Cop and yelling, but that didn't seem to work either. SH muttered something but wouldn't say what.

Interrogation terminated: 0749 hours"


Confederacy of Dunces
A Nigerian scammer is conned by Ignatius J. Reilly. Hilarity ensues!


My Dear Mrs Wininy Mandella

Thank you for your email, What an honor! I have long regarded your dear husband, Mr Nelson Mandela, as one of this age's true spiritual guides. Like Boethius himself he was unjustly imprisoned by a cruel tyrant (though unlike Boethius he was not later executed). Did your husband ever read Boethius as he languished in a Pretoria jail? Please tell me. I feel sure he would have profited from it. As to the business you propose, how should we proceed?


Ignatius J. Reilly
Custodian of Records Levy Pants"

(From Beautiful Stuff) (discuss)

Students Fight Back Against the Conservative Establishment
By turning Coach House into student residences.

"'We really want to stay here,' Bevington said. 'It's like, leave the damn manure pile alone so the flowers can grow! That's my attitude. It's not hurting anybody.'"



Last Day to Enter the Caption Contest!
Hey, the entries have poured in, but if you've been sitting on a good one until now, you've only got one day left to get it to us. May 15th the caption contest closes and we'll announce the winner on Monday.

Just submit something, or you're next!!

Take a look at the old comics (WHICH ARE LARGELY ABOUT WRITING) and then look at this panel and suggest a caption for it. It's simple, fun, and reduces stress. It also makes Julienne French Fries. (discuss)

"One of the richer verse prizes"??
One of? Um.... "Outsider poet" Kay Ryan wins the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Prize* from Poetry.

Reached at her home in Fairfax, Calif., Ryan said of her image as an "outsider" poet: "The limelight didn't come seeking me particularly until now."

Winning the Lilly "made me feel wonderful to know there are many ways of achieving recognition. One way is staying home and doing your work and not gadding about," she said.


This Court Finds You Guilty and Sentences You to 253 Pages of Hard Labour...
No, not the new Tibor Fischer -- a new UK punishment for first offence juveniles will make kids read and report back on appropriate books.

Christopher Marsden, a former librarian, felt children and teenagers brought to court for first offences could benefit from books - be it Aesop's Fables or a gritty modern-day novel addressing drugs or crime.

And he's drawn up a list of 80 suitable titles for Kirklees Youth Offending Team.

Nice. This elevates books to the level of lines, peeling potatoes and digging ditches. (discuss)

Bell Hooks in Toronto
Profile of feminist, writer, theorist, children's author Hooks, in town for readings and talks.

Part of her particular gift as an academic is her ability to make highfalutin, incomprehensible theory accessible to a huge range of people. She's deeply committed to challenging the elitism of academia. In town for this weekend's Spirit Matters conference at the University of Toronto, she's spending Saturday giving a public talk on behalf of the Toronto Women's Bookstore, prefaced by a free storytelling session for kids.


Bevington Calls Coach House a Pile of Shit
Not really. But almost. More on the Coach House drama currently unfolding in Toronto. (discuss)

Fake Schools
Diploma mills in the US start to rear their ugly heads... in the government. I believe it's high time we launch an formal investigation into MFA mills...

At least 28 high-ranking government officials, including three managers responsible for emergency operations at nuclear facilities, have fake degrees from so-called diploma mills, according to a government report issued Tuesday.


Political Books and TV, Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Political books get their tours on TV. And when they're about president Wubblewoo and an election is coming, they don't get bumped.

Given ... the publicity overload, television leaves many people feeling they've read the books even if they haven't — and most of the time that feeling is wrong. Karen Hughes's best-selling "Ten Minutes From Normal," by one of Mr. Bush's closest advisers, is a defense of the president cloaked in a mommy memoir about her decision to quit the White House and move back to Texas with her family. That image was never challenged during her "20/20" interview with Barbara Walters. But the book itself includes some howlers of spin. Looking back at the famous pop-quiz about world leaders that Mr. Bush flunked during his campaign — he couldn't name the president of Pakistan — Ms. Hughes says with a straight face that he remembers them now that he's actually met them. "I could never remember most of them, either, until we started meeting them in person," she writes.

In 2002, I was supposed to go on CNN to talk about Poetry After 9/11, an anthology I contributed to while in New York - a political book of sorts. They called me the morning of to let me know I'd been bumped by a story out of Florida - two kids killing their parents or something. Damn. Just the thought of (non-Tupac/Jewel) poetry being discussed on CNN makes me all tingly. (discuss)

Book Sales Down
Apparently publishers were expecting Harry Potter to get people reading. I have nothing to say to that.

Sales fell to 2.222 billion books, down from 2.245 billion in 2002. The decline was in both hardcovers and paperbacks, in children's books and general trade releases. Even sales of religious titles, often cited as a growing part of the publishing industry, were flat.

'We believe this is due to a variety of factors, the biggest being the used book market,' said Albert N. Greco, an industry consultant and a professor of business at the graduate school of Fordham University.

(From Maud) (discuss)

Where's Our DeLillo?
Bruce Serafin wonders when Canada will produce a book like Underworld.

And because Underworld is, among other things, a great essay on the United States, it challenged me to think about Canada and the literature we currently produce. My first thought was: Why don't we have books with this density and force? And immediately the answer came to me: We don't have them because we're a small country, lacking the conflicts -- and the interest -- generated by an imperial power. But it also struck me that because we 'see American,' the conflicts we do have don't grip us -- we seem to be unable to imaginatively take hold of our past.


Eat Me
Well, this attempt to censor Linda Jaivin's book should guarantee bestseller status.

Last July, an 83-year-old grandmother called Loretta Harrison visited her local library in Marion County, Florida. A brightly covered book with a funny title caught her attention. After reading just a few pages, she filed an objection with the library that the book was 'to [sic] obsene [sic] for general reading.'

'Like a character in the Tom Clancy novels she enjoys,' reported the county newspaper, the Star-Banner, Harrison became 'a player in an intrigue,' triggering 'forces she was hardly aware of' and which were out of her control. The result, the paper wrote, would have an 'indelible impact on the library system and the community.' Marion County, 480 kilometres north of Miami and home to many horsebreeders, Republicans and retirees, has been embroiled ever since in a bitterly contested battle over censorship, sex and the role of the public library.


Weekend Edition:

"Graduates of Oxford University will go decorously to the polls tomorrow to elect a professor of poetry - the most coveted post after poet laureate."
It's like a political horserace, this. Campaigns, polls, strategic voting...

If undergraduates had a say there is an indecorously strong chance they would opt for one of the outsiders, Ian McMillan, who has been described as the Shirley Bassey of performance poetry. McMillan has been writer in residence for, among many others, Barnsley football club and Humberside police. He is cherished for a verse satire on a previous poet laureate, entitled Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley:

At my poetry readings I sneer and rock my hips.
I stride the moors in a satin jump suit,
Bloated as the full moon.

This is why the elders have taken care throughout the chair's 304-year-old history never to give undergraduates a say.

I'm rooting for Anne, of course. (discuss)

"To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a SËvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee"
Stephen Spender was a bit of a butterfly and was called out for it in his time, most memorably by Waugh (as above). Now a new biography appears at the same time as his collected. Looks like it worked...

Yet we must not be too harsh. As Waugh observed, the literary world needs its dummies, people who will do anything for publicity and have no great talent to waste. Every age needs its Southey, as well as its Byron and Keats. And we are lucky enough to have our very own Stephen Spender today - the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, an indefatigable campaigner for literature whose own writings are not the most important part of his career. He even looks the part, as Philip Larkin commented: "Like a latterday Stephen Spender - very tall, sissy voice, gentlemanly, good-looking, all that." In the fullness of time we may even find that Spender was no more than John the Baptist to Motion.

Can you suggest Canadian and American Spender equivalents? They must be alive and working right now and have attained status through similar means. Send your suggestions to us here. If we get enough good ones we'll publish a list. (Note: discretion assured upon request.) (discuss)

"Writing these days is like being stood stark naked in Trafalgar Square and being told to get an erection"
Where has Louis de Bernieres been for the last ten years? Practicing the flute and hiding from the movie that ruined his book.

De Bernieres says: "All my books are about people who would have preferred better lives - but this usually doesn't work out." He thought this one would take a year to write. All his other books did. "OK, I haven't worked that hard, but the Corelli phenomenon has meant one distraction after another." Captain Corelli's Mandolin was famously a slow burner, dismissed as "travel porn" by some critics but beloved by millions who embraced it like a friend. The movie with Nicolas Cage as the mandolin-strumming captain didn't do the book any favours but that wasn't de Bernieres's fault. He would have preferred an art-house film. The producers wanted a hit.

"That was a mistake," he shrugs, fed up with talking about it. Should Birds Without Wings ever become a film, he might do things differently. Then again, he might not. "You have to be on set all the time. I'm not prepared to waste my life doing that."


Hell, You Don't Have to Eavesdrop on This Puppy -- I Can Wake My Kid in the Next Room Up Just By Typing Out B-o-o-k-n-i-n-j-a...
Apparently someone has developed a software to decipher what you're typing simply by LISTENING to your keyboard... My one question: why? Why must science always be so cartoonishly evil?

Each key on computer keyboards, telephones and even ATM machines makes a unique sound as each key is depressed and released, according to a paper entitled "Keyboard Acoustic Emanations" presented Monday by IBM research scientist Dmitri Asonov.

Ding ding ding! Can you say "DOD contract"? (From Clive) (discuss)

Nigerian Poet Abducted by Government
For apparently releasing an anti-government album. It goes on, this human ugliness. (discuss)

"Don't send email on your cell phones or read comic books in Parliament while in session"
Yeah, ya knob! You wanna get us all caught out reading our Sailor Moon wank mags? (discuss)


If There's Ever Been a Country That Needed It....
PopMatters welcomes the release of Michael Turner's The Pornographer's Poem in the U.S.

Turner has yet to properly follow this book up with anything else, though a new edition of his 1997 book American Whiskey Bar has just been re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver. But, in a way, Turner could quit here, as far as I'm concerned. With The Pornographer's Poem, he turned in such a masterpiece that any follow-up is bound to disappoint. But it'll be interesting to see what America thinks of this book upon its official U.S. release some five years after the fact. After all, if superstars can now be forced into hiding their boobs in public, what will people think about a marvelous, unrelenting, devastating book about teenagers and porn films from such an unknown quantity? I shudder to think. That's why I thank God for Soft Skull. At least, someone is willing to take risks in this Puritan environment.

(From Literary Saloon) (discuss)

Read Everything
This poster pretty much sums up my view of life. (From Bookslut) (discuss)

The Iliad -- the Online Game!
Just in time for the release of the movie Troy. (From Elegant Variation) (discuss)

"She knew the closeness of carnival to carnivore"
Angela Carter was one of those discoveries that made grad school worthwhile.

Nobody, now, is writing like Carter -- by which I mean with her range, her verve, her daring, her formalism and her sourced and clear intelligence. She inspired writers like Jeanette Winterson and Salman Rushdie; Nicola Barker has inherited some of her brio; AM Homes, who was taught by Carter in Iowa in the 80s, has inherited her ability to see how pornographic the world is. Carter had thought, when she was an adolescent, that she might become an actress. But if Carter had become an actress and not the writer she was, I, for one, know that as a writer in post-imperialist, post-postmodern, post-post-post-feminist Britain, I would not even have had the possibility of a language.


Alexandria Found!
Scientists think the long lost Library at Alexandria has been found. Perhaps the first university, it was the shelter for many discoveries and ancient books.

At Alexandria Eratosthenes measured the diameter of the Earth, and Euclid discovered the rules of geometry.

(They had fallen down behind a shelf.) (discuss)

Is Ralph Klein a Plagiarist?
It appears he cribbed a swath of text for an essay on Chile from the Internet.

Heth said he examined the paper out of curiosity after Klein's inflammatory statements about Pinochet, but when he noticed a dramatic style change in the writing, he punched words from the essay into an Internet search engine.

It immediately took him to a website.

"There seems to be eight paragraphs that are essentially verbatim from the website," he said.

Heth said a person reading Klein's paper would have difficulty determining what parts were written by Klein and what parts were written by other authors.

A line by line analysis by the CBC determined that more than half the paper consisted of material from the Internet.

Come on... Like you didn't see this one coming... (Thanks to Brenda for the link.) (discuss)

British Libraries Need Attention
I'm not sure I get everything that's going on behind this McCrum piece, but I like his writing.

Shadow arts minister Boris Johnson has just announced that, on coming to power, the Tories are going to hold 'a national poetry Olympiad to restore rhyme and scansion'.
Never mind the doom-sayers for whom our culture is being drowned in pop videos, speed-dating and internet pornography, these needs are real. The appetite for new reading of all kinds is as strong today, if not stronger, than it has ever been.

I would personally exceed expectations in the penta-meter en dash and the freestyle open mic toss. (discuss)

Kids' Stuff
The NYT has a special section* on kids' books this week. Worth a peek. (discuss)

Farewell Victor
Boston's Victor Hugo Bookshop closing for good leaving readers and writers alike out in the heat. (discuss)

Finally, a one line synopsis of Beckett in a Chinese newspaper. I can die now.

There is an abundance of literature that tries to pin down the meaning of Beckett's oeuvre, a task made complicated because he was tackling themes about meaninglessness, drawing upon terms like existentialism, absurdity and determinism. The basic idea behind these theories is that the world is neither designed nor predictable, but irrational and lacking meaning. What is known is what is taken from experience.

Well? Shall we go? (discuss)

Found in Translation

A look at upcoming translations from Grove. (From Moorish Girl) (discuss)

California Zining
California is apparently full of new lit mags. Kipen checks them out.

Reviewing new literary magazines is like spanking mayflies. Most of them are small, defenseless and not long for this world.


Turns Out All Ick-Lits are for Chicks After All
I wondered about that, but was shouted down at the annual meeting.

Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, says lad lit was inevitable.

Gender roles have begun to blend, he says. TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy shows the equalization of the bathroom vanity, where makeup, mousses and hand creams overflow on the guy's side as well as the woman's.

"It became clear that men were going to get more women if they had a little culture, moussed their hair and read a book now and then," Thompson says.

Yet most men are still guy's guys, and so far, the people reading these titles are the same ones reading chick lit: women. Booksellers, publishers and some authors doubt whether lad lit will attract male readers or have staying power.

What about us select red-necks who read and write poetry and do cuddly things like play with babies and kittens?? (discuss)


Are Literary Texts Ethical Texts?
Well, if this is what ethical means, I'll stick to amoral, thank you very much:

If Nussbaum is right, we turn to thoughtful works like Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage or John le Carre's Absolute Friends (both, as I write this, on the Canadian best-seller list) for an understanding of what it means to live well, and how such a life can tragically exceed even an essentially good person's grasp. If Posner is right, we take from these same works a deeper understanding of our own tastes, perhaps -- I see myself in this character, yes! -- but no broader lessons about the world.


Apparently the Symbol of Complete Order is a Photocopier
Ever wondered what a Sandman script looks like? Now you can find out!



I Can't Believe You Don't Support a War About Freedom -- You're Expelled!
Somebody please tell me this is another fake news story. It just seems too ludicrous to be real.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

While We're On the Unpleasant Subject of Patriotism
Here's Dr. Seuss at war. (From Beautiful Stuff) (discuss)

Readings Are Normally Bad Scenes, But This Is Worse Than Usual
Apparently a reading in Kitchener was disrupted by some ugly racial abuse.

Readings have traditionally been decorous events. Now they may call for security guards. On Sunday at the Indigo Books store in Kitchener, a discussion of a novel by Howard Rotberg was stopped after two men identifying themselves as an Iraqi Kurd and Palestinian started shouting abuse at the first-time author. "I was talking about my book, which is called The Second Catastrophe, and they started to make anti-Israel and anti-American speeches," Rotberg recalled yesterday. "We hadn't gotten to the question period yet. They just took over and I was unable to continue. Then I heard the Kurdish man refer to me as a 'f---ing Jew.'"


Quill and Quire 2.0
For those of you who didn't notice, Quill and Quire has a spiffy new website. A lot of it is subscription only, but you can read book reviews online now, and they even have a blog. Now if only publishers would do something about their websites.... (discuss)

Guess Who's Getting Fired...?
This is freaking nuts, and indicative of the arrogance of the current US administration. Colin Powell, being interviewed via satellite from Jordan by Tim Russert on CNN's Meet the Press, was being mesquite grilled about WMDs in Iraq when his press aide decided she didn't like the questioning anymore and PUSHED THE CAMERA AWAY AND TOLD HIM HE WAS DONE TALKING (all with the mics still on and live, the dimwit)!

13 minutes in to the interview, Miller attempted to pull the plug.

As Russert grilled Powell on his presentation at the UN of Iraq's alleged WMDs -- Miller moved the single remote camera off Powell.

"You're off," Miller announced.

"I am not off," Powell warned.

"No. They can't use it, they're editing it..." Miller said on an open microphone.

"Emily, get out of the way. Bring the camera back please," the secretary snapped.

Read the transcript here. All I can say is Holee Sheeit. (I don't even know what category I'm going to put this under for discussion. I might have to create something new like: Career Ending Idiocy or New Heights of Right Wing Arrogance.) (discuss)

Anne! Noooo!
Christopher Ricks, Oxford Professor of Poetry and Onshuponatimeyoudreshedsofinemonkeyshoenickleandime - oh wooden you?! You've won this round, Ricks. But just you wait for the swimwear competition!! (discuss)

The Book Signing Circus

As more and more celebrities--Sting, Madonna, Hillary Clinton and her mate--latch onto their inner author (and the attendant hefty advance), then take to the road to publicize their efforts, book signings are requiring far more preparation than the purchase of a large box of Sharpies. There are rules, there are regulations, there are wristbands

I totally know how this feels. Sometimes I sit at my book signing table for hours and hours. Whatever it takes until the job's done. Or until someone shows up. Whichever comes first. (discuss)

Seattle's Main Attraction for Bookninjas: The Library
You know, there are several people in Seattle whom I adore. Yet I've never really wanted to go there until that damn library went up. The library here in Guelph smells like a combination of old person, 1971 shag carpet, and failure. I imagine this new place smells like wordmint or grammarfresh or ... syntax-pouri. (discuss)

A Call for Definition Between Fact and Fiction

Personally, I'm tired of fish stories: I don't want to get to the end of a book and learn that the marlin was actually a tuna and the breast implants were saline not silicone, and that the boat actually never left the dock.

Better to write a novel. And then, why not make the marlin a liopleurodon, a freak survivor from the Jurassic oceans. The woman could be saved by a Janet Jackson-style sunburst nipple ring. And the experience can transform her profoundly - from heedless game fisherman's accessory to ardent animal rights activist and ground-breaking marine biologist.

Come on... you know you want to read it now. (discuss)

21-Year-Old Poet Wins $56K (US!) Lit Award
Pardon me, might I borrow a rusty razor blade and bathtub full of tepid water? Thank you. (discuss)

That's Funny, I Heard Acorn was a Nut
Milton Acorn and Robin Matthews profiled.

The Canadian literary world is fraught with many an intense and fascinating conflict. It is a drama well worth watching and a tale worth telling. Our present poet laureate, George Bowering, was given the Governor General's Award in 1970. Many thought that Milton Acorn would be given the prestigious award. The rebellion in the poetic ranks rose to such a level, in opposition to the award being given to Bowering, that the People's Poet award was created. It was, of course, Milton Acorn who was given the People's Poet Award for his book of poetry, I've Tasted My Blood. Why is Bowering our present poet laureate, and who makes such a decision? Why was Bowering chosen for the GG Award in 1970 and not Acorn?

(From PFW) (discuss)

"At long last, the Department of Correction not only sees the value of the program, but has now gotten behind it"
Remember Wally Lamb's prison ... ers ... who took creative writing lessons and then published an anthology with HC? Remember how one of them won a PEN award and the bastards at the prison shut down the program and erased five years' worth of their writing files from the computers? Well, that's all fixed now that the story's out. That's what I like about American justice -- a little bad press and it'll flip flop like a bass in a dry bucket. Someone oughtta club it. (Also from PFW) (discuss)

Nostradamus Speaks on the Canadian Poet Laureate
Scribbling Woman links to a Nostradamus Quatrain generator. So I asked it the one question we've all been dying to know the answer to: "Will the like of George Bowering ever grace the role of Poet Laureate again?" Here is the prophet's eerie reply, oooOOOoooo:

The year that the brothers of the lily come of age
Their great power will be seen to increase
It will be seized and plunged into the Vat
That he will place them all into the conflict

(If you are unsure of what the response means, further guidance can be found in the Gideon Bible, available at most finer hotels and motels.)

Now THAT's thorough. (discuss)

"Britain's Oldest Nudist Camp for Sale"
You know, you see a headline like this and you think, couldn't it have said, "Longest Running"? But it's too late, your nights are scarred for years to come. And salt is added to the wound when you realize there's a Hemingway family connection. Head kook in a line of kooks, he was. (discuss)


The Devil Is Back
Random House releases one of the most controversial books in Canadian history.

Some booksellers wouldn't carry it. Its content was the subject of an intense police investigation, resulting in charges being laid against the author. But that's not stopping publication of a new paperback edition of Stephen Williams's book Karla: A Pact with the Devil, a profile of Canada's most notorious female killer, released yesterday by Random House of Canada imprint Seal Books.


Read Print
This is a nice online site of free classics. And the search feature is handy for when you're trying to find specific lines of poetry with which to woo people. Much easier than having to read all those damned poems. (From Rake's Progress) (discuss)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Chris Ware
Haven't heard of Chris Ware? Well, old-timer, put on your spectacles, click here on your computer thingamajig and start reading. (From Snarkout) (discuss)

Maisonneuve Soft Launching New Web Magazine
In my other gig as a crimefighting editor at Maisonneuve Magazine, I've been working with some stellar people (Matthew Fox and Phillip Todd) at putting together a new web magazine. We're slowly building content, but should have at least one major column every day (fifteen crack columnists at two columns a month), the work of four bloggers (an editor in NYC, a dancer in Montreal, a filmmaker in LA and a masked political correspondent who's under cover at a federal campaign here in Canada), as well as a news blog/mailing list that the provides synopsis of the daily papers. This is on top of everything else that was already going on there. The overall website's been tweaked too. It's bound to have a few kinks here and there, but all in all we're pretty chuffed. Check it out and let us know what you think. (discuss)

The Man Who Fell to Earth
Profile of Walter Tevis.

Walter Tevis never thought of himself as a science fiction writer. And when he wrote of aliens among us, or of the end of civilization, he did so as though he were inventing the form; wrote, in Jonathan Lethem's words, "with a sort of beautiful literary amnesia . . . refusing genre."


McLeod Clears Up the Question of Why Cape Bretoners Need More Orthodontists
I think we all know the answer to this one. (From PFW) (discuss)

Intellectually Colonized
It's a difficult life in Somalia:

Somalia is a country devastated by civil war and periodic famine. Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, and the country was thrown into chaos by clan warfare. In 1993 the United Nations, led by the United States, intervened to stop the violence, which was hampering famine relief efforts. Two Black Hawk helicopters were downed, and dead soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the capital. Since 1996 Mr. Farah, 58, has returned to Somalia periodically, only to find chaos. A new round of peace talks between rival clan leaders are scheduled to begin in Nairobi this week.

Harder still to write about it? Nuruddin Farah, the subject of some Nobel buzz, profiled in the NYT.* (discuss)

"The least that can be said is that you never know what's coming next."
Is that wholly good? Genichiro Takahashi as the new Richard Brautigan. (discuss)

"Before there was Winnie-the-Pooh, even before there was Toad of Toad Hall, there were Carraway Pim and Oliver Blayds"
Milne's pre-Pooh history.* (Hehe... pre-Pooh...) (discuss)

Franz Wright Profile
He's had it tough (all but for the superstar dad). This long piece is a pretty thorough account of it all.

For an earlier generation of poets, the drinking and divorces and misbehavior seemed like part of the package. We were trying to be writers and teachers, and do it in a way that was positive and set a good example for students. Franz had a pretty heavy shadow to get out from under, and problems of his own.


Writing is Bad for Your Health
Um, and? That and old age. I can feel myself disintegrating by the moment.

Things could be worse, I suppose. I could be a poet - they only make it to the grand old age of 62. I suppose spending a lifetime trying to think up rhyming couplets is a pressure you could do without. Then there are the poets who do not write rhyming anything, poor lambs. They must wonder if everyone is laughing at them, pointing and jeering. The stress must take its toll.

It does. It does. (discuss)


Whatever Happened to the Study of Literature for Its Aesthetics?

Writers and literary academics have never been closer, and never further apart. Since the New Criticism of the 1950s, there have been two developments that should be contradictory but whose agreement in fact makes gloomy sense. On the one hand, for the first time in history, many poets and novelists are graduates of English studies, many of them put through the theory machine for good measure. Writers and academics teach together, attend conferences together, and sometimes almost speak the same language (Rushdie's essays and academic post-colonialist discourse; DeLillo's fiction and academic postmodern critique). But during the same period, literary criticism as a discourse available for, and even attractive to, the common reader has all but disappeared. Literature as criticism -- DeLillo's knowing essayism, Rushdie's parables about hybridity, Franzen's postmodern riffs -- has burgeoned, while criticism as literature, what R.P. Blackmur called 'the formal discourse of an amateur', has faded.

I love his definition of "undamaged": people who emerged from theory as writers, not academics. (From Maud) (discuss)

Book Club for a Good Cause
Mary Trentadue, who owns North Vancouver's 32 Books, has started a book club for Downtown Eastside sex workers. They're looking for book donations, so help out if you can.

Missing Sarah was handed out to 100 women this month from a van that roams prostitute strolls in Vancouver and is staffed by outreach workers who are former prostitutes. Some of the recipients have already gathered to craft book covers for their copies, and next Tuesday about 30 are expected to attend the club's first formal meeting at a local social-service agency. They'll be treated to a catered lunch, readings by Maggie de Vries and a discussion led by Trentadue about the next book they'd like to read.


So What This Really Says Is Books Never Change Anything
Russell Smith draws parallels between the Iraq prison violence and a certain literary classic.

By astonishing coincidence, a novel was published not too long ago whose story eerily echoes the recent sordid loss of control and civilization in the prison of Abu Ghraib. The novel, written by a Polish seaman living in England, takes place in Africa, rather than in Iraq, but there are so many other parallels to the Iraqi venture that it can hardly be coincidence: It is as if this novelist had some kind of insider knowledge of what would happen to those U.S. jailers as soon as they hit the dangerous wilds of a very foreign culture.


Whatever Happened to the Good Old Days of the Short Story?
Yeah, I used to hide them under my pillow as a kid, but then I discovered cable.

"What kind of man reads Playboy?" an ad for the magazine once asked. The answer was a man who liked to read. Alongside airbrushed nubiles, one found fiction by Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Italo Calvino. Could the "readers" of Maxim even pronounce such names?


What Good is a Writer's Liver Anyway...?
You are not going to believe this. One writer gives a piece of his liver to another writer he barely knows. I can understand giving someone a piece of your mind, but this is... what? Insurance on a place in Heaven? He has significiantly shortened his own life so that someone else might live a little longer. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I want to cry, but I don't know why. (discuss)

War of the Words
Our good pal and drinking buddy, New York sociologist Jon Wynn, has written a bit of a rant on his blog Palabris about how the rephrasing of American political discourse has lead to the current situation.

Gay marriage. Abuse. Insurgency. Security. Each of these terms has been strategically deployed over the course of the last few months. The war for the hearts and minds of a populous is waged on a battlefield of words, and I suspect this election year it will be intense. Easily dismissed malapropisms—and here is really where the genius of spinning Bush’s lack of intelligence into a ‘folksy’ everyman pays off in spades—the discourse emanating from the White House and Congress nurtures a devaluing of what politicians say. Political speech is dismissed and under-analyzed by everyday people. Carefully constructed jingoism that receives a thin gloss of carelessness results in acceptance, even forgiveness.

Change the name of national defence to "Security" and who will vote against you? Who votes against being "secure"? Interesting. (discuss)

"Current funding falls far short of effectively meeting the needs of Canada’s cash-starved arts communities"
Canada's artists are struggling to keep it in the black and Arts funding is the easiest (and often first) cut of governments dealing with deficit, says Canada Council head John Hobday. (From PFW) (discuss)

Literary Life
Phillip Roth bio coming, and Martin Amis's Yellow Dog coming in paperback:

The paperback edition of Martin Amis's Yellow Dog will be published by Vintage on June 3. Although the cover is garlanded with quotes from the few favourable reviews, the author was clearly stung by the critical reception he received in some quarters. The press release accompanying review copies ends with the bald statement: "Martin Amis is the author of nine novels, two collections of short stories and six collection [sic] of non-fiction . . . He is not available for interviews."


"It is strange to discover that one is politically correct, and even stranger that it was Tintin who revealed it to me."
Ah, Tintin.

Completion mania had been building up for some time: that we should possess not merely all the Tintin books in English, but all the Tintin books Herge ever wrote. It speaks volumes about the difference between modern England and France that the only title unavailable in an English translation is Tintin au Congo, written in 1946. We had read it in English in a borrowed book, but after serious nagging from the youngest Tintin fan in the house, I went off to the European bookshop in Warwick Street to buy it new. When we had read Tintin au Congo together, the six-year-old remarked, with the accurate callousness of her age, that Herge had made the Africans really stupid, and also that he had depicted them as having black skins, whereas they should have been dark brown.

She could have gone further. The inhabitants of Congo with whom Tintin has dealings are not merely black, they are scarcely human. When Tintin records the cynical remarks made about them by their witch-doctor ("ce peuple ignorant et stupide sous domination de moi") the villagers would only confirm his prejudice. They think he has been trapped in the actual horn of the phonograph. (The attempts by the Africans to get an antiquated steam engine back on the rails come to nought until Tintin bellows at them for their laziness.)

Bigoted, young Tintin. (discuss)


E.L. Doctorow Is as Mad as Hell
And he's not going to take it anymore.

He is furious because somebody has done to his country what Milos Forman did to his novel. Already, in Jack London, he had gone after Ronald Reagan's Counter-Reformation of the Greedheads, so you can imagine how he feels about Bushwackery. Up at Harvard, staring down from the steep perspectives of those nineteenth-century writers who performed "as de facto prophets created by their new country to speak in its voice," appalled at a Republic -- his and our America -- up for sale to the highest-bidding aerospace corporation, investment banker, energy conglomerate, or insurance cartel, E.L. Doctorow finds himself in hell.


Take THAT You Under-paid Conveyor-made Regurgitation Machines
You know, I find curriculum-based schooling to be a joke too, but felt sorry for many of the people this will offend. Then I thought about it, and the author of this article is right. Things are out of hand.

Today's educational establishment is making actual illiteracy look good, like an act of humanity and rebellion. Writing, which ought to nurture and give shape to thought, is instead being used to pound it into a powder and then reconstitute it into gruel.

The thoroughly modern grade-A public-school prose style is not creative or interesting enough even to be wrong. The people who create and enforce the templates are, not to put too fine a point on it, people without understanding or imagination, lobotomized weasels for whom any effort of thought exceeds their strength.

I suppose the question is: can we afford to feel sorry for the people this will offend (often people who went into teaching because they couldn't think of what else to do or were trying to avoid the fate of life as a lever-monkey in a factory)? (discuss)

File This Under: Greedy Necrophiliac Bastards
Publishers out to capitalize on the success of the Master and Commander movie are going to publish a fragment of an unfinished O'Brian novel. His family is justifiably outraged.

Both O'Brian's literary agent in Britain and his American publisher said they believed they were doing the best for his estate, his memory and for his hundreds of thousands of fans.

And every time they batted their eyelashes innocently, their pupils spun like a slot machine and came up dollar signs... (discuss)

Those Crazy Aussies...
Lawsuits stand in for fists in a literary Aussie punch up.

I have a feeling of disgust. He spared me his opinion of me while I supported him. If he thought this of me, how can he possibly have worked for me? Where are his principles?

Same place all of ours are when dealing with our bosses... Writhing in a bitter sea of emotional ichor. (From PFW) (discuss)

"I know my father was a big-game hunter and a deep-sea fisherman, and I know he went off to war and boxed and drank, but I also know he was very much the artist"
Hemingway's son Patrick gives green light to a new movie about Papa.

"All too often, Hemingway is depicted as nothing but an insufferably drunken, boorishly womanizing lout," Mulholland said. "The Hemingway who wrote, as early as the 1920s, with such sensitivity about date rape, abortion, lesbians, marital discord, etc., is nowhere to be found in a treatment of the man."

But you ain't thinkin of gettin rid of the drunken, boorishly womanizing lout, are you? ARE YOU? (From Maud) (discuss)

1000 Pages of Poetry... Hopefully Far Fewer of Bloom
Smart guy and lit snob Harold Bloom has published his own dream anthology, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost.

While sarcastic asides lend Bloom's essays punch, his passion for text-based exposition gives his writing its great heart. Poetry is serious business for Bloom, who scorns democratic or politically correct concerns when it comes to art's purpose.


Canadians Only
This inside lit joke is for Canadians only... And certain Americans from Buffalo. Check out Maud's headline at the top of this page. It just gave me a good snicker. (discuss)

But What Was the Lewd Act??
So this guy walks into a bookstore ... My favourite line in this little story:

A Niles police commander told the Journal that officials often see this type of crime when the weather turns warm.

Isn't he just doing what the majority of authors on the shelves are doing? (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Two-Four, Eh?
It's a holiday here in Canada this coming Monday, one in which Canadians coast to coast gather under natural settings to engage in rituals such as a the quaffing of golden libation and the adding of meat to flame. So Bookninja will return on Tuesday with regular links, new comics, and fer sure fer sure fer sure the Matthew Sharpe review. It's almost done. I swear. It might even go up over the weekend. (discuss)

Job Opening: Author - 10 Years Experience Required
Simon & Schuster down in Oz is closing its doors to new talent.

Mr Attenborough's letter is set against a backdrop of publishers reducing the number of books they publish, especially fiction, as more readers turn to non-fiction or international bestsellers. Some publishers will only sign up first-time authors they believe can deliver at least 7000 books, more than what an established novelist could expect to sell in a year.

Welcome to the desert of the real. (discuss)

Bookninja is Next - Starring Kevin Spacey as Peter Darbyshire and Eric Stoltz as George Murray
This dude parlayed his damn blog into a novel and then into a movie. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell and back. I've just parlayed Bookninja into three hours of work per night.

Mil Millington owes it all to Margret. While toiling as a humble techie at a British university, he decided to teach himself HTML by starting his own blog. Using his German girlfriend of 16 years as his muse, he called his magnum opus, charmingly, "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" ( It was an instant cult hit. Hilarious entry (“She wants to paint the living room yellow. I have not the words.”) followed hilarious entry (“Whether her cutting our son's hair comes under 'money-saving skill' or 'therapy in the making'”)—until the blog grew to more than 50,000 words. Then he was offered a book deal.

Nah, he looks cool. I just wish he'd loan me some money to pay for the hosting fees that are coming up... (discuss)

"Like an astronomer who searches the evening sky for a new star, the Charlottetown poet uses his imagination to explore the larger questions of life."
Profile of John Smith. (Note: not pseudonym) (discuss)

Local Ninja Reviewed
Jonathan Bennett, former poetry naysayer, has new book of poetry that's already getting great reviews. (discuss)

Taking the Risk Out of Choosing Books... Whew! I'm an Idiot and I Have to Say: About Time!!
Apparently it's too much effort to stop drooling long enough to choose a book that will make you drool like the slack-jawed simpleton you are. That's why Britain has Richard and Judy (whom I can only suppose are the snootily accented equivalent of American morning vid-pablum mousekateers Regis and Whomeverthefuckthatgigglingmoronis).

Perhaps the most surprising choice is PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern, the 22-year-old daughter of the Irish prime minister. A love story "from beyond the grave", it won a huge advance but was roundly panned by the critics for its one-dimensional characters and cliche-driven dialogue.

The Richard and Judy bookclub has not exactly been a byword for literary fiction. But Amanda Ross, executive producer of the show and driving force behind the bookclub slot, admits that the Summer Read list has specifically targeted the "lighter" read.

"There is a difference between this list and our Best Read books - Summer Read puts entertainment first. Hard-earned holiday time is precious so we've taken the risk out of choosing the right books to take away," Ross said.

Um, British people: hello? Aren't you supposed to be culturally superior? (discuss)

"Toronto talent doesn't cross boundaries. Neither do audiences. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Tragically Hip fan at the International Festival of Authors, or, God forbid, a balletomane at the Horseshoe Tavern. And don't hold your breath for the day when book lovers start going to see modern dance."
The Whole Shebang. (discuss)

You Know, I Can Be Hard on Some People...
But when you're doing good work, you're doing good work. Bravo, McSWeeney's. (discuss)


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pens
Pens pens pens. Courtesy of Scribbling Woman. And I thought I had lots of free time. (discuss)

Birth of a Queen
No, it's not what you think. It's about chess.

In Birth of the Chess Queen, a wide-ranging exploration of the origins of chess and of its most powerful piece -- the queen -- the Stanford gender scholar Marilyn Yalom, author of A History of the Wife, A History of the Breast and other record-correctors, has rattled the vaults of Europe to shake out the missing-link chess pieces that show the game's evolution on the Continent. Her fossil record is chessmen made of marble, crystal, bone and jewel-encrusted gold, and in these relics' changing contours she traces the rise and spread of female power and prestige across Europe in the Middle Ages.


How to Get Out of Iraq
George Saunders has the answer.

To implement this exit strategy, we will have to practice running quickly. It is further recommended that, while running, the eyes be cast down, to avoid witnessing any last-minute people trying to kill us. We will have to establish excellent communications so that the moment that final person begins dying, we can all begin running quickly at the same time, eyes cast down, quickly, to our vehicles, to get to the airport and get out of the country.

(From Jeff MacIntyre) (discuss)

Calling All Renaissance Geeks
You may want to check out the Decameron Web. Imagine if universities put this kind of work into 20th-century writers. Or maybe even 21st century. (From Language Hat) (discuss)

Everyone's Got the Right to Their Dreams
And the American Dream is killing a president. Manhattanite ninjas may want to check out Sondheim's Assassins at Studio 54. One of my favourite plays.

As in Sweeney Todd before and Passion after, Assassins also finds joy in the most unexpected and nihilistic of places. This musical, in addition, shows a politically wise and prescient composer who is offering Americans his theory of why "this country is not what it was." But will they listen?


Them's Some Big Alligator Shoes to Fill
Superb poet and widely loved mentor Dennis Lee is ending his term as Toronto's first poet laureate. Who will his replacement be? My vote is for that big mean-looking dude who haunts all the lit events scowling at everyone and reading terrible poetry at the open mic. Somebody told me he knows kickboxing. I say go for the polar opposite - like a rebound relationship. (discuss)

E.L. Doctorow Booed
And not for his writing! (discuss)

More Blogs to Books

Two years from now—give or take—Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of the gossip Web sites Gawker and The Kicker, will publish her first novel. Around the same time, Glenn Reynolds, who writes the political Web log Instapundit, will also have a book in stores. So, too, may writers from the blogs Hit & Run, The Black Table, Dong Resin, Zulkey, Low Culture, Lindsayism, Megnut, Maud Newton, MemeFirst, Old Hag, PressThink, I Keep a Diary, Buzz Machine, Engadget, and Eurotrash. Suddenly, books by bloggers will be a trend, a cultural phenomenon. You will probably read about it in the Sunday Times. And when that happens the person to thank—or blame—will be Kate Lee, who is currently a twenty-seven-year-old assistant at International Creative Management.

You know... I... I just can't... You see... I want to... but the law says... And I feel as though... because that would be wrong, but... Nevermind. (discuss)

"Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
Tolkien's hole up for sale. (God, I've always wanted to write that...) (discuss)

Coming Up Next: Dean Koontz 101
Two teachers have published a book of "great" books for high school kids, with classics and contemporary trash side by side.

And while it hasn't supplanted The Scarlet Letter, Hill says, teachers are assigning books like Dan Brown's 2003 religious-themed thriller The Da Vinci Code. "No one is going to read The Scarlet Letter until they're reading something they're enjoying," he says. "You can't hit a home run until you're swinging the bat."

While I agree with this in principle, it can go ugly places too. (Banks's book in the graphic is just one of them.) Tuesdays with Morrie is a gateway drug to the crack of Pat Conroy. (We at Bookninja would like to take this opportunity to apologize for linking to to USA Today.) (discuss)

They Better Not Take More than Two Weeks to Read...
I wonder if this will succeed: romance novels for gay men. It's a great idea, but there may be something flawed in the logic. As one woman says in an attempt to explain her love of romances:

When you've been married for a long time, there may not be a lot of romance in your life. It's routine and mundane and filled with children and making ends meet, and that ruffles the romance feathers. I like the romance -- the girl who likes the guy but doesn't dare say, the anticipation, the description of tender romantic feelings, and always a happy ending.

Isn't the stereotype that gay men have it all? No children, lots of money, fail-safe sexual environments? A gay and lesbian bookstore owner puts it this way: "Romance is not a male genre; it's a female genre. Men are interested in lots of things, but romance does not top the charts." Not sure if that's true, but I suspect there's some truth in it. (discuss) or (discuss)

Translating Page by Page
Quinta-lingual translator Gregory Rabassa* profiled in the NYT. (discuss)

Scientists Find a Way to Turn Books into TVs
Damn scientists - always with the "science".

The viewer resembles a pair of spectacles on a stick or hi-tech opera glasses and is held in front of the eyes while a book is read or paged through.

Between the lenses is a camera that watches where they are looking.

Interaction is via hi-tech opera glasses
Software on an associated PC looks for distinctive features on the page to help spot what a reader is looking at.

"It then draws the computer graphics from exactly the same viewpoint," said Dr Billinghurst who heads the HIT Lab.

One of the early uses of the system has been to turn some of the books of writer and illustrator Gavin Bishop into animated works.

How long before this monstrosity is shrunk down and implanted in your cornea? Huh? Then it'll be all advertising all the time, baby - in the clouds, on your lover's skin, in passing car windows.... (Sorry, I've been reading Super Flat Times...) (discuss)


Second Editor Quits the Walrus
I liked the last issue of the Walrus, so I hope all the turmoil doesn't change their direction too much.

Wilson says his decision to quit was prompted by publisher Ken Alexander's persistent intrusion into the editorial process. "In my letter to Ken, I put it in terms of irreconcilable differences between the publishing and editorial sides -- I didn't feel I could continue working with him," said Wilson yesterday.


Google Free from Liability
You can't sue Google. Why?

The most direct reason is that a federal law that those who host, rather than author, speech on the Internet cannot be treated, for legal purposes, as having published it. As a result, they cannot be sued for defamation -- or for any other tort that has publication as one of its essential elements.

Of course, here in Canada where we don't sue as a pastime it's kind of a moot point. People would more likely passive aggressively guilt-trip Google than sue. (From Moorish Girl) (discuss)

Terrorists Destroyed the World Trade Center, Killing Thousands
Bookslut points to some online excerpts from Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers. I still think nothing touches Ruben Bolling's comic on the tragedy. (discuss)

If On a Winter's Night a Traveller
David Mitchell looks back on Calvino's classic.

If on a winter's night a traveller is a meditation on reading, but it also deals with writing and writers. I've never understood why writers who write on writing get charged with creative onanism when artists are allowed to paint themselves until the Rembrandts come home or a work like Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra -- music about music, right? -- is fine with everyone.


Agent Rod Hall Found Dead of Stab Wounds
And so it begins... The lawyers are next.

Police said they were called to Hall's southeast London apartment on Sunday by a friend who was concerned when the agent had failed to show up for various appointments on the day. Hall, 53, was found dead in an upstairs room. A subsequent post mortem revealed the cause of death to be multiple stab wounds to the chest and abdomen.

Um, I would have thought a casual glance all that's needed to reveal that. (This post has been glib to the point of poor taste. My apologies.) (From PFW) (discuss)

Mathematical Fiction
Are you one of those rare people who are good at math AND like fiction? Then you're a freak. Luckily, there's a website for you! (From Snarkout) (discuss)


Lesson Learned: Codes Sell
A first novel based on esoteric Renaissance mysteries* sells like Medici-cakes.

Since it was published on May 11, it has gone through 11 printings, and there are now 325,000 copies in circulation, leading book sellers to compare it to "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown, which has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 60 weeks. "It's very unusual," said Sessalee Hensley, the fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble. "For a first novel, this is remarkably phenomenal." The novel will make a debut at No. 6 on The Times best-seller list on Sunday and will rise to No. 3 on the list on June 6.


It Doesn't Hurt to Ask
Okay, imagine this: someone vivisects your book in the pages of a prestigious review section. I mean, really lays it open like a cheap Chelsea flasher. You write a letter of complaint to the editor and... they publish a second review. Blink, blink.

Rawlinson said yesterday that the first review was ad hominem -- a personal attack -- and should not have slipped through the usually rigorous editing process. "That is something you should never do," she said, "coming closer to attacking the writer than the book." The "self-aggrandizement" crack, she says, was particularly unacceptable.

Yes, it does happen. At Publishers Weekly. (discuss)

Some Language Links
Common errors in English and how to recognise plagiarism. (Both from Scribbling Woman - which does fantastic links series, I must say) (discusss)

American Slave Narratives
An online resource.

From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration. These former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. Their narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America's four million slaves. What makes the WPA narratives so rich is that they capture the very voices of American slavery, revealing the texture of life as it was experienced and remembered. Each narrative taken alone offers a fragmentary, microcosmic representation of slave life. Read together, they offer a sweeping composite view of slavery in North America, allowing us to explore some of the most compelling themes of nineteenth-century slavery, including labor, resistance and flight, family life, relations with masters, and religious belief.

(From Incoming Signals) (discuss)

O, Leonard! (discuss)

Bus Passenger Really Getting Into Stranger's Nursing Textbook
SAN FRANCISCO—Public-bus passenger Kyle Renner is seriously getting into a nearby stranger's nursing textbook, downtown-bound sources reported Monday. "An Unna's boot can be used to treat uninfected, non-necrotic leg and foot ulcers," read page 182 of the textbook propped up on the lap of the woman seated to Renner's right. "Alternatively, a preparation known as Unna's paste (zinc oxide, calamine lotion, and glycerin) may be applied to the ulcer and covered with lightweight gauze." According to Renner, page 182 features a photo of a hand placing a small boot on a smiling elderly woman that was "pretty funny." (From The Onion) (discuss)


Carpets and Carpet Bombs
Ninja regular Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer has a fascinating article on Maisonneuve about the way Afghanistan's wars have affected its carpet industry.

War imagery in tribal Afghan carpets began appearing around 1980, shortly after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Early pictorial, or aksi, war carpets are a fascinating hybrid of traditional abstract motifs slowly transforming into military objects. Where one might expect to find a boteh symbol (an ancient precursor to our paisley), one finds instead a woman in a burka beside a tiny Kalashnikov rifle -- or a view from the ground of a B-52 unloading its deadly cargo. Such images meld into the overall formality of traditional patterns, however, so it is all the more shocking to find a Hummer or a fragmentation grenade on what is, at first glance, an exotic, nostalgic rug.


And You Thought You Had Problems with Your Father
Dennis Lehane is interviewed by the Atlantic Monthly, which also publishes his fun story about murder and family bonding, "Until Gwen."

Your father picks you up from prison in a stolen Dodge Neon, with an 8-ball of coke in the glove compartment and a hooker named Mandy in the back seat. Two minutes into the ride, the prison still hanging tilted in the rearview, Mandy tells you that she only hooks part-time. The rest of the time she does light secretarial for an independent video chain and tends bar, two Sundays a month, at the local VFW. But she feels her calling -- her true calling in life -- is to write.

You go, "Books?"

"Books." She snorts, half out of amusement, half to shoot a line off your fist and up her left nostril.

"Screenplays!" She shouts it at the dome light for some reason. "You know -- movies."


Uncoupling Is Hard to Do
Last year Alicia Erian wrote about the breakup of her marriage for Nerve. Seems like it's not quite over yet though. Or maybe the whole thing is another of her fine stories.

A year ago, I wrote a series of columns for Nerve about the breakup of my marriage. The first was about the night my husband moved out, the last was a flashback to the point when our marriage began to falter. In between was a fair amount of sorrow. The basic problem for me and my husband seemed to be that he didn't want to have sex with me. What I've since learned, however, is that not wanting to have sex with someone is only a symptom. The actual problem has taken a lot more time to pin down.

Meanwhile, we haven't divorced. We've stopped seeing other people. We see each other on weekends. Often we're depressed in one another's company, yet as of this writing, neither of us is willing to leave the marriage. Possibly we remain confused. Possibly the whole world can see that we don't belong together and must part ways. Possibly, though, the whole world is wrong.


Tumbleweed Rolls By, Indigo Blinks First

Indigo Books & Music has abruptly withdrawn its support of a legal challenge to the status of in Canada. The legal action, brought by the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA) with Indigo's financial backing in August, 2002, has now collapsed, a week before a Federal Court hearing was to begin in Ottawa.

It's funny, I'm of two minds on the subject: Crapters cuts its poetry and lit sections to squeeze in more Photoshop books, so I hate them; Amazon runs editorial reviews of (even minor) books of Canadian poetry, written by Canadian authors (who aren't paid poorly, by reviewing standards), so I love them. Yet, I hate the thought of another American cultural juggernaut tromping all over our little Canlit garden. Then again, wasn't that what Chapters did when it first showed up? (discuss)

To Read or Not to Read... a Pedophile
Formerly beloved children's author William Mayne, as you may queasily remember, groomed young girls for sexual assault all through the 60s.

Will anyone, having read such details, want to read stories by Mayne again? Or want their children to read them? Even if they are innocent as can be, his stories for younger readers, about a bobbed, big-eyed seven-year-old called Netta, can hardly escape being contaminated by the interest we now understand he took in eight-year-olds. Then again, a book cannot be judged by its author. Lewis Carroll's pictures of naked girls do not stop us reading Alice. Eric Gill's carvings weren't shrouded after the revelations of incest and bestiality. Michael Jackson's albums are still on sale.

Hey, I'm not reading Little Black Sambo to my kid, regardless of how innocent it used to seem... (discuss)

Skinny (and Apparently Either Bound with a Scarf or Wearing Leg Warmers on Her Hands)
The picture is just too much heroin chic Vogue sass and not enough cynical awareness, but it sounds like Ibi Kaslik has done well enough to maybe eventually afford gourmet popsicles.

But Popsicles can be sinister. They are often a favourite treat of people who are starving themselves to death. Composed of water, sugar and artificial flavour, they provide the spectacle of eating while dripping empty, absent calories into ghastly, hollow stomachs. They also melt away quickly, leaving nothing but their skeleton - a fitting image for a book that, in the author's own words, is "obsessed with hunger, loss and disintegration."

Seriously, it's okay to say no to gratuitous bra shots. I do it all the time. (discuss)

I Just Want to Hug JK Rowling*
She's given her blessing to fans to produce web-based fan fiction, so long as no one tries to make money off it, credit the work to her, or write the long-awaited shower scene in which Harry and Ron compare their thrumming, newly-burgeoned manhood. (*And maybe quickly mug her, but only very gently so. I bet she has a servant who walks behind her dragging a giant treasure chest dripping with, like, tiaras, bullion, and jools. I could seriously go for some jools right about now...) (discuss)

Larkin Revisited

It should be no surprise that the man who wrote "The Importance of Elsewhere" wrote both to attract readers and to push them away, to justify his solitude and to assuage it. This author who feared commitment in his life sought to juxtapose charm and venom, sympathy and self-isolating acerbity, in all he wrote.

Slate takes a second glance at history's second look at Larkin. (discuss)

Ginsberg's Reading List
This is a nice little page with the reading list Ginsberg created for his 1977 Naropa Institute course "A Literary History of the Beat Generation". (From ALDaily) (discuss)

Hard Time Writing These Days?
Why not make yourself useful and take a crack at an unsolved code or cipher like the "Voynich Manuscript"... (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)

From the Strongest Link One Day...
He won a small sum on "The Weakest Link" and used it to self-publish his novel. Now more then likely he truly is the weakest link. (Wait, my accent was off... let me try again. The Weakest Link. No, now that just sounded Indian for some reason... The Weakest Link. What was that? Germano-Mexican? Where's my clipped British accent?) (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Death to Realism
I second the motion! Michel Basilieres has launched The Outer Edge, his online column with Maisonneuve.

What would freak out Philip K. Dick more than knowing he'd inadvertently aided Arnold Schwarzenegger in becoming a major American politician? Only that we're still talking about him. We're still talking about you, Phil. Even your death won't stop us. Boo!

When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer in the early eighties, it was clearly science fiction. When Pattern Recognition was released last year, it was obviously realism. What's cool about Gibson is, he still wears the sneakers. He hasn't changed. The context has.


And Not the Good Kind of Butt-nekkid!
Make sure you check out the election blogs over at Maisonnevue. And remember, if you don't vote, you may wind up with butt-nekkid men on your television. (discuss)

Patriot Act vs. Free Speech
A Muslim computer nerd who helped run sites purported to support terrorism is being charged under a nebulous section of the Patriot Act regarding "secondary" terrorists.

The Saudi-born Ph.D. candidate set up and ran Web sites that prosecutors say were used to recruit terrorists, raise money and disseminate inflammatory rhetoric.

His supporters say the government is using vague anti-terrorism laws to prosecute Al-Hussayen for his beliefs.

"To the extent that someone provides guns or money to a group for terrorism, that should be punished," said Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But you can't outlaw advocacy for any group or position, and that seems to be what they are attempting to do."

I wonder, are all terrorists somehow linked to Kevin Bacon? (discuss)

Foetry: Naming Names
Bold site dedicated to singling out suspect poetry contests. They encourage reader snitching - er, participation - for most of their leads. Check out this sample entry on Zoo Press's poetry contest:

* published Jennifer A. Gosetti-Ferencei, who received her MFA at Columbia University in 2000, where Richard Howard teaches, as 2002 winner of Zoo Press' Paris Review Prize in Poetry.
* printed Internal West by Priscilla Becker in 2000. Foetry Forum member Insider says, "Priscilla Becker was not only Richard Howard's student but also worked at the Paris Review."
* Zoo Press Paris Review Prize in Poetry guidelines state, "The recurring judge is The Paris Review's poetry editor, Richard Howard." Entry fee is $25.
* Foetry's recommendation: don't waste your money.

If they expand to Canada I have no doubt their email box will runneth over. My sociologist wife who studies poets is going to have a field day. (Thanks to AC and MZ for the link.) (discuss)

"On the fifth day of the five-week campaign, only the NDP has released its culture platform, pledging more money for arts programs and the CBC."
As the French say: quelle su-fuckin-prise. Remember to keep culture in mind when you vote. (From PFW) (discus)

Is Literature Equipped to Handle Today?
According to this FT piece, visual arts has supplanted the written word as the prime vehicle for artistic communication.

None of this is to suggest that intelligent people have already, or will in the near future, stop reading and writing good books. Nor will theatre disappear. Literary traditions are too deeply ingrained in our culture to give up the ghost that easily, and whatever the literature of the future produces, the achievements of writers of the past will always be there for future generations to discover.

But it is hard not to feel that the elan is missing from contemporary writing, and that publishing has succumbed to a pile-'em-high, two-for-the-price-of-one numbers game that is more about marketing, demographics and disposable income than about artistic achievement.

A consternated "Hmmm" is all you'll get from me... (discuss)

"Blue towels terrify me."
Tomaz Salamun profiled in the Guardian. (discuss)

"Disarmingly honest"
Hugo Williams profiled in the Independent. (discuss)

So Long Bookfest
Seattle's Northwest Bookfest closes shop.

Bookfest 2001 was the first large civic event in Seattle after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, a heartening development at the time. But the aftermath of 9/11 proved to be another obstacle when many national publishers, who used to supply Bookfest headliners for free, curtailed book tours by major authors, thus depriving the festival of its greatest attendance draw.

Bookfest, which has never paid authors to appear, turned into a gathering of Northwest writers as a result. But Northwest authors make regular free appearances in Seattle throughout the year.

This is what you get for not paying authors... (discuss)

One Man Avant-garde Jam
The cymbals go between the knees.

Johnson was, if you like, Britain's one-man literary avant-garde of the 1960s. Yes, of course there were other avant-garde writers around at the time, but they were not as famous as he was, they were not as good at putting their names about, they did not appear on television as often as he did, they did not argue their case as passionately or fight their corner as toughly as he did, and there is not - as far as I can see, anyway - the same stubborn residue of public interest in their lives and work, at the time of my writing this, some 30 or 40 years after the event. Johnson was different. Johnson was special.


JK Needs to Wave a Wand or Something
Her appeal is faltering... Among the awards-granting bodies. (discuss)

I Cannot Believe There is a Giant Article in the NYT Devoted to Four Cartoons I Found and Emailed to Friends Two Years Ago...
Way to catch up,* guys. If you haven't seen Strindberg and Helium then you likely aren't my pal. Or you weren't two years ago.

Some reasonable (if humorless) people might find "Strindberg and Helium" trivial. For me, these films represent a delicious skewering, affectionate and satirical, of European dead-white-male pretensions by American pop culture by way of Japanese anime (its not far from Helium to Kitty, as in Hello, Kitty), with no slight, and all due deference, to Europe, Japan or the United States.

I sent them to my pal Chris first. He knows why. (discuss)


Historical Fiction Is Where the Money Is
I've always said historical fiction was the Canadian equivalent of American lawyer fiction.

Nonetheless, historical novels are often dismissed as low-grade formula writing, the guy's equivalent of a romance novel. It doesn't help that the Romance Writers' Association includes historical novels in its self-definition -- as long as they have a love interest and a happy ending.


Baby Shot
I recently did a tag-team story with Andrew Lewis Conn, for the Journal News, a NY state paper. I'd never done that before, so it was an interesting experiment. The Journal has a whole series of such stories, including ones co-written by Ninja faves such as Matthew Sharpe, Alica Erian and Matthew Derby (we'll be talking about Derby's book Super Flat Times shortly). Best of all, they're free! (discuss)

Interview with the Umpires
The Griffin judges interviewed at the Globe. Nice discussion, but it's like the Stanley Cup for me... now that my team's out I'm kind of apathetic and will just check the results in the morning paper. (discuss)

The Griffin Standard
Noah Richler weighs in on Griffin Prize week and his rediscovery of Alden Nowlan.

Eighty thousand dollars grants the poets time -- and it buys you and me a point of view. It's always been said, and it's true: Literary prizes make the interested read the nominated books -- Eunoia was a bestseller! -- and lead a considerable number to seek out more of the stuff they previously found strange.

To wit: I am one of those who has recently re-discovered the remarkable, thumping poetry of the late Alden Nowlan, whose Selected Poems, edited by Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier (Anansi, $19.95), was published earlier this year. I offer no apology. It's actually an unusually rare treat, in this our noisy age of talk, to feel that one has encountered anything on one's own terms. I have been carrying my copy of Nowlan as some would a Bible.

My favourite Nowlan piece is "The Broadcaster's Poem." I used to print it on every $5 bill I had. People would always read it when I gave them the money, but no one ever refused to take it. That was back before I started paying off my student loans. I haven't seen anything bigger than a twoonie in years. (discuss)

And Foithah More!
All Griffin, all the time! Ninja regular and Maisonneuve columnist Zach Wells has a follow up to his Griffin dissection posted two weeks ago. (discuss)

Hearken to Larkin
The new Collected Poems examined* at the NYT. (discuss)

Black Narrative Resurfacing
Harriet Wilson's novel, Our Nig; Or Sketches From The Life Of A Free Black (thought to be mainly autobiographical), about a young indentured servant who endured terrible abuse at the hands of her, for all intents and purposes, masters is finally starting to get some attention after being buried for many years. (discuss)

Going to War Against Anti-War Poetry

Poetry and conflict are as old as each other. From war springs suffering and from suffering song.

Fourteen months after the invasion of Iraq, the ancient association is as vibrant as ever. According to the Guardian, an anthology entitled 100 Poets Against the War has outstripped the opposition and become Britain's most frequently borrowed book of poetry. Even now I hold the volume in my hand. And I read with tremulous fascination about its torrid and telling birth-throes.
To be fair, the raw ingredients of poetry are certainly present here, namely language and feeling. Some of these efforts are not a million miles away from becoming poetry, in the way that a cow in a field is not a million miles away from becoming a hamburger.

But a number of technical refinements will be required first: lyricism, music, metaphor, imagination, a sense of pace and rhythm, habits of verbal organization, the feel for a resonant phrase that lingers in the mind after the page has been turned.

Ouch. (discuss)

Blake the Flake
Saving Blake from his own insanity.

He was chiefly remembered as a one-time commercial engraver of grimly improving texts: Edward Young's Night Thoughts, Robert Blair's The Grave, the dark Biblical drama of the "Book of Job", and Dante's Inferno still unfinished at the time of his death. In 1830 Blake was given a short and gently patronising entry in Alan Cunningham's Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters. Blake was a lovable, minor eccentric: unworldly, self-taught and self-deluded.


In Memoriam
I wonder if Garry Trudeau will get labelled unpatriotic for honouring the war dead like Ted Koppel was when Nightline ran its memorial. (discuss)

War Cut
Gerhard Richter has been one of my favourite artists since I saw this while wandering through the Art Gallery of Ontario instead of working one day. He's got a new book out:

In May 2002 Gerhard Richter photographed 216 details of his abstract painting no. 648-2 from 1987 (225 x 200 cm). Working on a long table over a period of several weeks, Richter then combined these 10 x 15 cm detailed shots with 165 texts on the Iraq war.

Here's the cover pic if you're curious. (From Literary Saloon) (discuss)

If I Write a Poem About Being Afraid of Getting Beat Up at Eden Mills, Will Someone Pay for My School?
You know, in my day

This place is called SCHOOL, and it should be safe,/This place is supposed to be for every color and race./ It should not be a place of fear,/ It should be a place that everyone should want to be near

was not scholarship material... (discuss)

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