Excuse Me While
I Kiss This Guy
Snarkout has a nice
entry today (May 1) about words of the year, portmanteau words and
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
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...
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."
subject, but did anyone else find this piece poorly constructed?
Asian Heritage Month at the TPL
books are in great demand. (From PFW)
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!)
"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."
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)
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."
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
"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.'"
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
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
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
"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."
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
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
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
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
"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
wins the PEN/Nabokov Award, a $20,000 US prize for an international
author of "enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship."
Newsflash: When Ondaatje Writes Novels, He Engages in "Fictionalization"
and "Interpretation" of "History"
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."
Hey, Nature Poets!
Now there's a nature
font for you. (From BoingBoing)
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
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
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)
Stroked... the Dog?
House releases excerpts of Lynne Cheney's lustfest. She says
she was experimenting back then, but weren't we all? (From Bookslut)
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)
Fritzy, Fritzy Dumb Ass
Moorish Girl's mini-review
of Funny in Farsi really makes me want to check this book
"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."
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
"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,
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."'
"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)
Chicago Zine Scene
zines are becoming quite successful.* A likely story coming
from the hometown newspaper. (discuss)
Hey Big Spender
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."
Adam Sol Wins
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)
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)
Some interesting ephemera
links to explore.
William Mayne, Children's Author/Molester
years? And then we keel-haul him? (discuss)
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.""
It Won't Be Long
Before This Site Gets Nuked
the Donald Duck comics you could ever want, online, for free.
First the Peasants and Students, and Now...
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?"
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.'"
'"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."'
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)
"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."
list announced. (discuss)
The Rise of the Third Grade Triads, a New James Patterson
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.
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
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."
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)
Let's Get Ready
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
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
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?
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
vintage Carousel? Not to be found in any stores! Even though
hundreds of copies likely remain, moldering in a basement in Rosedale!)
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)
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)
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
"The characters are described as if they are humans,
but in the end it turns out they're not humans."
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
fiction... (From Scribbling
Interested in A.S. Byatt?
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
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
"I simply feel that film money is like free money." Yer
swell, Nick. (discuss)
Fitz and Zelda
celebrity couple. Funny, I don't ever remember hearing about
them... I guess they were big behind the iron curtain or something...
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)
Jonny Hurst! Jonny Hurst! If He Played a Half His Lungs
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
I knew it could get bad, but... (From GoodReports)
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?"
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)
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
pictures of ambient type and homemade
illustrations for mixed tapes. (From Scribbling
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)
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
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
at a Barnes and Noble. (discuss)
It Wouldn't Surprise Me at All If This Is How It's Actually Going
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!
"ON 31 AUGUST IGNATIUS
J. REILLY WROTE:
My Dear Mrs Wininy
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"
Students Fight Back Against the Conservative Establishment
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
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.
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
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,"
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.
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
Nice. This elevates
books to the level of lines, peeling potatoes and digging ditches.
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
Bevington Calls Coach House a Pile of Shit
Not really. But almost. More on the
Coach House drama currently unfolding in Toronto. (discuss)
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
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
Political Books and TV, Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate
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,"
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
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.
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.
attempt to censor Linda Jaivin's book should guarantee bestseller
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.
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...
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
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)
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)
Nigerian Poet Abducted
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....
the release of Michael Turner's The Pornographer's Poem in
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.
poster pretty much sums up my view of life. (From Bookslut)
-- the Online Game!
in time for the release of the movie Troy. (From Elegant
"She knew the closeness
of carnival to carnivore"
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.
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
It immediately took him
to a website.
"There seems to be
eight paragraphs that are essentially verbatim from the website,"
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)
The NYT has a special
section* on kids' books this week. Worth a peek. (discuss)
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?
Found in Translation
A look at upcoming
translations from Grove. (From Moorish
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
wondered about that, but was shouted down at the annual meeting.
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
this is what ethical means, I'll stick to amoral, thank you
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!
ODIN'S FACE IS LONG AND THIN AND
DRAWN. HE DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A NICE MAN -- HE LOOKS DANGEROUS,
LIKE AN AGING HIRED KILLER, HIS ONE GOOD EYE CRUEL AND NASTY.
YOU MAY WANT TO KEEP HIS FACE FAIRLY SHADOWY HERE, SO THAT ALL
WE CAN SEE IS ONE GLOWING EYE. STEVE -- GET AS FAR FROM THE BRIGHTLY
COLOURED KIRBY ASGARD AS YOU CAN HERE: THIS IS THE ASGARD OF THE
OLD NORSE, A BITTER, DANGEROUS PLACE, IN WHICH ALL IS DULL GREY
AND BROWN, ALLIEVIATED OCCASIONALLY BY A GLINT OF GOLD. ODIN'S
RIGHT EYE IS MISSING -- THE EYE ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE OF HIS HEAD,
AS WE LOOK AT IT.
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
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.
While We're On the Unpleasant
Subject of Patriotism
Dr. Seuss at war. (From Beautiful
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
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....
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
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)
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.
"I am not off,"
"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.
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
I totally know how
this feels. Sometimes I sit at my book signing table for hours and
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.
A Call for Definition Between Fact and Fiction
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
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
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
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?
"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)
Nostradamus Speaks on the Canadian Poet Laureate
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
Now THAT's thorough.
"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
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.
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
Everything You Ever
Wanted to Know About Chris Ware
Haven't heard of Chris Ware? Well, old-timer, put on your spectacles,
on your computer thingamajig and start reading. (From Snarkout)
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
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
McLeod Clears Up the Question of Why Cape Bretoners Need
I think we all know the
answer to this one. (From PFW)
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"
history.* (Hehe... pre-Pooh...) (discuss)
Franz Wright Profile
He's had it tough (all but for the superstar dad). This long piece
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
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)
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
Book Club for a
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.
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
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)
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,
Change the name of
national defence to "Security" and who will vote against
you? Who votes against being "secure"? Interesting. (discuss)
falls far short of effectively meeting the needs of Canada’s cash-starved
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)
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
"It is strange to discover that one is politically
correct, and even stranger that it was Tintin who revealed it to
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.)
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.
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
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
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)
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)
"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"
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.
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.
But What Was the Lewd Act??
So this guy walks into a bookstore ... My favourite line in this
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)
It's a holiday
here in Canada this coming Monday,
one in which Canadians
to coast gather
under natural settings
such as a the quaffing
of golden libation and the
adding of meat
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.
Job Opening: Author - 10 Years Experience Required
Simon & Schuster down in Oz is closing
its doors to new talent.
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
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" (www.milmillington.com). 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."
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
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
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."
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. 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
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.
Calling All Renaissance
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
Everyone's Got the
Right to Their Dreams
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?
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
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
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.
"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."
hole up for sale. (God, I've always wanted to write that...)
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
They Better Not Take More than Two Weeks to Read...
I wonder if this will succeed:
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.
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
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
Flat Times...) (discuss)
Second Editor Quits
I liked the last issue of the Walrus, so I hope all
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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)
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.
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
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
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.
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)
Carpets and Carpet
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,
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
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
"Screenplays!" She shouts it at
the dome light for some reason. "You know -- movies."
Uncoupling Is Hard
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
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.
Rolls By, Indigo Blinks First
Indigo Books &
Music has abruptly
withdrawn its support of a legal challenge to the status of
Amazon.ca 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
Sambo to my kid, regardless of how innocent it used to seem...
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
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*
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)
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
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)
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
over at Maisonnevue. And remember, if you don't vote, you
may wind up with butt-nekkid
men on your television. (discuss)
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"
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
His supporters say the government
is using vague anti-terrorism laws to prosecute Al-Hussayen for
"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
* 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)
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."
Salamun profiled in the Guardian. (discuss)
Williams profiled in the Independent. (discuss)
So Long Bookfest
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
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
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...
to catch up,* guys. If you haven't seen Strindberg
and Helium then you likely aren't my pal. Or you weren't two
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)
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.
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
Erian and Matthew
Derby (we'll be talking about Derby's book Super
Flat Times shortly). Best of all, they're free! (discuss)
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
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
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.
Blake the Flake
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.
I wonder if Garry Trudeau will get labelled unpatriotic for
the war dead like Ted Koppel was when Nightline ran its
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
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
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