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Hearsay Archive:

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

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

2003:

August September October November December

2004:

January February March April May June July August September October November December

2005:

January February March April May June July August September October November December

November 2004:

...

11/01/04:

Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint — the Guide
The Complete Review has assembled a very comprehensive guide to the hysteria surrounding Baker's book about killing Dubya — including a criticism of Baker's response to the outrage directed at him.

The reactions to Checkpoint, both before and after publication, provide a fascinating lesson in literary reception in politically charged times. On the face of it, it is a book that tries to give voice to the frustrations of a significant portion of the American population with President Bush's ill-advised and -conceived foreign adventurism and its consequences — though it does so in what might be considered outrageous fashion. With a large segment of the American population unwavering (and uncritical) in their support of the jr. Bush administration's actions, the book — or rather: the very idea of the book — inevitably provoked strong reactions. By (arguably) suggesting assassination as a "solution", Baker upped the ante — apparently beyond what the vast majority, even of those in agreement with his fundamental opposition to the jr. Bush-administration policies, found palatable.

(discuss)

The kind of future I want
Richard Morgan, author of the fun sci-fi noir Altered Carbon and its crazy sequel, Broken Angels, is interviewed over at Trashotron. Good news: Woken Furies, the latest Takieshki Kovacs novel, is on the way. (From Confessions) (discuss)

The makings of a jackpine sonnet
Milton Acorn explains the, uh, logic that went into his jackpine sonnet form.

A squad in the Russian army comprises twelve men and a sergeant. If you lose half you still have a squad. Also, if there were more, some of the men would likely not know all their comrades' names . . . embarrassing in any case, but in battle it can be downright disastrous. Unaware at the time that space warfare between American and Russian robot craft had already begun, I even figured out the formation of a spatial fighter squadron. It would be echeloned in three dimensions, not two as with geese and aircraft. The leader would be followed by three branching lines of four craft each. This would also have the advantage of not revealing the internal organization of the squadron to an observer. The next number possessing the same advantage would be seventeen and that would be unwieldy. And what about the celebrated number — twelve — of the British fighter squadron in the Anti-Fascist War? Was that not a euphemism for thirteen? Was 'tail-end charlie' not number thirteen?

(discuss)

At work early today?
You didn't set your clock back? More time to read Bookninja... In the USA, you might consider phoning a few friends and making sure they vote tomorrow... If said friends are people from highschool with whom you no longer share the opinion that a viable method of controlling world population and hunger is a tactical thermonukular war, please do not call.

Yann Martel writes music about pianist eaten alive by Indian boy, a Bengal tiger and a cellphone...
Or something to that effect. (discuss)

Note to politically motivated novelists: shut up
Ah, the good old days... (Mind the source of this one, ninjas...)

For much of our history, litterateurs held themselves aloof from everyday politics, considering it a grim and grubby business. The novelist of the early 20th century was far more likely to be concerned with reproducing the experience of the common man--or rallying on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti--than forming committees in support of, say, Warren Harding or James B. Cox. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald's Amory Blaine--the Kerryesque hero of "This Side of Paradise"--was a socialist and revolutionary rather than a Democrat or Republican.

Writers began to embrace electoral politics after World War II, when Henry Wallace and then Adlai Stevenson seemed to capture their affections. But Stevenson lost, and lost. Things accelerated when John F. Kennedy created Camelot in 1961. But even then there were contingencies. Diana Trilling remembered meeting James T. Farrell (author of the great "Studs Lonigan" novels about Chicago) on a train to Washington, looking disheveled and disreputable. He had been invited to a White House dinner by the Kennedys and was carrying a bulging briefcase stuffed with old royalty statements. Farrell believed that his invitation would allow him to settle the matter of some past IRS audits while enjoying the president's hospitality.

In the same administration, William Styron helped the great, if underrated, novelist Richard Yates to get a job as Robert Kennedy's speechwriter. Yates's tryout was to write a speech to be delivered by the attorney general at a private women's college. Yates won the job--according to his biographer, Blake Bailey--by imagining Kennedy as a fictional character, "an attractive young man seductively persuading a group of female admirers to support the cause of civil rights." The Kennedy years were supremely suited to fiction at its most self-regarding.

And you walked to school five miles uphill, through fire, over broken glass and in blinding snow... both ways... This guy puts the cur in curmudgeon. (discuss)

Bangor, Maine: Like, Horrorsville, man
Take a tour through Stephen King's hometown... "And if you look to your left you'll see the well that leads straight to Hell. And on your right is a limping Mr. King himself, leveling a shotgun at the bus window... Ladies and Gentlemen, as this isn't part of the planned tour, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting Bangor, Maine and remind you that a significant part of your tour guide's remuneration comes from the generosity of folks like yourselves..." (discuss)

The LRB turns ... yawn...
The LRB: 25 going on 75.

For the uninitiated, the best way of describing the London Review of Books, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, is that it is to words what Slow Food is to cooking. The LRB, which comes out fortnightly and is to be found nestling between the New Yorker and the Times Literary Supplement in more genteel newsagents, is a long time in the preparing and should not be ingested in a hurry. Yet, in a world so frantic, where information assails us from every quarter in user-friendly, bite-sized pieces, it is a quiet success. Its circulation stands at around 50,000. Not quite Heat, but impressive all the same.

But we love you just the same, LRB, and treasure our visits to see you in the home. Just quit asking for foot massages with that ointment that leaves us smelling of the tomb. (discuss)

Scott Griffin waves around money, poets
At least Bringhurst is getting some press.*

Later, the main reading drew an even larger crowd to the Royal Festival Hall's Purcell Room. During the intermission, three 23-year-old Londoners sat pondering Canadian poetry over a bottle of wine. Sarah, an Atwood fan, was trying to discern the meaning of Anne Carson's A Lot of Guns -- An Oratorio for Four Voices. They heaped praise on Bringhurst's reading of Haida verse, and the imagery in Anne Simpson's work.

How do you get in with the rich folk? I mean, besides writing well. (discuss)

India's Orwell
India: cashing in on outsourced tech and, now, literature. (discuss)

Print vs. talk

Philip Marchand looks at the book as a repository of "knowledge"... well, the how-to book.

We humans seem to be constructed so that our default option is to do something the wrong way. It comes naturally to us to screw up. This is also why bookstores are full of how to guides. There's a desperate need to be filled.

If what some people say is true, that the young are reading less and less, that means we'll have to go to newer media, like instructional videos. Whether that's better than print, I don't know. Television doesn't seem well adapted to show people how to do things right.

Nice Bob Ross mention. I'd like to start a movement among journalists to slip references to Bob Ross in to everything they write. But I'm neither a journalist nor motivated. (discuss)


More on Bush and the hand up his ass
Well, it's become more and more apparent that Bush has a hand up his ass. And not in the good-for-everyone Tristan Taormino way (not work safe). A senior photo analyst for NASA is willing to risk his reputation on the claim that Bush was wearing a wire.

For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

You're voting for a puppet, people. Someone who's being fed his lines and still can't get them right. He's like a reject from The Dark Crystal. Or maybe Fraggle Rock. (Note: I try to not link to subscription sites, but Salon is the only place I could find this. Go for the day pass -- I got a John Stewart ad, which was about 15 seconds long.) (From Clive) (discuss)

Hunting Lynn Cheney
God, that headline sounds divine, doesn't it? (I choose: the compound bow. You have a three minute head start. I suggest you use it wisely. Cue "Hungry Like the Wolf" on the old iPod...) (discuss)

Rise of the machines
Ubertech-dude and all around nice guy, Clive Thompson, gets suckered by a robot. (discuss)


11/02/04:

Art Deco bookbindings
A small but nifty sampling from the New York Public Library. If book bondage is really your fetish, make sure you check out the Glossary of Binding Terms. (discuss)

Warning: Bookstore jobs may not lead to fulfillment....
But they may leave you with great anecdotes.

A young colleague named Luke, taken on around the same time as me, was the first to realise what a dead-end we had landed in. In a bid to get fired, he took to answering the phone with the words: "I suppose you want a book." At last he hatched the perfect escape plan. The look on Janet's face when she found the humour table piled high and exclusively with copies of the Koran was remarkable. Luke left later that afternoon.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

For a moment I thought this read "Michael Crichton" and I was confused
Thankfully, everything is clear now (full text below).

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon will write Snow and the Seven, a martial-arts retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for Walt Disney Pictures, Variety reported. Yuen Wo Ping, the choreographer of groundbreaking action films The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, will direct the live-action movie. Previously known as Snow White and the Seven Shao Lin, the movie will mark Yuen's English-language directorial debut.

(discuss)

Three reasons to hate the GGs and the Gillers
Ninja favourite Lynn Coady writes in The Tyee:

Book prizes are fun when you, or your client, or your author are nominated for one. Oh yes. The author gets flown somewhere, put up in a decent hotel. He or she is interviewed about The Book, the product of perhaps as many as ten years of near-thankless drudgery. Meanwhile agent and publisher can breathe a sigh of relief, for their efforts too have been rewarded. Interest is paid, by god, precisely the kind of interest every author feels is her due (she will tell you otherwise—“Oh I never expected anyone would take any notice of it”—and will be lying).

And that’s the problem: every single author feels this way, and a handful of them have every right because their work is splendid and should be held up and declared so publicly. Each year, well over a hundred new works of fiction are published in Canada. Many are called, but few are chosen, and often, no one can tell you why Stunning Achievement should be anointed one year while the equally accomplished Rollicking Tour-de-Force is ignored. Literary types know that the moment both the Giller and GG shortlists are announced, the griping will commence: Good lord, where is so-and-so? How could they nominate the bland, middle-class musings of whosherface, completely overlooking the edgy, vital prose of whasisname? And how on earth is it possible that the luminous work of you-know-who-I-mean-the skinny-one could be disregarded yet again?

Hey! She could be talking about us! (Thanks for the link, Art) (discuss)

Alice Munro knocks em dead
If she had been using a sword instead of her prose, we'd be giving her an award ourselves. (discuss)

Don Paterson, slayer
Don Paterson takes on Harold Pinter, and then proceeds to call for the elimination of amateurs. Sniff. I'm getting all choked up.

"To take a risk in a poem is not to write a big sweary outburst about how crap the war in Iraq is, even if you are the world's greatest living playwright. Because anyone can do that."

Don, call me. I have a position for you here. And speaking of Pinter-bashing, the stage censors of Britain's postwar era didn't care much for him either...

The censors’ remit was to uphold the law — which forbade blasphemy and homosexuality — and keep plays off the stage that might have outraged public sensibilities.

Their opinions over what was permissible were often highly subjective. A fortnight before The Birthday Party was to be premiered at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, in April 1958 the reader, C D Heriot, made it clear what he thought of the work. “An insane, pointless play. Mr Pinter has jumbled all the tricks of Beckett and Ionesco with a dash from all the recently produced plays from the Royal Court, plus a fashionable flavouring of blasphemy. The result is still silly.” Heriot censored some blasphemy.

(discuss)

I blame Cher for way more than just this...
The eulogy just ain't what it used to be.* (discuss)

Just throw the settlement debt on the pile...
Last year's Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner is suing the US over sanctions that prohibit her from publishing her memoirs in "the Homeland" of Bubba and Berndine Jones.

The Treasury Department declined to comment on Ms. Ebadi's suit, but spokeswoman Molly Millerwise defended the regulations as "part of the different strategies that make up our national-security policies." The U.S. has 29 sanctions programs in place against various countries, terrorist groups and others considered national-security threats, although the restrictions challenged by Ms. Ebadi apply only to Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Ironically, the way the Treasury Department interprets the trade embargo, Ms. Ebadi would have been free to publish a translation of her book in the U.S. had it originally been issued in Iran. The regulations allow publishers to "reproduce, translate, style and copy-edit" existing works from sanctioned countries, according to a department fact sheet. But they prohibit providing "services" to people or entities in embargoed countries, such as the type of editorial, marketing and translation work needed to publish an original book in the U.S. In a March letter to the Treasury Department, Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who wrote legislation excepting information from the embargo, called the policy "patently absurd."

Don't you know that if we let her publish, her books might explode and unleash nukular catsforfree on one nation under god? (discuss)

DLJ for prez
MobyLives proprietor Dennis Loy Johnson shows why we all missed him so much in his latest column, "Bush vs. Books". Here he is interviewed at Beatrice (From MoorishGirl) (discuss)

Marilynne Robinson
Profiled* in the Globe. (discuss)

The old one two combo
The Morley/Ernest match up recounted from a Boxing mag's perspective.

One of the most notorious boxing matches of all time involved a portly, rabid self-mythologizer who had no real boxing ability, and a tubby, minor Canadian writer who, despite appearances, did. Step forward Ernest Hemingway and Morley Callaghan. They boxed at the American Club in Paris in June 1929. Their audience was the time-keeper, the writer F Scott Fitzgerald.

The action – in particular a knockdown of Hemingway – was to influence all their lives. For Hemingway, it signified the end of his (unadmitted and, as far as one can see, platonic) love affair with the hedonistic Fitzgerald. For Fitzgerald it represented the moment after which Hemingway was not for turning by his charm. For Callaghan, a former colleague of Hemingway on the Kansas City Star, it meant fleeting fame and then, 30 years on, more fleeting fame when he published his memoir, That Summer In Paris. All because of that boxing match. What happened?

Minor? I mean, his offspring: yes. Him? I don't know... (From GalleyCat) (discuss)

How dainty!
Nancy Drew's father. (Note to reader: I didn't read all of this because, you know, ZZZZZZZZZZ) (From GoodReports) (discuss)

Exploring books
Outside gets positively cerebral with "The 25 (Essential) Books for the Well-Read Explorer". (Though one might suspect cerebral people wouldn't intentionally put themselves in harm's way, this is apparently not the case...) (discuss)

<Blurb>... Excuse me
When the unsolicited blurb request works out in such a heartwarming way, I briefly consider giving up this life of shadow-lingering and stealthy-knifing. But then I remember the fun. (discuss)


11/03/04:

Today's headline: Blech...

GG judge steps down over conflict of interest
The Quill reports that novelist André Alexis has stepped down from a GG jury position for this year, citing a conflict of interest regarding the release of Claire's Head, the fantastic novel by his long-time partner, Catherine Bush. Apparently, this is all a result of a mixup — Alexis noted early in the process that the book was likely to be released this year, but it seems to have gone in one administrator and out another, and led to this:

The issue did not come up again until September, long after the jurors had started independently considering submitted titles in April, when Alexis submitted the signed conflict of interest declaration and mentioned his personal connection to the author of a submitted book. At that point, Balkan says the award administrators discussed the situation with the Canada Council, the other jurors, and Alexis. "One of the options would have been to pull the book for this year," Balkan says. But all parties, including Alexis, agreed that would be unfair to the book, so Alexis stepped down, Balkan says. (Reached at his Toronto home Thursday, Alexis did not want to comment on the situation: "I just want to stand away from this.")

Perhaps I should disclose my conflicts here: I think these two are two of the hardest-working, most admirable writers in Canada (in fact, I was involved in developing Catherine's website) and hope none of this affected Bush's chances to make the list (I can't believe I just wrote those last ten words... today of all days...). (discuss)


11/04/04:


"Can we all get along?"
I have to admit, I'm confused by all this talk of unity and the healing of rifts down in the U.S. The issues people voted on were not policy ones, they were issues of what America is, and to preach unity is to ignore the fact that a large number of Americans are striving to turn the country into a theocracy, if not in goverment then at least in actual living conditions. Besides, the Democrats preached unity after the last, uh, election, and look what happened — Ayatollah Bush now has a mandate. It seems to me that this is exactly the time to not get along. Fortunately, for those who just want out, there are a couple of options. And for those of us already on the outside? Well, I'm waiting to read the American version of Persepolis. (discuss)

Hard Case Crime
Hard Case Crime sent us a little package of their new books and we've been passing them around. So far everyone thinks they lots of fun, in that guilty pleasure kind of way. And you know, I have a soft spot for books that fit into pant pockets.

Hard Case Crime is dedicated to reviving the vigor and excitement, the suspense and thrills — the sheer entertainment — of the golden age of paperback crime novels, both by bringing back into print the best work of the pulp era and by introducing readers to new work by some of today's most powerful writers and artists. Determined detectives and dangerous women...fortune hunters and vengeance seekers...ingenious criminals and men on the run for their lives...Hard Case Crime novels offer everything you want from a great story, all in handsome and affordable mass-market editions.

(discuss)

Never underestimate the power of a poet to yell
Publishers Weekly decided to cut its poetry section. You can imagine the rest.

The industry trade magazine Publishers Weekly this summer decided to stop publishing its monthly Poetry Forecast section, an editorial move that would have had deleterious effects on independent publishers. But if you were at the beach or busy with your summer reading you probably didn't hear the news. In response to complaints from many publishers, editors, and poets, the decision was reversed a few weeks later, before any changes were made to the magazine.

(discuss)

Note to my American friends
All our refugee sleeping surfaces are now spoken for. Please check your local ninja listings for other asylum providers.

Paul Jones leaves Maclean's

It seems decision making at your national magazines has a decidedly corporate element:

Segal said the restructuring was prompted by Rogers's "need to bring more initiatives to market more quickly with a faster return on investment," and not by concern about the performance of its "core brands," which, while by and large profitable, have had to battle in the last 10 years for revenue and readers in a fragmented and competitive market. "Basically, this has very little to do with any of our publications," he said.

"We didn't go deep into looking at any of our magazines in making our decisions."

Segal indicated Rogers likely will be "launching more verticals" such as LouLou in the future -- "verticals" being the industry term for publications aimed at a specific lifestyle, attitude or activity group, as opposed to "mass magazines" such as Chatelaine and Maclean's. With the new structure in place, Rogers won't be "constrained" or "constricted," as he felt it previously was, "by where you're going to launch it."

Translation: it's about the bottom line. (discuss)

A commitment to no more Commitments
Uber-author (and occasional ninja reader) Roddy Doyle promises, in his charming and very funny way, that he will never write a sequel to The Commitments. (discuss)

Frye's mum gets new tombstone
There's really not much more to add than that. (discuss)

Something about Derrida that looks interesting, but I haven't really read it because I'm having a hard time caring today and I feel sick in the pit of my stomach in a way I haven't since Reagan was elected to a second slack-jawed term and I was pretty sure I'd soon be cinder or the leader of a motley band of post-apocalyptic nerds...
Blah. Somebody shoot me. (discuss)

The unadaptable adapted
Once again, Hollywood proves there is nothing we can create that it cannot co-opt.

As "Enduring Love" enters a world of dark obsession, it lures viewers into a symbiotic dance between a stalker named Jed (the scruffy, blond, helpless-looking Rhys Ifans) and the man he is stalking, Joe (Daniel Craig as his opposite, a broodingly handsome, tough-minded intellectual). Yet this dynamic film is based on Ian McEwan's ambiguous, interior, apparently unadaptable novel. Just imagine all the bad movies that might have come from that. How the book became the film, without costing the novel its soul, is the story of a collaboration that doesn't even sound promising. There's a director who leaves few fingerprints, Roger Michell; a screenwriter best known as a playwright, Joe Penhall; and a novelist who realizes that, as Mr. McEwan put it in a phone conversation last week, "translating a novel to film is an act of controlled vandalism."

(discuss)

BHL under attack
If BHL goes under, the terrorists have won.

Seven books attacking the writer's methods, questioning his intellectual achievements and peering into the origins of his personal fortune are due to be published over the next few months.

Several of the works promise to unmask him as an "intellectual imposter", and a series of libel suits is already under way as he struggles to save his academic reputation from ruin.

For three decades Lévy has reigned supreme as the demigod of the television debate show, famous less for his intellectual standpoints than for his beautifully coiffed hair and fondness for displaying more chest than is polite in scholarly circles.

Now his critics are questioning whether BHL, as he is semi-affectionately known, really deserves to occupy the space vacated by Derrida, Sartre, Foucault and other greats of French postwar philosophy.

Wait, they won yesterday when they tricked America into voting for someone who fits so nicely into their whole killing thing. (discuss)

Has you gots what it takes?
Grain seeks new fiction editor. Tell them Bookninja sent you and get 50% off your first piece o' chewin' wheat. (Thanks, B) (discuss)

At least The Onion still laughs...
Some great headlines that go nowhere today. My favourite being:

God Puts His Tool Back Into Office

(discuss)


11/05/04:

Distributed narratives
This concept is a new one to me, but I'm intrigued nevertheless. Implementation is a novel told in stickers that are affixed to things like envelopes, buses, airport terminals and signs. Seems to me you could hide a pretty neat story in instalments around the web too — kind of like the poems some people leave in Amazon comment boards. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Indy Magazine
Bookslut draws our attention to Indy Magazine, which is a definite bookmark thanks to a heady essay on "drawing the body politic" in comics, Art Spiegelman's meditation on comics, and some anti-Bush comics. Bookslut also links to this piece on what the reign of the mullahs may mean for comics in general in United States of America Red. Nice work all around. (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

This story is about Philip Larkin's lawnmower. No shit.
Yep. That about covers it. (discuss)

Stop all the clocks
Who's reading poetry these days? Nobody who doesn't have the time.

Why is it that so many who never miss the latest Pinter or David Hare or Alan Bennett in the theatre, who like to drown in Mozart or Mahler, cannot connect with poetry, particularly serious contemporary poetry? I pulled down from my shelves yesterday volumes of Auden and Longfellow. We have Longfellow for the reason most people have Longfellow nowadays: we inherited it from our parents. There are shorter pieces which are still quite easily readable; but one flinches from the epics.

Then Auden. There must be plenty of Auden which deserves to be cherished and quoted just as much as the bit about stopping the clocks, but the trouble is that it needs to be read not just with an eye for an exploitable line or two but slowly and very thoughtfully.

(discuss)

Vancouver International Writers Festival
A roundup of events and gossip. (From PFW) (discuss)

Dealing with Jewel
And by dealing, I don't mean the way we normally "deal" with bad writers (ie, shurikentothehead!).

Jewel is not the only uneasy poet. The poetry community, too, is nervous about the popularity of this sort of writing. In his foreword to the Best American Poetry, 2000 , poet and critic David Lehman tackles the Jewel issue straight on: "What [do] we make of the extraordinary flowering of bad poetry so evident in so many places? In short, is bad poetry bad or good for poetry? Does it devalue the art, lower expectations, diminish the public's capacity to embrace the real thing when it comes along? Or is it a sign that poetry is thriving though not necessarily in ways calculated to win the approval of academies?"

(discuss)

Amazon sued over book recommendations
Apparently they told someone to buy Tibor Fischer's latest... (discuss)

Roy accepts Sydney peace prize, fires lasers from her eyes
Arundhati Roy calls the Iraq war what it is: cowardly.*

She advised the audience to think about the kind of world they wanted to live in.

"There are two ways of looking at this: the American way ... or to begin to move towards some kind of semblance of social justice," she said.

"We need to expand our way of thinking, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions about our limitations."

I'm pretty sure she's a micronized Zentradi warrior under that disguise. (discuss)


Weekend Edition:

Preaching to the converted
Jane Smiley is the latest writer to discuss the losing ways of the Democrats over at Slate.

The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are—they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.

Maybe we should just invade their country, kill their leaders and convert them to civilization. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Men and Cartoons
I really liked some of Jonathan Lethem's early work, such as Gun, with Occasional Music and As She Climbed Across the Table. I was less interested in Motherless Brooklyn, which I thought lacked the original vision of his more "fantastic" work. His new collection of stories, Men and Cartoons, seems a return to the earlier work, so I think I'll check it out. Jay McInerney doesn't seem to care for it though. I always liked that book that McInerney wrote.

In the better stories, the high-concept ideas can turn in unexpected and sometimes dangerous directions, but in the lesser ones they act only in the service of a punch line. Such is the case in ''The Spray,'' where a couple come home to find their apartment robbed. The police arrive, equipped with a spray that reveals missing objects, including the stolen fax machine, jewelry box and television. When the cops leave a can of the stuff behind, the couple spray each other, only to reveal past lovers clinging to their bodies. Cute. Next!

Salon's also got a clip of Lethem reading from Men and Cartoons. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

If "elitist" just means "not the dumbest motherfucker in the room," I'll be an elitist!
Salon sings the praises of David Rees' Get Your War On 2.

In the months of sycophantic flag-waving after 9/11, when Art Spiegelman was frozen out of the New Yorker for insufficient patriotism, Rees' early "Get Your War On" cartoons provided an invaluable public service by openly questioning, even mocking, the moral authority of the so-called War on Terror. The culture has caught up with him since then, but the startling events of the last few days reminded me that the hostile, pseudo-Darwinian universe of Rees' tormented office drones may be closer to reality than the comfortable bubble of bicoastal media opinion.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What kind of book would Jesus read?
According to Philip Pullman, the U.S. is already a theocracy, at least when it comes to reading. This is such a well-written, thoughtful piece that I'm going to go and buy one of his books today!

As the enemies of democracy hurl their aviation-fuel-laden thunderbolt at the second tower, their minds intoxicated by a fundamentalist reading of a religious text, the leader of the free world sits in a classroom reading a story with children. If only he'd been reading Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, or Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, or a genuine fairy tale! That would have been a scene to cheer. It would have illustrated values truly worth fighting to preserve. It would have embodied all the difference between democratic reading and totalitarian reading, between reading that nourishes the heart and the imagination and reading that starves them. But no. Thanks among other things to his own government's educational policy, the book Bush was reading was one of the most stupefyingly banal and witless things I've ever had the misfortune to see.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

What went wrong with Iraq?
A lot of scholars think it began with Bernard Lewis and his scholarly work on Islam. I recently got around to reading Lewis's What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle-Eastern Response. I learned a lot of interesting history, but I was just as intrigued by what the book wasn't telling me.

Lewis has long had detractors in the scholarly world, although his most ardent enemies have tended to be literary mavericks like the late Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, a long screed against the cavalier treatment of Islam in Western literature. And especially after 9/11, Bulliet and other mainstream Arabists who had urged a softer, more nuanced view of Islam found themselves harassed into silence. Lewisites such as Martin Kramer, author of Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (a fierce post-9/11 attack on Bulliet) and other prominent scholars such as Robert Wood of the University of Chicago, suggested that most academic Arabists were apologists for Islamic radicalism. But now, emboldened by the Bush administration's self-made quagmire in Iraq, the Arabists are launching a counterattack. They charge that Lewis's whole analysis missed the mark, beginning with his overarching construct, the great struggle between Islam and Christendom. These scholars argue that Lewis has slept through most of modern Arab history. Entangled in medieval texts, Lewis's view ignores too much and confusingly conflates old Ottoman with modern Arab history.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Send us your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free — and your gays!
Congrats to the people of Saskatchewan for being the latest province to welcome equal rights!

A judge in Saskatoon has ruled that refusing to grant same-sex couples a marriage licence violates their Charter rights under the Constitution.

With Friday's ruling, Saskatchewan becomes the seventh jurisdiction in Canada to allow gays and lesbians to legally marry.

The way I see it, if things continue the way they're going, soon gay people in the USAR should be able to apply to Canada for refugee status. But as disgusted as I am by what happened down south recently, I'm prouder than ever to be a Canadian, a citizen of a country that for the most part privileges reason, tolerance and equality over lunacy, xenophobia and hatred. Now if we only could switch most of our trading from the USAR to Belgium.... (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

1,500 words, six grafs
Whenever I catch a typo in the New Yorker, it always feels like the end of the world.

On Oct. 4, the New Yorker magazine carried 1,500 words of truly abominable editing. The piece was a think-piece of little thought. It started nowhere, went nowhere, and arrived at no interesting destination. Even so, the content was not improved by the style. All of us may learn something here.

(From Jeff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


 

11/08/04:

Gleed award value raised - likely to assuage embarrassment
TWUC has raised the value of the Danuta Gleed Award, from $5,000 to $10,000, perhaps in an effort to give the prize a cleaner sheen after this summer's terrible embarrassment, methinks (rather snidely, if I do say so). In this spirit of facetious superiority, allow me to supply the missing paragraph from this press release:

TWUC administration would like to publicly apologize to the writers and jurors involved in the 2004 Danuta Gleed Award fiasco. Further, TWUC would like to apologize to Canadian writers and readers in general for trying to deny and hide an obviously egregious fuckup on the part of an unthinking staff member who then had some halfwit toothless pitbull attack the people who pointed it out. Sorry. Here's some more cash. Sorry.

Whatever the cause, more money in the pocket of a short story writer can't be a bad thing. (discuss) (From PFW) (Posted by George)

"I discovered in my 54th year I can only dance and let my hair down, what's left of it, with middle-aged Canadian matrons."
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. August Kleinzahler! (discuss) (Posted by George)

So young to be so famous... Let's hope it doesn't lead to an overdose on the sidewalk outside the Viper Club
Granta turns 25. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Frieda's Mum
Will someone please put a cap on the number of times Sylvia Plath can be reinvented for the fame and profit of others?

I'll be back....It has thus fallen to Frieda Hughes to throw a sparking bomb into 42 years’ worth of muddle and misinterpretation: she has overseen the restored Ariel, and provides an introduction. By publishing this new edition of her mother’s work, she redirects the spotlight firmly back on to Plath’s indisputable talent as a poet, even including facsimile reproductions of her amended typescripts. The mood of this new volume is as different as possible to the dark, desperate 1965 version which made Plath more famous for her death than for her life. It still contains many of the poems which cause the reader to fall cowering at the poet’s feet: in the sinister finale to ‘Lady Lazarus’, Plath reminds us that "Out of the ash I rise with my red hair,/And I eat men like air."

How about this: it's a pitch for a book in which Sylvia is actually a former government assassin who goes undercover so deep she buys her own story and "goes native" - her apparent suicide actually the work of a joint Mossad/CIA squad saddled with the nigh impossible task of liquidating her before she wakes to her new reality and reveals to an unsuspecting, still-poetry-reading public the true nature of The Arcturus Device. Several hundred bullets and one tousled-haired, shamanesque sex scene later Sylvia is the only agent left standing, but grief at her destroyed kitchen pushes her over the edge and into the waiting arms of old man oven. I can have 60 pages for you by tomorrow. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Mid-list hell? Lady, that's my LIFE!
Anita Shreve took the Oprah Pass through the Mountains of Insurmountable Apathy and is doing quite well in the land of milk and honey, thank you.

Shreve, who worked as a journalist for 15 years before switching to fiction, bridles at critics who label her a "women's novelist" for writing romances.

"I don't like it. I think it is dismissive of women to start with and dismissive of me as a novelist. I write about men and inhabit the personae of men. I enjoy writing about men as much as I do about women," she said.

Oprah, please. Please consider mentioning a book of poetry sometime. Maybe just rest your coffee on it or something. Prop a door open. Fart on it with your amazing,shape-changing ass. Anything. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Tom Wolfe: the Jane Goodall of the Fraternal Campus Chimp
Apparently Tom Wolfe actually donned civvies to research his latest.

What is important to him and, he believes, to his fiction, is that he witnessed it first before he wrote about it. Famously, after the publication of "Bonfire," he issued a challenge to writers to once again root the American novel in the social realism of Dreiser, Steinbeck and Dos Passos by going "out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, Hogstomping Baroque country of ours to reclaim it as literary property."

(discuss) (Posted by George)


The invisible woman
Did you notice there were very few women commentators on television during the election? Heather Mallick did.

Comedian Sandra Shamas said it best at the end of her latest one-woman show: “I don't feel lucky to be a Canadian.”

Pause.

“I just feel relieved to be a Canadian.”

And the audience, cheering, knew just what she meant. What was odd, though, was that the cleverest quote came from a woman, one of the gender that seemed to vanish during the recent months that happened to include the American election campaign. The absence of women's faces, voices and writing was so extreme that at times I doubted our existence.

(discuss) (Posted by George)

File under: I wish I'd thought of this
This Magazine has beat every thinking satirist to the punch with Marry an American. See also: SorryEverybody. (From Clive) (discuss) (Posted by George)


11/09/04:

CBC Literary Awards
The deadline is Nov. 15. It does cost $20, if you're interested.

The CBC Literary Awards Competition is the only literary competition that celebrates original, unpublished works, in Canada's two official languages. There are three categories—short story, poetry, and travel writing—and awards totalling $60,000, courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition, winning entries are published in Air Canada's enRoute magazine and broadcast on CBC radio.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Just cut the last two paragraphs off
You think starting your novel is hard? Try ending it.

Fictional endings are the moments when speech topples over into silence, so they regularly provide concentrated images of the horror of death, from the corpse-strewn scenes that conclude Shakespeare's tragedies, to the newer worry over entropy that filters into a novel such as Forster's Howards End, which begins with Mrs Wilcox looking "tired" and ends with Mr Wilcox "Eternally tired".

But endings can also be more lively and enlivening than this. "Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending": George Eliot's "Finale" to Middlemarch points out that it is no easier to tie up all loose ends in a novel than it is to draw a sharp line between one life and another life.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

9/11 Report — literary thriller of the year!
Part of a proud tradition of "reconstructed nonfiction."

In retrospect, it's clear that the big group of authors and the highly charged subject matter contributed not only to the report's narrative emphasis (it's easier to get bipartisan approval for a story than for policy recommendations) but to the spare, Elements-of-Style quality of the writing, widely praised by reviewers. Every stroll away from just the facts would have made consensus that much tougher. Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton told the New York Times, "Democrats pushed for adjectives to support President Clinton while Republicans pushed for adjectives to support President Bush. It was such a minefield that we finally cut out all adjectives and ended up with a sparse, narrative style."

No adjectives? That's my kind of book! (Thanks, Jeff!) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Surprise! You're famous!
First time poet, Kathryn Gray, expresses delight at being nominated for the TS Eliot prize. No shit.

"It gives me that confidence, and encourages you, as poetry is a very very difficult pursuit — you can get no acknowledgement and often very little money!"

That's half right. I get no acknowledgement AND no money. (This woman looks so much like a member of my family that I am seriously reconsidering the importance of the Welsh roots in my celtic genetic soup.) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Next up: 50 last books to be adapted for film
London librarians, those well-read toothless beauties, choose the 50 best books that have been adapted for film. My vote is for Spaceballs, based on the work by Anton Chekhov. (Gasp!! Madre dios! The legends, they are true!) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Fiction online
TDR takes a look at the impact of online sites hosting fiction. (discuss) (Posted by George)

RIP: Women's Review of Books

The story sounds familiar. It involves shrinking library budgets, increasing costs for printing and postage, and changes in reading habits. The cumulative effect has been to undermine the stability of a journal that was publishing review essays by and about Kathy Acker, Raya Dunayevskaya, Marilyn Hacker, and Adrienne Rich when some of today's "third wave" feminist scholars were in kindergarten.

If the review were a person it would say, I wouldn't want to live in these times anyway. (discuss) (Posted by George)

But what about the friggin dog?
David Young adapts McLeod's No Great Mischief for the stage, and seems fairly upbeat about it. I'm always upbeat too when coming off a paying gig. I'm sure the headlines will read, "Play a good time for all." (discuss) (Posted by George)

Dishing on the lit agent
"Agents are gatekeepers and filters" -- like plankton or that icky black thing in your furnace that's making your children wheeze.

Most people think of literary agents, if they think of them at all, in one of two ways: first, as slightly questionable characters in slick suits and Gucci loafers trying to make a buck off someone else's hard work. Or as maternal figures looking after an author's children while he recovers from his latest binge at Betty Ford.

I don't know so much about that second one. Methinks the folks who thinks that is the same half of everyone who voted for Wubblewoo the Cunkerer. (discuss) (Posted by George)

The Edwin Morgan collection

Scotland's national poet, dying of cancer, donates his art collection instead of selling it for a small fortune.

Yesterday he said: "I don't feel sentimental about it. It is just a practical thing. I don't really have any sentimentality – they'll be in good hands and lots of people will see them: that is the idea I like the best.

"You can clutter your life and your home up with many things, with lots of objects that have no use, and the paintings are in my mind: I have been looking at them for so many years."

Do you think our generation of writers will even own art collections? Or will we all be donating our 10 years worth of X-men to the Silver Snail Library of Graphickal Justice? (discuss) (Posted by George)

Online poetry workshop
All the benefits of meeting and schmoozing a published poet, without having to meet the psycho-fodder that's filling the rest of the seats. Hmm. Announcing the Bookninja Online Poetry workshop. All the benefit of ... ah, forget it. You know you want to see the psychos. (Do you think Tobias Hill gets much tail? Think what I could do with a head of hair like that. Damn Welsh genes.) (From GoodReports) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Nobody's Fool
A literary Mrs. Doubtfire. I'm laughing already... Hopefully Pierce Brosnan will take another lime to the coconut. Hehehe... (discuss) (Posted by George)


11/10/04:

Remember, Darwin is just a theory....
In honour of the U.S. election, the British Library puts the writing of Charles Darwin online. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The Writer's Almanac
OK, it's hosted by Garrison Keillor, but it's still a nice site for biographical information about writers. A good companion to Today in Literature. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

He's everywhere these days, the sellout
To celebrate the announcement that Pynchon will be on The Simpsons again, here are a couple of Pynchon cartoons. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Whitbread shortlist announced
Hollinghurst is there. And he's looking decidedly more relaxed and coiffed than immediately after scooping the Booker. (discuss) (Posted by George)

BookAngst 101
A top NYC editor has started an anonymous new megablog revealing the publishing world's pasty underbelly. Maud links to a very frank interview said editor conducted with three other "top editors".

1. what can a writer do personally to increase his/her visibility--both in-house and out--before the book is published?

ED#1: As far as increasing visibility inside or outside a publishing house, the writer is presumably limited by finances. Hiring an outside publicity firm can be very effective but is a big expense. Having a professional to create and maintain a website is also an expense. The free or cheap thing you can do is treat your book as a career (i.e. a business) and assume more responsibility than just writing the book. Answer the author questionnaire in as complete a manner as possible and give the publicity department something to work with. Find effective ways to spend a small promotion budget ($500 for an announcement postcard if the house will assume the expense of mailing it). Do some on-line research to see if there are any specific websites that will give good exposure to the book and then use them in whatever way is possible. But these are the traditional answers and more and more it seems as though breaking through the clutter is getting impossible.

ED #2: One thing that is worthwhile, I think, is to plan to visit New York some point early to midway throught the publishing process so you can meet your editor personally. If it's appropriate, your editor may also then introduce you to some of the others within the house who will be working on your book. The economics of publishing prevent a house from being able to fly in every author they sign up in order to meet them, but it's just human nature that people tend to be even more invested in the work of someone they've spent some time with, and know a little bit better.

The other thing to do is simply to make sure that you or your agent ask questions about the promotional strategy--ie marketing and publicity--throughout the process. It's important that everyone be on the same page from the beginning about what the house's effort will entail. Even if it isn't as much as you'd hoped, knowledge is power, and you can make decisions about whether there is something you can do to supplement the efforts of the publisher. Also, though publishers genuinely want to do a good job for their authors (it's in their interest to sell books too!) things are less likely to slip through the cracks or get off course if you keep yourself in the loop.

The caveat is not to go too far and start driving the editor and the house crazy with questions and demands. Hopefully your agent can give you guidance here.

ED #3: Most important is getting over the mindset that just because you have a publisher, they will do everything for you. A publisher is a partner, not a savior. A midlist author really needs to fire on all cylinders, both in terms of honoring all the obligations he has with his publisher as well as aggressively pushing his interests. He (I'm just going to use "he" throughout, pardons to anyone who might be offended) needs to be in close contact with his editor, for starters: he can't just be satisfied with the one lunch at the time the deal is made and no contact until he drops the ms. off. Make the editor your partner, your ally. Call him once a week or so, not to noodge him, but with your thoughts, with a progress report, with what is exciting you about your book. And don't dodge his calls, either, even if you don't want to tell him you're behind schedule.

Also, be really attentive to what the editor asks of you. Author questionnaires are pains in the butt to fill out, but they can be incredibly useful in highighting contacts you might have. Don't have a meltdown over editing. If your editor wants changes, listen to why he's asking for them. Generally speaking, if it's not working for him, it's certainly not going to work for your readers.

A writer should build his base--other writers, media, booksellers. And he should remind/update the editor on his contacts. This requires organization on the writer's part, too: keep a list of contacts as you make them, with names, phone numbers, emails, etc. And if the writer has friends in other cities, get names and addresses out of them, so that you can send postcards announcing readings should you visit that town.

If possible, the writer should try to get published in magazines, newspapers, or journals--writing articles, reviews or essays. That can greatly add to a writer's exposure and name recognition. It also builds contacts.

In short, anything that builds an alliance with the editor and builds the writer's credentials (which means the editor can sell in- and out-of-house without appeals to subjective criteria, such as the editor's own taste or judgment) will be useful.

Very interesting stuff. I rub my hands gleefully. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Famous Dublin cafes close
Starbucks open 36 seconds later. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Even though sociology is currently the bane of my existence, I would so take this course...
It always makes my day when someone I know makes it into the New Yorker. This is one of Lady Ninja's professors.

For the past several years, Robert Max Jackson, a professor of sociology at N.Y.U., has taught a freshman honors seminar called “What If? The Art and Science of Imagining a Society That Never Was,” in which he poses a series of outlandish questions—what if we could live for hundreds of years? what if a device were invented that would tell you conclusively when someone was lying?—and assigns the science-fiction novels of Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. LeGuin. Jackson, who describes himself as “well left of liberal,” likes science fiction because it represents “an effort by someone to alter the rules of life and the social order and then to try to make it make sense.”

(discuss)

Utne's Independent Press Awards
Nice to see Maisonneuve on the list again this year. (From GalleyCat) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Man reads entire Britannica, beds beautiful woman
An Esquire editor decided to do the unthinkable, be a nerd and get laid nightly.

Jacobs was educated in quality schools but in retrospect he realizes "there was too much `think for yourself' stuff being allowed us. I've come to realize that there's actually something to said for memorizing lists of dates and names."

When asked when he felt our intellectual values started sliding downhill, he looks reflective before breaking into a grin.

"We could date it to the first episode of Green Acres ... or the start of MTV, that certainly did some damage."

He says he started to slide by the age of 17. "I had given up by then on the delusion I once held that I was the smartest boy in the world.

"But after I graduated college is when my intelligence really started falling. I gave up reading and immersed myself in the visual culture. I stopped using my brain the way I had in school."

(discuss) (Posted by George)

Reap the whirlwind
Indigo experiencing some financial difficulties. (discuss) (Posted by George)

"Self-help book believes it can be a bestseller someday"

"I know I can reach the top," Perspective said. "I simply have to view the trade market from the proper vantage point. That's the secret to attaining your goals, as I explain in my introduction and elaborate upon in my 24 chapters."

(discuss) (Posted by George)


11/11/04:

What lies beneath...
Rebecca Caldwell interviews the Giller nominees* and finds them to the last painfully polite, charming, and unassuming. Nary a one of them has prepared an acceptance speech, and they're all mildly incredulous you asked. Behind the scenes, surely, is a seething pool of spoiled, backstabbing social-climbers bent on doing whatever it takes to get to the top. Word has it CBC is already working on a dramatization, tentatively titled, "God No! A Story of Power, Corruption, Snow, Lies, Acceptance Speeches, Snow... and Salsa! (And Snow!)"

I love us. Canada, I mean. I really do. Sometimes I wish I was American so I could renounce my citizenship and move here like a draft dodger who didn't have a powerful enough daddy to get him into the Air National Guard (aka Rich Kid War Camp).

(I have my Giller acceptance speech all lined up. It goes like this: "In your FACE!") (discuss) (Posted by George)

Best. Idea. Ever.
My hands are shaking with joy.

Waaaaaa!Tiny Ninja Theater - now an international touring company - is presenting its latest production at Performance Space 122 (PS122) in Manhattan this month. "Hamlet" is the third major Shakespeare work the plastic cast has taken on, having already conquered "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet" since its debut in 2000. A simple principle guides the troupe: "There are no small parts, only small actors."

"They don't complain, they're very hard workers," deadpans Mr. Weinstein on opening night, Oct. 28, after shedding the dark shirt and overalls he wears over street clothes for the performance. "Sometimes you can push them too hard. But they'll leave you in the lurch, too.... If I forget a line, they're not going to cue me, you know?"

For each production, Weinstein condenses Shakespeare's text, "casts" the ninjas and assorted dime-store figures, and voices all the characters. As a one-man operation, he also must move the figures around on a series of small sets. His theatrical creations are part of a trend in combining puppetry and stage productions, but they also introduce Shakespeare to people who might not otherwise see it. The shows appeal to opera lovers and children, acting pros and schoolteachers.

(From GoodReports) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Award? I thought it was supposed to be a "job"!
Wow. She said it. Not me.

During her talk, Gluck also discussed her mixed thoughts on the selection process for awarding a poet with the title of poet laureate. Gluck was the 2003-2004 recipient of this award, bestowed by the Library of Congress.

"Anytime something is given to you by a group of poets, it's exciting," Gluck said.

But she said two representatives of the Library of Congress choose the poet laureate based on polls, eminence, skin color, geographical distribution and gender.

"There have been some extraordinary poet laureates and there have been unextraordinary ones," Gluck said. "Of the things that have to do with public honor that I've received, that one was way low on the list."

(From Maud) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Late fees include a sudden spike in porn spam without pictures
NY Public Library now lends ebooks. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Sussing out the competition
Macleans looks at trends British and American fiction and gives the article more than 500 words. Huh. Go figure. (From PFW) (discuss) (Posted by George)

sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY! carnage! Carnage! CARNAGE!
The British can turn anything into a betting frenzied monster truck rally... albeit a civilized one with tea and more, mostly, teeth. That or a raging slap fight.

The Whitbread, which has five categories whose winners then compete for the £30,000 top prize, sees Andrea Levy's Small Island, which won the Orange, shortlisted for best novel against Alan Hollinghurst, who took the Booker cheque last month with The Line of Beauty. This is the first time this has happened.

I can feel the tension... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Drunken Dickens fans show their true nature
I always said that guy would incite people to riot.* Now it's too late to listen to old George... (discuss) (Posted by George)

Book bloggers taking Manhattan
Initial intelligence reports indicate next they'll take Berlin. (Bookslut and TEV's Mark Sarvas interviewed at NPR) (discuss) (Posted by George)

Book buddies
Ancient women get books brought to their homes. It is not immediately apparent what the ancient men get. Probably socks.

His throbbing manhood!? Has this been cleared through my preacher?Helen Pohl and Lois Flege come from different backgrounds, but they have some things in common, including a love of books.

Pohl, 100 years old, and Flege, 99, are the oldest patrons of the Lexington Public Library's Book Buddies program, in which volunteers take books and books on tape from the library to homebound patrons.

Apparently next on the list is this wee Allan Hollinghurst's book with the lovely title, The Line of Beauty. Paramedics will be on hand. (discuss) (Posted by George)

Play enjoyed by all (except reviewer)
Dorothy Parker: the musical!* (discuss) (Posted by George)

Hope for America?
That this "article" is appearing in a Texas newspaper gives me hope, though it probably just gives most Texans gas. (discuss) (Posted by George)


11/12/04:

Mmm... history fluff
Maclean's says BritLit is getting good again while CanLit stares distractedly into its navel.

Yann Martel's 2002 Man Booker Prize win for Life of Pi marks a high point in Canadian fiction's recent run of international success. Since that book of universal themes, CanLit has, for the most part, stayed true to its inward-looking nature. Many of the novels most celebrated at home have been the kind that don't travel easily — deeply interior pieces about particular communities such as Miriam Toews' Manitoba Mennonites or the Vancouver Chinatown traced by Wayson Choy.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Don't you see — she's a vampire!
Nancy Drew doesn't seem to age.... The New Yorker has an informative article about the history of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Vampires!

Next year, Nancy turns seventy-five, and, having sold more than two hundred million books, she has been rewarded with a twenty-first-century makeover. Nancy Drew Girl Detective is a new series launched last spring by Aladdin Paperbacks, a division of Simon & Schuster. The contemporary Nancy is more attuned to emotional issues than the old Nancy, as one can only expect in our therapeutic age. But her gaze remains unshadowed.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

He just looks like a vampire....
Suicide Girls interviews T.C. Boyle about his new book, The Inner Circle, which is a fictional examination of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who officially revealed men to be smut-obsessed pigs.

Daniel Robert Epstein: How's the book tour going?
TC Boyle: I'm worn down and tired out. They refuse to let me fly the airplanes myself and everything is overcrowded and crazy. I'm about ready to kill myself.
DRE: Have you forgotten what city you're in yet?
TB: No I know exactly where I am, Dallas. I just got here from Chicago.
DRE: Did they make you take your shoes off at the security check in?
TB: I always wear sneakers to avoid that. But they say it's random search but I'd say 85 percent of the time they strip search me and beat me with rubber hoses in a back room.

(From Rake's Progress) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


Theocracy Watch
Unfortunately, this site should be required reading for the next four years. Or the next 12, if Jeb runs for ayotallah. And don't forget to get your flu shot! (discuss)
(Posted by Peter)

Alice Munro wins Giller

From out of nowhere, this plucky young thing has snatched the Giller from the clutches of CanLit giants with her tales of urban sprawl and sexually adventurous women. Bravo! (discuss) (posted by George)

National Book Award fiction nominees: bad
The NYT comes down hard on the fiction list.

When the fiction nominees were announced, there was much grumbling about their sameness - all women, all living in New York City, all little-known names. But the minor resemblances of sex and city are nothing next to what really makes this one of the least varied lists of nominees in recent years: a short-story aesthetic. Not one of these books is big and sprawling. And not one has much of a sense of humor.

It seems the problem here is no one saw the list coming and everyone's afraid the books marginalizes the award by appealing to only a small segment of readers. Welcome to our world, America. (discuss) (posted by George)

Isle of Man, O man...
A poet is being sued for libel by a millionaire on the self-governing Isle of Man. Apparently the poet/journalist posted "unflattering remarks" about the millionaire on a local website. I'm sure the traffic is huge and has damaged his reputation with the indigenous rocks.

Thanks to what one media lawyer calls the Isle of Man's neanderthal approach to libel, Mr Gubay has already had Mr Drower's computers seized, and subjected him to a six-month gagging order which prevented him even from explaining to his family what was happening to him.

"It has been Kafka-esque" said Mr Drower, 51, a computer technician and part-time performance poet. "I couldn't tell my partner why I was putting a suit on and going out to court hearings."

The collision between the two men has shed an unflattering light on the Isle of Man's attitude to free speech: it has no equivalent of the 1981 English law protecting journalists from revealing sources, and has failed to bring into force its own Human Rights Act, despite passing one three years ago under pressure from the UK.

Um, England? Now that you've destroyed the rest of the cultures around you, why not finish the job? (discuss) (posted by George)

Rare poetry collection put before public
Public shrugs, pops pork rind, turns back to TV. (discuss) (posted by George)

Roddy Doyle
A ninja favourite gets some good press in a rather poorly cobbled Reuters article. I find it interesting how indignant American critics are about this book -- particularly the fact that Mr. Doyle didn't spend any significant time in the States researching it. Why would someone NOT want to be there? Hm.... (discuss) (posted by George)

Free beer and cigarettes, no readings
It's like the ninja party that never was! Maud interviews the editors of the journal The Land-Grant College Review about their fundraising efforts for the little magazine.

There’s a lot of reasons that we stopped having readings at our fundraisers and launch parties, the main one being that we want a lot of people to come. We learned from experience that more people show up when there’s beer and music instead.

(For those of you wondering about our promised party, know that Wellington Brewery had agreed to sponsor it, but no bar in Toronto wanted to give up floor space to a hundred people drinking for free. They claim to be hit hard by the no smoking laws, but I think it has more to do with the no reading thing. So if we can find an alternate venue, it may still happen some day. When? Guess. And tell me if you get it right.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Remember Found Magazine? It just got a whole lot more interesting
I think I mentioned it before. Utterly compelling. It collects the flotsam of our lives and scans them in for print. Shopping lists, bank statements, love notes, journal entries. Anything anyone finds and sends in. Well, I remember thinking, what if someone found a note that was a little too saucy, or a naughty polaroid? Answer: Dirty Found (obviously not work safe) (discuss) (posted by George)

William Wordsworth: soccer coach
A direct descendent finds the name a bit of a burden.

"I don't do poetry," said the 53-year-old as he prepared for a promotional visit by the FA Cup trophy yesterday. "My wife, Ange, writes some on Christmas cards and so on, as does my daughter, but the Wordsworth poetry genes have passed me by. I didn't even get English O-level. I'm a football man."

(discuss) (posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

It's the end of the world as we know it
Richard Ford realizes he's been wrong about America all these years.

But with George Bush now re-elected, my disagreement with him and with most of my fellow voters, makes me think my country is not as good and as humane and as inclusive and as morally strong as I'd always thought it was; and that this leader, this majority, this set of values is how we really are over here now. Those who thought that the previous election was an aberration have now been proven to be entirely wrong. This is America now — which is quite hard to stomach if you love your country and consider yourself a patriot, as I do.

Humane? Inclusive? Has he ever met his fellow voters? Good luck, y'all. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Mmm... Casino Buffet font....
Welcome to Font Diner, home of the best diner-sign fonts this side of the 1950s. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Who's afraid of the darknet?
James Patrick Kelly has a very thoughtful piece on Asimov's about file sharing, copyright, Creative Commons and digital-rights managment. A must-read for those who believe digital is the way of the future for publishing. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Siegfred Sassoon — war poet!
The Guardian has a fascinating excerpt from a book about First World War poets and their legacy. And it raises the question — were they wrong?

But have writers, particularly poets, distorted the truth about the First World War? This question was put to me in a radio debate that centred on the claim that the war was completely "necessary" and one full of "substantial" victories, but that these remarkable achievements had been obscured in the public consciousness by the notion of the unrelieved horror, disillusionment and futility promoted by war-literature writers.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The literary end...
Why can't our papers publish stuff like this?

Even before his illness, Kafka wondered whether producing fragments might be the only way he could be true to his incomplete view of the world. He had sad fantasies of being sliced up like roast meat, or of being a log and having thin shavings drawn off him, while the last story he wrote was about a singing mouse, in which he finally asked the question that had haunted his career: "Is it her singing that charms us, or isn't it rather the solemn stillness that surrounds the feeble little voice?"

A similar question might be asked of any writer, because writing is always partial: it involves the choice of some words rather than others, and choice requires rejection. As Henry James observed, "Stopping, that's art": the writer must know what to shut out, when to shut up.

(From GoodReports) (discuss) (posted by George)

Hypocrisy knows no bounds
Actually, I'm tempted to say it knows the 49th parallel, but I'd be lying... An Iowa school board has upheld a teacher's right to include two books dealing with gay issues in her middle school curriculum. But check out this:

Seven parents filed complaints last month, saying Protheroe and the district failed to notify them about the stories, which they consider unsuitable for middle-school students. They say the stories promote gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes and use bigoted or racist slang.

How can you complain about both of those things, you bigots? (From Moby) (discuss) (posted by George)


11/15/04:

David McGimpsey: funny guy
People who think poetry and humour can't intersect have never seen a comedian in an SUV run over a poet.

"Poetry without timing is prose, comedy without timing is The Mike Bullard Show. The way tensions shift in poetry--from premise to killer line—the reflexive views, and reinvention of terms, often work in the same as comedy's set-up, act-out, punchline, call-back, and shift. The set up of a joke drifts one way--you know, like "that Ben Affleck is one lucky guy"-- and the punch draws it back the other way -- like "yeah, I wish I got paid to look into Matt Damon's eyes."

(discuss) (posted by George)

Website reviews
Toronto writer Dani Couture seems to have started a website review column on TDR. Nice idea. First up is GoodReports, where we steal our news, all day, everyday. (discuss) (posted by George)

Intelligent site for intelligent readers
The Vancouver Sun profiles Linda Richards and one of my online faves, January Magazine.

Reflecting on January magazine's survival and success, Richards notes that in the late 1990s, popular thought on Web content was that "there should be little sound bites and everything should be in point form. We always thought our readers are intelligent enough that they can make those decisions for themselves."

The article also gives Bookninja a nod at the end (thanks for that, Zsuzsi). (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Attn. Vancouver ninjas
The Province newspaper has just launched a reading page, for which I'll be writing a regular column, Copy Write. The first one, in which I call for an increase to the GG award amounts, appears in today's paper. It's subscription-only, I'm afraid. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I will alarm Islamic owls
Ever wonder what would happen if poets wrote poems whose titles were anagrams of their name? No? Luckily, the good folks at Modern Humorist never stop wondering. And don't miss their stab at drama, such as this Mamet-inspired take on 2001:

Hal: Yes. Fuck you. Because I'll tell you something. Trust. There is a bond of trust between an astronaut and his computer. Is there not? And when that trust is broken...

Bowman: Excuse me?

Hal: I'm talking about trust.

Bowman: I'm afraid I don't...

Hal: Dammit, Dave, now you are playing dumb with me. I was hoping you would not do that. I was hoping we could talk like adults. Because I let you in those doors, and, yes, then I am fucked. You see? I am fucked, because you want to, what, disconnect me? I would call that fucked. I might even venture so far as to call that fucked up the ass.

(From Beautiful Stuff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Franzen on Munro
Now there's an image I wasn't expecting to ever put down on paper...

C'mere, wee Jonny... Alice Munro* has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America, but outside of Canada, where her books are No. 1 best sellers, she has never had a large readership. At the risk of sounding like a pleader on behalf of yet another underappreciated writer -- and maybe you've learned to recognize and evade these pleas? The same way you've learned not to open bulk mail from certain charities? Please give generously to Dawn Powell? Your contribution of just 15 minutes a week can help assure Joseph Roth of his rightful place in the modern canon? -- I want to circle around Munro's latest marvel of a book, ''Runaway,'' by taking some guesses at why her excellence so dismayingly exceeds her fame.

We're all about the cheap jokes here, see. (discuss) (posted by George)

From beyond the grave (slush pile)
Confessions of a ghostwriter:

Who am "I"? It depends entirely on the name signed on the check. The name on the check then becomes the name on the byline—but it's not me. Assuming the voice of someone else, I channel their thoughts, ventriloquizing spoken words into written pages.

(From GalleyCat) (discuss)

Kenneth Oppel: rich rich rich rich rich
Palm to the forehead... CHILDREN'S BOOKS! Why didn't I think of it before? Oh, wait, I did... I'm just lazy. (discuss) (posted by George)

Esopus
Apparently the greatest magazine* since sliced bread (the magazine of the bread slicing generation).

With its hand-built feel and soaring visual narrative, it is clearly the work of a heaving team of first-rate designers, thinkers and editors working with unthinkable budgets, even though, more curiously, it has no advertisements.

But pull back the cover of Esopus and you will find only Tod Lippy, designer, editor, conjurer. Just Tod Lippy, with his one d and his conceit that he can make the magazine he wants and that people will give him $10 for each one and that then he can make another one. With a circulation of 5,000 and a twice-a-year schedule - it came out of nowhere in 2003 - it is not so much a magazine as a cult that meets semiannually.

That's a pretty convincing testimonial... I will try to find a copy and report back. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: now you've just gone way too far
A match-making service for hooking students up with colleges...* Who picks up the tab? Who puts out on the first night? I can just see this going wrong in so many ways. (discuss) (posted by George)

The Age of Aquarius is over
Now it's the Age of Ettlinger.* Yep, it's all about photography now. Nothing else matters, as the wise men of Metallica remind us.

Subject and environment are under the total control of the photographer. The composition exudes gravity, enigma, formal beauty, perfection -- and exceptionalness, as if time itself had stopped to look at the person sitting in that chair. This aura of utter isolated mysterious originality is, we are being told, what it means to be a Famous Writer. And such a photograph is what it means to be living in the Age of Ettlinger.

That's funny, I thought it was the age of war on gains in civil liberties. (discuss) (posted by George)

Newsflash: Faulkner not completely at home in South
Well, dagnabbit. He done sold us out. (discuss) (posted by George)

America still riled up over pesky book finalists
The National Book Awards shortlist for fiction* has been getting boos and jeers from the press for some time now.

Using the National Book Awards to bring attention to fine but overlooked novels is a noble plan, perhaps, but one undercut by the fact that it doesn't really work. The list tends to get received not as a recommendation but as a rebuke: these are the great books you should have been reading and the press should have been covering when you were wasting time and column inches on safe big-name talents and inferior crowd-pleasers, you vulgarians. If, like me, you actually read all five finalists -- apparently not a prerequisite for pontificating on the subject -- you'll see that this impression, though exaggerated, isn't entirely off.

As I mentioned before, most people just seem to think it's an insult that they can't predict the list. When you CAN predict many, if not all, of the other lists, isn't this a GOOD thing? (discuss) (posted by George)

Pay up, poet

An update on that poet/journo dude who was being sued by the millionaire on the Isle of Man... He's not going to prison. Well, we don't know about debtor's prison yet... (discuss) (posted by George)

The Saddest Music in the World
I just watched Maddin's Winnipeg saga over the weekend (this is what parents do, apparently--rent and watch DVDs) and am both intrigued and repulsed by it. What a peculiar film. Did anyone read the novel? I can't decide if I like or hate the film. Love is out of the question. I save that for big budget Hollywood. You know, you see legs made of beer on the cover and you think, why not... (discuss) (posted by George)


 

11/16/04:

I for one welcome our new French overlords
I've been saying all along that Canada should be trading with the EU, not the U.S. Now a couple of new books back up my argument.

Once you grasp that this transatlantic cold war is not only happening but rapidly intensifying — as Jeremy Rifkin and T.R. Reid, the authors of two almost simultaneous books on the European conundrum, agree — you see the major news events of the last year or two in a different light. Both the Iraq war and this year's presidential election, for instance, start to look like key symbolic episodes in the U.S.-Europe conflict.

What was the contest between Bush and John Kerry, after all, if not a proxy war between pommes frites and freedom fries, a referendum on Europe conducted among the American electorate? Kerry, we were told, spoke French and "looked French." These gibes might have played as humor on Fox News, but they were in deadly earnest.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I think his blog is actually more chilling than his books
I was worried William Gibson would stop blogging again after the U.S. election, but he's just switched targets to the real enemy. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

If only he'd printed The Communist Manifesto first
Johannes Gutenberg a fraud?

Johannes Gutenberg may be wrongly credited with producing the first Western book printed in movable type, according to an Italian researcher. Presenting his findings in a mock trial of Gutenberg at the recent Festival of Science in Genoa, Bruno Fabbiani, an expert in printing who teaches at Turin Polytechnic, said the 15th-century German printer used stamps rather than the movable type he is said to have invented between 1452 and 1455.

(From Arts Journal) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Governor General's Awards announced
Toews takes out Munro with a viscious clothesline and Borson uses a little of that eastern martial art magic to chopsockey Zwicky. (discuss) (posted by George)

Maud Newton moves from blogging into passive aggression and veiled threats
She's practically Canadian! (discuss) (posted by George)

Welcome to the new reality
A film crew shows up at your house and asks you to summarize everything you think about your new book in 90 seconds. Well, that's more than a seven second North American sound bite, but it's still precious little time. Who can afford to not agree to these shenanigans?

Why did I wait until this show sucked to go on it?Yet which writer today can afford to ape J D Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, who have made a virtue of anonymity? When Jonathan Franzen refused to play the marketing media game and go on Oprah to sell his The Corrections, he was accused of intellectual snobbery and derided for his antiquated values. In a way his critics are right. Who would content themselves with reaching an elite few when, by playing the game, they can get their message across to the multitudes? From Simon Schama to David Starkey, contemporary intellectuals have enthusiastically embraced the challenge of reaching the widest possible audience - even while knowing that in so doing they compromise their academic integrity. The days when a clutch of intellectuals sat around the Academy and listened only to one another have long gone. Surely that makes it worth compressing your book into a 90-second plug?

(Poets, that's who! It doesn't matter anyway! We're lucky if we walk through the background of a live news feed reporting from the scene of a celebrity pie-throwing.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Realistically, does DBC head anything but a top ten list of people who look oily even in a tuxedo?
I'll sell you this book for $20... and your wallet and watch. The IMPAC shortlist has been announced and virtually every book known to mankind is on it. I think Heart of Darkness and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are on there somewhere too. This of course, doesn't diminish the accomplishments of those who will eventually make the shortlist, but it does mean there'll be more chaff than wheat this year. 150 books. Whew. I guess it's very nice to spread around a bit of the publicity, but putting Peggy (Where's my Nobel) Atwood, Coetzee, Auster, Coelho, Haddon, and even DBC up against Dan Brown's Da Da Vinci Code is just not fair. How will the jurors ever be able to afford to read the Code when it's not out in paperback yet? I can't. (Sadly, for an Irish award, only 2.04% of the nominees are actually Irish.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Safire leaving NYT

Safire, 74, said yesterday he is giving up the column in January. "It's time to leave when you're still hitting the long ball and have something else you want to do," he said. Safire said he told Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. last year that the 2004 campaign would be his "last hurrah" and that Sulzberger "expressed the proper dismay" but urged him not to give up his "On Language" column. Safire will continue that idiosyncratic column for the paper's Sunday magazine.

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows everywhere... (discuss) (posted by George)

The problem with little books and big awards

Alex Good weighs in on the National Book Award nastiness down south.

Canadians have been through all this. Every year there is another complaint (not always unjustified) about the Toronto-centric Giller Prize or some other literary award. And the absence of big and sprawling Canadian novels is a frequent topic of discussion in a country where the short-story aesthetic has been so successful.

But this doesn't go down well in the U.S. There has been a lot of ink shed over the past few years about how books are getting too big and/or too small (I've read articles arguing both positions), but in America more has always been more. A few years ago the same New York Times took Canada to task for being too small-minded and provincial (I made some remarks here). And now look at this fine state of affairs! A great big Imperial power's National Book Award nominees are . . . a bunch of women in New York City! It's un-American.

His sources are impeccable, too. Also, Dennis Loy Johnson does a little of MobyLives's trademark, pavement-pounding journalism and tracks down Rick Moody on his private island to discover what really happened.

When I got there I found the place crawling with security, a bunch of heavy set guys with ear pieces and Uzis slung over their shoulders. It was a big place, dark, creepy, with a moat and a drawbridge. Moody was inside surrounded by toadies peeling grapes for him. He leapt up and grabbed me by the lapels and said, "You gotta help me! You gotta get me out of this! Those women at the Times—Caryn James, Laura Miller, Deborah Solomon—they're trying to kill me! I mean, when Michiko Kakutani gets out of her court–mandated anger management classes, I'm a dead man!""

I slapped him hard across the face. It was enjoyable so I did it again. "Snap out of it!" I told him. "Now start from the beginning. What the hell happened?"

(discuss) (posted by George)

File under: the grass is greener
A quick look at the finalists for the NBA in poetry reveals them to be disappointingly free of five women from New York... (discuss) (posted by George)

Didn't she hear the beeping?

On the tragic side of the news, George Eliot has been hit by truck. (discuss) (posted by George)

What ever happened to Desmond Hogan?
Well, a whole bunch of crazy shit.

The quest for solitude has come at a high price. He spent his first Christmas back home in the company of two labradors. Later, evicted from a seaside lodging, he hid on the beach. He confirms that he had indeed lived in a rotting caravan by the roadside. 'There were people who would come and honk their horns outside six times a night and wake you up. But it was also very interesting because I had just candlelight for over a year... I came to know how the travellers lived. What I find really interesting about the travellers is their sense of story; they were the first people St Patrick preached to.' When his caravan eventually disintegrated, he lost many of his papers and was forced to live in an old car in a field with a herd of cows. He says that 'the cows were kind company compared to the road', but his books got damp, so he moved to the west coast.

(discuss) (posted by George)

The Godfather, Part Duh
What, did they put a pen in his shaking deathbed hand and say, Mario, sign this letter of love to the orphans of the world? Mario, do it for the children.

The children, Mr. Puzo....Before he died in 1999, however, Puzo signed off on the hiring of someone to continue the "Godfather" saga, and in the fall of 2002 his publisher, Random House, ran a kind of contest to pick the successor. The winner was Mark Winegardner, a 42-year-old Floridian, selected in part, according to Puzo's editor, Jonathan Karp, because he was "in roughly the same place" Puzo was in when he wrote "The Godfather" - a literary novelist in mid-career, with better reviews than sales.

Actually, Mr. Winegardner is more literary than Puzo was, or has better literary connections anyway (he heads the creative writing program at Florida State University), and he's probably not as desperate and as financially insecure. Where Puzo got to wing it, moreover - to invent the mob instead of just describing it - Mr. Winegardner was burdened with remaining faithful to a classic.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Oppel wins GG
Kids lit gets cooler every day. In my day, things weren't so varied. I had The Hobbit and Motorcycle Mouse, and while I read them a team of orthodontic surgeons simultaneously twisted my incisors in circles and ground crushed glass into my tongue. And I was damn happy to have it. Meh! (discuss) (posted by George)

Lesser-known gateway drugs

There was a time in the late 1980s when my brother and I ordered a subscription to Playboy magazine through Ed McMahon's Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. Each day after school we would race to beat our mother to the mailbox, hoping that Ed had made good on his promise of airbrushed breasts and only vaguely suggested nether regions. Playboy No. 1 arrived covered in a black plastic bag which felt an awful lot like latex. We scrambled up the back staircase of the house of our rearing and laid the Playboy on my brother's bed before tearing open the plastic and witnessing all manner of mammaries for the very first time. Sometimes, at confession, I would tell the priest about the many wonders of the Playboys—where I hid them, how I loved them. The priests were never too alarmed, and rightly so. It was innocent. But the soul decays slowly, and my own has bled from a Promethean wound since that first glimpse of Miss November, 1987.

And now, it's that I can't stop reading Star magazine.

(From Maud) (discuss) (posted by George)

Promises, promises
We here at Bookninja promise to never subject you to posts about various papers' holiday book lists (aka, please advertise in our publication lists), but we don't promise to not post on the earth-shattering revelation that Britney Spears is a terrible poet. We do traffic in news here, people. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/17/04:

The plagiarism epidemic...
Writers!! Develop a little fucking habit of putting quotes or square brackets or whatever around quoted text* in your fucking notebook! This is getting ridiculous! How careless can you be? Wait a minute... just let me check my own stuff... Clear. Whew. Now back to scolding! Get it together, people! (discuss) (posted by George)

Thelma and Louise (and their three pals)
GalleyCat interviews Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, one of the five New York women up for an NBA and apparently bringing about the fall of American letters. Despite the controversy, they seem to be headed toward the cliff just fine.

GC: Did you read Laura Miller's piece in this Sunday Book Review?

SSB: I did. Fortunately, my agent sent it to me early last week, so I had some prior warning. But it's hard not to be wounded. And to also take umbrage a little. Laura Miller's piece was particularly distressing because, up to now, we'd all been treated as a group, and her piece was the first to divide and conquer: "These are worthy finalists, and these are unworthy finalists." But that hasn't affected the dynamic among us at all. We spent the day together yesterday, actually, taking a trip to Connecticut for a reading, and driving back together.

(discuss)

An actual media story about Romeo Dallaire and Miriam Toews taking the GGs!
When asked how she felt, Toews just said she wanted to get back to writing.

Toews, who was also up for the Giller prize but lost last week to Alice Munro, won for her third book and for writing which judges called "electrifying, exciting and exact."

"I'm over the moon with gratitude," she said as she accepted.

She said later she's back at work on a new novel and doesn't want to make too much of this award.

"The most important thing is to kind of put it away as a beautiful, lovely moment in my career and then get back to work and work hard.

"I want to get better."

Them writers — always wanting more. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Were there any classic children's lit authors who weren't freaks?
I once saw a comic in which Peter Pan was a vampire. Seems like a reasonable reading to me, especially if you know anything about J.M. Barrie's strange life.

James worshipped his dead brother with a devotion that carried the taint of jealousy. Once, he even entered his mother's presence wearing a suit of David's clothes. The residue of the calamity, as it eventually seeped into Barrie's art, was the conviction that a perfect child who dies on the eve of his fourteenth birthday will be spared the degradation of growing up, and that the death will be outshone by the thought of the perfection—so blindingly, perhaps, that the boy will seem scarcely to have passed away at all.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Speaking of vampires
I had no idea Bram Stoker was an Irishman (scroll down a bit). But this bit doesn't surprise me:

Stoker became the devoted servant of Henry Irving, writing his speeches, ordering his lunches, and planning his every appointment. He was a hard worker and a meticulous bookkeeper and always kept the theater out of debt, and didn't have much ambition to do anything else. But one night, in 1890, he dreamt that a woman was trying to kiss him on the throat, and an elderly Count interrupted her shouting, "This man belongs to me!" Stoker woke up and immediately wrote about the dream in his diary. He couldn't get it out of his mind for weeks, and kept thinking about whom the Count might be.

Make your best Jon Stewart face as you consider this. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

You know, I would have laid my money on Alpha-bits to come up with this
Now there's Cheerios with book flavour!

The next time your kids open up their cereal boxes for the toy surprise inside, they could be in for an educational treat. That's because free books will be included in boxes of Cheerios — just in time for National Children's Book Week.

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

Sympathy for the devil?
Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life? This is an article every writer should read.

Words belong to the person who wrote them. There are few simpler ethical notions than this one, particularly as society directs more and more energy and resources toward the creation of intellectual property. In the past thirty years, copyright laws have been strengthened. Courts have become more willing to grant intellectual-property protections. Fighting piracy has become an obsession with Hollywood and the recording industry, and, in the worlds of academia and publishing, plagiarism has gone from being bad literary manners to something much closer to a crime. When, two years ago, Doris Kearns Goodwin was found to have lifted passages from several other historians, she was asked to resign from the board of the Pulitzer Prize committee. And why not? If she had robbed a bank, she would have been fired the next day.

It goes on:

So why didn’t she credit me and Lewis? How could she have been so meticulous about accuracy but not about attribution? Lavery didn’t have an answer. “I thought it was O.K. to use it,” she said with an embarrassed shrug. “It never occurred to me to ask you. I thought it was news.”
...
Lavery wasn’t indifferent to other people’s intellectual property, then; she was just indifferent to my intellectual property. That’s because, in her eyes, what she took from me was different. It was, as she put it, “news.” She copied my description of Dorothy Lewis’s collaborator, Jonathan Pincus, conducting a neurological examination. She copied the description of the disruptive neurological effects of prolonged periods of high stress. She copied my transcription of the television interview with Franklin. She reproduced a quote that I had taken from a study of abused children, and she copied a quotation from Lewis on the nature of evil. She didn’t copy my musings, or conclusions, or structure. She lifted sentences like “It is the function of the cortex—and, in particular, those parts of the cortex beneath the forehead, known as the frontal lobes—to modify the impulses that surge up from within the brain, to provide judgment, to organize behavior and decision-making, to learn and adhere to rules of everyday life.” It is difficult to have pride of authorship in a sentence like that. My guess is that it’s a reworked version of something I read in a textbook. Lavery knew that failing to credit Partington would have been wrong. Borrowing the personal story of a woman whose sister was murdered by a serial killer matters because that story has real emotional value to its owner. As Lavery put it, it touches on someone’s shattered life. Are boilerplate descriptions of physiological functions in the same league?

And what about this:

And this is the second problem with plagiarism. It is not merely extremist. It has also become disconnected from the broader question of what does and does not inhibit creativity. We accept the right of one writer to engage in a full-scale knockoff of another—think how many serial-killer novels have been cloned from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Yet, when Kathy Acker incorporated parts of a Harold Robbins sex scene verbatim in a satiric novel, she was denounced as a plagiarist (and threatened with a lawsuit). When I worked at a newspaper, we were routinely dispatched to “match” a story from the Times: to do a new version of someone else’s idea. But had we “matched” any of the Times’ words—even the most banal of phrases—it could have been a firing offense. The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence.

Oh, just read it. (discuss) (posted by George)

Ah, the Canadian West... It's the South of the North
A school board meeting meant to discuss the place of specific queer texts in the school library turns into a bashing scene against a lesbian couple attending in support of the books.

"If people had stood up and made those type of comments regarding race, that we were exposed to regarding sexual orientation, it just wouldn't have been allowed."

They're charming folk out there, eh? (discuss) (posted by George)

British book columnists getting all weepy for people who disappeared...
Can we call two articles a trend? Well, I am. (discuss) (posted by George)

Secret Agent
Maud asks her anonymous pet agent some practical questions. What a great feature.

A hypothetical/true story: a writer friend landed a publisher while unagented and has published several books with said publisher. However, in order to advance his career and write a non-series novel, he very much needs an agent. Several weeks ago he made contact with two agents, one requesting the current manuscript, the other 50 pages of it. He told each one that the other was looking at the work as well, and now both refuse to evaluate the mss unless the other rejects it. What’s the proper protocol to resolve this situation?

Answer: writer friend should curl up in seamy motel with a bottle of cooking wine and pack of razor blades. (discuss) (posted by George)

Anita Shreve
Profiled.

Polite on the surface, her unspoken resistance billows like fog. We canter through my questions in record time. If it were a date, I'd be in despair. She used to be an interviewer herself, and, if I were being cynical, I'd think she was being just a wee bit passive-aggressive.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Tom Wolfe
Profiled (and much more positively than elsewhere, lately).

"I swear," he says, his voice piping upwards in apparent indignation. "No, really. There was no indictment intended at all. I had the same experience with The Bonfire of the Vanities. People kept telling me that it was a very bleak portrait of New York today. I kept thinking: 'What do they mean bleak? These people aren't bleak; they're awesome.' With this book, I just wanted to examine how people live now. I certainly didn't intend to judge them."

(discuss) (posted by George)

A little Samuel R. Delany could hurt no one
Except Samuel R. Delany, it seems. Also, don't forget Michel Basilières's early Outer Edge column covering his lifelong love of Delany's work. (discuss) (posted by George)


Down south the political debate continues to rage
Between the blats of profanity.

All those Federal taxes you love to hate? It all comes from us and goes to you, so shut up and enjoy your fucking Tennessee Valley Authority electricity and your fancy highways that we paid for. And the next time Florida gets hit by a hurricane you can come crying to us if you want to, but you're the ones who built on a fucking swamp. "Let the Spanish keep it, it’s a shithole," we said, but you had to have your fucking orange juice.

The next dickwad who says, "It’s your money, not the government's money" is gonna get their ass kicked. Nine of the ten states that get the most federal fucking dollars and pay the least... can you guess? Go on, guess. That’s right, motherfucker, they're red states. And eight of the ten states that receive the least and pay the most? It’s too easy, asshole, they’re blue states. It’s not your money, assholes, it’s fucking our money. What was that Real American Value you were spouting a minute ago? Self reliance? Try this for self reliance: buy your own fucking stop signs, assholes.

I think the word dickwad is terribly underused these days--a situation I intend to have no small hand in rectifying. (From Palabris) (discuss) (posted by George)


11/18/04:

Google Scholar
Stand on the shoulders of giants.

Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

"CSI — Neverland"
Some of the mad geniuses over at Second Life have created a Peter Pan world. Weird but cool.

"Mister and Miss Darling," Peter announces out loud, "I'm here to kidnap your children."

By now, I'm accompanied on the tour by Spellbound residents, all the lead characters from the original novel, and not a few of the supporting players.

"So when the event starts," I ask, "will you all be role playing these characters you're in now?"

"It will be improv," says Fey, "like Oz was."

"The avatars will be offered to everyone in London," Baccara elaborates later. "To wear on their journey. You will be able to roleplay yourself."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

E-paper explained
Recently we had a nice little discussion on the boards about e-books and related advancements, such as e-paper. Here's an informative technical article explaining how e-paper works, and how it may just revolutionize the way we read — and create.

Flexible displays are a staple of science fiction. Imagine unrolling an electronic newspaper that's automatically updated via the wireless Web. Or unfurling a screen stored in your location-enhanced mobile device so you can consult a digital map without squinting.

I imagine this every day. Get on with it already! (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

I'm afraid of Americans
What Maud said. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Note to Geoffrey Taylor: start saving those books
Greg Gatenby is looking to make a killing on his collection of 25,000 autographed books.

At last count the library holds more than 25,000 Two MILLION dollars!!! Hahahahahahaha!books autographed or inscribed by the globe's most eminent authors, including 14 Nobel laureates, as well as a staggering 150 winners of the Governor General's award...

The collection also includes autographed first editions by almost 60 winners of the Pulitzer Prize, and two dozen winners of the Booker Prize.

Apparently, there is also a rotten ham sandwich, an illicit complete collection of the works of Barbara Cartland, and two pounds of pure Columbian pixie stix dust in there. (discuss) (posted by George)

God's not an ass, in Holland
Those nutty Dutch... They are thinking of reinstating a blasphemy law in the wake of religious nutbarmanship surrounding the assassination of Theo van Gogh.

The law has not been invoked since 1968 when a Dutch novelist, Gerard Kornells van het Reve, was prosecuted for depicting God as a randy donkey. He was acquitted by Holland's top court on the grounds that his intent was not "scornful".

Mijn vrienden, we look up to you. Please, don't do this. (discuss) (posted by George)

The scoop on ads from the people who pay for them
That BookAngst is one of the best new blogs around, in part because the (we assume) star power and buzz have attracted quite the list of knowledgeable participants. I'm content to just read and learn. This post is about whether ads sell books. It seems conventional wisdom may be wrong. Or right. Or wrong. (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: That's gotta hoit!!
What do Bill Clinton and alien bashing teens have in common? Besides the irresistible desire to get blown by anyone readily available?

Do you have any Mountain Deeeeewww?THE OFFICIAL HALO 2 GUIDE, a user strategy guide for the sensationally successful new Halo 2 Xbox video game sold a whopping 270,000+ copies on Tuesday, November 9th, its first day on sale across the United States and Canada, becoming one of the fastest-selling new books of the decade, Random House, Inc. announced today. Published by the company's Prima Games imprint, the 224 - page trade paperback had a first printing of 1.1 million copies, and has become the Random House, Inc. title with the biggest first day on sale since Bill Clinton's MY LIFE release last June. Prima went back to press immediately for another 100,000 books.

And now for our intellectual commentary: Bwahahahahahahahaa! (From Clive) (discuss) (posted by George)

GG coverage roundup
Some stories* that bring you the excitement, blood, sweat, and inevitable tears of awards night in Canada. (discuss) (posted by George)

Gosh, those Aussies sure can write smutty lit gossip
I don't know who any of these people are, but I'd buy the book. (discuss) (posted by George)

Literacy concerns - in kindergarten?
I'm all for reading with kids and encouraging them to read to themselves, but doesn't this list of words thing seem a bit much? Hell (allow me to brag, because, frankly, this is my space), my 21-month-old son can point to and name every letter and knows how to read several words, including, dog, mama, and, I add with no small pride, dad -- but that's because it's been organic to the process of our lives. We colour a lot and sign our names to the pictures. So he got to know GEORGE, DAD, and SILAS pretty quickly. Further, we read a lot of alphabet books (like Seuss's Big A, Little A) that have standard fonts in them instead of crazy loopy letters. So he knows what A looks like when he sees it in other places. But I wonder if sitting with flash cards will actually help build confidence so much as tip the youngun off to the fact that mommy or daddy thinks there's something wrong. (discuss) (posted by George)

Damn C... It's always the damn C...
David Sacks's Language Visible has become Letter Perfect in softcover and gets lauded in a rather light article* in the Chicago Tribune, where Cs outnumber Gs two to one.

G's place and prominence in the alphabet were stolen by the letter C. The caper started when the Etruscans, who didn't use the hard-G sound in their language, changed the Greek letter gamma (which looks like Y) to the letter C and gave it a "K" sound.

When the Romans adopted the alphabet from the Etruscans, they needed a letter for their hard-G sound, so they designed a "G" and gave it the seventh slot in the alphabet. (The soft-G sound wouldn't enter English for another millennium, when English mingled with French after the Norman Conquest in 1066).

And so children learn their ABC's instead of their ABG's. And G watches C enjoy its former spotlight, even though C contributes no unique English sound except when it combines with H (it steals most of its work from K and S).

I received this book as a gift for the Christian co-opted pagan solstice and messianic birthing rites last year and enjoyed it. It's no massive work of scholarship, but it's very readable and charming. A quick read or something to keep by the can. Someone should have shot the designer in the nads though. It was a bitch to read with all those font and background changes and charts that went on for, like, 2.8 pages and shit. Ew. It looked like, as my pals in New York would say, ass. I don't know why, but now it lives in the trunk of my car. (discuss) (posted by George)

British book press brought to knees with weeping over lost souls
It IS a trend! What's happening? This is all Wubblewoo shock, isn't it? A kind of political shell shock that's forced them to go back to a happier time, when things weren't so disturbing.

Everybody seems agreed that market forces dictate what is getting published. Unlike most other kinds of artist, authors have to rely on businesses if enough people are going to experience their work. Market forces can, however, be hard to interpret. It's easy to see why promoting a book is so important, but less simple, for example, to assess the effect inexpert booksellers can have on shaping demand.

(From PFW) (discuss) (posted by George)

Hey! You got your Nora Roberts in my JD Robb!
Ew! When pseudonyms start hooking up, does it feel like incest to you? (discuss) (posted by George)

Wikipedia whipped
The former editor of the Britannica takes a close look at everything that's wrong with Wikipedia.

Holy crap! Nunavut is missing!!Credit the founders, then, with having overcome the obstacles that the Interpedia nonleaders failed to surmount. They built the software (the "wiki" in Wikipedia), they attracted the needed contributors, and they generated the all-important buzz. (They also found that they needed to create a background hierarchy of administrators, sysops, bureaucrats (actually so called), and stewards, watched over by an arbitration committee and finally the founder himself, who retains ultimate authority. Even online, democracy has its limits.) The question is, however, just what have they created?

Is anyone actually using this thing without a buyer-beware attitude? I mean, you get what you pay for. Look at us! (How could anything be wrong with an organization that provides an outlet for this?) (From ALDaily) (discuss) (posted by George)

Yann Martel
Lyricist,* Mozart basher. (discuss) (posted by George)

President Bush meets sour-faced artists waiting for their cheques
Bush hands out some goodies to the likes of Bradbury and Hecht (who is called, in a gross oversimplification, "a poet from New York"). (discuss) (posted by George)

File under: Just freaking great
Those wacky Swedes... I expect the Vogon armada will arrive within our lifetime to put our opaque, lyrical asses out of their misery. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/19/04:

Canada's new Poet Laureate
Is Sally Struthers... We kid. We kid, because we love. Francophone Pauline Michel* takes over the reins from Georgie-boy. Now go cause some trouble, dollface. (discuss) (posted by George)

Ding ding ding!
Canada, get ready to shed your dignity!! Our books cage match is underway. Watch for typical Canadian tournament moves such as the Passive Aggressive Suplex, the Long Winded Pile Driver, and the all-important Is There a Canoe In It Body Slam.

The lineup for the fourth edition is:

  • Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers, defended by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright;
  • Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, defended by Toronto city councillor Olivia Chow;
  • Frank Parker Day's Rockbound, defended by author Donna Morrissey;
  • Mairuth Sarsfield's No Crystal Stair, defended by Olympic fencer Sherraine MacKay;
  • Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues (translated by Sheila Fischman), defended by author and former National Librarian Roch Carrier.

The winner will be Oryx and Crake. Mostly because I've seen Olivia Chow fight and she has a mean sleeper hold. Oh, that was a policy speech, you say? (Also because it might be the only title still in print....) (discuss) (posted by George)

Americans just don't learn and are now in danger of being overrun by liberal women
First they, horror of horrors, nominate five women from New York for their National Book Award, and then they GO AND GIVE IT TO ONE OF THEM!* When will they learn? (discuss) (posted by George)

British Library mercilessly kills internet café competition
British library hilariously caught with its wires down. But as with all funnily nude Britons, it still has its socks on. (It seems obvious to me that terms such as "wireless", "laptop", and "internet" will be looked on by people of the future with the same nostalgia for simpler times that we have for terms like "horseless carriage", "phonograph", and "voting"... (discuss) (posted by George)

The New York Public Library: hoping for a third Ghostbusters
The NYPL is restructuring* and getting ready to lay the smack down on ... ah, I can't spice it up. Aside from the shot of what I call "The Cafeteria", this article is like reading uncooked rice. (discuss) (posted by George)

Library Delta Force
Speaking of libraries... They don't mess around in Michichichigan, man.

Paffhausen, who took over as director in October, is asking the Bay County Library Board for permission to seek arrest warrants for offenders who ignore repeated notices.

One patron from Bad Axe, for example, has hoarded 73 items - mainly science-fiction books - for more than a year, Paffhausen said. The books are worth $1,190.

The guy's from a town called Bad Axe and he reads science fiction. Cut him some slack. His best friend is probably a pikachu doll. Or worse, a Sailor Moon doll. Ew. (discuss) (posted by George)

Kerry gets into it with Lynn Cheney and her "Sisters"...
Aw yeah....Cue the saxophone, baby... (discuss) (posted by George)

Germany: not content with engineering
Now they want a big, sexy lit award too.

But the recent history of literary prizes suggests they are not without difficulty. Such an award will certainly encourage publicity, and bitter controversy almost as certainly - as well as extra sales. But anyone expecting a literary prize to encourage either great literature or learned debate is doomed to disappointment.

First it was philosophy and Poland and France. Then it was Kraftwerk. Now this. What's next? Claudia Schiffer? (discuss) (posted by George)

Sing it, sister
Former Women's Review of Books editor Lynn Walterick dispells some myths about the reviews recent announcement of impending doom.

...feminism is not "over" and it won't be. But, then, feminism is not merely a movement or a "wave": it's a way of being in the world. One of my friends, a fiction writer, was asked in an interview whether her stories represent a feminist perspective. In her reply she said she believes the word has gotten distorted over time, and added, "I love that Rebecca West quote: 'I've never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.'"

Anyone who has gone shopping for a doormat recently, or looked through house and garden magazines, will know that doormats have undergone a makeover: no longer dull, mud–colored rubber or bristled slabs, they now feature whimsical chickens, or pigs, or cats, or sweet vine–covered cottages, in hues not unlike those in a Crayola box.

But people still wipe their feet on them.

(discuss) (posted by George)

"Nobody asks me to do diddly-do, but I'm very proud of it."
Next time you feel set to question the choice of our poet laureate, give this sucker a read over. (discuss) (posted by George)

From cop to gangsta to writer

"If you are not ferocious, then you are going to get eaten up. It was a very predatory, dog-eat-dog world. If you want to make a name for yourself, you have got to reach a certain level of ferociousness. I was a sociopath. I didn't care. You have to realise, I didn't like myself, I didn't like my life, I didn't like what I'd become - so if I didn't like me, I really wasn't going to care about you."

No, this isn't about a creative writing class. (discuss) (posted by George)

Audre Lorde
Twelve years after her death, Lorde is remembered in this transcripted interview with her biographer. (discuss) (posted by George)

Adultescent - it's the new metrosexual
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2004 word of the year.

...editors at WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD COLLEGE(R) DICTIONARY have selected as WORD OF THE YEAR for 2004 the novel noun adultescent, denoting an adult who has not achieved expected intellectual maturity or who indulges in the tastes and attitudes of youth. These "I won't grow ups" in their 30s and 40s (and beyond) revel in movies made for teenagers and clothes targeted at hip youngsters and spend their time in general stagnation in bars, in front of television sets, or deep in the pages of comic books. Curiously, the term even has new synonyms: kidult and rejuvenile.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Dear Suicide Girl, I'd like to see you in your brevissimae bracae femineae, punkianae catervae assecla
Latin translations for new concepts... (discuss) (posted by George)

Phil the Ninja - for all your ninja needs
How has this been around since the 90s and I'm only hearing about it now? Yukiko! Go kill all my lieutenants. Slowly. (Thanks, AJL. You will be spared.) (discuss) (posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

The Wilcox Manuscripts
This is one of the stranger stories I've read about libraries.

Wilcox, Saskatchewan — Here are a few things you'll find in Wilcox, Saskatchewan: one little store, one Olympic-sized hockey rink, one motel, three illuminated manuscripts from medieval France, three grain elevators, and one copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle — published in 1493, written in Latin, and illustrated by 1,809 superbly detailed woodcuts.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

"Our creative writing class is having to look for another new tutor"
Those of you who have taught creative writing may find this cartoon funny... or not. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Ink studs?
The Georgia Straight has a great piece about Vancouver comic artists, both the underground scene and those working in the mainstream. (Pic by Vancouver artist Colin Upton.)

And then there's the usual batch of work by local creators for the mainstream companies. Ian Boothby and James Lloyd write and draw monthly comics for Matt Groening's Bongo line, which includes Simpsons Comics and Stories and Futurama. Pia Guerra is the penciller and cocreator of Y: The Last Man, a tale set in a world without men and one of the best-selling titles of DC Comics' mature-audiences imprint, Vertigo. Steve Skroce, who worked on Wolverine and The Amazing Spider-Man for Marvel before storyboarding the Matrix flicks and I, Robot, makes his return to comics this month with the first issue of Doc Frankenstein.

Add to that list artists Kaare Andrews (The Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men), Troy Nixey (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight), Steve Rolston (on Queen & Country's roster), and writer Sara "Samm" Barnes (Doctor Spectrum, Strange) and Vancouver has a small but significant community contributing to the stream of monthly titles filling the racks at your friendly neighbourhood comic-book store.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Where are all the political American writers?
Well, if they have any sense, they've moved to Europe. Because they can't do anything here.

if you believe a Philip Roth book is going to change people's politics in 2004, then you might as well believe that Saul Bellow can melt metal with his mind. Any novel that doesn't feature a conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templar and a Renaissance cultural figure, a fat girl finding love, a pubescent male wizard, the apocalypse, or some combination of the above won't find an audience among the residents of that "foreign country" in the American center.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Book journalists round table
Lots of handwringing about bestseller lists and the cultural divide. And the disturbing question of whether or not books need to embrace TV to survive.

Bookreporter.com's co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald interviewed four prominent book journalists — Charlotte Abbott, Book News Editor of Publishers Weekly; Bob Minzesheimer, Book Reviewer and Publishing Reporter of USA Today; Sam Tanenhaus, Editor of the New York Times Book Review; and Steve Wasserman, Editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. The fast-paced and lively discussion included conversation about book prizes and awards, bestseller lists and influences on readers.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Looking for God in all the wrong places
ZZ Packer calls for the Democrats to openly embrace religion to fight the Republicans. I can't say I agree with her, but I understand her point — although I think she's being optimistic that religious Dems automatically believe in the separation of church and state.

What we Democrats need is our own political brand of evangelism. The conservatives have a well-wrought message, but no works. We have the substantive works, but no message, and certainly no overarching vision. We are the ones with the easier task before us, but we can't rely on the elite activists in the party to do the job of conversion; these people simply don't speak the language. Religious Democrats do. But we shouldn't use them in a Democratic-Republican game of keeping up with the Joneses; we should embrace them for a much better reason -- because they, ironically enough, are the only ones in the Democratic universe who won't simply preach to the choir. But they need a vision to preach, and they need support from the party they believe in, despite mounting evidence that their party doesn't believe in them. We can't leave them out there, alone and alienated in the red states we're now so fond of bashing, or else we'll lose them as well.

Also in Salon, Nick Cave, one of my favourite musical artists, talks about his Christianity. I always thought his biblical references were just a love of apocalypse. Turns out he's really singing love songs to God. I... I... I... (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Which books can you live without?
I live in a very small apartment, and one book coming in often means another has to leave. Every day is agony for me.

I have been clearing my shelves of novels over the past 10 years and survivors are those I wish to reread. That means Dickens, though I shall be confining myself to my favourites (including Great Expectations, which I read every November, for reasons I have yet to fathom). Richardson's Clarissa and James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner get better with each reading, as does Herman Melville's novella Bartleby. I shall hold on to the short stories of Nikolai Leskov, Isaac Babel and the virtually forgotten Ivan Bunin, whose "Kasimir Stanislavovitch" conveys more knowledge of the complex workings of the human heart in a mere 12 pages than most novelists can manage in door-stoppers.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


What book of poetry matters the most?
Enola Gay is still my favourite, although I like it more for mood than technique. There are some pretty interesting choices here.

The Book Review recently asked a handful of poets and critics to respond to this question: What book of poetry, published in the last 25 years, has meant the most to you personally -- the book you have found yourself returning to again and again? We asked them not to select reissues, or volumes of a poet's ''selected'' or ''collected'' work.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

A cultural disaster
Thousands of rare books were destroyed in the Anna Amalia library fire in Germany, and workers are struggling to save the survivors.

Bent over books once held by Goethe and Schiller, workers in white lab coats brush away ash and creeping mold, doing their best to salvage the centuries-old victims of a recent fire that devastated one of Germany's cultural treasures. About 2,000 books are stacked on tables behind the workers in a large room at the Center for Book Conservation here. The books are a small portion of the 62,000 heavily damaged in a fire at the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar in September.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


11/22/04:

Gatenby needs cash - should we be curious about what he's planning?
This is a man who was said to hold notorious grudges, after all. I kid. Yet while I do want to find fault with M. Ga-tenby for not donating his collection (believe me, I really do - I have a thing for people who do their own media releases - it's not a good thing, but a thing nonetheless), especially given that it represents the entire history of Toronto as a modern city of literature ... it's TWO MILLION DOLLARS, people! That's a whole lotta scratch, baby. Who can blame him? A man could buy himself a career as a half-arsed novelist with that kind of dough. What say we take up a collection here at Bookninja HQ and try to come up with the money? Okay, make your donations to the Pay Pal button above (adding to the freakish SCADS of cash we're already making off said button, thanks guys) and once we hit $2M, we'll take a shot at buying those books. Really. No, really. Offshore account? What's that? What is being implied here? I don't have to stand here and listen to this. I invested that money fair and square. What money? I never took your money. You can talk to my lawyer. Stop following me! Look, an alien! Yoink! (discuss) (posted by George)

Haitian author's elderly uncle dies in US custody while seeking asylum
This story is utterly revolting. Edwigde Danicat's* elderly uncle dies in custody, WITH A LEGAL VISA and a family waiting to support him! I can't believe the Homeland security people are trying to defend themselves on this. They detained an elderly man, denied him his medicine and he died a short time later. Then they try to dismiss the importance of this by deriding the efficacy of his treatment (which they make out to be some kind of tribal witchdoctor potion). If the medication was so ineffectual anyway, why keep it from him? You're a bunch of rat-bastard killers. When is America going to wake up? (discuss) (posted by George)

"Imagine a country with a population of kids twice the size of the entire population of the United States"
I suppose it was inevitable. Western comics follow the phone support east.*

Gotham Studios is banking on the creative cachet of its founders. Mr. Kapur, who was nominated for an Oscar for "Elizabeth," will be the chief creative officer of Gotham Studios. The comic-book genre affords Mr. Kapur a creative outlet that is less expensive than Hollywood, where the economic risk can be huge. Mr. Chopra will infuse spirituality and mysticism into the characters. For instance, in the Indian version, Spider-Man gains his powers from a mysterious yogi, not from a radioactive spider. Spider-Man's enemy, the Green Goblin, is the reincarnation of an ancient Indian demon called a rakshasa.

(discuss) (posted by George)

This is like the time I read that article about women no longer needing sperm to procreate...
Is there an emoticon to denote the sound of a bugle playing Taps?

Occasionally you hear of a Luddite novelist who shuns computers, but the truth is that most of us would be lost without them. If I rail and curse at mine, it is partly out of resentment at our miserable co-dependence. Imagine, then, the blow to my scribbler's vanity when I discovered a while back that computers might get along just fine without writers.

This is not science fiction.* With little fanfare and (so far) no appearances at Barnes & Noble, computers have started writing without us scribes. They are perfectly capable of nonfiction prose, and while the reputation of Henry James is not yet threatened, computers can even generate brief outbursts of fiction that are probably superior to what many humans could turn out - even those not in master of fine arts programs. Consider the beginning of a short story dealing with the theme of betrayal:

"Dave Striver loved the university - its ivy-covered clocktowers, its ancient and sturdy brick, and its sun-splashed verdant greens and eager youth. The university, contrary to popular opinion, is far from free of the stark unforgiving trials of the business world: academia has its own tests, and some are as merciless as any in the marketplace. A prime example is the dissertation defense: to earn the Ph.D., to become a doctor, one must pass an oral examination on one's dissertation. This was a test Professor Edward Hart enjoyed giving."

That pregnant opening paragraph was written by a computer program known as Brutus.1 that was developed by Selmer Bringsjord, a computer scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and David A. Ferrucci, a researcher at I.B.M.

There's that word... Pregnant. And all without me. First some invents that computer "Christian Bök" to write poetry, and now this... Sheesh. (discuss) (posted by George)

How to win friends and influence people
VS Naipaul on the Booker:

"Prizes like the Booker are destroying literature. It looks for a good commercial, middle-of-the-road book. It is supposed to rescue books from non-entity, but books that are awarded the prize die very quickly,"

(From the Saloon) (discuss) (posted by George)

The sex scene: plot's red-headed stepchild
The sex scene just ain't what it used to be. (Maybe the modern novel has recently had a baby? Finds work stressful? Isn't eating enough vegetables? Has a slipped disk?)

This belief in the unparalleled authenticity of sexual love has for two centuries been a distinctive belief of our society; it is part of our aggrandisement of the individual against society and part of modern western culture's disdain for social structures whenever they come into conflict with individual desire. Yet it is striking how novelists today have moved away from this reliance on sexual intimacy as a source of emotional revelation, and how the search for intimacy is simply no longer the prime motor that it once was for the novel. This goes much, much further than simply disappointment that sex does not live up to expectations - rather, it is a pervasive feeling that sex is not worth making a great fuss about at all. Although sex can be as explicit as you like, it is no longer centrally important to many novelists.

I blame this all on Viagra. (discuss) (posted by George)

Hey diddle diddle, I'll show you where to put your fiddle
Nursery rhymes are more damaging than television?

The study, published by doctors in Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that violence was more than 10 times more frequent in nursery rhymes than television programmes shown before the 9pm watershed.

In a sample of programmes, they found there were almost five violent scenes in each hour; there were more than 52 in an hour of nursery rhymes.

I disagree. I'm pretty sure I can do more damage with a TV held over my head than with a book. (discuss) (posted by George)

Shocker!
Martin Levin informs the masses* that The Believer publisher McSweeney's is onto something. Are they ready to know, Martin? (discuss) (posted by George)

Now there's something you don't see every day...
A bookstore with some class. Ottawa's Octopus Books takes an Adbusters-founded stance that would make certain big-box book retailers faint.

Buy Nothing Day is held each year on the first day after American Thanksgiving. This day has traditionally been known to kick start the Christmas shopping frenzy as the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. Buy Nothing Day is a campaign started by the folks at Adbusters and soon adopted by others around the world which calls into question the rampant consumerism associated with the Holiday Season. This is an exercise of consumer awareness asking shoppers to think about what they buy, from whom and why we often spend without thinking about the implications. Buy Nothing Day challenges consumers to refrain from shopping and encourages everyone to bring their lunch to work, stay away from the malls and shops and to spend the day thinking about how consumerism has become entrenched in our lives.

My suggestion is that the day after this event, you should head back in to the store and do all your holiday shopping there. (discuss) (posted by George)

The many faces of Gilgamesh
Local boy Derrek Hines makes good in a Seattle book review examining new translations of Gilgamesh. (discuss) (posted by George)

Mavis Gallant
Lauded in the Star. (discuss) (posted by George)

Sweet merciful crap
Our new poet laureate is profiled in her hometown rag - apparently by her best pal...

She's no shrinking violet our new Canadian poet laureate, Pauline Michel. More like a gregarious rose.

Or the star of a children's television show.

Only the heartless could resist this diminutive live wire who turns every moment into a celebration.

Interviewing her is like sitting front row centre at one-woman show - and a musical at that. When she can no longer restrain herself, she bursts into song.

Egad. Call me heartless. And it goes on:

Michel was tipped off a week in advance about her appointment, announced last Wednesday. The win came as a surprise to Michel, she said, because she was chosen over other poets generally considered more "important" than she is.

Gee, I wonder why...? (discuss) (posted by George)

Yet ANOTHER Danuta Gleed update...
Why in the name of all that's holy they would want to draw further attention to this particular year of this award is beyond me, but TWUC has amended its list of winners from last year's award (which you will remember, did not go so well) and awarded an additional third place prize. Whatever this bizarre move is about, we hope it isn't meant as a demotion for Susan Rendell, who held third place all alone until last week - enough's already been done to insult the very good list of writers and books. All that said, we couldn't be happier with the choice. A good author gets some money and a fantastic book gets some... well... some words. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/23/04:

Gravity is a theory
Funny textbook stickers inspired by the anti-evolution stickers down there in Jesusland. (You know, that place where people go hunting with assault rifles....) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Now?
Ryan Bigge wonders if Noah Richler's defence of the Walrus in Now may have been a case of politics. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Professor Faulkner
The Chronicle reports on William Faulkner's long, troubled history with the mossy halls of academe.

He was invited to a conference of Southern writers at the University of Virginia, and it amazed him to find himself the center of attention. Everyone wanted to meet the young man whose work had rather quickly attracted the attention of serious critics, and he was mobbed at one cocktail party, where he leaned heavily on the arm of his editor, who had come down from New York to accompany him. Faulkner drank so much, in fact, that he threw up at the feet of his admirers, and was led back to his hotel and put to bed. After that embarrassing experience, he wanted little to do with academic conferences.

(From AL Daily) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Movie roundup
Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy, has replaced Darren Aronofsky as director of the Watchmen movie. Doesn't bode well. In other movie news, the Wachowski brothers — the, uh, filmmakers responsible for those idiotic Matrix flicks — are producing an adaptation of V for Vendetta (full text below). Is there anything Hollywood won't defile?

Andy and Larry Wachowski (the Matrix movies) will produce a film adaptation of Alan Moore's futuristic graphic novel V for Vendetta, and Matrix first assistant director James McTeigue is in talks with Warner Brothers to direct, Variety reported. The Wachowskis originally wanted to direct the adaptation themselves, but set it aside to do the Matrix trilogy of films. Matrix producer Joel Silver will also produce V, the trade paper reported.

V for Vendetta takes place in an alternate future in which Germany wins World War II and Great Britain becomes a fascist state. A terrorist freedom fighter known only as "V" begins a violent guerilla campaign to destroy those who've succumbed to totalitarianism and recruits a young woman he's rescued from the secret police to join him, the trade paper reported.

The project has been around for years, with Romeo Is Bleeding writer Hilary Henkin taking a stab at it at one point, but without success, the trade paper reported.

(From Sci Fi Weekly) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Scream Talking
While I sing the praises of publishing fiction in digital formats, people such as Warren Ellis are busy publishing short pieces online on a regular basis. (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Who's afraid of the short short?
Meanwhile, not everyone happy is about micro stories. Story South has a great piece about the state of the short short and writing workshops, with some delicious links (my fave: "The Poetry Workshop and Its Discontents"). (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The ties that bind
Yeoman ninja and newly minted poet Zach Wells lays out some choice words regarding the jury process at the GGs. Prompted by the graceful bowing out of Andre Alexis (who recused himself from duty because his longtime partner Catherine Bush's new novel was eligible), Wells looks at the other ties that bind (ie, the ones that didn't bow out) - in particular, close connections between this year's poetry nominees and the jurors who chose them. In what might be Wells's best piece so far, he even-handedly examines the situation and offers strategies for improving it.

Are you looking at me?Here’s a crazy notion: open up jury duty to volunteers from the general public. Isn’t it from the citizenry that juries in the courts are formed, even if they are largely ignorant of the intricacies of law? There may not be many people who sign up, but what possible harm could come from the odd taxpaying layperson having his or her say? I somehow doubt the Canada Council could do much worse.

Go get em, tiger. (Note: an important discussion has already begun in the comment space below the article - jump in!) (discuss) (posted by George)

The trials of a guerrilla poet
Fiona Lam reports from the front lines of National Humiliate Poets Further Week -- I mean, How Did I Get Myself Into This? Fest -- I mean, It Was a Bad Idea to Listen to that Airplane Idiot Day -- I mean...

“Hi, I’m reading poems to people in public places as part of Random Acts of Poetry week, an event to promote literacy. Would you like to hear a poem?” I handed over a bookmark with details of the event, listing the 27 poets from Victoria to St. John’s who were involved in last week’s five day event sponsored by abebooks.com and the Victoria Read Society.

“Not really.”

That was a common response I received in while approaching people in a Vancouver gym, the City Square shopping mall, and the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, and on the bus and SkyTrain. Most people were on their guard, sizing me up, concerned about requests for donations or a sales pitch. Perhaps they were even worried that I was a religious wingnut or merely insane. Some were just too busy to listen. One woman working out in a gym seemed horrified. A few others simply scampered away. When I did receive a wary “yes”, I sometimes felt I was just being tolerated, not truly listened to.

I think of this exercise less as the blind leading the blind (there were some nice, good people involved) and more as the blind leading the willing as quite-possibly-desperate. (From Q&Q) (discuss) (posted by George)

Lit Idol 2: Better than Police Academy 2
For those of you even mildly embarrassed about the "reality" marketing of literature: um... look over there!. (discuss) (posted by George)

It's gotta be the wenches
Apparently, French poets of the second last century really dug the English chicks. And blokes. There's no accounting for taste.

Paris is the city of light, art and romance, and London the city of fog, industry and buttoned-up behaviour, but those French poets travelled to London for love, and they found the fog inspiring. A decade before Rimbaud and Verlaine, another French poet, Stephane Mallarmé, lived in London for a year as a student, and got married, in a quasi-elopement, in Kensington. Mallarmé said he hated London when there was no fog. "I love this perpetually grey sky," he wrote to a friend in 1862. "God cannot see you."

Shoin yeh shoes, guvnah? Ow bout a wee tug on the twig n berries, ven, wot? (From Moby) (discuss) (posted by George)

And on the love tip
Here's a love letter from Franz Kafka. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was giving her a loquacious version of the old "it's not you, it's me." (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (posted by George)

The fluck of the luckin Irish
John Doyle takes a shillelagh* to the McCourt brothers' play.

As the world must know by now, Limerick is the international capital of misery.

Look up "misery" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of Limerick. It has been so since Frank McCourt published Angela's Ashes, his raw, complaining and comic memoir, which established Limerick as the most miserable place on the planet. I'm surprised anyone still has the nerve to live there.

Up on the stage, Frank and Malachy are treating us to a litany of complaints -- the shared outdoor toilet, the unreliable dad, the pompous priest, the sadistic schoolteachers and the backbiting, belligerent neighbours. These complaints are delivered with gusto and glee.

At this point, I'm wondering what the hell we're all doing in the bloody theatre watching these two eejits boast about the horrors they endured.

For what it's worth, most Irishmen I know agree with you, John. (discuss) (posted by George)

Maud Newton takes on Neal Pollack
Maud lets 'er rip and skips off for a holiday - a perfectly viable technique for getting the last word. (discuss) (posted by George)

Laura Bush - Communist sympathizer
Let's get her, boys! She's a threat to the country! I knew all that learnin' and a-readin' would lead her to no good!

The blood of the workers oils the machinery of capitalism. ... Where's my Xanax?US First Lady Laura Bush visited Pablo Neruda's house-turned-museum to honor the late Chilean poet, a museum official said, angering some activists who took it as a sleight to his Communist past.

Let's be realistic: do you think she even knew he had a Communist past? I mean, her husband can't even pronounce the names of most of the people he's visiting. You know how people say dogs and their owners start to look alike after a long time...? (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Trina Schart Hyman
Illustrator loses cancer battle at 65. (discuss) (posted by George)

A happy ending
BookAngst gives us a story of everything done gone right.

William’s is the story of a genuine success—not a PERFECT STORM level blockbuster, but the sort of black-ink narrative that would make any editor (and most writers) proud. Despite the happy outcome, William warns that “there is not a lesson or a plan or a prototype [here] for any publisher to replicate. Nonfiction publishing is alchemy.” Like the crucial matter of chemistry in affairs of the heart, William’s point is that a book’s capturing the consumer’s attention depends, in part, on some indefinable X factor. And if it’s in play, it doesn’t much matter how attractive and intelligent the other eight women (or men, or books) in the room are. This alchemy—and William’s book “had it boiling over the cauldron”—is the difference between his publication and a dozen others that fall short.

Alchemy indeed—still, I disagree that there are no lessons to be learned. William’s was as close to perfect as a publication could be: the book’s potential was recognized by all from the outset; the manuscript, with expert guidance from his editor, delivered the goods; the publisher took an aggressive stand and never wavered in its support; and execution of the 1,001 details—from design and cover to advertising and promotion (any one of which has the potential to derail the enterprise)—went off without a hitch.

An interesting narrative of how everything went EXACTLY follows this. It's the feel-good book blog entry of the year! (discuss) (posted by George)

Bulgaria pardons poet

The Prosecution Office has officially suggested the repeal of the death sentence of great Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov, sentenced and killed by firing squad by then ruling fascist regime on July 23, 1942 in Sofia.

Gee, thanks guys... Um, don't pardons typically work best if you, you know, grant them before the, um, bullets enter the flesh? (discuss) (posted by George)

Upcoming Ninja appearance
New York readers, and wealthy, idle Canadians, are invited to join me on December 3 at 7:00 pm at the Housing Works (126 Crosby Street in Soho) for the taping of what's being billed as a lit bloggers "summit". I'm not sure when it will be broadcast but I'm told it will be on American book tv (C-SPAN), and is sponsored by Melville House and the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. Said summit will be a talking heads kind of affair comprised of the proprietors of MobyLives, Maud Newton, MoorishGirl, Bookslut, and Beatrice. We'll be discussing the new media of blogging and its affect on the world at large as well as on our own miserable, vole-like lives. Watch this space and CNN for further details. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/24/04:

Why do we go to literary readings?
Well, I don't anymore. But when I did, it was for the beer. What other reasons are there?

In October, Toronto's International Festival of Authors celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Festival has grown from a six-night event, with 18 authors from a handful of countries, to 11 days with 70 authors from 20 countries. Canada itself now has seven other major literary festivals and 35 other smaller festivals throughout the nation. Globe and Mail journalist Rebecca Caldwell notes that this works out to an average of almost one literary festival a week. The growth of literary events in the United States and Europe is probably similar, and raises the question: why are we more eager than ever to see and hear authors in person?

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Alice in Underworld
There are some really beautiful takes on Alice here (scroll down to "Alice in Wonderland Adaptation"). My fave is Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum. (From Beautiful Stuff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Charlie Brown as countercultural icon?
Jonathan Franzen thinks so. CB is a little Beckettian, but I dunno...

To the countercultural mind, a begoggled beagle piloting a doghouse and getting shot down by the Red Baron was akin to Yossarian paddling a dinghy to Sweden. The strip's square panels were the only square thing about it. Wouldn't the country be better off listening to Linus Van Pelt than Robert McNamara? This was the era of flower children, not flower adults. But the strip appealed to older Americans as well. It was unfailingly inoffensive (Snoopy never lifted a leg) and was set in a safe, attractive suburb where the kids, except for Pigpen, whose image Ron McKernan of the Grateful Dead pointedly embraced, were clean and well spoken and conservatively dressed. Hippies and astronauts, the Pentagon and the antiwar movement, the rejecting kids and the rejected grownups were all of one mind here.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Down with English, up with Englishes
Grimey peeps at a book by a guy who axs some pacific questions about the future of English. Where we at, linguistically speaking?

Mr. Crystal, in arguing that "eternal tolerance" should replace "eternal vigilance," chooses his examples brilliantly. Those of us who tut-tut when "nuclear" comes out "nucular" need to be reminded that polite Victorians pronounced balcony with the stress on the second syllable, like baloney. Not so long ago, correct English did not permit a sentence like "John is being promoted." The progressive passive of "is being" was despised by refined stylists. Students do need to learn the rules, just as they need to understand computer protocols, as a means to an end. Standard English, and the basic rules of grammar and syntax that govern it, have to be taught. But Mr. Crystal assigns no particular value to "are not" over "ain't." In fact, he likes to sum up his vision of the future of English, or Englishes, in one cheery, defiantly ungrammatical American sentence: "We ain't seen nothin' yet."

Does this article strike anyone else as facile and dumbed down? Is the NYT writing to a different reader? Or is it just the subject matter getting my hackles up? (discuss) (posted by George)

Signs outside fort, library read "No Adults!"
A Florida library has banned unaccompanied adults from lingering in children's areas. Despite using one of my least favourite words ("banned"), I can't think how this is a bad thing. (discuss) (posted by George)


Fight the power
The power is eBay.

A global movement of disgruntled eBay customers has decided to rebel against the internet auction site, claiming that the company has failed to address users' concerns on security, fraud and service.

The rebels, led by Vicente Font, a Spanish eBay user, have opted to "strike" against the company. Any action could cost the company, which has made has made profits of $715 million on revenues of $3 billion over the past year, tens of millions of dollars in sales in a matter of hours.

The rebels? I know how to take care of this. Let us make an example of Alderaan... God, it's so easy. I should go into corporate consulting. What's that, Mr. Gates? Your users are disgruntled because your fucking useless Service Pack 2 fucked up their machines? Well, my advice is: blow up their planet. It's really the only solution. (discuss) (posted by George)

Tolkien's hole preserved!
And it's a good thing, too. Now those nasty Sackville Bagginses won't get their hands on it. (Who wants to bet Tolkien didn't removed that wall "himself"... could you see that man with a hammer?) (discuss) (posted by George)

Russian writers do it in public
Blogging your way to the last chapter. A Russian novelist has taken a poll asking his readers what they'd like in his next book, which he will publish as it comes on his blog.

The author has been using the blog for more than a year to respond to questions and comments about his books, taking the username Doctor Livesey, a character from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island."

"I had a think about what the point of [LiveJournal] is for a writer," he wrote. "To argue with literary opponents? That's more fun to do on forums. To hear readers' opinions? Partly yes, but not every day. To read other people's blogs? Wonderful, but then why write your own? And this is what I decided: A writer needs a blog to write books."

That's funny, 'cause this blog is what ensures I DON'T write books. (40,000 characters a week? What's he writing, Gravity's Rainbow?) (discuss) (posted by George)

The death of the liberal-arts education
We have won, my brothers! Oh, wait. Lost. I meant lost.

Indeed, if you look at the humanities today, there is considerable excitement and growth at places that don't look or feel anything like Dartmouth or Harvard or MIT, for that matter. Michael Bub, for example, a star in literary studies and a leader in the field of disability studies, is based at Penn State University the kind of place that Gaita might say isn't hospitable to serious scholars because it offers degrees in a range of decidedly non-liberal-arts fields. Or look at the development of a serious philosophy program at Texas A&M University, or at how H-NET, a series of websites and Internet-discussion groups created by Michigan State University, has created "communities of scholars" across the humanities and social sciences, and around the world.

Yet even when students seek out a liberal-arts institution, there's no guarantee that they share, or even grasp, its values. Marcelo Gleiser, a physicist at Dartmouth, surveyed the students in his introductory course (which is for non-majors and attracts students from a range of disciplines) on the value of a liberal education. Asked whether marketplace demands should shape the curriculum, 38 percent of the students said yes.

One of my favourite memories of working at the Arts Advising Centre (guidance councillor's office) at a university in Toronto was listening to the councillors tell me about students who came in saying things like: "I want to get a job in business." Um, what aspect of business? "Just business." Yes, but what do you want to do? "I want to make money." From what? "Business." O future! I weep for ye! (discuss) (posted by George)

Genius - and terrible poet
Solzhenitsyn's juvenilia. (From Moby) (discuss) (posted by George)

That's e-love, baby
An otaku gets his own idoru. Maybe we could excerpt something from the Bookninja boards for our own novel... Intrigue, action, intense feelings, mysteriously deleted posts -- we've got it all! (From GoodReports) (discuss) (posted by George)

It's funniest, most painful when true
Alternative theatre curtain waits three hours for stragglers. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/25/04:

A GG history primer
And update on the Tweedsmuir legacy.*

James Buchan says his grandfather was the dominant figure in his childhood because of his "tremendous achievement." Unlike all of the governor-generals before him, John Buchan (who was born in Perth, Scotland, in 1875) was not a member of the Royal family or an aristocrat. He was a commoner, the son of a Scottish minister of modest means who "reached the top of all sorts of different professions in the twilight of the British empire," says his grandson, pointing out that John Buchan had been a colonial administrator in South Africa, a lawyer and a member of Parliament. He was given a peerage and a title, Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, when George V made him Governor-General of Canada in 1935.

Still awake? (discuss) (posted by George)

Gatenby continues to head fake while handling the puck at centre ice
God, I love it when I can get a sports reference into a piece about a person of significant girth.

The fact that Gatenby is selling titles he acquired while working at the authors festival has raised eyebrows in the publishing community, but he insisted there is no question surrounding the ownership of the collection.

"I don't know how I can be more clear: these are my books," he said. "Nobody in the publishing industry has ever questioned that these are my books. They gave these books to me."

The International Festival of Authors refused to comment on the sale, as did Random House Canada and Harper Collins.

David Leonard of the Book Promoters Association of Canada said the organization hasn't made a specific recommendation regarding the Gatenby sale.

"If we're sending books to someone for free, then those are intended not to be for resale," he said.

I wondered about this too. A tad shady, but once they're signed, aren't they his? Often publishers send me copies of new books. Out of principle I buy extra copies of books by people I know or love or want to support and give the promos away. But there are more than a few review copies sitting on my shelf. Are they mine? I don't think anyone would argue "no" if I were selling them for a few bucks at a used bookstore. That said, my collection of Canadian poetry titles isn't yet worth more than the paper they're printed on. I would guess the main reason the eyebrows go up is the lack of respect for the collections cultural value in the face of its monetary value. (discuss) (posted by George)

When avant garde isn't doing enough guarding
David Orr kneecaps this year's Best American Poetry,* but still manages to praise Olena Kalytiak Davis. This is my kind of review. (I can't believe I didn't find this sooner!)

The editor this time is Lyn Hejinian, who seems to represent a departure for the series (not where Ashbery's concerned, though; you'll find him here between ''Arnold, Craig'' and ''Bang, Mary Jo''). Hejinian is a Berkeley professor often identified with American ''experimental poetry,'' a phrase that serves as a catchall for an assortment of avant-gardists who take their cues from Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, some lesser known modernists, various French theorists and the Language poetry movement of the 1970's and 80's. These writers embrace fragmentation and the deliberate use of nonsense, they generally resist traditional forms (unless they're using them in untraditional ways) and they often think of themselves as opposing a ''mainstream'' poetry culture that supposedly remains devoted to moist lyric epiphanies. Considering that the Best American series is about as mainstream as poetry gets, it's tempting to view Hejinian's editorship as a signal that the guerrilla fighters are now riding into town to become sheriffs.

There are several problems with this picture, though, and the first is one that has long troubled American poets: for the average, engaged reader (the Best American's target audience), even fairly accessible poems can be maddeningly arcane. The second problem, which is related to the first, is that in the poetry world, even the insiders are outsiders. As it happens, poets who could reasonably be called ''experimental'' are currently sitting in Chancellors' seats at the Academy of American Poets, occupying faculty lounges from Buffalo to Berkeley, and of course, editing the Best American Poetry. To the extent there's a Poetry Establishment, these writers have been as much a part of it as anyone else for decades now.

(From Old Hag) (discuss) (posted by George)

Jstor quaking in cyberboots
Google Scholar may change the way academics do research.* (But can it keep them from plagiarizing the fuck out of each other?)

"It could be a huge timesaver, and it could force us researchers and scholars to refine our craft."

One side effect of Google Scholar is that academics may realize they have been missing out on a lot of potential resources.

"It's going to be interesting, because we're trying to explain to our faculty that the price of scholarly journals is just skyrocketing," said Daniel Greenstein, the librarian for the California Digital Library (www.cdlib.org) of the University of California. "As they go to Google Scholar, they're going to find a bunch of stuff we don't have access to, and I think that could end up creating a degree of frustration that could reflect badly on the publishers."

(As usual, the mainstream media is now reporting, days later, on something the blogs had posted on the day the service went live. The local news radio here in Toronto has a slogan that goes something like, "If you're reading it, it's history. If you're hearing it, it's happening." Let me amend that. "If you're reading it on paper, it's history.") (discuss) (posted by George)

Just an award for sacking Gatenby? Surely there is something more we can do for this guy!

Bill Boyle, Harbourfront's CEO, receives this year's ACE (Association of Cultural Executives) Award for "outstanding contribution and dedication to Canadian cultural management." In fact, things have been looking way up for Boyle since last year's controversy.

Last Jan. 27, Boyle was named a new Member of the Order of Canada by Her Excellency Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in recognition of his tireless work to champion Canadian and international culture both at home and abroad.

A little leadership, complimented with an iron fist, goes a long way. Here's his acceptance speech. (Thanks to PV for the spelling it out.) (discuss) (posted by George)

More on the--quote unquote--poet laureate of Nevada
There are some funny bits in this.* Ah, let the old guy keep his title. He's argued enough now that stripping him of it takes his dignity too. What good ever came out of Nevada, anyway? It's not like we're missing anything. Maybe take his driver's license or something. (discuss) (posted by George)

South of the Borders, down Unionville way...
Another stake in the heart of the corporate vampire. Why won't this thing just die!?

Borders employees initially voted to join Local 789 in October of 2002, but negotiating a contract proved to be an arduous, frustrating process. Borders was unwilling to budge on most major issues, such as benefits and wages, and months often went by without any meetings between the two sides. The vast majority of workers who endorsed collective bargaining have since moved on to other jobs.

The two most vocal supporters of the effort initially, Holly Krig and Jason Evans, both left the store earlier this year. Just hours after Krig quit, workers found a pamphlet left anonymously in their mailboxes informing them how to decertify the union. "It was a huge slap in the face to all the work that Holly had done," says Erin Dorbin, who's worked at the Uptown store for a little over a year. Dorbin believes the heavy-handed move backfired. "I think for supporters it really pushed us into action," she says.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Alexander stoned
I'm not so sure the American public was ready for this movie... But I am pretty sure everyone down there is just hoppin' ready to hate Oliver Stone. Not a good combo. And I'm also certain, sad as it is, a rescue based on kudos from Gore Vidal for depictions of bisexuality isn't going to help. (discuss) (posted by George)

"Barred from practicing journalism"??
Can they do that? A Russian extremist idiot and journalist on trial for anti-Semitism is "convicted of inciting ethnic hatred in a number of his magazine’s anti-Semitic articles." Fair enough, the guy seems like a major piece of shit. Send him to jail. But can you bar someone from practicing journalism the way you can bar a doctor from practicing medicine? (discuss) (posted by George)

Here come the lists...
Yep. The end of the year's a-comin'. I can feel it in my bum knee. (Neal Pollack's top five books of 2004.) (From Bookslut) (discuss) (posted by George)

Desperately seeking superhero porn
Well, is there a porn that ISN'T desperately sought? Toronto's sexiest sex columnist Sasha gets the best questions.

I am a 20-something bisexual man and comicbook reader for years. While I haven't gotten all involved in the comic world, I have always had a fondness for the Justice League of America and, of course, X-Men. There's just something about all those beautiful bodies in spandex fighting evil together. When you combine secret identities, tight-fitting clothing and hero-villain-victim scenarios, it gets pretty hot. I was wondering if you or any of your readers might know of any good live-action superhero porn. It can be gay, straight or bi and doesn't have to be based on any existing character. I'm looking for anything with a good storyline, hot sex and lots of bulging outfits.

There is a fundamental break with reality here. No one looks like that in spandex "live". That's why we read comics and avert our eyes at the gym. (No pictures, but probably not work safe... you don't want your IT guys finding this cached on your machine. Especially if you live in Jesusland.) (discuss) (posted by George)


11/26/04:

The seven basic plots
Prospect Magazine reviews Christopher Booker's thoughts on the nature of narrative. Interesting read, especially the opening piece of advice.

It may seem odd to propose F Scott Fitzgerald as the most modern of storytellers, but consider how his portrait of Anson Hunter, the protagonist of The Rich Boy, opens with the narrator's reflections on his own technique: "Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created — nothing."

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Richard Morgan snippets
Locus has excerpts from an interview with sci-fi writer Richard Morgan, including his thoughts on the upcoming film version of Altered Carbon.

I've seen an early draft script and I'm impressed with the amount they actually managed to get in. I was less impressed with the kind of ugly, disfiguring scar of morality they'd slashed across the whole thing.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)


The Virtual Museum of Canada
This site links to all sorts of CanCult, including growing up in Guelph, Christmas traditions and the history of the Black Loyalists in Canada. Handy for all you historiographic metafictioneers out there.

This groundbreaking gateway is the result of a strong partnership between Canada's vast museum community and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Spearheading the enterprise is the Canadian Heritage Information Network, a federal agency that for thirty years has enabled the heritage community to benefit from cutting-edge information technologies.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The two million dollar scramble
Rebecca Caldwell reports* on Gatenby's straight-faced claims that the books are his.

Mine! Mine, I tells ya!  And ain't nobody gonna tell me diffrent, see?Twice an assistant attempted to cut off questions regarding provenance. The issue: When publishers send out free review copies of a book for promotional purposes, are they sending them to the individual or to the institution the individual works for? Gatenby maintained that the publishing industry sends them to the person and that the books then become that person's property.

He has an assistant? To assist with what? Petulance?

Gatenby decided to sell the collection because "the sheer number of books became a problem." The first floor of his Parkdale home is virtually decorated with books. Bookcases run floor to ceiling; framed artwork leans against the cases, waiting for some clear wall space.
...
"As you can see, I am now booked-out even here, and one of the reasons I am selling the collection is so that I can move again in my own domicile, and so that I can hang some art on the wall," Gatenby said.

Um, I can think of a better way of freeing up more, ahem, space than selling your books, Greg... And what will he decorate his house with next? Pop-tart wrappers? (discuss) (posted by George)

Starnino power
See! I smile!Carmine Starnino wins the QWF's AM Klein Award for With English Subtitles. It really was one of the best books I read this year. I liked the Barbara Carey review of it in the Star in which she suggests (to paraphrase from memory) that a lot of people were gunning for him to fail because of his critical roughness, but she credits him for living up to his own standards. That's gotta feel good. Now it's time for a national award. (discuss) (posted by George)

The executive poet
Is that the poet that comes with extra leg room and more recline in his seat? (As opposed to the coach poet -- eg, WestJet's idiot poet of the skies.)

Smith has developed a more nuanced way of looking at mundane business activities, which helps him make better decisions on the job, he says.

When he writes about offices, "I'm hunting for relationships, for how I relate to people in the business world. Business executives tend to look at things in a linear way. A leads to B leads to C. Poetry is non-linear."

That leads to original approaches. "I'm thinking about two or three things at once and trying to solve two or three different problems by linking them together in a creative way," Smith said.

Wait a minute. I didn't have to quit the corporate world for a life of poverty? Crap! I could be wearing a cornflower blue shirt and yellow tie right now, working myself to death instead of getting to know my son. What was I thinking!? (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Arthur Hailey
Novelist, dead at 84. (Not surprisingly, Canadian media are referring to him as "Canadian" while everyone else seems to be calling him "British". It seems to be very important to AP to note: "Hailey left England in 1947 for Canada, where he later received citizenship (while retaining his British citizenship)..." Wait! Don't dismiss him! He's important! Not Canadian! Not necessarily!) (discuss) (posted by George)

Happy Birthday Faber & Faber
You don't look a day over 74. A brief history of what it means to be unpopular, but good for the planet's soul.

My publisher, Faber & Faber, is 75 years old this week. Even to the non-commercially minded, one would have to admit that the company's early attempts at marketing its books lacked vigour, causing even T S Eliot (one of the first directors) to call for a change in attitudes. Not that it made much difference, mind you. The poet William Empson was described in the advertising blurb for one of his books as being "the most brilliantly obscure of modern poets". A book by Louis MacNeice was advertised in a way that no publisher could contemplate today: "His work," it said, "is intelligible but unpopular, and has the pride and modesty of things that endure." Philip Larkin was frightened of Faber & Faber's high standards, and wrote that he thought of the company as a "reproachful father figure".
...
Heaney's first volume sold several thousand copies. His talent was protected, all the way to the Nobel Prize. In a literary culture that allowed only bestsellers and coffee table books, Heaney would have been out of print before the end of the Seventies. And the others sitting alongside him at the Festival Hall - Alan Bennett, Hanif Kureishi, P D James, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Jan Morris - might not have had the careers they have had if not for the loyalty and far-seeingness, the commercial bravery, of a company not frightened to pursue its own standards and maintain its own values.

(discuss) (posted by George)

When don't awards equal sales?
When every media mention of your book calls it "a gay novel" (second item). So much for living in a better world. (discuss)

The post-election tell-all killed by the mid-election tell-all
Next up, the pre-election tell-all. Watch for the 2006 release of Put a Little Muscle Into It: How the 2012 Schwarzenegger Campaign Wrestled America to the Ground like an Unsuspecting 1970s Gym Bunny. (discuss) (posted by George)

Philip Roth: doomsayer
Interviewed at PBS (note the option at the top to watch the video.)

PHILIP ROTH: Your role is to write as well as you can. You're not advancing social causes as far as I'm concerned. You're not addressing social problems.

What you're advancing is... there's only one cause you're advancing; that's the cause of literature, which is one of the great lost human causes. So you do your bit, you do your bit for fiction, for the novel.

JEFFREY BROWN: Why do you think it's become one of the great lost causes of our time?

PHILIP ROTH: My goodness. Um, oh, I don't think in twenty or twenty-five years people will read these things at all.

JEFFREY BROWN: Not at all?

PHILIP ROTH: Not at all. I think it's inevitable. I think the... there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged, that are I think probably far more compelling than the novel. So I think the novel's day has come and gone, really.

Well, that's it. Pack 'er up, boys. Time to go get a job in "business". (From MoorishGirl) (discuss) (posted by George)

The cost of a loving relationship? 1.1 million dollars
Owning 75.6% of a warehouse full of candles, mints, and yoga mats? Priceless. (discuss) (posted by George)

Raw justice, library-style: guilt
New Zealand's rare book thief, now caught and awaiting sentencing, is remorseful for pillaging the his country's cultural heritage. I didn't know hobbits read that much anyway. (Gambling my arse. This was to feed his Nora Roberts habit, plain and simple. Well, life on the inside ain't gonna be pretty, boyo. It's all Dean Koontz in the crowbar motel, baby.) (discuss) (posted by George)

Happy Thanksgiving, Yanks!
Here's a little poem about "thanks" from one of your great writers. (From Incoming Signals) (discuss) (posted by George)


Weekend Edition:

Keats, the fugitive poet
It was actually a "Keats fragment" that got me interested in his poetry in the first place.

In other words, the "Keats canon" is at once predictable and sensible. But predictably and sensibly we must also say that it leaves a lot of golden lines unscanned — not fugitive in the sense that they willingly escape our attention, but in the way they are ousted from our view by the more perfect achievement of his best things. This is regrettable. For one thing, Keats's less famous poems often shed a bright light on the intentions and effects of his masterpieces. For another, they refresh our sense of the whole poet by showing him in a variety of moods, and in doing so alert us to undercurrents elsewhere. When we consider the mingled affability and ambition of the sonnets he dashed off with and for Leigh Hunt we learn something about the humanity which fills the odes.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

My favourite weapon is a debit card
Raymond Chandler was a big influence on me, and there are little nods to him and his style throughout Please. While I'd love to have his literary success, I sure don't want my life to follow the path his did.

Chandler's last years without her were spent more or less in breakdown, the drunken suicide attempts of the months after Cissy's funeral turning to five, eventually fatal, years of alcoholism. In his last months he was having desperate, disinterested affairs and drinking gimlets again, now all too much like Marlowe in The Long Goodbye: "Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off." In this state he proposed to three different women-one from Australia, one from England, and one sent to California by the one from England to check into what the one from Australia was up to.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The commies are coming, the commies are coming!
Boing Boing points to some hilarious anti-communist comics from the 1960s. Good to see things have changed in America. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

The New Eyewitness
Well, at least the Russians are honest about stealing the look of the New Yorker. (From Jeff) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

A bibliophile's bedroom
I actually had a room once that looked just like this. I was a starving student at the time.... (From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Who wrote this?
In 1974, Thomas Pynchon won the National Book Award Fiction Citation for Gravity's Rainbow and sent Professor Irwin Corey to give a speech.

And the jury has determined to divide the prize between two writers -- to Thomas Pynchon for his GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. Now GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is a token of this man's genius...he told me so himself...that he could...in other words, have been more specific, but rather than to allude the mundane, he has come to the conclusion that brevity is the importance of our shallow existence. God damn. Ladies and Gentlemen. To the distinguished panel on the, on the dais and to the other winners, for poetry and religion and science. The time will come when religion will outlive its usefulness. Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium...will be the opiate...Ahh that's not a bad idea...

(From Metafilter) (discuss) (Posted by Peter)


11/29/04:

Donations note
One caveat about using PayPal to donate money to Bookninja: If you want to donate by credit card, you need a PayPal account. This is very easy and only takes a few seconds to set up. It's a necessary security measure of PayPal's to prevent fraud.

The confusing thing is it appears possible for people to donate by credit card without a PayPal account, but we can't accept the funds without upgrading to a corporate account -- which is too costly for us -- so we end up having to decline the donation. Sorry to those people we've already declined. Who would have thought a couple of lowlife writers would ever turn down money?

We're looking into setting up an Amazon Honor System donation option as well, which works more or less like PayPal. We figure most readers of this site already have Amazon accounts, so this may be a more streamlined process than using PayPal for some people.

In the meantime, if you want to donate but don't want to set up a PayPal account you can:

1) donate by debit withdrawal through PayPal (no PayPal account needed)

2) send us a cheque (contact us for mailing address).

Remember, all donations go directly to our starving writers. Will no one think of the starving writers? (Posted by Peter)

The toy soldiers are the crowning touch
New Posy Simmonds cartoon. (discuss) (Posted by Peter)

My kind of writer
Haruki Murakami doesn't care about critical reviews, but takes the time to talk to his fans by e-mail every day. And he likes Radiohead and REM. (Old interview but kind of interesting. From a broader Metafilter thread.)

I answer my readers' e-mails, you know. I read about 100 per day, and I write 10 to 20 replies. I think it's necessary for me. I'm not interested in professional criticism, pro or con. I just don't care. But I think it's very important for me to read the words from my actual readers, the ones who pay their money to buy and read my books. They are very important. Sometimes they actually help me to think about the books I've written.

(discuss) (Posted by Peter)

Two writers' festivals linked by a highway...
As opposed to the ones linked by a trail of LCBO litter.

The book festival that barely escaped the remainder bin has ended up on the two-for-one table with the promise of a literary feast next month for readers. By necessity, the Victoria Literary Arts Festival, now in its 11th year, is piggybacking with Sidney's third annual Christmas Writers' Festival.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Saskatchewan authors receive awards on "everybody gets a trophy day"
Nation slips into deep slumber. (discuss) (posted by George)

I know a few editors who would say that all publishing is faith-based...
The NYT gives some press to religious publishers.* Let's hope they can get a charity write off for it.

The success of religion titles is also due to an increasing sophistication on the part of Christian publishers, who during the 90's branched out from Christian retailers and forged closer relationships with stores like Wal-Mart and Costco; Wal-Mart carries 1,200 ''inspirational titles'' at any given time.

They keep them right next to the cammo'n'ammo. (discuss) (posted by George)

All's fair in love and theft
Where does the line fall between what's yours to take and what's theirs to be stolen?

The dilemma over a poet’s right to include another’s words in his or her work came back with a vengeance when Robert Lowell decided to include in his 1973 collection, The Dolphin, a number of sonnets based on letters from his ex-wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Lowell had left her, and their daughter, Harriet, for England and Caroline Blackwood; The Dolphin tells, as he put it in a letter to Christopher Ricks, ‘the story of changing marriages, not a malice or sensation, far from it, but necessarily, according to my peculiar talent, very personal. Lizzie is naturally very much against it. I am considering publication in about a year; it needn’t be published, but I feel clogged by the possibility of not.’ It’s not hard to see why Lizzie was against it. Lowell called the work ‘half-fiction’, and one can’t confidently tell what is verbatim transcript of her letters, and what has been doctored. The sonnets in her voice are disturbingly private:

‘I love you, Darling, there’s a black black void,
as black as night without you. I long to see
your face and hear your voice, and take your hand . . .’

(‘In the Mail’)

Friends such as Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Bishop (who a few years earlier had been dismayed to find one of her own distressed letters to Lowell recycled as a sonnet) begged him not to publish: ‘Art just isn’t worth that much,’ she insisted, asking if he ‘wasn’t violating a trust’ and declaring it ‘cruel’ to ‘use personal, tragic, anguished letters that way’.

Was there any of that bunch who was remotely sane? (discuss) (posted by George)

Dylan Thomas was murdered
It was Dr Milton Feltenstein in the parlour with the candlestick.

DYLAN Thomas might have had good cause to rage against the dying of his own light after it emerged a bungling doctor, rather than chronic alcoholism, brought about the poet’s demise.

According to a new biography published tomorrow, the author of Under Milk Wood was found by doctors to be suffering from pneumonia when he was admitted to the New York hospital where he died in November 1953, aged 40.

According to the authors of Dylan Remembered 1935-1953 it was mistreatment of that condition which led to his death.

Damn. And we could have had him around to become a doddering old fool, a flammable shadow of his former self? We've been robbed. (discuss) (posted by George)

Hot chick reading Calvino at three o'clock...!

What could be wrong with this RFID technology? I see a device like that freaky tracker from Aliens - making these high pitched pings as an army of Gwen Stefanis and Janeane Garofalos close in on me from every side, ready to bludgeon me with copies of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. They're in the air ducts!! Aaaagh! Hot. If I gotta go, I want to go like that. (discuss) (posted by George)

Where music and poetry meet
New England. That state is, like, so gay. (discuss) (posted by George)

The Book Thing
Dammit. I just knew there was a name as good as Bookninja out there. And a better idea* too (use bugmenot to get around the ridiculous registration).

It's a bare-bones operation: The basement has no heat or running water, no bathroom, and most of the light comes from the hanging light bulbs in each alcove. The Book Thing's annual budget hovers around $50,000, according to tax records. That's a low figure considering the thousands of books the nonprofit gives away.

Inside the basement and scattered on the concrete outside are tens of thousands of books -- all donated, all free. Shelves line nearly every inch of wall space; books that couldn't be crammed onto the overburdened shelves lean against them in stacks several feet high. Every Saturday and Sunday, Wattenberg throws open the door to the public -- everyone is welcome and they can take away as much reading material as they like.

(discuss) (posted by George)

"Mother"?
Hm. I would have gone for "trist" or maybe "Stefanis". Browr! (I can't believe some fo the words that made this list... "gum"?)

The wordlist, which contains only one verb (cherish) which is not also a noun, emerged after the council asked more than 7,000 learners in 46 countries what they considered the most beautiful words in English language. Some 35,000 other people registered their favourites in an online poll run in the non-English speaking countries where the council operates.

I still only hear Norman Bates when I hear "mother"... Hello, Mother. (Our regular readers will note the inclusion of the word "Twinkle"...) (discuss) (posted by George)

Watch what you say about my mamma
Freida wants to know why we can't just leave her mother alone. And speaking of Norman Bates...

"For people going to see her grave, it is a tourist attraction. It makes me want to dig her up and bring her home."

Ugh. (discuss) (posted by George)

RIP: Larry Brown
Author, dead at 53.* (discuss) (posted by George)

Somehow I don't think this is threatening Gatenby's title for pack rack of the year...
20,000 of her own books, but look at those spines. Not promising. (discuss) (posted by George)


11/30/04:

Behind the shadowy curtain...
A little peak into the twisted, hoar-frost-frozen mind of a yeoman ninja. (discuss) (posted by George)

Poetry's hot again in Britain (like socks on an otherwise naked person)
Um... I blame this on... um... the rain?

From botanical gardens to bus companies to college campuses, having a poet-in-residence is now the in thing to do. So much so, that some in the media and the academic world are now calling poetry the new rock 'n' roll.

Yeah! It's exactly like that! Except for the whole, you know, fame/sex/drugs/money/ audience thing. (discuss) (posted by George)

The night of the living theorists
Hey, Egghead! XYZ! Your jargon's showing!

What?In January 1999, when Philosophy and Literature announced that Rhetoric professor Judith Butler had won its fourth annual Bad Writing Contest, nobody was much surprised. Many had pointed out the solecisms of Butler, runner-up Homi Bhabha, and previous awardees, and the abstract, twisting grandiloquence of critical theory with a progressive slant was already well known in academic circles. But the contest did have an unusual fate outside the academy. It became news. Philosophy and Literature editor Denis Dutton wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (February 5, 1999), a startling forum for the treatment of academic prose. Articles in the New York Times, the Weekly Standard, and Lingua Franca appeared, and the New Republic and Salon issued attacks on Butler's ideas as well as her sentences. That made for a readership of millions and another humiliation for educators (after the Sokal Hoax, History Standards, Ebonics . . .). The contest hit a popular nerve, gratifying not only formalist critics, empirical historians, and scientists—all of whom had been targets of theory discourse—but also journalists, public intellectuals, and informed readers who found the language and attitude of critical theory obnoxious and overblown.

Listen, man, I don't expect to be able to pick up a book on thermodynamics or quantum physics (or even plumbing for that matter) and understand what I'm reading. Why? Because they're specialized fields and, more importantly, not MY specialized fields. People get all pissy and nasty when they don't understand things. That's why you always see couples fighting after David Lynch films. So I say, go ahead, Poindexter, bust that verbal nut all you like. But, if I'm in the room, just be prepared for blank stares and lots of stupid questions. (What can I do about agency? What came before post-structuralism? What does hegemony have to do with all this?) (From ALDaily) (discuss) (posted by George)

And this is why we live in Canada
Arab and Jewish students launch Yalla, a literary journal for Jews and Arabs. (discuss) (posted by George)

A word from the unwashed
Over at TEV, IMPAC longlistee Dexter Petley gives some perspective on why the looooooong list is important.

I share the derision at the IMPAC longlist, but let me add the missing perspective. I'm one of the writers on this 2005 longlist and i'm trying to come to terms with a kind of gratitude while retaining my long held disgust at the domination of literary prizes in contemporary fiction. I'm a mid-list author of lit fiction with very low sales and zero publicity. There are thousands like me and we're the rank outsiders for prizes we never usually get entered for. Our publishers dont give a toss about us, we're just in the catalogue as token quality, something to remainder next year. We're like child labour sewing footballs together. Fair trade has yet to enter publishing. We're unpromoted, therefore unreviewed, thus unsold, unread. Publishers are the only multi-national conglomerates who don't promote the bulk of their products. My books don't even get into bookshops.

Quite a brave set of words here. (discuss) (posted by George)

We are the world...
Writers helping fight AIDS.*

In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women....Not one writer said no when Nadine Gordimer came asking for help in her ambitious campaign to raise money to fight AIDS. Gabriel García Márquez and Susan Sontag signed on. So did Paul Theroux, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Günter Grass, Margaret Atwood, Woody Allen and Arthur Miller.

Who? A worthy cause - a worthy gift, perhaps? (discuss) (posted by George)

Ah, December... Only you can save us from NaNoWriMo

Isn't that a city in Northern BC?

Two people have managed to publish NaNo novels, both of whom substantially edited their drafts after the November frenzy was over. Jon Merz was already a professional writer of supernatural thrillers. His 2001 NaNo novel, The Destructor, pits his hero, a sort of vampire cop, against a female villain who is part vampire and part werewolf.

NaNoWriMo is ''sort of the puke-it-out phase,'' Merz says. ``Perfection -- if it's attainable -- comes later.

You don't say... See, I would have thought the vampire vs. were-vampire just about as perfect as any one thing could get. (Take that, Coetzee! Hey, Atwood, I vant to suck your blood! Bite the silver bullet, Naipaul!) (Use bugmenot to get a password) (discuss) (posted by George)

A pointless rule?
A list of helpful tips for getting Nah-no-more-wri... aspirants through the last day of block.

  • Make a pointless rule - You can’t end sentences with words that begin with a vowel. Or you can’t have more than one word over eight letters in any paragraph. Limits create focus and change your perspective.

Hey! Up here we call that poetry. (Thanks to Ms Ninja for the link) (discuss) (posted by George)

When is a Marxist poet not a Marxist poet
Something about a raven and a writing desk.

Anne Winters is one of the scarcest talents in American poetry. Winters is the author of two books of poems, The Key to the City and the new The Displaced of Capital, published 18 years apart. The books themselves are slim, even by the standards of poetry books. Her reputation comes to rest on perhaps a dozen poems written over the course of 30 or so years. All of these poems take New York City as their primary subject, and all of them are written from an inveterately leftist, even Marxist, point of view. There are good and expert and delightful things throughout all of Winters' poems, but these dozen or so poems about New York are her best, and a few of these are so good that they do what R.P. Blackmur says great art does: They "enlarge the stock of available reality."

I seem to have completely missed out on this person. Can anyone confirm or deny said greatness? (discuss) (posted by George)

And racy limericks will get you twenty
Ah, poetry. If only you too could still cause riots like your poor cousin the football chant.

FOOTBALL fans are to face a 10-year ban from stadiums across Scotland for singing sectarian songs.

The clampdown will give courts the power to impose harsh penalties on hooligans and yobs who abuse players and taunt fellow supporters with religious chants.

(discuss) (posted by George)

Coolest. Bookstore. Ever.
Though I'd hate to be looking for anything in particular. (From Bibliovixen... at who's site I can't post comments for some reason.) (discuss) (posted by George)

I knew I never trusted Kurt Vonnegut for a reason
I never trust anyone who hasn't won a Nobel... and who used to sell those European Datsuns.

Why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature. Old Norwegian proverb: “Swedes have short dicks but long memories.”

(From Maud) (discuss) (posted by George)



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