Mildred, let's undo that wee bun and get to know yeh...
How come we
don't see the porn canon on library shelves?
seems ironic that in a more sexually open era than when the much
more visually graphic Sex came out in 1992, there are precious
few volumes of Jameson's book in public libraries. Librarians
are viewed, and view themselves, as defenders of intellectual
freedom and the public's right to read, but they still purchase
certain categories of books warily.
guess is it's because the people looking to borrow the book are
actually lost on the streets looking for the front door of the Pu'lic
Sounds like when you get a rabbit punch in the solar plexus. OIWF.
But it's actually a
very nice book festival in sunny (for now) Ottawa. (From PFW)
Rushdie gets political
Salman, pictured here with a rake stapled to a wig (where does she
keep her organs?), is taking
on America's new reality.
was one of several speakers at the House of Representatives in
Washington to call for legislation "protecting our freedom
He said there was "absolutely
no security reason" to justify the government scrutinising
people's reading habits.
The Indian-born writer, who is president of the US writers' advocacy
group Pen American Center, spoke of his own experience of censorship.
censorship. Gosh, I wish someone would sentence me to death. With
my luck they'd just kill me and my publicity-less book would still
get remaindered. (discuss)
he told the judge, "not only does I resents the allegation,
but I resents the alligator!"
the Black vernacular seen better days?*
Labov argues that black Americans have become more monolingual
since the 60's - that fewer of them have a mastery of standard
English. That's the result of residential segregation, the fact
that poor blacks tend to live with poor blacks. But it's also
compounded by desegregation, which ended up separating the black
poor and the black middle class.
Because of these two factors,
there's now a large group of poor black people whose face-to-face
conversations are almost entirely with people like themselves.
As the cultural critic Greg Tate told me, black people are "segregated,
landlocked and institutionalized between prison, the project and
public institutions." He added that "there's a certain
tribal caste to segregated African-American communities for that
reason," and that's reflected in their increased monolingualism.
my friend Kym is reading this, she should send me an email about
A page out of history
Well, held for ransom and sold. (discuss)
Texas: land of the free(-roaming idiots)
Please, people. Please. Please please please. Vote sanely.
its annual review of state schools and libraries, the American
Civil Liberties Union of Texas this week identifies 62 titles
that were removed from school libraries during the 2003-04 school
year following objections from parents or teachers. Restrictions
were placed on an additional 33 books, including George Orwell's
Nineteen Eighty-Four, following objections from the parent of
a ninth grade student.
south is only a brain-ghetto now. Soon it will be a model for the
unintentional book give away of all time!
Madrid plans to "lend"
books on public transit. I wonder how Mexico City did with this?
Sci-Fi Wars 2: The Illiterate Menace
Basilieres follows up on his controversial column on Philip K. Dick.
Part of my desire
to do this column was to talk about the writers I admire and read
with pleasure, something
that as far as I know, no other non-SF writer has done--at least
not regularly. Weíve seen Jonathan Lethem praising Philip K. Dick
(although Lethem, like Kurt Vonnegut, began his career in the
genre), Borges and Joyce Carol Oates talking about H. P. Lovecraft,
Umberto Eco blurbing Samuel R. Delaney and perhaps a few other
instances. But by and large literary writers donít read much SF.
Or they read only whatís supposed to be the best, according to
fans, and are put off. Or maybe they are keeping their "unsavoury"
reading habits to themselves.
The fact that he owns 850 dictionairies was enough to make
me like this guy, let alone the fact that he's
made his own colour dictionary.
Marrying his two passions -- words
and colour -- took Paterson five years. He trawled newspapers,
fiction and non-fiction books for colour references, and even
visited DIY stores for colour charts. The result, as it says on
the book's cover, is a "lexicon of the language of colour". The
book spans simple explanations of words connected in any way with
colours (including one of Paterson's favourites, leucippotomy,
or the art of carving white horses on a hillside), to colour phrases
(such as "black as the inside of a cow", a sailor's eloquent way
of expressing nil visibility) and adjectives (from academy and
china blue to lily white). It reveals that there are more than
200 words for the colour blue.
this doesn't include Halliburton
For those of you who haven't read The Corporation, which
claims corporations exhibit the typical characteristics of psychopaths,
the Guardian has an excerpt:
In the report, Ivey multiplied
the 500 fuel-fed fire fatalities that occurred each year in GM
vehicles by $200,000,
his estimate of the cost to GM in legal damages for each potential
fatality, and then divided that figure by 41m, the number of GM
vehicles operating on US highways at the time. He concluded that
each fuel-fed fatality cost GM $2.40 per automobile ... The cost
to General Motors of ensuring that fuel tanks did not explode
in crashes, estimated by the company to be $8.59 per automobile,
meant the company could save $6.19 ($8.59 minus $2.40) per automobile
if it allowed people to die in fuel-fed fires rather than alter
the design of vehicles to avoid such fires.
I keep wishing aloud that Canada would leave NAFTA and join
the EU. Can
you blame me?
Europeans often remark that Americans
"live to work," while Europeans "work to live." The average paid
vacation time in Europe is now six weeks a year. By contrast,
Americans, on average, receive only two weeks. Most Americans
would also be shocked to learn that the average commute to work
in Europe is less than 19 minutes. When one considers what makes
a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, Europe
is beginning to surpass America.
is it Art?
Eco ponders the aesthetics of the 20th century.
But when pop art took over and
began to turn out provocative experimental works based on images
from the worlds of commerce, industry and the mass media, and
when the Beatles skilfully reworked certain traditional musical
forms, the gap between the art of provocation and the art of consumption
grew narrower. What's more, while it seems that there is still
a gap between "cultivated" and "popular" art, in the climate of
the so-called postmodern period, cultivated art offers new experimental
work that goes beyond visual art and revivals of visual art at
one and the same time, as the tradition is continually reassessed.
maybe, but new?
During the spring and summer of
2004 some Americans, most but not all of them nominal Democrats,
spoke of the November 2 presidential election as the most important,
or "crucial," of their lifetimes. They told not only acquaintances
but reporters and political opinion researchers that they had
never been more "concerned," more "uneasy," more "discouraged,"
even more "frightened" about the future of the United States.
They expressed apprehension that the fragile threads that bound
the republic had reached a breaking point; that the nation's very
constitution had been diverted for political advantage; that the
mechanisms its citizens had created over two centuries to protect
themselves from one another and from others had been in the first
instance systematically dismantled and in the second sacrificed
to an enthusiasm for bellicose fantasy. They downloaded news reports
that seemed to make these points. They e-mailed newsletters and
Web logs and speeches and Doonesbury strips to multiple
adaptations, fall reading, Carmine Starnino and more.
updated my columns/articles page.
Bible just isn't as bloodthirsty as Lord of the Rings
Given that I'm German and read Lord of the Rings 13
times as a child, this
comes as no surprise to me.
a national project that mirrored the BBC's The Big Read, the German
public placed the Lord of the Rings at the top of their
most loved literature. The list of prized publications, in which
the Bible ranked second, offers a glimpse into a German
public which, according to some, is desperate to escape its "current
air of pessimism."
Once again, American
media covering blogs* leave out the poor ninjas. Sigh. Canada:
America's attic. Full of old lamps, dusty trunks, a long-sought
box of Gretzky rookie card doubles, New Kids on the Block curtains
(mustaches added), and two lonely-looking, arsenic-laced ninjas.
New York Times, you've just made The List....
(Bravo to Maud Newton, the
Bookslut, and the other regular
suspects -- though I would have expected to see Moorish
Girl and TEV
in there...) (Do you think it could be the sometimes ... harsh ...
commentary on what American news we dole out here that turns news
orgs off? Nah!) (discuss)
The Patriot Act
What does it mean
for American writers (Besides the everyday violations that Joe
Public is subject to)?
In a nutshell, the act gives federal law enforcement agencies
(for example, the FBI, Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys) and
foreign intelligence surveillance agencies (the CIA, NSA, Pentagon,
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS, formerly known
as Immigration and Naturalization Service or INS], Secret Service)
more tools and greater leeway to spy on citizens (and legal aliens)
in national security and criminal investigations. It does so in
the following ways (among others):
• Makes it much easier for
domestic law enforcement to use tools like roving wiretaps and
• Lowers the standard needed to convince a court to issue search
warrants and subpoenas (probable cause to believe a crime is being
committed or planned is no longer needed)
• Greatly expands the scope of third- party records subject to
• Permits domestic and foreign intelligence agencies to share
information gathered about citizens more easily
• Allows individual district courts to issue nationwide search
warrants and wiretap orders
• Permits agencies to spy—even to exercise a search warrant without
notifying the person being searched
• Expands the type of information subject to surveillance to include
e-mail and other online activity
• Forbids citizens subject to surveillance to challenge it in
court except after the fact if they are charged with a crime
always been amazed at how the simple use of the word "patriot"
makes everyone think twice about criticising it. You guys really
have to excise that word from your vocabulary. Or at least return
it to a station of power and respect by not abusing it so often.
(P.S. What I'd like to see around here is an article outlining what
the loss of American civil liberties means for us -- the little
brother who's always getting the hand-me-downs. As "the land
of the free" becomes "the land of the deluded", what
happens to us?) (discuss)
Speaking of poetry and politics...
When is a poem not a poem? When it's an (overtly) political
poem. Then it's just crap.
kinds of poems use poetry in the worst sense of that word -- to
forward a partisan agenda. If, for instance, we already agree
with the agenda (kicking dogs is bad, say), then we're just one
of the choir being preached to, and we might even say the poem
is good, great or terrific because the poem proves that we've
been right all along. If we disagree with the agenda -- Rudyard
Kipling, for instance, wrote poems in praise of colonialism --
then aren't we right to call the poem simply propaganda?
like to read a political poem so good it would make Wubblewoo's
head explode. Or collapse, as the case may be. (From PFW)
Toronto's poet di Cicco
A profile of Toronto's new "father"*
years would lapse before his next book of poetry. The absence
helps to explain any surprise that members of the literary community
may have felt at the appointment (an informal poll by The Globe
and Mail had indicated Dionne Brand, Michael Ondaatje and Margaret
Atwood, among others, were likelier candidates for the position),
not to mention the mispronunciation of Mr. di Cicco's last name
by Mayor David Miller when he officially introduced him to city
council on Wednesday.
going to Hell, Miller. Hell. (discuss)
RIP: Michael Donaghy
at 50. Writers
line up to pay tribute. (discuss)
Play vs story
Which is more important in video games? Canadian expat journalist
Thompson waxes electronic on his
other problem with narrative is that it is, at heart, essentially
noninteractive. As Northrop Frye argued, the pleasure of a story
is masochistic: The fun is in sitting there and going, "yeah?
And then? And then? And then?" without ever knowing what's
next. Having any control over that situation changes this dramatically:
The masochism is what makes narrative narrative. Take that away,
create an interactive situation, and you've got something very
cool: A game with open-ended, forking scenes, amazingly cinematic
visuals, a powerful metaphoric and symbolic system, and other
cool stuff. But it's not a narrative anymore, so studying it as
such won't tell you very much.
am I allowed to have a crush on you? (discuss)
Nobel speculation heats up
Calls for a female literature laureate
have gone unheeded for a while.
poet Inger Christenssen frequently has been mentioned in recent
years as commentators have called for the literature prize to
go to a woman. The last female winner was Polish poet Wislawa
Szymborska in 1996.
is no one speculating about Margaret Atwood? She's got to be due
sometime soon. (discuss)
When books become
all their pitfalls, novels*
and plays share a quality that filmmakers crave: plot. More than
empathetic characters, the world of film is really about finding
a promising storyline. Films eat up action like a teenager in
front of a pizza box. Actors can enhance characterization and
supply the camera with emotional intensity as it pans across their
mobile faces; locations can supply context and visual metaphors.
But nothing can beat novels and plays for coming up with the narrative
through line that holds it all together.
I would have gone for "Films eat up action like necrotizing
fasciitis on a separatist's leg," but that's mainly a difference
in style, init? (discuss)
S.E. Hinton's back
And this time she's
sucking and fucking her way to the top, baby!
Harbor," released last week by Tor Books, is the best-selling
author's sixth novel and the only one written for adults. Part
high-seas adventure, part vampire horror, it depicts a young man
grappling with danger and insanity while looking for peace. There
are pirates and sex, gunrunning and smuggling, and sailors who
talk like sailors.
go, girl! (discuss)
A bomb in every copy: Tong Ting gets a lesson in
A children's author finds herself in the middle of a
3,000 copies of "Tong Ting Finds a Family" were confiscated
by the U.S. Customs Department in July because she unknowingly
used a Chinese shipper that the Bush administration has barred
from doing business in the United States. According to a spokeswoman
from the U.S. Treasury Department, the company's parent company
is suspected of having shipped missile parts to Iraq to be used
in the delivery of weapons of mass destruction.
pretty sure that this just means the book never existed in the first
A sordid story of
ghostwriting and simultaneous orgasm. (discuss)
Backspace... Hey, I use that key! Lots!
The folks behind a relatively new, yet relatively jam-packed literary
sent us a note about themselves. It's really quite amazing what
they've accomplished in just six months. Some big names are attached
and it looks like a cool enough place to hang out... when you're
not here, that is. P.S. Some of the site is subscription ($30),
which is unfortunate, but hey, maybe they're paying people. (Quiet,
you. We're working on it.) (discuss)
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Steinbecks'
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Steinbeck's
brood should get together with the Hemingway clutch and go bowling.
Perhaps they could all work as carnies in a literary carnival. Who
else would be there? Sylvia Plath's ghost? Philip K Dick's corpse
in the House of Horrors? There are a few Canadians I'd like to mention
here, but a guy's gotta live, you know... (discuss)
Are you a Dickhead? Read along!
A reader's commentary
on Moby Dick (from Incoming
future of copyright finally comes to Canada. Creative Commons
is the way to go for artists of any sort who want to disseminate
their work digitally. And you thought open source was just for Linux
Too often the debate over creative
control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total
control -- a world in which every last use of a work is regulated
and in which "all rights reserved" is the norm. At the other end
is anarchy -- a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of
freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise,
and moderation -- once the driving forces of a copyright system
that valued innovation and protection equally -- have become endangered
species. The Creative Commons project is working to revive reasonableness.
The freely-available suite of cc licences offers creators a best-of-both-worlds
way to protect their works and encourage pre-defined uses by others.
The goal is to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright
in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules.
Hitchens -- left-wing ideologue or right-wing ideologue?
I suspect the answer may be found in the brand of whisky he drinks
in this interview
on Islamofascism. Any guesses?
many of Christopher Hitchens' old friends, he died on September
11, 2001. Tariq Ali considered himself a comrade of Christopher
Hitchens for over thirty years. Now he speaks about him with bewilderment.
"On 11th September 2001, a small group of terrorists crashed the
planes they had hijacked into the Twin Towers of New York. Among
the casualties, although unreported that week, was a middle-aged
Nation columnist called Christopher Hitchens. He was never
seen again," Ali writes. "The vile replica currently on offer
is a double."
Bookslut presents an interview
with Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis and Persepolis
2 (all right, so titles aren't her strong point). She makes
some interesting distinctions between identity and cultural identity:
I am a foreigner in Iran. I don't
take the risk to go back to my country anymore, but at the same
time, it's a good feeling not to belong to any place anymore,
at the same time it's a hard feeling. So if I wrote a book and
said I was worrying about the situation in Iran the whole time,
that would be so untrue. Any of us who have moved from Iran --
and there were many of us who left like this without parents --
all of us have gone through this desire to be part of a new society,
that we had to abandon everything. And the funny thing is, all
the Iranian friends I have now, who left the country alone at
12, 13, 14, we have become extremely Iranian after all these years.
also offers a graphic
account of one of Satrapi's book signings. (discuss)
"Pub czar taps lit guru for read rag"
The New York Post conducts
some of its classically illiterate "analysis" in examining
the new NYTBR
and somehow draws the conclusion that Bush is a master statesman
who will win because it's God's will. (discuss)
Hang on a sec... Oscar Wilde was gay?
that never made it to print defames Wilde as "one of the
most powerful forces for evil that has happened in Europe for the
last 300 years. I do not know of any man who more truly and literally
sold himself to the devil than he did." Nothing like switching
from a life of clandestine gay affairs to hardcore Roman Catholicism
to tweak that hyperbole bone, eh? (discuss)
Moscow on the Iowa
Three Russian lit darlings Alexander Ulanov, Dmitry Kuzmin and Yekaterina
Sadur make a
pilgrimage to Iowa to tell America what sucks about creative
writing. Could there ever in the history of the world have been
a story so directly suited to my tastes?
to represent the precocious generation of writers that has come
to age since the Soviet Union's fall, Ulanov, Kuzmin and Sadur
visited Iowa courtesy of the Open World Cultural Leaders Program.
During their two-week visit, which ended on Thursday, they met
with writers from around the world (including the two Russian
guests of the International Writing Program, Maxim Kurochkin and
Natalya Vorozhbit), discussed contemporary Russian literature
in panel groups, visited Amish communities in eastern Iowa, listened
to American bluegrass music, visited with students, took in museums,
observed translation workshops, and gave public readings of their
one laments the sorry state of poetry in mother Russia:
in the past, the Soviet emphasis on high literature often paid
off for writers, with predetermined book circulations dictated
from above, today's market economy has left many in the lurch.
According to Kuzmin, the average print run of new books of poetry
is usually less than 1,000.
"It is a very, very
small amount for such a large country with so many people in it,"
he said. "I believe the reason for this is not that we have
no readership, that people aren't interested in poetry, but the
total crash of the system of distributing books that happened
after the collapse of the Soviet regime. We still haven't repaired
sweetie, it ain't broke -- it's just a Canadian model. (From GoodReports)
Graham Greene's family up in arms
biography that details Greene's time spent up in other peoples'
arms. (Note the brief reference to "Louise Dennys"...)
The short story: defended again
You'd think it was under
What draws a writer to the short story? It's important to remember
that the story as we know it is a comparatively recent phenomenon.
The arrival of mass-market magazine publication and a new generation
of literate middle-class readers in the mid- to late-19th century
saw a boom in the short story in the US and Europe that lasted
maybe 100 years. Many writers were initially drawn to the form
as a way of making money, particularly in America: Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe all subsidised their less
well-remunerated novel-writing careers by writing stories. In
the 1920s, F Scott Fitzgerald was paid $4,000 for a story by the
Saturday Evening Post (a vast sum today -- multiply by
10 to get some idea of a comparison). Even John Updike, in the
1950s, reckoned he could support his wife and young family by
the sale of five or six stories a year to the New Yorker.
Times have changed. While magazines such as the New Yorker,
Esquire and Playboy pay handsomely, more than any
British equivalent, no one today could replicate Updike's achievement.
today's reader doesn't have the attention span for short stories.
That's why people have moved on to "microfiction" -- the
pizza pocket of literature. (discuss)
Communicating with vermin
You know that dirty rat who cut you off in the grocery store parking
lot? Now you can tell him to go fuck himself in
his own language. (From Incoming
turnover at the Walrus
reports that editorial changes continue at the Walrus. Full
Churn continues at the Walrus
TORONTO--Walrus deputy editor Sarmishta Subramanian and
senior editor Lisa Rundle will be leaving the general-interest
monthly at week's end. Only creative director Antonio De Luca
and associate editor/head of research Joshua Knelman remain of
the original editorial team assembled by founding editor David
Berlin and publisher Ken Alexander. Editorial staff turnover at
the Walrus, which marked its first anniversary this month,
has been high. Berlin, now only a contributing editor, resigned
after three issues. His successor, industry veteran Paul Wilson,
resigned after just two issues, citing editorial interference
from publisher Ken Alexander. Alexander appointed himself editorial
director following Wilson's departure. Rundle's decision to leave
was "an incredibly complicated choice," she says. "It
wasn't a viable work environment for me... I'd rather say less
than more." Subramanian could not be reached for comment.
Walrus watchers have remarked that the departures of seasoned
veterans from the magazine suggests a clash between the "professional"
magaziners and Alexander, a relative neophyte whose background
is teaching and broadcasting (he was a producer for CBC Television's
Counterspin). "I was hardly blindsided by this,"
said Alexander of these most recent departures, indicating that
he's been asserting his vision for the magazine since taking over
as de facto editor in June, making the magazine "edgier,
more provocative, more about conversations that people are having,
more topical." As for the ego clash between the pros and
the rookie, Alexander said: "I think it also fair to say
that there's a view that the only person who can possibly direct
or edit a magazine is a person who comes from the professional
editorial core. I do not come from that core." With the departures
come arrivals. Former Maclean's section editor Tom Fennell
joined the magazine last month and is to become deputy editor;
Catherine Osborne, editor of now-defunct arts mag Lola,
becomes managing editor; and former Time (Canada) publisher
Martin White came aboard as associate publisher earlier this year.
well, I continue to enjoy the mag -- except for the typos -- and
I particularly liked the piece on the politicos behind Stephen Harper
in the last issue. (From The
Bigge Idea) (discuss)
have met the enemy and it is us
The struggle over Canada's historic Coach House buildings continues.
In a recent Now article, a Campus Co-op representative says
student group is doing what it can.
Here we are: a tale of two histories,
an ugly impasse pitting good guy against good guy, with no happy
ending in sight. When public spending dries up, trickle-down economics
dictates that the good guys are left fighting amongst themselves.
Bevington is a passionate defender of the arts, a role enhanced
by his tremendous charm and resourcefulness. But the primary mandate
of the co-op is to provide students with affordable housing.
The Coach House side of things can
be read here. Toronto
sure does look cold.... (From Quill
& Quire) (discuss)
and gentlemen, I give you: Hell in a Handbasket
It appears some genius has finally come up with a plan to sell books
to me (as an 18-34 year old and apparent illiterate fool): link
it to TV!
do younger readers want? The publishing industry had long been
vaguely uncomfortable with books based on television shows. It
was one thing to link a title to a Hollywood movie, but TV seemed
more transitory and less connected to literature. Now, executives
have realized that the medium is a key cultural marker for selling
books to a young audience.
I get an a-yhuk? (From GalleyCat)
Smug youngster in marketing thinks he's hot shit: sources
The Kirkus Review is one line of a smug fratboy's coke away from
launching quite a number of new initiatives built on the back
of a really respected review journal," he said. "If
I don't maintain the kind of honesty I'm talking about, I think
the whole thing will come crashing down rather quickly."
the kind of corporate player who not only gives the wink and the
gun, but also breathes on his knuckles and shines them on his jacket.
It gives me shivers. No wait, those are shudders. (discuss)
The Curse of the Nobel
Apparently it's very
frustrating to become rich and famous overnight. I'll tell you
what, Mr/Ms Nobel... I'll trade you my dirtyfaced-obstinate-biting-poopbag
frustrations for your oh-no-I-don't-know-how-to-handle-money-and-fame
frustrations for one week. And by the time to get your bank account
back, you won't have any reason to feel frustrated anymore... Deal?
It's twoTwoTWO books in one!
Gee, I've never seen this
gimmick* before... (discuss)
It must have something to do with the wigs
Why are there so few British
lawyer novels? Oh! Oh! Me! Pick me! I know! MeMeMe! DingDingDing!
Because the British write good fiction...?
lawyers still talk in understandable American. When they write
fiction, they do not need to shed their legal carapace and make
a special effort to change from Lawspeak into the language of
their readers. Of course courtroom dramas and legal thrillers
will contain some legal terminology, but skilful writers like
Grisham use them to mount simple explanations and to give the
reader an insider's feel for the legal system.
Munro, Choy, Baldwin, Quarrington, and Toews nominated
for the Giller Prize.
Freelancers win one
Our spies at PWAC point us to
article in which the Globe tersely reports on its own
Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that The Globe and Mail
does not have the right to republish articles bought from freelance
writers in searchable electronic news databases because the articles
then are no longer part of the newspaper.
quoted is the collective woohoo of journalists everywhere. (discuss)
Nobel goes femme
novelist and playwright Elfriede
Jelinek has won
Prize for Literature, making her the
first woman since my beloved Wislawa Szymborska in 1996. (Some
links from PFW) (discuss)
"When one gets
what one deserves, it's a wonderful thing."
Samuel Menasche, a sort of strange West Village poetry gnome whom
I've had the distinct pleasure of knowing, finally
gets some recognition.* I linked to a NYT piece a long
while ago that highlighted Menasche as a kind of last of the bohemians,
Poetry magazine, with it's deeeeeeep coffers, has award Menasche
the first Neglected Masters Award, a $50G shoulder chuck to someone
who's spent their life without recognition. It's essentially an
award for not winning any awards. And if anyone deserves it, it's
Menasche. He's spent his entire life perfecting the very very short
poem. Not a big hit with journals and awards, but reading like cut
diamonds to those who spend the time. I met Menasche at a memorial
service for Gwendolyn Brooks. He cornered me and spent the evening
telling me how no one ever took him seriously and how despite the
fact that he'd published in the New Yorker and such back
in the day, he couldn't get a New York publisher. We had dinner
a couple times and talked poetry. He's an interesting guy, if a
little strange after 40 years of living with a bathtub in his kitchen.
I'm very glad for him it worked out. Hopefully things will only
go up from here. (discuss)
You know, last year we started to go through the motions of setting
up a poetry bestseller list here at Bookninja. Then we realized
that it was highly likely no Canadians would appear on the list.
Further, if we excluded foreigners such as this
hack, we would very likely be left with a list where the number
one book sold under 100 copies in a month. That was just too depressing,
so the idea went into the Bookninja Graveyard of Enthusiastic Ideas
that Look Good Until Someone Tries to Implement Them. I think Communism
and a reading manifesto are in there too. (discuss)
Lucy Maud gets positively goth
While the leather bustiers and duct taped gerbils we'd all hoped
were there weren't, Lucy Maud Montgomery still lived a
pretty dark personal life.*
vivid are Montgomery's descriptions of her family, dysfunctional
before the term was commonly employed. She was burdened by the
increasingly erratic behaviour of her husband Ewan Macdonald,
a retired Presbyterian minister apparently battling his own personal
demons manifest in depression, hypochondria and a host of vague
ailments. But Montgomery was even more disturbed by her son Chester.
He scandalized the family and their friends by having an affair
while attending law school and living at Montgomery's Riverside
Drive home in Toronto, while his wife Luella, whom he married
secretly a few years before, brought up their children in their
house in Norval, just outside Toronto.
dark for those days. They hadn't invented colour back then and saw
everything in black and white, you know. (discuss)
Mystery fans descend on Toronto
alive with pasty grad students and men in deer stalkers. Unsolved
murder rate plummets.
part of what you might call the festivalization of reading — the
push in recent years to turn reading from a private into a social
activity. Romance, science fiction, fantasy, mainstream literature
— each genre has its regular gathering of fans, who in some cases
are also wannabe authors in search of contacts.
Sarah Weinman, Canada's
own mystery blogger, be there? Looks like it. (discuss)
Google about to change the bookselling business?
Google's latest project, Google
squeeze bookstores out of the marketplace altogether.
In recent years, publishing executives
have been quietly
trying to figure out whether they can get rid of the middlemen
-- bookstores -- and sell their products directly to consumers.
The problem has been that
most book buyers do not pay close attention to which company publishes
a book, and therefore consumers would be unlikely to go to a particular
publisher's Web site to peruse its offerings.
When Google Print generates a
search result, however, it lists the book's publisher alongside
each book page. It would be relatively easy for publishers to
insert themselves as one of the links that a Google Print user
could use to buy the book.
the attraction of the Frankfurt book fair?
Apparently it may have less to do with business and more with,
It is reputed that 300,000 visit,
but you quickly get the impression that most of the momentum is
provided by a hardcore of about 150. Each night, they stumble
into the Frankfurter Hof, the raffish city hotel that hosts a
daily slew of drinks parties in its function rooms, before piling
into the bar. Here, it is still socially acceptable to smoke cigars,
and pretty much de rigueur to get ragingly drunk. Told that all
this was a central part of the Frankfurt experience, I sheepishly
give it a go: after six glasses of wine, I have half-convinced
a French publisher that the time is right for a Gallic-flavoured
biography of Pink Floyd, and managed to get myself pencilled in
for dinner in London with PJ O'Rourke.
The Guardian has an informative
piece on Seymour Hersh, the constant thorn in the side of U.S.
administrations. It talks a bit about the Abu Ghraib situation,
and also covers in detail how Hersh broke the My Lai story.
My Lai began in 1969 on a single
mysterious tip-off, and Hersh followed it partly out of financial
necessity: he was freelancing for an unproven new syndication
agency, the Dispatch News Service, and needed every penny he could
find. He received word from a military lawyer that a soldier at
Fort Benning, an Army base in Georgia, was facing a court martial
for murdering at least 109 Vietnamese civilians. As Remnick notes
in the introduction to Chain of Command, Hersh simply went
door-to-door at Fort Benning, trying to avoid the authorities,
until he found William Calley, a 26-year-old soldier. The two
men bought steaks and bourbon and repaired to the home of Calley's
girlfriend. Calley talked -- and Hersh learned the first details
of what would become a horrific account of mass murder in the
Vietnamese hamlet of Son My, known on army maps as My Lai 4. "They
shot some from helicopters, others from the ground and at point-blank
range," Remnick writes. "There were rapes, torture, target practice
using babies." At least 500 non-combatants died. Hersh was naturally
appalled, but his first thought, he recalls, was "Pulitzer prize.
My career's made if I do this right." Thirty-six newspapers took
the story. Some who read it did not want to countenance its truth:
one reporter, dispatched to follow it up, rang him and called
him a liar and a son-of-a-bitch. Hersh remembers being "scared"
by such attacks, but he kept reporting the story, adding more
shaming details. The Pulitzer duly followed in 1970.
Derrida is dead
father of deconstructionism died today. Grad students everywhere
mourn. Grad students everywhere celebrate.
Jacques Derrida, a founder of
the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died,
the office of French President Jacques Chirac said Saturday. Mr.
Derrida was 74.
are you reading, Dave? Dave?
The University of British Columbia library is about to become
library in Canada to use robotic cranes to retrieve books from specialized
storage systems, which the public can't access. Not everyone
is happy about this development.
told the Tyee that moving books into an automated system
is like "putting these unfortunate books in jail."
Laponce says browsing allows people
to quickly judge a book's quality by considering the reputation
of the publisher, the quality of the index and the quality of
the references. "Invariably, browsing of this type leads you to
discoveries of the unexpected," he says.
For those of you unfamiliar with
Vancouver, UBC is the university on the ocean, by the nude beach,
not the one in the forest on top of the mountain. (discuss)
question is, who was the bottom?
The Chronicle reports on the
rise of censorship in Russia, and a worrisome situation it is.
Protesters tearing up books about homosexuality? Good thing that
doesn't happen here. They need to adopt some good ol' American values!
The last few years in Russia offer
multiple examples of literary censorship on the rise after the
"anything goes" spirit of the Yeltsin era. A Russian youth organization
allied with Putin, Walking Together, has begun propaganda campaigns
against freewheeling and critically acclaimed post-perestroika
writers like Victor Pelevin (A Werewolf Problem in Central
Russia and Other Stories) and Vladimir Sorokin (Blue Lard).
In the case of the postmodern Sorokin, Walking Together protesters
publicly tore up copies of Blue Lard (which imagines a
homosexual relationship between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev)
in downtown Moscow and tossed the remains down a mock toilet bowl.
The Moscow prosecutor's office subsequently brought charges against
Sorokin of pornography, later dropped, under Article 242 of the
Russian Federation Criminal Code.
Can you talk a bit about the connections you make in the book
between being anally penetrated and finding God?
Toni Bentley, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet,
has written a book about her love for anal sex. Not surprisingly,
getting a lot of attention.
I completely understand that anal
sex to many people, whether they love it or not, may be the most
taboo sex act or the basest sex act there is. You're going in
the exit, a place you're not supposed to talk about, that you're
ashamed of, where you defecate. People have a dirty association
Yet I had the most transcendent
sexual experience from going there many times. I started reading
about it ... It started making so much sense: the contradiction
of [going] in the back door. That Oscar Wilde line about being
in the gutter but looking at the stars. It was also about not
being a snob, of not thinking, I won't go there. It's vulgar.
Balanchine believed in putting yourself out there and when I danced,
I couldn't do that. I was too shy and modest as a dancer.
favourite part of the interview: "I would rather not talk about
my personal life." (discuss)
The Guardian has a
new Posy Simmonds cartoon up. (discuss)
bookstore gets genius grant
owner did. And he's aiming high.
Walking into Libreria Martinez, most people see a modest bookstore
where a small furniture showroom once stood.
But owner Rueben Martinez is wearing funny glasses. He sees not
just the seeds of a bilingual Borders-type chain, but also, perhaps
more significantly, a cultural hothouse capable of giving birth
to a love of learning.
course, we later learn about the sky blue polo shirt and are reminded
that he has much higher to aim. (From GoodReports)
Was is das mit da book-tingie? Das
ZooperBookah! Ya! I sving my pendulous ManhoodBookah at you,
it meanz nuhzing now. It iz made obzolete by itz own kvest for fame.
(From the frontrunner listings on Peggy:
ice queen is formidably gifted, her oeuvre ranging across styles
and genres. As well as sharp feminist fables, she has written
poetry, criticism, historical and futurist novels (The Handmaid's
Tale), and has recently colonised the world of sci-fi. A
perennial Booker favourite, she has been shortlisted five times
and won the prize in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.
good's a Nobel prize? Especially when you think of all the what'shisfaces
that won it before.
course, the list of literary heavyweights who won the Nobel only
serves to bring up an even longer roster of all their peers who
never got the nod from Stockholm yet certainly didn't suffer for
having been denied the prize: Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Jorge
Luis Borges, Willa Cather, Garcia Lorca, Virginia Woolf, Italo
Calvino, George Orwell, and on and on.
strikes me as the kind of article that only appears in years when
the vast majority of critics have never read the winner... (discuss)
And rounding out the awards news:
the AAP's Wallace
Stevens Award. I like Strand's work. Canajun, he is. (discuss)
Welcome back, Moby
Long thought to be defunct, but now da funk, ur blog MobyLives
is back. (discuss)
Sports in literature
way too influential in both literature and politics.
of sportsmen and sportswomen have become swarmingly ubiquitous
in the electronic society
of the image in which we live. It is sports stars, we are told,
rather than Hollywood or music industry figures, who can swing
next month's election for George W Bush. At every campaign stop-over,
local baseball heroes and National Football League Hall of Famers
are wheeled out to endorse the president with a sporting metaphor:
"He's made the right calls time and again and he's got the
scorecard to prove it!" Cue high-fives, pseudo-military salutes
and manly bear-hugs.
Note to self: kill all sports stars. Though I can't imagine too
many of the writers actually play...
truth, of course, was that Hemingway was nobody's first pick to
be on their side. He was a shy boy, hampered by imperfect eyesight,
overweight and awkwardly stumbling over his outsized feet. As
a ballplayer, his brother Leicester once said, Ernest was a pretty
studious reader. His mother used to find him poring over a book,
and propose that he go out to play some baseball. "Aw, mother,"
Ernest would wail, "I pitch like a hen."
I heard once that when Hemingway was in Toronto he took up hockey
but couldn't really get the skating part down, so he just became
a goon -- reeling about the ice knocking people over. Sounds about
Anne Rice tired of personal attacks
Well, with that sallow skin of the dead under a salt and pepper
Rice seemed particularly incensed by reviewers who implied that
she had not worked hard on the book, the 10th in her "Vampire
Chronicles'' series, or that she had written it merely to fulfill
a "contractual obligation,'' as one reviewer said.
Nor was she thrilled by the suggestion - often made by people
who adored earlier books in the series but said they felt that
the quality had deteriorated - that "Blood Canticle"
might have benefited from some tough love. "Anne, you really
should have an editor, or at least someone that would read your
book before you send it off to print,'' one reviewer wrote.
If that's you're complaint, we really shouldn't be picking on just
poor old Anne here... We should be picking on the many "editors"
who's authors could stand to hear this criticism... (Hey, NYT! Way
to catch the current news! Youse guys gots yer fingers on the pulse!!)
Future dictionary extracts
What do you get when you mix Christopher Hitchens, Henry
Kissinger and a camera crew lead by Bernard–Henri Lévy?
police involved. (From MobyLives!)
of the Press (to watch other journalists get muzzled and not report
Press has the right to shut the fuck up before the FBI starts treating
it like it's an American citizen of lush pigment who happens to
be in L.A. The British HQ of Indymedia,
an international gathering of independent journalists who tend to
focus on social and political issues, was raided last Thursday and
had computer servers taken by what seems to be the FBI, but no one
really knows for sure. No one's really sure WHY they were raided
either, but telling them doesn't seem to have been a consideration.
Moby points to this Guardian
Thursday a court order was issued to Rackspace, an American-owned
web hosting company in Uxbridge, Middlesex, forcing it to hand
over two servers used by Indymedia, an international media network
which covers of social justice issues and provides a "news-wire",
to which its users contribute.
it's being reported
on a Voice blog that this all may have to do with electronic
voting, or as we call it: the George Wubblewoo Bush Reelectic Insurance
System, Mark II.
ruckus has barely been covered in the mainstream press, but a
Mathaba.net story posted this morning notes that the International
Federation of Journalists has called for investigation. Here's
an excerpt from the story that also includes a characterization
of the amorphous IndyMedia collective:
sites, which provide challenging and independent reporting,
particularly of political and social justice issues, are open
forums where any member of the public can publish their comments.
The IFJ believes the seizure may be linked to a September 30
court case in San Jose, California, in which IndyMedia San Francisco
and two students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania successfully
opposed an application by Diebold Election Systems Inc. to remove
documents claiming to reveal flaws in the design of electronic
voting machines, which are due to be used widely in the forthcoming
U.S. presidential election.
Diebold was trying to remove from the Web the postings of e-mail
archives that included internal company memos about problems with
the machines. Meanwhile, IndyMedia's own machines were functioning
quite nicely until the FBI and cops from several other countries
stepped in. A total of 21 of IndyMedia's more than 140 sites worldwide
were shut down, and some are still offline today. (Keep checking
IndyMedia's FBI Coverage
page for updates on the saga.) Lots of great information on IndyMedia
sites is posted anonymously, which makes it tough for cops and
governments to track down. But the computers seized from Rackspace,
IndyMedia's Internet service provider, contained hard disks full
of juicy information for police agencies to browse through and
copy before returning them.
is the kind of stuff that keeps anyone with half a brain up at night.
And virtually no one's covering it. Way to do your jobs, journohacks.
Novelists do it with the left hand...
Well, left for America where all choices except for Nadir (yes,
that's on purpose) are well right of centre. Slate
tallies the votes of 31 prominent novelists and comes up with
a Kerry landslide. If only it were only novelists voting. After
this misery is over and that semi-retarded killer gets back in,
I suggest we vote with our book-buying dollars. (What the FUCK has
happened to Orson Scott Card? Was he always like this? Or does he
have a case of the itching Hitchens?) (discuss)
Why so much James?
Why has there been two
novels concentrating on mid-period Henry James (who is doing
his best grouper fish/lizard impersonation in this photo...)?
is here we can begin to see why this confounded, all-too-human
Henry James is now having his vogue. James, in his person and
his work, helped create the modern attitude of high-toned disdain
for commerce from which literature derives much of its power in
a mass culture.
Small press gets big press
Frog Hollow Press,
purveyor of fine handmade books, gets some much
three-year-old Frog Hollow Press, named after a Vermont craft
centre rather than the local amphibian population, has 17 titles,
most selling in the $25-$30 range. The content aside, her diminutive,
limited-edition books are beautiful to the eye, and sensuous to
the touch with the sort of paper rarely used now in publishing.
The usual 28-page book takes her about 80 hours to finish printing.
Once done, she sits in front of the television at night and hand-stitches
bless her wee heart. Let's hope she's watching A&E. Then it
will be time doubly well-spent. (From PFW)
Those darned preachers... They just can't stop burning books!
when they wrote them. (discuss)
Postmodernism made easy
In honour of the passing of M. Derrida, we bring you a best of the
Usenet classic: How
to Speak and Write Postmodern
First, you need to remember that plainly expressed language is
out of the question. It is too realist, modernist and obvious.
Postmodern language requires that one uses play, parody and indeterminacy
as critical techniques to point this out. Often this is quite
a difficult requirement, so obscurity is a well-acknowledged substitute.
For example, let's imagine you want to say something like, ``We
should listen to the views of people outside of Western society
in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us''.
This is honest but dull. Take the word ``views''. Postmodernspeak
would change that to ``voices'', or better, ``vocalities'', or
even better, ``multivocalities''. Add an adjective like ``intertextual'',
and you're covered. ``People outside'' is also too plain. How
about ``postcolonial others''? To speak postmodern properly one
must master a bevy of biases besides the familiar racism, sexism,
ageism, etc. For example, phallogocentricism (male-centredness
combined with rationalistic forms of binary logic). Finally ``affect
us'' sounds like plaid pajamas. Use more obscure verbs and phrases,
like ``mediate our identities''. So, the final statement should
say, ``We should listen to the intertextual, multivocalities of
postcolonial others outside of Western culture in order to learn
about the phallogocentric biases that mediate our identities''.
Now you're talking postmodern!
think you should know that nearly all of the ten dollar words in
the above excerpt didn't spell check... My favourite moment of serendipity
during the check? When "phallogocentric" came up and the
suggested change was "halloo". (Thanks to Ailsa for the
Breslin, of Reverse Cowgirl fame (the now-defunct blog, I mean),
is back with a new site: Invisible
Cowgirl. Everything you ever wanted to know about extreme
gangbangs and Post
Traumatic Porn Disorder. (discuss)
William Gibson blog
On the subject of welcome returns, Boing
Boing points out William
Gibson has started his blog again.
But the creative intelligence
of my friend from the DoD,
and so many others like him, prevailed not at all -- in the face
of ideology, cupidity, stupidity, and a certain tragically crass
cunning with regard to the mass pyschology of the American people.
One actually has to be something
of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically,
how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the
United States has since been made to be.
wins first novel award
Update: The Star story can be read here.
Ninja reader and Maisonneuve
columnist Basilières has just
won the Amazon/BiC First Novel Award. Congratulations, Michel.
Don't forget the little people... [The CP text below was unavailable
online at the time of posting]
(CP) — In the last couple of years, Michel Basilieres has gone
from selling books (working in a bookstore) to selling books (published
author). On Wednesday, he
celebrated the transition as he won the First Novel Award for
Canadian writers for his humorous story Black Bird, set amid the
political turmoil of the October Crisis in Montreal in 1970.
Basilieres, 44, who grew
up in Montreal and now lives in Toronto, was presented with a
cheque for $7,500 by Amazon.ca and Books in Canada magazine at
a luncheon in Toronto. He said he feels “quite grateful” for the
prize, adding it’s payback for an enormous amount of work.
“I wrote it over the course of about seven years,” he said in
an interview after the awards ceremony. “I wasn’t making my living
as a writer so I had to make my living at various different jobs.
A lot of what I was doing over the course of that time was actually
working in bookstores, both retail and second-hand.”
In fact, the first job he ever had was in a bookstore.
“I’m one of those guys who has always been reading all my life,
since I was a little kid,” he said.
The book follows the travails of the eccentric Desouche family,
which includes grave robbers, as well as Marie, a terrorist for
the Front de liberation du Quebec, and her twin brother, Jean-Baptiste.
Basilieres said he had support for his work from the Canada Council,
the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council.
“I really had to put everything that I had into it,” he said.
“And at the same time I realized it’s a hard business to get into,
it’s a difficult thing to do. So if I was going to end up with
a book in the drawer that nobody else ever saw, I wanted to be
able to haul it out every once in a while and look at it and enjoy
“So I worked really hard on making it a book that I myself liked.”
The other finalists for the prize were Clayton Bailey for The
Expedition, John Bemrose for The Island Walkers, Lisa Grekul for
Kalyna’s Song, Edeet Ravel for Ten Thousand Lovers, and Bettina
von Kampen for Blue Becomes You, all published in 2003. They were
presented with Amazon.ca gift certificates
for $750 at the event, which was hosted by Daniel Richler of BookTelevision.
Basilieres was also on the short list for the Commonwealth Writers
Prize for Best First Book and the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal
for Humour. For this First Novel Award, W.P. Kinsella was a preliminary
judge, selecting the six finalists. The judges were George Fetherling,
Clara Thomas and Greg Gatenby.
Thomas, an author and reviewer, said she chose Black Bird because
it’s a “most difficult kind of novel to write.” She described
it as a comic novel with a fascinating family at its centre —
“strange and weird in their own ways, and extremely entertaining
“The winning novel in my opinion had a very high wow factor,”
Basilieres, the father of a four-month-old baby, is currently
working on his second novel and a script for CBC Radio.
The winner of last year’s prize was Mary Lawson for Crow Lake.
Winners in past years have included Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton
Mistry, Joan Barfoot, Joy Kogawa, Wayne Johnston and Nino Ricci.
The prize has been awarded annually since 1977.
File under: cry me a river!
Um, are you sure you didn't write poetry instead of novels....?
Antony Sher, the actor, writer and artist, yesterday launched
a bitter critique of the exclusivity of the literary world. Sir
Antony, who voiced his concerns on stage during the Cheltenham
Festival, described how he had struggled in vain for wider publicity
surrounding the publication of his four novels.
The actor attributed the
apparently limited reviews and commercial success to what he perceived
as the "closed doors" of an elitist literary club.
"The literary world
is a sort of club that lets some people in and some not,"
he complained, "and for some reason I wasn't let in. The
way that they let you know you're not going to be let in is they
don't review your book. Or they review it so slowly it dies at
birth and the publishers don't want to publish your books any
eh? Hm... (discuss)
Americans dig their disaster reports
The 9/11 commission's book is getting
the nod... And not just from people falling into sleep. (discuss)
Rupert Murdoch: Demeecrat
If I disappear for writing that, avenge my death by flooding his
office with letters of protest.
Morgan, the editorial director of ReganBooks, said the idea that
a publishing company owned by Mr. Murdoch must have a
political agenda* is specious. "We have an agenda to
publish strong voices that speak to an eager audience," he
said. "That we follow the direction of any larger corporate
entity is just an illusion."
Mr. Murdoch, of course,
has been criticized for appearing to do just that. In 1998, HarperCollins
canceled a book by Chris Patten, the last British governor of
Hong Kong, a move that some interpreted as a move by Mr. Murdoch
to protect his interests in China. Mr. Murdoch blamed publishing
last word on Derrida
The Guardian asked
a number of high-society types what
they thought of Derrida:
The core of Derrida's thinking
every text contains multiple meanings. To read is neither to know
nor to understand, but to begin a process of exploration that
is essential to comprehend oneself and society. This is, however,
the sort of pretentious bullshit language a minister for Europe
can only use when speaking French.
Art Spiegelman talks about the Republican convention in New
York and the
difficult process of creating In the Shadow of No Towers,
which I think is a brilliant work of art.
"These pages have been appearing
in Europe and (narcissism) is really not an issue," Spiegelman
not picked on there for the politics and not for the persona,
the voice. It's understood there that America is responding to
a narcissistic wound -- that's what we're living through right
now. We're way too close to what we've been through to have any
perspective on it or to have any identification with others' suffering.
"So when I call myself a broken-hearted
narcissist, I'm using my whiney self as a spokesperson for trying
to understand what happened to me, without letting that particular
thing get abstracted in the way my government abstracted the event.
So the attack on narcissism is interesting to me," Spiegelman
said, "because it seems like one more
under: finally, someone says it
lyrics are NOT poetry.*
lyrics that rock fans call poetry look flimsy on the page, because
they don't have everything they need. The crucial missing ingredients
are supplied by the music. And yet the fans, with those tunes
ringing in their memories, continue to confuse lyrics with poetry.
Their confusion may be aided by the near-extinction, except on
Broadway, of the professional lyricist. These days, anyone who
can sing is expected to extract verse from their diaries or reflective
musings, to be draped over a tune or a groove. This doggerel is
thought to be more personal and therefore more poetic than the
work of a specialist exerting his or her craft on the construction
of texts for singing. Even Ryan Malcolm was expected to become
an instant poet-lyricist after he won the karaoke smack-down of
Canadian Idol last year.
funny, I had this exact conversation the other night and said pretty
much the same thing about "slam". Is a set of words that
requires performative embellishment to be fully appreciated poetry?
I think not. Not GOOD poetry, at least. What bothers me about this
is how someone will likely haul out the tired oral tradition/minstrel
argument to rebut this sensible comment and the author will be portrayed
as an intellectual elitist. I'm a Pumpkins fan from way back, and
a Dylan fan too, for that matter. Calling either Corgan or Dylan
a poet is simple marketing. They're musicians (and hit or miss musicians,
too) who have a poetic element/influence in their lyrics. Anything
more is grasping for a legitimacy that's, frankly and unfortunately,
out of date anyway. (Thanks to K for the tip, baby.) (discuss)
Alby Manguel a Booker
out the champagne,* Peggy.
actually sounds incredibly interesting.
Mr. Rothko has found a way to channel his father's voice not only
for himself but also for the public, in the process resurrecting
a long-lost manuscript by Mark Rothko that helps illuminate the
philosophical underpinnings of Color Field paintings, the artist's
This month Yale University
Press will publish those writings in a deceptively slender volume
titled "The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art,"
the only book by Mark Rothko. In it, he muses on the history of
art and the artist's place and function in the world. He also
begins to explore the use of color, light and space in search
of "an ultimate unity."
I think more interesting would be an account of Chris Rothko's process
in pulling it together. (discuss)
tonight's regularly scheduled programming will be preempted in order
to bring you, Eeeeeevil!
I am speechless. How can they even pretend they're part of a democratic
conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television
outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV,
its stations to preempt regular programming just days before the
Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's*
activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives
familiar with the plan said Friday.
you're American and want to protest, go
here. (From Palabris)
File under: Now there's
something you don't see every day...
Chinese kung fu novelist has been given France's highest arts honour.
Hm. I did NOT see that one coming. (discuss)
Naipaul: I want to concentrate on phlegm management
Quick, someone slip
him some Viagra!
laureate and renowned writer VS Naipaul on Thursday made a shocking
declaration at the India launch of his novel Magic Seeds, saying,
"this is likely to be my last book."
I recently received an email that claims to have the LOWEST prices
for Viagra and Vicodin... maybe we should click on the link....)
(P.P.S. Sorry, I just fucked the Google spider, didn't I? Click
on a link anyway, we need the money.) (discuss)
The British Library vs. Wordstar 1.0
Library is starting the first electronic documents archive,
asking all important people to hoard their emails so the future
can read about their porn habits and discuss why they decided to
eschew the elegant, perfect prose of their lifework in favour of
hrd 2 rEd txt lk this. A noble effort to be sure, but they're being
thwarted by the march of industry...
problem is that the computer
programs required to read the files become obsolete so quickly
that even carefully collected data may become impossible to access.
John says the collection contains numerous files that he cannot
read because he does not have the correct software, or even the
... He is appealing for help from members of the public who own
obsolete machines so he can unlock archaic files. The British
Library does not have room to store bulky computers, but John
wants to compile a list of households that own working machines
such as the Atlas, one of the earliest British computers that
was widely available.
British libraries avoided like the dentist
sky is falling. Again. Or still. But regardless: DOOOOOOOOMMMM!
Vatican goes hightech
The Vatican library is implanting
microchips in it's books to prevent theft. This RFID system
replaces PAULO, a rheumy, cataract-riddled octogenarian who was
fired earlier this year for carrying a condom in his wallet. (discuss)
Ah, The Crap Line
That good old cross between 100th monkey syndrome and bandwagoneering...
might be called the
institutionalisation of English literature has a very long
history. According to John Gross's The Rise and Fall of the
Man of Letters, the first Englishman to make the academic
teaching of English his career was Henry Morley, who died in 1894.
The creative-writing salariat, on the other hand, is a fairly
recent phenomenon, largely kicked into gear by the late Malcolm
Bradbury and his associates at UEA in the early 1970s, and subsequently
carried on by dozens of envious competitors. Bradbury, it should
be said, was one of the finest writer-teachers in British academic
life, without whose disinterested sponsorship half-a-dozen of
our leading contemporary writers would have been lost to chartered
accountancy. And yet, examining his legacy, in a world where bookshop
tables groan under the weight of fat paper-back selections of
coursework, one wonders whether some kind of natural limit hasn't
villa crumbling in Cuba
Warning: wear safety goggles. Papa's
legs* on prominent display. (discuss)
Howl at the moon
young poet critics like to hunt in packs... (discuss)
Hot for teacher, freezing for 10 months
Aw! Winnipeg gets all the GOOD
What's with all the travelling poets these days? No matter
how you travel in Canada, there's
some sneaky poet trying to corner you.
The first night on the train,
the service manager's voice comes over the p.a. to announce a
poetry show in the front and rear observation cars for any interested
passengers. In the rear car John Howarth reads a poem about the
train bomb that exploded in Spain two days ago, and a passenger
begins to cry: she's from Spain, and she's been trying to contact
her family in Madrid since it happened.
master? Or literary master?
Michel Basilieres continues his sometimes contentious musings
on sci-fi legends with a tribute
to Jack Vance. I haven't read Vance myself, but Basilieres compares
him to Calvino, and that can never be a bad thing.
is one of the few writers I read in my youth whose work still
gives me pleasure. He's known primarily as a stylist, and that's
a pretty rare thing in science fiction, where what's usually expected
of writers is that they deliver by Tuesday and include some action
on the page.
I'd never heard of this
book before, which is a collection of still photos about a doll
adopted by some sadisitic teddy bears, but I'm determined to get
a copy now. Anything that Cindy Sherman loves and that creeps out
mothers everywhere sounds just right for my kids!
The first, and best-known, title
introduces Edith, who lives desperately alone in a grand New York
who one day finds that two teddy bears, apparently father and
son, have come to live with her. The book's climax -- and one
reason modern mothers may be of two minds about reading it to
their daughters -- occurs when Mr. Bear returns to find Edith
and Little Bear playing dress-up, complete with lipstick, jewelry,
high heels and a cheeky message about Mr. Bear in lipstick on
a mirror. A spanking follows, and Edith cries, terrified that
the bears will go away and leave her alone again. (After an apology,
Mr. Bear says he will stay forever, but Edith's anxiety resurfaces
in later books.)
William Gibson's return to blogging has inspired me to post more
regularly on my Shrapnel
blog, which collects weird and weirder stuff that doesn't
always fit Bookninja. I'm going to try to post on a daily basis,
although I think I'm going to limit it to one post a day. I do
have a job after all. And more to the point, I haven't figured
out a way to post from work yet.
also considering adding a comment option to Shrapnel, but I haven't
decided on that yet as it does add a bit of time to posting. If
you think you'd like to put your two cents in about giant squids,
sex dolls, gang tattoos and/or video games, let me know. (discuss)
are the cities?
In an earlier post, we linked to an article commenting on
the Giller's small-town bias. Now Stephen Henighan wonders
what's happened to "urban novels" in CanLit.
As Canada is one of the world's
most urbanized countries, a reader knowing nothing of contemporary
Canadian writing might expect to find a surfeit of urban novels
in our bookstores. Yet novels explicitly set in Canadian cities
form a mere sliver of our novelistic production. Literary dynamics
are always evolving, but there is little denying that among
the Canadian novels that have received the most critical and
commercial attention during the last fifteen years, most are
set in other countries, in the Canadian past, or in parts of
Atlantic Canada where the present can be made to feel like the
Book babe Rebecca Caldwell takes
a look* at Canada's love affair with the book festival.
for IFOA's 25th anniversary
befit a writer's stereotypical self-effacement — quiet anniversary
receptions in New York, London and Toronto earlier this year,
plus a reinstallation of a Michael Snow work during IFOA are
all that acknowledge this year's special vintage. The low-key
approach might be a subtle sign of the difference in personality
between current director Geoffrey Taylor, who tries, in his
own words "to keep a low profile," and predecessor
Gatenby, the bombastic founder who left last year amid a much-gossiped-about
conflict with Harbourfront management.
many affairs, it peaked in the early years and has settled to
a warm glow - Canada renting movies and massaging the festival's
feet before both pass out on the couch. (P.S. When people talk
about scalping tickets for my readings, what they mean is just
cutting the tops off them...) (discuss)
Small town living
says the Giller
leans toward the small town set. You know, eleven toes, missing
teeth, rusting appliances on the porch. It makes for great reading.
"Too dangerous for silence"
Chinua Achebe declines
Nigeria's COFR (like an OBE or Order of Canada) for political
a letter to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, part of which
was published in Nigeria's Guardian newspaper Sunday, Achebe
said: "Nigeria's condition today under your watch is, however,
too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment
and protest by declining to accept the high honor awarded me."
In the beginning: retranslated
interesting piece* on Robert Alter's new translation of the
Five Books of Moses.
wouldn't rather construe Abraham's knife as a metaphor for all
the things that test our faith or a foreshadowing of the Cross
than as a big sharp blade held by a father over his son's throat?
Raw images like these must be what made theology necessary.
Only by universalizing or typologizing the life stories of the
biblical protagonists could most people stand to think about
poetry created theology, eh? Exxxxcellent... (discuss)
Film, as the corporation meant it to be
Maisonneuve blogger and
Banks wonders aloud on her Wendyopolis
blog whether films supported by corporate money constitute
art. Not expressly book related, but with people selling product
placements in their novels and that fool out west flying free
while she dances like a semi-poetic organ grinder's monkey for
the people laughing at her... perhaps it's a good time to visit
the issue here. (discuss)
But if D&D is 30 years old that means I must be...
I'm old and hideous! Don't look at me! Don't look at me!
game peaked in the 1980s, but there are plenty of fans left.
About 4 million people play D&D
regularly. Many laugh at a common suggestion that fantasy gamers
are geeks: Of course they are, they say.
I'm like a level 20 gorgon and there's a 73% chance I'll turn
you to stone unless you make a successful roll against your Wisdom.
Oops! Time to check for a Random Monster Encounter... Oooh. Gelatinous
KRS-One: "I am a poet and I speak poetically."
Well, given Friday's
brilliant Globe piece about lyrics, I don't know about that.
I'm pretty sure there are a few
"hip-hoppas" in line ahead of you for that honour, KRSO
(if I may abbreviate). The real funny part here is:
often controversial rapper also said he felt that voting adds
to society's corruption and that "America has to commit
suicide if the world is to be a better place." The statement
incited former Nirvana member Krist Novoselic — also on the
panel — to shout in response: "That is wrong, man. Suicide
is not the answer."
didn't see the piece, but I love the image of Novoselic sitting
in a catatonic state and popping up all indignant at the word
suicide (so intimate to Nirvana members). Obviously he doesn't
really get the metaphor part of poetry... (A mosquito! My libido!
Yeah!) O, rock stars, is there nothing you won't do to entertain
A prof at one of the universities I attended once called
Cummings a minor poet, which irked me. Sure, Cummings didn't play
the same technical games as, say, Eliot, or even Frost, but he
did create his own esthetic style and unique voice, and I think
he was often as experimental. As
soon as you write about love though....
Cummings probably is the victim
of his popularity (which
"at least in the academic mind ... is a curse"), his failure
to write "a book-length poem or a poetic sequence," and his
strong opposition to the Soviet Union, which "lost him a good
many supporters among the left-leaning critics." To that list
should be added his penchant for sentimentality, which never
wins any writer friends among the literati, who fancy themselves
(against a great deal of evidence) clear-eyed and hard-bitten.
Sure, everybody reads the canonical books. But you're not
really a dedicated reader unless
you read the almost-great books.
We are indebted to the almost
great books. We need them. They deserve more respect. For one
thing, they are indispensable to the process of literary judgment.
There can be no canon without the less-than-canonical. Only
by reading prolifically and promiscuously can we can decide
which books deserve rereadingfor that is the most tangible
criterion for discriminating between the great and the merely
AL Daily) (discuss)
in da gutter
Is Gutter Press no more?
Our shadowy spies tell us Gutter editor Ed Sluga resigned last
week, citing, as our spy put it, "financial problems".
Our spy goes on, "Gutter was originally formed by Sam Hiyate
who left to become a so-called 'literary agent'. I'm letting you
know because knowing Gutter's history it is most likely that they
haven't told any of their writers about what happened." So,
can anyone out there confirm or deny? Also, If you see this story
break elsewhere tomorrow, let us know. I'm keeping track of our
unaccredited influence on the mainstream media.... (discuss)
Avast, from the title, we thought it be a treasure map...
Gabriel García Márquez, seen here doing his best
Saddam Hussein impersonation, has had his new book, Memories
of My Melancholy Whores, pirated.
in the Colombian city of Barranquilla in the 1950s, the book
tells the tale of a lonely 90-year-old man who decides to give
himself a night with a young virgin as a birthday present.
He returns to a brothel
he once frequented, but instead of finding carnal pleasures,
he discovers a renewed love of life.
This is what happens when you start playing with whores -- they're
a gateway to a life of piracy. (discuss)
The National Book Award finalists are an odd bunch. Well, they
might be odd if anybody knew anything about them.
an age when entire industries have sprung up around awards to
publicize and commercialize various corners of the culture,
a prize that finds merit in the obscure has much to be said
for it. But this year's fiction finalists have touched a nerve
in the industry that sponsors the award, and among those concerned
that literature and American culture are growing too distant.
Besides worrying that no
one cares about the nominees,* people are also worried that
no one's making money off them, either...
relative ineffectiveness of the National Book Award in publicizing
new American literature contrasts strikingly with the Man Booker
Prize, the British literary award whose winner will be announced
this Tuesday. The Booker is a cultural event in Britain, the
subject of radio and television commentary, even betting and
the occasional pub fight.
on, people. This is America. Are we going to let those Brits beat
us at our own art form? Marketing is ours! (discuss)
Knowledge is power
Kurt Vonnegut's final
conversation with Kilgore Trout. Trout recently committed
suicide in a fit of depression when a psychic told him Bush would
win again by Supreme Court vote.
Just trying to be Einstein. You never know. But hey, the two
people you said were so smart were both men. Women say smart
things, too. I went walking with a woman the other day, if you
can believe it, and I stopped to retie my shoes, and she said,
“Every time I go for a walk with a man he always has to stop
to retie his shoes. Why won’t men tie double knots? A fear of
commitment?” How’s that for anthropology, the science of man?
I’ll bet they didn’t teach you about men and shoelaces at Chicago.
KV: That isn’t anthropology.
TROUT: What’s the difference?
I’ve often wondered.
KV: A sociologist is paid
by the Sociology Department. An anthropologist is paid by the
TROUT: Glad to have that
KV: Knowledge is power.
drank a bottle of drano. That's commitment. (From Maud)
What is that freaking bird doing?
poet faces lockup for writing a poem in which he states a
desire to wipe his ass with the Mexican flag... Well, have you
ever SEEN the
Mexican flag? I got a better one for you pal. Though the stars
might be a bit pokey. (discuss)
No more teachers no more books
e-solution to the problem no one had: selling used text books.
Okay, I'm being a cranky dick. This is going to net a lot of people
a lot of money... hopefully some of them will be students...
Barnes and Noble sets buyback and selling prices for used textbooks
and charge students a restocking fee to resell the book -- so
that students end up basically giving away books worth much,
much more," said Marc A. Gaxiola, CEO of Studio54Design.com
Inc. "The Online Book Exchange leverages all the benefits
of the online auction method to give students optimal return
on their textbook investment -- and to offer them an alternative
to their campus bookstore."
Using traditional methods, students can expect to get only about
10 percent of retail value when selling their used books. Meanwhile,
campus book stores sell used text books at a high mark up so
that savings to students buying used books is minimal.
just never understood the whole selling books thing. I paid my
own way through university on loans and several jobs, yet I still
couldn't part with my introductory Psych text. In fact, I've used
it several times since. Mostly when researching crappy Canadian
poetry, but still... (discuss)
A mystery tip
Roland, whom I've never heard from before and who was so very
kind to send me this
link with only the mysterious header "Cronenberg shoots
Martin Amis", is now one of my favourite ninja readers. You
can bet I'll be lining up to see this freaky deak in 2006 -- the
movie that is... (What a treat to see that subject flanked by
"Pussies Lick Farm Girls" and "Bextra, Neurontin
and Zyban Online, Canadian Pharmacy".) (discuss)
Will to Power Bars
A case of these
will help you recreate your life... Side effects may include sugar
rush and tendency towards mass murder. (From Incoming
bit about making a living off of writing is pretty funny too....
Neal Stephenson answers questions from Slashdot users in
hilarious, sometimes thoughtful interview. Consider, for example,
his question of who would win a fight between Stephenson and William
I was doing a reading/signing
at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say
hello and extended his
hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling
had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact
to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps
of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's
Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During
the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had
been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the
nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up
between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as
if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough
for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades
and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast
that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space
heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson
and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while.
Boing Boing) (discuss)
Booker goes to Hollinghurst
From the judges:
was an incredibly difficult and close decision. It has resulted
in a winning novel that is exciting, brilliantly written and
gets deep under the skin of the Thatcherite 80s. The search
for love, sex and beauty is rarely this exquisitely done.”
that's the face of an author in the headlights... (discuss)
Okay, that's it. No more news today...
Once the Booker is announced, literary life is over until next
year. See you then. (Oh, all right...) (discuss)
to back Radar,* a mag that has only done two issues. Somebody
please shoot me. Or give me $25M to take to Maisonneuve. Gotta
love the way mag people talk when investors are involved...
some ways, this is going to be a new magazine," Mr. Roshan
said. "Some significant time has lapsed since, and we need
to update what we are trying to do. This is a magazine that
is trying to be irreverent, provocative and literate. We think
there's room, especially for a magazine that is not trying to
get to one million circulation, for something that doesn't talk
down to its readers. And we want it to be very commercial."
aim high, I guess. And low. (discuss)
"Everybody likes to see their name in print"
lady wants to have children's books personalized to each child
in the class... This, in my opinion, sets a dangerous precedent
for later in life. Why does everything have to be about "ME"
to be interesting. Trust me, junior, the chances are pretty great
that anything about anyone else other than you will be more interesting
than your own mac'n'cheese scarfing life... (But, on the other
hand, might this book-personalization technology be the perfect
way to discourage the kind of would-be poet/novelist who should
be discouraged? They see their name in print and get a wee shot
of endorphins. Then they disappear back into a the cafe from whence
they came. It's like when you're robbing a house and you take
along a bunch of sausage links to throw the other way when the
dog starts chasing you.) (discuss)
Often those Onion
"headlines" that don't point anywhere are the funniest
things on the site. This week has to have one of my favourites:
Jacques Derrida 'Dies'. (discuss)
some Mr. Niceguy
How could anyone not like the IFOA director Geoffrey
Taylor? Well, I bet the Gatenbeast is gritting his teeth over
a few changes, but otherwise I'm thinking there's going to be
a line up for hugs this year. (discuss)
Crap! That guy with the eye patch and parrot ripped me
Gabriel García Márquez gets
the last laugh on the pirates by tweaking the end of his novel.
Reviving the Algonquin
The son of the former Algonquin
Hotel owner is trying to recapture
some of the storied building's faded past.*
new management, while proud to have installed plasma television
screens and wireless Internet, has also been trying to rekindle
the hotel's literary past. It has hired the president of the
Dorothy Parker Society as a consultant and established relationships
with the sons of such Round Table fixtures as Robert Benchley.
Recalling the days when the owner Frank Case sent plates of
olives, popovers and celery sticks to the poor scribes at the
Round Table, the hotel now offers lunch discounts for struggling
I've been there quite a few times during the time I was stationed
at a government meeting hall across the street. Luckily I was
always with lawyers and rich friends who could buy. I can't imagine
any discount will be enough. Especially to draw anyone remotely
cool to midtown. Ew. (discuss)
NYT sells out
Apparently the NYT is helping out the down and out publishers
with some free
ad space... Publishers of such midlist authors as Dan Brown,
Stephen King, Clive Cussler, Bill Clinton, etc... Maud is so sexy
when she gets angry. (discuss)
Gosh, I miss Jacques...
gibberish generator. (discuss)
bans America (the book)
has suddenly decided not to carry America (the Book): A Guide
to Democracy Inaction, written by Jon Stewart and The
Daily Show scribes.
The chain will not be selling
the book because it contains
a fake photo of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court in the
nude. "We were not aware of the image that was in the book [when
Wal-Mart ordered it] and we felt the majority of our customers
would not be comfortable with it," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen
Burk told the Associated Press by way of explaining why the
corporation had cancelled its order.
Sure... and it had nothing to
do with Stewart's
recent contentious appearance on Crossfire, where he
had it out with Tucker Carlson. (discuss)
My first job in the publishing business was as a proofreader
for Harlequin. The office was out in an industrial park in Toronto
and I worked the night shift. I'd just split with someone. My
apartment had centipedes. The only thing that got me through those
times was the occasional Gold
Eagle action-adventure book I got to proofread at work. So
you can imagine my excitement over the news that Harlequin
has now combined romances with action adventures!
"You don't kill off children,
and you don't kill off dogs," explains Bombshell writer Sandra
K. Moore from her home in Clear Lake, Texas. "It's a rule."
But now Bombshell,
already a potent combination of mystery and romance two
of the most popular genres in the history of modern mass-publishing
is altering the traditional romance formula dramatically,
pushing mystery and suspense to the forefront. The line also
frees writers from the usual limitations inherent in category
fiction, allowing some fantasy, paranormal, thriller, and spy
fiction into the mix, as well as darker elements, as Moore learned
at last summer's Romance Writers of America conference (an event
held annually by the Houston-based association). Inspired by
Bombshell's rule-breaking inclinations, Moore asked, "Can I
kill off a child?" Though the question caused "a horrified gasp
throughout the entire auditorium," the seminar speaker merely
looked thoughtful for a moment, then replied: "Well, yeah. I
guess you can."
I have mixed feelings about Neil
LaBute. I really liked In
the Company of Men because I thought it was just so vile.
There was a purity to its malevolence. I was so-so about Your
Friends and Neighbours because I thought it was miscast,
and I thought Nurse
Betty was a great idea but a terrible film. Nevertheless,
I'll probably get this
book, which has an appropriate title for its subject matter.
Some women will find these snapshots
of male desire unsettling; presumably many men would fiercely
deny the truth, or at least the universality, of his portraits.
But most of the characters here are not extreme; they have jobs,
friends, children, they go to church. They could, he seems to
suggest, be any of us.
it just me or does $23,500 actually look pretty good to you?
There are more
artists in Canada today than in previous years, but on average
we are earning less than before.
by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for
the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, the study reports that
between 1991 and 2001, the number of artists in Canada grew
by 29 per cent, or almost three times the growth rate of the
overall labour force (which increased by 10 per cent during
the same period).
However, artists are earning even less, when compared to the
overall average of all occupation groups, than they did in 1991.
wish a bunch of you would quit so I could haul my ass above the
poverty line. (discuss)
cover story on Maus creator Spiegelman.
the wake of September 11, at least on these shores, the news
media abdicated their responsibilities. They either wanted access
to power or were guilty of misguided patriotism or were afraid
of being seen as unpatriotic if they were critical. As a result,
this was a lonely place for a while."
interviewed by Seth tonight at the IFOA if you can make it.
And with gems like:
hindsight, I wish I had fought for social justice for 25 or
30 years rather than for the legitimacy of comics. Considering
how successful I've been with comics, maybe I could have done
more good if I'd picked a bigger target."
aren't you there lining up now? (discuss)
RIP: Anthony Hecht
Poet Hecht dead
at 81. (discuss)
Pope with a rolled
Moby reports that the
Vatican has announced its disapproval of the work the newly
minted Nobel laureate, Elfiede Jelinek, in particular The
Pianist. I thank the Vatican for making these kinds of announcements,
which should be considered a cue for thinking people everywhere
to rush out and buy the book. (discuss)
PEN in danger of implosion
Things are afoot
at PEN that may just lead to the eventual demise of the organization.
origins of the present trouble date back to the three-year terms
of Niven's immediate predecessor, the biographer Victoria Glendinning,
and her predecessor, the novelist Rachel Billington. Under these
grandes dames, the organisation began to expand its horizons
beyond the unglamorous world of torture and imprisonment towards
more congenial, British-based activities. With this burgeoning
agenda came a drive for growth. "We need larger and better
premises; we need to expand our current projects and create
new ones," Glendinning declared.
When Niven took over last December, he pushed on with this "New
PEN" mission, strengthening the grip of paid executives
at the expense of ordinary writer-members. The pattern will
be familiar to members of other voluntary organisations caught
up in the fashion for professionalisation, with its attendant
jargon of "programmes" and "governance issues".
Fresh initiatives were launched, such as the Writers in Translation
programme, which stages parties to celebrate the work of overseas
authors, even if they are in no danger at all. Among PEN's more
traditionalist members, concern began to develop.
Straight out of John Grisham. The "governance issues"
part gave me goosebumps. (discuss)
Poetry vs. Terrorism
The Yemeni people are being persuaded to root out terrorist ideals...
government funded poet.
rural Yemen, illiteracy is rampant, and chanted poems remain
the language of power and politics. A man is judged more noble
if his tongue is suave, his vocabulary supple. Poetry has the
power to wed and divorce; to protect or condemn. It is a fundamentally
political tool, applied to everything from water rights to vengeance.
The disappearing index
the index disappearing? The serious ones are.
serious indexes are on the wane, unserious indexes seem to be
on the rise. Al Franken is hailed on the American Society of
Indexers website, asindexing.org, for his "totally inaccurate
and hysterical" index to "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat
Idiot and Other Observations." Here are some sample entries:
"Dirigible, Limbaugh size of" and "Doughnuts,
Limbaugh's consumption of." My friend Geoff Shandler alerted
me to the offbeat index for Julian Barnes's 1995 nonfiction
collection "Letter From London." A sample entry: "Bush,
George: praised by Mrs. Thatcher, 66; persuaded not to look
`like a [expletive] pansy,' 95."
laughter! You're what's left when everything important dies away!
Inspired by their childhood's dearth of black role models, a married
couple creates a
publishing empire for their family and community.
knew growing up there was a big void, there was no way that
any group of people could live on this earth for hundreds and
thousands of years and not making any important contributions
or not have good stories to tell about their existence. It just
did not make sense to me. All of the history, all of the wonderful
literature I read was about white people and about the European
culture. And so what they really says to those who are left
out, and we were certainly left out, that your people really
have not done anything or they would be included."
Waits and Björk
Strong arguments for the poetic
importance of popular music. (discuss)
Speaking of "rockstars" and their affiliated
I really like "energy" of this
piece. It's so, like, "poetry", man.
despite what others may tell you, is not writing, any more than
eating is a sandwich. Poetry is a basic metaphysical building
block, a vital energy that flows through the universe – akin
to electromagnetic fields or milkshakes. Without it, Lao-tzu
would have had no subject for the Tao-te Ching, and KRS-One
would be P-Diddy.
the poet endowed with an advance sense of his own historical importance.
Myth-making without the intervening hundreds of years. You know,
I might have dug the spirit of the festival if I read about it
in an article that wasn't written in a style the author's future
self is likely to loathe. Oh, and one more thing:
were word collectors and word traders, word warriors and word
healers. Each day, I learned how the vibrations of the human
voice can so easily access all we keep hidden, like a skeleton
key for all the locks that society requires us to put on the
school lockers of our spirit.
rest my case -- and renew my call for an emoticon equivalent to
two fingers down the throat. (discuss)
more books? Perfect!
on Heather Reisman's ongoing plans to turn Chapters/Indigo into
yoga and New Age Wal-Mart cultural
Heather's new plan for the bookstore
megachain's solvency is to transform it into a chain of "cultural
furniture stores." Books will occupy no more than 65 per cent
of the floorspace and will account for about the same per cent
of sales or less, if possible. That's down from the current
80-85 per cent. Insider intelligence suggests that a key element
in the plan is to reduce the number of titles per store to 15,000.
No doubt some marketing genius has mathematically demonstrated
that this is the right number of titles to have in stock for
maximum turnover and profit.
Writers Under the Influence
I've been browsing through Amazon.com's Writers
Under the Influence series of interviews (they all answer
the question "What was the book that influenced you most as a
writer?"), and I love it. Lots of great reading by the likes of
Saunders and David
The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
is a slender volume. The copy I bought at a British bookstore
70 pages. If it were dropped in a swimming pool (which I have
seen happen at Paris Hilton's summer house, when Clay Aiken
and Daniel Dennett got in a fight), it wouldn't displace much
water. Physically, it's no cannonball. When it was dropped in
the waters of western philosophy from Wittgenstein's lonely
helicopter, however, it displaced oceans. It created neap tides
where before there had raged tsunamis. Issues long thought settled
were born again in more hideous form. Feral questions long assumed
uncontrollable were, with the blink of any eye and the turn
of a phrase, disemboweled, castrated, amputated, and beheaded.
The little book put Cambridge University on intellectual orange
alert with a twist of "Oh my God."
Is Canada Disappearing
from the World Stage?
The Walrus asked four intellectual types Michael
Adams, Stephen Handelman, Linda McQuaig and Pamela Wallin
answer and debate the question.
At one of those Ottawa briefings
with "not for attribution" officials before the PM's UN speech,
a government official actually, and candidly, described Canada's
current policy characteristic as "humble." Of course Canada
has a role in the world, the official said, but Canadians don't
necessarily need to be in the "forefront." Listening on the
telephone conference line from New York, I almost dropped my
life of an OED library researcher
OED newsletter has an interesting post about the researchers
that work for the holy grail of dictionaries. They don't quite
match the librarian fantasies I've had since I was an undergrad,
but hey, close enough. Now if only I could introduce them to my
copy editor fantasies....
Often, too, an editor asks a
researcher to clarify the sense of a word by
looking at it in a wider context than that of the minimal or
obscure quotation that he (or she) has to hand. Or he may need
help with dating an item, or may ask for new, antedating or
postdating examples of the use of a word, either in general
or in a particular sense. This involves finding quotations from
any English-language source, dated earlier or later than any
of those already published in the OED, those found on the databases
consulted by editors, or those gathered from material sent in
by readers. Equally, he may ask us to interdate two quotations
dating from (say) 1630 and 1880. Using our background knowledge,
initiative, and capacity for lateral thinking, we then become
creatively involved in the editorial process.
( For a full image of the sexy librarian, click here,
courtesy of librarian.net.)
Poetry school graduation
I'm glad I'm not the only who pales at the idea of listening
to 30 poets read their work.
Each young poet is introduced,
makes his or her way in turn to the podium to polite applause,
with varying degrees of composure and nervousness, shiny new
book in hand, from which he or she reads a handful of poems,
parents' cameras flashing and whirring, then sits down again
to more polite applause. Yes, it's more a rite of passage for
a young community member than a significant artistic experience.
The poetry, well coached, is not painfully bad, but most of
it lacks confidence, stylistic flair, vision. Originality. A
more senior poet muses afterwards, "I can see thoughtfulness,
intelligence, a love of languagebut where's the poetry?"
Another later observes, "Their poetry seems limited to
the occasional aperçu into quotidian existence. They
don't seem to believe in anything. There is a hopelessness to
it, but they don't seem aware that they are without hope."
Jane Austen: the
hold on there, pardner...
it appears, is our new Shakespeare. In pop-culture terms, that
is. Two hundred years after her novels were written, she's ascended
to that level where her work is widely imitated, flippantly
quoted, frequently ripped off and, yes, very much revered --
by those who have actually read her, that is. Cite Jane these
days and it's like playing a smart card. Remember how puffed
up you felt the first time you quoted from Hamlet by heart?
I was auditioning for something and I felt deflated and judged
to the most minute aspect of my physical appearance. To this day
I twitch when I hear Hamlet quoted -- and only half of that is
an urge to kill the pretentious semi-educated fuck doing it. (discuss)
When the bookseller
comes back to haunt the author
The basis for The Bookseller of Kabul haunts
the author. Much the way he haunts his own family. He's a
charmer, ain't he folks? (Keep an eye out for, The Bookseller
2: If You Were One of My Women I'd Teach You a Thing or Two...)
Billy Corgan, despite all his rage he's still just a rat
in a cage...
public with his new book of poems. It's so titillating to
do a poetry link to the NY Post... It feels like finding something
nice about Christianity at an Anton
my song lyrics could stand alone, without music, but songwriting
is about redundancy and a level of stupidity. Rock 'n' roll
is stupidity - that's what makes it so wonderful. Elvis grunting
says what a thousand Dylan Thomas words could never say. That's
why rock 'n' roll is so poignant."
know, Bill, you had me for that first sentence and then... well,
you kept talking, didn't you... Poet rule #15432: know when to
shut up. (For GOOD poets, that rule moves up to #2.) (discuss)
Seventy percent of success in life is showing up
Allen on George S. Kaufman.
the years, the more I learned about comedy writing (not that
there's much one can actually learn, but I suppose a little
experience can sometimes help quell the panic) the more I appreciated
George S. Kaufman. Appreciated and continued to identify with
him -- our glasses, our tweed jackets, our glum mugs. And didn't
he begin his career sending jokes to a Broadway columnist? (Franklin
P. Adams.) Exactly how I began mine. And didn't he write, direct
and even act? That was just what I wanted to do. And wasn't
he an around-the-clock worker, someone who collaborated, sitting
home with Edna Ferber to write even on New Year's Eve, while
the square haircuts partied? How like me, I thought. To boot
he came from working-class Jewish parents -- his mother, born
Henrietta, was always called Nettie.
It turns out bloodlust
will only get you so far...
Some writers give
advice to Anne Rice.
be more worried if I impressed a moron than if I made one unhappy.
And on Amazon . . . it's usually clear within a sentence or
two which side of the intelligence fence the commentators fall
about: seek therapy, Anne. (Actually, I see this all as the product
of a long night with a bottle of wine and some old letters and
photographs - a moist pillow, a number dialed repeatedly and hung
up on before the rings, a few cigarettes, a long steely look in
the mirror, a walk outside with arms across the chest, another
cigarette, and BAM! those boots were made for walking...) (discuss)
For shame! (Oooh! Juicy!)
press gets a wrist slap for concentrating on the steamy gay
sex in Alan Hollinghurst's Booker winner novel instead of the
accomplishment of the novel.
morning revealed a sliver of the ice age lodged deep in the
heart of the media. Yet well-read followers of fiction, unless
they're stuck in a groove of saccharine romance or macho thrillers,
scarcely blink at the sight of gay couples, whether they're
sharing a pot of tea or a king-size duvet. For most of us, the
shock factor of explicit sex, of any persuasion, died long ago.
To dub The Line of Beauty a gay novel is not only crude
but also insulting. You might as well relegate Edmund White
or Oscar Wilde to the homosexual ghetto.
rather than handing them a wrist slap, you should just hand them
a towel... The award IS called the MANBooker now... Browr! (discuss)
Anthony Hecht panegyric...
But what if said
scholar finds the influence to be a BAD thing?
Philip Marchand turns musings
on creative writing courses into a profile of Michael Helm.
Canadian school will emerge as the most influential nursery
of writers? The creative writing program at the University of
British Columbia? They've been graduating young writers such
as Kevin Chong, Eden Robinson and Madeleine Thien, all published
by major houses in the last few years, to considerable critical
acclaim. Or will it be the creative writing program at Humber
College? The latter has moved into the spotlight this year —
although not so much because of the success of its students
as because of the success of its instructors.
know, my partner is writing this book right now... (discuss)
On Saturday he ate
through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle,
one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop,
one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake and one slice
rather lengthy examination of The Very Hungry Caterpillar,
which is now 35 years old.
Clarke, who nowadays calls Carle "the Bruce Springsteen
of the third grade" because of the crowds that attend his
public appearances, suggests that the gorgeousness of The Very
Hungry Caterpillar springs from Carle's reaction against the
grimness of his wartime childhood. Carle himself agrees: "It
may be psychobabble but I sometimes think I rehash that period
of my life in my books".
night he had a stomach ache... I can, and do, recite the book
at will. Often to people other than my child. (discuss)
Peter Pan needed a
prequel* like Walt Disney needed another copy of Mein Kampf.
there are unsettled details. "Peter and the Starcatchers"
cannot be published anywhere in the European Union because that
would violate the copyright of the original "Peter Pan"
story, which is held
by the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in Britain. Barrie,
the "Peter Pan" author, donated the copyright to the
hospital in 1929. In 1987, 50 years after his death, the copyright
expired. The following year, Parliament extended the copyright
in Britain in an attempt to give royalties to the hospital in
perpetuity. But actions by the European Union to standardize
copyright terms mean that the Peter Pan copyright will expire
in 2007 in all of the union's other member nations.
That is, unless the hospital
succeeds in another venture. It is now soliciting ideas for
a sequel to Peter Pan, one that it hopes will extend the copyright
on the central characters for 70 more years.
Mr. Barry professes unconcern
about the copyright questions. "The good news is the sick
children will get none of our money," he said last month
- jokingly, of course. And he professes full faith in the Disney
lawyers: "We figured the people who will kill you if you
use Mickey Mouse without permission would be the best ones to
figure it out."
the above headline is misleading as "EVIL" is actually
a registered subsidiary of Disney Corp and has been since it was
acquired in 1948. (discuss)
Edmonton likes Leonard Cohen
dear old dad, God rest his soul, used to say that as a poet,
Leonard Cohen makes a great songwriter. I believe his exact
words were, "Leonard Cohen went into music because he couldn't
make it as a poet."
I would have thought them more of a pickup truck done run over
my dog kind of crowd. (Um, Len?) (discuss)
old-fashioned kind of designer
Kidd really doesn't like e-books. Why, in his day, book designers
didn't even use computers!
"Nothing gives me more delight
than the total, utter failure of e-books," he says. "Publishers
still throw good
money after bad on this crap. I don't always predict things
correctly, but I got that one right on the nose. I thought,
this is a true waste of money. Books are already interactive.
The basic design of the book itself multiple leaves bound
on one side is a brilliant invention that does not need
to be improved upon. People need the physicality of books, even
if they're just paperbacks. People carry them around, develop
a relationship with them as physical objects."
think he's wrong. Books will eventually be all digital once they
get the publishing infrastructure worked out it'll be cheaper
for publishers and more convenient for readers. And you'd think
designers would like the idea of digital books, as there are so
many more design possibilities with them. In the future, every
book can be a graphic novel! And our society will be solar-powered,
and we'll terraform Mars.... (discuss)
book as fetish object?
Certainly not in my household....
Anyone who collects old books
knows that most of what we call "literature" is never read.
Large collections of books are fetish objects rather than authentic
scholarly resources. I'm like all those architecture students
who feel compelled to buy a pair of expensive and uncomfortable
Barcelona chairs. I have not yet given up on my professorial
aspirations, and each new book is a small investment in that
future, which, with any luck, could last another 40 years. At
bottom, I suspect I am a scholar because I am a bibliophile
rather than the other way around.
new Get Your War On
in time for the elections... Phew. Don't let the giggle stop
you from voting though. (discuss)
Speaking of Voting...
New Yorker endorses Kerry. The first time they've made a political
endorsement in 80 years. Think people feel something's at stake
in this mess? I somehow doubt this is going to reach Bush's base,
Hometown gal Alice subject of a LONG
profile in the NYT Magazine.
is, of course, among Canada's best known and most feted writers,
at the forefront of a list that invariably includes her friend
Margaret Atwood and goes on from there to take in figures like
Carol Shields and Timothy Findley before splintering apart,
depending on how you rate Marian Engel, say, or whether you
judge Robertson Davies to be more smoke than fire. (Munro herself
dismisses him in a word as ''dead.'') Munro, whose 10th collection
of short stories, ''Runaway,'' will be published at the end
of the month, has succeeded in putting this intractably rural,
unhurried and laconic region firmly on the literary map, rendering
its human commotion -- its gothic passions, buried sorrows and
forlorn mysteries -- in dazzlingly plain-spoken stories that
connect directly with her readers' interior narratives and histories
of the heart. By paying precise yet generous (although never
sentimental) attention to those aspects of women's lives that
usually go under the undignified rubric ''love troubles'' and
to the sexual and domestic crises that come in their wake, Munro
has made her presence felt well beyond Canada. Her books have
been translated into nearly 20 languages, including Finnish
and Slovak, and she shows no ebbing of her imaginative powers
or her ability to seduce new readers. Each of the writer's books
has outsold the one before, and although none of them have become
best sellers in the United States, Munro has won a National
Book Critics Circle Award (not to mention every literary prize
Canada has to offer).
that's only the second paragraph.) (discuss)
Beware of attacking "poets"
Said "poets" will be distinguishable by frothing ebullience,
lack of talent and the likelihood you've never heard of most
of them. Approach with extreme
caution and level 2 biohazard gear (we're pretty sure both
of judgement are contagious).
Newfoundland to British Columbia, published poets in 17 cities
will be popping into parks, hair salons, cafés, supermarkets,
libraries and wherever else tickles their fancy to delight*
randomly chosen strangers with bursts of poetry. The lucky few
who encounter these strolling minstrels of verse will receive
a free book of poetry, courtesy of Abebooks.com. The Victoria-based
on-line bookstore is sponsoring the event, in association with
the Victoria READ Society, to promote poetry and raise awareness
once you've got them down, kick 'em in the ribs a few times for
us. You can claim self-defence. Remember, poets are to be considered
the verbal equivalents of street mimes now (foolish looking, but
dangerous in numbers)... This means you are to avoid and pity
them simultaneously. But should one come near enough, throw a
handful of small change at their feet and yell, "Dance for
your supper, monkey! Dance! DANCE! Now do the robot! Pulling the
rope! Oh, no! You're in a glass box!! DAAAANCE!" (Note to
Alexandra Gill: I'm pretty sure "delight" is the wrong
verb here.) (Question for debate: would this
venture have some merit were it organized by someone with
talent and a shred of dignity?) (discuss)
DeLillo fans flock to Texas
Then they realize it's Texas
and find no place to land. Flock last seen headed north east.
Undesirables: books swapped for books
It's a good thing the
morals police were on duty back in the 50s or we'd all be
living under some corrupt, violent leader.
a campaign against objectionable comic books was being waged
throughout the country — Congressional hearings were being held
in 1954 in New York, where many of the “bad” comics were published
— the book swap in Canton was one of the first of its kind.
The mayor’s committee, organized in 1953 and headed by the Rev.
Robert P. Barrett, held its first book swap at the Stark County
Fair in September 1954, and its success was so substantial that
committee members quickly organized a second event. Both times,
thousands of objectionable comic books were collected, and hundreds
of recommended volumes were distributed.
to get a password.) (discuss)
Hot uncensored teens!
More and more teens
are venturing into publishing. This is not necessarily a good
so many books by teens?
Byron Preiss, who published
Resnikoff's book for ibooks, said he thinks it's "a byproduct
of the computer age."
Computers have offered
precocious authors advantages as mundane as spell-checking,
Preiss said, and "as pervasive as access to trends and
information, creating more mature teenagers who are able to
do much more mature work than previous generations."
The quality of the writing
varies widely, but the writer's youth is a selling point.
"If a good novel
is written by a teen, there's a story in it," said Beverly
Horowitz, vice president and publisher for Bantam Delacorte
Dell Books for Young Readers.
these outlying punks who keep the age of the average first novel
down to 40. I just gots to believe that. (discuss)
A ratings system
Speaking of teens... This highschool
kid writes to his local paper suggesting that rather than
banning books, we should adopt a ratings system not unlike that
used for motion pictures. I'm not so sure you're right, junior,
but were I your teacher, you'd be getting a big fat A for effort.
Pierre Berton: pass the nachos
How in the name of all that's holy did I miss this
until today? (From GoodReports)
I've never been much of a bookmark person, as I prefer keeping
my page with a stickie note. I did have a few bookmarks with reproductions
of artwork on them, including a couple of nice Paul
pieces. But it turns out bookmarks
are an art form themselves. (From Metafilter)
will save the ephemera?
Finally, an answer
to the age-old question.
(From Metafilter) (discuss)
The University of Iowa has an online
collection of Dada-era publications. Neat little site if you're
into that gang of hooligans. (From Metafilter)
General's Awards shortlists announced
year at the races: Jan Zwicky up for two awards, Tim Bowling
up for his second in as many years, Gaspereau in with two titles.
And some interesting match-ups. Will the juries go for the Bezmozgises
of the world or the Munros? Start yer speculation engines... Here's
a quick reference tool:
David Bezmozgis, Natasha and Other Stories, HarperCollins
Cole, In the Performance of His Life, M&S
McAdam, Some Great Thing, Raincoast
Alice Munro, Runaway, M&S
Toews, A Complicated Kindness, Knopf
Borson, Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, M&S
Bowling, The Memory Orchard, Brick
David Manicom, The Burning Eaves, Oolichan
Terpstra, Disarmament, Gaspereau
Zwicky, Robinson’s Crossing, Brick
there are some other categories too. (discuss)
Why is a book that says the grand canyon was created by God during
the flood to wipe out human wickedness on sale in the Grand Freaking
Because having a drooling, slackjaw in office has emboldened the
religious freaks that make up a significant percentage of the
backwaters of the US.* (discuss)
An embedded Voice reporter dishes on the
literati's war against Bush.
the election runs hotter than ever, it seems everyone is doing
something. The national party committees, more flush than ever,
are churning wakes through the swing states like ocean liners.
A bit more nimbly, MoveOn's digital democracy is changing the
political landscape with its innovatively funded and clever
ad campaigns. Grassroots organizations of all kinds are springing
up to fill in with letter writing, phone banking and walking
precincts. In Ohio alone, Bush backers claim to have more than
60,000 volunteers spreading the word through their Amway-style
multilevel-marketing operation. America Coming Together has
fielded an army of professional canvassers to lay the groundwork
for what will be the biggest Election Day Get Out the Vote operation
in the history of Earth. To that end, they've raised $125 million—10
times what the DNC spent on GOTV in 2000. A lot of that coin
is spilling into Ohio, but the war chest keeps replenishing
itself: The week we arrived, the Vote for Change tour, a set
of fund-raising concert dates featuring musicians ranging from
Bruce Springsteen to Death Cab for Cutie, was under way across
the state, on its way to raising another $44 million.
It was into this storm of activism that Stephen's literary assembly
made a landing in late September—a bumpy one, as it happens,
since everyone flying in that day sensed the planes getting
tossed roughly on the final approach into the Columbus airport.
Having traveled with Stephen for much of the campaign season,
I came along as an observer. Plus, I too felt compelled to take
action. With a month left, why not get started? Now in Columbus,
four hours before curtain time, as Stephen was finishing last-minute
preparations, we were talking about the question that must plague
all small-scale organizers: Does any of this matter?
still we'll be left with that fucking wired marionette (see below).
Four dumb questions and one serious one
TEV guest blogger
Todd Goldberg interviews
Other Voices editor Gina Frangello.
of the first places to publish my work was Other Voices, an
excellent and acclaimed literary journal out of Chicago. When
founding editor Lois Hauselman called to inform me that they’d
love to publish my story “Simplify” and would that be okay,
it was like receiving manna from literary heaven. We spoke for
a good ten minutes and it was like we’d been friends for years.
My god, I thought, these editors are real people! It doesn’t
always seem that way when the generic rejection letters come
floating in (damn you ZYZZYVA editor Howard Junker and your
persistent demand that I go “Onward!”) or when you get your
manuscript back seemingly the same day you sent it out (a pox
on the house of the Antioch Review). So, for today’s installment
of Four Dumb Questions and One Serious One, we visit with Gina
Frangello, editor of Other Voices and an acclaimed and talented
writer in her own right, in hopes of humanizing her in the eyes
of potential submitters. What is more humanizing, I ask, than
knowing that Ms. Frangello likely knows all the words to "Hungry
Like The Wolf"?
Slate summarizes the speculation on Bush's
radio receiver. Anyone who thinks it's anything other than
that given some of the evidence provided at these various sites
is either kidding themselves, or a Texan. (discuss)
A light but fun site about the
rise of paperbacks.
It is difficult to overestimate
the influence of the paperback
upon the twentieth century. While paper-bound books have numerous
historical antecedents from chapbooks, penny dreadfuls
and dime novels to pulp magazines to European paper-bound books
such as the Everyman series, Tauchnitz Editions and Albatross
it was the twenty-five cent paperback and the hundreds
of millions of books produced during the Paperback Revolution
which transformed the reading of all kinds of literature into
an undeniably mass phenomenon in the twentieth century.
Dictionary of the History of Ideas
The University of Virginia has put online this
very cool dictionary. It's a bit dated now, given that it's
from the 1970s, but still a valuable resource. Luckily, there's
a new one in the works and it'll be online sometime in the near
future. (From Metafilter)
Toronto the beautiful
For all the Toronto ninjas out there, here are some nice photo
guides to the city. Who
knew it could be so purty? (discuss)
A look at what the
literary prize means to the world of books.
while the laureates come away with applause and a check, the
true promoters and beneficiaries of this ritual are others.
With book sales falling almost everywhere, the publishing industry
desperately needs these prizes to create an aura of excitement
around the faltering world of fiction. If a publisher's author
wins, all the better for sales. But even without a winner, publishing
houses rally around the competition to bolster the book.
Blame the Oscars. The idea of a noisy countdown to a splashy
awards ceremony designed to celebrate an industry spread quickly
through the movie world to embrace theater, art, dance, even
television and pop music. In reality the prize winners are often
just bit players whose names may be soon forgotten. What lives
on is the prize and the media attention it garners. Publishing
has long ridden this bandwagon.
don't mean jack squat. (discuss)
The QWF announces shortlists
(PDF) for its prizes, including an absolutely wicked AM Klein
Prize for poetry that pits Carmine Starnino against his old mentor
David Solway and Robyn Sarah. The Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction
looks good too with Roméo Dallaire and Joel Yanofsky up
against some bikers. (discuss)
in the Globe. A while back someone here in town insisted that
I read The Eyre Affair, and I gotta tell you, it's great
fun. Pulp fiction for nerds. (discuss)
Throw it on the heap
A new award, the £60,000
Swansea Dylan Thomas Prize for a writer in English under 30,
is born. I can take solace in the fact that I'm completely ineligible.
Or I can cry about same. (discuss)
WordsWorth closes - a sad day for Boston
it should be, but there's this baseball thing... Apparently
Americans like watching guys with pot bellies play air croquet.
They call it a sport.
Books, a fixture in Harvard Square for nearly three decades,
will be closing its doors Saturday after its owners failed to
find an investor to help them refinance their bankrupt company.
Shakespeare might have had a life outside his plays?
My world is rocked to its foundations. And not in a good Journey-way.
Stewart to write prison book
I hope she
gives us tips on how to make sharper shivs out of dull silverware
and how to properly clean and hide communal dildos. I have some
things I need to take care of, see....
book industry insider says: "You'd think that they would
wait until she got out to pitch this so that she has the credibility
to do it as a redemption story.
"It sort of seems
like they've got the whole thing a**-backwards."
an etiquette guide on cigarettes as currency and how to know who
is who's bitch, might be useful
Which medium will deliver the knockout punch? Whose
cuisine will reign supreme?
As college ended, however, I
became increasingly aware of America's emerging writers. Deeply
smug, intimidatingly erudite and colossally self-involved, these
new authors lived very much inside their own labrythine and
mostly East Coast-based heads. But unlike their ancestors
writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon
the new postmodern wave seemed to have all the kinks,
crinkles and self-referential twists with very little of the
philosopical and historical backbone that made their predecessors
In short: New books seem to
be less about mind-altering ideas than splashy biographies.
At the same time, cinema was
coming alive. Pulp Fiction was released, hitting the
scene like the first drop of rain before a storm of great movies.
Wes Anderson and the Coen Bros. became increasingly productive,
throwing knockout punch after knockout punch. Their output
extremely funny, visually gorgeous, and as sharply written as
anything anywhere started to become my lodestone. Books
by Flak: Stop Canadian
Change: "This site isn't recommending that you kill a Canadian."
landscapes of Britain
The British Library presents a neat
little site about the social and cultural background of a
number of old-time writers, including William
Austen and Geoffrey
Armitage on Griffin jury
Armitage, Erin Moure, and Tomaz Šalamun will be the
2005 judges. That's two great poets! (discuss)
You've just won the Booker Prize. Now
get to work,* maggot.
really haven't had time to do what you have to do to get a hangover,"
he says with a chuckle from his flat in Hampstead. Rather than
days and nights of riotous celebration, his time has been marked
largely by one promotional appearance after another. As an executive
with Picador, Hollinghurst's London publisher, remarked last
week, "We expect a 500-per-cent uplift on sales,"
and it's up to Hollinghurst, formerly a deputy editor with The
Times Literary Supplement, to do some of that lifting.
it IS $120G, man... (discuss)
Now you can get your yoga mats and candles online!
is launching it's revamped web site on Monday. Take a peek
if you must, but don't buy. The Ninjas endorse an anyone-but-Indigo
buying policy. (discuss)
The Bush survival guide, but only if there is a Bush to
doesn't go the way of his one-term, war-losing daddy, Random House
will be publishing a
survival guide to his presidency.
House Editor in Chief Jonathan Karp says that the unusual publishing
arrangement calls for Stone to get paid either way, though he
will receive less money if the book does not get published —
i.e. if Kerry wins — than if it does. The same is true, of course,
for the house, which cannot make money on a book it doesn't
Still, Karp says, Random
House was happy to take the financial risk. "We believe
publishers have a moral responsibily to prepare readers for
calamitous events," he says.
Kerry wins, RH should seriously consider getting their money out
of this dude by turning the book into a cleaning-up-after-Bush
manual. (From GalleyCat)
The Plot Against America
Coetzee on Roth.
My vote is for Peter on top, Harry on the bottom...
Just when you think you've seen it all, someone comes along and
fiction is what's saving oral literature.
fiction is generally derided as a semi-literate, usually pornographic
genre providing nothing but in-jokes for geeks. It's true that
sex plays a big part of this genre; sexy fan fiction has its
own jargon - the term for it is "slash", as in Peter/Hook
- and ratings to put off, or entice, underage readers. The sex
goes all the way from the explicitly violent to the sort of
softly suggestive games of consequences you might expect if
an innocent Peter Pan met a lonely Harry Potter on a rooftop...
By putting in the sexuality,
the humour and the irony that the original tales often lack,
these writers can change the way some readers see the works,
and not always negatively. Indeed, if you have the patience
to trawl a few websites, you can find memorably acute homages
to various tales. Some of these fan fiction writers, with their
mixtures of absurdity and seriousness, originality and nostalgia,
communicate something of the hallucinatory way that readers
first react to fiction. When you first fell in love with literature,
didn't you weave the characters right into your life, into your
me your wand, Harry, and I'll show you my Tinkerbell. Yep. That's
oral literature, all right. (discuss)
Publisher lets Da Vinci Code sequel title slip
Apparently, it's going to be called,
"Buy It Now Because You Know You Want It and It Won't Be
Out in Paperback Until After You're Dead".* (discuss)
Solzhenitsyn is one of the great souls of the age. He is
also among its most maligned and misunderstood figures. It is
hard to think of another prominent writer whose thought and
character have been subjected to as many willful distortions
and vilifications over the past thirty years.
Who wrote the Bible?
From the way he was acting you'd think Wubblewoo, but we all know
he can't read or write, so it HAD to be someone else... Everything
you ever wanted know about the Bible and some things you didn't
know you wanted, right
here, in a place you might not expect... (discuss)
English! Rawk! Is this like the Hockey haircut? Business in
the front, party in the back? One
can only hope...
puck drops in January for "Hockey
Literature and the Canadian Psyche," a second-year
English offering by Doug Beardsley, whose previous classes have
been largely in Holocaust literature and postmodern Canadian
I was living in the US, I noted many terms and phrases that didn't
seem to translate. For instance, "Had the biscuit."
Lots of blank stares on that one. Or, "held up", as
in, "he was held up at the train station and was two hours
late." Apparently, in a land of legal AK47s, "held up"
isn't immediately associated with tardiness. So, for our American
readers, who take way too much abuse around here, a short glossary:
a "bird course" is akin to "basket weaving 101"
and a "hockey haircut" is a mullet.) (Note to AP journalist:
enough already.) (discuss)