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Hearsay Archive:

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

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


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October 2004:



C'mon, Mildred, let's undo that wee bun and get to know yeh...
How come we don't see the porn canon on library shelves?

It 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.

My 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 Libary. (discuss)

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) (discuss)

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.

Rushdie was one of several speakers at the House of Representatives in Washington to call for legislation "protecting our freedom of expression".

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.

Bestselling 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)

"Yo' honor," he told the judge, "not only does I resents the allegation, but I resents the alligator!"
Has the Black vernacular seen better days?*

Professor 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.

If my friend Kym is reading this, she should send me an email about it. (discuss)

A page out of history
Returned. Well, held for ransom and sold. (discuss)

Texas: land of the free(-roaming idiots)
Please, people. Please. Please please please. Vote sanely.

In 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.

The south is only a brain-ghetto now. Soon it will be a model for the country. (discuss)

The biggest unintentional book give away of all time!
Madrid plans to "lend" books on public transit. I wonder how Mexico City did with this? (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Sci-Fi Wars 2: The Illiterate Menace
Michel 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.


Dictionary of Colour
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.


Surely 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.


The European Dream
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.


But is it Art?
Umberto 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.


Normal, maybe, but new?
Joan Didion on America.

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 recipients.



Film adaptations, fall reading, Carmine Starnino and more.
I've updated my columns/articles page.

The 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.

In 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."


Ninjas snubbed! Again!
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 Saloon, 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 phone taps
• 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 subpoena
• 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

I've 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.

These 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?

I'd like to read a political poem so good it would make Wubblewoo's head explode. Or collapse, as the case may be. (From PFW) (discuss)

Toronto's poet di Cicco
A profile of Toronto's new "father"* of poetry.

Fifteen 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.

You're going to Hell, Miller. Hell. (discuss)

RIP: Michael Donaghy
Poet, dead at 50. Writers line up to pay tribute. (discuss)

Play vs story
Which is more important in video games? Canadian expat journalist Clive Thompson waxes electronic on his blog.

The 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.

Clive, 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.

Danish 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.

Why is no one speculating about Margaret Atwood? She's got to be due sometime soon. (discuss)

When books become films

For 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.

Sandra, 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!

"Hawkes 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.

You go, girl! (discuss)

A bomb in every copy: Tong Ting gets a lesson in paranoia Patriotism
A children's author finds herself in the middle of a terrorism investigation.

Her 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.

I'm pretty sure that this just means the book never existed in the first place... (discuss)

Ghost story

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 website, Backspace, 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' lives...
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 Signals) (discuss)


The 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 geeks.

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.


Christopher 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?

To 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."


Back to Iran

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.

Bookslut also offers a graphic account of one of Satrapi's book signings. (discuss)

Headline: "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?
A manuscript 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?

Chosen 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 works.

Later, one laments the sorry state of poetry in mother Russia:

Whereas 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 this system."

Oh, sweetie, it ain't broke -- it's just a Canadian model. (From GoodReports) (discuss)

Graham Greene's family up in arms
About a biography that details Greene's time spent up in other peoples' arms. (Note the brief reference to "Louise Dennys"...) (discuss)

The short story: defended again
You'd think it was under attack.

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.

Alas, 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 Signals) (discuss)


More turnover at the Walrus
Masthead reports that editorial changes continue at the Walrus. Full text:

September 30, 2004
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.

Oh 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)

We 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 the 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)

Ladies 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!

What 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.

Can I get an a-yhuk? (From GalleyCat) (discuss)

Smug youngster in marketing thinks he's hot shit: sources
The Kirkus Review is one line of a smug fratboy's coke away from becoming a sham.*

"I'm 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."

Ah, 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? (discuss)

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...?

American 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.

Skilful? (discuss)


Breaking Giller news
Munro, Choy, Baldwin, Quarrington, and Toews nominated for the Giller Prize. (discuss)

Freelancers win one
Our spies at PWAC point us to this article in which the Globe tersely reports on its own legal loss.

The 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.

Not quoted is the collective woohoo of journalists everywhere. (discuss) or (discuss)

Nobel goes femme
Austrian novelist and playwright Elfriede Jelinek has won the Nobel 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, but now 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)

Bestselling Homer
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.*

Particularly 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.

Well, 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
City suddenly alive with pasty grad students and men in deer stalkers. Unsolved murder rate plummets.

It's 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.

Will Sarah Weinman, Canada's own mystery blogger, be there? Looks like it. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Is Google about to change the bookselling business?
Google's latest project, Google Print, may 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.


What's the attraction of the Frankfurt book fair?
Apparently it may have less to do with business and more with, uh, professional development.

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.


Seymour Hersh profile
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.


Jacques Derrida is dead

The 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.

(Thanks, Foe) (discuss)

What are you reading, Dave? Dave?
The University of British Columbia library is about to become the first 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.

Laponce 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)

My 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, it's 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 with it.

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.

My favourite part of the interview: "I would rather not talk about my personal life." (discuss)

Shelf life
The Guardian has a new Posy Simmonds cartoon up. (discuss)

Bilingual bookstore gets genius grant
Well, the 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.

Of course, we later learn about the sky blue polo shirt and are reminded that he has much higher to aim. (From GoodReports) (discuss)

Super Booker
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? How could you not love this face? I just want to pinch her cheeks....!Canada's 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.

Ice queen?) (discuss)

Nobel Schmobel
What good's a Nobel prize? Especially when you think of all the what'shisfaces that won it before.

Of 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.

This 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:
Mark Strand wins 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
Sports: way too influential in both literature and politics.

Images of sportsmen and sportswomen have become swarmingly ubiquitous in the electronic Hemy does some overcompensation for repressed genital issues...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...

The 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 right. (discuss)

Anne Rice tired of personal attacks
Well, with that sallow skin of the dead under a salt and pepper bob, who wouldn't be?*

Ms. 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!!) (discuss)

Future dictionary extracts
A-K, L-Z. (discuss)

What do you get when you mix Christopher Hitchens, Henry Kissinger and a camera crew lead by Bernard–Henri Lévy?
The police involved. (From MobyLives!) (discuss)


Freedom of the Press (to watch other journalists get muzzled and not report it)...

The 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 piece:

On 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.

Now 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.

The 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:

IndyMedia 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.

This 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. (discuss)

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...)?

It 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 deserved coverage.

Her 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 the bindings.

God bless her wee heart. Let's hope she's watching A&E. Then it will be time doubly well-spent. (From PFW) (discuss)

Those darned preachers... They just can't stop burning books!
Even 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!

I 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 link) (discuss)


Invisible Cowgirl

Susannah 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 porn, 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.


Michel Basilières 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]

TORONTO (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 it.

“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 and engaging.”

“The winning novel in my opinion had a very high wow factor,” she said.

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....?

Sir 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 more."

Actor, 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.

Cal 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 executives.




The last word on Derrida
The Guardian asked a number of high-society types what they thought of Derrida:

The core of Derrida's thinking is that 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.


American narcissism
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 said. "I'm 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


File under: finally, someone says it
Rock lyrics are NOT poetry.*

Many 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.

It's 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 judge
Break out the champagne,* Peggy. (discuss)

Rothko manifesto
This actually sounds incredibly interesting.

I like what you've done here... human angst, if I'm not mistaken? It veritably reeks of mania! Congratulations!Now 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 greatest breakthrough.

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."

But I think more interesting would be an account of Chris Rothko's process in pulling it together. (discuss)

Programming note: 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 process?

The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering 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.

If you're American and want to protest, go here. (From Palabris) (discuss)

File under: Now there's something you don't see every day...
A 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!

Nobel 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."

(P.S. 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
The British 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...

Another 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 necessary computers.

... 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.

(From GoodReports) (discuss)

British libraries avoided like the dentist
Apparently the sky is falling. Again. Or still. But regardless: DOOOOOOOOMMMM! (discuss)

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...

What 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 been reached.


Hemingway's villa crumbling in Cuba
Warning: wear safety goggles. Papa's legs* on prominent display. (discuss)

Howl at the moon
The angry young poet critics like to hunt in packs... (discuss)

Hot for teacher, freezing for 10 months
Aw! Winnipeg gets all the GOOD stuff...! (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

The Poetry Train
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.


Sci-fi 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.

Vance 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.


The Lonely Doll
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 mansion, and 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.)

(From Snarkout) (discuss)


Shrapnel update
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.

I'm 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)

Where 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 past.


Festival fever
Book babe Rebecca Caldwell takes a look* at Canada's love affair with the book festival.

If you so much as even THINK about reading somewhere else, I swear to god I will cut you in your sleep.Celebrations 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.

Like 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
Marchand says the Giller Prize list leans toward the small town set. You know, eleven toes, missing teeth, rusting appliances on the porch. It makes for great reading. (discuss)

"Too dangerous for silence"
Chinua Achebe declines Nigeria's COFR (like an OBE or Order of Canada) for political reasons:

In 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
An interesting piece* on Robert Alter's new translation of the Five Books of Moses.

Who 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 them.

So poetry created theology, eh? Exxxxcellent... (discuss)

Film, as the corporation meant it to be
Maisonneuve blogger and Now film critic Wendy 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...
Aaaaaagh! I'm old and hideous! Don't look at me! Don't look at me!

"So, like, there are these four misshapen creatures looking at you and one points his gnarly boned twisty finger and says, 'Die!' and you do." "What?!" "Yes, you die instantly." "You can't do that!" "I just did. I'm the Dungeon master and this is my basement." "This is because I ate the last Dorrito, isn't it." "No, it's because Shelly Berstein talked to you today and you didn't even let me get a word in." "Shelly Berstein has headgear and a limp." "Take that back!" "Why? I'm already dead..."The 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.

(Seriously, 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 Cube!!) (discuss)

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:

The 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."

I 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 us? (discuss)


Edward Estlin?
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.


The almost canon
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 rereading—for that is the most tangible criterion for discriminating between the great and the merely good.

(From AL Daily) (discuss)

Gutter 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... Arr...
Gabriel García Márquez, seen here doing his best Saddam Hussein impersonation, has had his new book, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, pirated.

This... this is how you tweak the nipple... you see? Thumb and forefinger... Not like a cigarette! Now try again!Set 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.

In 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...

THE 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.

Come 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.

TROUT: 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. That’s sociology.

TROUT: What’s the difference? I’ve often wondered.

KV: A sociologist is paid by the Sociology Department. An anthropologist is paid by the Anthropology Department.

TROUT: Glad to have that cleared up.

KV: Knowledge is power.

He drank a bottle of drano. That's commitment. (From Maud) (discuss)

What is that freaking bird doing?
Mexican 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
Finally, an 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...

"Today, 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.

I've 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 Signals) (discuss)


His bit about making a living off of writing is pretty funny too....
Neal Stephenson answers questions from Slashdot users in a sometimes hilarious, sometimes thoughtful interview. Consider, for example, his question of who would win a fight between Stephenson and William Gibson:

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.

(From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Booker goes to Hollinghurst
£50,000. Nice. From the judges:

“This 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.”

Now 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)

Radar love
Eeep. $25M 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...

"In 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."

Gotta aim high, I guess. And low. (discuss)

"Everybody likes to see their name in print"
Hm. This 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)

Onion funny
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)


Finally, 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 off!
Gabriel García Márquez gets the last laugh on the pirates by tweaking the end of his novel. (discuss)

Reviving the Algonquin
The son of the former Algonquin Hotel owner is trying to recapture some of the storied building's faded past.*

The 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 writers.

Um, 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...
A postmodern gibberish generator. (discuss)


All-Mart bans America (the book)
All-Mart 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."

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

Seconds of Pleasure

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.


Is 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.

Funded 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.

I wish a bunch of you would quit so I could haul my ass above the poverty line. (discuss)

Now's cover story on Maus creator Spiegelman.

"In 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."

He's being interviewed by Seth tonight at the IFOA if you can make it. And with gems like:

"In 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."

why aren't you there lining up now? (discuss)

RIP: Anthony Hecht
Poet Hecht dead at 81. (discuss)

Pope with a rolled up newspaper
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.

The 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.

Juicy! 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... by a government funded poet.

In 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
Is the index disappearing? The serious ones are.

If 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."

Ah, laughter! You're what's left when everything important dies away! (discuss)

Just Us
Inspired by their childhood's dearth of black role models, a married couple creates a publishing empire for their family and community.

"I 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 "wannabes"...
I really like "energy" of this piece. It's so, like, "poetry", man.

Poetry, 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.

Ah, 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:

We 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.

I rest my case -- and renew my call for an emoticon equivalent to two fingers down the throat. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

No more books? Perfect!
Dooney's reports on Heather Reisman's ongoing plans to turn Chapters/Indigo into a yoga and New Age Wal-Mart cultural department store.

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 Adam Johnson, George Saunders and David Rees:

The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is a slender volume. The copy I bought at a British bookstore runs to 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 — to 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 phone.



The life of an OED library researcher
The latest 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.

Rowr! ( For a full image of the sexy librarian, click here, courtesy of librarian.net.) (discuss)

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 language—but 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 new Shakespeare?
Now hold on there, pardner...

Did I leave the washing on the line? Crap. Austen, 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?

Um, 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...) (discuss)

Billy Corgan, despite all his rage he's still just a rat in a cage...
Corgan goes 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 LaVey site...

This means, Go Team, right?"Occasionally 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."

You 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
Woody Allen on George S. Kaufman.

Over 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.

"I'd 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 on."

How 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!)
The arts 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.

Wednesday 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.

Maybe 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...
Hecht remembered. (discuss)

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.

What 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.

You 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 of watermelon...
A rather lengthy examination of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is now 35 years old.

Nick 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".

That night he had a stomach ache... I can, and do, recite the book at will. Often to people other than my child. (discuss)

Disney franchises into...EVIL!
Peter Pan needed a prequel* like Walt Disney needed another copy of Mein Kampf.

Still, 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 I SAID LOOK INTO MY EYES, MAGGOT!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."

Note: 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
Well, sort of...

My 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."

Hm... I would have thought them more of a pickup truck done run over my dog kind of crowd. (Um, Len?) (discuss)


An old-fashioned kind of designer
Chip 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."

I 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)

The book as fetish object?
Shocking! 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.


A new Get Your War On
Just in time for the elections... Phew. Don't let the giggle stop you from voting though. (discuss)

Speaking of Voting...
The 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, though. (discuss)


Hometown gal Alice subject of a LONG profile in the NYT Magazine.

She 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).

(And that's only the second paragraph.) (discuss)

Beware of attacking "poets"
Said "poets" will be distinguishable by frothing ebullience, frequent 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 enthusiasm and lack of judgement are contagious).

From 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 around literacy.

And 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. (discuss)

The 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.

Although 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.

(Use bugmenot to get a password.) (discuss)

Hot uncensored teens!
More and more teens are venturing into publishing. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Why 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.

It's 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 for books?
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. (discuss)

Pierre Berton: pass the nachos
How in the name of all that's holy did I miss this until today? (From GoodReports) (discuss)


Bookmark this
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 Cadmus pieces. But it turns out bookmarks are an art form themselves. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Who will save the ephemera?
Finally, an answer to the age-old question. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Digital Dada Library
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) (discuss)

Governor General's Awards shortlists announced
Interesting 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
  • Trevor Cole, In the Performance of His Life, M&S
  • Colin McAdam, Some Great Thing, Raincoast
  • Alice Munro, Runaway, M&S
  • Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness, Knopf

  • Roo Borson, Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, M&S
  • Tim Bowling, The Memory Orchard, Brick
  • David Manicom, The Burning Eaves, Oolichan
  • John Terpstra, Disarmament, Gaspereau
  • Jan Zwicky, Robinson’s Crossing, Brick

Apparently 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 Canyon?

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)

Operation Ohio
An embedded Voice reporter dishes on the literati's war against Bush.

As 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?

And still we'll be left with that fucking wired marionette (see below). (discuss)

Four dumb questions and one serious one
TEV guest blogger Todd Goldberg interviews Other Voices editor Gina Frangello.

One 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"?


Bush's wire
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)


The Paperback Revolution
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.

(From Things) (discuss)

The 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) (discuss)

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)

The prize machine
A look at what the literary prize means to the world of books.

Yet 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.

Prizes don't mean jack squat. (discuss)

More awards

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)

Jasper Fforde

Profiled 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
Well 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.

WordsWorth 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?
What?!? My world is rocked to its foundations. And not in a good Journey-way. (discuss)

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....

The key to a good jailhouse beating is in the length of the lead pipe....One 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."

Perhaps an etiquette guide on cigarettes as currency and how to know who is who's bitch, might be useful too. (discuss)


Fiction vs. Film
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 so hypnotic.

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 faded away.

Also by Flak: Stop Canadian Change: "This site isn't recommending that you kill a Canadian." (From Rake's Progress) (discuss)

Literary 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 Wordsworth, Jane Austen and Geoffrey Chaucer. (discuss)

Simon Armitage on Griffin jury
Simon Armitage, Erin Moure, and Tomaz Šalamun will be the 2005 judges. That's two great poets! (discuss)

Ya, mule!
You've just won the Booker Prize. Now get to work,* maggot.

"I 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.

Well, it IS $120G, man... (discuss)

Now you can get your yoga mats and candles online!
Indigo 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 survive
If Wubblewoo doesn't go the way of his one-term, war-losing daddy, Random House will be publishing a survival guide to his presidency.

For the love of God, don't let this book get published....Random 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 publish.

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.

If 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) (discuss)

The Plot Against America
Coetzee on Roth. (discuss)

My vote is for Peter on top, Harry on the bottom...
Just when you think you've seen it all, someone comes along and says fan fiction is what's saving oral literature.

Fan 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 own fantasies?

Show 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)


Aleksandr 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.

(From ALDaily) (discuss)

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)

Bird course!
Hockey English! Rawk! Is this like the Hockey haircut? Business in the front, party in the back? One can only hope...

The 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 poetry.

(When 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)

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