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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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September 2004:



I like Alex Beam's moxy...
And how he cuts his jib ain't half bad either.

There is, of course, the old-fashioned explanation for why the Buckleys, the Winchesters, and the John Updikes of the world make the rest of us look like clock-watching quill-pushers: hard work. But I have dismissed the possibility that these writers might have studied harder in school, read more books, or spent more hours at the desk than a grasshopper such as I. Or that they are simply more gifted than I am. They must be on something.

Vintage Ninja material. Particularly:

"Right now I'm taking Thackeray, a great performance enhancer. I've been taking Balzac for some years, although you do have to be wary of the French products -- they can be very exotic. And you want to be careful with the generic Canadian performance enhancers, like Robertson Davies. You just don't know where they've been."

Consider yourself an honourarily adopted shadowy minion, Mr. Beam. Now your first mark, codenamed Wonderbread, is one D. Eggers. Sic! (discuss)

Amazon: Culture machine
Amazon US has just opened space on its pages for pundits to discuss the upcoming election. This after recently adding a feature that allows users to donate to political campaigns through the site (and raising $300G for 14 campaigns at an average donation of $43... sorry, policy analyst in me still dying slowly...). You remember how Head said she wanted Indigo to be a one-stop culture store... Nuh-uh. She can fill the racks with as many scented candles and yoga mats as she can cram in, but will never be able to match this kind of ingenuity and power. The book may not be dying, but the bookstore sure seems to be. It's a different day. (discuss)

Bonfire of the Humanities
Well, the Village Voice can still trot em out.

The humanities must now take steps to preserve and protect the independence of their activities, such as the writing of books and articles, before the market becomes our prison and the value of the book becomes undermined. It was not always so. John Milton once wrote that good books are "the precious lifeblood of a master spirit." Today the humanist should look back to such expressions of illuminated belief. The task is to engage in constant re-examination.


Product is all that counts, not the reception, not the human use. This is production for its own sake and precious little else. If we stay this course, we can achieve what Angus Fletcher calls not economies of scale, but "bankruptcies of scale." Then is it too late to change the system? A creative despondency almost prevails. Yet we can get a perspective on our situation, even though the academy and the free use of intelligence are too often locked, not arm in arm, but in mortal combat. There's something about an institution that loves walls. There is in fact a compartmentalizing collusion operating between a managerial system that doesn't want to be bothered with the details of innovation or content, and those within the departments at universities who are the enemies of innovation. This is not a synergy encouraging life, but rather a cynicism, if only what has been called "cynical reason."

You know, I was JUST saying that yesterday. (discuss)

Are the Booker judges class prejudiced?
Hm. It's difficult to say, given what a sweeping generalization that would be. (From Maud) (discuss)

New to Maisonneuve, but not to blogging, is Wendy Banks's Wendyopolis. I remember reading Wendy back in the olden days (90s), before Moveable Type (the software) and before the internet (lowercase "i") was jam packed with people doing this sort of thing. She posted little mini-reviews on virtually anything, but particularly books. She also syndicated a story about a monkey or something. There were rhino graphics everywhere. I don't really remember. I just knew that when it was time to get a new blogger for Maisy, I wanted her her HER. Nowadays, she writes film for Now magazine in Toronto among other things. She's wicked funny and one of the single smartest people I know. In this post she ruminates on the nature of the blog. (discuss)


Poor, poor conservative Republicans!
These people* are just SO marginalized. I can't believe no one's called attention to this sooner. It's a cultural genocide! (I love it, and by that I mean hate it, when the over-privileged seek marginal spaces from which to cry foul. Excuse me, but, a) you're fucking authors, not hard-labouring, health-insuranceless single parents, and b) you and the people you prop up with your skewed "analysis" run the fucking world. So go back to accumulating money off the blood of poor and stop trying to occupy sites of moral outrage as though they were oil-producing countries that dared give your daddy lip. Oh, yeah, one more thing: fuck you.) (discuss)

It's here! It's here!
The Guardian first book award long list! Oh, GOODNESS! You've made me the HAPPIEST BLOGGER ALIVE!! (discuss)

Justice eulogized
More on the late Justice.

An accomplished painter, he had also studied music but lacked the confidence to pursue it as a career. Such wide-ranging references inform without encumbering his poetry - which also draws inspiration from popular thrillers. All of which made him a more inspired teacher and critic than many other poets who, like him, fetch up in academia. His poems were rarely longer than a page, and there was no great bulk in his total output.

I like "fetch up in academia". Sounds lewd. Like renting a room in a whorehouse. (discuss)

Die MAHNBÖKUH Mannschaften mit Bibliotheken
From a Booker mailing list press release (I find this vaguely creepy. But I'm in a pissy mood today, as you might have guessed):

This year's ManBooker Prize longlist has been described as "diverse", "intriguing" and "surprising".

In an exciting and ambitious new move with libraries across the country, The Man† Booker Prize website now hosts a specially designed microsite within www.themanbookerprize.com

This site will allow readers to pick books from the longlist choosing them according to various criteria such as 'poetic', 'experimental' or 'fast-pace'.

Public libraries across the UK are involved in promoting the Man† Booker Prize, including buying longlist titles as they become available.

I mean, it's only 22 books.... Why do you need a search engine for 22 books? I think this is part of a government plot to harvest our DNA through search engine queries.Damn government. Always with the DNA harvesting. (†Emphasis mine.) (discuss)

So you like ninjas?
Of course you do. Hey, you got your ninjas in my Jeopardy! You got your Jeopardy in my ninjas! (discuss)

Sibling rivalry
The Brontë sisters revealed! My brother and I just deal with with this impulse by not talking to one another except with pinched faces at quint-annual family gatherings... (From Bookslut) (discuss)


Okay, I was kind of cranky earlier
But now I've opened a bottle of Laphroaig that Ailsa brought me from SF (all the best scotch passes under the Golden Gate) and am slowly unwinding... Traditionally, I'm a Bushmills man, but this is good scotch and I can be persuaded. Though, I have to say, the little propaganda card that comes tucked in with the bottle strikes me as a bit much. I mean, what do they think I am, a booze tourist?

Woman of subtlety stuck with a simpleton?
Um, I don't know about half of that... You gotta be a bit of a simpleton to get stuck with one... But then there's my Fulbright-winning wife... Anyway, I really want to see this play.*

Like many intellectuals, [playwright] Kushner views Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, as an enigma. Her husband is not known to share her love of language and literature. If Dostoevsky is, as she claims, her favorite writer, how can a woman attracted to contemplating the great Russian novelist's complex characters and moral issues accept the less ambiguous rhetoric that comes out of the White House?


Big success? NAW...
Literary Saloon points to a writing programme designed to nurture the talent of tomorrow that's failing today...

A plan to establish Birmingham as the creative writing capital of Britain with a national academy is floundering because of lack of funding.

The National Academy of Writing, which is backed by some of the country’s leading authors, was expected to discover and nurture tomorrow’s great literary talent.

Its backers envisaged postgraduate courses, glittering literary events and regular writers’ workshops.

But despite moving into donated new premises in January, the two-year-old venture, which has writer and broadcaster Lord Melvin Bragg as its president, is currently not running a single course.

A little digging on the Saloon's part turns up these "current" course listings... Insert wa-wa-waaa sound clip here. (discuss)

Alex Good's back
With some astute, funny commentary on Penguin's Good Booking... (discuss)

Insert knife "a" into abdomen "b"
$5,000,000 advance for a romance book rewritten into a kiddie fantasy title. Why do I continue to live when it's becoming more and more apparent that I am merely a life support unit for a monstrous sense of indignity? (discuss)

Librarian cops: bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? whatcha gonna do when they're shushing you...?

Sharp-eyed librarians catch sophisticated bookthief. Maybe we should put them on the terrorist problem... Oh, wait, they're under suspicion and surveillance. All that learnin' breeds violence, don't it? (discuss)

International Library of Fraud strikes again...
Please, someone, sue these bastards and make the heartache stop. Please. (discuss)

Love, exciting a new...
Chinese schools introduce the word "love". Eastern society collapses.

China's eastern financial hub of Shanghai is adding a dash of romance to the school curriculum to teach children about real love, as opposed to the Internet chatroom variety.

No, wait, that was a tenement project collapsing... the rest of society marches on. (discuss)

Make way for the King!
Tingle Alley posts some funny remembrances of Eggers readings past. (discuss)


Bad Dirt
Annie Proulx has a new book on the way. While you wait, why not entertain yourself with some essays. (discuss)

Nothing happening here, move along
Hey kids, it's time for the new Project Censored.

Every year researchers at Project Censored pick through volumes of print and broadcast news to see which of the past year's most important stories aren't receiving the kind of attention they deserve. Phillips and his team acknowledge that many of these stories weren't "censored" in the traditional sense of the word: No government agency blocked their publication. And some even appeared ‚ briefly and without follow-up ‚ in mainstream journals.

But every one of this year's picks merited prominent placement on the evening news and the dailies' front pages. Instead they went virtually ignored.


Worse than Watergate
American writers speak out against Bush. Meanwhile, Republican writers respond with... where are the Republican writers...?

'Part of the problem presented by Bush and his gang is that they are so crude ... When you are confronted with things that are so crudely brutal, the writer's task of elucidating what lies beneath the surface is redundant. These people believe in cruelty, vengeance and brutality. I think Shakespeare would have done very well with these characters.'


The etymology of bling-bling
The Star introduces a weekly look at viral words. Brilliant.

Bling-bling's origins trace to the 1999 release of rapper B.G.'s "Bling-Bling." The term inspired by that tune found its way on to the national stage two years later when basketball star Shaquille O'Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates adopted it as a mantra in rallying themselves to a championship finish.


Hamlet in Africa
Today was one of the stranger days in literature. But hey, that's show business.

On this day in 1607 Hamlet was performed on board the merchant ship Red Dragon, anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone. Scholars regard this amateur, one-show-only production by the ship's crew as the first staging of a Shakespearean play outside of Europe, one that predates any New World Hamlet by about 150 years. Even if all went "trippingly on the tongue," it is anyone's guess what sense the bard's most puzzling play could have made to the four local chiefs who attended the premiere -- with filed teeth, nose rings, tattoos in the shape of exotic animals, and no English.


Where's Zamyatin?
The Guardian polls scientists for a top-10 SF writers list. I just finished books by Tony Daniel and Richard Morgan, and I expect to see them on the next list. (discuss)

Oz lit for dummies
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind presents a primer on Australian lit. (discuss)

Maybe the thieves were performance artists
Russell Smith ponders the psychology of art theft.

People worship invisible traces, as Christians have been known to preserve fragments of the true cross. The objects have become sacred. It is possible that the Munch paintings -- which have been carefully and beautifully reproduced in full colour around the world -- have some kind of spiritual significance to the thieves, as original and authentic sacred items.


Young, hip and ... M&S?
New M&S publisher Douglas Pepper wants to make books matter again. Can't argue with that.

Pepper says he wants to find and publish the most gifted writers of his own generation, as Jack McClelland once did. "Buying them pretty young is the name of the game, creating loyalty by publishing them well and exporting them abroad," he says. "I want writers we feel have many books in them, and we will be very aggressive about getting world rights. When I left New York, other publishers said, 'Call me with what you've got.'"



Getting kids to read
Um, hello? Dirty pictures? Okay, or this...

Research shows that, with so many other things competing for the attention of teenagers — from videogames to MSN — reading for pleasure starts to decline at about age 12. Recent U.S. studies found an alarming number of capable students rarely read unless required to as part of schoolwork. Typically, the reason is lack of motivation rather than incompetence.

What makes Jefferson's approach innovative is that, instead of pitting the computer screen against the book, she's bringing them together. She wants to link reading to other things that motivate 13- to 19-year-olds, like computers, social connections and being up on the latest "buzz."

But I bet dirty pictures would work. In related news: British children no longer read, make political decisions for self. (discuss)

Cooking the Book(er)s
How do you set odds on something as strange as a literary award? With a straight face. (discuss)

Poetry's got plans for da bling, yo
The first step will to be to build a giant robotic Ezra Pound. Phase two will involve a remote control and a GPS system that seeks open mics. (discuss)

30,000 books gone
Destroyed in a German fire.* This time it was accidental and in a library. (besprechen Sie sich)

Scottish women given second glance
Well, there's a first... Haha, no, I'm kidding, and I'm allowed to: I'm half Scot (the prettier half). But the wag in me wants to take this:

They were among the ranks of the most popular writers in Scottish history – but they lost the battle for enduring greatness because they were women.

and say, "No, they lost the battle for enduring greatness because they were Scottish." (Quoth the raven: "It's shite being Scottish! We're the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched miserable servile pathetic trash that was ever shat on civilization. Some people hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers. Can't even find a decent culture to get colonized by. We're ruled by effete assholes.") (discuss)

Moight as well get down on the other half too, while I'm at it...
Here's Roddy getting medieval on Ireland's singing, prancing ass. (discuss)

Poet didn't kill self
But he didn't live either... And still no one cares. (discuss)

Communicating with ET by the book
Apparently the e-book loses out again. Scientists (them that's is always wit da sciences) think that it would be a better shot to reach ET with something written on a physical object than an interstellar email/phone call. Shoot something into space and, so long as you aren't waiting for a quick reply, someone will pick it up and read it. Like a pulp novel left at the dentist. Well, I see one flaw in this reasoning: space is awfully big. It's bigger than a Crapters and has just as much junk in it. What if the whole scenario works more like poetry? What if no one finds the damn thing - ever? (discuss)

Chinese fiction free of clichés
Except the cliché in which a major North American media outlet devotes only 210 words to ethnic writers... That cliché is sacred, man. (discuss)

How to... make love? ... like a porn star
Um....* (discuss)


"There is an unacknowledged loneliness in being German"
Being German, I prefer to think of it as self-reliance. But I like the way this article posits a German obsession with Ireland, particularly as I'm soon to marry an Irish lass.

In 1957, Heinrich Boll published his famous travel book Irisches Tagebuch, which was later translated as Irish Journal. The Irish hated it and the Germans loved it. For the Irish it had too many donkeys and stone walls, too much dreaming and backward innocence. For the Germans, however, it was precisely these simple things that became so attractive. They carried the book with them in their rucksacks, searching for a kind of emotional connection to the people and the landscape. It gave them a sense of innocence and belonging, an inner life of feelings that was denied to them in their own country.


XXX-Rated Bible
No, it's not what you think -- there aren't any pictures. But who knew the good book is so raunchy. (From Maud) (discuss)

How do you design a cover for Mein Kampf?
Bookslut has a great article about covers for controversial books. See also, uh, great comic covers. (Last link from Snarkout) (discuss)

Pocket philosophy
Penguin re-releases some old-time thinkers. So is The Communist Manifesto tragic philosophy now or comic philosophy?

Sitting in a sticky Italian railway station last summer, the publisher Simon Winder was surprised and impressed when he noticed a book rack crammed not with blockbusting bestsellers but philosophical texts. "It was odd that in this hardscrabble part of Italy you could still turn up at a railway station and pick up a copy of Nietzsche," he said, "We do not really have that tradition in the UK."

Nietzsche, Italy, tradition, fascism... I feel like that episode of Friends where Chandler can't joke.


Next for men: Moby Dick cologne
Perfume based on books! If you've read Patrick Suskind's Perfume, you'll appreciate this.

Smell being the most evocative of the senses, it is not surprising that literature is full of aromas. Now an Italian per fumiere , Laura Tonnato, has tried to do justice to the olfactory imagination of some of her favourite authors, concocting five scents to match five odorous moments in classic novels.


How not to sell your book
First you travel through a war zone, then you have to write the damn book about it. And then the hard part starts.

A few weeks later, waiting for a call from her editor, Sullivan got a package in the mail containing her 600-page ramble -- copyedited and with an attached index. She panicked. "I had turned in what I thought was a draft and I had gotten back this copyedited manuscript," Sullivan says. "They were just going to print that. And it was so rough. There was no way."

But the book was already on the conveyor belt. It was listed in the next season's catalogue and the sales representatives had begun pitching it to booksellers. Everyone, including her agent, told her there was really nothing to be done. But Sullivan insisted they pull the plug. "It wreaked such havoc," she says. "They had to take it off the production train, where it takes on a life of its own."

(From Maud) (discuss)

File under: there's me, hugging fish
Everyone's crying foul about how stand alone books sections are disappearing from major newspapers, but something's got me thinking... Most writers who actually get press in Canada's paper of record, get reviewed in the Globe's stand-alone Saturday Books section. It's shaved off a few pages here and there, but for the most part it's the best, and only, game in town. And it's conveniently set aside so readers know where to look for reviews on Saturday morning.

Looking at it another way, however, it can also be seen as being set aside so those with no interest can steer clear of it and use it to wrap fish. Is the books section then a literary ghetto within arts journalism?

What made me think of this is how a very small number of writers get review-like profiles and other press outside the books section - the place where everyone not necessarily already inclined toward book reading (ie, the consuming public who buy things like clothes, cars, and houses (ie, not other writers)) might stumble across the review and <gasp!> be convinced to buy the book. Partially the work of good publicists, partially... luck? contacts? karma? I don't know. Given how my last book was handled on the publicity front, I may never know unless the Irish heritage or good deeds kick in. (discuss)

What good's the longlist...
When it doesn't mention the people I like? But there is a point here:

This has been a very strong year for fiction, yet you will look in vain on the list for Roddy Doyle, A L Kennedy, Jonathan Coe, Hari Kunzru or Justin Cartwright, whose The Promise of Happiness has received rapturous reviews. Less obvious, but no less worthy, is Gwendoline Riley, with the superb Sick Notes; also Andrew Crumey's dazzling Mobius Dick. David Lodge, like Doyle, has been snubbed before he's even had his launch party. What about Andrea Levy's wonderful Small Island? It won the Orange Prize - yet it's already been swept aside.

And in place of all these fine writers... well, at first glance we have a fair few who-hes and who-shes. There's no reason why the longlist should become a forum for young debut novelists - they have their own awards. Man Booker is one of the few prizes that isn't ageist. More's the pity, then, that the judge Tibor Fischer patronisingly remarked of Cartwright and V S Naipaul that "the old lags have dun good". Not good enough, it seems.

And that point seems to be: Tibor Fischer is a moron. (From PFW) (discuss)

Alice in Potterland
An updated, tricked-out Alice for today's jaded Potter fan. (discuss)

DLJ interviewed
Dennis Loy Johnson, former proprietor, now groundskeeper, of the cemetery that is uberblog MobyLives (our grandpappy), is now one of the more influential small publishers in the US. He's interviewed at Bookslut.

What happens is when you start a publishing company, and you get involved with publishing experts, attorneys, bankers, etc., everybody starts talking to you about your niche. You're a small publishing company, what's your niche going to be? Then you go to your distributor's sales meetings, and you understand what they're talking about. Every publisher gets up there and they sell knitting books, or they sell testing books, or they sell woodcarving books. And so small business is always about finding your niche. We have so little interest in having a niche, I can't tell you. We thought, here's a really good idea to be different. We'll be a general interest, just like the big boys. Just like Random House. We'll publish fiction and nonfiction and poetry and on we go. I want to do a cookbook, we've got a great idea for a cookbook. We want to do art books. We want to do what Random House does, but we want to do it right.

Go Den-nis! Go Den-nis! Go! Go! Go Den-nis! (Perhaps the nicest guy I met during my time in NYC.) (discuss)

And the Hugos go to...
Vinge, Gaiman, Gollum take awards from a rich field of nominees... (discuss)

Marketing ploys usually stink, but this....
This has the whiff of great literature about it. (Not sure how much I want to smell Proust. The name's always sounded like an anatomical nether region to me... God, my proust is so itchy today, for some reason...) (discuss)

Heaney: Milosz's master eulogist
Seamus on Czeslaw.

I know Milosz's poems only in translation, but they come through so convincingly in the "target language," you forget that their first life is in Polish. Reading him in English, you are in thrall to a unique voice, a poetry cargoed with a density of experience that has been lived through and radiated by an understanding that has rendered it symbolic. It's not just that one trusts the ear and the accuracy of those poets who have done the translating, although their contributions in this regard have been indispensable. It's more that one can hardly not intuit the sheer weight of human presence, prose content, and musical transmission that must subsist in the original, away beyond our linguistic reach.

(From the Saloon) (discuss)

Danforth returns, leaner, meaner, less flowery...
The Danforth Review is back after a summer off and Michael Bryson's got lots to say about the last five years of running the site. Oh, and he's 86ed the poetry. (discuss)

Robert, Jesus doesn't have wheels...
Robert Pinsky, ex-poet laureate/Simpson's cast member. (Homer: Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau? Apu: Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it. Homer: Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack and a couple of bags of Skittles. -- Thanks, John for reminding me of this...) (discuss)

File under: discreetly fired six months later for "violation of dress code"

Lazy-assed French author spared the pink slip (don't they all wear maids' outfits there anyway?) (discuss)


Your daily Beleaguered gossip
Our shadowy minions report that the long time Executive Director of the League of Canadian Poets has recently been given the boot. In a bitter email to (presumably) allies, Edita Page blames the League's financial troubles on the Board for spending too much money on the last AGM and decries the fact that the Board has decided to eliminate her position and go with volunteer work to make up for the cash shortfall. She goes on to enumerate her accomplishments (I'm sure there are more than she lists, but it's an awfully short list for 12 years) and laments that these will all "go".
Yet other grumblings from within and without the League lo these last few years seem to point the flaccid fingers of indifference at Page herself. Who's zoomin who here, people? Email us if you have more info. We at Bookninja wish Page well and hope that her years of experience at LCP lead to other equally high-powered, vocationally electrifying positions. (Website hasn't posted news... must be the lack of staff... or whatever it was before that kept the site from being updated regularly.) (discuss)

In related news: LCP looking for volunteers!
Just kidding. (discuss)


Is sci-fi dying? Hm. Eschatological musings from a sci-fi writer? Who'd of guessed it. Does anyone else think Rebecca Caldwell is just dreamy? Bookish. Good writer. Covers sci-fi. Gosh, if she's ever been in the Silver Snail, I think I'm in love. (And in our brief email exchange of yesterday morning, Caldwell slaps her head over the "Fahrenheit 411" typo, so save the sarcasm brother and sister nerds and let's give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.) (discuss)

Diaries = headaches
No shit.

Keeping a diary is bad for your health, say UK psychologists. They found that regular diarists were more likely than non-diarists to suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems and social awkwardness.

After three hours a night of this damn blog, I could have told you that! (From Maud) (discuss)


Wondering if you've got what it takes to be a writer?
Why not send it to Fiction Bitch and find out you don't. Remember, on the Internet everyone can see you die. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

How and Why covers
I'd totally forgotten about these How and Why books! I read Ants and Bees dozens of times as a kid. Then we got cable and I abandoned my books for late-night viewings of The Deer Hunter and A Clockwork Orange. Oh, to be young and innocent again. (Thanks, Maud!) (discuss)

Remember, "don't change horsemen in the middle of an apocalypse"
At the beginning of Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore asks viewers to imagine the last four years, from the Florida Putsch to the war in Iraq, was a dream. Back in 2001, the Onion presented the Bush reign as a nightmare. Someone's added links, though, to demonstrate how the absurdly funny has become the tragically real. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

In a crypt somewhere in Toronto, Heather Reisman points a talon at a map marked with red pins
Eye weekly has a profile of the oldest bookstore in Toronto. Anyone know which bookstore is the oldest in Canada?

The sign on the window naming The Book Mark, at 2964 Bloor W., the oldest independent bookstore in the city has a bittersweet undertone to it. The claim to fame comes at the expense of other, older independents that closed up shop during the great Chapters onslaught of '95 and the Indigo echo of ever-since.


The 21st-century Raymond Carver
Eye also has a profile of one of my faves, Adrian Tomine. Nice issue, guys!

Yet, far from feeling like a wet sock, Tomine's stories are some of the truest depictions of human nature in all of comics, capturing his semi-fictional character's subtle tics with the same precision with which he draws the furniture in the background of his panels. He's a fussy, disciplined draftsman; so meticulous, he once tore up a finished page, a week in the works, when he discovered that the paper had been miscut, making his panels look microscopically lopsided.


File under: you were expecting maybe some honour?
Barnes & Noble's foray into publishing* is raising some eyebrows and middle fingers.

Unlike most publishing companies, which announce their coming titles with great fanfare months in advance, Barnes & Noble has kept most of its publishing plans a secret. It said little to nothing about its effort to repackage its line of classic novels, adding footnotes, study aids and lengthy explanatory sections, before the books appeared on the shelves last year. And although the company commented at length about robust sales of the Norton paperback "9/11 Commission Report'' this summer, it never mentioned that it was preparing its own hardcover version.

Undercutting the competition... clever. But wait, even when the competition wins you still make money? Oh, B&N you're devilishly cheeky! Will you marry me so I can divorce you in disgust? (discuss)

Literary catfight
I am so in trouble for that headline. National League of American Pen Women get the claws out.* And that. Rowr! (And I'm not worried about you berating me... I'm used to that. It's what goes on behind closed doors that frightens me...) (discuss)

The used book's new e-life
Great article on online used book selling.

The size and usefulness of the three main sites becomes apparent when comparison shopping. A search for a copy of Geoff Dyer's entertaining account of DH Lawrence, Out Of Sheer Rage, finds 120 copies available on Alibris. Its prices started at £1.60 for a used paperback from a bookseller in Massachusetts. That seller also had the book listed for the same price on Abebooks, but was undercut by a £1 offer from a UK-based book shop. Abebooks boasted 165 copies for sale, way ahead of Amazon.co.uk's 32 copies, while Amazon's lowest price was £1.05.

The comparison of Abebooks and Amazon is particularly useful. (discuss)

The quotable Wubblewoo
It's not all idiocy and bumbling incompetence for GW these days. It's spin and edited history. That's why the people at Oxford have included him in their book. (From PFW) (discuss)

Loneliness and writing
The good news is, many BAD books die of loneliness* too. (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

All Shakespeare, all the time
All right, at least this weekend. The New Yorker considers Stephen Greenblatt's new book on Shakes, while Greenblatt ponders how Shakespeare became Shakespeare in the New York Times. (discuss)

Fucking crazies
A new book alleges that Colin Powell called the rest of the Bush administration "fucking crazies" in a conversation with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The only about this that doesn't make sense to me is why he's trying to deny it. (discuss)

Social future
Locus asks six sci-fi writers to predict the future of society.

"Where are we going? If Kerry should be elected, back to the Clintonian middle. But if Bush is re-elected, straight into the worst fascist shitter this country has ever experienced. We're on a cusp like that of the Roman Republic about to degenerate into the Empire. Though in many ways it has already."

(From Boing Boing) (discuss)

File under: it takes some noive!

A reader sent these links into me a while back and I've been sitting on them. They're very uncomfortable. Normally I wouldn't single someone out like this, but it seems beyond the pale, no? Apparently I've been missing out on this accomplished poet. (discuss)

Shakespeare online
The British Library has put online scanned copies of Shakespeare plays printed in quarto before the theatres were closed. You can read the originals and compare the differences between copies. Kind of cool even if you're not an academic. (discuss)

"Turn left at the zombie"
Clive Thompson has an interesting take on video-game guides as a new kind of travel literature. I finished Silent Hill 3 recently and found it more innovative in terms of story and character than most current books, so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Game guides aren't merely utilitarian, though--the best ones point out intriguing bits of architecture and design that might be overlooked otherwise. The Ghosthunter guide suggests that you should enter a house and look down a dark well, lest you miss the giant dead fetus. ("Creepy," the author shudders.)


Lost in translation
An amusing email exchange between a writer and a Russian translator.

I'm so glad you finished PopCo! The title will give a real headache to its translator. Besides the obvious similarity to popcorn the sound of PopCo resembles a Russian colloquial term for buttocks, so the translator will have to show some inventiveness to avoid this. However, it's true about all your titles. Literal translation of Going Out -- "vykhod" -- is rather dull a title for such an interesting book. I've decided to translate it as "vylazka" -- this word means "a risque adventure of furtively going out to achieve a difficult goal", so I think it's relevant.


Insane typewriter art
I want to believe this is some sort of trick, but hey, if people can draw naked women in ASCII, then why not the Mona Lisa using a typewriter? (From Metafilter) (discuss)


The literary 9/11
No one seems to be going there.

You’d think that, if anyone would have published a literary work using the attacks as a plot catalyst, it would be Joyce Carol Oates, America’s most prolific and topical writer. Or maybe the conspiracy-minded Don DeLillo, whose fiction is studded with shadowy governmental plots and who wrote a best-selling novel about the Kennedy assassination, “Libra.” Bear in mind, though, that DeLillo’s musing on Oswald and the CIA came more than 20 years after the fact. If journalism is the first draft of history, as the saying goes, then the literary novel must be the fourth or fifth revision.

I, for one, am still processing it. (discuss)

New version of Ariel to prove Plath committed suicide
Um, shut up.

For the first time, readers will be able to see an edition of the poems complete and in their original order, instead of the heavily edited version, published by her husband after her death. Many blame that edition for giving the impression that her suicide was the inevitable result of mental illness. The new version will be fresh ammunition for her army of posthumous fans who say that her death was triggered by Hughes's philandering.

Um, I repeat: shut up. You have to be nuts to commit suicide over someone cheating. End of story. (discuss)

Sure, blame it on the little guy!
Professor shifts blame to his research assistants for insertion of plagiarized text...

"Most people use research assistants to gather information for them, or sometimes to read and summarize material," said historian Alan Brinkley, provost of Columbia University. "But it is inconceivable to me that I would ever allow a research assistant to alter a manuscript."

Yes, yes, but then how would he be rich AND lazy? Isn't it enough that he put in a request for the slave labour? Shouldn't the book really write itself from that point? There are undergrads to be ogled here, people! (discuss)

Toronto Book Award
A split decision means both authors go home half richer and half poorer than otherwise... Does that make sense? (discuss)


Roth has never been much interested in aesthetic theories and experiment and when he talks about getting a story right he does so, like any craftsman, with a practical understanding of the materials he uses and the techniques needed to get the job done. In The Ghost Writer, the ageing writer, EI Lonoff, tells 23-year-old Nathan Zuckerman, the most disabused of Roth's stand-ins, that he "has the most compelling voice I've encountered in years. I don't mean style... I mean voice: something that begins at around the back of the knees and reaches well above the head." Voice in this sense is the vehicle by which a writer expresses his aliveness and Roth himself is all voice. Style, in the formal, flowery sense, bores him; he has, he once wrote, "a resistance to plaintive metaphor and poeticised analogy". His prose is immaculate yet curiously plain and unostentatious, as natural as breathing. Reading him, it's always the story that's in your face, never the style.


Profiled (apparently along with his wife).

'I would not know what to talk to another writer about. He would be thinking about his book. And I would be thinking about mine. And what would we think of to say to each other?'

In my experience, this is when you see two writers absentmindedly taking the stuffing out of a third, not present. In fact, I saw it today! (discuss)


Morrison told BBC World Service's The Interview programme that she personally remembered black people criticising civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, asking: "What is he doing? We are going to lose everything."



More encomium. Nice fat paragraphs.

[For Milosz] the journey was not the goal, the goal was the goal. Irony, for which he had a wicked appetite, was not adequate as a meaning for life. He was a man without illusions, holding steadfastly to a confidence in what he could not see.


Newsflash: Pittsburgh home to idiot journalist
You. Are. Not. Going. To. Believe. This. Shit.

If the title of Christopher Ricks' entertaining and accessible book, "Dylan's Visions of Sin," about the poetic influences in Bob Dylan's lyrics somehow conjures thoughts of Dante, rest assured, it was purely intentional.

And an altogether brilliant idea, for Dylan is in many ways a modern Dante, the medieval poet who artfully mixed religion and politics in his masterpiece epic, "The Divine Comedy."

Shurikentothehead! (discuss)

In the magazine business, just like in porn, it's all about location location location...
The Erotic Review loses its staff over a move. (DBC writes erotica? I imagine it would go like this, "You do me first, baby, and then I'll return the favour... Thanks. Bye.") (From PFW) (discuss)


Imitation is the sincerest form of idiocy
McCrum on the literary knock-off.

In days gone by, sequel fever was only a mild affliction and usually involved commissioning some tame novelist to finish off Jane Austen's Sanditon or hammer out a follow-up to Gone With the Wind. But now the pressure is on for a quicker hit. If last year's succes fou was Eats, Shoots and Leaves, this year's oven-ready turkeys will be the E,S&L imitations.

One of the saddest truths about the book world is that though publishers must know that originality is inimitable, this never stops them from indulging in the sincerest form of flattery: imitation.


Watershed fiction
(As opposed to the waterstained fiction I have stored in boxes...) What fiction is most important to women's lives?

It is in the nature of lists to boil down eventually to a somewhat predictable run of titles - the kind of list that emerged at the end of all the excitement of the BBC's the Big Read. So we held our breath as interviewees confided that Jackie Kay's Trumpet had helped them at a moment of intense grieving, that Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces was the most important book they had ever encountered, that Meera Syal's Anita and Me had helped them through a family catastrophe. Who would have thought that Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting or Will Self's Great Apes had proved invaluable in times of crisis? In the end, though, the unfamiliar titles were eclipsed by the more familiar ones.


Fiction vs. the Blogmonster: An Epistolary Exploration of Agency in the New Information Hegemony
Back in university, I was always better at the stuff before the colon... Now I run a blog* with smartass headlines... go figure. (From Maud) (discuss)

Ebony and Ivory
Sol Stein reflects* on his literary friendship with James Baldwin.

Mr. Stein, a courtly man with a twinkling smile, suggested that part of his kinship with Baldwin came from their outsider perspectives; Baldwin "assumed his ancestors came to America in chains" while Mr. Stein's parents made their way illegally from Russia. But he was also drawn to Baldwin, he said, because he was exceptionally smart.


Arab lit
It's not just for jihad anymore.

Arab books became a political issue earlier this year when the Bush administration launched its "greater Middle East initiative" and blamed low output of books for a "knowledge deficit" in the Arab countries. ("Knowledge", in this context, is defined in western terms and automatically excludes such things as memorising the Qur'an or knowing how to milk a goat.)

(I just saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night and am largely impotent with sputtering rage. I'm practically an American Democrat. More stuttering profanities another time.) (discuss)

Holy plants!
For your most obscure reference and hexing needs: all the plants in the Bible... (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)



Blog mania
Maud Newton discusses the pros and cons of blogging over at Maisonneuve. I don't know, all the obsessive behaviour she describes seems so normal to me....

I bought a round of drinks and tried to stop thinking about the twelve links I'd emailed myself earlier but hadn't posted. After all, we were at a bar. Our songs had started to play on the jukebox. We were carefree and intoxicated and could not have cared less about blogging. Except that, unlike my friends, I went home at midnight and posted about books until 5 a.m. I might have stayed up longer, but my husband emerged from the bedroom and gave me the raised-eyebrow look that means, "Maybe you really should consider that Paxil prescription your therapist keeps recommending."

See, this is why I don't go out at night. (discuss)

What if Bush wins?
The Washington Monthly brings together 16 writers to consider what calamities may befall the world next. All I have to say is keep an eye out for flying monkeys. (discuss)

It works on so many levels
For those of you missing George's Litterati cartoons, there's always Posy Simmonds. (discuss)

Nerve Fall Fiction
Edited by A.M. Homes. So you know it's going to be fucked up. Case in point:

One morning Aloisius Weinberg woke up and discovered a mustache on the end of his penis.

I hate it when that happens. (From Bookslut) (discuss)

On Writing 3
A bunch of writers are interviewed about their craft. I've only had time to glance through it, but it looks pretty interesting.

This year, Critique is proud to present new contributions by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins; bestselling authors David Baldacci, Niall Williams, and Yossi Ghinsberg; Newbery Medal Winner Jerry Spinelli; eBook pioneer M.J. Rose; and many, many more. In addition, you'll find included contributions to prior editions of "On Writing".


Cthulu fonts
My eyes! My eyes! (discuss)

Indigo: handing out mental pablum to the mindless, all-consuming North American mall zombie
Head (you don't mind if I call you 'Head', do you, Head?), you're so low you can't even reach up to kiss my ass.

"We imagine over the next three or four years that books, which are now 80 or 85 per cent of our offering, will evolve to be approximately 60 per cent of our offering, although the selection will still be as meaningful," Reisman said.

You lie through your capped teeth. Meaningful? You've already cut your poetry sections at Crapters down to one lousy copy of each backlist title that isn't reordered once sold, just so you could fit more computer books in.

Indigo is also forming partnerships with experts in health, business, religion and other fields who will advise the bookseller and customers on the best resources for their needs.

Sounds like the Bush administration pay roster... You should be proud.

"We see our role as maintaining a vital interest in books during a time when . . . reading as an art form is under stress," she said following the meeting.

How do you sleep at night? (I mean besides on the mediocre thread-count sheets from your housewares dept?) You're the CAUSE OF THE STRESS, YOU BACKSTABBING HARPY!

"Everything we do to make our stores the place to come, means we sell more books."

Puke! Puke! Puke! Um, more of the SAME small number of books. What about the 40% you cut out?

In short, Head, there is a special ring of hell reserved for you. It will be filled with poets, mid-list novelists, and other vermin you can't stand (thinking customers, engaged employees, etc.). And we'll be the ones with the pitchforks. (discuss)

Blume gets award, Bloom continues to spin in his grave
While a far cry above Stephen King, in some ways, I'm pretty sure Judy Blume* does not a calm Bloom-colon make. In related news Metamucil shares up 21 points... (discuss)

Textbook ripoffs
As far as I'm concerned, textbooks are what Xerox was created for.

Post-secondary textbooks are a $300 million business in Canada, which will only grow as enrolments climb, says Colleen O'Neill, executive director of higher education for the Canadian Publishing Council, who says about two-thirds of textbooks used in Canada are published in the United States.

"The hard sciences, especially medicine and nursing, are expensive books to create. They often require the work of a number of people to gather the content, and they must be designed to be easy to navigate, presenting often complex material in a colourful manner for today's increasingly sophisticated students," she said.

O'Neill dismissed a California research report that came out earlier this year, called "Ripoff 101," that slammed textbook publishers for adding extras such as CD-ROMs and study guides to shrink-wrapped "bundles" that hike the price of the textbook but often go unused. The non-profit California Public Interest Research Interest Group also accused publishers of making minor changes each year that make earlier editions needlessly obsolete.

Here's some textbook advice for O'Neill: insert head (a) into rectum (b) find corporate paycheque (c) and push it up intestinal tract (d). (discuss)

The american werker be; not only lazy, but not so good with the werds
A full third of US employees may not meet the literacy requirements for their jobs. That's as many people as are currently employed at McDonalds, where, to ease spelling difficulties and warn of gastronomic eventualities, managers have recently decided to change the product name from 'Big Mac' to 'BM'. (disgust)

Editor makes least of time at repulsive T&A mag
Aren't you just supposed to wink knowingly and say, "What happens in the grotto, stays in the grotto"?

While at Maxim,* Mr. Itzkoff managed to dabble in potent drugs, interview many seemingly available starlets and drink prodigiously, but the sexual conquests that are the leitmotif of the magazine he worked at constantly eluded him. At one particularly pathetic moment, he calls an escort service, making sure to take down his Princeton diploma from the wall before the prostitute arrives. He is a cartoon, but a dark one.


Complete Willie Shakes to see stage: actors' union to hold secret strategy meetings
The Royal Shakespeare Company will perform ALL of Wil's work (including the sonnets, poems, and misc. crap) in one seven month long festival ending in the ritual disembowelment of Kenneth Branagh. Tickets are currently being sold with a Power Bar and complimentary colostomy bag. (discuss)

Starbuck's work: not all corporate takeover
George Starbuck, overlooked poet.

It's not especially surprising that Starbuck is now so overlooked: Critics today tend to view wit as a poor substitute for humor. Starbuck's major poems are all the things major poems should be—subtle, intelligent, moving—but their distinguishing mark is almost always cleverness, and cleverness is not a quality prized in contemporary poets. There's much more room in the canon, at this point, for the breezy humor of Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch than for Starbuck's elaborately plotted pranks and rococo word-castles.

The bit about the blurb at the beginning is outrageous, no? (From the Saloon) (discuss)

F&F at 75
Gosh, those books don't look a day over 74...

it is perhaps the concept of "continuous publishing" that marks Faber out from the literary crowd. The traditional view is that they publish you until you die. It was true of William Golding, Philip Larkin and, more recently, Ted Hughes. Seamus Heaney has been published by Faber since 1966, John McGahern since 1963.


Life: coming soon to a theatre near you
Maud points to a very funny bit by some Canucks from Montreal: "Trailers for Everyday Life"

This spring.
One man.
Will risk everything he has.
To prove to the woman he loves.
That the simple act of shutting the back gate.
Will keep squirrels out of the goddamn woodpile.



The guerrilla librarian: hit and fade, hit and fade, hit and shhhh!
American librarians are pissed about the so-called Patriot Act and are fighting back anyway they can.

She worries that a researcher could check out a book on Islam and suddenly end up on the no-fly list, forced to take the Greyhound with Teddy Kennedy for the rest of her life. Or an HIV-positive teen living in a conservative community could be outed after reading about the disease. If this sounds far-fetched, two years ago, in Punta Gorda, Florida, a British man was arrested in a public library after visiting websites that posted material on mineral supplements and the world's first chemical generator of electricity, the Baghdad Battery.
West, for her part, has created a series of popular, quasi-legal signs to warn users. One -- "The FBI has not been here. (Watch closely for the removal of this sign)" -- was provided to every library in the state by the Vermont Library Association.

Fight the power, Mildreds. (discuss)

Coach House profiled
At Maisy.

Since the beginning, Bevington, along with his editors and designers, has made books that transcend mere bookdom—they are events. Coach House volumes are special in the purest sense of the word, because the publisher often produces letterpress or limited editions with extra colour, object-oriented features and other special goodies.


Orange Word festival opens
Some lightweights like Martel, Naipaul, Haddon, Doyle, etc., at some rinky-dink thing. (Can you believe this: my local independent bookstore here in sunny Guelph, ON, has booked Roddy Doyle for September 28, and has asked me to introduce him. Um, okay.) (discuss)

"It's not just some bald fat guy reading verse"
Well how the hell am I supposed to classify this, then? If I can't rely on poetry readings to find my bald fat guys reading verse, what can I rely on? Ladies and Gentlemen and assorted ho's, I give you Felix Dennis: Maxim mogul, egomaniacal arborist, fat bald guy, poet.

This week he launched a three-week, 14-city tour, complete with multimedia effects including music and sounds to set the mood, and a full stage set with several large screens behind him that show films, images, live shots of his face, and the full texts of the poems.

"It's not just some bald fat guy reading verse," Dennis says proudly.

And then there's the wine.

As an added incentive to ensure large, happy crowds of listeners, Dennis is giving away free wine - expensive, French wine - from his own cellars at each stage along the tour. A spokesman said some 100 cases of wine will be given away during the entire tour.

All told, the U.S. tour is likely to set Dennis back about $600,000 - nearly twice of what gross sales would be if the entire initial printing runs out. But it is small change for a publishing magnate whose net worth is close to $1 billion.

And while it's unusual for an author to foot his own bill for a tour, it's also unusual for an author, especially a poet, to go from reading to reading in a Gulfstream jet while his entourage hauls around a bus full of gear from gig to gig.

Dennis is quick to acknowledge that he does not fit the profile of a struggling poet, and that his work may never achieve critical success. "I'm swimming against the tide," Dennis says. "I've got far too much money for most English people, and I used to go on vacations with 14 girls."

This is not a test. The tone you hear is in fact the EEG that is hooked up to my formerly convulsing body. Please call EMS. Poet down. (From PFW) (discuss)



"People are poor because they are lazy"
Slate offers a guide to Kitty Kelly's book on the Bush gang. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. If Dubya was born into any other family he'd be working as a crew chief at McDonald's for the rest of his life. (discuss)

But aren't all books hoaxes?
Gordon Rugg revealed the 400-year-old Voynich manuscript to be a hoax. Or is that just what "they" want us to think?

By day, Rugg, a 48-year-old psychologist, teaches in the computer science department of Keele University, near Manchester, England. By night, as an intellectual exercise, he has been researching one of the world's great oddities: the Voynich manuscript, a hand-lettered book written in an unknown code that has frustrated cryptographers since its discovery in an Italian villa in 1912. How impregnable is the Voynich? During World War II, US Army code breakers -- the guys who blew away Nazi ciphers -- grappled with the manuscript in their spare time and came up empty. Since then, decoding the book's contents has become an obsession for geeks and puzzle nuts everywhere.

Then came Rugg. In three months, he cooked up the most persuasive explanation yet for the 234-page text: Sorry, folks, there is no code -- it's a hoax! Lifelong Voynichologists were impressed with his reasoning and proofs, even if they were a little chagrined. "The Voynich is such a challenge," says Rugg, "such a social activity. But then along comes someone who says 'Oh, it's just a lot of meaningless gibberish.' It's as if we're all surfers, and the sea has dried up."


Writers Under the Influence
Are there any other kind? A neat little feature from Amazon on books that inspired writers. (From Maud) (discuss)

What's wrong with Lewis Lapham?
Slate goes after the editor of Harper's, with some justification. I have to admit, I've found Harper's anti-Bush editorializing almost hysterical of late. Then again, I don't have to live in a country led by the most ridiculed man in the world. (discuss)

Hmm... poems about dancing, eh? I can do that...
Karen Kain is the new head of the Canada Council for the Arts. (discuss)

70 things you should know about Leonard Cohen
Gosh, I still like this old feller.

[#]35 One woman who resisted his charms was Nico, whom he met at Andy Warhol's club in 1966. "The most beautiful woman I'd ever seen." She said she preferred younger men, but introduced him to Lou Reed, who had some of his books. "We told each other how good we were."


Slack-jawed yokel plays big in the sticks (that is to say, the USA)
Do Bushisms actually help Bush? Well, they aren't hurting him...

On the road, Bush lets any malapropisms or gaffes just flow out. This is Dubya unplugged, Dubya unworried.

After all, many of his supporters adore Bush for his average-guy charm. So, in a way, his unpretentious oddities can be a strength. Critics and late-night talk-show hosts have spent four years ridiculing Bushisms, and yet there's no evidence that Bush has been harmed politically.

Last week, Bush was finishing a long bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, when he attacked his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, over Iraq in a speech in Erie, Pa.

He was launching into a well-worn line about how Kerry voted no when Bush asked Congress to provide the troops with "body armor and spare parts." But in Erie, Bush melded the two. He recalled asking lawmakers if they could buy "armor and body parts." And, he said, he was furious that Kerry had refused to fund those items.


When reviewers don't read the books they review...
It's more common than you think... (discuss)

Margaret Atwood interviews Matthew Fox
Lovely Margaret turns the table on a somewhat badgered and bewildered colleague of mine at Maisonneuve. This is great stuff.

MA: Who’s your agent?

MF: Ted Gideonse. (Pause) He’s excellent. He works at the Ann Rittenberg agency in New York.

MA: Well, maybe you should get a Canadian agent.

MF: I tried very hard to get a Canadian agent, actually. It wasn’t until my book deal got announced that any of them bothered to contact me.

MA: Ah, so you have a book deal.

MF: Yes.

MA: (Laughing) I see where these questions are going now! You want to know what to do when your book comes out. That’s what this is.

MF: Well, this is all wonderful advice for someone who is doing this for the first time.

MA: What sort of a book is it?

MF: It’s a collection of short stories, mainly set in Canada.

MA: And it’s going to be published by?

MF: Cormorant.

MA: And they’re going to put you on a book tour?

MF: I hope so. I think next summer.

MA: All right. You should make sure there are copies in the stores.

MF: Maybe I’ll just…

MA:… travel with your own.

MF: Yeah, that’s good advice. I’ll make sure I have a box in the trunk of my rented car as I’m driving across the country to do these readings.

MA: You’re going to drive?

And that's not even covering the lecture on pharmaceuticals... (Matt, I think you handled yourself quite gracefully.) (discuss)

Dear Joseph Epstein, would you like a job at Bookninja.com?

Writing in Poetry (a magazine that, one would think, should be able to hire a decent web designer now... ahem), Epstein examines the "job" of Poet Laureate.

As a man who has published a single poem, my own position is that I would like to be asked to be poet laureate of the United States so that I could refuse it, for this seems to me a job that would bring much greater glory to turn down than to take up. True, I am not in danger of being asked to become poet laureate of the United States—or even of Illinois, the state in which I live, if it, like several other states, has a poet laureate (I’ve made a note someday—though not too soon—to check). But I have been a more than thirty-year subscriber to this magazine; I am someone who came of age with Oscar Williams’s splendid A Little Treasury of Modern Verse; and I continue to believe that, though the calling and craft of poetry have been debased every which way and in most others is in trouble, some of the best writing done in America continues to be written by poets and to show up in verse. Because I have great respect, affection, love for poetry, I find the creation of the poet laureateship of the United States a comical insult to a serious enterprise, and one which ought properly to be mocked every chance one gets.

It's like you live inside my head, man. (P.S. Dear Poetry, would you like to give me a job designing your site? I'll bill you in monthly installments so the figures stay under the sixth digit until year end...) (discuss)

Pound's music

Got time for a trip to Buffalo to hear the compositions of Ezra Pound?

Pound's music was influenced in this regard by such sources as Sappho's poetry, Catullus, Provencal verse by northern Italian troubadours and the work of George Antheil, the enfant terrible of modernist composers. It is, said one critic, "of unsurpassing beauty and illuminates the practice of 'prosody'—the elusive craft of setting texts to music."

Tell me how it goes. (discuss)

And I looked, and beheld a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
Paris Hilton to star in NSYNC-produced The Great Gatsby remake. "And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe." (discuss)

The perfume of books
Remember that bit on perfumes based on literary passages? Well...

"[A burning whale] has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it. . .. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment." -- Herman Melville, "Moby-Dick"

What passages would you like to see bottled and sold to the idly rich? (discuss)

Word tree
Ah, the internet's diversions just get prettier and prettier... (From Clive) (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Do publishers lie?
The Telegraph accuses publishers of misleading consumers.

Dozens of novels which are currently in shops carry marketing slogans such as "Winner of the Booker Prize" and "Winner of the Orange Award" despite not even having been shortlisted for the accolades.

In each case, the victorious work was a different novel by the same author, although this is rarely, if ever, made clear. Critics point out that far from being literary masterpieces, many of the books carrying the misleading marketing have, in fact, received poor reviews.

I don't know, this strikes me as something like a retail sign that says "From $9.95." If you don't know you're being manipulated when you look at marketing....

I remember a writer once telling me he'd gotten his hands on some Governor General's award stickers and had stuck them on his books in stores. I'm surprised more people don't do that. Or do they....? (From Literary Saloon) (discuss)

Spelling? We don't need no stinking spelling.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is banned from a language conference because of his political views on, uh, spelling. Long live the revolution!

The greatest living author in Spanish has been barred from the International Congress of the Spanish Language, a meeting organised every four years by national academies of the Spanish-speaking countries.

Magdalena Faillace, Argentina's secretary of state for culture, who is hosting the meeting, said the author of One Hundred Years Of Solitude was excluded because he had "made trouble" at the same conference eight years ago.

"Spelling, that terror visited on human beings from the cradle onwards, should be pensioned off," Garcia Marquez told that meeting, held in Zacatecas, Mexico.


I can't find irony or cynicism anywhere
Douglas Coupland on Terry Fox.

I mean -- you really have to stop and wonder about what this guy did. And after doing so, at the very least, his story can only make any of us wonder about what's true and what's not -- it makes us re-prioritize our lives. He certainly made me do that, and in the fall of 2002, after mulling over the story of his life, I drove to the Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam, B.C. There, inside a Plexiglas display case, the library keeps Terry Fox's prosthetic leg, his running shoe and his sock, all from his Marathon of Hope. With the permission of Terry's brother Darrell, I was allowed to take the prosthetic leg, still clad in an Adidas runner, and photograph it in an activity room against a white seamless paper backdrop. The purpose was to include a photo of Terry's artificial leg in my most recent book on Canada, Souvenir of Canada 2, as a means of reminding readers in a visceral way of what his run entailed.


Where have all the intellectuals gone?
How can I resist a book with a title like that?

The spooky music of Mastermind says it all. Intellectuals are weird, creepy creatures, akin to aliens in their clinical detachment from the everyday human world. Yet you can also see them as just the opposite. If they are feared as sinisterly cerebral, they are also pitied as bumbling figures who wear their underpants back to front, harmless eccentrics who know the value of everything and the price of nothing. Alternatively, you can reject both viewpoints and see intellectuals as neither dispassionate nor ineffectual, denouncing them instead as the kind of dangerously partisan ideologues who were responsible for the French and Bolshevik revolutions. Their problem is fanaticism, not frigidity. Whichever way they turn, the intelligentsia get it in the neck.

(From Arts Journal) (discuss)

Everything you ever wanted to know about Don Juan and the 17th century but were afraid to ask
Can be found at this nice little site. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Want to join in on a Bookninja discussion but you're hesitant because you haven't read the book?
With the help of free Cliffs Notes online, you don't have to. Now you can pretend to have read every book ever published -- just like the rest of us! (From Metafilter) (discuss)


Grand Text Auto
Grand Theft Auto 3 is one of my favourite games (where else can you pull Hummer drivers out of their vehicles and shoot them?), so imagine my delight when I stumbled across Grand Text Auto, a blog about digital narrative, games, poetry and art. I've only had time to read the article about writing the narratives for Fable a new Xbox game, but the rest of it looks pretty cool. (discuss)

Rock on!
Apparently it's Maud singing backup on this adaptation of one of my favourite songs of all time, Iron Maiden's "Die With Your Boots On"! (discuss)

Stranger in a strange heehaw land
Cowtown likes Christian Bok's "first" book, Eunoia. (Apparently the umlaut hasn't reached that far west...or maybe it has, but like most thinking accents decided to stay on the highway until it got to Vancouver...) (discuss)

Midlist novelists, fear not!
Your lack of cloth covers has just come into style...

In America, important new books are nearly always published in hardcover first; the paperback editions may not appear for another nine months to a year. (In Europe, first-time publication in paperback -- what's called a paperback original -- is more common than not.) Last month, however, Random House published David Mitchell's ''Cloud Atlas'' as a paperback original.

Now if only the crappy advance were a trend too... (discuss)

The Handmaid's Tale
The opera the English press loves, then hates. Can it be loved again? (As opposed to the porn version, The Handmaid's Tail.) (discuss)

File under: me want
Largest privately held poetry collection donated to university.

Stored away upstairs is the more expansive, unfolding collection of lesser-known works. Enraged poetic discourse about the Vietnam conflict and musings about the Spanish-American War share the room with archival material from a poet's first experimentation with LSD. A wall almost entirely devoted to W.H. Auden contains not just the poet's writings, but his edited works, biographies, his personal collection -- even an invitation to a party in Auden's honor.

I wish more of these posts ended in "donated to George" instead of "university"... (discuss)

Happy birthday, dear Leonard
Marchand remembers a life covering Cohen. (Leonard, though I'm embarrassed to admit it now, you have no idea how many affairs I've had that began with a drunken, after party rendition on "Suzanne", or "So Long Marianne"... I could barely feel my fingers on the strings, but I knew you would never steer me wrong. Thank god you can't sing. You make it so easy for tuneless me.) (discuss)

Gumshoes and their music

That's right, see? I like the music, so what are you going to do about it except stand there looking guilty?

In the inter-war golden age of crime fiction, classical music is often just there to be name-checked as a status guide to the social and intellectual standing of leading (and "good") characters. Or it can be comic: opera is inevitably performed by loud, fat, Mediterranean "foreigners", like Castafiore, the soprano who appears in several Tintin adventures and drives his pal Captain Haddock to drink.

Sit down and shut up and tell me where you were when Luciano finally popped... (discuss)

Hot topics
Porn stars are burning up the charts with their how-to sex books. Um, I hope the books are instructionally better than the movies because the only things those skin flicks show "how-to" do is alienate your partner and put out your back. (From the racy files of GoodReports) (discuss)

File under: only in Kentucky
Read ruminations on banned books, then take this quiz and help determine which books should and shouldn't be banned. Yep, you read that right, Cletus. Ah-yhuk! (Someone should ban the colour-blind moron who designs this site... Yeesh!) (discuss)

Great Day in London
Writers of Caribbean, African and Asian descent gather for a photo.

Being grouped in this way can be a sensitive issue with people who have often had to fight being trapped by unwelcome stereotypes. Would there be anyone who didn't want to be defined by ethnic origin? According to the organiser no one declined to come for that reason. Even those who could not make it wished the project well. The truth is that however temporary, shifting or partial our club may be, right at this moment it seemed worth recording - celebrating even.


RIP: Virginia Hamilton Adair

Late blooming poet dead at 91. (discuss)

Overdose... Riiiight...
Stephen King, profiled.

King's head left a many-tentacled crack in the windscreen. He broke his right hip joint, four ribs and his right leg in nine places. His spine was damaged in eight places. "The accident gave me a real sense of mortality, a sense of hurry that I didn't have before. Not immediately, but about a year after the accident I was able to say: 'That guy nearly killed me.'" Smith died of an overdose 15 months later on September 21, King's birthday.

Hear that Bloom? 15 months... He can make it happen, Harry. (discuss)

Funny journalist wants to write a book ... DUCK!
Ah, the meta column. It knows you know it knows it's a column.

Like all writers - newspaper journalists, public relations professionals, the guys who do the ingredients labels - I've entertained notions of someday writing a best-selling book. I'm aware of the obstacles involved, such as the fact that I have no agent, no publisher and no particular topic, and that just writing the 700 words to fill this column tends to leave me feeling like there's a cinder block welded to my forehead. But other than that, I'm sure there's a bestseller inside me somewhere just waiting to get out, in much the same way I know I have a spleen.


File under: know thine enemy
Newsflash: frothing idiot worried about state of poetry! It'll be nice when the pendulum swings left again and these trolls slink back under their bridges. Hell, it only has to swing centre, doesn't it... (Moribund!Moribund!Moribund!) (discuss)


Man Booker 2004 Shortlist
Who will be the next millionaire?

Achmat Dangor, Sarah Hall, Alan Hollinghurst, David Mitchell, Colm Toibin and Gerard Woodward are the six authors shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2004, the UK's best known literary award.


This is just like that movie Underworld, where the vampires and werewolves are at war
Anne Rice goes after her critics in an Amazon review section of one of her works, and her critics bite back!

Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon's willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you've said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people's books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren't even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words "wide readership."

(From Metafilter) (discuss)

Using A9.com earns you an Amazon discount
I've been using A9.com, the new search engine from Amazon, for a while and kind of like its features, particularly the way it remembers your search history and allows you to customize its appearance. I just discovered it gives registered users discounts when they order books from Amazon. Not much -- about 1.25 per cent -- but I thought I'd let people know. (discuss)

This is why I never go anywhere
Esprit de corps, the Canadian military mag, has journalist Scott Taylor's account of being kidnapped, tortured and threatened with death in Iraq.

The sight of U.S. paid Iraqi police forces monitoring traffic had seemed like a good sign that things were still under control, despite the recent fighting. As I did not have an exact address for my previous contact, I approached a police checkpoint to ask for assistance. When I asked them to be taken "to Dr. Yashar," they recognized his name as a prominent local Turkmen official and eagerly nodded in the affirmative. A senior policeman was summoned and he instructed me and Zeynep Tugrul, a Turkish journalist who was serving as my translator, and filing her own reports for Sabah, a daily national newspaper, to climb into a nearby car containing four masked gunman. As we clambered into the backseat, one of the gunmen said in excellent English, "We will take you to Doctor Yashar -- please do not be afraid."

I had presumed that these men were some sort of special police force -- our own Canadian counter-terrorists teams often wear ski-masks -- so I had no immediate cause for concern. However, as soon as we entered Tal Afar, I saw that the streets were full of similarly masked resistance fighters armed with Kalashnikov rifles and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). I suddenly realized we were in the hands of the resistance. Still believing that they were taking me to my friend's house, instead we were ushered into a small courtyard outside a walled two ‚ storey building. There were about a half dozen armed men inside -- none of them smiling.


Good to George
Dooney's has got the first chapter of George Bowering's "baseball autobiography."

There I was, a sixty-year-old man in my old authentic Cleveland Indians road pants from the double-knit days, a University of Guelph tee-shirt, lying on the ground beside a really ugly baseball cap in the lush dying light behind Magee High School.

One of the Secret Nine guys used his cell phone to call the ambulance. They must have asked him how old the victim was. He said that the victim was probably in his thirties, maybe late thirties. I heard Gill, my dear friend Gill, let out one of her famous snorts, then her famous laughter that comes out between her teeth. Then she corrected the young man. I don't know whether I was pleased or not pleased. I was preoccupied with the thought of opening my left eye to find out whether I could see. A part of me was adjusting to life with one eye. You don't see very many infielders with one eye.


No updates tonight...
Nerd-boy here is headed up north with the telescope to take advantage of the remaining mild weather and dark skies. Soon it will all be snow and light-polluted urban sprawl. I'll try to get to some good stuff tomorrow (today, if you're reading this in the morning) around noon like a normal blogger.


Anne Rice feasts on blood of Amazon users
Well, now there's something you don't see every day...

In all, the book has received 232 customer reviews on Amazon.com since publication late last year. Not all of them are negative but, evidently stung, Rice writes to the negative reviewers: "Your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies."

(I like that these stories appear in the major dailies the day after they appear here and on other blogs...) (discuss)

Captain Canuck returns!
Hoser hero resurrected as donut scarfing slot jockey with bad knees and becapillaried nose.

The comic was [originally] set in the futuristic world of the early 1990s, when Canada had become a respected superpower. RCMP officer Tom Evans, Captain Canuck's alter ego, gained superhuman strength after being shot with an alien ray.

In the new series, RCMP officer David Semple is a former peacekeeper with a background in gymnastics and judo who becomes a costumed crime fighter because of his thrill-seeking nature.

Well, my idea seems more realistic, doesn't it? He could fight Heart Disease Man and Dr. February von Blahs. He could struggle to have the Americans recognize that what they sell in their diners as "Canadian bacon" is actually just fried ham. He could be the Peameal Avenger, the Saviour of Syrup, the Left-Leaning Man of Raw Materials. It would be great. (From PFW) (discuss)

Picture it: a barechested Jesus in billowing silk shirt and tight black pants
Presumably he's put on a few pounds once taken to a life of piracy at sea, but he's still the same old husband of a million nuns we've always known. Sigh. Nothing is sacred. Even the sacred is not sacred.

But for Ms. Billerbeck, authenticity also means a heroine who connects not only with a man but with the Lord as well. "The character always has to slow down and hear what God is saying to them," she said last weekend while attending the third annual convention of Christian romance and fiction writers. "I try to present Jesus in a way that shows he's relevant to modern life."

I wonder if she ever refers to Jesus's "manhood"... (discuss)

Newsflash: people not as cheap as they seem...
People willing to pay for the 9/11 report when it's free online. Why? I think we're underestimating the power of the souvenir. People want to touch this disaster in whatever way they can. Back in the day, I remember scumbags trying to sell bits of WTC metal on ebay (hell, on the streets for that matter). One piece of shit had stamped the recycled metal into commemorative disks with pictures of the towers and the whole eagle head crap. I'd much rather people own this thing, even if it is a pathetic smoke screen. (discuss)

RIP: Kathleen Smith
Maritime poet, dead at 93. (discuss)

What's the Wall Street Journal?
In bimbo gossip news: apparently when told she was on the WSJ bestseller list, Paris Hilton asked, "What's The Wall Street Journal? Is that good?" (3rd item) No, sweetie, it's not. It's evil. But it's good for you because your kind is rich and running the world and saying "nukular" in public without earning the contempt of the people because of this kind of evil, so take heart and have another martini. (From Maud) (discuss)


Monster Island
The Japanese have proven cellphone novels can sell. The question is, will North Americaners read them? I think so, at least until porn becomes readily available on cellphones. Then it's all over for literature. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Sine Fiction
Very cool project to create soundtracks for classic sci-fi texts, so you can have some ambient noise while reading. They've got a good list here, including 1984, "The Nine Billion Names of God" and good old We. Ambitious list of future projects too. I think I'll put these on all day to drown out the apocalyptic cawings of the gulls outside. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

I wish I lived in England
Where the public broadcaster's mandate is to produce cool shit for free, like this wild comics site. Note: TV folk will appreciate "Work Experience." (From Neil Gaiman) (discuss)

I suspect the magnetic poles are reversing or something like that
Curious. At the same time newspapers seem to be rejecting the Web and thus ignoring tens (hundreds?) of thousands of potential readers, academics seem to be embracing blogging -- and some of them even seem to like the idea that someone may read what they write! Crazy times.

Over the past decade, academics have used mailing lists, discussion boards and learning journals, but these have usually existed behind university firewalls. In contrast, blogging can invite the rest of the world into the common room -- and some believe that can only be a good thing.

"It was important to me that my research be publicly accessible," says Anne Galloway (www.purselipsquarejaw.org), who is doing a PhD on the effects of ubiquitous computing on space and culture at Carleton University, in Canada. "My work is supported by government scholarships. I wanted to see how weblogs could be used to encourage greater academic accountability to the public -- and greater public interaction with academic research."

This almost makes me want to get back into academia. Luckily there's still the poverty side of things. (discuss)

Booker judges shock literary world by revealing slush pile is mostly crap!
Those cheeky, cheeky Brits! Trade secrets exposed to the harsh light of the muggle world! My word! Most of what gets submitted is "rubbish" and "drivel"?!? This represents a complete paradigm shift in how I think about stacks of books! (discuss)

All the famous folk in British history
And a few others to boot.

The new Dictionary of National Biography rolled down the slipway into bookshops and libraries with the mightiest of thuds - 61,440 pages long, stretching to 60 volumes, a snip at £7,500 (reduced to £6,500 on Amazon).

It can virtually claim - as the News of the World once did - that all human life is here, all British life at least. It offers contributions by 10,000 mostly learned contributors of 50,000 distinguished or celebrated dead people across 2,400 years of history.

And it's good for the writers too.

To be invited to contribute to the Dictionary of National Biography is one of the more delightful literary honours of our time. The material rewards are not immense: £70 in my case. But the invitation carries a guarantee that one's name will live for ever, or at least as long as one of the world's greatest reference works lasts. For a journalist it is an unusual guarantee to have.

For me, initially, there was a downside to the invitation. It meant becoming immortal solely as author of an entry on Dame Barbara Cartland, the romantic novelist and self-publicist who dyed her pekinese rose-pink. Why was one not being asked to write about Keats, Shakespeare, Churchill, Wittgenstein, Picasso, FR Leavis, Stanley Matthews, Isaac Newton or Princess Diana? Because the DNB has found weightier, more illustrious contributors on those, that's why.

Think of it, 2400 years of bad teeth and bloody colonization. Who wouldn't want to own this? (discuss)

Adrian Tomine cracks the colour barrier at Harbourfront
That's colour as in graphic novel. Could you imagine this in the days of Gatenby? (Ah, Gatenbeast... Bookninja launched itself into the furor of your departure. The ease of ridiculing your exit set our tone of derision and cynicism. Where art thou now, noble beast?) (discuss)

Indian uses the old "poet" defence

India is a land that values its writers, but its newest poet is a little more recherche than most. Ten years ago, V Radhakrishnan was convicted of murdering a man ina courthouse. But while he has been on death row, he has been earning acclaim as a poet.

Not only have several literary figures hailed Radhakrishnan's volume- one said he was moved to tears - but some are backing his plea for a presidential pardon on the sole grounds that he is an accomplished writer.

Very shrewd... You can't kill me because I'm a great poet. Nice. I'm going to try this on the next cop who tries to give me a ticket for jaywalking. I'll let you know how it goes. My bet is, he won't kill me. (discuss)

Drilling self in temple with pinched forefinger and thumb
Kids books!* Kids books! Kids books, you moron! Fuck this "literature" shit. (discuss)

No one understands your work?
Check out this rejection letter Ursula Le Guin received for her masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness. Philistines! (From Maud) (discuss)


A new definition of judicial activism
OK, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 may have had a, uh, creative take on the events of the 2000 coup in the U.S. And media investigations of the recount process have failed to clear up the troubling issue of who actually won. A coalition of media outlets, including CNN, AP and the Wall Street Journal, determined that Bush would have won the election under the terms of the partial recount of undervotes. Conservatives everywhere hailed this finding as validation of the election results. Critics were quick to point out, however, that a full and comprehensive recount -- including overvotes as well as undervotes -- would have resulted in a Gore victory. And there is a strong legal argument that if the recount had been allowed to proceed, then a full recount would have been required.

But it's a moot point, as the Supreme Court didn't allow the recount to proceed, thus forever casting a cloud of uncertainty over the results and generating accusations of partisanship, given that the court split along political party lines. Now an article by Vanity Fair (PDF link, part 2 here)indicates that these accusations have some merit. The September issue interviews legal clerks who worked with Supreme Court judges, and they claim the Republican judges, rather than concerning themselves with the legal aspects of the case, instead actively sought to shut down the recount and preserve the appearance of a Bush victory. One of the judges said she was going to try to stop Gore from "stealing" the election -- before the case had even come before them -- while another publicly expressed dismay about the prospect of Gore winning. It's no surprise, really, that even the legal profession in the U.S. has expressed dismay and confusion over the resulting decision. There was a moment when every vote could have counted, and a winner could have been legitmately elected -- be it Bush or Gore -- but the court decision guaranteed that would never take place.

For the record, I would haven't voted for either of them. (From Metafilter) (discuss)

Further proof that publicists aren't doing their jobs
The rise of the author blog...

Author blogs are also the latest reminder of how times have changed since writers simply wrote their books and let the publishers and the work itself speak for them. Now, many authors arrange their own tours, maintain Web sites, send e-mail newsletters and, in the case of Weiner and others, offer ongoing personal commentary.

Okay, well, my publicist. (discuss)

Assigning your own book
I swear to god - if I could assign my books to junior poets, I would ram one down their throats, steal their wallets and dance as though I had just scored a touchdown, all the while screaming, "In your face, maggot!". Okay, I jest. But isn't that sort of what's happening here?

Yale University's faculty is comprised of some of the most renowned scholars in a virtually every field of academic study. It should come as no surprise, then, that many professors use their own books to teach their classes.

While some students may feel awkward dishing out their dollars for a professor's book at the request of said professor, others see it as an opportunity to engage with an author and an expert. Professors said they are aware of the potential pitfalls of the situation, but have found assigning their books helpful to students.

Riiiiight... Helpful to the "stuuudents"... (Seriously though, this assigning thing is intriguing... If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, "Hey, I read your book in Chapters the other day...!" Um, you die now.) (discuss)

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America has officially tipped into cartoonish idiocy
Can I get an "a-yhuk!"...? I said, can I get an "a-yhuk!"?

Bookspan, the parent company of The Book-of-the-Month Club, asked members of eight of its direct-mail book clubs what President Bush and Democrat John Kerry should be reading.

The readers' top recommendation for both candidates: the Bible.

This is a country of ideas and freedom that fights religious fundamentalists... or it's a religious fundamentalist country devoid of ideas and freedom. I can never remember which. (From Maud) (discuss)

Agent on agenting
NYC lit agent Molly Friedric interviewed.

CK: How do you recognize a good manuscript? What qualities about the work make you think that a particular story or novel will be successful?

Friedrich: The first thing is that the first page has to be very good. I receive around 200-250 sub-missions a week, which means just the act of reading a letter can be punishing due to the volume of over the transom or unsolicited submissions, but I do believe in over the transom, which means a query letter blind. I've been successful with these kinds of submissions many times.

And I look for a spark of any kind of original voice. I was at a mystery writer's conference in northern California and a mystery writer who was having trouble getting published asked what is an original voice-he obviously didn't have one. And I said if you take any page of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanites, for example, and start reading out loud you know that's Tom Wolfe's voice. It's not generic writing. The cadences of his sentences belong to him alone. An original voice is the hardest thing to acquire. Great writers are probably born not made. Agents are always not hungry until they find something great, and then they're near starvation. Everyone's looking for the same thing. It is hard to find, but it's not hard to recognize.

(From GalleyCat) (discuss)

Used books: the junkyard of the literary set
There's all kinds of crap in here! And someone's paper junk too! (discuss)

At your Service

Who says nothing's going on in the Yukon, baby?

Each day, Byrne, clad in period costume, would seat himself in a bentwood rocking chair to read the poet's work at the edge of the forest where gold seekers once toiled.

Hot! (discuss)

Shop here for great TV!
When some (usually undesirable) task took me into the cesspool of New York City (Times Square) I was always surprised to find tourists walking around with shopping bags from NBC or CNN... Disney I can understand, even if I loathe it, but television networks? Are you such sheep? Here's a map for you, if so... Baaaa! (From Incoming Signals) (discuss)

Must ... not ... punch ... screen....
Blaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggghhhhh! (discuss)

Weekend Edition:

Look over there on the shelf -- it's a comic, it's a book, it's a text....
Eddie Campbell presents a revised Graphic Novel Manifesto.

"Graphic novel" is a disagreeable term, but we will use it anyway on the understanding that graphic does not mean anything to do with graphics and that novel does not mean anything to do with novels. (In the same way that "Impressionism" is not really an applicable term; in fact it was first used as an insult and then adopted in a spirit of defiance.)


What's the matter with Kansas?
Thomas Frank's book tries to find an answer to why the people most victimized by the economics of the Republican platform are its strongest supporters.

a panorama of madness and delusion ... of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of working-class guys ... deliver[ing] up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life [and] transform their region into a "rustbelt," [and] strike people like them blows from which they will never recover.

Andrew O'Hagan may have found the answer at the Republican convention in New York City.

'The Muslims just hate us for our love of freedom,' said a woman from Iowa wearing a cloth elephant on her head. 'They don't have any culture and they hate us for having a great one. And they hate the Bible.'

'Really?' I said. 'The Iraqis had a culture for thousands of years before Jesus was born.'

'What you saying?'

'I'm saying Muslims were building temples when New York was a swamp.'

'You support the Iraqis?'


'You support the killing of innocent people going to work? People who have to jump out of windows?'

'You aren't listening to me.'

'No, buddy. You ain't listening. These people you support are trying to kill our children in their beds. Where you from anyway, the New York Times?'


Toronto's new poet laureate
Pier Giorgio Di Cicco.* (discuss)

A new low or a new high?
I can't tell which.

The organizers of the first-ever Descant Book Ball,* to be held Thursday, have concocted a truly unusual fundraising scheme to support CanLit. For a nominal fee, guests will be escorted to a private peep-show salon, where the ball's organizers promise they'll get "up-close and personal" with their favourite artist or literary figure.

I'll go with high. Especially given the Louise Bak option. Brrooowwwrrrrr! (discuss)

You gotta be psycho to plagiarize, these days

Everyone gets caught. It's the freaking internet, man. It's ruined the bird course. And theatre. (discuss)

Late fees: when the overdue book is overdue from the writer
A brief history of procrastination and block,* and the bygone days of the extension.

Industry people agree that the endless extension has gone the way of the lavish book party, that it is now a luxury available only to the most bankable authors. Editors tend to blame literary agents for driving up advances to a level where publishers can no longer afford not to turn up the heat when projects drag on. Literary agents tend to blame the bottom-line-obsessed conglomerates that have been gobbling up once empathetic independent publishing houses. But while it may be endangered, the albatross book is by no means extinct.


I love the smell of oompa-loompas in the morning
I was reading an article about the universe the other day, and it made the interesting point that in a universe that stretched for infinity not only was everything possible, everything, in fact, had to exist. Such as a hybrid of Apocalypse Now and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (From Memepool) (discuss)

Interesting idea. Audio stories with flash accompaniment. Hope it catches on. (From Memepool) (discuss)

Think you're a good typist?
Good enough to blow up the alphabet? (Just hit the letter keys to destroy the appropriate letters.) (From A Capital Idea) (discuss)

OK, so it is the toughest word game on the Web. (discuss)


File under: Hope for the hopeless
"The Kirkus Bribe List"? Is this the end of Kirkus or the evolution of a new fleecing niche? (Fliche?)

While Publishers Weekly and Library Journal might correctly predict the success of a novel, you can always count on Kirkus to draw blood.

Now, though, the reputation of this journal which won't even contaminate its pages with advertising, is on the line. VNU Business Publications, which owns Kirkus, has introduced two new e-newsletters that critics say blur the line between reviewing and marketing.

Kirkus Discoveries, rolling out later this year, will allow self-published authors, long ignored by the trade journals, to buy a Kirkus review for $350.

My hope is there will be a lot of slightly poorer, totally disappointed authors out there -- but that every now and then, something will actually slip through. You'd almost think it was noble... if money wasn't involved.

Of course, the 350 bones won't set this dude back...

With deep pockets and an even deeper belief in his inner Hemingway, first-time novelist Rich Shapero is taking vanity publishing to a new level.

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote his novel, founded a company to publish it and then launched one of the biggest and most colorful individual book giveaways ever.

I try to be a good person. I really do. I want to wish the best for people. I really do. But sometimes I also want to wish redhot fire pokers in the urethra. I really do. (discuss) or (discuss)

The boom before the bust?
I can't help but be pessimistic when I see figures like this...

Between April and May, worldwide sales of ebooks rose by 5 per cent to 389,882, while revenue from sales grew by 23 per cent to $3m (£1.7m) compared with the second quarter of 2003, according to newly released figures from the New York-based Open eBook Forum. The figures were even better for the first quarter of 2004, leaping by 46 per cent.

Do these kinds of articles lead to unsustainable investment and hurried decision-making? Or does that just happen anyway...? (P.S. Notice a pattern in the leading ebooks? Hm.. I wonder who it appeals to...) (discuss)

I have something in my eye, I tell you!
Okay, this is just way too much for me.

Thomas is one of 35 female inmates at the jail participating in a program called "Read Me A Story." The program, a partnership between the Arlington library and the county sheriff's office, allows incarcerated mothers to read books to their children on audiocassette tapes. The tapes are sent to the child with the book selected by the mother.

Poor little tykes. Poor mamas. I... um. I... ah... oh, god... Ninjas don't cry! End communication! (discuss)

A Richard Yates upswing
But not for Richard Yates...

Yates did not go to university, partly because he had imbibed some of the artisanal anti-intellectualism of Hemingway, in which writers supposedly swaggered into life and fightingly "took on" their knuckly vocation. But Yates, unlike a thousand other parlour soldiers, did just that: one of the most moving chapters in Bailey's long book concerns barely more than a year, 1951-52, in which the 25-year-old writer travels to France and England, doing little else but writing. He sits in his rented room, chain smoking and chain coughing - his lungs had been damaged by pneumonia during his war service - and writes stories, and one after the other is rejected. (The New Yorker, with priggish sanctimony, would reject every story he ever sent them.)


Essay: The Essay
Send this to your students.

Questions aren't enough. An essay has to come up with answers. They don't always, of course. Sometimes you start with a promising question and get nowhere. But those you don't publish. Those are like experiments that get inconclusive results. An essay you publish ought to tell the reader something he didn't already know.

(From ALDaily) (discuss)

"Poetry on oddly angled shelves"
My suspicion is that the shelves are straight... Welcome to the Disneyworld of Books... The Readiest Place on Earth (by decree of the state).

Wigtown has only relatively recently become ‘Scotland’s Booktown’. It wasn’t a tag earned by evolution, it was won. After losing its local industries (dairy and whisky) Wigtown had become, according to local boy and book festival director Michael McCreath, "rather run down".

So when money became available to manufacture a Booktown to rival the likes of Hay on Wye, Wigtown entered and won. That was eight years ago. Now there are more than 30 book-related businesses in town, from publishers to bookbinders. Nineteen of them are second-hand or specialist bookshops. Most have come from around the UK "purely on the basis that we would become the next Hay.


Mystery roundup

Sarah Weinman's new column in the Baltimore Sun* rounds up what's going on in the crime world (crime fiction, that is -- her alleged ties to the mob are just that: ties. I mean, alleged. I'm sorry Ms. Weinman... I promise I'll make things right....) (discuss)

Blood Wedding
Speaking of mysteries: what really happened that day in Spain? (discuss)

Greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, chopped up birdie feet...
Boys want their fiction slimy? Um, I wanted mine medieval, but with good teeth. I wanted Eowyn. Hell, I STILL want Eowyn.

What's different about the books is that they are quite deliberately aimed at boys: there is almost no description and no analysis of what a character is thinking or feeling. Instead, the reader gets a fast-paced ping-pong of dialogue and plenty of stomach-churning action: falling into voids and steaming cauldrons are pretty much guaranteed.

There is also a satisfyingly high "yuck" quota: little boys who get drenched in sewage and maggots, hairdryers that spit out flames, slugs that talk and a 100ft snake that burps, with unfortunate consequences.

I'm not sure this is the way to go. How about just creating a pleasant, non-gendered atmosphere around learning? How about being a compelling writer? How about being an intellectual example for your kids instead of handing them the kiddie version of a Dean Koontz novel? (discuss)


Oh happy day
I don't know what you have planned for the rest of the day, but I'll be reading this history of punctuation. It's full of handy information on weird punctuation marks, such as the short-lived interrobang. (From Boing Boing) (discuss)

"But this president does not know what death is."
E.L. Doctorow muses about the grim nature of Junta leader George W. Bush.

You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

(From Metafilter) (discuss)

War of the Worlds MP3
Next year Tom Cruise is starring in a Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds. To get yourself in the mood, why not listen to the original Mercury Theatre broadcast, the one that sent people fleeing into the streets in a panic about weapons of mass ... uh, Martians. (From Cultural Gutter) (discuss)

The books people don't want you to know about
Unfortunately, they're mainly "ungodly" books such as the Harry Potter series.

Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association, runs through Saturday and shines a light on a growing controversy in America -- what should our young people read, and who should decide?

Christian groups like Colorado-based Focus on the Family stand on what they consider to be high moral ground and believe groups like the American Library Association undermine parental preferences.

(From Bookslut) (discuss)

Toronto Arts Council Foundation Awards
Congrats to Sky Gilbert and Djanet Sears for winning the awards. And congrats to Toronto for having such awards in the first place. (discuss)

A busy day means bad ninja
Sorry guys, more updates later, I hope. Until then: lit journals, hookers, book festivals, bullfighting,* library of the unpublished... Throw in a flaming lemur and a bucket of jello shaped like Elvis and it's just a regular day around here...


TO poet laureate announced
City Council announced today that Pier Giorgio Di Cicco will be Toronto's new poet laureate. Apparently he dressed in his priestly uniform to accept the post. Overheard in the back of the room by an annonymous ninja: "Kyle Rae whispering 'Should we ask him how he feels about gay marriage?'" (discuss)


Ready for the Bush/Kerry debate?
The Associated Press has pretty much written their coverage of it already. Although this has a stronger ring of truth:

Laying his head upon the podium, Bush began to speak in a soft, high-pitched voice. His microphone was able to pick up questions apparently aimed at his father, former President George H.W. Bush, rather than his opponent. "Daddy. Daddy. Daddy, why don't you love me?" Bush whimpered.

Cokie Roberts, in a post debate roundtable on ABC, stated that such actions "clearly presented a softer, sensitive side" of Bush, "that every man in America will identify with."

(From Metafilter) (discuss)

"He's in his cave! He's in his cave!"
Maclean's considers the impact of Fox News moving into Canada.

An entire news cycle has passed since I began monitoring what could soon be Canada's next 24-hour news service, and it's clear the country is in for a jolt. Last April, the nation's cable TV providers applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for permission to broadcast Fox News Channel, brainchild of Rupert Murdoch and ratings sensation of the 2004 U.S. election campaign. They'd been turned down once before, but this time their chances look better. The public input phase wound up last month without a hitch, and a decision is now imminent. By Christmas Day, Bill O'Reilly, the network's pugnacious star, could be beaming into your living room.


Remember Aron Ralston, that hiker who cut his hand off after it was trapped under a boulder? Now he's got a book out about the experience, and the Guardian has published a few harrowing extracts from it. (discuss)

Resistance is futile
Ebooks are the way of the future.

The consequences of The Two Certainties are profound: at some point the ascending digital line must cross the descending print line. Not if, friends, but when. The Two Certainties point to a future in which ebooks inevitably dominate paper books. This might come to pass because print will die back when we print-reading dinosaurs die off. Meanwhile the digital generation will have become accustomed to reading off screens, and may even prefer them. Or it might happen because of some breakthrough in display technology, driven by economic pressure to take advantage of the superior functionality of the ebook, which will make believers out of even the crustiest of print fans.

(From Boing Boing) (discuss)

Make your own fonts! (From Collision Detection) (discuss)

The Secret Agent
Check out Maud's new feature, complete with charming illustration.

the Secret Agent is an agent with a small, but well-regarded, literary agency in Manhattan. In this short interview, the Secret Agent will answer my own (boring) questions, but after this week all responses will be to selections from your inquiries about New York City publishing.


American publishers get the pitchforks and torches out
Well, the legal forks and torches*... Bravo, regardless.

The regulations, meant to keep Americans from trading with enemies, require anyone who publishes material from a country under trade sanctions to obtain a license before substantively altering the manuscript. The publishers say that keeps them from performing typical editing functions like reordering sentences and paragraphs, correcting grammar and adding illustrations or photographs.

The regulations do not forbid publication of existing works from those countries. They allow publishers to print and distribute materials that come to them in camera-ready form, that is, ready to be published without alteration. But they also restrict marketing materials, which the publishers say essentially prohibits publication.

The publishers argue that the regulations do not allow enough room for them to prepare material from foreign authors for the United States market and create a "chilling effect" on them. "For all practical purposes," the suit states, "that means American publishers simply cannot publish their books."

I was just lamenting with some Random House people yesterday that we Canadians, as a literary culture, don't riot nearly often enough. Where are the lawsuits against Head and her plan to slowly kill the book? In my dreams... (Mind you, now that she's killed off the competition, it would be like suing your own heart. When the publishers have only one customer there just ain't much you can do.) (discuss)

US election the best thing to happen to US letters
There's just so much to write about! And so much to do. As reported much earlier here at Bookninja, Operation Ohio pits famous writers against the sloth and beer-addled brains of the average university student. Hey, wait, doesn't Contemporary Literature 101 do that too? (P.S. I would have called it "Operation Enduring Ohio"...) (discuss)

Poetry central
More on how Emory got the Danowski collection.

Amassed over 30 years, the collection was stored first in a barn in Hertfordshire, England, and later in warehouses in London and Geneva. It is uncatalogued in any computer file and the only record of its holdings have until now been in Mr. Danowski's mind. He said that he could envision the library, virtually volume by volume, though he had never seen it all assembled. It was shipped to Atlanta in about 1,500 cardboard boxes and tea crates that filled two 40-foot-long and two 20-foot-long cargo containers.


One poem changes a life
That's what we all hope for. But what happens when it's the poet's life that's changed? Amiri Baraka has regrets, it seems.

"I don't think ultimately, historically, it will affect me," said Baraka, 69. "But for the rest of my life, that label of anti-Semite will stick with me. It's a very painful and terrifying kind of silliness."


Ask the Eggman
The Dave answers the people's questions. He is a charming sort.

Where does non-fiction end and fiction begin?
I'm just now learning that distinction. I'll tell you in another few years.


Ban Comic Sans
The revolution has begun.

We believe in the sanctity of typography and that the traditions and established standards of this craft should be upheld throughout all time. From Gutenberg's letterpress to the digital age, type in all forms is sacred and indispensable. Type is a voice; its very qualities and characteristics communicate to readers a meaning beyond mere syntax.

Early type designing and setting was so laborious that it is a blasphemy to the history of the craft that any fool can sit down at their personal computer and design their own typeface. Technological advances have transformed typography into a tawdry triviality. The patriarchs of this profession were highly educated men. However, today the widespread heretical uses of this medium prove that even the uneducated have opportunities to desecrate this art form; therefore, destroying the historical integrity of typography.

Do you hear that? That's actually the sound of Peter drooling 5000km away... (From Clive) (discuss)

Someone's going to Heaven
Send me a postcard.

Anywhere Books has piloted a digital bookmobile -- a van outfitted with a laptop, laser printer, bookbinding machine and cutter -- in remote areas of Uganda to print free books for children since November 2003. Now the project has plans to expand to Ghana and Macedonia.


Good satire hurts
Comme ça.

How I long to write about the thrill of leaping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet! To describe the sensation of being completely and utterly in the moment, confronted by death itself. It would be the high point of my life, to look down and see my own story listed on the cover of GQ.


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