Vacation

Tomorrow morning I leave on a 6 a.m. flight to Ft. Lauderdale and will be gone for a little more than a week. I’ll resume posting on January 12, if not before.

As promised, Stephany Aulenback will step in from time to time in my absence. I adore that woman, and so will you.

Tonight I still have to:

Finish a pile of work at the office. Meet Mr. Maud and a visiting friend for dinner at 6:30. Buy vitamins and Ricola to fight off an impending cold (probably I shouldn’t have stayed out until 2 a.m. based on the false promise of karaoke; damn you, Dana, damn you and your knowledge of my weakness for singing AC/DC). Pack for the trip. Pet the cats to assuage my guilt at abandoning them for nine days.

Tomorrow something I wrote will be featured as part of the “Waxing Off” column at The Black Table.

On January 6, writer Sheila Kohler will appear on the Leonard Lopate Show, from 1:30 – 2 p.m.

The next fundraiser for Small Spiral Notebook‘s print edition will be held January 13, 2004, at 7 p.m., at The Magnetic Field.

Pindeldyboz, Eyeshot, and Yankee Pot Roast update frequently and are always good places to visit.

Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration and a happy and healthy 2004!



Miscellany

From “Hey, Shakespeare, Kiss My Ass,” by Geoff Wolinetz:

You think you’re so great. “Look at me. I’m Shakespeare. Millions of high-school students read my plays and poems. I’m so cool. Every pretentious jerk with an accent yearns to play the characters in my works. I had sex with Gwyneth Paltrow. I wear this gay-looking collar and have a pointy goatee.” You know what I have to say to you, Shakespeare?

Kiss my ass.

Selections from “Varieties of Insanity Known to Affect Authors“:

My first novel took a long time to write, but now that I’ve been through the process and gotten my feet under me, the rest should go much faster….

I’ve set my novel aside because I’m working on a nonfiction book about [some complex, recondite, and divisive subject where even the experts tread softly, about which I’ve very recently conceived an obsessive interest] that will finally Set Everyone Straight….

I have a friend from my church/school/local bar who knows all about editing and is going to typeset/copy edit/proofread the book for me, so I don’t need to deal with your production staff.

(Via Dust Congress.)



Proper writing attire

D-Nasty, a 25-year-old investment banker and budding novelist, has taken to wearing corduroy suits while writing:

I had heard somewhere that writers need to brand themselves.

Apparently, if you brand yourself you can get away with sub par work because people buy your indentity, not your work.

This explains how Tom Wolfe seriously called a book “A Man In Full” while wearing white triple breasted suits and spats. No one said a word!

I have decided to become to corduroy what Wolfe is to white.

(Scroll down to December 19 post entitled “This Corduroy Suit Is Delightful.”)



Party like it’s an MLA convention

“Each December, several thousand literature professors pry themselves away from the comforts of home and flock to the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, held during the final week of the calendar year. It is a winter tradition — not as ancient as Hanukkah or Christmas, but older, at least, than Festivus.”



Best online fiction award

Jason Sanford, editor of storySouth, has announced a “new best online fiction award” called “the Million Writers Award,” and is soliciting your nominations. The purpose of the contest is “to honor and promote the best fiction published in online literary journals and magazines during 2003.”

Editors of qualifying publications may nominate three stories; readers may nominate one. Continue reading…



Walrus-related

The third issue of The Walrus, the publication that promised to be the Harper’s and New Yorker of Canada, isn’t out yet, and the proprietor of Bookninja is hopping mad:

Well, here it is, the end of another month and The Walrus is AWOL, AGAIN. Are they late? Are they on a break? What is their schedule? No one seems to know. It’s not in the magazine (at least not easily found) and it’s not on the ridiculously out-of-date and error-ridden website (eg, on their contact page: “ADVERTISERS: Plese read Information for advertisers.” Typo and broken link… That’s gotta inspire confidence.) The first issue somehow made it to stands before those hoodwinked into subscribing by a massive media blitz even saw it, the second issue was weeks late with the excuse, “Hey, it’s still November and we only said 10 issues a year.” So, apparently, those other two months are to be doled out in two and three week chunks as needed to cover for inept editing and poor management. We’ll see what happens come April when they’ve used this “flex time” up and the excuses and finger pointing start to get really amusing. It’s bad enough the magazine looks like a bad text book and that the articles are so boring they seem to actually reach into you and squeeze your adrenal glands shut, but on top of poor design and editing, the damn thing is late three times in a row. I could excuse a few screw-ups from a magazine that was working its way up from a grassroots following to a monthly publication, but these guys have sold the Canadian public (and some big American writers) on their cash, reliability, and editorial “vision.” Did that vision include bored readers and late issues? Probably not. As of 10:30 this morning, no one was answering the phone there. 10:30 on a Monday when there are millions of dollars in the pot! This magazine is supposed to be Canada’s answer to American juggernauts like Harper’s and The New Yorker, but despite its $5 million kitty, it actually is more closely related to another American institution: Mickey Mouse.

Discuss here.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star calls The Walrus “Canada’s most exciting magazine launch” for 2003 and says the magazine is “already closing in on 25,000 subscribers.”

Finally, LanguageHat likes Charles Foran’s Walrus piece on world varieties of English.



Laura Bush backs educational incentives for would-be librarians

My archivist and librarian friends have been talking about (and anticipating) the impending librarian shortage for the last ten years. Now Laura Bush, a former librarian, is behind “a federal grant program to recruit a new generation of librarians, largely through scholarships in library and information science.”



Prescience of Brandeis

This weekend I was talking with Emma about Noam Chomsky’s argument that the U.S. government is “primarily responsive to huge corporate interests, which are internally tyrannical and secretive, and which are granted enormous power, far greater than that accorded to individuals.”

In law school I was impressed by the prescient dissent of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis in the 1933 case of Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee. In Liggett, the Supreme Court overturned a fee imposed by the State of Florida on business interests. The Court held that the fee was directed at, and thus discriminated against, large corporate chains.

In his Depression-Era dissent, Brandeis urged his fellow Justices to recall the original constraints placed on corporations and the reasons for those constraints. Continue reading…



A history of literateurs manque run amok

From “Notes on the Death of Literary Terrorism,” by Sean Carman:

The avant-garde literary guerilla faction “The Underground Literary Allegiance” emerged as a group of 9 revolutionary writers who had previously styled themselves, “the Underground Literary Alliance.” Before that, they were a cabal of 15 known as “The Movement for Heightened Sensivity to Literature,” and before that a group of 21 called, “Becky Robertson’s Writing Group.” Before that, even, they were a group of 50 known as the “New York University Adult Education Introduction to Fiction Workshop, Fall Term, 1992.”

Mr. Carman provides a brief history of the ULA’s tactics (“They threw orange slices at John Irving during his commencement speech at Mary Hale College in Laconia, New Hampshire. They solicited free-verse poetry from Fidel Castro for the inaugural issue of their un-named literary quarterly.”) before describing the group’s fall:

The turning point came that September, with the notorious “Attack on P.S. 27.” More desperate than ever to leave a legacy, they conceived a plan to enlist the next generation in their cause. Whether they chose Ms. Arlene Fisher’s afternoon story-time class because of its heady Upper-West Side demographic, or because it was reachable from Queens by the M1, history does not record. But we do know the expedition proved momentous for this most influential of literary monoliths, not counting of course Oprah, or the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, or the list of everyone who’s ever written for the McSweeney’s website.

Ms. Fisher’s students had just finished their afternoon snack of graham crackers and warm milk, and were settled into their accustomed places on the carpet in contented anticipation of that day’s reading of “My Friend Flicka,” Mary O’Hara’s sentimental tale of a young boy’s determination to tame a wild but beautiful colt, when ULA alternate Vice-Co-Leader Carl “Crass” King slammed open the classroom door and accused the students before him of pandering to the sensibilities of the “self-obsessed New York literary elite.”



Any resemblance to persons living or dead

Miramax Books has purchased a satirical novel (Twins of Tribeca) about a dysfunctional studio “clearly based” on Miramax and its founders. According to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax co-founder:

Miramax books like ‘Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes’ and Miramax movies like ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ and ‘Full Frontal’ are examples of the fact that we can take criticism and laugh at ourselves…. Contrary to popular belief, we do have a sense of humor about ourselves.

While the Weinstein brothers have read excerpts of the novel, neither has read the entire manuscript. According to John Horn:

They might want to keep it that way.

Almost everything in “The Twins of Tribeca” about the Waxman brothers is unflattering, including (but certainly not limited to) descriptions of their physical appearance: “Phil was huge, his mass straining the seams of his custom-made tuxedo. He had a tremendous head with a fleshy face that held a pair of tiny and acutely observant eyes. It was a face that could easily make small children cry. Tony was a slender 6 feet tall with pleasant enough features completely ruined by his hair. Light brown and frizzy, it gave the distinct impression that something might be living in it.”

In addition to the Weinsteins, the book includes “a host of easily identifiable doppelgangers,” including Steven Seagal, Billy Bob Thornton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Woody Allen, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, John Ritter, Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, David Schwimmer and Anna Wintour. (Via Moorish Girl.)



The year in literature: a Dave Barry perspective

In anticipation of my trip to Miami, I bring you Dave Barry’s 2003 year in review. From the entry for July:

On the literary front, the blockbuster bestseller of the year is the long-awaited fifth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter Reaches Puberty and Starts Taking Really Long Showers. Another hot seller is Sen. Hillary Clinton’s new book, I Can’t Help It If I’m a Saint, in which, with great candor and openness, her ghostwriter reveals the most intimate details of Sen. Clinton’s life, except the parts that might be interesting, which fall within Sen. Clinton’s Zone of Privacy. Promoting her book on a nationwide, multicity Zone of Privacy Tour, Sen. Clinton repeatedly denies that she plans to run for president, insisting that she is totally dedicated to “representing my constituents in, you know, that state.”

(Thanks to Katie for the link.)



1 a.m. links

My liquor bills being what they are, I found great comfort in the first few recent articles trumpeting a link between drunkenness and great writing. But at this point even I am beginning to wonder how many more newspapers will jump on the alcoholism-begats-literature bandwagon. In anticipation of the New Year, Don Gillmor, for The Globe and Mail, considers the place of alcohol in the works of Bukowski, Hemingway, Faulkner, Margaret Laurence, and Cheever.

For the Independent, Christina Patterson takes a look at U.S. and British novels slated to appear on U.K. bookshelves in the first months of 2004:

Attempts to produce the Great American Novel remain, on the evidence of the spring catalogues, slightly more energetic than their British equivalents. While many of next year’s crop of new novels grapple with history in its public and private forms, it seems that few have the chutzpah to take on the State of the Nation.

The Guardian offers a survey of the U.K. titles that filled publishers’ coffers in 2003.

Some who have religious fanatics for parents become wildly successful novelists at the age of 18. Others, in their early 30′s, are forever working on a novel partly inspired by the experience.

In a weekend article, Laura Miller quotes from “Proper and Dark Heroes as Dads and Cads: Alternative Mating Strategies in British Romantic Literature”:

It is difficult to make progress in literary studies because, unlike scientists, literary scholars do not base their findings on theories that are subject to empirical tests…. The imaginations of literary researchers are allowed to run wild, and theories like deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis are selected not because of their effectiveness in generating empirically valid hypotheses, but because people just happen to like them.

“Alas for [the authors], literature … practices a form of natural selection, and it is based entirely on the unempirical standard of what we just happen to like,” Miller says.

Mexican novelist and art critic Juan Garcia Ponce has died.

The Guardian has published an unfinished excerpt of the book Carol Shields was working on when she died last July.

An article in The New York Times several months ago (now only available through the paid archives) noted the rise of young German novelists whose stories are concerned with issues other than politics and history. Heidi Sylvester makes the same observation but argues:

this renaissance in story-telling has gone largely unnoticed in the English-speaking world. A growing unwillingness on the part of especially large U.S. publishing houses to wager a bet on translated novels means that many of Germany’s promising young authors remain inaccessible, thus enhancing the impression that this country’s literary masters have kept their postwar focus on history and politics.

Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America provides first-person accounts from 79 immigrants in Queens, New York. Also, “Generation EA: Ethnically Ambiguous.”

New U.K. book: “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Malady or Myth?”

Marion Ettlinger, writer photographer extraordinaire, has collected more than 200 of her portraits of contemporary writers in a coffee table book, Author Photo. (Via Bookninja.) My advice: if you can’t get Ettlinger, become involved with a photographer. Only your significant other will have the patience to take 700 photos of you through various lenses, in the most flattering lighting possible, knowing that you’ll probably hate every last print.

Libraries are spending less on books and more on CDs and other new media.



Post-midnight excuses

Christmas alone with the Mister was a great success. It was so successful, in fact, that we’ve continued to feast, drink, and accomplish pretty much nothing ever since.

I’m tempted to extend the Thanksgiving ban on all of my blood relatives (other than my sister) to the other major holidays. Also, the pecan pie situation turned out okay. Thanks to Nic, Jeff, Darice, Christian, and the kind, anonymous person who contributed an authentic Texan recipe.

In other news, I leave for South Florida on the 31st and will return on the 9th. Even before my departure, work and various commitments will make blogging all but impossible. I’ll do what I can. While I’m away, Ms. Stephany Aulenback will step in from time to time and treat you to whatever strikes her fancy.

I’m still working my way through holiday email, so if you’re annoyed at the slow response please rest assured you’re not the only one. Also, I probably haven’t read your blog. It’s too bad email can’t include voodoo dolls and strands of my hair as attachments, don’t you think? That would make things so much easier.



I couldn’t judge. In calculus class, everyone but me seemed to imagine the right number.

For the London Review of Books, A.W. Moore, editor of a collection of essays on infinity, compares David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity with two other books on the subject and concludes that Wallace is wrong:

As for Wallace’s book, the less said, the better. It’s a sloppy production, including neither an index nor a table of contents, and after a while his breezy style grates. No one who is unfamiliar with the ideas behind his dense, user-unfriendly mathematical expositions could work their way through them to gain any insight into what he is talking about. Worse, anyone who is already familiar with these ideas will see that his expositions are often riddled with mistakes. The sections on set theory, in particular, are a disaster. When he lists the standard axioms of set theory from which mathematicians derive theorems about the iterative conception of a set, he gets the very first one wrong. (It is not, as Wallace says, that if two sets have the same members, then they are the same size. It is that two sets never do have the same members.) From there it is pretty much downhill….

(Via Return of the Reluctant.)