Well, I Suwannee. I just about had a conniption fit after I happened upon Dana’s latest pack of lies, but then I remembered that you can’t expect a Yankee to have any manners:
Did you know I’m more of a Southerner than Maud Newton? Me neither. How could this be? I’ve only lived a small part of my life there, and Maud *embodies* the South. I mean, my fondest memory of her is meeting her for brunch one spring morning. Fanning herself demurely as I approached (10 minutes late), she set down her sweet tea, peeked out from under the brim of her dramatic church lady hat and said, “Sweetie, I love that outfit more and more *every* time I see it.”
And this after I held myself back from pointing out not only that she was wearing white shoes before Easter but that it’s positively indecent to go without panties on The Lord’s Day.
A few short months ago, Soft Skull Press was in the news because of its financial troubles. Since then, with Richard Nash at the helm, the indie publisher has righted itself and begun quietly putting out some of the most well-regarded books in publishing.
There’s a book quiz going around. It purports to identify your ideal literary match. I’ve been afraid to take it lest I end up with a Danielle Steel novel or something, but maybe your own sense of self-worth is less wrapped up in online quiz results. (Via Old Hag.)
Bill Keller is restarting the search for a new Book Review editor at the New York Times in the wake of Adam Moss’ departure:
When Mr. Moss was in charge of the search, he had emphasized that the paper was looking for continuity in its next Book Review editor. “Weâ€™re big fans of The Book Review we publish now,” Mr. Moss told The Observer in late November. The Times, he said, was looking for someone who had “his or her own ideas,” but said: “The important thing is, weâ€™re not looking for radical change.” According to Times sources, however, Mr. Keller and Ms. Abramson are now looking for just thatâ€”radical change, in the form of someone who is ready to overhaul the book review, streamlining and changing its editorial process and its staff. They donâ€™t have long to find that person: In the Friday the 13th meetings, Mr. Keller promised that a new editor would be named by the end of this month.
They have their work cut out for them. One source wondered whether potential candidates werenâ€™t turned off by recent speculation that Mr. Keller wanted to take the review “down-market.”
Remember, lo those many months ago, when Lizzie observed that the victims of Dale Peck’s scathing book reviews “can get a little, ‘Listen to her'”? Remember how you laughed but weren’t really sure what to think?
Well, folks, the proof is in Christopher Hart’s U.K. Sunday Times review of What We Lost, which Emma kindly forwards. Here’s the last paragraph:
Stanley Crouch, one of the author-as-reviewer’s victims, has declared that ‘Dale Peck is a troubled queen, and the only person who cares about him being a troubled queen is himself’. I don’t know whether Peck is a troubled queen or not, and I don’t care either. But he certainly is one dickens of a writer – and maybe, annoyingly, he really is one of the best writers around. What We Lost gives us an infinitely precious sense of a more responsible, more austere, and much, much tougher America.
At About Last Night, Our Girl in Chicago heralds Edward Gorey’s books and miscellany, links to a history of Gorey’s cover illustrations for old Anchor and Vintage paperbacks, and notes that there’s an online gallery of them.
Last week I mentioned the Maisonneuve article “When Writers Drink” and quoted some bits about Fitzgerald and Poe. Now the article is online. Here’s part of the write-up about Delmore Schwartz:
The New York literati immediately heralded this twenty-five-year-old poet and critic as one of the most promising authors since T. S. Eliot for his 1938 debut, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, which included a clutch of poems and the eponymous short story. Erratic and manic by nature, Schwartz wrote in mad spurts, producing reams of work. He was convinced that alcohol, barbiturates and amphetamines contributed to his genius. His insomnia and booze-driven obsession climaxed in 1959: having hallucinated an affair between his wife and art critic Hilton Kramer, he attacked Kramer and as a result was handcuffed, straitjacketed and remanded to Bellevue Hospital. He got out with the help of his friend Saul Bellow and drifted through a succession of depressing West Village walk-ups and seedy Manhattan hotels. He could often be found pontificating for hours at the White Horse, a shabby Greenwich Village tavern and famed literary hangout. By 1964, he had acquired a following of students (Lou Reed among them) to whom he would talk for hours without stopping, drinking shots of bourbon and paying for them with hundred-dollar bills. He read from his tattered copy of Finneganâ€™s Wake, told long-perfected anecdotes about his success and T. S. Eliotâ€™s sex life and once even detailed Queen Elizabethâ€™s Asian fellatio techniques, apparently practised on none other than Danny Kaye. He soon became intolerable even to his disciples and checked himself into the Times Square Hotel to focus on his writing. â€œThe years pass and the years pass and the years pass,â€ he wrote in the margin of a letter, â€œ& still I see only as in a glass / darkly and vaguely.â€ He died of a heart attack in 1966. For two days, his body sat in the morgue, unclaimed.
I’m hoping these anecdotes about alcoholic writers become a regular feature of the magazine.
* Actually, I’m just talking about myself. Steph doesn’t seem to have the same relentless preoccupation with all things booze-related, for some reason. But go with the first person plural in this case, won’t you? It helps us feel better about our drinking problem.
The Yankee or Dixie dialect quiz. (Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.) I’m 72% Dixie, even though I grew up in Miami. The parental legacy — Texas/Mississippi — lingers. Also, I think South Floridian speech is a little more southern than its reputation, New Yawker expats notwithstanding.
Garry Trudeau, author of the Doonesbury comic strip, has put up $10,000 of his personal funds for anyone who comes forward to confirm having witnessed, first-hand, G.W. Bush’s Air Guard service story. (Via Boing Boing.)
Tomorrow, when you’re nursing your hangover and generally feeling like death warmed over, why not pick up Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, which offers the most depressing and poignant depiction I know of Carnival week and contemporary Southern malaise? From a Contemporary Authors profile:
Percy wrote two unpublished novels before beginning The Moviegoer. He finally found his fictive niche, however, when he decided to follow Albert Camus’s example and write about a character who serves as “an embodiment of a certain pathology of the twentieth century,” to use his own words from the Southern Review. He told the New York Times that in order to write meaningful fiction he had to overcome the American tendency “to distinguish between our reflections on our universal predicament and what can be told in fiction. . . . The French see nothing wrong with writing novels that address what they consider the deepest philosophical issues.” The Moviegoer was published in 1961 when Percy was forty-five, and although the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, did little to promote the book, it was discovered and accorded the National Book Award. Most critics feel that The Moviegoer presents most of the themes with which Percy concerned himself in subsequent fiction and nonfiction. “What we don’t see in Percy’s novels is the changing vision of the world that we often get from a writer who publishes while he is young, and then continues to write,” noted Andre Dubus in Harper’s. “With The Moviegoer we were in the hands of a mature writer whose theme had already chosen him. He has been possessed by it ever since, and that is why he is not truly repetitious. . . . It’s not repetition we’re hearing, but the resonant sound of a writer grappling with his theme.”
In The Moviegoer and subsequent novels, Percy introduces the concept of Malaise, a disease of “depression and despair, intensified by the awareness of a moral and metaphysical wasteland in which intellectuals claim to have outgrown the rituals and beliefs of organized religion,” according to Tharpe.
If you’re not in the mood to be thoughtful and penitent tomorrow, take a look at this 1998 Book Magazinepiece on New Orleans writers for other options.