Busy scissors

Work for the day job has picked up so that I can’t tell daylight from dark. I doubt there’ll be much to see around here early this week.

If you’re looking for reading material, please try some other websites and check out Lauren Cerand’s weekly event listings (“The Smart Set”), below.

As usual, Annie Reid stepped in last Friday. Scroll down to read her handiwork.

Finally, The Morning News has announced the winner of its first annual Tournament of Books. I cast my vote for The Plot Against America (over Cloud Atlas).

The Smart Set: Lauren Cerand’s Weekly Events

The Smart Set is a weekly feature, compiled by Lauren Cerand, that appears Mondays and highlights the best of the week to come. Special favor is given to New York’s independent booksellers and venues, and low-cost and free events. Please submit details to lauren@maudnewton.com.

MONDAY, 2.28: I’m a sucker for a good cultural study: The Half King hosts a reading by Mediated author (and Harper’s contributing editor) Thomas de Zengotita. 7:00pm, FREE. Elsewhere Monday evening, Kundiman, “a not-for-profit organization committed to the discovery and cultivation of emerging Asian-American poets,” presents readings by Ishle Yi Park, Patrick Rosal, Bushra Rehman, Purvi Shah, R.A. Villanueva and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai at the ecstatically chill bar Verlaine. Open bar from 6-7pm, the reading starts at 7:00pm. $5 [via poetz.com].

TUESDAY, 3.1: If Andy Warhol were organizing a panel today, a few deeply superficial people would get together for oh, 15 minutes or so, to talk shop — and the latest issue of Star or New Beauty magazine , no doubt — and then the party would start. Instead, The Kitchen “brings together scholars, biographers, and distinguished Factory alumni to discuss how Warhol’s conversations and physical presence reflected and influenced his art, thinking, and public image.” Yawn; see you in the bathroom. 7:00pm, $8.

WEDNESDAY, 3.2: Symphony Space’s Selected Shorts program presents an evening dedicated to ”Women With Plans.” “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore read by an actor TBA, “1919” by Julie Otsuka read by Dawn Akemi Saito and “My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age” by Grace Paley read by Rochelle Oliver. 6:30pm, $25. Note: $10 Rush Tickets at the door at 6pm, subject to availability. 2 per person, cash only. Also — because irony ain’t free, babe — indulge yourself in a ticket to “McSweeney’s vs. They Might Be Giants,” part of the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center. 8:30pm; $30, 40 or $50, with proceeds to benefit 826NYC.

THURSDAY, 3.3: Abha Dawesar gives a reading from Babyji, her rather intriguing-sounding new novel. 7:00pm, FREE.

FRIDAY, 3.4: “Is there such a thing as selling out? This is the central question in this adaptation of Jonathan Dee’s provocative novel Palladio. Headstrong artists, ambitious advertising executives and irrational lovers clash in this premiere live video/music performance.” Check out Palladio at Symphony Space, on Friday and Saturday. 8:30pm, $21 [via NEWSgrist]. And, the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at New York University hosts a bilingual poetry reading by Puerto Rican poet Carmen Valle, author of Esta casa flotante y abierta (Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 2004), translated by Chris Brandt. 6:15pm, FREE.

SATURDAY, 3.5: Because irony is free, if you’re a subscriber: n + 1 hosts a hipster prom party just for you, and everyone else pays three bucks. n+1’s issue #2 launch party takes place “on the top floor of the University Settlement building, on the corner of Eldridge and Rivington Streets (184 Eldridge) on the Lower East Side at 9 pm,” featuring appealing music (“DJ Kid Millions of the Brooklyn rock outfit Oneida”) and attractively-priced booze (“drinks so cheap it’s utopian”). 9:00pm-1:00am, up to $3.

SUNDAY, 3.6: Novelists Samantha Hunt (The Seas) and David Israel (Behind Everyman) read from their work with poet Brenda Coultas (A Handmade Museum and The Bowery Project) at the exceedingly enticing Sundays at Sunny’s (“…a legendary old bar on the Brooklyn waterfront in Red Hook…) reading series, co-sponsored by BookCourt bookstore. “You can buy books and get them signed by the authors…The bar (cash) will be open. Free coffee and Italian pastries and cookies will be provided.” In fact, reading the description, I can’t help but wonder, why haven’t I been to this one yet? 3:00pm, $3 suggested.

Wish us luck

This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

That’s all for me for the day. Now I have to go take certain people to get their wisdom teeth removed. We’re looking forward to a weekend of painkillers, pureed foods and mind-wrenchingly bad television.

Maud will be back on Monday, or as soon as she gets the locks picked, whichever is faster.

Remains of the day

This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

  • Did blogs help Home Land’s sales? Laurie Muchnick muses on it in Newsday.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus, talks about her work on The Age.
  • I’ve never heard of Brit author Chris Paling, but this interview suggests I soon will. And I already resent him for writing eight novels during his daily commute to his regular job over the last ten years.

  • Ogre Pride Day isn’t until June, though

    This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

    I’ve made plenty of jokes about the right’s fanatical fear of gays, and how every other week, someone is issuing a hysterical cry about another cartoon character being gay or gay-friendly. It’s a relief, frankly, to know that I don’t need to work so hard at pointing out how ridiculous it is. The Traditional Values Coalition issues the following warning:

    Parents who are thinking about taking their children to see “Shrek 2,” may wish to consider the following: The movie features a male-to-female transgender (in transition) as an evil bartender. The character has five o’clock shadow, wears a dress and has female breasts. It is clear that he is a she-male. His voice is that of talk show host Larry King.

    I couldn’t do better than that if I tried.

    Go ahead, judge them

    This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

    Book covers!

  • Just plain bad book covers
  • Book covers with robots on them.
  • Real romance books with really bad covers. Check out “Moment of Truth.” Is that what they call it? Maybe actually getting laid is called “Harmonic Convergence” these days. Gosh, I am getting old.
  • Longmire takes real romance covers, and does a little creative editing on the titles. There, much better now.
  • Book covers with hillbillies on them.
  • Worst comic book covers from the past. Check out “The Rifleman”. He and little Jimmy there seem to be having their own “Moment of Truth.”

  • Some movie remainders

    This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

  • Jonathan Lethem calls for sexier sex onscreen in Nerve. For what it’s worth, I am completely on board about Donald Sutherland’s buttocks. I would line up for the first matinee.
  • What happens when you wake up and realize you just spent the last ten years of your life becoming a sell-out? More encouragement for those who want to write for the movies.
  • Google has a new “movie:” operator that allows you to search for movie-related phrases and get better hits. Mr. Sun has a bit of fun with this by searching for phrases like “laugh out loud” and “hilarity ensues.”
  • Finally, someone looks at the Oscar-nominated screenplays from the context of the writers, not the directors. Thank you, David Kipen and the SF Chronicle.

  • I hear Satan gives wicked wedgies too, when not working at Amazon

    This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

    Some browsing the other day on Amazon.com led me to the work of a former teacher of mine, Rebecca Brown, author of works such as The Terrible Girls, Gifts of the Body and The End of Youth. Rebecca’s writing is sort of like if Samuel Beckett, Shirley Jackson and Monique Witting had a bouncing baby grrrl. Almost militantly minimalist in language, with a surrealistic core, and decidedly queer. Unfortunately for Rebecca Brown, the queer avant-garde writer, there is an evangelical Christian writer named Rebecca Brown, who writes books like He Came to Set the Captives Free. This book is about how Satan married a pal of the authors to ensnare her. (Apparently he wore a white tuxedo and rented a Presbyterian church for the event.) She’s got some sort of connection to Chick Publications (shudder, shudder).

    Alas, the search machine treats them as the same person. This leads to a number of “customer reviews” like this:

    *one star* I have not read this, but it sounds like a lesbian writer which is a bit confusing. It is not the same christian writer, just in case you were as confused as I was. Dr Rebecca Brown and Rebecca Brown are 2 different people. Just another stupid scheme and confusing lie from the enemy. Busted!!! Please don’t let satan confuse you and try to discredit what Dr Brown wrote. Investigate everything before you judge.
    God Bless

    That’s right, this challenging and provocative literary fiction is really just an attempt to confuse you from gettin’ with God. Identity theft, Satan-style. (Who loves you, baby?)

    Now this “review” has been up for a long time. I’ve flagged “report this” a few times, but it’s still up there. While I get that indexing authors with the same name differently would be difficult, is it too much to ask that clearly homophobic low ratings from people who haven’t read the book be removed when reported?

    No dancing, for any reason, not even for books

    I don’t dance. Ever. At least not since my violent high school theater days when the choreographer saw how poorly I did in rehearsals and rearranged curtain calls so that I could stand, frozen, as everyone else danced.

    So, no, I’ve never battled the urge to dance in front of my books, particularly not while naked.

    But maybe you have. If so, stop by and tell cartoonist Patricia Storms, who drew the cartoon at right to illustrate her new “BiblioQueria” series.

    Mailer & Sontag sittin’ in a tree?

    Right-wing provocateur David Horowitz has compiled a slipshod “guide to the political left” at Discover the Network. In this view of things, Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag are equivalent members of a “network” because they both opposed the war on Iraq.

    But Mailer, alleged “leftist provocateur,” voiced his opposition to the war most notably in a magazine called The American Conservative. (See “I Am Not For World Empire.”) Calling himself a “left-conservative,” he drew a distinction between “value conservatives” (heartland Christians) and “flag conservatives” (the Bush Administration). Mailer once beat up a sailor for questioning the sexual orientation of his dog, and he says that “manliness” is what’s missing from the current Iraq conflict.

    As for Sontag, Regarding the Torture of Others and Scott McLemee’s remembrances capture her politics and life’s work pretty well.

    On the other hand, a reader points out that Mailer and Sontag:

    had in common status as contributors to the New York Review. As for his appearance in American Conservative, my understanding is with all that alimony to pay he writes for whoever pays.

    Another reader, Robert, writes:

    [Mailer’s] coverage of the political conventions in the ’60s was brilliant … the best political coverage I have ever read. The Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song are brilliant, too. Mailer was a first-rate journalist, and occasionally he struck sparks with his essays, but as a public figure he was an asshole. I had an argument with him once about boxing. He was against the TKO (when the referee stops the fight). [Mailer] thought two fighters should be allowed to keep slugging until one of them was on his back. And I think of his novels only The Deer Park has any merit whatever.

    (Network link via Mr. Maud, who observes that the site “mixes in terrorists and Islamic extremists, including the Ayatollah Khomeini and Mohammed Atta, with American liberals,” and says, “I want to start a website called ‘World Conservative Network,’ and put a page of alphabetized photos up. Hitler’s photo would go right between Hannity and Horowitz.”)

    Henry James’ crystal ball

    At About Last Night, Laura Demanski compares Brigid Hughes’ editorial stint at The Paris Review, culminating in the Board of Directors’ recent announcement that it would not renew Hughes’ contract, to a story by Henry James:

    Hughes by all accounts had been trying to keep the prestigious but not popular journal steered as near as possible to the trail her mentor George Plimpton had blazed for it. On the news of her certain departure, observers speculated that the board had different ideas about little matters like circulation and profitability, and were taking delayed advantage of the power vacuum left by Plimpton’s death to remake the Review as a more relevant and remunerative publication.

    At the time, all of this reminded me powerfully of something. But I didn’t figure out what it was until this week: the opening scenes of an 1894 short story by Henry James, “The Death of the Lion.” The story is freely available for downloading here. “The Death of the Lion” is narrated by the right-hand man of the recently deceased editor of a London weekly that has been taken over by a Mr. Pinhorn (is there anyone who is better at names than James at his best?). Mr. Pinhorn is all about the numbers….

    [He] has turned a genteel journal into a glorified gossip rag. Under Deedy [the prior editor] the journal appears to have been mainly critical; Pinhorn has turned it into a fin-de-siécle People Magazine.

    There’s “something slightly leavening in the realization that, 110 years on, it’s essentially the same battle still being fought,” Demanski says. “This implies, at least, that it hasn’t yet been lost.”

    Annotating White Noise

    Last fall the University of Texas at Austin acquired 120 boxes of Don DeLillo’s notes, drafts, typescripts, and more. (The photo at right is of an Underworld notebook.)

    This week, at the Panopticist, Andrew Hearst posts the Austin American-Statesman’sannotation of the opening page of White Noise, with details drawn from various drafts of that page found in the author’s papers.”

    Somewhat related:

    Bush as Faulker’s Benjy, and more

    • From Sam Apple’s “The Administration and the Fury (If William Faulkner were writing on the Bush White House)”:

      “Hush now,” Dick said. “This aint no laughing matter. He know lot more than folks think.” Dick patted me on the back good and hard. “Come on now, Georgie,” Dick said. “Never mind you, Rummy.”

      We walked down steps to the office. There were paintings of old people on the walls and the room was round like a circle and Condi was sitting on my desk. Her legs were crossed.

    • Two new lists in one: “Banned Books in the Year 2191” and “Last Lines From Best American Short Stories Not Yet Written”

    Religion in fiction

    A single throwaway paragraph in Chris Lehmann’s review of Gilead captures what I’ve wanted to say about the treatment of religion in contemporary U.S. fiction:

    The main cast of religious fiction, in popular terms at least, is the crass and baleful biblical realism of the Left Behind series. Beyond that,…. [a]ll too often, believers in American literature are either entirely creatures of invitingly alien spiritual traditions (as in the fiction of Louise Erdrich or Russell Banks), two-dimensional glyphs, onto which writers project their own conception of what constitutes spiritual anguish (as in the secular-tinged catechisms of a Mark Salzman or an Anne Lamott), fodder for satirical sport … or a barely literate lumpen peasantry in clumsily-executed and didactic works of dystopian fiction….

    Write about Mormons critically, brace for death threats

    Anybody who’s read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven will be able to imagine the explosion of death threats, letter-writing campaigns, and bad reviews that have preceded the publication of this book:

    The daughter of one of Mormonism’s most prominent religious scholars has accused her father of sexually abusing her as a child in a forthcoming memoir that is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the practices and beliefs of the much-scrutinized but protectively private Mormon religious community.

    Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” details how the author, Dr. Martha Beck, a sociologist and therapist, recovered memories in 1990 of her ritual sexual abuse more than 20 years earlier by her father, Dr. Hugh Nibley, professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and arguably the leading living authority on Mormon teaching.

    The Times story chronicles some of the controvery that Ms. Beck’s book has stirred up. Her friend Russell Martin wrote to me yesterday and shared details (presumably discussed in the book) that I will not repeat here because I don’t feel like staring down even a frivolous defamation suit. Suffice it to say that I’ve already placed my order.

    In the meantime, visit the book’s extensive website, or sample the hysterical reactions for yourself at this thread at Trib Talk.

    Late last year I corresponded a bit with the author of Sisters and Wives, Natalie R. Collins, who, like Beck, used to live “behind the Zion curtain,” and whose novel currently has a higher Amazon sales ranking than The Book of Mormon. Collins’ experiences dovetail with Beck’s:

    I was a little creeped out, as were my editor and agent, when the LDS Church publishing arm requested advanced copies of Wives and Sisters before it was even a glimmer in the St. Martin’s Catalog designer’s eye. Yup, they knew it existed before any promotional material of any kind went out. No big stretch. I’ve long known that they aren’t all that thrilled with my writing or my activities…. “But how would they know about it?” the publisher asked. Oh, my Web site, probably. Or my activity on a mailing list for Ex-Mormons where “trolls” are known to dwell. Maybe my mom told them. She means well.

    Collins also talked about the difficulty of getting her book reviewed, the refusal of Utah bookstores to give her reading slots, and the “hundreds of Mormon hate-emails” she “opened [herself] up to” in publishing the book. Last I heard, she was thinking of asking Salman Rushdie for some self-defense tips.

    Finally, in searching old email for my correspondence with Natalie, I came upon a funny, old message from a sender named “Not Telling.” Here’s an excerpt:

    following the lead of “Left Behind” and countless Bible translations, Mormons have teamed with Doubleday to publish “The Book of Mormon.” This is the first time a secular publisher has handled the book.

    For the small price of dealing with a conversion minded Mormon, you could have gotten a copy for free for over a century. Now, for under thirty dollars, you can get the book — without two missionaries attached.