Because it’s that kind of day: remainders of the (mostly) gossipy and controversial variety

  • It’s only February, so there’s still time, unfortunately, but at present Salman Rushdie is the top contender for the 2005 Stanley Crouch/Richard Ford writerly hissy fit contest (or the annual “Evil Companions Literary Award,” whichever you prefer). Whereas Crouch and Ford physically attacked critics of their work, however, Rushdie merely threatened to batter a journalist for allegedly insulting his wife. “‘If you ever write mean things about my wife again, I’ll come after you with a baseball bat,'” he reportedly told the New York Times fashion and lifestyle writer, who:

    sketched an eponymous picture of a “brand-name goddess basking in the moment (of media glory)” [and] apparently offended Rushdie when he mused that her silky sinuousness was the perfect symbol of “the love of money and commodity.”

  • Runner-up to the Rushdie brouhaha is the A.J. Jacobs and Joe Queenan pissing contest discussed in today’s Observer. (Fifth item.) Be sure to read Jacobs’ “I Am Not a Jackass,” which includes the lines:

    The review was so vicious it was written up in The Village Voice, on several blogs and, oddly enough, in Women’s Wear Daily. Yes, when your book review is mentioned next to articles about taffeta, you know it’s bad.

  • At the same link, the Observer reveals the journalist’s answer to the Amazon sales rankings over which neurotic midlist authors obsess: the “most emailed article” rankings. (Fourth item.)
  • Last week New York published a much-discussed excerpt from James Atlas’ forthcoming book. In it, Atlas writes about being fired from a prestigious magazine job, with little warning, at fifty, after a new editor took the reins, but he identifies neither the publication nor the editor. Jack Shafer says the description:

    contains so many dots that they connect themselves: The editor is David Remnick of The New Yorker.

    So why not come out and name names? I put the question to Atlas, who responded in a brief e-mail: “Because it’s irrelevant. The piece is about a universal subject, and I didn’t want to distract the reader with gossip.”

    Oh, tommyrot!

  • Anne Rice, already having broken the hearts of her gothy fans by disposing of her New Orleans home and moving to the suburbs, adds insult to injury by turning her attention from vampires to angels.
  • It’s not as creativity-inducing as a blow to the head, of course, but hey, whatever works: advice-guru-cum-novelist Po Bronson “takes his notes, laptop and kitchen timer into a 3-by-4-foot ‘isolation chamber’ made of poured concrete. He shuts the accordion-style door, flicks on the space heater and dons his headphones — hitting the repeat button to blast the same song over and over again. Finally, he sticks cellophane tape to his eyebrows, so he won’t absent-mindedly pluck them out.”
  • New Yorker debut fiction writer (and Peruvian-Alabaman) Daniel Alarcón continues his funny South American travel diary at Eyeshot. The most recent entry concerns the dangers of writing about your family when you mistakenly believe you have a fatal disease, and the folly of hypergraphia.
  • Beware: banning Lindsayism from your site may inhibit your ability to appear on The Daily Show and “pimp your upcoming book about how chocolate is yummy when you have PMS and rainy days are the saddest days and why don’t guys ever call.”
  • On a serious note, the head of France’s National Library raises concerns that the Google Print project, with its focus on making English-language books available online, will skew the Internet’s culture “towards an Anglo-Saxon cultural view of the world.” (Via Bookninja.)
  • And Foetry, hoping to pursue a class-action lawsuit against the University of Iowa, alleges that winners of the university’s short fiction contest skew heavily and unfairly toward Iowa grads and current university employees. (Via Moby Lives.)
  • Finally, Zadie Smith is working on a book that includes “several young black men . . . some of them American.” The BBC report says that these characters will appear in Smith’s third novel, which would be On Beauty. (Via Bookslut.)


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