31 May 2010
I wish I could say I made this one up to determine your collective mettle and/or temperature, but it's true. I have actually known about this book for a couple of years, sort of pushing it further and further back into my mind (but it keeps coming back!). I was shocked first because I don't know many people who have published books, period, and second, this person sort of fell off my radar and to have the name turn up much later was pretty odd.
Normally I'd be curious to death, but revisiting those years? In a self-help book? Eh.
30 May 2010
This was a very tantalizing offer, but in reality, not so satisfying. Chances are most Republicans I know would find the fictional fringe group of CHINA LAKE, the Remnant, to be pretty distasteful. The Remnant, led by its charismatic pastor, protests at the funerals of AIDS activists and out gays and lesbians in southern California with signs proclaiming "God Hates Sluts" and a website counting down to Armageddon. (In protest they resemble a small but highly visible American group I will not name because I don't want their rotten asses to get any press.) The heroine of Gardiner's books, Evan Delaney, would steer clear of them but for the fact that her ex-sister-in-law is a devotee and trying to kidnap her son back from Evan's care; she finds out amidst one such attempt that the Remnant is stockpiling weapons and planning to conduct biological warfare against local government in order to form a base to take over the country.
Here's the part where my rational brain took over and said, Now wait a second. There must be an easier way than all the ways they chose to do this [redacted for spoilers]. It is somewhat amusing that, unable to see the easy way to national domination, they had to take steps A through X. But I'm pretty sure I could plan a national takeover better, and I don't live in a religious commune, so. I think the plot just spiraled out of control at that point.
The book was okay, but I'd rather finish all the V.I. Warshawskis first before getting back to this author. Still I wonder about the writers who are busy converting the current American political situation into mass-market thrillers (uh, besides this one).
29 May 2010
"Does anyone have a question where we don't end up having to help you people? Is anyone here okay with what's going on at this point in their careers, and maybe just curious about the shit we do?"--Jon Stewart BEA, moderating discussions with Mary Roach, John Grisham and Condoleezza Rice and (apparently) being driven slowly insane by audience questions about how to get published. And he does that shit: The next book by the writers and performers of "The Daily Show," EARTH (THE BOOK): A VISITOR'S GUIDE TO THE HUMAN RACE, hits stores September 21, and long before his tenure as the host he published a book of essays.
28 May 2010
I was going to test-drive my Kindle on this trip, but several pages of tedious backstory later I didn't get around to it this week. Next time! I promise to actually leave the boroughs regularly from here on out. I'm off to Houston, Texas and here's my judicious mix of tote-bag paperbacks:
Michael Idov, GROUND UP -- debut novel about a coffee shopI've left some posts under the warmer in case you are stuck somewhere or not skipping town. (Or not American, and thus not observing Memorial Day. I asked a coworker what she was doing for Memorial Day and she heaved the most complex, marvelous, sad sigh, like a minor-key sonata. I of course had to ruin it by making a joke, but I know how she felt.
Joe Queenan, CLOSING TIME -- debut memoir about blue-collar Philadelphia
Simon Rich, ELLIOT ALLAGASH -- debut novel about, well, I think it has to do with a prep school?
Truman Capote, IN COLD BLOOD -- self-explanatory, my first read (I know)
Have a great weekend! (And happy fifth birthday blog!)
27 May 2010
Keillor sees book publishing as an extension of a class of elites who, now that anyone can have a blog (uh, guilty), are in danger of losing their protected status. At least he gets a little bit funny when describing what will replace it:
The upside of self-publishing is that you can write whatever you wish, utter freedom, and that also is the downside. You can write whatever you wish, and everyone in the world can exercise their right to read the first three sentences and delete the rest.I can only assume it was his agent's idea to publish this on the first day of BookExpo America, the publishing trade show running through today here in New York. (I'm not at BEA myself, but not because I think publishing is doomed; I had a scheduling conflict. Just so we're clear.) It's a popular event on which to hang speculation about the future of the industry -- I did it myself last year -- and Keillor's beliefs, whatever they are, are more interesting to talk about than whether some British lady accepted some money in a slightly shady manner. But it will eventually be disheartening when Keillor, having already espoused a belief about book publishing, will come out and hawk his own book (and there must be another); it'd be nice if he could criticize without seeming to yank up the ladder after him, you know? That's just bad manners.
Self-publishing will destroy the aura of martyrdom that writers have enjoyed for centuries. Tortured geniuses, rejected by publishers, etc., etc. If you publish yourself, this doesn't work anymore, alas.
26 May 2010
I've never been higher than the lobby myself, but I hear conditions in the Flatiron are... somewhat less posh than described. On the other hand, Madison Square Park is all kinds of lovely and you can watch the Shake Shack line live.
Perish the thought! Quoth Jenni Miller of Cinematical, "Frankly, I can't imagine a more inappropriate, though typically Hollywood, casting choice." She puts forth Mads Mikkelsen which is a solid option, but my top choice is still Liam Neeson, because Blomkvist is supposed to be a little old and a little weatherbeaten. (Don't talk to me about CGI-aging Brad Pitt again.)
As for Salander, the names Carey Mulligan (ace) and Ellen Page (acceptable) have been tossed around, but Cinematical also reports that Noomi Rapace, who played her in the Swedish movies, is not interested in reprising her role. That's a damn shame, but not surprising; these films were huge blockbusters in Sweden and she probably doesn't want to be forever tied to the character.
25 May 2010
The most memorable book trailers I've seen recently were the Brad Meltzer "All my negative reviews at once" one and ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER. (Naturally, neither of these were on TV, although occasionally you'll see a TV ad for a book and it's usually a deeply weird experience.) Have you seen one recently you'd like to call out?
24 May 2010
I have often maintained that I can read anything on the subway without being much bothered by what people around me are thinking. But on that point this book is testing my mettle.
It's too bad, because first, it's extremely interesting in a Michael Pollanesque vein, weaving in a tasty mix of studies that prove what we've always known about high-sugar, high-salt and high-fat foods and those concerning what we never knew about how they influence our behavior. And second, I don't even like carrot cake, so suck on that.
23 May 2010
22 May 2010
David Lipsky, ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF: A ROAD TRIP WITH DAVID FOSTER WALLACE
David Foster Wallace, A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING I'LL NEVER DO AGAIN
David Foster Wallace, CONSIDER THE LOBSTER
David Foster Wallace, THE GIRL WITH CURIOUS HAIR
David Foster Wallace, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN
David Foster Wallace, THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM
Thoughts on selection, order? Anybody got a good used-book dealer? And what are your summer reading plans?
21 May 2010
There is Edward Robb Ellis, an 87-year-old writer, who shares his four-room apartment in Chelsea with what he estimates to be 10,000 books, including, he reveals proudly, five sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Ron Kolm, a writer and bookstore night manager, lost his bedroom in Long Island City, Queens, to his archive of downtown writing. For years, he and his wife have slept in the living room on a fold-out bed.
He recalled watching his reading material rise to a height of seven feet. ''I felt like Schliemann, only in reverse,'' Mr. Kolm said, referring to the 19th-century German archeologist. ''Instead of excavating the levels of Troy, I was creating them.''
But I should be patting myself on the back because I definitely don't have 10,000 books, nor do I have even one encyclopedia set. Right??
''I've been in places where there were books in the bathtub,'' said Henry Holman, who rummages through apartments as the buyer for Gryphon Bookshop on the Upper West Side. ''I've been in apartments where there were books in the bed. I've been in apartments where you were hard put to imagine exactly where they did sleep.''
Okay, but if you fall asleep with a book in your bed, that's not the same thing as storing them there. (Uh, hypothetically?) But this might be my favorite clause, about the architect who designed Trump Tower:
"his pirate books are overflowing into his architectural books"
Never had a problem there! Okay, we're all good, who's up for a dollar cart run?
20 May 2010
Uh, Bill. We talked about this. You haven't published a travel book since 2002, and now you've come out with... a 512-page travelogue taking place inside your own house? From your site:
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to "write a history of the world without leaving home."That is not what I meant! You'd better have your bag packed tonight because I'm coming by with the truck at 5AM and we're going to reenact "The Great Race" with a cab full of pugs! Don't forget your towel!
(Still deeply looking forward to it. October 5.)
(And not actually going over to Bill Bryson's house.)
19 May 2010
Describe a typical day in your writing life.
You mean after my manservant brings the muesli?
Lately it’s been whatever essay I’m writing for rent gets two hours in the morning. Then a walk on the boardwalk or beach. Then six or seven hours at the desk for myself. I assume I eat lunch (I read during lunch). I have friends but many of them drink too much. That begins around 10 p.m. At 4 a.m. comes the dream about the elephants. At 6 a.m. comes the dream about Mom. At 9 a.m. my manservant brings the muesli.
--NYT Paper Cuts blog
18 May 2010
Despite being massively in debt, so much so that it was recently sold off to Walgreens, the company has been putting its stores through unnecessary makeovers. The 'new look' includes a rack near the counter with trade paperbacks as well as mass market, something I haven't seen in any other drugstore chain around here (and you know I look).
A quick glance through the rack at the store near my office reveals Walter Kirn's UP IN THE AIR (better than the movie), Michael Lewis' THE BLIND SIDE (possibly better than the movie?), Joe Queenan's CLOSING TIME and... LEBRON'S DREAM TEAM: HOW FIVE FRIENDS MADE HISTORY, cowritten by James and Buzz Bissinger. (Its hardcover title was SHOOTING STARS.)
Given the speculation and outright advocacy surrounding James' possibly coming to play here, this means... absolutely nothing. But it's interesting to note from this collection what Duane Reade assumes its primary customers for these books are.
17 May 2010
A plan to destroy America, a hundred years in the making, is about to be unleashed... can it be stopped?
"There is a powerful technique called the Overton Window that can shape our lives, our laws, and our future. It works by manipulating public perception so that ideas previously thought of as radical begin to seem acceptable over time. Move the Window and you change the debate. Change the debate and you change the country."
(No disrespect to the publicists I know. Book publicists are pretty much the best kind of PR out there and I have never been mistreated by one, for real.)
...it's safe to say that political theory is the furthest thing from his mind. Smart, single, handsome, and insulated from the world's problems by the wealth and power of his father, Noah is far more concerned about the future of his social life than the future of his country.
But all of that changes when Noah meets Molly Ross, a woman who is consumed by the knowledge that the America we know is about to be lost forever. She and her group of patriots have vowed to remember the past and fight for the future--but Noah, convinced they're just misguided conspiracy-theorists, isn't interested in lending his considerable skills to their cause.
And then the world changes.
An unprecedented attack on U.S. soil shakes the country to the core and puts into motion a frightening plan, decades in the making, to transform America and demonize all those who stand in the way. Amidst the chaos, many don't know the difference between conspiracy theory and conspiracy fact--or, more important, which side to fight for.
But for Noah, the choice is clear: Exposing the plan, and revealing the conspirators behind it, is the only way to save both the woman he loves and the individual freedoms he once took for granted.
It must also be noted that Beck asked his fans to vote on the cover design of the book, but unfortunately they went with the least insane option (#2).
This is Beck's second foray into fiction (after THE CHRISTMAS SWEATER) and you may be surprised to discover, between his books and a magazine -- oh yeah, he has one of those -- the fake crier of Fox News makes $13 million a year from publishing. But that part is not funny at all.
16 May 2010
15 May 2010
The fictional author in the play, Tobin Falmouth, hasn't even thought about his book in years before agreeing to participate in a debate about it in the town of Midlothia -- but once there, he meets a string of people to whom his book was extremely important. And he's startled to see that something he wrote ten years earlier could have that effect (and at times alarmed, since the book-within-the-play concerns a string of disappearances of pregnant teenagers).
Late in the play he gets around to a long, rambling speech of how the book affected his own life, and it's impressive, but not as much as the moment another character turns to him and says, "Your book read me, Mr. Falmouth." And I sat in the audience and thought, That is so true. If you've had that experience, of reading a book where it seemed like the book knew you better than you knew yourself, then you know what I mean. It makes you want to smile at nothing in particular. And it could make you (as it does in "The Metal Children") behave strangely toward the author of the book, presuming a connection there that the author might not even see.
I haven't had that feeling in a while, but I'm always looking for it.
14 May 2010
My uncle is an archaeologist and his workplace just published this book. He's not listed as one of the primary authors, but it represents the culmination of years of research and we are all very stoked about it.
I haven't yet committed to reading it; it's already out of stock on Amazon, paving the way for the inevitable Nicolas Cage movie adaptation. (He's more of a Clark Gregg, really.) But I would like to, to the extent that I understand what will probably be a fairly arcane archaeological work.
In case you're in Belton, Texas (northeast of Austin), they're having a signing tomorrow at the Bell County Museum.
13 May 2010
O frabjeous day! Thanks to blogmigo Wade Garrett for sending me this.
12 May 2010
So who do you think will be on the list?
11 May 2010
I collect titles, as I've established, but this is one I really envied when I saw it.
Short answer: no. (Long answer: noooooooooooooo.) I guess I shouldn't expect better, given the reputation of The Summer Movie, but the pickings seem especially slim this year. Semi-prodigy Nick McDonell's novel TWELVE about New York City prep schoolers with drug problems gets the big-screen treatment (starring Chace Crawford of "Gossip Girl" -- should've gotten Westwick) on July 2nd; July 23rd brings the further desecration of my childhood with a big-screen adaptation of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books (although the author said she was pleased overall). "The Switch," based on a story by Jeffrey Eugenides and opening August 20, looks good 'cause it's Jason Bateman and bad 'cause it's directed by two guys who worked on "Cavemen," the inexplicable sitcom based on the Geico ads.
The only real heavy-hitter in this category not involving vampires and werewolves (yup, Twilight 3 is happening) is the long-awaited/-dreaded adaptation of "Eat Pray Love." Warning: trailer may cause violent eye-rolling, worries about Javier Bardem's Hollywood career. Well, at least I'll be getting a lot of reading done this year.
10 May 2010
Clearly they've tried to make a more single-function device, and I appreciate that even if the market doesn't. But its introduction echoes what a lot of Borders' decisions look like recently: Too little, too late. The Kobo shares a lot of similarities with the Kindle (black and white screen, e-Ink, the blocky white '80s-computer shape), so what took them so long? Even if they had been able to move this announcement up a few months, they could have played up the affordability angle against the iPad.
The Kobo and the Nook both have one advantage over other devices in the brick-and-mortar stores, but whether they will be able to harness it, I'm not sure. If your mother (for demographic example -- I'm sure she's very nice) has a problem with her e-reader, she would probably rather take it into Borders or Barnes & Noble to get it looked at than spend time on the phone with Amazon customer service and then have to mail her Kindle in. Same with the iPad and Apple stores, although you can't buy actual books when you're there. But I haven't heard that either store is trying that.
09 May 2010
I can't remember if Lorrie Moore ever names the state in which her new book, A GATE AT THE STAIRS, is set, but most of it takes place in a city called Troy. Often tagged with the phrase "the Athens of the Midwest," Troy is the home of the big state university where the book's narrator, Tassie, has been studying, and when we're not there, we follow her home to the small town where she grew up.
Troy probably resembles a lot of cities, but I had decided for myself pretty early on which city it was. Moore would probably disapprove of this, but then she shouldn't have borrowed the historical event Tassie's dad jokingly refers to, one I'm pretty sure didn't happen in every Midwestern college town, and assigned it to Troy.
What are the advantages to setting a novel in a fictional place? Freedom of invention, to begin with. It's more critical for fantasy or science fiction works, I should think, but any author might want to add streets or even neighborhoods in which to place her characters without the interference of "But that corner isn't zoned for a restaurant in real life." (Tassie nannies for a couple in the book, one of whom owns a restaurant.) If the author is writing about a real-life event, altering the landscape of an existing city may not be enough to protect against libel charges -- or pesky reviewers who point out how similar Book X is to News Item Y. Then again, it's easier to make up a small city than a large one, and region makes a difference, too; I suspect going to your agent with a realistic work set in "a major East Coast city" wouldn't go over well, but the Midwest can be a little... more hazy in the minds of other people.
I don't think I can get out of this topic without throwing in a mention of Yoknapatawpha County, one of the most famous fictional places in American literature. (So here it is.) I wonder whether critics of the day probed him for details of the "real" Yoknapatawpha or even journeyed to Lafayette County, MS, the widely accepted real-life analogue, to examine it for his reading public. Maybe our mania for 'realness' is more recent, more of a fad, driven by the fact that we can Google "real location of TITLE" and give ourselves an 'answer' that way.
I couldn't even engage with Troy, the fictional city, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. Late in it Moore pulls off this one revelatory sequence to make a creative writing major fret (aided by the fact that no one had spoiled me for it, so I will follow suit) and for which I could mostly forgive its earlier linguistic frills.
08 May 2010
#1: Is that what you're reading right now?
#2: Yeah, I just started it last night.
#1: Were you surprised?
#2: Yeah, you wouldn't think it would have a pink cover.
#2 wasn't liking the book very much yet, but self-described as a person who always has to finish a book, no matter how bad it is. A third coworker chimed in from behind me to say that she would always leave the bookmark in a book she didn't like much, but almost never went back to it.
07 May 2010
Classically, these e-mails were always titled with the word in question, like so*:
(Great word, too!) In the last month or six weeks, however, they switched to providing little "clues" in the subject, so that you have to open up the e-mail to be bitterly disappointed by how lame those clues are... I mean, to figure out what word they meant.
Barely a month in, the writers have clearly run out of amusing things to say about the day's words. Here's April 30:
Is it "a fun word," or is it perhaps the only noun used for "cave explorers"?
Exhibit B, from May 1st:
So I look at this subject and I think: "...Deaf?" Then I feel like an asshole, but one might argue that Beethoven is famous not only for being a great composer, but for doing so despite going deaf while producing his great work. See, Merriam-Webster? You did this to me!
Also, I might use "spelunker" but when am I honestly going to use pianistic?**
Okay, one more example, from May 3:
Here's a word I didn't know, but which, once I'd read the rest of the e-mail, I thought "They've got it all wrong!" The two definitions provided are
1 : to feel or express dejection or discontent : complainHow are those "the blues"? I guess the second definition may qualify, but discontent is not "the blues." Complaining can be an aftereffect of "the blues," but it is not "the blues." Toss in the faux-catchiness of "This word's for you," and I can't even appreciate that it's related to the more common "to pine (for)," because I'm just annoyed.
*2 : to long for something
I know they're only trying to help by making word acquisition more "fun," but given that these e-mails hit me at Maximum Annoyance Hour, I think they could be more clever and less "Uh, well, we have to title it something quick." It's not as if the creators of this e-mail are sitting over their coffee during their Maximum Annoyance Hour, thinking: "Spelunker. Why do we have to do this again?"
So I'll nominate myself for the job. I send a lot of e-mails and I'd be happy to recycle some of my own private subject lines until I have time to write eye-catching, click-through-inspiring masterpieces. How can you not open an e-mail with a title like "THERE IS NO GOD," "Don't forget to pack the world's tiniest violin" and "This is a horrible case, but I LOL'ed*** at the rhetorical question"? 'Cause I may have used all of those in the past week.**** Call me, dictionary denizens, and we'll go spelunking in the wide world of words together.
* These screenshots are not terribly exciting, I know. But I wanted some illustration.
** At work I have somehow (heh) gained a reputation as being the spelling/grammar person, proof I guess that one can only pose as normal for so long before Hulking out into full nerd. In my defense, apparently this chair needed to be filled; one of my colleagues recently asked me what a proper noun was.
*** Technically, L'ed OL. What.
**** I cherry-picked the most dramatic ones, but my point stands.
06 May 2010
Writer Lauren Bans, of Salman Rushdie fan fame, snapped this photo of a woman reading GOING ROGUE on the subway, "book cover removed so peeps wouldn't be all 'judgery.'" Too late!
I had been waiting for this to happen; since it was on a train I take a lot, I guess I'll never know how close I was. So what should be my next "Where's Waldo" subway sighting goal? It can be an incongruous book or an incongruous combination of book and reader.
05 May 2010
For introducing mainstream audiences to these up-and-coming directors, this may actually do some good. Keep an eye out for "Freakonomics" in November.
04 May 2010
Received 19 books to review
Checked 9 books out of the library
Borrowed 1 book from a friend
Bought 6 books
Won 1 book in a contest (I am lucky on the Internet right now)
Donated 24 books (OK, so I did do a little spring cleaning)
Gave away 5 books
Returned 12 to the library
First, this feature is going bimonthly (first definition) until further notice. I'm still trying to reduce my stash of unread books and think about every book I acquire; I just am running out of things to write about that, which is why I have to pull shenanigans like cramming a bunch of non-related material into the bottom of those posts just to keep myself interested, ahem.
Second, Baseball Week is definitely going to happen -- but not till July. I'm thinking the 5th? It will definitely include those Roth and Mahler books, plus two titles to be announced in a few weeks. This doesn't mean that summer of DFW isn't happening, either; I just need to go back to the lab a little bit and perfect my 29-hour day. (Also, make room on my shelves to buy those. Hey, that is slightly relevant!)
Third, whose hotly anticipated summer novel did I get in the mail to review last week? And whose remaining body of work (four novels and a short-story collection I haven't read yet) am I going to crush into the next four weeks before I get to it, I hope? Stay tuned 'cause I will probably be writing about him and that process soon. (Three unhelpful clues: He was born in the 1960s, he lives in Los Angeles and he has a Twitter account he appears to run himself.)
03 May 2010
When I went to bed at night I suffered my first bout of insomnia. This is what death would be like, I feared: not sleep but insomnia. To sleep no more, as I had learned in Pre-1700 British Drama. I had never feared insomnia before -- like prison, wouldn't it just give you more time to read? I'd always been able to sleep. But now I lay there, fretful as a Bartok quartet. My mind wandered through the night hours uneasily, and it was indeed like prison: when the sky began to lighten, I was in disbelief and filled with terrible, buzzing tiredness.
Once I woke with the feeling that I had actually died in the night. I awoke with a sense that during ostensible sleep I had encountered not just life's brevity but its speed! and its noise and its irrelevance and its close. How we glamorized our lives! our bodies! which were nothing more than -- potatoes! with a potato's flat eyes and pink snappable roots. I lay there in bed in a peaceful form of depression. In another town, one less antagonistic toward religion, this mood -- pre-prayer, pre-God, pre-conversion -- might have been assigned some spiritual significance. But for people in Troy, God was mind-clutter: a cross between a billboard, a charlatan, a hamburger, and a fairy king. I had always thought God was part of a sensible if credulous denial of death, one that made life doable. How could that be wicked? Why bother criticizing that? Why disparage the crutches of the lame? Why vainly imagine one's own gait unhobbled? Besides, religion gave us swearing. Before Christianity, what was there? "By Jove"? But life in Troy was to be taken without any lucky charms of any sort. It was neo-reformation. The walls of my winter room seemed a silvery, quilted satin, like the interior of a coffin. I began to feel there was no such thing as wisdom. Only lack of wisdom.
--Lorrie Moore, A GATE AT THE STAIRS
02 May 2010
01 May 2010
Obviously I couldn't verbally fact-check all of them, so I'll never know whether L. was allowed to play nickel slots in a casino on vacation or if my co-teacher M. really pushed her sister off her bike and then told her it was an accident. But after protesting that nothing had ever happened to them, they all wrote very specific accounts with a bizarre level of detail. I sat feeling blank till S. asked me for a story about "doggies"; I never had a dog, so I wrote about the time I got attacked by an Irish mastiff instead. (This didn't bother her.) She wrote about learning to swim in a deep pool and the feeling of looking down past your toes, down into the water.
If you've bothered to read this far you must be quite bored; but it's Free Comic Book Day, so go out and do that.