30 September 2010
It looks as though A.S. Byatt, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Thomas Pynchon and Margaret Atwood are all running about evenly, and if that isn't a WWE script begging to be written...
29 September 2010
28 September 2010
(This blog must also mention grant awardee David Cromer, who directed and acted in the incredibly moving "Our Town" adaptation which just closed this month and who is bringing "Sweet Bird of Youth" to Broadway. "Sweet Bird of Youth" is bonkers Tennessee Williams. This is going to be super.)
27 September 2010
Shelton also directed last night's episode of "Mad Men," which we would comment on if we weren't planning to watch it tonight instead.
26 September 2010
25 September 2010
24 September 2010
The Luke's Lobster roll is satisfying, but pricey for what you get. The atmosphere is kind of hokey. Order the ginger beer you can also buy there (Maine Root Ginger Brew) -- I was warned as to how spicy it was, but the balance between bite and taste is actually perfect. And food writing is definitely not my strong suit; I just fell into an Internet rabbit hole trying to figure out how celery salt is made.
In 2003, Stephen King was awarded the National Book Foundation’s medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and got the same kind of blowback for daring to suggest that maybe critics should give popular fiction its due. It’s the same stuff, recycled, only this time the criticism comes coated with a lovely layer of sexism, a delightfully dismissive tone of, "Oh, you girls. What will you think you deserve next?"
23 September 2010
And suddenly I began to admire the discrimination of the man. He had made out the point at once: he did get hold of the only thing I cared about. I felt as though I were taking professional opinion on the case. His imperturbable and mature calmness was that of an expert in possession of the facts, and to whom one's perplexities are mere child's-play. "Ah! The young, the young," he said indulgently. "And after all, one does not die of it." "Die of what?" I asked swiftly. "Of being afraid." He elucidated his meaning and sipped his drink.
--Joseph Conrad, LORD JIM
22 September 2010
Keep in mind, I did attend to a boarding school, a British school or a magic school (though I would probably be a lot cooler if I had). This would be funny if it weren't so ridiculous.
21 September 2010
*Does Sports Illustrated still run this box? Hope so, not just for the purposes of this post.
**Note to coworker: Just kidding!
The author contends, based on an essay he wrote as a fellow at Harvard (available here for free), that technology has altered and shaped our lives in ways we haven't even noticed -- which both Carr and Crawford argue -- and holds up seven philosophers to give us guidelines for taking back our lives. These philosophers' arguments, however, are familiar enough from other sources that their application here is fairly obvious. Gretchen Rubin's THE HAPPINESS PROJECT holds up Benjamin Franklin as an example just as Powers does, and it would be impossible to recount how many people in this technological space invoke poor Henry David Thoreau as a model of separation. (I suspect he would have brought his iPad to the pond, but that's neither here nor there.) It did make me want to read more on Seneca and the Stoics -- got any recommendations, primary or secondary?
Since (clearly) this is a subgenre of interest to me, I'm not sorry I picked up HAMLET'S BLACKBERRY, though its most interesting tidbit was contained in the title: While Elizabethan England didn't have the smartphone, Shakespeare and his contemporaries had "tables," little notebooks with pages that could be wiped off if needed so as to serve as a live to-do list or work in progress. (Just picture a slightly greasier Moleskine, it's easier.) As Powers points out, Hamlet even invokes the 'tables' in I.v. after he meets the Ghost:
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,One assumes, of course, that Hamlet doesn't actually have to write down that he's just discovered his uncle is a stone cold killer -- but he had the technology which a generation earlier would have led to him carrying a slate under one arm. Good weapon, inconvenient writing device.
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:
Admittedly, it's possible this book found me in the wrong place. I consider my relationship with my devices to be pretty healthy right now (although writing that makes it so creepy!) and I would have been more open to this book if that weren't the case. I got my own Blackberry earlier this year, and after the initial pitfalls I have established what I think are workable boundaries around it, which I can shift as needed depending on circumstances. I even have a designated no-Blackberry hobby, to the consternation of the friend who once texted me to get me to check my e-mail faster.
I don't think my coping strategies are any smarter than anyone else's in this regard. I was lucky to be a late adopter, to see the behaviors that I didn't want to emulate before I found myself unconsciously performing them. I don't want to trade down, but my own digital cleanup strategy is focused elsewhere. Hey, maybe I should write a book about it.
20 September 2010
19 September 2010
Buying hardcovers still feels like a splurge for me, and I guess it will be that way a long time. I grew up amid my parents' '70s hardcovers of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and the box set of George Orwell diaries, a little yellowed, a little frayed on the edges, but still constitutional. I still associate hardcovers with adulthood, I think because young adult and kids' books are so rarely put out in hardcover (there's that gap between picture books and Times bestsellers) and from some fundamental misunderstanding over jacket covers.
That said, I probably have a few hardcovers sitting around I don't really cherish, including ones I haven't read whose bulk is intimidating me. Probably time to sort through anyway.
18 September 2010
17 September 2010
FREAKONOMICS co-author Stephen J. Dubner is launching "Freakonomics Radio," an American Public Media/ New York Public Radio podcast and Marketplace segment. You can listen to a sample on its website.
(Via Galleycat, which notes that the "Freakonomics" documentary is available on iTunes now. Well, that's tonight planned.)
16 September 2010
It's great that you're learning and all, and you seem pretty absorbed! But maybe you could keep reading somewhere that is not against the door I need to get through to exit.
15 September 2010
I'll kick it off with my thoughts on the ending sometime between 8 and 9AM. Seriously, if you haven't read FREEDOM, do NOT enter the comments -- but feel free to pass along to your friends who have and are pestering you to talk about it.
14 September 2010
When Franzen resumes what I don't feel too bad about calling the plot, the central plot, concerning Walter's new job as executor of a billionaire's environmental philanthropy, I felt myself in much better hands. The second half of FREEDOM -- termed, for me, from the time we meet Walter's assistant Lalitha and witness her and Walter describing the work of their foundation to an incredulous Richard Katz -- is packed with events, but not a thriller; contains drama, but not melodrama; and concludes in a sequence that, even if I were to spoil it, would sound so much hokier than I found it. Instead, I was completely moved. I forgot how Franzen excels at endings, and FREEDOM is an example of that. Getting back to my neighbor at the reading, so little perturbed by the man who called himself a "pretty good American novelist" and spoke of wanting to write a book that "corresponds to some genuine change in [him]self," I think she would be far more likely to pick up FREEDOM if she knew how it ended, or at least how the arc of the Berglunds' marriage guides and shapes the book even when it looks as fragile as the population of cerulean warblers Walter's boss claims to want to protect forever. Deeply sad and sometimes cold as it is, it's anything but a tragedy.
13 September 2010
Books I brought with me: 3. Uh, it's a long train ride? One of them was short?
Books I bought: 0, but not for want of selection! I was pleased to see Greenlight as one of the featured sellers -- they didn't even exist this time last year!
Funniest author not appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: Per Petterson (OUT STEALING HORSES, I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME) who was additionally challenged by working in a second language with troublesome microphones.
Funniest author appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: He faced stiff competition, but the award goes to John Hodgman for acting in a way that, were it any other panel, would make him look like an absolute asshole. He interrupted the moderator and tweaked meek "Daily Show" writer Rich Blomquist (co-author with Kristen Schaal of THE SEXY BOOK OF SEXY SEX) endlessly, true, but he also dismantled a VIP row before the show so a few more people could sit down in the audience. He was on a roll, and it was incredible.
Panels I made it to: 6 (and a tiny bit of a 7th). I was bummed not to end the day on the main stage, the way I did last year, but given that it was still raining then I was happy to be inside the spacious (if slightly creepy) St. Francis College building.
Biggest regret: Not getting myself together to hit the Jennifer Egan/ Colson Whitehead/ Steve Almond panel at 10AM.
Second biggest: That I hadn't cloned myself so I could wait for a Salman Rushdie ticket and watch the humor panel at the same time.
Best literary T-shirt:
That's an Orin Incandenza Cardinals jersey. The number is right. The number is even right. And yes, I followed him outside from the humor panel and creepily snapped his photo. Personal Hero, I will make amends to you.
Best person to call me a dork for attending: Comedian Mike Birbiglia, who himself has a book out next month (SLEEPWALK WITH ME AND OTHER PAINFULLY TRUE STORIES). I saw his one-man show twice so his tweet at me really backfired; I'm probably getting it framed.
Author I saw twice in one weekend which probably puts me on some watch list: Rob Sheffield, who participated in one of the "Bookend" events new to the fest this year aimed at extending the event to Friday and Saturday nights. (Awesome idea, by the way.) Before his music panel (with Clover and Ta-Nehisi Coates) on Sunday, Sheffield read from TALKING TO GIRLS ABOUT DURAN DURAN and DJ'd at the Bell House in Brooklyn. He read a section of his book about getting terrible advice from Morrissey, which was sadly fitting considering the deserved hot water Moz is in this week for saying something racist.
Best unexpected moment of clarity: This was my fourth year attending (didn't write about 2007 but see '08, '09) and more than ever, I felt like I was seeing familiar faces even though I couldn't have named the people I saw. It's not an unpleasant feeling but a little disconcerting to see and recognize your sub-subculture in the flesh. I guess this is why people go to professional conferences? At the same time, these moments are somewhat rare in my world as I inch ever further away from "recent college graduate" status. Back then I took it for granted that I would always have people around me who were engaged with books and ideas; I didn't realize that sometimes you have to scrabble to find those people. And, as I let my alternate hippie personality really play through in this paragraph you've all stopped reading, I was grateful not only for the people I saw or ran into (including a girl I lived across the hall from in college! Small world!) during the day but even for the strangers who were sharing my enthusiasm, just so that I knew that they were out there.
Whew. Well, if you've bothered to read this far, sneak preview: Gonna write my review of FREEDOM and post it tomorrow. Additionally, for those of you who have also finished the book, there will be a post specifically so in the comments we can talk about the book with spoilers. (Don't worry, it will be extremely well marked if you wish to avoid it.)
12 September 2010
--Let my Facebook friend James Ellroy entertain you while I'm at the Brooklyn Book Festival.
11 September 2010
Even if we've scraped the sky, we can be rubble.
For years those men felt one way, acted another.
Ground Zero, is it possible to get lower?
Now we had a new definition of the personal,
knew almost anything could occur.
It just takes a little training, to blur
A motive, lie low while planning the terrible,
Get good at acting one way, feeling another.
Yet who among us doesn't harbor
A grudge or secret? So much isn't erasable;
It follows that almost anything can occur,
Like men ascending into the democracy of air
Without intending to land, the useful veil
Of having said one thing, meaning another.
Before you know it something's over.
Suddenly someone's missing at the table.
It's easy (I know it) for anything to occur
When men feel one way, act another.
10 September 2010
I had never seen Bookmarc until last weekend on a postbrunch walk, but it is a bookstore only in the sense that Urban Outfitters could also be called a bookstore because it sells books. The books are window dressing, to get you into the store so you can get your hands on the real goods. It would be more accurate to call it a Bookstore In Name Only, in the sense that some museum bookstores have drifted that way, because spinning racks of postcards take up an awful lot of room.
In the case of Bookmarc, the real goods are a depressing array of branded tote bags (most in beachy brights, unbecoming to people I think of as style icons) and keychains, a truck-stop-sized assortment of keychains. I wouldn't be surprised if the store started personalizing them on the premises soon.
There were books; of course there were books; there were blank books trussed up like the Penguin classic editions with puns even I couldn't enjoy like THE GAY GATSBY; there were novelty notepads. There were a few copies of Patti Smith's JUST KIDS (which my expedition partner noted is actually a really good book, and whose author is not to blame for this mess, and might even bemoan it right here along with me) turned inefficiently face-out in a shelf. There were remainder-sized art books. But no one was buying them, they were all at the register, paying for their keychains.
The arrival of Bookmarc was particularly painful for the neighborhood because it bumped out the 24-year tenant Biography Bookshop. (EDIT: A commenter points out that Biography is not dead, just in a new location -- with the new name bookbook.) With the guilt of the gentrified I admit, I never went there -- and now it's too late. First they came for the other storefronts, and I didn't speak up... et cetera.
Photo of Bookmarc: slamxhype
09 September 2010
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Could you ever see a time when you would write a novel a year?
JONATHAN FRANZEN: No.
That was the first question. Pretty sure J-Franz is going to become a hermit now, and it's not my fault!
08 September 2010
07 September 2010
06 September 2010
31. Our job, then, is two-fold: to focus on our own failings as writers. But also to speak more forcefully as advocates for literature. Books are a powerful antidote for loneliness, for the moral purposelessness of the leisure class. It’s our job to convince the 95 percent of people who don’t read books, who instead medicate themselves in front of screens, that literary art isn’t some esoteric tradition, but a direct path to meaning, to an understanding of the terror that lives beneath our consumptive ennui. It’s hard to make this case, though, if all we do is squabble with each other and lament our obscurity.
32. I am talking to myself mostly.
05 September 2010
04 September 2010
I finally saw my first fellow subway rider reading FREEDOM, in the Times Square subway station tonight. Naturally I asked him about it before I remembered who and where I was. It's one of those things people in New York Do Not Do, in my experience. Luckily he only looked puzzled, not irritated.
03 September 2010
I'd still like to finish this, though, so I'm just going to give myself through the end of the year to work on the list. This troubles me a lot as a person who naturally works to deadline, but it doesn't really make sense to just quit because I was unable to live up to my own expectation. And... I hate writing that, so I'm going to hit publish before I change my mind.
02 September 2010
"The environmental extremist cites Daniel Quinn's books ISHMAEL and MY ISHMAEL, which reportedly detail how a telepathic gorilla 'talks' about the need to save the planet from humankind." You know, it is possible to read those books and then not take a TV station hostage.
01 September 2010
I don't think this is likely, but it tickles me to find out that bookstores have to order the Oprah's Book Club pick in bulk without knowing what it is. That's why her hair's so big, it's full of secrets!