31 March 2011

Travel suggestion via blogmigo Wade Garrett: the New Orleans house where William Faulkner wrote his first novel now holds a bookstore.

Wallaceblogging: About to get slightly more interesting.

Guess what I'm going to pick up today!!!!! After all the fuss about a Certain Book's release on April 15 to coincide with Classical (Not In 2011) Tax Day -- because some of the book takes place at an IRS branch office, if I'm not mistaken -- the release date seems to be less of an embargo and more of a guideline, really.

(I am under the impression that you actually have until April 18th this year, but -- and let me make this completely clear -- I am not an accountant and you should seek the services of a competent financial professional before you trust some lady with a blog. Also don't sue me, all I have are books and a talking Jimmy McMillan doll to my name.)

It's kind of a funny story how I came to preorder my copy. I was hanging out on Twitter, reading the usuals, and Matt Bucher (who runs the DFW mailing list [of course that's a thing {I mean, what do you subscribe to, philistine}]) tweeted about an indie bookstore near my apartment that was broadcasting that it Had Copies. I haven't declared any allegiance to a bookstore since I moved, but buying in my neighborhood appealed to me -- and being able to get it before pub date was a bonus.

Not only did the bookstore tweet at me when my copy came in, they also left me an old-school voicemail. Twenty-first-century handselling... What's not to love? I'll tell you all about my new great store after I have visited it and claimed The Precious. Also, apparently this is all something of a cluster because Amazon started shipping before it was supposed to, which (excuse the hackneyed) makes me wonder -- Do you have to pay extra for an embargo? Does it cost more to tell online and brick-and-mortar bookstores "Hey, please put this out on Such-and-such date but don't sell it until then"? One would think so but maybe a bookstore employee, or friend-of, can provide more insight.

Incidentally, the PALE KING hard copy price will be the most I have spent so far on my David Foster Wallace, ah, hobby, the total outlay up to this point looking something like this:

  • $10 Tenth anniversary edition of INFINITE JEST (purchased during the 10th-anniversary year, 2006, and unread for three years after)
  • ??$2-3 library fines on his various other books, those I have not received as gifts 
  • $28 Enfield Tennis Academy shirt 

Given that the shirt was unnecessary (though nice to have... very) I will go ahead and pat myself on the back for the relative inexpensiveness of this passion.

Finally, I enjoyed this piece on the accidental synchronicity of THE PALE KING and the final touring days of LCD Soundsystem.

30 March 2011

Bookfilm: Charles Portis, TRUE GRIT (1968)

The work of American writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen is something of an acquired taste, and with enough time and study I feel confident that I have acquired it. Shown "Fargo" way before I could appreciate it, I eased into their work and eventually crowned 2009's "A Serious Man" my favorite movie of that year. I know that I like them because I will faithfully go to see their movies even when I'm not sure what they're on about -- and 2010's "True Grit" would definitely fall into that category.

"So it's a remake... of a Western..." doesn't sell well to my quadrant, and that this remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie exceeded box office expectations probably reflects the classic holiday movie dilemma more than anything. ("I can't talk to these people any more... but what movie will they all dislike the least?" Last year's "Sherlock Holmes" did gangbusters for my family, because we like action, trickery and Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr almost smoochin'.) But in the end I couldn't rope anyone in my family into seeing "True Grit" apart from my dad, the old-school Coenite responsible for that first viewing of "Fargo."

I liked the movie just all right, in the end. I need some Jeff Bridges detox time because every role he takes looks the same to me, was pleasantly surprised by Matt Damon and surprised neutrally by Josh Brolin (forgot he was in the movie, although he is on the poster!) By far my greatest enjoyment was derived from the performance of Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the 13-year-old with a wad of cash bent on avenging her father's death at the hands of his own hired man, who pays bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to take off after him into Indian country. Mattie may be naive, but she's also a total badass who stands up to men twice her age and weight without flinching. She's tenacious; no one tolerates her in most environments, but she clings on until the yielding point. A peculiar feeling swept over me contemplating Mattie Ross, which could be summed up as, "If I ever have a daughter, I hope we can watch this movie together."

My knowledge of Westerns as in literature is about on par with my knowledge of Westerns on film -- scanty and derived mostly from looking over other people's shoulders. I sat down with TRUE GRIT just to be able to say that I'd read it and move on to something for which I didn't already know the ending. This is the risk you run, reading the book after seeing the movie! (Suppose it's the other way as well... but never mind.) But with all due respect and the lagging processes of the New York Public Library, I didn't pick up TRUE GRIT until well into March. But the Mattie of the novel is even saucier than the movie version, and her voice delighted me. Here are my top five Mattie Ross Burns, which I actually took the time to type up:

  • "The magazines of today do not know a good story when they see one. They would rather print trash. They say my article is too long and 'discursive.' Nothing is either too long or too short if you have a true and interesting tale and what I call a 'graphic' writing style combined with educational aims. I do not fool around with newspapers. They are always after me for historical write-ups but when the talk gets around to money the paper editors are most of them 'cheap skates.'"
  • "LaBoeuf the Texan was at the table, shaved and clean. I supposed he could do nothing with the 'cowlick.' It is likely that he cultivated it."
  • "[Your work is] the same idea as a coon hunt. You are just trying to make your work sound harder than it is."
  • "Run home yourself. Nobody asked you to come up here wearing your big spurs."
  • "Keep your seat, trash." (This is from the best scene in the movie, and that's all I'll say about that.)

Portis' novel gives us some context into Mattie's telling of her tale (no spoilers!) without seeming as though it's embellishing her voice. Her frame of reference is explicitly Biblical, and I'm sure there were many in-text references which I did not get. In a way, her quest is resolutely Old Testament: Instead of giving up after her father's death, as her mother has seemed to do, Mattie invents herself a sort of avenging angel role and goes after his killer against the practical advice of everybody.

I can only guess how rare it is to encounter a female protagonist in a Western, who is not either Annie Oakley or a prostitute. In fact, after one character gives in to her demands another accuses him of basically being seduced by her, saying (and I will quote this to the end of time) "She has got you buffaloed with her saucy ways." It's funny because Mattie is the last character you would expect to behave in that way. You'd sooner see Rooster, the twice-divorced drunken old bounty hunter who just may have killed some women and children during the Civil War, whoops, flashing some sock garter. It just wouldn't happen. She is clear on her level of shenanigan, and that level is nil.

Literature could use more Mattie Rosses, and so could the world. If you're feeling that your line-up of female characters could use a little amplification, you should pick up TRUE GRIT even if you're having hesitations over the genre. As for the movie, I will begrudgingly say it's worth it for the final scene, and the song rolling over the end credits -- and a few other things. But read the book first. Don't be like me.


  • Dedicated as I am to you, my 2.87 readers, I didn't bother watching the 1969 "True Grit" for this post. If it had been available on Netflix Instant Watch, I might have considered it, but the result probably would have been the same. I know two things about the John Wayne classic: (1) According to some, it is less faithful to the Portis novel than the Coens' version, and (2) Mattie Ross is played by a 22-year-old with the most absolutely horribdiculous (=  horrible + ridiculous) haircut you have ever seen. It's like a bowl cut for a girl, but with bangs.
  • It was the worst ageing-down haircut I'd seen in a movie since the Drew Barrymore/ Jennifer Connelly pigtails in "He's Just Not That Into You."
  • This book was part of Your Oscar Nominees Reading List. Have you caught up on any post-Oscars reads recently? I did see some kind of book tie-in to THE KING'S SPEECH on the stand at B&N recently, related to Lionel Logue's diaries I think, but not enough to buy it right away.
  • The last time I ran this feature I called it the Reverse Filmbook, but that's really not whimsical enough.

29 March 2011

I didn't really like Henning Mankell's FACELESS KILLERS when I read it last year, but the Swedish series starring Detective Kurt Wallander (who has been played by Kenneth Branagh in a British adaptation) ends with this week's release TROUBLED MAN. If you get all the way through, let me know.

Jennifer Egan: "I wouldn't probably qualify as an actual crazy cat lady."

Last night I went to Jennifer Egan's paperback release party for her recent NBCC-winning novel A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. The difference between an ordinary reading and a public release party is that sometimes at release parties there is free wine that will mostly be gone when the reading is over.

Egan lives near to Bookcourt, the Brooklyn bookstore that hosted the event, and even described herself pacing up and down Court Street trying to figure out a particularly thorny issue in GOON SQUAD and listening to her then-favorite song, which she can no longer bear to hear. The crowd was friendly and seemed largely familiar with GOON SQUAD's cast and plot twists (in a way your humble recapper is not -- alas --). After Egan read a section dealing with teenagers in a punk band called The Flaming Dildos, someone asked what happens to the band in the book. "Well, they aren't real," she said with a laugh. "And unfortunately, they aren't any good."

Even if they had heard it before, no one minded hearing again how GOON SQUAD was born; how Egan had written a few stories that seemed to hold something more, and began writing a story about a man before realizing it was really his crazy ex-wife she wanted to follow, and an encounter with a stranger's wallet, and so on. She described it to her agent expecting to be shot down, and was instead encouraged toward a piece that isn't a collection of short stories, nor really a novel. (Her agent was in the audience.) Egan said she loves the new paperback cover, describing it as "like candy," but what she loves more are the end-of-year lists that bumped her book back into great sales figures. (I've never heard an author opine as frankly on how much those help; it was prompted by an audience member, though, who originally asked more about the fiction award.)

As to the cats, Emma Straub (also a local, and a Bookcourt employee, who introduced Egan) mentioned them first; the first question led her to divulge she has two, Diamond and Cuddles ("named by my children"), and one of them fried her laptop knocking a glass of water into it sometime during GOON SQUAD's writing. While discussing one unconventional (no spoilers!) chapter of GOON SQUAD she even half-suggested that it was the cat that forced her into a new direction, because her new laptop allowed her to work on it in a different way.

As to the old stock photo, Egan looks almost exactly like that, just slightly more pink than pale, which is really not important anyway. No one asked her about her competitors for the NBCC award, nor her recent Tournament of Books match. As it should be.

28 March 2011

RIP Diana Wynne Jones

Author of many many fantasy books for kids including CHARMED LIFE, THE LIVES OF CHRISTOPHER CHANT, DOGSBODY and (my favorite) A TALE OF TIME CITY, passed away Saturday, at 76. Evacuated from London during the Blitz as a young child, Wynne Jones overcame dyslexia to write the books she was always looking for as a young reader and counted Neil Gaiman among her admirers. She leaves behind one last book called EARWIG AND THE WITCH.

Every 3-4 months I look this one up and then I kind of shake my head a little, as if to say: Not on Kindle? Then not yet.

27 March 2011

"Frankly, it is not my words that I mistrust but your minds. I could be eloquent were I not afraid you fellows had starved your imaginations to feed your bodies. I do not mean to be offensive; it is respectable to have no illusions--and safe--and profitable--and dull. Yet you, too, in your time must have known the intensity of life, that light of glamour created in the shock of trifles, as amazing as the glow of sparks struck from a cold stone--and as short-lived, alas!"
-Joseph Conrad, LORD JIM

26 March 2011

True reader confession

I love Anne Lamott's writing book BIRD BY BIRD, and everything else she writes sends me up the damn wall. I just read an article by her for a big glossy magazine about finding time to write, and between the fable about the wise man and the gold coins, and the straw men, and the oh how lovely to be sitting out in the garden... I just can't take it. My Hippie Blinders will not permit me to go on. I am sorry about this, because I feel like it is I who have a deficit, not her.

25 March 2011

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and the extinction

When I found out Monday afternoon that Adrian Nicole LeBlanc was speaking at the City University of New York this past Tuseday, I more or less postponed my life to be there. I've read her first (and so far only) nonfiction book RANDOM FAMILY four -- maybe five times? -- definitely at least four, cover to cover. I read it and I'm dazzled by the work that went into it, the lyric quality of the writing, that it's beautiful and true and, ultimately, heartbreaking.

Who could have written such a book? "Who" turned out to be a short, curly-haired woman with a dry wit, prone to aphorisms that will make you get a notebook out. Modest, but not in a fake way. Sees herself as a reporter first, and a writer second, but asserts that anyone could have written her study of teenagers and drug dealers in the Bronx. Anyone could go out and report that story?

Not anyone. This woman, who often refers to her years of note-taking and tape-recording (and sometimes, forgetting to do either during her subjects' busy days) as "the fieldwork" and says she doesn't even remember RANDOM FAMILY's warm published reception because her father was being treated for cancer, ultimately dying just after the book's release.

It's hard to shake the feeling, even as LeBlanc references the journalism class she's teaching at CUNY this semester, that that mold has been fundamentally fractured in a way. Writers in the crowd, can you imagine spending 10 years on a project now? And being able to live and continue working in the meantime (LeBlanc wasn't exactly holed in a garret, she did earn 2 master's degrees while working on RANDOM FAMILY)? Ten years. It boggles the mind. (Ten years ago I could barely see past my next AP test and/or the end of the world, for the record.) And she didn't have a book deal all that time -- it's one thing for an established author to work for 10 years on something, but another for a first-timer.

The consolation for all of us is that while they may not make reporters like her any more, she is still working -- readying a second book now, on struggling comedians (excerpts from which she read Tuesday night). That has to be enough for now.
The success of Amanda Hocking, a self-published author who's sold over a million e-books, has often been held up as proof that the e-book model is sustainable. Then she signed with a major publisher. Who will be the  example now??

24 March 2011

"People kept asking me, 'Where are you in this book?' And my first answer was, I'm everywhere in it! I'm in every word! I made all the choices!"
--Adrian Nicole LeBlanc on RANDOM FAMILY. Saw her speak two days ago, it was incredible, I'm still digesting -- way more tomorrow.

23 March 2011

It's nostalgia day. I just decided.

"Admit it, you hoarded these flyers in your room, painstakingly circling and starring the ones you wanted, you little word nerd." URLesque found and scanned a bunch of those book club mailers popular in the days before children could beg their parents to buy books online. 

I once got in trouble for ordering a book from book order that my parents had said I wasn't allowed to buy. (I can't believe I didn't talk about this on the blog! It was a novelization of a movie I wasn't allowed to see, which I was then told I couldn't read, but... maybe I checked off that box anyway.) Punishment: No book order for 6 months! I was 7. Those were hard times. I later watched the movie it was based on, and it was terrible, so I guess they had a point.
"Readers may be surprised to learn that SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL is the first SWEET VALLEY book Pascal has actually written cover to cover (though, she says with a laugh, "I wrote every single one of those f--king plotlines")."
--Jessica Bennett at The Daily Beast on Francine Pascal, who indeed has a new book coming out next week about the Wakefield twins. And if you have no idea what this paragraph is about, you probably weren't a girl in the '80s to late '90s.

22 March 2011

Know what makes history better? Scare quotes!


HER FRIEND: Oh, what's that about?
WOMAN IN CAFETERIA: It's about the Chicago World's Fair and 'apparently' there were 'a few' murders and it was 'sort of dangerous.'

In her defense this is also Michele Bachmann's summary of the book.

Ah, the callowness of youth!

If Mr. Teubner were to pick a literary bed, he would move to Bennington, Vt., where Bret Easton Ellis slept. “I’m not sure that’s typical,” he said. “A lot of kids my age don’t read Ellis anymore. He’s a little old. He was big in the ’90s.

21 March 2011

No photos available

The L.A. Times was forced to get its ombudsman out after readers took issue with the web version of its NBCC Awards piece. The headline read "Egan Beats Franzen," but the accompanying photo showed Jonathan Franzen; compounding the potential bias, the following lede read "The Jennifer Egan work bests Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM," omitting the name of Egan's award-winning novel A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. The excuses given for these choices in the "reader representative"'s report are (a) Egan's book hasn't sold as well, so is positioned as an upset ("Some Dude Beats Goliath"?) and (b) the AP only had a photo "from 2006" available.

Congratulations, you just made it worse!!

I don't think anyone meant to slight Egan -- the decisions were probably made late at night, by people who had a lot of articles to turn over for the next day's paper, and did what they thought was best re. fitting a cumbersome title in and providing an eye-catching graphic. But just once it would be nice if one of these public-editor pieces came out with "Yeah, we can see how that looks sexist, and we didn't mean it, and we're really sorry." And what is the justification behind noting, after Egan's photo was swapped in, that she was "photographed in 2006"? She's alive, and she's not a kidnapping victim (or a hermit that we know of). We wouldn't know the difference.

To me, leaving A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD out of the lede is a greater sin, journalistically speaking. One glance at the headline and you'll come away with author, but not title. Think of it as, "Pres. Obama Orders Missile Strikes Against Some Nation." The information is significant.

And finally, Jonathan Franzen has an ability to insert himself into any storm, right? He had nothing to do with this, but here we are talking about him as if he were some sort of Male Literary Culture lighting rod. He should have been a Real Housewife.
Airport Bookstore collects pictures of international editions of the same book. Favorite so far: The Norwegian WILD SHEEP CHASE. Glorious.

20 March 2011

Prank or honest discard?

Hard to parse the meaning of your neighbor leaving out a free copy of Heather McDonald's YOU'LL NEVER BLUE BALL IN THIS TOWN AGAIN.

19 March 2011

I don't watch a lot of live TV, which is why this week I am that person who is sending you LeBron James with the tiny violin and you're all, UGH, old news. So pardon if I am the last to point out this Amazon Kindle ad featuring a song I really like, with a somewhat contrarian message:

18 March 2011

Parenthetical of the week

"(*Just because you’re a Neil Strauss fan does not mean you’re also a pick-up artist.)"
--Peter and I were chatting about Neil Strauss' new book on Twitter and let the record show, I definitely don't want to believe that. It is important that someone puts that out there.

17 March 2011

No Wallaceblogging this week, but here are two New York-area PALE KING events:
  • Thursday, April 14: Public reading starting 10:30pm at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Con: you must preorder the book in order to attend, but pro: They start selling at midnight. I haven't been to a midnight release party since HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS! Also, it seems that anyone can read... hmm
  • Friday, April 15: THE PALE KING reading featuring Laura Miller, Lev Grossman and Charles Bock at the Strand. Pro: it's free, and you can't go wrong with the Strand. Con: It's a Friday night, some of us have places to be (in my case, NJ).

It's St. Patrick's Day

Mystery author Mary Higgins Clark is leading the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York today, but she didn't make the list of my top 5 Irish writers:

5. Samuel Beckett
4. Edna O'Brien
3. W.B. Yeats
2. Oscar Wilde
1. James Joyce (well, obviously)

16 March 2011


Books I got for my birthday last weekend:
  • Seth Mnookin, THE PANIC VIRUS
  • Téa Obreht, THE TIGER'S WIFE
Sometimes people don't buy me books because they're afraid of picking up something I already own or have no interest in -- but I'm much more often pleased than disappointed. That said a word to the wise: If you are buying Kindle books as a present, they will be "delivered" the exact day you buy them -- there doesn't seem to be any "Buy now, download later" option. (Not mad, Dad!) (He doesn't even read this.)

15 March 2011


Here's something cool I heard about on the radio the other day for you New Yorkers: Actors read from FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS for the book's 40th anniversary. (Forty?!)

Everyone should read FEAR AND LOATHING once. I actually read it the first time I went to Vegas, in possibly the textbook anti-FEAR AND LOATHING Vegas experience (family vacation, most of which was spent sleeping I see) but you can't help feeling vicariously debauched through its pages.

14 March 2011

People Who Have Never Been To Borders Write Borders Revenue Plan

Sometimes Gawker just gets it straight on. (The cafes must be pretty profitable already as stand-alone entities, right? I mean, that is not a $4.50 slice of cake, let's not kid ourselves.) Thanks to DRA for sending this to me.
He stood up with the tips of his fingers resting on the desk.

'"We want in so many different ways to be," he began again. "This magnificent butterfly finds a little heap of dirt and sits still on it; but man he will never on his heap of mud keep still. He want to be so, and again he want to be so... " He moved his hand up, then down... "He wants to be a saint, and he wants to be a devil--and every time he shuts his eyes he sees himself as a very fine fellow--so fine as he can never be... In a dream... "

'"And because you not always can keep your eyes shut there comes the real trouble--the heart pain--the world pain. I tell you, my friend, it is not good for you to find you cannot make your dream come true, for the reason that you not strong enough are, or not clever enough... Ja!... And all the time you are such a fine fellow too! Wie? Was? Gott im Himmel! How can that be? Ha! ha! ha!"

The shadow prowling amongst the graves of butterflies laughed boisterously.

'"Yes! Very funny this terrible thing is. A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns--nicht wahr? . . . No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. So if you ask me--how to be?"

--Joseph Conrad

13 March 2011

"Unfamiliar Fishes" trailer

Your move, Crosley.

12 March 2011

Literary Death Match Turns 5

On Thursday I went to my second ever Literary Death Match, a reading series where four writers are pitted against each other in front of three judges whose attention toward great books is at best tenuous. Literary Death Match started here, but I had to go to Baltimore this past fall to discover how fun it was, and saw BIG FISH author Daniel Wallace eke out a win at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

At the anniversary show, Iowa memoirist Andre Perry bested British memoirist Jane Bussmann (whose initial reaction to losing was unprintable, yet hilarious) in the final round featuring cupcake throwing and icing dart guns. Bussmann probably had a slight lead because her one-woman show was about to open here, but in the end no one could have predicted the outcome. Jimmy Donn of "The Daily Show" and Alison Espach also read in earlier rounds, Donn from a parody sex manual called OUR BODIES, OUR JUNK and Espach from her debut THE NEIGHBORS.

I highly recommend you seek out Literary Death Match if it's ever near to you; I go to a fair amount of readings, but most of them aren't so rowdy, and it is a welcome change. (I only look like I'm not having fun in Electric Literature's recap.) My initial attraction toward this edition was judge Hannibal Buress, "covering" literary merit -- "I thought this was supposed to be a nerdy '8 Mile,'" he said on finding out every competitor was reading an excerpt from a longer piece -- but not knowing the panelists is no object. New York's next edition is May 25.

11 March 2011

Congratulations to the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, announced last night here in Manhattan:
Fiction: Jennifer Egan, A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD
Nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson, THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS
Biography: Sarah Bakewell, HOW TO LIVE
Poetry: C.D. Wright, ONE WITH OTHERS
Autobiography: Darin Strauss, HALF A LIFE

...I've got some reading to do.

10 March 2011

Wallaceblogging: Following the money

I wanted to use this week's post to respond to the questions posed over at Common Sense Dancing about THE PALE KING and whether it should have been published. Coincidentally there was also an article in the New York Observer this week titled, crudely, "Dead Author Breeds Big Business: The David Foster Wallace Industry," about the release of THE PALE KING and other DFW-related books.

First, I think there are two questions and a supplemental matter for discussion circling in here. Is THE PALE KING a finished book? No; we know from DFW's publisher and agent that he had not turned in a draft, so by that metric of readiness, no.

What would the author have wanted us to do with the unfinished draft? Here is the trouble. DFW didn't leave a Kafkaesque "Burn everything" note behind, and if he did leave a particular PALE KING indication, we have not heard of it yet. Much of the coverage has asked this question in this way: How does it best honor the author's memory -- publication or no publication? and obviously there is no clear answer there, either.

What I liked about the Observer article was the number of DFW-related books that will be arriving on shelves soon, which it brought to light for me. That should indicate how I feel about this -- that I am generally in the "the more the better" camp. If there had been a publishing-related DNR slapped on the draft of THE PALE KING, that would be a different matter... but there wasn't. And to fall into the same fallacy as the article does, I would speculate that if the author truly didn't want that unfinished piece of work published, he would have ensured it would not happen. I believe DFW's wife Karen Green is the executor of his estate and would have carried out his wishes. Again, I say that without any basis in fact, that is all rampant unhealthy speculation on my part.

I don't think any author is or would be super jazzed about publishing a first draft, but it happens a lot. On the other hand, it shouldn't surprise or dishearten anyone to know that DFW left drafts behind, and that those drafts didn't flow perfectly from the Muse through his fingers and onto the page. I think if there were a Gordon Lish situation, we would know about that by now. (I guess there could still be claimants...) On the other other hand, if the existence of drafts ruins the magic for you, possibly you (a) are not a writer yourself and/or (b) seriously need to build a bridge and get over it.

(The supplemental matter, and this is definitely a subject for a broader discussion, is whether the label of "cash-in" is dependent on the amount of money and/or the crassness with which the products are displayed. I was going to write to prove my opinion -- which is that there is a connection -- "Nobody is selling David Foster Wallace T-shirts," but um, er, oops.)

09 March 2011

Brian Christian on "The Daily Show"

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first member of my graduating college class to publish a book... and definitely the first that I knew. Looking forward to picking up his book.

The Clientele, "Bookshop Casanova"

Slightly old, but insanely catchy. The management does not recommend however that you actually go into a bookshopstore singing this and expect to have success.

Also appreciated, Alasdair MacLean representing for the incredibly pale people of the world. Throw your hands in the air! Then put some more sunscreen on them!

08 March 2011

99. J.P. Donleavy, THE GINGER MAN

Do you like stately, plump Buck Mulligan? Want to spend 250 pages with him?

I grabbed this paperback in a hurry because I was going to Hoboken for St. Patrick's Day (observed on Saturday) and, o vanity, needed a book that would fit in my jacket pocket in case things got out of hand. (They didn't.) I had tried to read it almost four years ago and found it difficult to get into, but this time I sailed through the stream-of-consciousness musings of one Sebastian Dangerfield, American expat in Dublin ostensibly going to school on the G.I. Bill but largely scamming drinks and sleeping with every woman who will have him, to the obvious disapproval of his cold English wife.

From what I've read about THE GINGER MAN I know it was banned or at least restricted for much of its published life. It didn't offend me but the depravity wore me down even in that slim a volume. When Sebastian's fortunes seemed to take their umpteenth turn, I both wanted him to succeed in his latest scheme, and knew that he wouldn't. (Vagueness to avoid spoilers.) There is one really incredible sequence involving an animal costume, though.

J.P. Donleavy is in fact still with us -- this is his first novel, probably one of the only first novels on the Modern Library list, and seems to be at least somewhat autobiographical -- but hopefully he hasn't learned to Google himself.

Ellen VS. ML: 53 read, 47 unread.

Next up: After a long suspension, working on #85 LORD JIM on Dailylit.

07 March 2011

Also, Chuck, turn a damn light on

Simon and Schuster's new site Ask the Author collects author videos based (ostensibly) around reader questions. I sincerely hope that the publisher is chipping in for video training before setting them loose. Only seems fair! I mean, you'll notice this isn't a vlog right now. (Via Galleycat.)

Unbookening... goes digital?

Bought 1 book
Got 3 returned
Borrowed 3

Gave away 4
Lent 3
Returned 2 to library

Quandary: How should e-books be accounted for? (Slash, should they be accounted for?) On one hand, I bought two this month, and that technically is piling up more volumes than I can read in a lifetime. On the other hand, I started doing this to keep track of physical books I don't have physical room for, and I am well stocked on my Kindle memory card (so far). What would you do?

06 March 2011

Spotted on the subway

Obvious prediction: With the publication of its chef's memoir bookings at Prune will only rise. I've never eaten there so I can't say whether it's worth it, but if I read the book I'm sure I'd be curious.

(And damn, what a cover.)

05 March 2011

"There’s the 'Autocue Substitute,' where I scan my current sentence for trouble and change vocabulary and grammar to avoid it, without (ideally) my listener noticing. This doesn’t work when I’m doing a reading (though occasionally I’ll substitute a word in one of my own books on the hoof), but it was excellent training for a future novelist. By the age of 15 I was a zit-spattered thesaurus of synonyms and an expert on lexical registers. At my rural comprehensive, substituting the word 'pointless' with 'futile' would get you beaten up for being a snob because the register’s too high—it’s a teacher’s word—so I’d deploy 'useless.'"

--David Mitchell, from an essay on "The King's Speech."

04 March 2011

Definitely not the first SNL actor turned author

The adorable "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On" will be published as a children's book in November.

If you haven't gone children's book shopping lately I highly recommend it -- not just because it seems to be one of the most durable segments of publishing.

03 March 2011

David Foster Wallace, "Backbone"

Everyone can play along at Wallaceblogging this week because an excerpt from THE PALE KING is in this week's New Yorker. "Backbone" is even available for free online, so if you want to go read it now, I'll wait.

(drums fingers on my desk) 

Well, excerpts sure are frustrating. Without knowing anything else about THE PALE KING I'm feeling sort of a forest/trees disconnect with this piece. Nevertheless, even in short form we see some of the familiar DFW themes popping, like social isolation, and commitment to an impossible task. "Arcane medical conditions" isn't a theme, but a six-year-old seeing a chiropractor would qualify under some similar header. (The McWhirters, I had to Google. There just isn't much of a market for contortionists these days.)

The further I get away from "Backbone" the more I want to know what follows it, because late in the story we shift from the boy (whose predicament, while real, is also painfully symbolic) to his father and his father's problems. What did you think? Do we speculate that THE PALE KING will return to them, or are they just an anecdote?

02 March 2011

Sassy Gay Friend does GREAT EXPECTATIONS

And now, with sponsorship.

"We need a new plan for you, one that doesn't involve wearing one shoe for the rest of your life."

Stuff We Love: Goodreads "New Books by Authors You've Read" Newsletter

If you're not already on Goodreads, either you're missing out on a bundle of social networking fun or you likely don't have a desk job (or both).

I can't remember when they started doing this, but I've been getting a newsletter at the beginning of every month featuring books by authors whose books I've listed before. Okay, so I knew Sarah Vowell had a new book out but not about John Elder Robison's second book, nor Mike Daisey's ROUGH MAGIC. I consider myself pretty well steeped in book news but this just goes to show, some things would still slip through the cracks otherwise. Kudos!

01 March 2011

— I'm a simple person — said Davin.— You know that. When you told me that night in Harcourt Street those things about your private life, honest to God, Stevie, I was not able to eat my dinner. I was quite bad. I was awake a long time that night. Why did you tell me those things 1 —

— Thanks — said Stephen.— You mean I am a monster.—

— No — said Davin — but I wish you had not told me.—

A tide began to surge beneath the calm surface of Stephen's friendliness.

— This race and this country and this life produced me — he said.— I shall express myself as I am.—

— Try to be one of us — repeated Davin.— In your heart you are an Irishman but your pride is too powerful.—

— My ancestors threw off their language and took another — Stephen said.— They allowed a handful of foreigners to subject them. Do you fancy I am going to pay in my own life and person debts they made? What for? —

— For our freedom — said Davin.

— No honourable and sincere man — said Stephen — has given up to you his life and his youth and his affections from the days of Tone to those of Parnell but you sold him to the enemy or failed him in need or reviled him and left him for another. And you invite me to be one of you. I'd see you damned first.—

— They died for their ideals, Stevie — said Davin.— Our day will come yet, believe me.—

Stephen, following his own thought, was silent for an instant.

— The soul is born — he said vaguely — first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.—

Davin knocked the ashes from his pipe.

— Too deep for me, Stevie — he said.— But a man's country comes first. Ireland first, Stevie. You can be a poet or mystic after.—

— Do you know what Ireland is? — asked Stephen with cold violence.— Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.—

--James Joyce, A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. I used to think Stephen Dedalus was the idiot, now I know that it was me.