28 February 2011

RIP Suze Rotolo

The author of a memoir called A FREEWHEELIN' TIME: GREENWICH VILLAGE IN THE SIXTIES -- it's good! -- and the girl on Bob Dylan's arm on the record at left passed away Friday at 67. (They went out right before he met his more famous next girlfriend Joan Baez.)

For local buffs, they're on Great Jones Street walking away from Bleecker.

The real reason O: A PRESIDENTIAL NOVEL flopped

So hey I stopped blogging about this book because I got busy and I didn't have time to finish it -- also it was slow and not very suspenseful -- but I finally finished. Now I know why this didn't become the 2011 PRIMARY COLORS, but in order to tell you why I'm going to spoil the end of this book.

If you don't want to know how O: A PRESIDENTIAL NOVEL ends, stop reading right now.

I mean it.

Well okay then! O: A PRESIDENTIAL NOVEL takes place over the 2012 election cycle in which Official Presidential Standin is running for reelection against Tom Morrison, a McCain-Romney hybrid (decorated war hero, former governor of a moderate Democratic-leaning state). Morrison is basically untouchable. Also, the economy and the war in Afghanistan are major issues -- not surprising. There is a passing mention of Sarah Palin, but nothing much. The main villain, at least as described here, is an Arianna Huffingtonesque new-media magnate named Bianca Stefani who pays bloggers almost nothing to report on scurrilous rumors.

The central plot twist in this book concerns one such scurrilous rumor of a cover-up on the side of the Morrison campaign that Stefani and the reporter/blogger assigned to the Morrison campaign amplify, to the potential detriment of the O. campaign. The O. campaign is approached with this rumor by a major donor a few days before Stefani publishes it, but decides not to do anything; unfortunately, because Stefani's site leans left, everyone blames the O. campaign for letting it get out. Then the campaign finds out that major donor had his own agenda for leaking that rumor and have to keep that quiet, as well. From there on it's all, idealists lose their steam, campaign staff sleep together sometimes, et cetera.

Here is why ultimately this book is not still making news: It doesn't have an ending! It literally ends on the day before the general election. After acting so shocked over all the corruption and bad behavior in politics, the anonymous author could at least have had the courage of his convictions to pick a winner. Why did I waste my time otherwise?! Oh, I am steamed. Well, hopefully I saved you the indignant anger.

27 February 2011

Oscar Weekend Special: Top 3 Books (And One Essay) About Movies

As the 2.7 regular readers of this blog know, I love movies. It seems like an odd thing to admit on a book blog, but makes sense if you pull back to medium shot and look at an all-around culture vulture, who just happens to be more obsessive about (and have slightly more to say about) books. I know many hard-core cineastes who hate the Oscars, but I can't help but love them. I loved them when I thought they were the Last Word In Great Film and I love them now that I disagree with half their decisions at least.

This year in honor of the ceremony I'm getting my roommate to teach me to make popcorn over the stove (the taste difference is incredible) and I'll probably burn both hands in the process, so today you get a deluxe edition of books about movies and moviemaking that everyone should read:

It could be argued that this book is more about screenwriting than movies themselves, but Goldman has hung around so many sets and been called in on so many ailing projects that his book is more like a memoir-slash-screenwriting handbook. (Among others, he's most famous for writing the book THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and the screenplay for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.") It was from him long ago that I learned the phrase "in turnaround" which I try to work into conversation a lot in non-film contexts.

Get ready to read this history of Miramax in the '90s with your Netflix account open frantically adding all the movies you missed to your queue. Because I was just on the edge of too young (and/or too sheltered) to enjoy the early '90s indie-film renaissance the first time, this book educated me properly so I can argue about whether Daniel Day-Lewis is all that and a summer sausage or not. This book also kindled my love/hate relationship with the Weinsteins. So good for American film... so evil at the same time... My latest love/hate moment is over their decision to edit "The King's Speech" down to PG-13 over the director's objections. If you've seen the movie, you probably know the 1 scene they are editing and why (I think) it is actually an integral part of the plot and shouldn't be taken out. Harvey!!! Why must you torture me like this Harvey!!!

Love her or hate her, Kael undeniably changed the face of movie criticism as we know it. A true contrarian at heart, she's what Armond White goes to bed crying every night that he's not. I wish she were still alive so I could tell her how wrong she was about "The Sound Of Music," and if you read any of her collections you'll probably find your own sacred-cow-slaughtering over which to confront her. But like a classy lady, she still has the last word on a lot of movies; her championing of "Bonnie and Clyde" practically pushed the movie into the mainstream. You have to be lucky to find a copy of any of her books though, as most if not all are out of print.

Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"
If you took a film class in college you're either violently nodding your head or violently banging your head against a wall at this suggestion. Perhaps both! But you need to read this essay in order to argue with anyone, anywhere about movies, and particularly if you want to talk about or dispute how female characters are represented onscreen. (That should be all of you.) Psychoanalytics are out right now but the same techniques she calls Hitchcock out for are still being used constantly and you'd best have an opinion on them.

So, who do you want to win Best Picture? Are you watching the Oscars for anything in particular?

26 February 2011

Ooh, the author of a dealbreaker! I'm really making it on Twitter now!

Actually, I think I will follow him back and see how long it takes him to offend me enough to not want to read any more. I call this the Kelly Oxford game.

25 February 2011

Awesome Oscar-weekend in-development news: Lisa Chodolenko, director of the all right "The Kids Are All Right," will next tackle an adaptation of Tom Perrotta's The ABSTINENCE TEACHER. (Also, wearing a great suit!)

"I was always writing comedy, I just didn't know it." --Michael Showalter

Last night I went to see Michael Showalter read from his new memoir MR. FUNNY PANTS at Union Square. Showalter was full of mirth in a way that didn't quite gibe with his , but set out to write the über-memoir -- "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES meets A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS meets EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED meets EVERYONE POOPS" -- and ended up with a meta-memoir and collection of some of his comedic pieces that translate well to the page.

I saw Showalter read from MR. FUNNY PANTS way back last year but this time he really took it to another level with a dramatic reading of a poem he wrote when he was 18 called "The Apartment Story," full of all the grit and seaminess 18-year-olds think the world contains. It's sort of faux-Bukowskian. You can read the text here or hear him read a version of it here (from 2006).

The reading was part of the Upstairs at the Square writer/performer series (see my review of the Joseph O'Neill/ Aimee Mann event here) and the other featured performer of the night was singer Neko Case. She was an ideal counterpart to Showalter, in that she was very anti-performative and casual until she stepped up to the microphone and gave everybody chills. Here's a number she sang last night called "Magpie To The Morning" (video is static image):

24 February 2011

Spotted on the subway: Magic!

I get on the train at 14th street. A woman gets on from another door and we end up sitting next to each other. She pulls out a book. I pull out a book. It's the same book.

It was CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL and you should all go out and read it, not just because I feel as though I ought to go out and buy a lottery ticket now.

For demographic context the woman across was reading a neon purple paperback with the word KILLING in the title (I want to say it was THE KILLING TIME, but can't find it online) and the guy next to me was reading SWAMPLANDIA! on his Kindle.

Wallaceblogging: All too brief on THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM

First, and this is in no way meant as a slight, but I expected this book to be much more arcane given my experience with INFINITE JEST. But compared to that undertaking, BROOM is relatively straightforward. Sort of. In that it has one true main character, absolutely.

We meet Lenore Beadsman as a slightly withdrawn high school student visiting her older sister at college; when we get back to her, she's 2 years out of college, working as a switchboard operator in Cleveland without much in the way of ambition. Lenore comes from a prominent local family but doesn't want to have anything to do with her parents, refusing to accept their help to get a better job or apartment. Most of her days are spent putting up with the spiteful admin with whom she shares her office, hanging out at a "Gilligan's Isle"-themed bar(1) and seeing her obsessive, twitchy boyfriend Rick Vigorous, who is pressing her to commit to him more fully. Lenore's world is jolted by a phone call from the nursing home where her beloved great-grandmother, also Lenore, lives; the elder Lenore has apparently escaped, along with a busful of her neighbors. Lenore's father is a corporate big-shoulder, her mother in a mental institution in Wisconsin, so it's up to her... or so she decides.

In capturing that post-college unwillingness to stir BROOM is startlingly pointed, but in its details, sometimes a little sketchy.
It isn't clear how Lenore became the only point of contact for her great-grandmother, except that they had always been close; nor do we get the backstory of how Lenore and Rick got together (2) as theirs is, shall we say, an unconventional workplace romance. THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM kind of rushes over these details to get to... more interesting details and it's only a mild spoiler to point out that we never really get an answer to the answer of where Great-Grandma Lenore has gone -- but I wouldn't even call that the central conflict. The central conflict, as I see it, is that Lenore (spoiler?) comes to realize that the life she has constructed, the limits that she has set for it, are not really working out for her.

DFW wrote BROOM as an philosophy major at Amherst, and a common theory or ideation of the book holds that it expresses his feelings toward the application of philosophy (or lack thereof) in life, or that it was his way with grappling with all those ideas. I have been trying to read up on these philosophical underpinnings and am in a maelstrom of information over it, but Section III of this Slate article was a great way to start. But briefly, Lenore The Original took classes from Wittgenstein and Lenore comes to believe that her great-grandmother's disappearance may even be in some way philosophically based. And we haven't even gotten into the talking bird yet! Well, too much about the talking bird already.

All of which is to say that when I put this book down it sort of made a whoosh! because the ending was slightly unsatisfying, and I wished that it was longer -- or rounder, because the end is much more of a play-type ending than one that makes sense of the strands the author has been playing with the whole time, only to just ball them up and throw them back at the reader. Oh, that's me! Like a lot of DFW, it can make a person extremely self-conscious about how her act of reading is shaping the book that she's reading.

Particularly when there's a publishing meta-game running at the same time. Lenore's boyfriend is the cofounder (and, really, most important employee) of a publishing firm titled Frequent and Vigorous(3), mostly publishing a literary magazine for which Rick Vigorous collects the submissions and sometimes reads them to Lenore. Or maybe... he's reading his own work to Lenore and asking for her comments on it, in the guise of "a submission to the magazine."
The story samples range over the classic undergraduate clichés -- a lot of twist endings -- cruel twists of fate -- nothing you wouldn't recognize from a creative-writing class, should you have been in one. I am torn between "wow, those clichés were around in the '80s too!" and "ughhhhhhh," but you never get the feeling that DFW is grinding an axe against those classes -- just that, well, these are the Stories Of The Fiction Education Establishment, and so they are written in. (Don't forget, DFW and Dan Brown were in some of the same writing classes. This trivium will never not astound me.)

The blurring of that line between Rick's work and his editing work is, I assume, intentional, because as I heard from a friend it can be incredibly painful when someone you love doesn't love what you write. Lenore doesn't seem particularly blasé about his writing, only in that she is just as
blasé about everything except her grandmother disappearing. Maybe it's her blasé-ness that caused me to, I think, latch onto her less than I initially expected. I was not blasé about this book, I think you should definitely give it a shot -- but if you haven't read any other David Foster Wallace before, prepare to meet the firehose. Give it three chapters.

(1) CAN SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN FOR REAL. I never even watched the show but I strongly feel this concept would take off in 20-something hispter New York.
(2) Or at least I don't remember the backstory, and I'm sure someone will correct me if it was mentioned. But that's damning in its own way, isn't it?
(3) Keep in mind this was a college-aged male writing this. Because I am writing this after half a glass of Bordeaux(4) I actually think it's funny, but I am not saying that is a stable judgment.
(4) But I wrote 80 percent of this entry this morning, before Wine Happened At Work, just so we're clear.

23 February 2011

Filmbook-to-be: Live from the 2013 Oscars

Awesome, Peter Guralnick's Elvis biography LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS is (for now) headed to the big screen. Who dares to play Young Elvis Presley?

You heard it here first

The next time I open a novel and discovers it has talking animals in it, no matter what the source... I am going to set that book down and walk away.

No more talking animal books for adults. Ever! Thank you, and goodnight.

22 February 2011

Hey New York, today's City Bakery specialty hot chocolate is called "What Would Faulkner Drink," which is funny because I don't think the place has a liquor license. Should I investigate... hmm.
Small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.  “If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”
 --As a user of Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, I don't know which demographic I am?

21 February 2011

If it's all good for Thomas Jefferson...

Do you write in your books? Re. this New York Times article on marginalia, I think in some ways it's already a lost art (before the advance of e-readers, I mean). I fell out of the habit of writing in my books in college when resale value was important to me but have been wandering back, somewhat.

The trouble is, once I start writing in them, I don't necessarily want to lend out those copies because the notes can feel too personal, even if they are way too cryptic to be understood. If Jefferson (PS Happy President's Day!) knew we were scanning all of his notes for insight into his personality, he may himself have felt overexposed.
The Tournament of Books kicks off 2 weeks from tomorrow with FREEDOM vs. Teddy Wayne's KAPITOIL. In other news, BLOODROOT fluked it in? Really?

20 February 2011

Don't mess with Mister In-Between

When I recently reorganized my books I was astonished to see how many fit into the biography/memoir category... and leaning heavily toward the memoir side of that distribution. Despite being somewhat in the "too many memoirs on the dance floor!" camp, I still read a lot of them -- and have a few I think can stand up against books from any other genre. Long story short (and not to dig up this topic again) perhaps I and we are better off pointing out what we think authors of memoirs (or their publishers) do right, than to broad-stroke shelve the whole genre.

I appreciated STRETCH for its transparency, but for that purposes I must spoil a little (just in this paragraph): While author Neal Pollack began practicing yoga on his own, he eventually got deep enough into it that he began taking assignments from Yoga Journal which, he freely admits, got him into pricey conferences and festivals to help him cope with his all-consuming and somewhat expensive new hobby. (All without touching the Lululemon wire, which... is not a subject for this blog anyway so forget I mentioned it.) At one point he starts to open this subject as a serious dilemma -- the one teacher he wants to study with is conducting a pricey overseas workshop, where will he get the money?! -- and then quite fairly admits that he had gotten his advance for STRETCH already, and sunk that into workshop fees. Meta-memoir? Try truth.

It also tackled the subject of yoga as/in religious experience in a light, breezy format. Granted, I expected that having heard Pollack read an excerpt in September, but it didn't really hit that "And now we're going to get really serious" chapter, as I feared it would. Kind of also want to go to yoga class... but definitely to read Pollack's other books.

18 February 2011

NYC: Here are your remaining Borders stores

Time Warner Center (which puzzles me because the rent must be too damn high in that glorified mall)
Penn Station (see above, minus the glorified mall bit)

32nd and 2nd (by the movie theatre)
Wall Street
And Park Ave. and 57th, the one I always forget about

I can't get too attached to those but I am actually sad my old "local" Borders in Wisconsin is kaput. Where will nerdy/responsible high schoolers hang out now?

Source: City Room
Well now this is interesting: Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP, is being sued by the help a woman who works for her brother, who claims the author appropriated her name and likeness for the book:
The lawsuit, filed in Hinds County Circuit Court, contends that Kathryn Stockett was “asked not to use the name and likeness of Ablene” before the book was published, though it does not specify who asked. Ms. Cooper said that Ms. Stockett, for whose daughter she once baby-sat, had never talked to her about the book... Though the character of Aibileen is portrayed in a sympathetic, even saintly light, she endures the racial insults of the time, something that Ms. Cooper said she found “embarrassing.”
Times has more but with spoilers.

17 February 2011

Wallaceblogging: Short and sweet this week

Who was the last author who inspired you to go back and read her or his earlier books, based on the one you just read?

Along with DFW Jane Gardam is probably the most recent one, and really, can there be a better feeling than finding out a new-to-you author is extensively published? Maybe finding out that an author you love snuck some new book under your nose. Maybe that. But if you can't enjoy this feeling you should seriously reconsider your attachment to books.

16 February 2011

RIP, Borders As We Know It

Having filed for bankruptcy this morning, the bookstore chain will close 200 of its 659 stores. While not much of a surprise, it's hard to see how the company will magically reconfigure itself enough to survive. Then again, there are still K-Marts around, so.

Tattoos not included

MY MOM: See what I'm wearing?
ME: Hmmm.
MY MOM: See the leather stripe on these pants?
ME: Yes...
MOM: This is my Lisbeth Salander outfit.
ME: I don't think so?

15 February 2011

"Unwholesome things have always happened wherever people drink coffee together. They gossip and complain about powerful jerks; they read, write and scheme about their own comebacks. On the sidelines of those conversations — muttering, silently judging, chiming in — have always been loners who loiter with books and newspapers all day, ready to be recruited into conversation. This might come as hard news to would-be restaurateurs looking only to taste that sweet margin of coffee markup, but loiterers and readers must be part of the cafe equation. People who sit at bars are going to make out and brawl; people who sit in cafes are going to read and talk."
-Virginia Heffernan

The Other, Other J. Franzen

Remember when we found out Jonathan Franzen was also a DJ who hangs out in Vegas with Jay-Z? Not satisfied by the amount of traction he's lost in the past month or two, the best-selling author seems to have taken another job, signing up for the NHL under the name Johan Franzén. (Changing the pronunciation and going blond... clever.) As a right wing for the Detroit Red Wings, he's apparently not bad. I looked for other evidence, but I couldn't find much about Johan Franzén otherwise without being able to read Swedish, which in itself is suspicious. Not like he's the first player to balance book writing and his sport, although he could be the first NHL player (says the author who has currently exhausted her knowledge of the NHL just to write this post and keeps writing NFL by accident).

14 February 2011

No te quiero sino porque te quiero
y de quererte a no quererte llego
y de esperarte cuando no te espero
pasa mi corazón del frío al fuego.
Te quiero sólo porque a ti te quiero,
te odio sin fin, y odiándote te ruego,
y la medida de mi amor viajero
es no verte y amarte como un ciego.

Tal vez consumirá la luz de enero,
su rayo cruel, mi corazón entero,
robándome la llave del sosiego.

En esta historia sólo yo me muero
y moriré de amor porque te quiero,
porque te quiero, amor, a sangre y fuego.

-Pablo Neruda (oh all right, translation) from 100 LOVE SONNETS

13 February 2011

Valentine's gift for your nesting book lover

If you're looking today, you might be too late; but I have to note this (albeit pricey) book-scented candle found on, appropriately, Nerd Valentine. Then again if your loved one is the sort who would appreciate such a candle, you're probably better off buying him or her a book and s/he will like that more. The site also recommends COOKING FOR GEEKS, Christoph Niemann's I [LEGO] NY and the new-classic red Moleskines.

Earlier: How to smell like books

12 February 2011

First successful book-to-Twitter adaptation

SHIT MY DAD SAYS became a book. Now Virginia Heffernan and Mike Albo's THE UNDERMINER is a very funny/horrifying Twitter feed. I think the authors are involved (judging by some tweets that have been flying back and forth about it) but I suppose it's possible it could be an ardent fan who just nails the tone of that person who consistently cuts you down over everything under the guise of... well, not doing so, I guess.

11 February 2011

FKA MySpace Angle?

I don't know whether to mock or steal this pose for my own Facebook profile. Photo credit: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times ("A sunny move for New Yorker Jonathan Lethem")

I see his point about the claustrophobia, says the blogger living 900 miles from home. But also to note:

Now that he's here, he can experience the tangible reality of the place — the sun-lit walk into town to get a sandwich, maybe even use the pool behind his house once it warms up. His imagination is elsewhere — 1950s Queens, the setting of his next novel.
Oh wait we already knew that.
A whaling ship belonging to George Pollard, the supposed inspiration for Captain Ahab of MOBY DICK, has been discovered off the coast of Hawaii after it sank 188 years ago.

10 February 2011

Wallaceblogging: Teenagers. They Think They Know Everything

To make a massive understatement, the field of YA literature was not in the '90s what it is today. As I recall the landscape it was populated with mostly series types -- your SWEET VALLEY UNIVERSITYs and 99 FEAR STREETs. I can't remember one particular tipping point at which I switched from those books to the general fiction/literature section of the bookstore, which is probably for the best because this isn't really about my reading history. The point I wanted to make was, adults' books furnished a glass wall to adulthood to which I could press my face and puzzle.

At some point the tide shifted and I went from a kid reading about grown-ups to a grown-up reading about kids. I never set out to do this, and it's still not a sizable portion of my reading budget but books like THE INSTRUCTIONS and THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY and, yes, INFINITE JEST sneak in. Certainly I've read others, that give me the opposite of the feeling I had when I was younger -- that I'm looking back and thinking "No, it was never like that" -- but those three, I found a lot of truth in despite my advanced (harrumph) age.

(On that score, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, which is actually a YA book, was exactly in the middle -- 50 percent "I can completely relate and that is authentic to high school as I know/remembered it," and 50 percent "That is not it at all." NICK AND NORA'S INFINITE PLAYLIST would probably be 52/48. And so on.)

It seems like a slight to point out that one thing INFINITE JEST does extremely well with its teenagers is hide their teenagerness from us; I would never describe it as "a high school book," in part because there's so much else going on. The contents of the boarding school do not fully remain in the boarding school, though the fact that many of the students are unaware of the outside world is typical. (Was it Hal who "discovered" the presence of the halfway house? How eye-rollingly true that is, that as much as you can try to take students out into The Community, that they see as little as they want to see. Not excluding myself from that designation.)

We only meet one high school student in Wallace's debut THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM, and precocious Lenore Beadsman is kind of an outlier in the situation she's in. What I think separates DFW's treatment of the Enfield Tennis Academy students is that he rarely if ever does what I just did, treat them as a homogeneous group. He takes them seriously, individually. Either he knows or he remembered how infuriating adolescents find that kind of treatment, or else he just applied his maximalist jeweler's-loup-eye to them as equally as every other minor character in the book. But how did he remember? That's a question, among many, that I would have liked to ask and now won't.

09 February 2011

Filmbook-to-be: He was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected

Trying to do justice to such a famous book is a really tough assignment, and no doubt some people will be furious that the “chick from Twilight” is involved. (One blogger said the main shot of Dean and Marylou, at the top of this page, looks like “a picture out of an Urban Outfitters catalog.”)
--Probably the most evenhanded take you will read on the forthcoming ON THE ROAD adaptation starring Garrett "Sort Of Josh Hartnett" Hedlund and Kristen "Oh, Her" Stewart. Coming next Oscar season!

The film also features the most random assortment of actors ever, including Amy Adams, "Uncle" Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, Elisabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst and Terrence Howard. I'm just shocked James Franco isn't involved in there somewhere. Sam Riley (breakout: Ian Curtis in "Control") is Sal Paradise.

Goodness. (Jezebel, via Autostraddle)


Today's installment in Life Is Just Like Literature: For readers of CHRONIC CITY, the Second Avenue tunnel boring machine being used by the MTA.

Too bad Jonathan Lethem couldn't be on this coast to see it! He recently took  a chair at Pomona College formerly occupied by David Foster Wallace.

08 February 2011


While you were watching the Super Bowl you missed a chance to win A.M. Homes doing your laundry or Joshua Ferris baking a pie at a fundraiser for Charles Bock and family. I feel like this could be a real (non?)profit center for New York-area authors. While it has been decided that cake is better than pie, a lot of people like pie.

07 February 2011

RIP Brian Jacques

The author of the REDWALL series, without which it is difficult to imagine my childhood, had a heart attack over the weekend. He was 71.

My top 5 REDWALL series books:

Refilling the overflowing coffers

It took me less than a week after I moved into my new place to start buying books again. You thought I was going to quit? Well... I sort of thought I would, too. Eyeing my newly organized bookshelf I thought, "I can't wait to read these and make a little room in here." Then I went out and bought another book anyway, because the A.V. Club book club calls.

The downside to cutting back on buying books is that, olde-timey as it sounds, I genuinely like book shopping. I went to a few different stores, looking for the book, and it was a relaxing errand (granted, I made the time for it to be). None of this is surprising but I guess I forget when the easiest method is to steer away from temptation entirely. Incidentally, the soon-to-be-announced next pick (a first novel by an author whose second novel I really liked) has a bunch of $5.95 copies at the Strand if you're in the market, when the time comes. 

06 February 2011

Spotted on the subway

...in the hands of an extremely agitated man on the D train, in the rare car that has plenty of empty seats and nothing horrible-smelling.

He sat near me, then he fidgeted with his coat and tote bag for a long time. Then he gathered them up with a harrumph and took a seat on the other side of the doors. Was it me? You never want it to be you. My only guess was that he was spooked by either my intermittent sniffles (from the cold) or the cut under my eye when I beat up a bunch of Steelers fans faceplanted into a snowbank walking to the train.

I definitely want to know more about this book, though. Have you ever asked someone out in public about what he or she was reading? (Was it a disaster?)

05 February 2011


Allow me to introduce Jenna Blum's THE STORMCHASERS. Some of it might sound a little familiar, I don't know:

From Publishers Weekly: Karena Jorge gets an unexpected call informing her that her twin brother, Charles Hallingdahl, whom she hasn't seen in the 20 years since something went very wrong during a storm chase, has been admitted to a Kansas mental hospital... Karena joins a professional storm-chasing tour company, hoping to find her brother in the caravan of watchers who follow major storms. The unpredictable and dangerous storms provide a framework for an exploration of the bond between siblings (and its limitations), and Blum renders the stormy backdrop as richly as she does her nuanced characters.


As for Steve Hely, he wrote last week's episode of "The Office" and... that's all I got.

04 February 2011

Cecily von Ziegesar may be the first author to write a parody of her own book. Unless this is a clever joke (in which case, you sold me!) GOSSIP GIRL: PSYCHO KILLER, out in October, will layer a serial-killing element over the plots of Manhattan teenagers getting drunk without parental supervision:
“New characters are brought in for the sake of dying,” [says the author]. “I did want this novel to be original, though it’s funny in that the first novel was very loosely based on THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, so in a way this is a mashup of a mashup.”
Sweet. Incidentally on Monday I watched my first "Gossip Girl" episode in at least a year and a half (I can see your rolling eyes and verily I do not care). Two characters were competing for attention as interns at W and one was going to bring Lorrie Moore in -- they even showed her phone number, which must have been fake because she lives in Wisconsin so would have no reason to have a 212- prefix. Instead Jay McInerney made his second appearance on the show for an event whose purpose I couldn't quite follow, not after two gimlets anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed all this, and my roommates were disgusted.

03 February 2011

I'm intrigued by this list, "Readings from Flyover Country," purporting to cover Midwestern fiction; most of the books are unfamiliar to me (WINESBURG, OHIO being the most prominent exception). Note however that the blog is an advertorial correction: the blog is, but this list is not, so actually no one is paying anyone to write about STONER. so someone is paying for at least this particular coverage of STONER. (Still don't understand the resurgence.)

(This blog is not an advertorial. You can pay me but results are unpredictable.)

Weekly Wallaceblogging

I may not have finished all of his books last year but I am still reading and thinking a lot about David Foster Wallace, so I'm going to write a post a week about him until I've run out of things to say. Most of them will be less shallow and consumerist than this one: I finally ordered myself an Enfield Tennis Academy T-shirt, because I want to be someone else's personal hero at my next book-related event. Readers of INFINITE JEST, can you guess what moniker I put on the back?

Future better topics will include THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM, teenagers and "The Depressed Person."

02 February 2011

I can't believe he went there.

01 February 2011

Important Preorder: Mindy Kaling's essays

November?!! But love the title (somewhat altered from the original). Till then, you can tide yourself over with Michael Showalter's memoir MR. FUNNY PANTS (out Feb. 22) or Tina Fey's essay collection BOSSYPANTS (April 5).

Find me one more comedian's book with the word "pants" in the title and we can be a trend story!

Unbookening went on a magical journey

Checked out 4 books from the library
Got 8 to review
Received 1 as a gift
Bought 1 (THE BLIND ASSASSIN, for Wrapped Up in Books -- since the last time I read it, it was with a library copy)
14 in

Donated 26
Gave away 8
Returned 3 to library
37 out

Technically, my moving effort to get rid of as many books as possible paid off: I was able to slightly downsize my collection to fit into a slightly smaller shelf. (Not perfectly, though -- there are some stacks and outliers.) In doing so, though, I was able to reorganize everything with a nerdy, nerdy glee. How do you have your books organized? Or do you let the pages fall where they may?