Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Books to Read, Poetry to Peruse, and Monsters to Fear, but Ultimately Love

A plethora of links today, including a Kelly (It's funny cause her last name is Link, see?)

Via Bookslut: Check out two new poems from Sherman Alexie, "How to Create an Agnostic" and "Mystery Train," at failbetter.com. While you're there check out their interview with Susan Choi and learn about irrepressible urges, tight plots, and anxieties over the pantheons of Russian and Jewish literarure.

Every week, the good folks at the Onion A.V. Club throw out a question for discussion among their staff and readers. This week they have an article asking, "What one book would you most like to make the rest of the world read?" Picks range from the pilgrims of Chaucer to the endogged stars of Dianne Wynne Jones. Be sure and stay for the credits, too. As always with these sorts of articles, some of the most erudite, and erm, colorful commentary can be found in the comments section.

And finally, from the invisible world of radio, head over to those uncertain folk at, To The Best of Our Knowledge (TTBOOK as the kids call it) for a discussion of horror, including conversations with Andrew Davidson and Kelly Link about their books, Gargoyle and Pretty Monsters, respectively.

Monday, September 29, 2008

On the first Wednesday of every month, the English Department at Ole Miss, plus whoever else stumbles in or we wrangle along, convene at Jubilee on the square to celebrate the work of a fiction writer and a poet from our program. We call this Broken English. There's a shiny MC, a podium of many autographs, and a lot of very supportive, not too drunk, people. It's one of the cooler things about matriculating in Oxford, actually.

Here's what our shiny MC says...

"This Wednesday's reading features the soaring prose of fiction writer, Chris 'Don't Make Me Show You My Superpowers' Kammerud, and the lyrical phraseology of poet, Alicia 'Obama Mama' Casey."

Drinking begins at 8, the spoken word at 8:30. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood and say hello. I'll be the guy in a cape*.

*A superhero cape, not a Dracula cape. Probably I'll just wear a t-shirt.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Banned Books Week

Reading Neil Gaiman's journal, one learns many interesting things about cats and Maddys and graveyards, plus the occasional interesting thing about books, such as that this week is Banned Books Week. Every year the ALA celebrates our freedom to read by reminding us of those small pockets of resistance still carrying on in their noble, hopefully futile, quest to rid the world of children's books with too many wizards, adult books with too many racisms, or books of any sort with homosexual penguins.

The ten most frequently challenged authors of 2007 according to the ALA:

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Do your part readers, go to your local library or bookstore and pick up a book THEY don't want you to read. Do it for your country, for your soul, and for that little devil on your shoulder that looks remarkably like a young Mark Twain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cartoonist as Auteur

In honor of The Yalobusha Review opening it's doors, er, pages, to short graphic stories (graphic here meaning pictures, not naked lawyer mud wrestling, although...), here's a couple of links from the world of narrative art.

First, check out those hip geeks at The Wall Street Journal and their article about the life-changing work going on in graphic novels from Europe. Here you'll discover cool phrases like bandes dessinées, and learn that while we yanks have been slow in embracing comic books as a medium for more than the adventures of radioactive men and women, places like France and Belgium have celebrated the many possibilities of the artform for decades: see Tintin or Asterix.

When you're done feeling sophisticated and worldly, head over to Amazon's Omnivoracious and their Graphic Novel Fridays post about the throwback to early sci-fi pulp and wonder that is Fear Agent by writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore (Walking Dead). Who doesn't love space suits and tentacle monsters, right?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mostly Harmless and Another Thing...

A couple of pan-galactic and large-hearted links for you today, readers:

From the "I never could get the hang of Thursdays" department, Eoin Colfer will write the sixth volume of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy and will also, almost certainly, be unfairly maligned by readers for being named Eoin Colfer and not Douglas Adams, but that's not really his fault is it? Let's put the blame where it really belongs people, on Eoin's parents.

That said, Largehearted boy has blogged Esquire's 75 books Every Man Should Read, a list that has neither Eoin Colfer or Douglas Adams on it. You will find such manly luminaries as Roth, Cheever, London, and Saunders on it, though. Even foreign men like Murakami make an appearance. Not too many women, though. One, to be exact. Flannery O'Connnor, who Barry Hannah has admitted he thought to be a man for many years. Head here, for the whole thing in slideshow-style.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Final Country

Opening lines of James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss:
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

From Crumley's The Final Country:
"It's done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I've stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I'll sure as hell never go back to Texas again."

James Crumley, author of the hard-boiled classic The Last Good Kiss, died on Wednesday afternoon at the age of 68. George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Michael Connelly are among the authors that counted Crumley as a major influence. Crumley was born in Three Rivers, Texas, grew up in south Texas, and spent three years in the U.S. Army. His Vietnam novel One Count to Cadence was his thesis at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Struggling to follow it up, he was introduced to the work of Raymond Chandler and wrote The Wrong Case, a landmark crime novel. With The Last Good Kiss, his third book, Crumley changed the face of contemporary crime fiction. Crumley was also the author of The Mexican Tree Duck, Bordersnakes, Dancing Bear, The Final Country, and The Right Madness. Over the years, he taught at the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Montana. He died in Missoula, Montana.

A 2006 interview with Crumley:
The Right Madness

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Indignant Philip Roth Battles Zombies

Wouldn't it be pretty if it were so, dear readers? But no, as of yet, Philip Roth has not joined in the fight against the undead. He has, however, published a new novel by the name of Indignation, which the Washington Post says "ought to be handed out on college campuses along with condoms and tetanus shots." I hadn't realized Roth had resorted to writing about sex with rusty robots, but considering his growing fascination with zombies, who can keep up these days.

In related news, Kelly Link's short story, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" is now available for free online as part of John Joseph Adams anthology, The Living Dead, which collects zombie stories from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and others.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Everything Is Green

This is what it means to start a blog: when someone famous dies, you feel sad, and then you think, I know what my next post will be.

This is what it means to be a writer, too. A teacher told me a story once, of a drunken, sobbing friend calling him on the phone from a bar. He told my teacher he and his wife were getting a divorce, that his kids would stay with her, that he kept forgetting to breathe. And then his tears stopped, and he said, "I'm getting a lot of great material for writing, though."

I don't know why so many great writers kill themselves. I'm not even sure so many really do, or if that's just the way it feels right now. I don't think any of this is supposed to make sense. That's why we have stories.

Here's the end of one written by David Foster Wallace:

Everything is green she is saying. She is whispering it and the whisper is not to me no more I know.

I chuck my smoke and turn hard from the morning outside with the taste of something true in my mouth. I turn hard toward her in the light on the sofa lounger.

She is looking outside, from where she is sitting, and I look at her, and there is something in me that can not close up in that looking. Mayfly has a body. And she is my morning. Say her name.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The World Boogie is Coming

Speaking of Thacker Mountain Radio, last night authors Monique Truong and Bich Mihn Nguyen stopped by, along with musical guests James 'Super Chikan' Johnson and Ariel Jade. Since, technically, this isn't a music blog I'll leave discussion of Ms. Jade's fourteen-year-old prodigyness and Super Chikan's innovative ideas on recycling (guitars made of gas cans, cigar boxes, pool cues, and ceiling fans) for another time and place.

The readings last night focused primarily on food. Ms. Truong read from Book of Salt, her 2003 novel about a Vietnamese cook working for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Before she could begin, though, host Jim Dees inquired into her opinion on the food in Oxford. "The best thing about the veggie plate at Ajax," she said,"is that you can't find any vegetables on it. I don't really think fried okra counts."

Ms. Truong has the sort of glittery laugh that one attributes to innocent children or pyromaniacs. And, a certain evil glee did flash in her eyes as she prompted her listeners to guess the 'bad habit' hinted at by the cook in the section she was about to read. She also asked us to think about the food we ate, and who prepared it. We, the audience laughed sportingly, if suspiciously. We groaned at the first mention of human secretions, ducked our heads as she read of chefs sticking a tasting finger in each pot. One woman covered her ears. And Ms. Truong read on with a smile, enjoying every minute of our suffering.

Ms. Nguyen read from Stealing Buddha's Dinner, her 2007 memoir, now in paperback, about growing up a Mondale supporting Vietnamese-American in the All-American Reagan town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Oxford's fine dining, she expressed one desire above all else. "I'm looking forward to chicken-on-a-stick*." And to our disbelieving snickers, she replied. "It's chicken. On a stick. How can you say no?"

The passage she read to us concerned her fast friendship with a girl her age named, Holly, a girl that unfortunately also supported Mondale, and so wasn't that helpful in getting the young Ms. Nguyen accepted by the in-crowd.

If you're in town next Thursday, or any Thursday, swing by Off-Square around 6 and catch a show. Next week it's Clyde Edgerton and Clint Jordan. How can you say no?

*For those non-Oxfordians, chicken-on-a-stick is the culinary speciality of a corner Chevron located just past the south end of the town square.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Literary Oddity Named John Hodgman

Reader folk,

Go here: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/

Scroll down to: "Welcoming Remarks Made at a Literary Reading, 9/25/01" by John Hodgman

Read until the end.

And you thought this guy could only be funny. If you don't know who John Hodgman is, he's the PC in those PC vs. Mac commercials (See photo). He does other stuff too.

He's coming to Oxford November 20th to read and promote some of that other stuff at Thacker Mountain Radio, a local shindig composed of equal parts music and literature. Yay :)

If you're reading this after 9/11/08 and not, by chance, on 9/11/09, then you may have to google your way to the article.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kevin Brockmeier Interview

Great news, readers! An interview with Kevin Brockmeier, author of such fantastic fiction as, The Truth About Celia, The Brief History of the Dead, and the new collection of stories, The View from the Seventh Layer, will be appearing in our next issue.

Kevin's stories weave in and out and between literary and other genres, sampling from such traditions as science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and choose your own adventure. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Fantasy, and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and he's received the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, an Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award, a James Michener-Paul Engle Fellowship, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), and an NEA grant. As well, he's been chosen to the be the next guest editor for the third installment of Best American Fantasy.

Check out the first chapter of Brief History of the Dead as it appeared in The New Yorker. Read his bio from the Encyclopaedia of Arkansas. Peruse reviews from the Guardian, Strange Horizons, and BookReporter.

Don't resist your obsessive tendencies.

Salutations and introductions

Dear readers,

Welcome to the Yalobusha Review blog, a place to check back for YR updates, literary oddities, and the occassional rant, or song of praise, from the editors about whatevever it is that editors get excited about. Also there may be contests involving postcards or some other silly, cool thing. Stay tuned.