Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Meme

From Shaken & Stirred, I've learned of an end of the year meme--memes being questionnaires or activities (or other units of cultural transmission) passed along from blog to blog--in which a blog reprints the first sentences from the first posts of each month.

Welcome to the Yalobusha Review blog, a place to check back for YR updates, literary oddities, and the occasional rant, or song of praise, from the editors about whatever it is that editors get excited about. What a day yesterday. The World Fantasy Awards have been announced over at Science Fiction Awards Watch. Hello, readers, it has been far too long.

It is a short paragraph of first sentences this year, this year being the first year in which this blog existed. Next year, hopefully, will see many more sentences. Sentences are such lovely things, after all, quite capable of being as alluring and terrifying as any Cylon female*.

Happy Sunday-That-Was, readers.

*Battlestar Galactica's last ten episodes begin airing January 16th, and at the moment, I'm experiencing the peculiar sort of anticipation and dread which accompanies the ends of most of my favorite stories. As such, the occasional frak or Adama reference, may filter into this blog over the coming weeks. So say we all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Home for the Holidays

Hello, readers. It's December 20th, and this little blogger has gone whee, whee, whee, all the way home. The wonderful thing about home is that there's cookies. The sad thing is that there's no broadband. As such, posts may be scarce, but they will still be heartfelt.

For example, my heart longs sometimes for Dickens, and at the BBC, there's a game called the "Dickens Game," in which players can pick pockets and dodge urchins. I've not actually played the game myself, due to the dial-up situation, but in my imagination it's delightfully Dickensian.

The Wall Street Journal has a list of books on the evolution of Christmas and it's traditions. Topping their list, The Man Who Invented Christmas, which is about Dickens and the ways in which his life informed The Christmas Carol. Also, there's a book or two about the legend of Santa Claus and how a drunken holiday got tamed into a quiet family affair.

Goodnight from the slow lane, readers. I'm going to eat a cookie.

Have a happy weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Links, or This Is Where We Live

Hello, readers. Here are things you can read about on the internet.

Annie Leibowitz lists the 15 photography books that most influenced her.

Maud Newton also lists things, in this case her favorite readings of the past year. She hopes you'll buy them as a means of bailing out troubled bookstores.

Speaking of trouble, the publishing industry is having problems with not firing people, serious problems.

NPR has a small bit on some of the best volumes of collected correspondence written by literary types. Some of these correspondences are actual, such as Words in Air, the letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and some are not, such as Dear American Airlines, which is a work of fiction written in the epistolary style.

The Lady's Murder is a sexy, cool graphic short story written and illustrated by Eliza Frye. It reminded me, for some odd reason, of Aeon Flux. It is perhaps NSFW, being as there's some silhouetted murder and occasional nudity. You can read it at Narrative Magazine, though, if you sign up for a free account and are okay with that sort of thing.

Christopher Barzak has a new book with fox maidens and suicides clubs. It's called The Love We Share Without Knowing. Here's a review.

Ever wondered what a city made out of book covers would look like? Wonder no more. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, has produced this stop-motion walk through a town of Corrections, Diving Bells, and Butterflies. It's slightly whimsical, a touch sublime, and wholly awesome.

Also, Mr. T has a comic book.


Friday, December 12, 2008

There Was No Way I Wasn't Going to Post This

But in other more serious news, there's a new literary magazine being born and it is called Kitty Snacks.

Also, here's a discussion of David Foster Wallace's unpublished undergrad thesis in which he deconstructs Fatalism, at least Fatalism as proposed by one Richard Taylor (not WETA Richard Taylor mind you, but a fatalistic Richard Taylor with far more bees and far less ability to conjure Orcs and Oliphaunts). It turns out that fatalist Richard Taylor was an internationally known bee collector.

Listen and watch an audio slide-show of writers' rooms.

Read about James Wood's angled modifiers( such as "royal fatalism"), his unfortunate bias towards realism, and why it'd be nice if critics sometimes criticized in the old ways of Edmund Wilson or Elizabeth Hardwick, i.e., thought about the worldly and human context of literature instead of "treat[ing] the novelistic canon like one giant Keatsian urn, a self-sufficient aesthetic artifact removed from commerce with the dirty, human world."

If you ever wondered what would happen if Buffy Summers met Edward from Twilight, now you can find out. [via Shaken & Stirred]

Have a sparkly weekend, readers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writerly Reading Habits

Generally, successful writers make reading a part of their routines. Several blogs and websites have lists of what books writers have enjoyed this past year. Here are two:

The Millions updates each day with a new list from a writer. So far, Charles D'Ambrosio has raved about Jonathan Ames' somewhat autobiographical graphic novel, The Alcoholic. Nam Lee re-realized how awesome Beloved is. And writer of horror, Peter Straub, wondered, When Will There Be Good News?

SF Signal has writers discussing their favorite genre discoveries. Here you'll find Jokers and Wastelands, Fables and Peanuts, a few Well-Built Cities, and the occasionally tragic Ghost in Love.

Happy Thursday, readers and writers. Be well. Do good work. Try to make a routine of it. It really does help.

Writerly Routines

The Schedule of One Benjamin Franklin

Are you a writer? Do you have a routine? Benjamin Franklin and the government of Oceania both advocated that slavery and freedom were not so oxymoronic as one might suspect. I myself have found that a rather absurd level of self-imposed discipline broken up by occasional bouts of whimsy works best, which is to say that generally I wake and write and read during the same times each day unless something remarkable happens like an Arrested Development marathon on G4*.

io9 has posted the routines of science fiction writers. Kingsley Amis discusses pajamas and nicotine and drinking tea until the bars open up at 6. He finds afternoons to be a dreadful time to do anything. Haruki Murakami believes that his routine is perhaps as important as the writing itself. Repetition mesmerizes him into a deeper state of mind.

For more writerly routines, make a habit (oh, humor, you rascal) of visiting daily routines, a repository of how people more famous than you organize their days.

*This isn't entirely true. It's a complete lie in fact. I only ever watch Arrested Development marathons on holidays, such as this past Thanksgiving. Or the Christmas before that. Or the Thanksgiving before that. You might call it a rou--(oh, enough of that already).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Strange and Sometimes Wonderful World

In the wonderful news department, in my searching of web content related to the previously mentioned contest finalists, I ran across, "Creative Writing for Extraterrestrials." At the University of Wyoming, it seems, there's a class in which students ponder different ways of introducing humanity to extraterrestrials. It's called Interstellar Message Composition. The cosmically inclined Professor, a man named Lockwood, drives his students to come up with new ways of expressing what it means to be human. One student sculpted an alien cellphone. Another, a four word poem about birth. Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela, Barry Hannah Contest finalist, summed up the experience saying, "Birth came up a lot, death came up a lot. We found out what's left when you take away all the minor stuff."

Bart Parodies NirvanaIn other strange, but perhaps less wonderful news, an Australian judge has ruled that possession of an illicit Simpsons illustration--in which some creative ne'er-do-well has depicted Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, knowing each other in the biblical sense--is equivalent to possession of child pornography. The article quotes the Judge as saying, "If the persons were real, such depictions could never be permitted. Their creation would constitute crimes at the very highest end of the criminal calendar." He goes on to say that "the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people."

So, erm, does this mean that Homer Simpson has the right to vote in Australia?

If you're thinking that sounds rather silly and makes the kind of sense that doesn't, then you'll probably agree with Neil Gaiman, who said, "The ability to distinguish between fiction and reality is, I think, an important indicator of sanity, perhaps the most important. And it looks like the Australian legal system has failed on that score."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Barry Hannah and Yellowwood Contest Results

What with the 2009 issue going off to the print people today, it seemed a good time to take a moment and congratulate the winners and finalists for the 2009 Barry Hannah Fiction and Yellowwood Poetry contests.

Here are those lucky talented writers:

Barry Hannah Contest
Judge: Padgett Powell



Yellowwood Contest
Judge: Ann Fisher-Wirth


  • "Late" by Heather Cousins
  • "Lines for a Thirtieth Birthday" by Mark Wagenaar
  • "Step-Brother" by David A. Moody
  • "The Agency of Trust" by Katrin Talbot
  • "Something Happens to a Place" by Raegen Pietrucha
  • "Autumn" by Sara Fetherolf-Lier
  • "Hearing the Listeners" by Terri McCord

Congratulations to all, and thank you to everyone who submitted. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for profiles of some of the contributors who will be featured in the upcoming issue, which should hit reality in February 2009.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On Magazines and Presses

Hello, readers. It's Monday and there's a small rabbit next to my monitor who's whispering secrets. I would tell you what he's saying, but it's a secret.

It has to do with turnips and velcro.

Also, for those of you interested in the world of literary magazines and small presses, here's a couple of cool links.

Gavin J. Grant, editor at Small Beer Press and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and also a co-editor of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, talks at length with Bibliophile about matters of editing and publishing, including the money to love ratio of small presses and the impact of internet things like podcasting and the creative commons license. Chocolate gets a brief mention as well. Gavin loves the Maya Gold from Green and Black.

Elsewhere, a tweet from largeheartedboy led me to Perpetual Folly and their 2009 Puschart Prize Rankings. The site is run by one Clifford Garstang, who every year scores literary magazines based on the number of Pushcarts or Special Mentions in Fiction they have received since 2000.

Here's the top 5 (hit the link for the rest).

1) Ploughshares 118
2) Zoetrope: All Story 75
3) Conjunctions 71
4) Paris Review 67
4) Southern Review 67

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Laura Miller: Lover of Narnia, Culler of Libraries, Possible Eater of Cheerios

Laura Miller writes for Salon, among other places, about television and books and such. She came to my attention as an early supporter of Buffy and it's importance to the universe. I've also run across her blurbs on books by Kelly Link. But I've never really had any idea about her. In my mind, I suppose, she has always seemed like a fairly young woman who might wear hip, but not trendy glasses and who might also eat cheerios from the box while reading Charles Dickens and watching Battlestar Galactica. I suppose I have a fairly high opinion of her abilities.

Today, I ran across two Laura Miller things. Thing one was this excerpt in the Wall Street Journal from her new book, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. It's a memoir/literary critique/treatise on reading and wonder and childhood and what happens when you grow up. It revolves around Ms. Miller's encounters with C.S. Lewis and Narnia.

The excerpt from the first chapter tells of a Wilanne Belden who loved The Hobbit as a child, of how thirty years later she placed the first chronicle of Narnia in the hands of a young and impressionable Laura Miller, and of how much that book, and that series, has meant to her and countless others. She cites Neil Gaiman (who seems to keep popping up in this blog, perhaps because I'm reading Sandman) as saying that, "I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only because there wasn't an infinite number of Narnia books." In thinking of young Wilanne's passion for Middle Earth, Ms. Miller questions whether "children who prefer books set in the real, ordinary, workaday world ever read as obsessively as those who would much rather be transported into other worlds entirely?"

It's wonderful reading and it reminded me of being in my own school library. I'm not sure of my librarian's name, though Mrs. Brown comes to mind, but I remember her directing me to Madeleine L'Engle and Jean Craig-Head George, and eventually and with much glee, to Douglas Adams. And I remember believing in those stories as true. Not true in any sort of metaphorical sense, but true on some deeper level. As though they were, as Gaiman describes Narnia, "reports from a real place."

There is something special about those first worlds we disappear into as children. And maybe there's something unique about those of us who crave stories of worlds entirely different from our own. I don't know. It's quite possible that children who read books about the real world experience a similar visceral thrill, or maybe it's just that those children are given the wrong books. In any case, I hope that some amount of that wonder and surrender which I experienced as a child will remain with me. I hope that every book I read might be the book that changes my life.

I said there were two things, and this was true. In an essay on the New York Times website, Ms. Miller writes of culling her library--of figuring out, in the great number of books she has collected over the years which are the ones she needs to cling to, and which are the ones she can do without. It's a topic near and dear to my heart. I've experienced very recently someone going through the same process, and I myself, will be going through it once I move from Oxford to points abroad. Books are heavy things and they do not travel easily. Except, of course, for the ones that exist securely and intangibly within your imagination. In which case, perhaps, it's not all that necessary to carry their glue-bound pages with you.

Forgive the contemplative tone, readers. It's Saturday and we all know how Saturdays are. I realize I haven't really ever answered the question of who Laura Miller actually is. Does she, in fact, even like Cheerios? I began this blog post with the idea that I would, here at the end, insert some warm and funny truths which I had discovered about Ms. Miller. But now it seems much more appropriate to leave her, and her eating and watching habits, to the imagination. At least, that is, until one reads The Magician's Book.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas

It's the holiday season, and this means that many, many websites will be bombarding you with gift suggestions on which you can spend all the money that you had previously been saving for frivolous things such as gas or food for the kids.

Here's a few:

Bookpassage breaks books into nine or so categories, including the somewhat indecisively constructed "Art, Architecture, Photogarphy, Fashion, & Travel" category.

Borders Wonderland of Perfect Gifts, which besides breaking gifts into a number of categories slightly less than infinity, also plays music while you browse.

Comic Books Resources is the place to go for people who like books with pictures. According to them, " the best, ultimate, and most achingly brilliant gift one human could possibly bestow unto another during this most festive of seasons."

The Barnes and Noble Book Review, in a matter not entirely related, but somewhat so, has asked many famous writers, like Neil Gaiman and Jamie Lee Curtis, to name their three favorite books and write a sentence or two about them. It's possible they do this in other months besides December, but this still seems a pretty foolproof place from which to steal gift ideas. After all, if your young son loves Anne Rice, for example, you could get him a book from Anne Rice's favorites and if he didn't like it, you could say. "Well, it's what Anne Rice likes. Are you saying that your favorite writer Anne Rice doesn't know a good book when she sees one?"

Happy reading, readers. Remember that the very best gift you can give to a friend or loved one this season is a hug. Or possibly a time machine so that they can go to the future and get January's winning powerball numbers.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Books, Lists of Books, and Also John Hodgman

There's been another salvo fired in the war over whether books as we know them are dying. In an Op-Ed column for the New York Times, James Gleick writes about why he sees the physical book as surviving the coming digitization of everything. "As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete... It is significant that one says book lover and music lover and art lover but not record lover or CD lover or, conversely, text lover." [Via Shaken & Stirred]

Also, if you love lists, especially end of year best books lists, then largeheartedboy has just the thing to fill your time this holiday season. In an impressive bit of scouring, he's compiled a collection of dozens upon dozens of end of year best lists, ranging from such obvious stalwarts as or the New York Times, to the St. John's Telegram list of "best Canadian cookbooks."

And in more information than you require news , check out this interview at the New Yorker with John Hodgman about, among other things, his new book, More Information Than You Require.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We're Back And Sillier Than Ever

Hello, readers, it has been far too long. How have you been? Things have been busy here, what with visiting home for Thanksgiving and wrapping up our new issue of the YR, plus, you know, the normal end of year school stuff. It's become clear, though, that the more or less every other dailyness of collating and commenting on interweb materials is a rather rewarding activity. One to be abandoned at much risk. Which is to say that when you find something you love doing, don't stop doing it, unless what you love doing is sprinkling dead people's ashes at the Jane Austen Museum, in which case, the museum curators politely ask that you please refrain from said activity.

Apparently, in the same manner that sailing enthusiasts might want their remains scattered off Puget Sound, it turns out that die-hard Jane Austen enthusiasts often ask to have their ashes dumped in the garden of the Jane Austen Museum. More and more of late, mounds of human ash have been discovered about the grounds by staff and gardeners, as well as some visitors, who have been known to remark, "Verily, I was much disconcerted." The staff themselves, though, seem to take a more practical stance towards the bits of dead people left on their garden, saying "[i]f it enriched the soil we wouldn't mind so much but the ashes have no nutrients at all." [via Maud]

In other somewhat absurd news, Shaken & Stirred put up a link today to a weird little add-on for Firefox. It's called Tumbarumba and it proposes to insert sentences from stories into your web pages as you view them. If you discover the sentence and click on it, then a whole story will spring to life in your browser. I've yet to try it, mainly because I'm on a public computer at the moment, but the whole thing sounds a little strange and pointless and therefore wonderful.